Rhythms of Light

in conversation with emma macleod

Primary colours anticipate thick drops of resting paint, illuminated against a stark backdrop of white. Glowing plynths smoothly change their hue, as a large projection on the right-hand wall draws you into a space of accidental rhythms and strangely calming bursts of an electric palette.

Working with a brief of audiovisual experimentation composed in dialogue with, as well as in contrast against, the grimier elements of the club two floors below, Edinburgh based artist Emma Macleod brought something unique to Edinburgh’s Saturday night out. Creating a meditative space for wandering members of a Mash House public, the installation drew an audience who were free to sit beside, walk through, and contemplate her striking piece.

(as part of Vault 23 – now PARADIGM, August 30 2014)

_MG_2086image: Chris Scott

You describe your work as being concerned with the ‘staged’ environment and the perception of scale. Suggesting a preoccupation with both the space your work is situated as well as its prescribed audience.

Would you agree ? How does the consideration of space and audience determine the outcome of your work?

In a word…yes. All of the work I make is pre-occupied with space in some way and I’m always thinking how the audience will interact with my work and how they will ‘experience’ it.

I make work in lots of different mediums – video, photography, installation, painting, drawing and object & model making – but the crux is the staged environment. I’m influenced by the aesthetics of theatre and film, especially stage lighting, colour and the glow of the screen. I’m also really interested in staged photography and still life – the theatricality of placed objects and light.

Until recently, I followed a very particular process for making work that involved creating small-scale environments and photographing them. The photograph became the final work and the model environment was destroyed. Initially these were very film-set like but over time the environments became more ambiguous and emphasis was placed on the objects, which had become more abstract and concerned with the ‘art object’ or ‘art installation’.

_MG_2090_image: Chris Scott

I have always been interested in how the audience reacts to small-scale in lens-based media. Video and photography are entangled in ‘reality’ and ‘alternate realities’, as is model-making, to a certain degree; I think the audience reads my photographs in a similar way, for a split second reading them as reality, and then reading them as playful, imagined spaces.

As the subject of my photographs has become more about the ‘art object’ and ‘installation’ a question has started to regularly occur when I show work –“are you going to make this big?” So for the last few months I’ve been pondering and reacting to this question by making more installation based and ‘human scale’ work.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 16.45.30image: ‘Dripping, Pouring’ film still

How would you describe the work that you created for Project Space, Vault 23?

I used Vault 23 as a chance to try out some work in development – really new ideas I had been thinking about and playing around with in the studio. From the off, I wanted to create a space that was quiet, ambient, meditative yet colourful – a space that would contrast the club night downstairs.

The work consisted of a projected video, light boxes that changed colour gradually and some sculptural objects, which were spot lit. Each element was separate but connected.

The video, called ‘Dripping, Pouring’, was really colourful and consists of white sculptural vessels on plinths with thick, glossy, brightly coloured paint being poured into them until they overflow. The video is slowed down, which adds an element of anticipation as the vessels become full and the paint oozes out.

The sculptural vessels in the video were then displayed in the room. The objects are made from really crude materials – plastiscine & air-drying clay painted white and gold – but they are given some air of importance by being displayed on plinths, kind of reminiscent of high-end contemporary craft objects.

Lastly, the free-standing light boxes also feature in the video as the background colour. I wanted to bring the colour directly into the room to add a certain ambience. The colours changed very gradually and were a further development of a work called ‘Screen’ that I exhibited at Hidden Door in March.

By bringing all the elements into the room, I think I was trying to de-construct the video and say something (although I’m not sure what exactly) about the construction of images. I’m still at a point where I’m developing and processing the work…pondering and considering.

_MG_2408image: Chris Scott

Have you ever produced work for a club night setting (or similar) before? What was it that led you to take on that challenge?

No, I’ve never produced work for a club setting, ever. Initially the idea of creating something for a club freaked me out. When I think club, I think loud, banging beats and crazy visuals and that intimidated me. However, when I spoke with Claire and Steph (Project Space’s producers/curators) my mind was put at rest. We spoke about creating a quiet, calm and almost meditative space that contrasted the club night proper– giving the audience a journey & different experience through the building. That was also when we spoke about sound and the need to pair the work up with sound/music that was equally calming and meditative. Claire & Steph then went on a musical hunt and found the amazing Deaf Joe whose sounds fitted just perfect.

Ultimately, what really led me to take on the challenge was the space and it being out-with the gallery context. I was also really excited about being involved in Project Space’s first (ad)venture.

How did the location of your work in the top floor of The Mash House, combined with its presence within a Saturday night setting influence the work that you produced?

Ummm… I think probably the biggest influence was the use of colour – when I was making the work I was thinking about the bright electric colours of the club and the fast changing lights but slowing this right down. So the top floor became a place to slow down the pace, relax, drink, chat with pals and look at stuff.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 16.44.27image: ‘Dripping, Pouring’ film still

Did you enjoy the experience?

Yeah, I really enjoyed the experience – it was a chance to try out some new stuff, in a new context and meet new people. Probably the best experience was pulling some questionable dance moves in the club that night with Martin’s (Unstable Creations) floating visuals (it’s amazing how beer & whiskey make you move!)

Are there any future projects you have lined up that we should keep an eye out for?

I’m taking part in Place+Platform’s “The Line of Best Fit”, an event within the surroundings of the ‘Settlement Projects’, a curious junk shop in Edinburgh. It should be fun, there’s musicians playing, spoken word, art and apparently some home brew.

_MG_2263image: Chris Scott

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Construction & Collaboration

in conversation with Miriam Mallalieu

PS first met Liam J McLaughlin and Miriam Mallalieu while they were building their separate installations for the Hidden Door Festival 2014, Edinburgh. Though installing in spaces situated on opposite ends of the site, their construction heavy work would often see the couple walking back and forth between spaces to lend a hand on the others’ project. Especially demanding being Liam’s life-size maze of blackened corridors built inside the festival’s largest artist space.

We cross paths again this month after somehow managing to convince them to work together on a project for the launch of our new monthly event, PARADIGM. Travelling up from their current base in Herefordshire where they’re renovating a family home, Miriam jokes that the project ‘has been fraught’ (it is the first time they’ve worked together on a project).

Although the smaller scale project of making temporary work will inevitably require a somewhat less ambitious approach to previous projects, their high level of creative consideration, and the craftsmanship of their processes will no doubt lead to an exciting and encompassing interpretation of space. Giving us little more than the promise of a ‘collaborative video installation’ piece to go by, we can’t wait to see what they’ll be bringing on Saturday for install.

We asked Miriam a couple of questions about their work and how they have been finding the process…

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So, do you guys have much experience in collaborative work in the past? How do you find the process, and how have you got along working together for this project?

We have not really collaborated before. I think that people assume that we’re collaborating when they see us setting up shows together because we work really closely together. We share a studio and discuss our work throughout our creative practice, so when it comes to actually setting up we both have a very clear idea of what the other person is trying to do and we end up making a lot of the last decisions together. I think that because of this, we had thought that it would be quite easy to make a piece fully collaboratively. It was, however, surprisingly difficult. There is a really big difference between questioning each other’s ideas and negotiating a collective practice. Our work has always been quite different and it was strange to suddenly look objectively at the other person’s work and decide where our practices overlap.

How do you think working in collaboration with other artists helps you to understand more about your own creative practice?

I think that we both felt like our awareness of our own practice was increased during the process. We both feel as we work through projects that each one is almost self-contained, individual. Both of us worry that there is little distinct style that links one project, or body of work, with another. Collaborating made us both make decisions that were unusual or that felt slightly unnatural, which led us to identify patterns that we use sort of unconsciously when we are making work. These patterns made me feel like my work isn’t anywhere near as disparate as I sometimes feel it is and that there are definite perimeters that I set myself. I think that this collaboration has made me more confident about my work to date, but also has opened up possibilities in my creative process.

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What impact does the exhibition space have on the work that you eventually produce?

I think that the exhibition space has always held much more relevance for Liam’s work than for mine. He likes to play with space – alter it so it is surprising or disorientating for the viewer, and this is a vital part of Liam’s work. He tends to collect information through photography and film, but it is only once he has decided on a floor plan or a mode of presentation, that he actually formalises his media into finished films and images. He creates the space, and then creates the work specifically to fit the space.

My working method tends to be a lot less organised. I like to work towards an idea of what a show will like look, and I use that idea as a sort-of goal but it changes constantly, and I don’t think I ever really take it seriously. While I might pretend to myself that I know what I am making, I rarely have a clue until very near the end when I start to really think about the work in the space and how I want it to be seen. Unlike Liam, I don’t usually change the exhibition space. I tend to change my work to fit the space, to slide my work quite unobtrusively into an exhibition. It is always in the final step when I am considering my work within the space that my work changes, almost beyond recognition a lot of the time, so I suppose in that way the exhibition space is hugely influential in my work. I just don’t really think about it for eighty percent of the process.

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Has the ‘night-club’ setting of PARADIGM informed your decision making at all?

The night-club setting of PARADIGM has been really influential in the way that we have made this project. The artwork might be secondary for a lot of people (unlike those visiting an art gallery for instance) so we felt pressure to make work that was perhaps more immediately striking or engaging. Liam was also keen to continue his theme of work that is somewhat uncomfortable or uneasy for the viewer, but when we looked at the techniques he usually uses- darkness, loud noises or strobe lighting for instance- we saw that these are commonplace in night-clubs and would not have any of the same effects as when placed in an art gallery. Another big consideration was the install time. In the past, especially for Liam’s work, we have installed over a few days, making structures that are semi-permanent. For this show, we will have only a couple of hours, and are making something that will only be shown for one night. It will be really refreshing to make something so transient for a change.

What can we expect for Saturday night?

It is hard to say really, neither of us have made anything like this before so how it will turn out will be a bit of a surprise for us as well!

PARADIGM

PARADIGM
Monthly @ The Mash House, Edinburgh
9pm-3am

An experimental night of audiovisual collaboration emerging monthly @ The Mash House, Edinburgh…

PARADIGM: Crossing disciplines and subverting senses; Creating immersive environments through audiovisual collaboration; Redefining space.

Expect the unexpected.

Past Events:

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