Art Licks Weekend returns this October, highlighting the breadth of grass-roots visual arts activity across London. Organised by Art Licks magazine, the three day festival focuses on emerging artists, galleries and curators and the strong network of peer-led activity throughout the city. Alongside the many individual exhibitions and events, the Weekend also presents three commissioned programmes. This year there is performance series curated by Eva Rowson, a digital commission from artist Lawrence Lek and an artists' moving image programme in association with LUX.
Writer Jessie bond interviews London-based artist Fabienne Hess about her new commission for Looking, Mediated, the LUX screening programme for Art Licks Weekend of works by artists that utilise, address and challenge contemporary forms of visual experience.
Art Licks Weekend: 3-5 October
Looking, Mediated: 5 October 6pm, Open School East
Jessie Bond and Fabienne Hess Interview
Jessie Bond is writer and artist based in London www.jessiebond.co.uk
Fabienne Hess is an artist based in London www.fabiennehess.com
JB: Could you describe the new work you are making for the Art Licks Weekend?
FH: It’s quite an experiment for me. Through an open call, posted on the LUX website, I’ve asked people to send me their three least important images. By which I mean images that are completely irrelevant to them, that maybe don’t have any personal memory attached to them, that are insignificant images. I’ve also asked people to let me know why they are irrelevant. I’m already in the process of assembling them into a moving image piece, almost like a slide show, possibly barely moving.
JB: Why did you decide to ask for least important images?
FH: All my work has to do with finding some thing that is somehow on the border or on the fringe. I’m interested in the bottom bit of the list, the things that have been neglected or forgotten, oppressed or buried; something that isn’t quite here or there, or quite visible. So this piece is just another way of looking at these things. The least important images are probably the ones that when you scroll through the photos on your phone you don’t even see, because they’re not offensive but they’re not the ones that you really enjoy either. Also it has to do with thinking about how we consume information digitally. Because there is so much information available, in order to help us navigate it, a search engine guides us to what is most relevant to us. I’m naturally gravitated towards the opposite of that.
JB: You seem to be taking the idea of what we expect images to do, like contain information or convey a memory, and looking for images that do the opposite. Pointing out instead that there is all this visual noise, or rubbish.
FH: Exactly, all this stuff that you drag along with you, like a trail of things that comes with you, that clings to you, which you probably haven’t really asked for. It just happens automatically, this image making. The explanation one person sent to me was “When I take out my phone, I’m a bit clumsy with it and it takes all these pictures”. But what’s also important is this paradox: the moment you’ve made the decision that something is least important it becomes important. It’s why it’s actually quite difficult to send me those images because the moment you go through your pictures you start to assess and you start to remember why you did this or why this picture is there, and that immediately gives them value and meaning. I think that half of the artwork is actually there, in people making that decision.
JB: It’s a very active process as well. When I started thinking about what my three least important images would be, I realised I had no idea where to look on my computer. I’d have to search hard to find them.
FH: Exactly, it’s almost impossible in a way. We completely lack these criteria to assess the least important. This request is sort of absurd, but it does something to you that is interesting. This split second of thought when you think, how am I going to go about choosing? Where are all these images anyway, where do they come from and why do I keep them? I think that’s a relevant thing to think about for a minute.
JB: When you work with these images, is there a selection process that you go through or is it important that you include everything and let it be outside of your hands?
FH: I’m just trying to work that out actually. I certainly gravitate towards editing them and making groups, putting them together into categories, classifying them. So I do that, but on the other hand I think there needs to be an element of boredom.
JB: Is that something you are interested in, the idea of boredom?
FH: It has the same to do with the question of aesthetics. I think it is quite natural or automatic to look for aesthetic things; it’s quite human. Something aesthetic makes people look; you get someone’s attention because something is pleasing. What I am trying to navigate here is how much aesthetic do we need, how straining can I be on the viewer in order not to loose you. It needs to be boring at some points but I wonder if it will be OK for it to just be a half minute of really ugly boring pictures. I wonder how much boredom we can take
JB: But then there is the potential of finding beauty in the ordinary… It might not be boring at all.
FH: I have been thinking a lot about George Perec. He has done so much work about those ‘Infra ordinary’ things. Most of his work is about these things that nobody looks at. If you actually really look at it, you’ll find something, if you give it time and space.
JB: You used a similar method to make Collective Vomit, which was part of RIFF/T, at Baltic 39 earlier this year. For that work the images used were retrieved via trash recovery from data storage devices that were given to you during a workshop. Do you think there is a difference with the way you are collecting these images, in terms of the social interaction?
FH: I don’t think it would have worked in the way that this commission works now; because these images are supposedly unimportant it is fine for you to send them to me. But with the storage devices it was important for me to be there is person, you really had to trust me because you didn’t know what it was you were giving. I was digging out all these images, that people didn’t even remember they had on there.
JB: Potentially you might have found something embarrassing or revealing.
FH: Exactly, which I am completely not interested in. To reveal or embarrass anyone, I don’t want to disclose someone’s privacy, that’s absolutely not my interest. In the presentation of the work, the images are so quick, that you can’t really see them. They just flicker, which also represented much better what they are, because they are this undercurrent that you are not really aware of.
JB: What does the context of the LUX moving image series at the Art Licks Weekend offer you?
FH: Through Art Licks and LUX there is a group of people, a specific audience, which I can address. The framework given by this festival, by LUX, the reach that they have, is very important in order for the work to be done. I also like that people can come to the screening and can see their images; it creates a certain social environment.
JB: So the social networks that you’re tapping into are most interesting to you?
FH: It’s very important to have that otherwise it just couldn’t be done.
JB: Do you see yourself doing anything with the written explanations people have given as to why they have sent these images?
FH: Yeah I do, because some of the things that people have sent are amazing. I love reading these really minimal stories. Someone described to me the organisation of his desktop, which was amazing: “On my desktop there is a folder, within this is the previous desktop, and the previous one… These are three images from the final branch of the desktop, and they have finally served their purpose and now I can delete them.”
JB: Hearing that story reminds me of what you were saying earlier, about how we carry these images round, without realising it we’re haunted by them.
FH: Exactly, they’re a kind of ghostly presence. I thought it’s beautiful, “I can actually delete them now”. This might be the last statement, the conclusion.