Broadcasts

DRAF Broadcasts is a platform to explore in more depth the research and practice of artists, curators and other practitioners. Broadcasts brings you:

Podcasts, discussing cultural practice to open understanding about where artistic or curatorial work comes from and what it means to produce work today.

Live, focusing on conversations around performance.

On Screen, presenting a series of video works from the David Roberts Collection, showcasing a different video every two weeks, to open up and share works from the collection.

01 Podcast: with Laura Smith, Curator at Whitechapel Gallery

 

 
Laura Smith, Curator at Whitechapel Gallery talks to DRAF Curator Ned McConnell about her work with audiences both in and outside of London, curatorial approaches to collections and the role of the curator in building trust.

02 On Screen: Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler - Night Shift (28 May - 10 June 2020)

 

2006, HD video with sound, single channel projection,
installation dimensions variable

00:08:24 minutes, loop

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Said leave me to lay, but touch me deep
I don’t sleep, I dream
I’ll settle for a cup of coffee, but you know what I really need

– R.E.M. (1994)
 
It’s a cliché of American popular culture that probably holds some truth; police officers fuelling their long shifts with multiple cups of coffee. However, in the video work by Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, one of the officers on Night Shift duty, who we soon learn is called Sam, is actually dozing off in his police car whilst his colleague is off ordering the black liquid that is supposed to keep him awake.

The drink’s arrival – Sam drinks it with “two sugars and no cream” – starts a sequence of encounters that fluctuate between seeming real or imagined, as different co-workers step into the driver’s seat besides Sam. It has a feeling of Groundhog Day; same car, same shift, same sleepiness, new person, same topic of conversation. The surrounding noises enhance this sense of repetition, as crickets chirp their night song and a constant “we got a 40/01” police code crackles through over the radio. Every colleague gets in, passes over the cup and launches into a monologue touching on the subject of sleep. Policeman Sam, in his still snoozy state, robotically takes the cup with a “thanks” and then nods, laughs or simply listens to the different inner reflections that are shared with him. There are musings on the difference between “real dreams” as opposed to “being a star or buying a house” or on how that small slippage where you still consciously realise you are falling asleep is “THE most perfect moment”. ‘Real’ dreams, but with lucidity.

This moving image work is intended to be viewed on a loop, meaning there is a conscious play with repetition in the actions but also through this potentially perpetual cycle of moments and exchanges. It blurs an understanding of how time is passing. Is this an actual nocturnal work scene over several nights or we are witnessing a dream about dreams?

In the film Groundhog Day (1993), Bill Murray portrays Phil Connors, a TV weatherman who slowly loses his mind in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania as it dawns on him that the perfect endless repetition of his day is in fact not a dream; he is stuck in a loop. As all days become the same, the combination of structured repetition with an endless amalgamation of each moment into one undistinguishable mass, sees Phil struggle to come to terms with his newfound actuality and attempts ways to better himself within it. A situation, one could argue, not completely dissimilar to the housebound reality many of us are currently living through. Incidentally, this comparison is something many internet memes have already taken some glee in pointing out. So, watching Sam and Phil adrift in a semi-conscious, hazy dream state, a kind of suspended reality, begs the question; what exactly is the point of dreaming? Especially reliving recurring ones?

On average a person has around five dreams a night, most of which are never remembered. Dreams tend to last longer further into the night, with most occurring during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is also the terrain for ‘lucid dreams’. Whilst this term was only coined in the early 20th century, the state of being aware of dreaming and deliberately taking some control of the dream’s narrative has been referenced throughout history, for instance popping up in Aristotle, Tibetan Buddhism and Samuel Pepys’ diary.

Subjected to frenzied debate, notably amongst Freud and fellow psychoanalysts, recurring dreams in particular are often seen as indicative of something; the onset of fever or even the processing of trauma. Freud in particular made a big point of relating this recurrence to perceived ‘problems’ in the human psyche, whereas lucid dream theory maintains that it is a perfectly normal phenomenon. In his book The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe (1959) political essayist Arthur Koestler argues that there are positive outcomes to take away from what our unconsciousness might be trying to tell us. He writes that the irrational mind can help us to find creative solutions, particularly when attempting to make intellectual gains in scientific problems. Surrendering control to irrationality, sleepwalking through the day, is actually a state where new discoveries can emerge. Dream big.

 
TERESA HUBBARD / ALEXANDER BIRCHLER (b. 1965, Dublin & b. 1962, Baden) have been working collaboratively in film, photography and sculpture since 1990. Mainly working in moving image or reflecting on the role of place and cinema, their work interweaves hybrid forms of storytelling. In 2017, they represented Switzerland at the 57th Venice Biennial with Flora, a work about the unknown American artist Flora Mayo, with whom the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti had a love affair in Paris in the 1920s.

Night Shift was commissioned by Art 21 Inc. New York and premiered on the American public broadcaster PBS television in 2005. It was shot on location in Austin, Texas. The work became part of the David Roberts Collection in 2006, where it has since been screened as part of Art Night in London in 2018.

03 Live: with artist Zadie Xa and curator Amy Budd

 
Zadie Xa discussing her performance practice with Amy Budd, curator, Projects and Exhibitions at Modern Art Oxford.

Thursday 21 May, live from 5pm

Recording coming soon!

This event is part of series of online conversations co-hosted with Performance Exchange, born from the desire to keep supporting live practices during the lockdown. They feature artists, curators and other cultural practitioners involved in the production of live work.

Subscribe to our shared YouTube channel as new content is added regularly!

04 Podcast: with Joe Hill, Director of Towner Eastbourne

 

 
Joe Hill, Director of Towner Eastbourne, and Ned McConnell, curator at DRAF, discuss approaches to collections, building narratives with communities and how museums can be more social spaces.

05 Live: with artist Sriwhana Spong

 

DRAF Broadcasts: Live, a conversation between visual artist and dancer Sriwhana Spong and Ned McConnell.

Talk was live on Thursday 7 May, 5pm.

06 Live: with choreographer Holly Blakey

 

DRAF Broadcasts: Live, an online conversation between choreographer and artist Holly Blakey and DRAF curator Ned McConnell. They will explore notions of liveness in her work and what that means in today’s context.

Talk was live on Thursday 23 April, 4pm.

07 Live: with artist Nina Beier

 

DRAF Broadcasts: Live, a conversation between artist Nina Beier and Ned McConnell.

Talk was live on Thursday 9 April, 5pm.

08 Podcast: with artist Lina Lapelytė

 

 
We are excited to share our first podcast where artist Lina Lapelytė and DRAF curator Ned McConnell discuss Lapelytė’s performance practice, the benefit of time and the importance of re-presenting performance.

 

09 On Screen: Nina Beier & Marie Lund - We Grown Ups Can Also Be Afraid (14 - 27 May 2020)

 
A still image of an empty playground with the subtitles 'we grown-ups can also be afraid'
 
NINA BEIER ADN MARIE LUNDWE GROWN UPS CAN ALSO BE AFRAID
 
2007, video
00:04:00 minutes

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“We grown-ups can also be afraid.”

It is a sentence that rings true. And, one would hope, phrased as if said to the youngest in our communities in a reassuring warm tone, not spoken by them. So, it registers rather oddly to hear it sung by a group of young children’s voices. In the classroom setting they find themselves in, their cacophony is underscored by some rapid tapping of a drum and a persistent cough, at moments overpowering the vocals like the clash of a cymbal. It is a stark and apprehensive beat for a song about being afraid of “the black ugly smoke coming from the factory”. They sing on; “I am afraid of the nuclear power plants”, “. . . afraid of what is written in stupid books.” It is the shift from the collective ‘we grown-ups’ to the first-person singular ‘I’ that is perhaps most jarring.

What strange transfer of knowledge is at play here? Why are adults choosing to give voice to Cold War era paranoia and anxiety through the children they are supposed to be nurturing and protecting? It seems like a pure projection of angst onto an unknowing symbol of innocence.

Danish artists Nina Beier and Marie Lund were both taught this song in school when growing up. Their experience was in fact one shared by anyone from Denmark of the same generation as the artists. This song was included in the national curriculum song book, which went out to every single primary school. Written by folk singer Bjarne Jess Hansen in 1978, it was indeed penned as a dark warning of nuclear threat and possible ideological indoctrination, packaged up with pop flair to soften the blow.

Teaching it to children in the early Eighties is perhaps quite telling of a Danish way of dealing with things at that time. Following the wake of the cultural and sexual revolution of the Sixties nothing was taboo. Fast forward some thirty years, the artists, now acting as music teachers in this video piece, can be heard trying to spur the group on as some pupils chatting in the corner are resisting taking part in this transfer of meaning onto them. Children are smart after all. Whilst they may duly perform the task at hand (learn the lyrics, sing the song) under the learnt power structure of a teacher-pupil relationship, the reluctance that this particular song evokes could suggest the children are well aware there is some sort of manipulation happening, or even that fear is being instilled in them. Perhaps not entirely innocent or unknowing after all.

Exploring these relationships – those of being versus representing, or those that give shape to social and cultural fabric – is characteristic of Nina Beier and Marie Lund’s collaborative practice. This video was originally made for their solo exhibition at David Roberts Art Foundation, back in 2008 titled All The Best. It carried the subtitle A Solo Exhibition by Nina Beier and Marie Lund turning into a Group Show. Having only opened its doors a couple of months prior, this was the second solo exhibition DRAF ever presented. Yet, as indicated by the title, the duo took the relational transfer that is present in this video and more widely in their work and applied it to the whole show.

Over the duration of the exhibition the artists gradually replaced their own art with that of others they felt related to. This particular piece was replaced by a work by Simon Dybbroe Møller. The overall idea was that the logic of the exhibition would stay in place, by replacing works with a directly correlating ‘flavour’ or feeling, whilst they simultaneously altered the structure of the exhibition from within, welcoming in a collective process. With their video work shown in this context, the opening up to collectivity is a note that could make its way back into the school. The spirit of intending to teach awareness and empathy remains valid but rooting this in dialogue rather than a one-sided transfer wouldn’t go amiss.
 

NINA BEIER (b. 1975, Aarhus) and MARIE LUND (b. 1976, Hundested) worked collaboratively between 2003 – 2009, alongside their individual practices. As a duo they worked with objects, performance, time and collaboration to play with group dynamics and social infrastructure.

In the 2008 exhibition All The Best, for example, the only piece that remained the same was Beier and Lund’s work of the same title, which was an instruction to leave all the post that arrived in the gallery unopened by the door. Thus, DRAF’s doorway was subtly transformed into the border between a real and fabricated space.

10 On Screen: Jacco Olivier - Saeftinghe (30 April - 13 May 2020)

 
Jacco Olivier - Saefthinghe (video still), 2006
 
JACCO OLIVIERSAEFTINGHE
 
2006, video installation
00:02:35 minutes

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Jacco Olivier is both a painter and filmmaker, using the former medium to create the latter. Photographing brushstrokes and details of the compositions, he turns liquid colour into moving images by animating sections of his paintings. This transformative process imbues the otherwise static images with energy and charm as abstract forms take on recognisable shapes. Whilst Olivier has now moved into working with much larger canvasses his paintings from this period are small, only the size of his hand-span. What emerges after the digitisation process is as intricate as it is bold, with vibrant use of colour and gestural strokes representing the movement of people, natural elements and objects. In Saeftinghe for example, thick drips of grey paint run down the screen, becoming lashes of heavy rain. This depiction of ominous weather is no coincidence, the short animation deals directly with man’s relationship to the sea, making it fertile ground to think through possible effects of human action on the climate.

The work takes its name from what was a town in the far south-westerly corner of the Netherlands. Claimed from the sea in the 13th century, the town and its surrounding land only existed until 1584, when it was taken back by the North Sea and Scheldt river, on whose crossroads the land is situated. The former settlement is now buried under layers of clay, where large bricks have been found displaced on land along the estuary, thought to belong to the abbey that once stood there. Prone to flooding, numerous attempts to reclaim the land have failed. The area is now a swamp known as the ‘Verdronken Land van Saeftinghe’, translating as the ‘Drowned Land’.

Whilst all may seem well in the opening vista, it soon turns out to be a calm before the storm; as a woman in a yellow coat walks off the frame and puts her hood up, the house behind her slowly tears itself away from the ground and floats away. The scene is reminiscent of the start of the Wizard of Oz (1939), where Dorothy’s farmhouse is sent spinning in the air as it is gripped by a tornado, with bicycles and household items flying by. Likewise, in Saeftinghe everything from a classical blue Chinese porcelain vase, the drawer of filing cabinet, a big yellow van and a can of Coca-Cola are released from the gravitational pull that would normally keep them on the ground.

Simultaneously speculative, dream-like and underlyingly sinister, Jacco Olivier’s Saeftinghe feels like a warning from the 16th century to the rising sea levels in our current day and age. The tale can be read as a precursor for what has in recent years become much more widely understood not just as climate change but a climate crisis. The knowledge that in this instance, despite the niftiness of Dutch dike building, the sea may well reign supreme in the end.

Whilst Dorothy and her house are transported to the fantastical Land of Oz, the equally technicoloured ‘Drowned Land’ that this video work is set in shows a harsher reality. The slow right-to-left moving panorama viewpoint stops on a car, fully stuck in the middle of a field of wet clay. It is a familiar image from recent years when flash floods hit built-up areas and leave a trail of soppy debris. As the viewpoint lingers on this vehicle, the motion sucks us down below the horizon. The land is now fully swallowed up by the water.

JACCO OLIVIER (b. 1972, Goes) creates mysterious universes with paint brushes and video technology, animating his paintings to become projected moving images. He currently lives and works in Amsterdam, where he also completed the Rijksakademie Residency in 1998.

This work became part of the David Roberts Collection in 2007, along with two other animations Home and Whale (both 2006). Perhaps in-keeping with the sheer size of the animal, Whale is a departure from his usual single-channel projection, instead using three large screens to reimagine the movement of the animal in its underwater habitat. The works mix moments of daily life with memories and imagination, rendering them more abstract and surreal.

11 On Screen: Zhou Xiaohu - Crowd Around (16 April - 29 April 2020)

 
Zhou Xiaohu Crowd Around 2003-04
 
ZHOU XIAOHUCROWD AROUND
 
2003-04, video installation, dimensions variable
00:11:01 minutes

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Where were you when you first saw that image of a plane flying straight into the side of the World Trade Center North Tower? Most of us do not need long to remember the answer. There are certain defining moments in recent Western history – “one small step for man…”, JFK’s assassination, the fall of the Berlin wall – that have been etched well and truly into the collective imagination. These are moments where personal memories and global history fuse together more than usual, in part due to the rapid speed of image circulation that has come to define our current Information Age.

Zhou Xiaohu has been dubbed a “pioneer of video animation in China” and has been using computers and game software as his main artistic tools since the late-90s.1 His claymation Crowd Around deals directly with image circulation and consumption in ten short ‘newsreel’ scenes, the third of which depicts 9/11. In them, identical crowds of stop-motion clay figurines bear witness to a host of generally unseemly incidents – an assassination, electrocution, high stakes boxing competition, plane hijack, court ruling and so on. The subject and object characters are the only ones that he assigns different formal and facial characteristics to, making them stand out against the ubiquitous but anonymous mass, the us in an ‘us versus them’.

Xiaohu’s simple thin rectangle blocks are immediately recognisable as the Twin Towers, as they collapse into a cloud of debris made of squished clay, revealing fingerprint moulds. The distilled forms pack a punch in effectiveness, leaving no question to what it is you are witnessing. The event is reiterated by being rewound and replayed on a television set, with this framing enhancing the immediate familiarity. This repetition was how these low-res, shaky hand-cam frames were zapped across the world, into our homes, consciousness and history books. Their endless circulation started first through the news cycle, before the images resurfaced in a morphed form as commemorative art and architecture, in literature, cinema, narrative documentary or theatre.

In September 2001 the Information Age was arguably still in its infancy, this being a time before Web 2.0 and sophisticated smartphones. The widespread access to often handheld technology we are used to now has provided even more routes for images to become collective symbols. At lighting speed they crop up and circulate across the web, as bootlegs, screenshots, forwarded messages, memes. These are all versions of what Hito Steyerl has defined ‘poor images’, “a copy in motion”.2

Poor images have significant political currency, especially when considering the sheer amount of people that facilitate their high-volume consumption and distribution. As Steyerl notes; “altogether, poor images present a snapshot of the affective condition of the crowd, its neurosis, paranoia, and fear, as well as its craving for intensity, fun, and distraction”.3 Xiaohu works with the clay equivalent of a low-res copy, DIY depictions in simple shapes where his hand-held camera swoops over the studio sets as he simulates the movement of jerky phone recordings. A crafty remake of broadcast media and popular culture, layered with complex foley and sound design, his scenes have moments of intensity, are laced with a sense of dark humour and provide eleven minutes of escapism into an outside world now only consumable via screens.

ZHOU XIAOHU’s (b. 1960, Changzhou) works mainly consist of videos and installations that take on societal questions with his keen sense of humour and visual puns. Originally trained as an oil painter, he started experimenting with computer animation in 1997 and made the layering of images and objects, between hand-made, generated and animated, his signature style from then onwards. Crowd Around (2003-04) and Gooey Gentlemen (2002), another animation which features Xiaohu’s own torso as a stage upon which a hand-drawn story unfolds, both became part of the David Roberts Collection in 2006. At the end of the year Crowd Around will be on show at the inaugural Bangkok Art Biennale, shown alongside other animations by Xiaohu and a new work using string puppets.

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footnotes:
1 “Exhibition guide, The Real Thing: Zhou Xiaohu born 1960”, Tate.org.uk. Accessed 5 April 2020.
2 & 3 Hito Steyerl, “In Defense of the Poor Image”, e-flux journal #10, November 2009. Accessed 5 April 2020.

video stills: courtesy the artist.