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, presented moving image from the David and Indrė Roberts Collection, to open up and share works from the collection.

Currently on show are On Screen Specials, where invited artists previously exhibited by DRAF or featured in the David and Indrė Roberts Collection select and introduce a moving image work from a fellow artist, friend or peer that they have been inspired by.

01 Eddie Peake Selects: On Screen Special - Zhang Xu Zhan (1 – 14 April 2021)

Animation still of a mouse wearing a stripey party hat looking at themselves in the mirror


2017, single-channel animated video installation, colour, sound. Courtesy the artist.
5 min 00 sec (loop)



Death is the palpable centre of Zhang Xu Zhan’s ‘Si So Mi’ Hsin Hsin Joss Paper Store Series-Room 004, yet the mice and combustible-paper funeral-sculptures who inhabit it possess an innocent and sanguine joie de vivre that provides the prevailing sensation of the work. The film was made in 2017 but it belongs to its own era: on the one hand, medieval and fantastical, while on the other, futuristic and sci-fi. The clearly labour-intensive as well as lovingly and emphatically handmade stop-motion animation style could also be said to be anachronistic during this period of over-saturation of CGI rendered graphics and cartoons.

I happen to have a longstanding fascination with anthropomorphised animals (incidentally it has been a recurrent motif in much of my own work) so in a way it is not surprising that I would be drawn to ‘Si So Mi’. But even beyond that, there is a sheer strangeness in the imagery: stop motion mice dressed in ornate ceremonial attire, singing and joyfully playing with what appear to be their own intestines, moving around with caterpillar-like pieces of paper.

As with much of the art (as well as things that aren’t art, for that matter) that I am drawn to, I find it difficult to convey with words why I like Zhang Xu Zhan’s film. It simply hits me at a purely aesthetic level, as in it impacts on my senses before I am able to rationally explain what I think about it. Some art that I love does the reverse of that to me, but as far as the work I have been ‘hit’ by at a purely aesthetic level, my appreciation is felt more than it is cerebral or articulatable with words. The instant I encountered ‘Si So Mi’ I felt a surge of excitement. (Then came a subsidiary excitement that art still has the power to do that to me).

Reading a little bit about the work, I learned that it tells a story about the artist’s family’s long held business making traditional paper sculptures that are burned at funerals. That biographical element is enormously pleasing to me — that the strangeness of the world depicted in the film is so far from an affectation (not that I assumed it was affected — on the contrary it gives the exact opposite impression) but instead a first-hand account of experiences and memories related to funerals and watching a mouse die. The sound in the work, which is structured around Si So Mi, a traditional Taiwanese funeral song with roots in German folk music, is perversely sweet and childlike, and to me it sounds like recordings of castrati — crude, grainy and all but impossibly high pitched.

The self-reflexivity of the animated characters and scenery, having been made with the very material being talked about, is beautifully poetic and seems to close a loop in a satisfying way (rather than reductive or clever-clogs). Speaking of which, the work is shown as a loop as well – not incidentally – but rather as a commentary on the circularity of life, the afterlife, and indeed death.

— Eddie Peake, March 2021

ZHANG XU ZHAN 張徐 展 (b. 1988, Taiwan) is a video artist specialized in stop motion animation. His video installation work Hsin Hsin Joss Paper Store Series is a large-scale animation series centered on the artist’s family home that also functions as a business, called ‘Hsin Hsin Joss Paper Store’, with over a century of history in the craft of making traditional paper sculptures that are burned as offerings at funerals and ceremonies. The series is interwoven with the artist’s childhood memories and experiences, and the sense of loss for an antiquated craft in the face of modernity. His work uses traditional paper sculpture techniques to construct puppets for his stop-motion animations. Staging dramatic scenes like mythical comedies, the artist examines daily rituals embedded in deep cultural beliefs. Having grown up in an environment tied with death and the afterlife, Zhang Xu Zhan’s work often explores concepts of transition and change through humour, reflecting the experience of survival in contemporary times. His latest work extends this exploration to cross-cultural traditions and myths, observing how the root of shared stories are transformed through time and across regions, developing meanings unique to its time and place.

EDDIE PEAKE’s (b. 1981, London, UK) art includes performance, video, photography, painting, sculpture, sound and installation. It has tended to take the form of non-linear, immersive exhibitions, usually presented as a web of incongruously and yet inextricably connected discrete objects. One of its foci is the implicit drama within relationships between people, whether they are familial, professional, romantic, sexual or social, and how desire, sexuality, socio-political and cultural constructs, as well as psychological states such as depression impact on them. Peake also DJs under a pseudonym and runs a record label imprint called Hymn.

02 Podcast: Emma Talbot on Huma Bhabha

Emma Talbot selected What is Love (2013) by Huma Bhabha when asked to pick a work from the David and Indrė Roberts Collection to discuss in relation to her own practice.

Bhabha’s painted sculpture, which could just as easily be an alien from the future or symbol of an ancient past, forms the basis of a discussion about time travel and the way both artists imbued their works with with feeling and tie the personal up with events in the wider world.


Installation view of Study #16. What is Love, Huma Bhabha at DRAF, 2017. Photo: Tim Bowditch

Huma Bhabha, What is Love, 2013. Cork, styrofoam, acrylic paint, oil stick, lipstick,
203 x 30.5 x 36 cm

03 Adham Faramawy Selects: On Screen Special - Bassem Saad (4 – 21 March 2021)


2019, video, sound. Courtesy the artist.
00:18:55 minutes



I feel like I’ve been stalking Bassem Saad online for a couple of years now, from articles and interviews, to music, video trailers and exhibition documentation. We’ve never met and sadly I’ve never physically seen his sculptural works installed but I really can’t get enough of Bassem’s research or the ways he thinks through and articulates the entanglements of social, cultural and biological toxicity—interests we have in common.

In his video Kink Retrograde (2019), desire and threat sit on a knife edge as Bassem draws on post-colonial politics, poison, seduction and the mismanagement of waste disposal to think through relationships between individuals and the state, all played out in a landfill site in Lebanon.

The explosion at the port of the city of Beirut on August 4th 2020 shook so many of us to the core. After seeing clips of the blast and the desolation of the aftermath played over and over on social media and the news in the weeks that followed, I was numb. I took action to raise money but also I went back to Bassem’s video trailer for Kink Retrograde and his article No Entropy Cassandra several times.

The way Bassem traces out a web that links town planning to corporate interests, ecological concerns and the personal desires and behaviours of the individual gave me a prism through which to grasp how something like this disaster could happen.

Why would anyone store 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in the port of such a densely populated place? These are the consequences of toxic bureaucracy, with the understanding that this form of extreme negligence and greed are not specific to Lebanon but common across territories. Bassem’s work gives insight into how several generations are living through and with the effects of malign policy driven by profit.

“What if before the storm or flood clears, as we lie wasted and destitute, we might in that moment hope to destitute power itself?” Bassem Saad, No Entropy Cassandra, 2020

– Adham Faramawy, February 2021


BASSEM SAAD is an artist and writer born on September 11th and trained in architecture. His work explores objects and operations that distribute violence, pleasure, welfare and waste. Through video, sculpture and writing, he investigates and records strategies for manoeuvring within and beyond governance systems.

Bassem’s solo and collaborative work has been screened and exhibited in different cities, and presented at Architectural Association (London), Harvard University VES (MA), Alserkal Avenue (Dubai), and through various online channels. His writing appears in Jadaliyya, Unbag, and The Funambulist, and he is an editorial team member at FailedArchitecture. He was a web resident at Akademie Schloss Solitude and a resident fellow at Ashkal Alwan’s Home Workspace Program in Beirut. He was most recently a resident at Eyebeam in New York.


ADHAM FARAMAWY is an artist based in London. Their work spans media including moving image, sculptural installation and print thinking through issues of materiality, touch and toxic embodiment to question ideas of the natural in relation to marginalised communities.

They were included in the exhibition Abstract Cabinet at DRAF, alongside artists Anthea Hamilton, Celia Hampton, George Henry Longly, Nicholas Deshayes and Prem Sahib, curated by Nicoletta Lambertucci in 2013.


Music: Zeynab Ghandour aka Thoom and Pad Fut
Performer: Rayyan Abdelkhalek, with appearances by Jessika Khazrik, Veda Thozhur Kolleri, Nada Zanhour
Equipment provided by Panos Aprahamian and Ashkal Alwan
Interior shots at Mkalles Warehouse, courtesy of Renata Sabella

04 Amalia Pica Selects: On Screen Special - Selina Trepp (4 – 17 February 2021)


2018, hand drawn animation, stereo sound, inverted colour. Courtesy the artist.
00:05:55 minutes



Some artists would resist being called a formalist. Yet Selina Trepp and I share a belief in the power of form, in its huge political potential. This animation calls us to consider domestic life as a dynamo. Made while her daughter napped, this film wasn’t made during the pandemic, but it is a great reminder of what a few minutes in between parenting and a children’s lightbox can bring to fruition. The accompanying music was composed specially for this piece by Dan Bitney, Selina’s partner both in life and in Spectralina, their music and video performance duo.

Entirely hand drawn then digitally colour-inverted, this piece was a very time-consuming affair to make. Yet it is an easy watch and absolutely worthwhile these few minutes of your time. I invite you to surrender and let Selina take you on a short trip.

This is a feel-good film. It is mesmerizing. Yet it shares nothing with the popular ‘feel good’ media options on offer. The clarity of its fluid narrative – where things seem to move and transform – heading somewhere with a purpose that is as obscure as it is confident, is a little bit like life I would say. The lines fall in and out of figuration and abstraction while resisting crystallising into either, and that lack of definition exudes freedom and enormous potential. Again as in life, things seem to acquire fleeting meaning that disperses as soon as we catch up with it.

Selina is an uncompromising artist who believes artworks should be priced on a sliding scale. She hasn’t brought any new materials into her studio for years to prove how much we can do with what we already have and how little we really need to make something happen. If that isn’t a call to action, or inaction – as in a call to not consume – I don’t know what is. In the meantime, just tune into the joy of being Nowhere Now Here.

– Amalia Pica, January 2021


SELINA TREPP (b.1973 in Switzerland, lives and works in the US) is an artist researching economy and improvisation. Finding a balance between the intuitive and conceptual is a goal, living a life of adventure is a way, embarrassment is often a result.

She works across media, combining performance, installation, painting, and sculpture to create intricate setups that result in photos, drawings and animations.

In addition to the studio-based work, Selina is active in the experimental music scene. In this context she sings and plays the videolah, her midi-controlled video synthesizer, to create projected animations in real-time as visual music. She performs with a varying cast of collaborators and as one half of Spectralina, her long running audiovisual collaboration with Dan Bitney.

AMALIA PICA (b. 1978) is an artist from Argentina, she is spending the lockdown in Hackney.


Hand drawn animation by Selina Trepp
Music by Dan Bitney
Selina Trepp + Dan Bitney are Spectralina
©2018 Spectralina

05 Simon Starling Selects: On Screen Special - John Skoog (7 – 20 January 2021)


2014, 4K to HD video, stereo sound, colour. Courtesy the artist and Pilar Corrias Gallery
00:14:33 minutes



John Skoog’s Reduit (Redoubt), 2014

My response to an invitation to select a film for DRAF Broadcasts: On Screen Specials – an online series of screenings conceived in part as a way to connect with an audience confined to their homes by the pandemic – is, in some sense, a site-specific one. It struck me that John Skoog’s film, Reduit (Redoubt), 2014, a short documentary about the conversion of a humble cottage in the agricultural flatlands of Skåne, in southern Sweden, into a fortress by the farm labourer turned Cold War prepper Karl-Göran Persson between 1945 and 1975, might, as we continue to retreat to the safety of our own homes, resonate here and now in new ways. This thought was further compounded when I contacted John, a former student of my class at the Städelschule in Frankfurt, about the possibility of proposing the film for this On Screen Special and discovered that Persson and his fort were still very much current in John’s thinking – John having recently completed the script for a feature length film on the same subject in which the French actor Denis Lavant will play Persson.

Born in Malmö in 1985 and growing up in rural Skåne, John Skoog’s work as an artist and film maker is still firmly grounded in his childhood home. Even the films he’s made outside his native southern Sweden seem to question the potential for such a specifically home-grown, land-locked practice. The other film he completed in 2014, Shadowland, was filmed at a number of different locations around Los Angeles that have been used in Hollywood productions to portray geographically remote locations around the world – it’s as if John was testing the parameters of an inherently localised practice in this distant film making mecca. The story of Karl-Göran Persson and the fort he built to protect himself and his community from the perceived threat of nuclear devastation similarly seems to channel the global through the local.

Filmed at twilight, that notional space between fiction and reality, day and night, the living and the dead, Reduit (Redoubt), is something of a cinematic ‘phantom ride’, not the white-knuckle, break-neck variety of early cinema, but more of a creaking and groaning invocation, mediated through what appears to be a single tracking shot. It is perhaps relevant to mention that the very same track rented by John and cinematographer Ita Zbroniec-Zajt for filming Reduit (Redoubt) was used by Andrei Tarkovsky and Swedish cinematographer Sven Nyqvist in 1986 to film The Sacrifice. Tarkovsky’s Swedish swansong is about a middle-aged intellectual’s attempts to bargain with God to avert an impending nuclear holocaust by destroying, in return, everything he holds dear. It famously climaxes in an extended tracking shot, with him burning his own home – an appropriate cinematic counterpoint to Persson’s fortified cottage.

As the camera moves seamlessly along its pedigree track, snaking in and out of Persson’s fort, it interrogates the building’s rough concrete surfaces, its rudimentary windows and improvised doorways. Recycled metal objects, scavenged in the local area and embedded in its structure, protrude at intervals along its concrete walls, still binding the building together – grills, tin cans, bed frames, bicycles, even train tracks – everything brought to the building site by bike, the voiceover tells us. At times the surface of the building feels more organic than man-made, echoing the bark of two trees that huddle close to the structure. Nature and culture seem fused here. At one point, the camera appears to try and free itself of the building, moving out and up into the evening sky, only to be pulled back into the building’s orbit, as if by the sheer weight of the structure.

The pared-down visual narrative is augmented with a complex, thickly layered soundscape developed with David Gülich (I would recommend a set of good headphones when screening the film). We hear the sound of the heavy camera and dolly creaking and squeaking along the vintage tracks, punctuated with the occasional whispered interjection from the crew.

Above and beyond these process-related noises, deep, resonant rumbles, that seem to emanate for the very core of the massive building, blend with the wind and what sounds like running and dripping water. We might almost be on board a ship. “He was an incredibly strong man. Not that big, he kind of crouched under everything, to lift it up.” From time to time a number of voices punctuate the soundscape with pithy recollections of the “barrel-chested” Persson and his heroic building project. While many of the comments are affectionate and admiring, the overall sense is that perhaps the eccentric, single-mindedness of his attempts to shelter himself and his community, as a public information pamphlet published by the Swedish state had inspired him to do, ended-up driving a wedge between him and the community he worked so hard to protect.

– Simon Starling, Dec 2020


The practice of SIMON STARLING (b. 1967, Epsom) spans a wide variety of media, including film, installation and photography. His works often intertwine assorted materials and are shaped by extensive research and labour processes. Starling graduated from the Glasgow School of Art, going on to represent Scotland at the Venice Biennale in 2003. In 2005 Starling won the Turner Prize and he was shortlisted for the Hugo Boss Prize in 2004. He was professor of fine arts at the Städelschule in Frankfurt from 2003 to 2013.

In his films, videos, and photography JOHN SKOOG (b. 1985, Malmö) combines research into history and everyday life with a poetic and fictional atmosphere that is grounded in the film and literary traditions. His work explores social contexts of individuals and communities; unpacking their complex relationship to collective rituals and historical forces, as well as to existential and natural scenarios of transition. Skoog’s works make clear references to mythological iconography; they remind us of the profane origins of myth and in this way they aim to demystify both nature and society.



A film by JOHN SKOOG


FOCUS PULLER Wojtek Szumski
GRIP Martin Martinsen & Mattias Edström & Benedikte Bjerre


Ingeborg Andersson
Bodil Göransson
Astrid Göransson
Kjell Olsson
Siv Olsson
Torbjörn Sundqvist

Gottfrid Bengtsson
Alvy Gulin
Kjell Gulin
Barbro Hallberg
Erik Hallberg
Kjell Olsson
Siv Olsson
Sigvard Ohlsson
Assar Nilsson
Gösta Sjöholm

06 On Screen: David Shrigley - Light Switch (23 December 2020 - 6 January 2021)

A black and white drawing of a hand with outstretched finger angled in the direction of a switch that reads 'off' above the switch and 'on' below it.


2007, black and white animation, video installation.
00:01:29 minutes


As 2020 ends and another year begins, our Broadcasts: On Screen programme also draws to a close. Having screened fourteen works from the David Roberts Collection so far this year, we are leaving you a final edition, the aptly symbolic Light Switch by David Shrigley.

DAVID SHRIGLEY (b. 1968, Macclesfield) is known for quick-witted drawings with typically deadpan humour. Recurring themes come through in his storytelling, like overheard snippets of conversations, rendering child-like views of the world and the perspective of aliens or monsters. While drawing is at the centre of his practice, Shrigley also works across an extensive range of media including sculpture, large-scale installation, animation, painting, photography, publications and music.

His digital animations demonstrate what Shrigley calls ‘the economy of telling stories’, delivering a deftly crafted mix of dark and light through the simplest of forms, in Light Switch quite literally.

07 Podcast: Caroline Achaintre on Berlinde De Bruyckere


Both having keen interests in the animal world, art history and mythology, Caroline Achaintre quickly gravitated to Berlinde De Brucykere when asked to choose a work from the David Roberts Collection other than her own to discuss. She chose Lost II (2007) as the starting point for this discussion.



Berlinde De Bruyckere, Lost II, 2007, horseskin, epoxy, metal, wood, 98 x 151.5 x 164 cm. David Roberts Collection, London. Photo: Mirjam Devriendt

08 Pádraig Timoney Selects: On Screen Special - Declan Clarke (10 – 23 December 2020)


2014, 16mm film and HD video, digital transfer. Courtesy the artist
00:42:24 minutes


The premise of Declan Clarke’s film Group Portrait with Explosives (2014) is Clarke’s own piecing together of a historically much-less trumpeted ‘globalization’; of a trade between non-NATO states, evidenced in three industrial products (Zetor tractors, guns, and Semtex explosives, all from the manufacturing base of the former Czechoslovakia) appearing within a specific area of the North of Ireland during the Troubled early 70s, 80s, and 90s.

On childhood and adolescent family trips from his hometown of Dublin, Clarke often went to visit the farm of close relatives on his mother’s side, in South Armagh. Going to see the relations, a most natural journey, meant crossing the border, and soon provoked a wrenching curiosity into the situation of the border areas of Ireland. In widening thematic terms, what is the lived reality of residents local to geographical border lines drawn by colonial powers, in expediency, negotiation, or avarice, through previously coherent sociopolitical situations?

I recently met Declan as I moved to Berlin and having seen some of this work, this one resonated in particular. The conditions described in Declan’s film were also the conditions of my own border-crossing childhood and youth in the North, from 1968 to 1987.

The film has a particular texture, due to the source material; archival footage and documentation from the 1960s-1980s, interspersed with shots of both Ireland and Czech Republic in contemporary settings. There is a mundanity and familiar simplicity to the material which itself appears very disarming – family footage, photographs, sunlight filtering across the tractors in a Brno showroom – so refreshing after the aesthetic hectoring of advertising footage. The light in the showroom and the archive photos as matter of fact and mysterious as the available light necessary to film the Armagh countryside.

The film’s collage, live-shot and with contemplative space for the resonance of the voice-over, reminds me of something of Derek Jarman; the allowance of the imagery to build its own strangeness. It’s a sort of imaginative listening for what is revealed or left unsaid in the ground level huddles underneath the unceasing ideological broadcast of a colonial narrative; local and lived stories, which, in their very uniqueness and particularity, are also universalised. The phrase Group Portrait with Explosives is an innovative description by rhythm, mention and inference of ‘the conditions’. And what the options, in those conditions, turn out to be.

– Padraig Timoney

Dec 2020

At the core of PÁDRAIG TIMONEY’s (b. 1968, Derry) practice is an ongoing inquiry into the mechanics of image-making – each canvas represents its own investigation into the ways images are constructed or reconstructed through painting. Resisting any singular style, Timoney’s works are instead united in approach; each painting aims to seamlessly connect a chosen image with both material and process. By including the errors of translation and the faultiness of recognition, abstraction and figuration never seem too far apart in his work. In turn, his exhibitions document a specific duration of time and research in the studio, rather than a more traditional artistic thesis.

DECLAN CLARKE (b. 1974, Dublin) works predominately in the medium of film, but has worked frequently with other media throughout the last 15 years. His films reflect on everyday experiences and contrast these with grand narratives and explorations of the historical edifices of political power.

09 On Screen: Frances Young - Song of Farewell (26 November - 9 December 2020)

A swarm of starlings is landing on the tracks of a twisty roller coaster as dusk falls


2007, SD video (PAL), aspect ratio 4:3. Colour with stereo sound.
Presented as a single channel video projection on continuous loop.

00:04:58 minutes


There is a cyclical nature to Frances Young’s Song of Farewell. The rollercoaster carts that presumably race around those tight bends are fixed on a looped track. Where there would usually be the rattle of wheels and screams of joy whooshing past, those noises are now merely imagined in the eerie calm, as the tracks are deserted of human activity. Instead, a large swarm of starlings perform their group choreography as dusk falls and the light is rapidly changing. Their murmuration – or swarm behaviour that sees the group swirl and swoop across the sky like a shapeshifting black cloud – has been slowed down, focusing on the moment the starlings first descend and then depart en masse from the tracks. In rest, they line up in a relatively orderly fashion, mirroring the neat rows of flashing bulbs that call out for attention in the empty fairground. As they sit side by side, the birds almost resemble the individual cars that join up to form the trains that would race across the circuit.

Starlings are migratory birds, sometimes flying up to 80km/h and covering up to 1,500 km (930 mi) in their flight, returning to the same spots each year. The repetition in their flight patterns forms another loop. This promise of repetition is echoed in the soundscape, which is created by capturing the end-static when a vinyl record plays out. It is the noise of a temporary end, waiting to be flipped around or started over. The sound is looped, slowly getting darker and louder, creating a beat that transitions from what sounds like the slow thumping over train tracks to the flapping of many powerful wings, until the rhythm fades into the distance.

The final loop is the video work itself. When shown in an exhibition context it will play in a seamless loop, underling the structures of repetition that Young is examining. As the sky fluctuates between an almost sea green to dusty blue and a dark purple, night never fully falls, the birds never completely settle and abandonment of the fairground does not get resolved, but it is a pleasant ride to be on.

FRANCES YOUNG (b. 1973, Shoreham by Sea) is an artist and researcher who mainly works with moving image. She is particularly interested in the interplay between image / sound and the still and moving, explored through process-led investigations and a wide variety of recording media. She is currently a PhD Candidate at the Royal College of Art, where she is working on a practice-based thesis: Between Movement and Stasis: Loops within the Durational. This research examines various iterations and configurations of loop forms in moving image and sound, finding points of oscillation between movement and stasis in the loop, alongside dualities of recording and erasure, absence and presence.

Song of Farewell has been part of the David Roberts Collection since 2008 and was last shown publicly as part of the screening programme DRAF x Art Night. An Evening of Video Screenings (7 Jul 2018 at Village Hall Battersea Power Station, London).

10 On Screen: Guillaume Paris - We Are the Children - Part 2 (12 – 25 November 2020)


2004, permanent video (DVD), monitor on a pedestal, colour, silent
00:02:10 minutes


Like father, like son – so the saying goes. This seems to have been taken quite literally in Guillaume ParisWe Are the Children – Part 2, as we travel the world through the eyes of packaging designers of the last decades. A succession of what Paris terms “portrait-products” pass the screen, with product packaging smoothly morphing into one another. It’s not just the shape and writing, but the faces of people on the products also transform. As opposed to an early version of We Are the Children, this Part 2 version specifically focusses on relationships in pairs; many adults with child, heterosexual couples, some same-sex, babies with cuddly toys and all kinds of ages with a pet. Because all the products featured can be purchased in a supermarket and have a domestic use, it is less ‘father and son’ and more woman and child. What is also instantly noticeable is the uniformity of the couples, with none of the presumed family units or relationships showing mixed race pairings. The marketeers seem to have an incredibly homogenised view of any given society. However, as the languages on the products shift from European to Asian vernaculars, so too do the ethnicities of the smiling faces, showing how these globalised products are adapted for localised markets.

We Are the Children – Part 2 is part of a larger project called H.U.M.A.N.W.O.R.L.D., an acronym that stands for ‘Holistic and Utopian Multinational Alliance for New World Order and Research in Living and Dying’. Created by Paris in 1991, this project – which he describes as “part Gesamt-Experiment and part imaginary museum” – is an endeavour to respond to issues related to globalization, the successes and failings of multiculturalism and with that the representation of cultural Otherness.¹

Set up somewhat like a think tank due to its interdisciplinary approach, H.U.M.A.N.W.O.R.L.D. involves actors, anthropologists, architects, art historians, artists, critical theorists, computer programmers, designers, linguists, models, sociologists, writers, and psychics. Together these practitioners question systems of representation within material and visual culture, with the resulting art works functioning as a visual expression of the problems that the group is addressing.

The choice to work with advertising imagery came due to the transparent agenda of these multinationals, as well as the almost universal reach of their vastly expensive commodity campaigns. One of aims of the project is to expose the failure of advertising to accurately represent ethnic diversity. It argues that the array of product images, so omni-present in shops and television screens, serve as both cultural artefacts and social constructs that bolster stereotyping. The reason Paris refers to this project as “part museum” is because his ‘portrait-products’ aim to function the way collections of cultural artefacts built by Western anthropological museums do, and so highlight the difficulties these collections now face in the politics and ethics of their historically imperialist ideology and self-centered worldview.

The formal qualities of the video follow a similar line of argument. Shot against the simple light grey background of a photography studio, the products and their saturated colours take centre stage. This look is reminiscent of a ‘United Colours of Benetton style’ campaign, a global fashion brand and thus by extension hyper-capitalist company. During the early 90s, the same time H.U.M.A.N.W.O.R.L.D. was set up, Benetton made a name for themselves with controversial campaign images (profiting from crises including AIDS and mafia-related assassinations) as well as studio-based shoots where racially diverse groups of people, often children, posed in a colourful array of jumpers and slacks. The messaging was simple enough; ‘united (skin) colours’ of the world equals their wide choice of shades, weaponising diversity to give the company a global and progressive outlook. So, whilst We Are the Children – Part 2 is clearly making an argument against advertising that peddles a one-sided narrative and Western worldview, what would Paris make of such a campaign?

“We Are the Children” is probably best known as a lyric in the 1985 charity single recorded by ‘USA for Africa’, an American supergroup whose chosen moniker unashamedly smacks of cultural and political hegemony over Others. That line is followed up with a lyric that feels apt when questioning the position of the corporates that pass-by in We Are the Children: “There’s a choice we’re making / We’re saving our own lives”. If anything, the ‘liberal’ position of a company like Benetton points to the far-reaching grasp of commodity culture; the morphing packaging hereby also represents how capitalism can morph to take on any ideological shape, as long as that benefits its own financial gain. Guillaume Paris both exposes the system and adds a layer of complex mystique.

GUILLAUME PARIS (b.1966, Abidjan) grew up moving between African, Southeast Asian and European nations before heading to the United States for his further education. He trained as an engineer and anthropologist ahead of turning to visual arts. These academic outlooks and his culturally rich childhood both play directly into his art practice.

His diverse practice focuses on the meaning and (ab)use of identity construction in contemporary culture. He examines the ideological forces at play in consumer capitalism and Western politics, with a particular interest in the persistence of quasi-magical forms of thinking, for example the superstition that presides in finance markets and the enchantment that is created around certain commodities.

We Are the Children – Part 2 has been part of the David Roberts Collection since 2007. To find out more about H.U.M.A.N.W.O.R.L.D. in it’s current form, click here.

1        Guillaume Paris, “H.U.M.A.N.W.O.R.L.D – Introduction”,, 20 Apr 2015 [accessed 10 Nov 2020].

11 Podcast: Jonathan Baldock on Niki de Saint Phalle

An artist he has long loved and admired, artist Jonathan Baldock quickly gravitated towards Niki de Saint Phalle when asked to choose a work to discuss from the David Roberts Collection. Topic of deliberation is her small sculpture Nana Danseuse made around 1972.

He is interested in both the joyous celebration of female figures and the (at times overlooked) politicized, feminist activism and trauma that is also present in de Saint Phalle’s practice. There are formal crossovers in Baldock and de Saint Phalle’s practices too, both being rich with references, sparking conversation about her Tarot Garden in Italy and the act of collecting “mundane things” as a child including stamps, coins, and even bird sightings.



Small painted polyester sculpture of a dancing female figure with heart-shaped cups on her breasts and blue and white stripy tights

Niki de Saint Phalle, Nana Danseuse, circa 1972
painted polyester on an iron base by Jean Tinguely, height 69cm. David Roberts Collection, London. © 2020 Christie’s Images Limited.

12 Katinka Bock Selects: On Screen Special - Ulla von Brandenburg (29 October – 11 November 2020)



2005, super 16mm film transferred to hd video, b&w, silent, single-screen projection, loop
00:02:45 minutes


Around, for Ulla

You are beautiful from behind, you are beautiful when you have to leave. Françoise Cactus loves farewells and distance.

I observe the nape of the neck and the shoulders and eavesdrop on what the woman in front of me in the queue is saying. What face, I wonder, does this voice bear?

Ulla loves the performance and the space behind the stage. It smells of freedom.

You take a bow, the curtain falls. I would like to see how you walk, turn and move away and never come back again.

Sometimes a person never comes back.

In the year two thousand and five there is a wave of violent unrest in the greater Paris area. She and I, we are new in Paris; we do not know one another. We live in the centre. We see people’s backs, we circle with them, not always in step. The gramophone record never plays the A-side and the B-side at the same time. Thirty-three revolutions, A-B-BA. Where is the centre of the periphery?

In the year two thousand and twenty the centre is blue.

I drive along the Boulevard Périphérique, once anti-clockwise, once clockwise. I photograph the banlieue, forty-five minutes of one night on one negative. I photograph Paris, forty-five minutes of the same night on a second negative. You are beautiful from behind, you are beautiful in the night.

Do you know, Anna, do you know by now: people can read you from behind too, yet never see you from the front.

The group rotates around the eye, and the eye rotates with it. We are united. Space rotates in the opposite direction, topples out of the image and is free. Do not leave me; and keep your distance from me. Do not turn around, do not look at me.

Walter Benjamin warns us not to betray our dreams. Before you narrate them and clad them in words, take time to have your breakfast.

She holds her cards real close – we see only their reverse sides: cheating is impossible. I look behind the canvas, but there’s nothing there except wiring.

Ulla tells us about the people who are absent. She lays the table for everyone. The colours, the spirits.

I watch a grandmother and her grandson on the train. She is reading a book to him out loud. It’s a story about a cat. The child puts his index finger and thumb on the image and moves his fingers apart.

For Trinity, this youthful back, only distance counts. A being with no gravitational pull. Welcome to the clouds and their monotony.

– Katinka Bock, Paris, 19 Oct 2020

Translated from German by Richard Humphrey



Around, für Ulla

Schön bist Du von hinten, schön bist Du, wenn Du gehen musst. Françoise Cactus liebt den Abschied und den Abstand.

Ich beobachte den Nacken, die Schultern, lausche den Worten der Frau vor mir in der Warteschlange. Welches Gesicht wohl diese Stimme trägt?

Ulla liebt den Auftritt und den Raum hinter der Bühne. Er riecht nach Freiheit.

Du verbeugst Dich, der Vorhang fällt. Ich möchte sehen, wie Du gehst, Dich drehst und entfernst und nie mehr wiederkommst.

Sometimes a person never comes back.

Im Jahr zweitausendfünf kommt es zu einer Serie von gewalttätigen Unruhen im Großraum von Paris. Sie und ich, wir sind neu in Paris, wir kennen uns nicht.  Wir leben im Zentrum. Wir sehnen die Rücken, wir kreisen mit ihnen, nicht immer im Gleichtakt. Die Schallplatte spielt die Seite A und die Seite B niemals gleichzeitig. Dreiunddreissig Umdrehungen, A-B-BA. Wo ist das Zentrum der Peripherie?

Im Jahr zweitausendundzwanzig ist die Mitte blau.

Ich fahre auf dem Boulevard Prériphérique, einmal links herum, einmal rechts herum. Ich fotografiere das Banlieue, fünfundvierzig Minuten einer Nacht auf einem Negativ. Ich fotografiere Paris, fünfundvierzig Minuten der selben Nacht auf einem zweiten Negativ. Schön bist Du von hinten, schön bist Du in der Nacht.

Weißt Du es, Anna, weißt Du es schon, man kann Dich auch von hinten lesen, doch niemals von vorne sehen.

Die Gruppe dreht sich um das Auge und das Auge dreht sich mit. Wir sind vereint. Der Raum dreht sich entgegengesetzt, kippt aus dem Bild und ist frei. Verlass mich nicht und bleib mir fern. Dreh Dich nicht um, schau mich nicht an.

Walter Benjamin warnt uns vor dem Verrat an unseren Träumen. Bevor Du sie erzählst, sie in Worte kleidest, nimm Dir Zeit zu frühstücken.

Sie lässt sich nicht in die Karten schauen, wir sehen nur ihre Rückseiten, schummeln unmöglich. Ich schaue hinter die Leinwand, doch da liegen nur Kabel.

Ulla erzählt uns von denen, die fehlen. Sie deckt den Tisch für alle. Die Farben, die Geister.

Ich beobachte eine Großmutter und ihren Enkel im Zug. Sie liest ihm ein Buch vor. Die Geschichte handelt von einer Katze. Das Kind setzt Zeigefinger und Daumen auf das Bild und zieht die Finger auseinander.

Für Trinity, diesen jungen Rücken, zählt nur die Entfernung. Ein Wesen ohne Schwerkraft. Willkommen in den Wolken und ihrer Monotonie.

– Katinka Bock, Paris, 19 oct 2020


Around, 2005

Film by Ulla von Brandenburg. Courtesy the artist, Galerie Art:Concept | Meyer Riegger, Berlin/Karlsruhe | Pilar Corrias Gallery, London |Produzentengalerie, Hamburg

Actors: Clair Bennett, Michael Doerksen, Maryse Larivière, Matt Law, François Lemieux, Zoe Kreye, Robin Simpson, Nick Thorburn

Camera: Ulla von Brandenburg

Verbund Collection, Vienna (ed. 1/5) | Private Collection, Paris (ed. 2/5) |Frac Île-de-France Collection, Paris (ed. 3/5) | Tate Collection, London (ed. 4/5)

Around is shot as a living picture, showing a group of people standing against each other, back to the camera, in the middle of a street in an industrial landscape. The camera rotates around them but the people change position slowly, so they are never seen head-on. It is a slow-motion choreography that puts the viewer in the position of a voyeur on the fringe. The repetitive and cyclical nature of the silent film instead focuses on a certain ambiguity.

KATINKA BOCK’s (b. 1976. Frankfurt-am-Main) work is rooted in a discursive thought of sculpture and language. The shape is often a result of a working process where the rational and the unforeseen meet each other. Each of her installations defines a space and often seems to wrestle against the claustrophobia of the exhibition spaces; tending to open doors, windows, walls, holes by which to escape, or to let in rain or air.

ULLA VON BRANDENBURG  (b. 1974, Karlsruhe) works in film, photography, installation, and performance. Von Brandenburg uses what may be viewed as archaic artmaking traditions within these media to investigate the unspoken rules of contemporary society. Her often bold, eclectic and large works can in part be traced back to her formal training in set design and keen interest in the history of film, photography, literature, theatre, and psychology.

Von Brandenburg’s favoured format for video is black and white, presumably referencing the origins of film making. In contrast, many of her drawings, performances and installations use bright and primary colours.

13 Podcast: France-Lise McGurn on Tamara de Lempicka

Glasgow-based artist France-Lise McGurn has chosen to talk about Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka’s drawing Sur La Plage, made circa 1926. This drawing from the David Roberts Collection becomes the basis for a conversation that touches on the female nude, Madonna videos and cigarette packets.

This is a new series of conversations as part of Broadcasts: Podcast, which will open up the David Roberts Collection through artists’ encounters with works in the collection.



Soft pencil drawing of a half-naked women lying on a beach
Tamara de Lempicka, Sur La Plage (On the Beach), c.1926, graphite on paper. David Roberts Collection, London.

14 On Screen: Tereza Buskova - Wedding Rituals (15 – 28 October 2020)


2007, video installation, dimensions variable

performed by Zoe Simon, Joni Livinson, Vangelis Legakis
sound by Bela Emerson

00:09:14 minutes


Growing up in Prague, Tereza Buskova was influenced by the Czechoslovak New Wave which started there from the early 1960s. The New Wave filmmakers used dark humour and non-professional actors, partly in opposition to the Social Realist cinema of the 1950s. Being shot on Super 8, the slow movement of the performers combined with the jerky motion of the camera creates a sense of the supernatural and a prevailing undertone of sexual freedom. These characteristics also conjure up experimental and artist filmmakers of the same era in New York’s counterculture; the likes of Shirley Clarke, Andy Warhol and Maya Deren.¹

Maya Deren’s dreamlike films combine ethnography with choreography. In her work Meditation on Violence “she is the camera, she’s moving, she’s breathing in relation to this dancer.”² There is much in common here with how Buskova views her own presence in Wedding Rituals.

Buskova’s reference points are likewise more personal: “I felt particularly drawn to ambiguous experimental films full of magic realism. My favourite of all was Jaromir Jires’ film Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970), which was an adaptation of a novel by Surrealist Czech writer Vitezslav Nezval, written in 1935. The story isn’t clearly defined, but through poetically visual images the viewer drifts between the subconscious and the reality of a young woman entering her adolescence – the loss of Valerie’s innocence. There is a similarity with Wedding Rituals. It is a semi-biographical work through which I have unconsciously re-told the dark layers of my first marriage, which I portrayed through symbolism.”³

In Wedding Rituals a half-naked woman partly covered in white body paint is revealed adorned with bright red lips and a richly decorated folk skirt. She is surrounded by figures representing a cockerel and a rabbit with beautiful hand-made props. What follows is a sequence of tableaux vivants, enacting rituals; there is the slightly awkward cupping of a breast and the dance scene which looks like a parade of long, stretched out legs. It all culminates once the woman is made to sit still, her neck resting on a pedestal stand, in order to have a headdress placed on her by two masked men. This gesture is the pinnacle of traditional Slavic wedding rituals, symbolising the bride’s tie to her husband. Upon leaving her parents’ house the bride isn’t allowed to walk on the earth, due to potentially encountering bad spirits, instead being transported by a vehicle like a carriage. Sometimes bridesmaids would dress up as the bride to confuse the spirits, protecting the bride in her transitional and vulnerable state. Perhaps this is why, ‘en route’ the woman meets the figures dressed as animals – it alludes to a tale from English folklore, where women accused of witchcraft would escape their hunters by transforming into a hare.⁴

Haunting and trance-like, the sounds and movements in the work are examples of Buskova letting others interpret her vision. The central character is enacted by Zoe Simon, who Buskova cites as her muse. Since Wedding Rituals they have gone on to work together frequently. When the work was shot the set was silent, a process Simon describes as heightening the feeling of being part of a ritual, in that the actors slowly added improvised movements to the tableaux vivants accompanied only by the rustling of props and noises from the camera.5 Wedding Rituals also marks another first-time collaboration that grew into a recurring partnership – with cellist Bela Emerson who created the mesmerizing and melancholic score. Upon completion Emerson spent several days watching the film on loop to become fully immersed in the imagery and colours before playing along to the film in several takes. The result is the intricately layered set of string arrangements.

It is a collaborative process that stirs up folkloric magic in a new concoction, bubbling with sexual tension and mythical tales. Whilst being held back by the headdress, the sexuality and mystique of the bride can never be quite contained by the men that move around her, and the film exudes a sense of defiant freedom.

TEREZA BUSKOVA (b.1978, Prague) is a Czech artist who lives in Birmingham with her young family. Her practice celebrates and reinterprets long established customs -particularly ritual, tradition and craft as carriers of identity and belonging. She works in print, video, performance and public art projects, including staging large-scale participatory events with local communities. Slavic rituals were often the starting point for her work, however, since being based in Birmingham Buskova researches and explores other European customs, which are reinvented with her collaborators and community stakeholders. Frequent collaborators are costume maker Mariana Novotna, performer Zoe Simon and cellist-composer Bela Emerson.

In 2008 Tereza Buskova’s had her first solo exhibition, which was at ‘one one one’, David Roberts Art Foundation’s first gallery space. Wedding Rituals (2007) was shown alongside newly commissioned prints and another Super 8 film, Forgotten Marriage (2008), which is now also part of the David Roberts Collection.

1       Maxa Zoller, “Wedding Rituals”, 2007, + Tereza Buskova, in discussion with author, Sep 2020.
2       Stan Brakhage quoted in Georgia Korossi, “Maya Deren Meshes of the Afternoon”, BFI, 2020.
3       Tereza Buskova, in discussion with author, Sep 2020.
4       Insight from Zoe Simon in correspondence with the author, Sep 2020.

15 Charles Avery Selects: On Screen Special - Erik van Lieshout (1 – 14 October 2020)


2019, dimensions variable
00:35:33 minutes


I first encountered a film of Erik’s at the 2003 Venice Biennale, wandering around the pavilions of The Giardini during the ponderous installation period, probably in search of a screwdriver.

I can’t remember when I first met Erik himself, which is strange because he’s such a charismatic guy, in life just as he is in front of the camera. We became firm friends when we swapped some drawings, and when I stayed in his apartment in Rotterdam and we drank some vodka and he showed me the rest of his collection.

Erik loves drawing, he’s always doing it, which makes sense when you look at his films. I can’t bring myself to call any of it work, nor can I do so with my own drawings. Not that it’s easy, it’s very difficult, but to call these emissions ‘works’, or ‘pieces’ implies a stasis which belies their nature, which is fluid, unresolved, questioning, failing and vital.

I could have chosen any one of Erik’s films: the same quality runs through all of them. All centre on him as narrator, interviewer and protagonist. I chose Beer, 2019, for several reasons. It’s extremely relevant, it’s substantial, it pays tribute to the essential, close production relationship with his wife Suzanne, whilst bearing all the hallmarks of vintage Erik: humour, vulnerability, honesty, dishonesty, cheek, accessibility.

The film explores, amongst other artistic crises, his dilemma of having been nominated for the €100,000 Heineken Prize for Art, whilst becoming aware of alleged immoral practices of the company in Africa, and his eventual acceptance of the prize.

Erik’s strategy when making a film is generally to embed himself in a place, situation or community and, with great economy of means, use anything that happens to come his way, material or mental, to weave a story. In Beer he refers to the ignobility and discomfort of accepting the prize, weighing up the dilemma in the style of a disgraced Jewish NY comedian (but then there’s the money) and thus he performs alchemy with the most repugnant trait: hypocrisy. Ultimately, he settles on his wife’s – who is also producer of his films – initiative: a Robin Hood style manoeuvre of funding a pharmacy in Africa with the prize money.

I admire Erik firstly because he is so exotic. He is a person I could never be, or even imagine being, yet intrinsically feel connected to through the qualities I see in what he does, and which I try to stay close to within my own project: commonality (the ability to be available to people, beyond the gatekeepers, conventions and signifiers of the ‘Art code’), humour (I disclose that I regard comedy as the highest art form), improvisation, failure, the reflection and synthesis of worldly experience, and the sense that it is never done, always provisional, conversational, therapeutic and wrought from inadequacy.

– Charles Avery

Beer, 2019

Film by Erik van Lieshout. Courtesy the artist and Maureen Paley.

ERIK VAN LIESHOUT (b. 1968, Deurne) lives and works in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. His work consists of drawings, collages, paintings and video installations, and touches on major themes such as love, politics, art, religion and death. He uses performance, stop motion animations and humour to dive into these themes. Van Lieshout usually plays the role of the clever jester, but in the end one wonders who is the last to laugh.

CHARLES AVERY (b. 1973, Oban) is based in London. Starting in 2004, Charles Avery has dedicated himself to a singular world-building project through the depiction of an imaginary island. The Islanders charts the formation of Avery’s fiction through drawings, sculptures, texts, ephemera and (more rarely) 16mm animations, as well as live incursions into our own world.

16 Podcast: with Nicoletta Lambertucci, Curator, Contemporary Art at The Box, Plymouth

Collections can be seen as fluid entities and resources. From this perspective, Ned McConnell is joined by Nicoletta Lambertucci to talk about curatorial approaches and responsibilities when working with diverse collections, the role of the curator within institutions and how to create an integrated programme.

17 On Screen: Pierre Bismuth - Coming Soon (17 - 30 September 2020)


2006, video installation
00:07:10 minutes


Bombastic, recognizable and at times even down-right annoying, Coming Soon is a fast-paced compilation of the closing seconds of film trailers. It is a familiar final visual in trailers when the alluding, though vague, words ‘coming soon’ are blasted across cinema screens. Bismuth’s compilation is made up of motion pictures by many of the large American film studios and production companies, discernible by the logos that accompany the phrase. Where it is possible to decipher what film is being referred to they are all major motion pictures released around 2002-03, including Johnny English, the original Jackass: The Movie, and the only ‘coming soon’ that is accompanied by moving image; Secretary with Maggie Gyllenhaal.

The term ‘coming soon’ is a verbal tease; it is a promise without guarantee, a suggestion of becoming without an indication of when and how that existence will manifest. Whilst ‘coming’ indicates an impending approach, the root of ‘soon’ actually comes from the Old English ‘sōna’ meaning ‘immediately’. It throws up a nice tension in the word, especially when placed together. ‘Coming soon’ now simultaneously suggests it is taking place presently, at some future time. All these ‘comings’ stacked together means Bismuth has created a long string of suspense, that offers no solace after the orchestrated build-up of excitement. Perhaps then he has created an exercise in over-eager expectation management; where the advent of the actual thing feels disappointing in comparison due to excessive early hype.

Separating the words from their meaning, or viewed as title cards alone, Coming Soon is a candid exploration of typography, soundtrack and film history. Just how these elements interact with moving image to create an atmosphere is the very vernacular of mainstream film. Artists working with video and more experimental filmmakers have long appropriated this language of big-budget cinema. Bismuth’s appropriation of Hollywood convention is a little different since he is directly involved in Hollywood as a screenwriter and has also directed his own feature, Where is Rocky II?, released in 2016. Coming Soon and his other artist films could therefore be viewed as a subversion from the inside out, semi-ironic and semi-in-awe.

Bismuth’s seamless existence within the logic of both the film industry and the contemporary art world and market is illustrative of the ongoing erosion of cultural boundaries and blending of visual art – centuries long regarded as “high culture”, with an unhealthy whiff of elitism – and cinema, as a form of mass entertainment. Bismuth points to this when adding a footnote to Joseph Beuys’ famous quote that “everyone is an artist” by essentially saying ‘everybody is an artist, but only the artists know it’¹:

“Each one of us creates at each moment of the day in the way we live and understand reality. The artist’s sole quality is to be aware of this and to make it manifest in the context of art and in accordance with the artistic conventions to which he subscribes. Artists are artists only because they define themselves as such . . .”² (Pierre Bismuth, 2000)

So, what to make of this idea of manifesting within particular conventions? Linguistically and stylistically Coming Soon ticks those boxes quite literally, playing with the idea of a future manifestation and crossing over between different cinema and art. There is however one convention that holds all this together; (re)appropriation, which has become particularly prolific and visible in all cultural fields since the mid 20th century. Easy access to digital technologies accelerated this practice from the 1990s. Bismuth has created an artwork whose sole material is copy-pasted bootlegs of existing media, remixed or reworked. Coming Soon is a true ‘prosumer’ piece that messes with both the traditional conventions of the ‘auteur’ in film or the ‘genius’ in art. Bismuth has turned these trailers into one big tease. has turned these trailers into one big tease.

PIERRE BISMUTH (b. 1963, Paris) is a French artist and filmmaker based in Brussels. His practice has been regarded as part of the conceptual art movement but is also firmly within the parameters of appropriation art. His work encompasses a wide variety of media and materials, including painting, sculpture, collage, video, architecture, performance, music, and film and sets out to humorously examine protocols of human activity and production.

Not only an acclaimed artist, Bismuth was also one of the screenwriters for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), for which he won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2005 alongside Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman. Bismuth made his directorial debut with the 2016 feature film Where is Rocky II?, a part documentary and part fictional story of the search for Ed Ruscha’s Rocky II, a fake rock placed somewhere in the Mojave desert in California in 1976.

There is another work in the David Roberts Collection by Pierre Bismuth also titled Coming Soon (2005) which was originally exhibited together with this film piece in 2008 at a solo presentation of Bismuth’s work at his Parisian gallery (then Cosmic Galerie, now known as Bagada Carngnel), . It is a wall piece of white neon letters, 101.5 x 152.5 cm large, that illuminate, letter by letter, the phrase ‘Coming soon’ in a serif font. This Coming Soon was first created to be shown at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, now ICA LA.

1        Ben Eastham, “Pierre Bismuth: Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria”, Frieze, 20 Apr 2015 [accessed 10 Sep 2020].
2       Pierre Bismuth, “Never believe an artist who says their work is about nothing”, trans by Charles Penwarden, Gallery Newspaper, Sep-Oct 2001 [accessed 10 Sep 2020].

18 Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings Select: On Screen Special - Gaby Sahhar (3 – 16 September 2020)


2020, dimensions variable
00:09:26 minutes


Gaby is our close friend and we also share a studio. The studio is a place where we produce work but it’s also where we produce our friendship, a friendship that is unique in its familial intimacy and its near total lack of boundaries. As artist peers and as friends our relationship is energised by a healthy codependency and our practices, although distinct materially and conceptually, share echoes of our conversations and a world view that we have forged together. Our closeness has given us a privileged insight into each other’s practice. We witness every mundane moment, existential crisis and breakthrough and as we grapple with our work we provide one another with perspective – the essential but easily lost ingredient in any work of art.

Truth and Kinship (2020) is Gaby’s first major production moving image artwork, parts of which, incidentally, were filmed and edited in our studio at a time when three buildings nearby the studio were pulled down and rapidly began metamorphosing into luxury apartment blocks. A process uninterrupted as the whole world shut down in response to Covid-19.

In the making of Truth and Kinship Gaby bravely entered a new territory in their practice, working for the first time with a film crew; cinematographer (Rosie Taylor), audio producer (Milo McKinnon) and actors including themself. This step gave Gaby the creative license to explore in more depth ideas that have taken precedence in their practice. To us the film questions the following: What is the gender and sexuality of gentrification? How is the urban landscape marked by the flow of capital? To us the film feels fictional yet observational, showing how various identities within the structural hierarchy of London co-exist and interact.

Truth and Kinship is narrated by an alien and disembodied voice read by Gaby, their voice distorted to become gender, class and age ambiguous. The voice is both taunting and traumatised, revealing a vast alienation that as viewers but also friends we can’t help but trace back to its origin in Gaby’s consciousness. It’s this alienation that we see in all of Gaby’s work, especially their drawings, where mutant characters in baggy suits with faces blank or hidden by masks languish in the shadows of skyscrapers or under banners bearing the unfulfilled promise of “community”.

Gaby is a person who defies categories. A person joyously and sometimes anxiously adrift; gender, neurologically and physically diverse and until very recently lacking the settled status that would secure their ability to continue living in the post-Brexit UK. In Truth and Kinship Gaby weaponises their alienation like a spell or a curse and gives the city an identity crisis, their voice dominating the sleek, homogenised skyscrapers of London’s financial district, rendered by the camera in Ultra High Definition.

– Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings

GABY SAHHAR (b. 1992, London) is an artist living and working in London.

In 2020 their research has focused on subverting what they have termed ‘The Institution of the Contemporary World.’ This concept views public space as both hierarchical and in a perpetual state of change. It argues that contemporary life
has become an institution, one in which we must gamble to survive. The customs and laws of this institution are dictated by private property developers who intensify wealth divides in the communities they gentrify.

Their work employs queer modes of thinking to question how cities serve the interests of capitalist male identities at the expense of others. It foregrounds the experiences of queer youth in navigating precarious landscapes and achieving social mobility. They aim to develop speculative storytelling strategies to imagine dystopian futures, drawing parallels between dialogues surrounding gender, class and sexuality, their work hopes to deconstruct representations of queerness within the public sphere.


Truth and Kinship is shot in Tower Hamlets, Canary Wharf and Isle of Dogs. Steeped in history as one of the largest ports for trade in the UK this is a landscape determined by extreme wealth divides, aggressive property development and finance. Narrated by a disembodied, genderless voice that recounts memories speaking of pain, longing and desire we watch three young people from diverse backgrounds navigate this hostile space in their quest for social mobility. The main protagonist, a suited white male uses his privilege to explore his sexual identity, fetishising queerness at the expense of others. Limited by his homophobia he resumes a life of heteronormativity and access to capital having delved to far into queer subculture. The film considers the different daily realities the characters encounter in public space. Hierarchical and in a state of perpetual mutation “Truth and Kinship” questions how the city adapts to serve the capitalist male identity to the detriment of others.

Performed by Gaby Sahhar, Jinan Petra, Linus Karp, Joshua Harriette

Director of Photography Rosie Taylor

Edited by Gaby Sahhar & Rosie Taylor

Sound by Milo McKinnon

Colourist Philippo Morozof

Assistant Camera Edem Wornoo

Personal Assistant Dusan Kacan

Funded by Arts Council England

19 On Screen: Keren Cytter - Der Spiegel (20 August - 2 September 2020)

2007, digital video, dimensions variable
00:04:30 minutes, continuous loop



‘Mirror, mirror, on the wall…’ It’s a familiar trope. Like the Magic Mirror that the Queen in Snow White stares into, Keren Cytter’s Der Spiegel (The Mirror) centres a forty-something woman who is seeking youth and beauty in her mirror image. She is slowly coming to terms with her reflection no longer presenting a sixteen-and-a-half-year-old, whilst hankering after some unavailable love interest. “I must prepare, stretch my skin like a lampshade”, she tells her mirrored self, upon seeing this man walk into the courtyard through the window. Complicating this love triangle is another man, claiming to be her husband, who everyone else is trying to bat away. Caught in the midst of this drama as the director and camerawoman, Keren Cytter has scripted and staged a play about sex, lust, love and language. All this intrigue happens in one continuous take, shot in what was at the time Cytter’s Berlin apartment.

The protagonist is helped along by three other female characters who act as narrators, at times directly addressing the audience, playing guitar or reading out stage cues. In this role they form the ‘chorus’; a group of actors which in classical Greek drama describes and comments upon the main action through speech or song. Unusually, the chorus at times steps back into the scene as characters. This duality is a recurring motif, also seen in the use of the mirror and the different languages spoken throughout.

The chorus is not the only reference to the history of theatre. The actors’ lines feature insults (“die, you horse!” and “you are a doughnut” stand out) that would not be out of place in a Shakespearean drama. However, it was actually the German playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht, known for his politically charged ‘epic theatre’, who Cytter took inspiration from whilst developing the script. Her translations of some of his work featured quite heavily in early versions of the text.

The process of translation, that is so present throughout the work—with the speech flipping between German, English and the persistent, though unrealised ‘threat’ of also going into French—was actually happening between the people involved in staging the work. As English is first introduced, the chorus acknowledges this shift, and the presence of the camera, with the reprimand that “subtitles are a nightmare, let the people rest”, directed down the lens. Cytter, who was learning German at the time, chose to write some of the lines in German to benefit from the fact all the actors were native speakers. It is this coming to grips with a new language that is the real reason behind some of the more endearingly infantile or surprising lines, such as the horse insult.

Part play, part home video and part relationship sitcom, Der Spiegel deals with existential themes of our humanity. In doing so, the work evokes the spirit of French Nouvelle Vague film making. Like the New Wave filmmakers of the 1950s Cytter experiments with the edit and drags out the existential questions by presenting the narrative as one continuous loop, creating confusion as to where the story might stop and start. Stuck in this loop, perhaps the leading lady can forever stay the same age after all. Now they just need to agree if she is 42, 43 or 44.

KEREN CYTTER (b. 1977, Tel Aviv) has developed a large body of work including films, performances, drawings and photographs. Topics include social alienation, language representation, and the function of individuals in predetermines cultural systems, through experimental modes of storytelling and human perception. Cytter’s films are mostly characterized by a non-linear, cyclical logic with multiple layers of images; conversation; monologue, and narration carefully composed to stir up linguistic conventions. Recalling amateur home movies and video diaries, her montages of impressions, memories, and imaginings are often poetic and self-referential.

Der Spiegel was shown as part of the group exhibition (X) A Fantasy (8 Sep – 7 Oct 2017), the final exhibition in DRAF’s Camden space. The work has been part of the David Roberts Collection since 2008. Keren Cytter also had a solo exhibition at DRAF, titled Avalanche (14 Jan – 12 Mar 2011).

20 Podcast: with artists SERAFINE1369 and Fernanda Muñoz-Newsome

SERAFINE1369 (who is Jamila Johnson-Small, a London born and based artist also known as Last Yearz Interesting Negro) and Fernanda Muñoz-Newsome discuss bodies excavating movements, how to navigate proximity and intimacy – particularly in terms of a post-COVID landscape – and what roles archives and translation have for dance.

Both have been invited to discuss their respective performance practices as part of their participation in DRAF Live Art Commissions, which will be realised in 2021.

21 On Screen: Quilla Constance - Working Lunch (6 - 19 August 2020)

2006, video installation, dimensions variable
00:03:04 minutes



A packed lunch, banana and all, ready for the working day. But this is no ordinary 9-5, as despite the patterned carpet throwing us off the scent, these sandwiches are brought in to be consumed in a strip club. The artist, Quilla Constance (or QC, an exoticized, punk-feminist persona) was known as Jennifer Allen at the time of making this work – though it’s quite possibly Quilla Constance who we see performing here.

With this work she has created a scene of purposeful discomfort laced with humour, with the camera moving in sweeps from the floor to close-ups of the ‘client’ for the dance, glancing uneasily whilst sipping his water. Quite literally putting on a performance to expose the performative nature of identity and power relations, the objective is “to locate and assert new and empowered modes of being for marginalised identities such as BAME, female and working-class subjects.”¹ Humour and discomfort are thus employed defiantly, to disrupt the patriarchal framework, tease out contingencies, and to centre marginalized narratives.

This feeling of discomfort visible in the male client and perhaps evoked in the viewing experience of this work is heightened by the technical choices made when filming it. Shot on a Mini DV, it is a lo-fi way of filming, even for the time (2006), when there would have been more advanced technology readily available. Talking about this intentional disregard for industry standard technical film language Constance states this “doesn’t allow the viewer to escape and take refuge within familiar cinematic tropes or formulaic humour as employed in mainstream entertainment. In this respect it’s also important to acknowledge that satire is already co-opted into popular culture, which often reduces the critical efficacy of this language – however, it’s the job of the artist to retain critical efficacy.”² The choice for this handheld, candid cam feel is both to afford greater intimacy and antagonize the usual air of ‘glamour’ and titillation that surrounds strip club settings and their soft-form translation into popular culture. Late 90s and early 00s hip-hop music videos come to mind, where similar dance styles were depicted alongside slick production values.

Instead, Constance is paying tribute to a completely different subculture; punk. She describes elements of her practice as “picking up where punk left off”, considering that punk is a counterculture from the late 70s which got almost instantaneously co-opted into dominant popular culture. Drawing on punk’s DIY aesthetic and spirit of protest, what is posited or activated is a contemporary interpretation, a ‘new punk’ that has some activist strategy at its core. Quilla Constance views the origins of punk as seeking to create confusion, for instance, by mixing things up or disseminating messages across different platforms, akin to her very interdisciplinary practice where painting, performance and costume can take on new meanings altogether. Hers is an intentional adoption of these activist strategies that resist any singular meaning, instead welcoming interpretations that challenge the norms or rewrite the narratives. One way of doing this is to purposefully remove things from their usual context – in this case a stripper in this carpeted context rather than in a slick strip club, or sound-tracking the film with Mariah Carey’s sentimental ballad My All (1997), rather than a ‘sexier’ song – so the meaning can’t be as easily pinned down into a neat account. Embracing multiple meanings can thus be read as an activation that gives agency to her biracial identity and the working female in general, by subverting stigmatized (gender) roles.

Working Lunch oscillates between sense and nonsense, uneasy tensions and overt sexuality, showing an astute understanding of the systems of power behind these definitions.³ Constance’s willingness to take risks and disrupt convention is aimed at spurring on societal progression – one that does not oppress and marginalize people. In doing so she takes on the role of the trickster; a character who uses cunning and knowledge to defy ‘normal’ behaviour. Starting from a biracial, female identity position that is crucially lacking representation within the hegemonic, patriarchal status quo means the trickster is the perfect figure and strategy for navigation, since Constance has less to lose in this position. QC the trickster can ‘plot’ to mobilise new understandings of subjectivity and unfix meanings.⁴

QUILLA CONSTANCE (b.1980, Birmingham) works across live and recorded performances, costumes, lectures, paintings and video installations. Quilla Constance, QC or #QC is the “post-punk, neo-glam, gender-questioning performance persona” of Jennifer Allen, adopted in 2009. This work was made under the moniker Jennifer Allen, but informed QC and can clearly be traced in that genealogy.

Working Lunch is a slightly earlier edit of what became Strip Show (2006), which is the version held in the David Roberts Collection. Upon the artist’s request, Working Lunch is the version being screened because in her words “it has more grit!” Both versions were shot and edited whilst Quilla Constance (then known as Jennifer Allen) was completing her Master of Fine Arts at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Currently she is creating a new large-scale painting, performance and costume installations for a socially engaged project called Teasing out Contingencies (2019 – 2022), taking place across Tate Exchange, Tate Modern, and The Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford.


video still, Strip Show (2006), courtesy the artist

1        Quilla Constance, in discussion with author, July 2020.
2       idem.
3       Alexandra Kokoli, “Read My QR: Quilla Constance and the Conceptualist Promise of Intelligibility”, Conceptualism – Intersectional Readings, International Framings, Black Artists and Modernism at Van Abbe Museum, November 2019, pp. 36 – 53. .
4       Constance, dissussion / Dr Mo Throp and Maria Walsh, “Double Acts: Oscillating Between Optical and Haptic Visuality in a Digital Age” in Revisiting the Gaze: The Fashioned Body and the Politics of Looking, ed. Morna Laing and Jacki Wilson, Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2020.

22 On Screen: Ulla von Brandenburg - 8 (23 July - 5 August 2020)

Ulla von Brandenburg, 8, 2007, video still, courtesy Gallerie Art:Concept, Paris

2007, 16 mm film transferred to HD video, b&w, no sound
00:08:10 minutes



Two men fishing in a man-made boating lake, another with a walking stick and dog greeting a group lounging in the grass, and now the camera moves back, revealing that this scene is set in front of a huge mansion. The opening shot is a close-up of the painting Vue du Château de Chamarande, now hanging in the interior of that very same French castle and painted in 1785 by Hubert Robert¹, who also landscaped the château garden. Located in what is now a southern suburb of Paris, this castle garden scene idealises the life the life of Enlightenment intellectuals and aristocracy, made even more grandiose by being painted in the Romantic style, with Robert adding in ‘sublime’ elements like rocky cliffs in the background, which in reality are much softer hills.²

In Ulla von Brandenburg’s 16mm film 8 (2007) the camera moves in one fluid motion, in what seems to be one continuous steady-cam take, away from the shot of this painting through a succession of ‘living’, yet perfectly still images. The movement of the camera traces a figure of eight through the interior of the château, a motion hinted at tracking past a man holding an elastic band between his fingers, stretched as sideways eight, or an infinity loop.³

Each of the baroque rooms of the Château de Chamarande reveals another tableau vivant, which translates from French as ‘living picture’. These are stationary and silent scenes made up of posing people, often with props or costumes. Combining aspects of visual arts and theatre, usually they are re-enactments, either for educational or entertainment purposes. From the late middle ages onwards the painting-like tableaux were seen on the streets in a similar vein to contemporary living statues, especially to impress crowds at big processions, weddings or coronations. They also have a strong tradition in the Western art historical narrative of painting and sculpture itself, with artists in movements including Romanticism and the Pre-Raphaelites placing models in tableaux vivants in their studio to create their highly stylised scenes. In the late 19th and early 20th century they became commonplace in the musical halls, fairgrounds and variety shows with (almost always female) models imitating Old Master paintings, classical statues or more contemporary scenes.⁴ Around the same time censorship was in place that forbade actors to move on stage when nude or semi-nude, so the tableau became a way to circumvent this or present more risqué or erotic entertainment for the masses within the confines of Victorian morals.

Von Brandenburg is interested in the art historical and theatrical lineage of this format. She is exploring the different facets and historical development of the genre, with each of the twelve tableaux representing motifs or figures from 19th century European theatre, painting and literature. There are nods to the canvasses of Edvard Munch and Caspar David Friedrich, notably the latter’s Woman at Window (1822) represented in the first tableau, the ‘muse’ in Greek comedy and tragedy, symbolised by the woman holding a mask (tableau 4), as well as the plays The Father by August Strindberg and Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekov.⁵

There are some humorous moments too, for example the ninth scene, where two women are holding up a floorplan of the castle that clearly shows a mapping out of the tableaux order and actors. The props that are used in the early scenes, such as a pair of gloves, handkerchief and chess board can also be seen dotted around the floor in later rooms, giving the illusion that those present in the scenes dashed off in a chaotic panic as soon as the camera left them. Indeed, this may be the case, as most of the same people are present in one of the final rooms, where there is the largest tableau vivant with many spectators gathered around what is probably a death scene.

The one take that fluidly goes all the way through the castle interior, the inability to spot even a tiny movement (other than the odd blink of a twitchy eyelid) and the decision to shoot on 16mm all point to a high level of craft and attention to detail. These are aspects that characterise von Brandenburg’s objects and moving image works. Her often used motif of the large draping curtain points to a fascination with what is purposefully concealed or revealed. With the film slowly and quietly ending up full circle, back at the opening canvas, only adds to a fascination as to what noises, directives and movement that must have taken place out of shot.

ULLA VON BRANDENBURG (b. 1974, Karlsruhe) works in film, photography, installation, and performance. Von Brandenburg uses what may be viewed as archaic artmaking traditions within these media to investigate the unspoken rules of contemporary society. Her often bold, eclectic and large works can in part be traced back to her formal training in set design and keen interest in the history of film, photography, literature, theatre, and psychology.

Von Brandenburg’s favoured format for video is black and white, presumably referencing the origins of film making. In contrast, many of her drawings, performances and installations use bright and primary colours. There is however another black and white editioned print, titled Ruban (2008), held in the David Roberts Collection. Both works entered the collection in 2008. A different reconfigured edition of 8 formed the core element of Ulla von Brandenburg’s 2009 solo exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery, London. She currently has a solo exhibition in Paris’ Palais de Tokyo, which due to lockdown has been extended until 13 September 2020.


Hubert Robert, Vue du château de Chamarande, 1785, oil on canvas.

1        Robert was an interesting character; a celebrated painter and landscaper, he also helped design Versailles’ gardens having been appointed “Designer of the King’s Gardens” and “Keeper of the Kings Pictures”. During the French Revolution he only managed to escape the guillotine because another prisoner with a similar name got executed in his place. After the fall of Robespierre, Robert was then one of five on a committee in charge of changing the Louvre from a palace to the new national museum.
2       “Hubert Robert”, Domaine Départemental de Chamarande, 2014. [Accessed 20 July 2020].
3       Jens Hoffmann, “Theatre and It’s Double”, CCA Wattis Institute of Contemporary Arts, 2008. [Accessed 23 July 2020].
4       Elena Stevens, “Making a Spectacle of Themselves: Art and Female Agency in 1890s Music Hall”, IATL vol 6, issue 2, University of Warwick.
5       “Ulla von Brandenburg”, 2009, Chisenhale Gallery. [Accessed 20 July 2020]. and “Ulla von Brandenburg – Eight”, Kadist, 2007. [Accessed 20 July 2020].


Camera / Steadicam: Fabrice Sebille
Camera assistants: Marion Rey, Prune Brenguier
Actors: Sophie Bossulet, Mel O’Callaghan, Nerida O’Callaghan, Louison Chandon, Gabriel Desplanques, Julien Discrit, Franziska Duebgen, Franck Thésée, Aurel Frayssinhef, Julia zu Knyphausen, Thierry Leviez, Seb Ronarch, Annesophie Terrillon, Fabienne Touzi di Terzi, Benjamin Vailleau, Marion Verboom
Produced in collaboration with ADN factory, Paris, Christophe Acker, Nicolas Duroux, Agathe Nony
Executive producers: Marine Acker, Magalie Meunier
Costumes: Amandine Chalony
Thanks to Magalie Gentet, Laurent Montaron, Judith Quentel, Alexis Vaillant

23 Live: with artists Harriet Middleton Baker and Sriwhana Spong

This Broadcast was Live on Thursday 30 July 2020.

Harriet Middleton Baker and Sriwhana Spong discussion touches on working with collaborators, both human and inanimate, and how they both investigate the gaps in architectures of power.

Both have been selected to develop new work with DRAF as part of our Live Art Commissions programme, initiated with the belief that those who can must keep creating opportunities for artists in these difficult times.

Through informal conversation and by drawing out parallels in ways of working, this Broadcast is an opportunity to get to know the artists invited for the Live Art Commissions programme, but also for the artists involved to get to know each other better.

*without pre-registering it is not possible to join us live, but the talk will be recorded and uploaded to our shared YouTube channel

24 Podcast: with artists Anne Hardy and Aura Satz

Artists Anne Hardy and Aura Satz discuss the role of sound, noise and silence in shaping our environment, for example during lockdown, and how they work with it in their art practices.

25 On Screen: Junebum Park - I parking and III crossing (9 - 22 July 2020)


6 video stills depict a giant hand regulating traffic, overlayed onto a busy parking lot where black and white suvs come and go

I parking [6 video stills], courtesy the artist and Hamni Gallery, London

6 video stills depict a giant hand regulating traffic, overlayed on arial shots of a busy intersection and pedestrian crossing.

III crossing, [6 video stills], courtesy the artist and Hamni Gallery, London

both 2002, single-channel video, colour, silent
I parking: 00:04:58 minutes // III crossing: 00:01:29 minutes



A city’s urban architecture and spatial design often dictate the primary mode of getting from A to B. In LA the done thing is driving, whilst in Amsterdam you get on your bike, and in Tokyo the main means of transport is rail. In these two video works Junebum Park hones in on two distinct forms of getting oneself to a new location: on foot or arriving by car.

Filmed from above, both works show the graphic patterns of urban planning in the form of the white lines of zebra crossings and parking lots, being used by city dwellers. Seen from this birds-eye view the humans become like bugs and Park plays with this scale further with the introduction of his hand, about ten times larger than the ant-like people, directing the action. As the viewer we see the scene from Park’s viewpoint, as the omni-present, all-seeing entity in charge. Like Diego Maradona’s infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal in the 1986 World Cup as a moment of claimed ‘divine intervention’, Park’s giant hand is there to give a last little push in the right direction.

There is more at stake here though. It is telling that hardly any of the cars that park manage to do so straight or in their assigned parking lines, sometimes even blatantly double parking and ignoring the allocation of space all together. Similarly, in III crossing it is significant that Park’s hand spends more time holding the pedestrians back, despite the presence of traffic lights and zebra crossings, rather than pushing the cars along. However hard city planners might try to dictate human movement with these kinds of directives and rules, the inhabitants will, to a certain extent, just keep going where they want to.

The chapter called ‘Walking the City’ in Michel de Certeau’s book The Practice of Everyday Life (1980) looks at this phenomenon. For de Certeau it is the pedestrians of a city that make the space they inhabit by the very act of walking through it. For him, walking is a type of language that gives meaning to place from the ground up, with the everyday users both reading and rewriting the city. To be travelling from a here to a there is a “pedestrian enunciation”, which can affirm or transgress the ‘spoken’ trajectories, for example by taking a shortcut or making a detour.¹ What de Certeau brands as ‘voyeur-gods’ are the cartographers, urbanists and anyone that enters the skyscrapers of towering corporations to access viewing platforms. Like Park’s own top-down perspective, they are all trying to gain a “celestial eye” over a city.² Simply put, de Certeau thinks that those who ignore these schematized rules and change direction create “liberated spaces that can occupied”, taking back some power from a panoptic regulating of movement and reclaiming the streets through these minor acts of autonomy and defiance.³

Following this logic, the unruly jaywalker or the parallel parker who is just popping to the shops are both figures to be celebrated. Park brings into focus these very routines that shape daily activities and give a bustling city its character. By calling attention to the upscaled hand, he also puts a spotlight on to the impact of the ‘invisible hand’ of systems and regulations that shape any given society.

JUNEBUM PARK (b. 1976, Seoul) is a video artist whose work also includes photography and video installations. In the initial years after Park completed his BFA at Sungkyunkwam University in Seoul, South Korea in 2002, his video works were characterised the abstraction of everyday life into patterns, semi-organised movements or schematized gameplay. With his distortion of natural scale and use of sharp camera angles, Park brings in a sense of humour and playfulness to these scenes.

I parking and III crossing are part of the same series, which also includes II buildings, showing tiny construction workers and IV escalator, where the scales are reversed and the human hand gains independence by walking upright along the handrail of an escalator.

1        Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, ed. 1984, University of California Press, p. 99
2       Idem, p. 92 – 94
3       Idem, p. 103

26 On Screen: Nicolas Provost - Stardust (25 June 2020 - 8 July 2020)

2010, video projection, installation dimensions variable

00:19:52 minutes



As a roller coaster train rattles past a facsimile of the Statue of Liberty, the words ‘New York New York’ flash in bright lights. Las Vegas screams, the sounds of thrill literally flying through the air. This neon-studded city is well-known to all who are familiar with American culture, partly as the city has become a familiar location in Hollywood cinema. Spectacle is palpable everywhere on the streets, be it in Little Venice, by the Great Pyramids or around the Empire State Building. Las Vegas is an environment that prides itself on being a loose fabrication of another reality.

The built environment underscores and amplifies what Stardust (2010) unpicks; the make-believe of cinema. The film lays bare the apparatus that constructs stories and dreams. Provost’s shots of residents, workers and visitors going about their daily business have been dubbed with excerpts of dialogue taken from famous American thrillers, their lip movements almost matching but revealing a purposeful disjoint. It’s all CIA agents, vault keys and double crossings. “You have no idea what men in power can do!”, someone shouts down their flip phone. In actuality, his was probably a more mundane conversation, but this audio suddenly gives the man speaking a slightly crazed look about him.

Stardust stacks up cinematic tropes from genres like the heist movie or film noir, particularly tricks used in these films to create suspense or an air of mystery. The most obvious of these is the swelling music, but the edit also has a big part to play. What in film theory is known as the ‘Kuleshov effect’ has been put to good use.¹ This is a montage technique where associations are created by the way two sequential shots interact with each other, the loose images together creating a narrative or emotion. Clever montage combined with excessive camera panning and slow zoom keeps the frame centered on individuals, busy deliberating on their phones or just waiting around.² Seen as a singular image there would not be that much happening. The way these images have been assembled means the whole twenty minutes of the film is constructed as if we are on the cusp of something big happening. Any minute now.

The links to Hollywood cinema are shown even more literally. Stars of the big screen make appearances throughout. We see Danny Trejo and Dennis Hopper in the midst of intense discussions whilst eating McDonald’s fries, Jon Voight having a drink and someone resembling Jack Nicholson being driven around in a limousine. It remains unclear if these are actual cameos, coincidental ‘off duty’ captures or, in the case of Nicholson, merely a good look-a-like hiding behind sunglasses. Although their presence is shrouded in the same sense of mystery the film is creating, the point of their appearance is not lost. These are all actors largely known for roles in films that follow a well-trodden good guy/bad guy path and more often than not they play the anti-hero or villain.

It is clear that on surface level Sin City is full of seduction. Scratching beyond that though quickly reveals it is only a thin disguise. Provost contrasts the gold glittery façade and the make-believe of the Strip, with the surprisingly bland and generic interiors. Once his cameras are positioned inside hotel lobbies, by gambling machines and bars, the uniformity and slight abject sadness of the place in emphasised. None of the interiors have windows or sunlight, some are decked out with office panels on ceilings and walls, security booths and reception desks look uncomfortably small; the glitz and glam suddenly seems far removed.

So, is this a film about film? Stardust certainly breaks through the spectacle of the silver screen, showing how easily elements like plot, suspense and stardom can be manipulated by an edit. It’s fitting that this mirror being held up to cinema itself is placed in a setting that makes no secret of being a capitalist fabrication.

One of the most pertinent moments comes roughly 15 minutes in, when the camera stops on a person standing frozen amidst bustle and shops selling tacky souvenirs, a look of complete disillusionment on their face. Suddenly the underbelly of the city is rendered fully visible again and the spell is broken.

The shots that follow include a long zoom on the face of a croupier, his nametag identifying him as Peter, who cold stares the viewer down the lens. His silence also indicates a shift in the pace and feel of Stardust. Plot twist! Moving from suspense film to disaster movie, suddenly the entire crowd in shot is seen gazing up at the sky. They might be bracing themselves for the arrival of superheroes or monsters, but my money is on an alien invasion – bringing real dust from the stars down with them.

NICOLAS PROVOST (b. 1969, Ronse) is a Belgian filmmaker and visual artist whose works are often inspired by film language, abstraction and collage.

Stardust (2010) is part of Provost’s Plot Point Trilogy, comprising two other films; Plot Point (2007) shot in Times Square, NYC and Tokyo Giants (2012) filmed in Tokyo. In all three he manipulates and assembles footage that sprinkle enough breadcrumbs for a viewer to construct a narrative and question what is false or real. Stardust was acquired by the David Roberts Collection in 2011 and has since been shown as part of a DRAF x Art Night 2018 screening.

1        see how the technique works: “The Kuleshov Effect – A Silent Experiment”, YouTube.
2       The insights in this paragraph are mainly thanks to David W. Pendleton’s essay “Cinema Between the Real and the False: Nicolas Provost’s Plot Point Trilogy”. Published in Dream Machine – Nicolas Provost, Uitgeverij Lannoo, 2015.

27 Live: with artists Appau Jnr Boakye-Yiadom and Lloyd Corporation

Originally Broadcast on Thursday 25 June, live from 5pm

Recording now available:

Appau Jnr Boakye-Yiadom and Lloyd Corporation will be discussing connections between their approach to performance as integrated into a wider sculptural and installation practice.

Both have been selected to develop new work with DRAF as part of our Live Art Commissions programme, initiated with the belief that those who can must keep creating opportunities for artists in these difficult times.

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!

28 Podcast: with artist Shezad Dawood and Professor Madeleine van Oppen

For this podcast, Shezad Dawood was invited to discuss themes connected with his Leviathan project. Here Shezad talks to ecological geneticist Professor Madeleine van Oppen as part of his ongoing research into the connections between ocean conservation, migration and mental health. Van Oppen’s work around finding ways to enable coral reefs to adapt better to rapid changes in ocean conditions and her approach to making her findings more accessible to the public have been a key touchstone for Dawood’s thinking.

Their discussion introduces van Oppen’s work in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and why it is of interest to Dawood, as well as examining the impact of climate warming and the ethical implications of an interventionist approach.

29 On Screen: Shezad Dawood - Leviathan Cycle, Episode 4: Jamila (11 - 24 June 2020)

video still with a man and woman standing amongst red sandy dunes holding weapons

2018, single screen high definition video with sound, commissioned by Arts Council, England, Barakat, Seoul, HE.RO Amsterdam and Leviathan – Human & Marine Ecology

00:10:36 minutes



These are the first lines of Shezad Dawood’s Leviathan Cycle, Episode 4: Jamila (2018). This ominous opening sets the tone for the remaining minutes; with this episode perhaps being the darkest of Dawood’s Leviathan Cycle so far.What will be a cycle of ten films in total uses the first five episodes to present tales of migration, climate crisis and mental health issues from a human perspective, before switching to that of marine life. So far, each episode is centred on one character’s inner world and experience, largely expressed through voiceover that moves from English, French, Italian to Arabic as the character changes.

Ben and Yasmine, the main protagonists introduced in the first two episodes, are journeying south together. They find themselves in a near-future, some  20 to 50 years from now, with the world thrown into chaos after an inexplicable solar cataclysm. Having left behind the Bacchanalian orgies and excess of a newly formed community in a Venetian lagoon (Episode 3: Arturo), the duo is now on the coast of Morocco, stuck after their car breaks down.

Episode 4: Jamila was shot on location in Sidi Ifni, far down Morocco’s North Atlantic coastline. The rugged beauty, empty beaches, and vast cliffs, described by Jamila as “a soft hazy red, that mirrored the bleeding sunset”,  form the backdrop for a desperate fight for survival as Ben and Yasmine fall victim to a violent attack by the eponymous Jamila and her group of three other ‘parasitic’ bandits.¹ Images compare this assault to sharks slowly circling prey or fish being gutted by fishmongers, eyes wide as their heads are discarded. The quick edit style and graphic images criticise the prevalence of sex and violence in media and mediation, with Dawood noting it is “almost a mirror, to that fast-paced acceleration of newsfeed algorithms”.² Meanwhile, Jamila’s voice reflects on her group’s motivation to stalk the shores, looking to rape and kill: “It also allowed us to focus our rage, impotence and unknowing outwards onto these poor souls foolish enough to wander into our former lives”. It does not take long though before the roles are reversed, with a new armed duo intervening and killing all but Jamila. The episode’s coastal setting and exploration of predator-prey relationships in both human and marine species all stand in direct references to the cycle’s title.

Leviathan. It’s quite the weighty word. With the meaning pointing towards either an autocratic state; a sea serpent in the Tanakh and Old Testament; any large aquatic creature, particularly a whale; or Hobbes’ 17th century book on social contract theory, it is safe to say Leviathan is a many-headed beast. The same can be said for Dawood’s version, which manages to simultaneously touch on the mythical, social, Biblical and oceanic connotations of the term. He says he chose the title specifically to add to the vast bank of knowledge that the title evokes.³

Equally, the project is sprawling in many ways. Whilst ten moving image works may sound like an ambitious enough project, Dawood’s Leviathan also encompasses installation, neons, painting, commissioned research papers, VR and a vast public programme. It is through this programme of talks that the voices of the hundreds of oceanographers, climate scientists, trauma specialists, academics, environmentalists, migrant rights activists and neurologists that lent their expertise to Dawood are made visible.

This is how the research started out, with Dawood going out to meet these experts driven by the question “is there a connection between mass migration and marine conservation?”. Turns out some of these connections are even more direct than might be expected. Sandro Carniel, a scientist at the Institute of Marine Sciences in Venice for example highlighted that the route used in the recent migration crisis from the North African coast to Lampedusa goes right over a hump in the ocean floor, which displaces water and creates squalls and currents.⁴ These form a large part of the reason that crossing this part of the Mediterranean is so dangerous.

In other words, Dawood is attempting to draw parallels between the top and bottom of the oceans.⁵ His Leviathan does not only move through history and place, it also places human stories on par with those of aquatic beings, all with relative visual ease due to the clever use of expansive archive footage. It may be a many-headed beast, but one that moves the term ‘Leviathan’ out of the depths of history and connects some of the most urgent issues of contemporary time together in one body of work.


SHEZAD DAWOOD (b. 1974, London) works across the disciplines of film, performance, painting, neon, sculpture and virtual reality to ask key questions of narrative, history and embodiment. Using the editing process as a method to explore both meanings and forms, his practice often involves collaboration and knowledge exchange, mapping across multiple audiences and communities. Through a fascination with the esoteric, otherness, the environment and architectures both material and virtual, Dawood interweaves stories, realities and symbolism to create richly layered artworks. His neon Epiphany (2003) became part of the David Roberts Collection in 2006.

This screening is part of a special Leviathan Broadcast Season staged in collaboration with ArtReview, Modern Forms, David Roberts Art Foundation and The Ryder.

If you would like to find out more about the project, follow the Leviathan journey online on Instagram and Twitter @leviathancycle and explore the Leviathan research platform at The website includes all commissioned research papers and public programme talks, such as Sandro Carniel in conversation with Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi.

1        Shezad Dawood, Leviathan Cycle, Episode 4: Jasmine, 2018, single screen, 10:36 minutes. Commissioned by Arts Council, England, Barakat, Seoul, HE.RO Amsterdam and Leviathan – Human & Marine Ecology.
2       Shezad Dawood quoted in @the_ryder_projects IG TV Leviathan Q&A, “Sex and violence manifest themselves in Leviathan as both separate and related forces. Could you expand on how they are situated in the work, as well as our current contemporary condition?” question by Aaron Cezar, 28 May 2020. Accessed 29 May 2020.
3       Shezad Dawood quoted in Shezad Dawood: Leviathan, Bluecoat Liverpool, YouTube video, 18 Sep 2019. Accessed 21 May 2020.
4       Hettie Judah, “I’ve created a monster! Shezad Dawood on his oceanic epic Leviathan”, The Guardian, 7 May 2017. Accessed online 21 May 2020.
5       idem.

30 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.

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

Two male police officers sit in their car, smiling. - video still


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

00:08:24 minutes, loop


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.

32 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.

Originally Broadcast on Thursday 21 May, live from 5pm

Recording now available:

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!

33 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'


2007, video
00:04:00 minutes


“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.

34 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.

35 Live: with artist Sriwhana Spong


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

Talk was Broadcast: Live on Thursday 7 May, 5pm.

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

Jacco Olivier - Saefthinghe (video still), 2006


2006, video installation
00:02:35 minutes


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.

37 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 Broadcast: Live on Thursday 23 April, 4pm.

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

Zhou Xiaohu Crowd Around 2003-04


2003-04, video installation, dimensions variable
00:11:01 minutes


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.

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

39 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.

40 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.