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Interview with Vicki Bennett

Pixel Palace's Curator for Digital media Arts, Dominic Smith spoke to Vicki Bennett about Gesture Piece

DS: Could you describe your process from initial idea to the final work?

VB: I've been interested in alternative ways of scoring music for live performance for a number of years now, and had been looking for a way to graphically represent something that the audience could see and the people on stage could interpret. Gesture Piece is my first attempt at making a visual work that is responded to by other artists, in this case both in live performance, and also soundtrack form.

DS: Gesture Piece has a number of participating musicians whom you invited to respond to your work as a score. Can you tell us a bit more about what you hoped they would bring to the work? What has surprised you?

VB: I invited seven artists who I knew would both appreciate and respond to the key elements of the piece, being humour and also fast changes of mood. All seven participants are my friends, and I think the collective personality creates a diverse sound yet patchwork quilt like effect, tying the film threads together. I gave sections that I knew visually would be then segmented together back to back, but the artists were unaware of the larger piece or other participants. This made it rather like the game of Exquisite Corpse, bringing in both chance elements but also a certain degree of assured continuity. I was pleasantly surprised that all the pieces fit together very nicely and it made me want to make some more longer form work with these and other artists. For the live aspect of this work called Notations, which has already been performed three times (in Reykjavik, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem) I was really pleased to have many more artists offer to work with me when they saw the piece performed. Before I created this work I didn't know if anyone would be interested.

DS: Could you tell us a bit about the artists and artwork that have been influential to you and your practice?

VB: Those who have been exploring the same threads of using found footage and collage ahead of me, I suppose. And also artists who are looking at alternative ways of notation, particularly for performance purposes... John Cage, John Oswald, John Zorn, Christian Marclay...

It's also often things I've read rather than anything I've seen or heard that influence me. The interconnectivity of collage lends itself as much to conceptual writing for instance as it does to other media. Writers and poets like Marcus Boon, Kenneth Goldsmith and Craig Dworkin have very much inspired and freed up my flow of thought, as have Buddhist teachings (Sangharakshita and other Triratna teachers).

DS: Finally, Gesture Piece also lends itself to live performance. Can you tell us a bit more about how this composition works in a live context, with the sister project Notations?  What do you think the difference is for an audience who view the online, distributed version compared to a live audience?

VB: The "score" of the performance is the film itself, accompanied by a page of text which briefly lists the synopsis of the film, which is in a series of themed sketches. I give the performers guidelines, for instance that I would prefer they changed combinations of who plays in different sections, and I also recommend that this is for 3-4 players.

However, it is flexible and I trust the integrity of the invited performers and curators, or I'd not be working with them.

I think the live performance is completely different to the online version, and should be treated as such. The live version is a temporary situation, a one off each time, no combinations of performers remains the same more than at that one location.  The film version is more like listening to and watching an album played by an imaginary band - much like the films that I make - my films are imaginary because it would never be possible to stage such a film due to all kinds of time, location and financial constraints. My film frees up actors to work together who sometimes never met, it frees up narratives to interact with one another. This is true of both the online and live versions.  I am trying to create the conditions for magic to happen which wouldn't be allowed in just one time or dimension.

July 2013

Welcome to the website for Pixel Palace, Tyneside Cinema’s digital art programme, which ran from 2008-2014. Here you can explore our archive of exciting art commissions and exhibitions, as well as the artists we worked with over that time. You can find out more about what is happening with the current Tyneside Cinema Arts Programme at www.tynesidecinema.co.uk/art.