Alex Chinneck Interview for ROOMS Magazine

Alex Chinneck creates surrealist illusions on a large scale. His work seeks to provoke thought and make us look twice at the architectural environment that surrounds us. With a playful approach to sculpture, Chinneck is equally interested in exploring the possibilities of materials and innovative building practice, which often inspire his artwork and help spark ideas about future projects. Not only a brilliant artist, Chinneck also has a lot to say about the philosophical implications of his work and how the distortion of familiarity is an important factor in what he hopes to achieve. After the completion of his latest project at Covent Garden, we sat down with him to find out more about what goes into making a public sculpture possible and the artistic transformation of architectural practice.

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  1. Take me through the process of completing one of your large scale installations.

 

When conceiving an idea, there are so many elements that need to be considered. Most of those elements are contextually sensitive. For example, when developing an idea for Covent Garden piazza, it doesn’t just begin and end with the visual experience. Using that as a case study, I knew that I wanted to do something of significant scale and sculptural impact. I largely wanted to do that because I was conscious of the footfall through the piazza and the demographic that visits there. It is a place of recreation and holiday making. It is quite a fast place and not really one of contemplation, so the artwork had to be one of significant impact that meets an Instagram culture halfway. With those objectives in mind and the length of time it would be there for (1 month), I knew we would need temporary planning licenses from the council. You have to develop concepts with those logistical considerations in mind. I immediately knew that it made sense to develop an artwork that had a visual material synergy with the architecture in the square so therefore it acts as a celebration or integration rather than something that would deter or argue with the architecture of the district.

I also knew that I wanted to deliver an illusion because illusions are something that I’m excited by, but also they offer a kind of conceptual accessibility that any audience member could enjoy. That was really important because of the eclecticism of the visitors. When you are developing an idea, you think about who is visiting it, the mood and the pace at which they visit, the cultural identity and the visual language of the area, and finally the logistics such as building regulations because it has to pass those. It also has to integrate and you have to develop a structure and a system that considers access. Our footprint at the piazza is perfectly designed around three disabled cobbled ramps that lead into the market building, and the opening is the exact width so that when looking down the central avenue of the piazza, you don’t see the artwork. This was partly to pay homage to the architecture that was already there and not disrupt it in any way, but also to negotiate inevitable obstacles like planning.

When developing an idea, despite the playfulness and seeming simplicity of the concept, a lot of consideration goes into what would work and why it would work. For example, with the hovering building, it was an impact artwork for that kind of audience, whereas with the melting house, it is on a road where thousands of people go up and down the road to work each day as a commuter passage. In that way you can conceive an artwork that is about transformation and change and one that is about an evolution of a story, because people see it every single day.

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WINDOW LICKER: A CHAOTIC SENSORY SCULPTURE

 

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Founder of LeftHouse Films, Ben Mcguire is the writer, director and star of his latest film WiNdOw LiCkEr, which has its premiere at Raindance Film Festival at the end of this week.

 

A dizzying cacophony of visuals and sound, Brian Mcguire’s WiNdOw LiCkEr is often difficult to watch. In some ways, it is not proper to call this a film at all, as what has actually been crafted here is more of a sensory sculpture. The constant focus on a character’s features, as well as the discordant clash of visuals and sound, are enhanced by Mcguire’s stylistic choice to film the work primarily on an Android smart phone,  in part due to lack of budget. The plot of the film follows Ben Wild (played by the director) as he rapidly descends into a madness brought about by his manic depressive lifestyle of addiction to live camera girls, video games and self prescribed medication.

 

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A number of techniques are employed throughout the film, from slow motion to stop motion animation, the latter used to form disturbed dream sequences where bottles of pills perform a wild danse macabre that spills over into the waking world of Ben.  There is also an impressive use of symbolism present throughout the film, as Mcguire chooses to call upon external imagery to present to the audience Ben’s own internal struggle. One can’t help but notice the employment of Freud’s structural model of the psyche within the film; the ‘JoePop’ reality television programme representing the protagonist’s ego, the camera girls suggesting a drive towards the pleasure principle of the id, and the religious guidance teacher bringing the superego into play. When Ben’s sister arrives, we are immediately presented with a nonstop farcical dialogue reminiscent of the mouth in Beckett’s play, Not I. She, like the other supporting players, seems only to exist for Ben’s own mental anguish to be justified and expounded. Perhaps this all stretches the metaphor too far, but it’s all to play for in this wild journey through the mind of a man crashing toward his own bitter fate.

 

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About an hour in, the biggest challenge is presented to the audience, who must endure Ben’s sickness in full, gut churning, room spinning climax. After this ordeal, he attempts to redeem himself with a confessional that drastically changes the pace of the film. The atmosphere becomes more serene as he conducts himself with a sanity thus far hidden from view, but one that is perhaps a little misleading as the film takes another dark turn.

When Christo moves in, the audience is inclined to see this as Ben’s redemption, a literal Christ-like figure stepping in to provide salvation, but we begin to suspect that this is in fact a manifestation of his own mind cradling itself, a soothing action that in turn begins to strangle him. Mcguire has created a rich tapestry here that pulls a lot together for the viewer to examine and discuss, with a dénouement that generates an audience experience of sympathy and understanding toward the protagonist. The film is showing at Raindance Film Festival this October so make sure you get your tickets before they’re gone!

 

http://www.window-licker.com/

https://www.facebook.com/windowlickermovie

http://raindancefestival.org/features-2014/window-licker/

An installation of Biblical proportions: THE ARK

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With an exhibition that promises to be ‘as epic as the theme’, The Ark is an installation that seeks to challenge and provoke thought about the world’s most endangered species. Staying true to the gallery’s beliefs in more theatrical and alternative curation techniques, the space itself will be transformed into an impressive reimagining of Noah’s ark, creating an environment that merges with the overall theme of the show, one of preservation and awareness.

An artist collective from around the world were challenged to produce two pieces inspired by an endangered animal of their choosing, displayed ‘two by two’ in the space. Bringing together artists such as Chemical X, David Tracy, Snik and Laura Ball, the installation looks to be a promising exploration into our own understanding of the environment around us, using a variety of mediums to explore how we might perceive such issues.

The Ark opens its doors on September 26th and is already gaining a lot of passengers so make sure you head down before it sets sail on October 2nd.

THE ARK
Crypt on the Green

Clerkenwell Close
London, EC1R 0EA
United Kingdom

www.bearcubgallery.com

@BearCubGallery
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