Curator's Choice: Jerwood Film and Video Umbrella Awards' selected artists

| 11 March 2014

Curator's Choice: Steven Bode, of Film and Video Umbrella, on the shortlist for the second edition of the Jerwood Film and Video Umbrella Awards

"When we came up with the concept and title of What Will They See Of Me?, we thought it would resonate for a number of reasons.

Now, with an increasing fevered preoccupation with the phenomenon of the selfie, and with the Edward Snowden revelations about the degree with which security agencies and big data companies are able to access the intimate details of people’s online lives, the question has acquired even deeper relevance.

The title is, on one level, a measure of visibility – visibility now, in an ever-more crowded world of images, and visibility in the future, in terms of posterity.

We selected four artists, Lucy Clout, Kate Cooper, Anne Haaning and Marianna Simnett, whose proposals addressed and developed this theme.

A pink-tinted photo of a young woman with a spray of light pink mist in front of her
Kate Cooper, production still© Jerwood / Film and Video Umbrella Awards 2014
Kate Cooper is perhaps the best known of the four selected artists – although arguably less so under her own name than as one of the founder members of the group AutoItalia.

Her project for What Will They See Of Me? is her first major venture as an individual artist, and as such brings extra nuance to the exhibition title.

Recently, her work and research have been focused on how capitalism might shape our everyday performance and how in turn this might relate to a notion of gender.

Her video explores creative modes of online self-fashioning and the emergence of different forms of agency. It will consist of post-produced studio-shot footage, reproducing, desiring and occupying imagery taken from beauty campaigns, to motion graphics decentralising the inherent performed labour in images.

A close up photo of a young child drinking a pint of milkshake through a straw
Marianna Simnett, production still from The Udder (2014)© Jerwood / Film and Video Umbrella Awards 2014
Marianna Simnett’s video also explores how our ideas of the pristine and the immaculate can be tainted by imperfection.

Filmed in the romantic, pastoral setting of a rural dairy farm, the piece is a study of the increasing industrialisation of milk production that opens out into an almost fairy-tale parable about purification and contamination.

Watching the pink, fleshy weight of the udder being milked by a new generation of robotic milking machines, Simnett instills an echo of our own human bodies becoming similarly enmeshed in an enveloping network of technology.

A close up photo of a reflective human eye
Anne Haaning, still from Khoisan Medicine (2014)© Jerwood / Film and Video Umbrella Awards 2014
Anne Haaning’s project ponders the marks that human beings have left throughout history, and how much of us actually ever survives for posterity.

Beginning with the African myth of a desert wind that erases the traces of human existence, she reminds us how human dreams, in the long run, turn to dust.

In the digital era, however - or so we are told - the products of our lives will not perish, and will outlive us, in ghostly immaterial form.

Splicing parts of an interview with an anthropologist with the futuristic speculations of a contemporary software developer, Haaning discovers surprising common ground in their rhetoric.

Will digital technology carry our presence into the future in new and lasting ways, or is this simply another example of a culture tempted to think of itself as somehow immortal?

A photo of a still from a television programme showing a man and a woman talking
Lucy Clout, production still from The Extra's Ever-Moving Lips (2014)© Jerwood / Film and Video Umbrella Awards 2014
In Lucy Clout’s prospective project, the throwaway mutterings of an extra in half-forgotten episodes of Australian soaps are scrutinised and analysed by an expert lip reader.

The fact that these offhand remarks can be brought to light so long after they were uttered provokes the thought that there may be things that we are doing today, on the internet or on social media, that we consider of equally trivial consequence but that may also stick around to be dredged up in 20 years time.

This insight prompts Clout to look more closely at the "background noise" of contemporary life, and the blurring distinctions between what is meaningful and meaningless."

  • The Awards are a collaboration between Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Film and Video Umbrella in association with CCA: Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow and University of East London, School of Arts and Digital Industries. What Will They See of Me? will be at Jerwood Space, London March 12 – April 27 2014; CCA: Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow as part of Glasgow International, April 4-21 2014.

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