"We had the best fun": Cullinan Richards on Museums at Night 2013 in Scunthorpe

By Nick Stockman | 09 September 2013

The Ultimate Materiality of Women II is a film made by contemporary artists Cullinan Richards, shot at the Museums at Night event in Scunthorpe on the 16th May 2013. The film was made using a method of taking a series of still images and running them together to create the illusion of movement referred to as a Flicker film.

The film’s soundtrack starts with what sounds like a bell ringing as if to commence a round of boxing. During the next 78 seconds the viewer is confronted with a set of images loosely centring on a boxing bout, but more specifically designed to express the texture and feel of flesh and canvas.

The Museums at Night event itself referenced several key details about an incident that took place outside a Scunthorpe chip shop. Although these reference points do find their way into the film the lack of narrative only enforces the fact that this is a mise-en-scene; a composition where the sound and feel are the stars of the show and content is a secondary consideration.

Filmmakers sometimes use rapid edits to denote time moving forwards or backwards very quickly but this film doesn’t have a linear timescale or a plot so the effect is more textural, the viewer getting a sense of the night’s events rather than an explanation or document.

This edit of the film removes almost all context for the viewer, allowing us the freedom to overlay our interpretations of what’s going on, much more like the interaction with a painting in fact.

Through this Flicker film, Culture24 were presented with a unique insight not only into one of the festival events but also into the minds of two of the participating artists. Project Manager Nick Stockman asked Charlotte Cullinan and Jeanine Richards to give us their thoughts about the film, the project and the event...

Had you spent a lot of time in Lincolnshire before? What were your impressions of Scunthorpe and the people of the town?

No, neither of us had ever visited the county of Lincolnshire – maybe just passing through.

Scunthorpe made a very good impression on us – not least the name.

Because of the nature of the project we met a lot of people from the town who we admired very much and worked with on a very familiar basis quite quickly.

What was it like working with 20-21 Visual Arts Centre?

Working with 20-21 was and is a superb experience. They are very well organised and, above all, imaginative.

The project was extremely ambitious and it is amazing that a smallish institution like 20-21 can support the aims of artists so completely.

What attracted you to using the Flicker process to make your film?

We were wondering how to document the work itself and then we came up with the idea that we would make the Flicker movie to somehow connect with more conceptual ideas we have about figurative and abstract, provisional painting etc.

How many stills did the production company have to work with?

We must have taken over 9,000 still images during the evening. KNOW MEDIA – Luke and Pete – gave us cameras that could fire off loads of images at a time.

Luke was using a moving camera and Charlotte, Jeanine and Pete were using the stills cameras.

What camera were the shots taken on and what did the production company use to edit them?

The cameras were SLR digital. It was very important that we, as the artists edited the film with Luke and Pete.

First we had to make several different folders to ‘theme’ the sections – some more abstract – ‘white flash’ for example. The movie was edited in the KNOW MEDIA studio in Scunthorpe town on Premiere.

What were the elements or reference points from the event that made it into the film that chime with your previous work?

Referring to several projects we have done recently, for example ‘Painting-Boxing’ class for the Hayward Gallery Wide Open School 2012, as well as the film ‘Faster Pussycat KILL KILL’ that we reference a lot in our work, the film itself deals with a certain collapse of narrative into abstract form and rhythm.

You’ve been quoted as saying that 'the exhibition' can be a medium itself and this piece explores that idea in film. Do live events involving audiences give you the ideal opportunity to explore this further?

We usually consider ourselves as the audience and are generally terrified of live events, so this is a fabulous departure. However, it is very connected to our views on the provisional possibilities in painting and exhibition as ‘unfixed’.

The film conveys a visceral sense of the event it was taken at. For people who weren’t in Scunthorpe that night, tell us, what was the Museums at Night event like for you?

We had the best fun.

In 2012 you produced work that also features boxers, a punchbag and the mysterious Bob XL. Tell us about your interest in Bob and boxing.

In 2001 we made a sculptural boxing ring with a large painting as a canvas. The sculpture was flatpack, like a real boxing ring.

At the time we were interested in the materials used to make boxing rings and the sporting language used that dates back to the 50s, as well as the combative nature of boxing and its possible relationship to the artworld. BOB XL is a readymade that inspired us as simply as a beautiful object.

The film and the event feature a bout in a boxing ring and the soundtrack seems to imitate the clatter of Lonsdale on canvas and the thud of gloves. How important to you was it to convey movement and action without depending on narrative?

The sound is used as abstract rhythm for the flickering images and was recorded on the night – it is in fact the sound of the young female boxer from Scunthorpe.

There’s a long and illustrious history of boxing in film (the 'Boxing in Films' Wikipedia page lists 160) - I’m thinking of the Rocky films but also Raging Bull, Million Dollar Baby and of course the legendary documentary about the Rumble in the Jungle ‘When We were Kings’. Are you fans of these and did you watch any when you were making this film?

We are just more interested in the relationship of the two female boxers and the title of the work – ‘Scunthorpe The Ultimate Materiality of Women Part 11’.

Do you think female boxing is now an accepted mainstream sport?

Probably not. Take female footballers – in general they get paid nothing.

The film’s colour palette is flesh, bleach and bright splashes of light and you use texture and abstract images to contrast with the ‘action’. This seems to me a statement about the ‘Lights, camera, action’ of the production film process. As a film viewing public are we too conservative about the way we view film?

The palette is very deliberately flesh, bleach and white flashed. The temporary plastic paintings and wall hangings we made on site and hung in the space were mainly flesh coloured ,as is BOB XL, and hung using a lot of silver tape, so this was deliberate in terms of setting up the event as a mise-en-scene.

We also used pink lighting on the boxing ring, and as you suggest these flashes of colour and silver are meant as visual abstract disturbance.

The original Flicker movies were made to flash up subliminal advertising that was supposed to be banned, but there are a lot of subversive and historical references that are used all the time in filmmaking.

I gather this edit is a forerunner to a longer version. What more can we expect from this project from you?

Yes, this is Version 1. We are working with 20-21 right now so we will see.

What other projects are you working on at the moment?

We are currently organising a group show for dispari&dispari project in Italy in October 2013. We are also selectors for the Bow Arts Trust Open 2013, ‘directing’ the show titled ‘Mise En Scene’, and other small projects and shows with the ff group in Berlin and Belgrade this Autumn.

We have also opened a shop in the front of our studio, 7 Vyner Street, called 4COSE. We sell Italian food.

  • Museums at Night 2014 will take place from May 15-17 2014.

More pictures:

A photo of a boxing ring in an arts centre
A photo of two men boxing inside a dimly-lit arts centre
A photo of two men boxing inside a dimly-lit arts centre
A photo of a partially-crashed car on a road
A photo of a partially-crashed car on a road
A photo of a large projection inside an arts centre
What do you think? Leave a comment below.

You might also like:

Museums at Night 2013: Meet the venues and artists taking part in the Connect10 competition

Connect10: Where will Cullinan and Richards go for Museums at Night 2013?

Museums at Night 2013 Videos: Watch them here
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I went to that night from Grimsby, with the limited budget and input of the artists the gallery did amazing things that involved lots of the local community. I hope they win again this year.
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