Beach Studies (Kerala) 2020 installation view Looping video with sound 5.50mins
These short beach studies are from time spent in India (Kovalam), a seaside resort on the southern coast of Kerala) Jan 2019 and Jan 2020. It was intriguing to see how differently Indian people behaved in and around the sea. Going in fully clothed, chatting groups lark about, having fun in a way that we don’t seem to in the UK. The women unconcerned about their Saris, none caring about shoes getting wet, these groups jostle each other, boys splashing, dunking shrieking elders having fun. Until it’s time for the photos. For the photos everything changes. These arranged, curated moments are serious and intentional. Laughter stops for the moment when gazing at the camera is all, then resumes once the image is done. Each person has a strong idea of their ideal image, arranging themselves, giving orders to those around them, a curated idea of self.
It wasn’t until March 2020 when we into the coronavirus pandemic lockdown that the work began to take shape. It gave me somewhere to escape and dream of when we were barely allowed to leave our houses except for food and exercise. The child playing so freely in the surf takes us back to a freer time when we didn’t have to think about the future.
Those who seem to be having the most fun, don’t have their cameras out. The surfing boys, the child covering himself in sand, they are in the moment, feeling and enjoying. I made this work in the isolated lockdown, central London in March -June 2020 and it gave me comfort.
After a month-long residency at the Mothership Dorset, June 2016, I re engaged with the landscape and area that I grew up in. It took about a year to get the technology right, to learn how to program random opacity changes, and get a smooth motorised pan for my camera. The problem of the landscape of west Dorset, is that not only is it incredibly beautiful, and I have such a personal relationship with it, that it seems impossible to film. It’s too easy to make landscape appear romantic, to make it seperate and apart from us. It wasn’t enough. It almost seemed more honest to obliterate it from view, so a tiny bit could be looked at a time. We have such strange cultural relationship to the landscape, and I feel so strongly attached to this one that I’m almost jealously protecting it from a viewer’s gaze, whilst being unable to stop looking at it myself. The various strategies of occlusion are intended to focus the eye on tiny parts, as I don’t believe we can really look at anything bigger than a thumbnail at any one time.
I made many many of these different tests. None have been exhibited so far.
A collaged animation of historic interiors and live footage of the sea. Made in black and white, the elements have been put together roughly to make their construction and the clash of imagery obvious. The images fit, but not quite.
The black screen with a moving slit, reveals small areas of the interior making the viewer focus on details that might otherwise be overlooked. The interiors are seen as fragments, but heard in their entirety, both excluding us from the space and making it more alluring. The slit is like the beam of a lighthouse moving at the same speed.
Each room has its own sea, with its own sound and atmosphere.
1 min 20 seconds, looping 4:3 PAL with sound, to be projected as large as possible in portrait format
A 4:3 ratio animation turned through 90º to be projected on a wall.
This work is about flight and as such the verticality of the content needs to be emphasised by the form of the work. The work begins and ends on black, this is so it can loop repeatedly. The looping gives the work greater presence; it’s more of an extended picture than an animation. It has a structure but no story.
It plays over and over. A fragment of film, alluding to something much longer, the whole life of a bird spent inside a box at the behest of the scientists observing it. Although the bird is small it takes up the entire area, and can move in any direction.
Nothing else can or will use this enclosure
Rodeo, a series of projected video pieces and large scale screen prints.
Made as a collaboration with Rory Hamilton.
3 short repeating animations
Yellow Rodeo 2 minutes 37 seconds looped
Blue Rodeo I minute 47 seconds looped
Red Rodeo 2 minutes 44 seconds looped
Rodeo features the rider of bull or horse in vibrant colour. The animations are red, yellow and blue, primary colours to show a primal sport. The power and emotion of the struggle between man and beast is heightened by the strong bold visuals. Also, in keeping with filmic depictions of rodeo, the animation either takes place in powerful, elegant slow motion or frantic real time. 8 seconds is the amount of time a bull rider must stay on to achieve a score. Each animation is projected and repeats endlessly, the seemingly monotonous actions interspersed by the buzzer marking the beginning and end of a ride.
Rodeo is a fast and intense competition between rider and animal. Bulls compete with their aspiring riders over and over in different venues, with bulls having equal star billing. These characters can be seen as an extension of celebrity culture creating equality between man and animal.
In both the video and printed work only the central characters of rider and bull are depicted all other characters and forms are removed; they define the world around them. The animations are meticulously hand drawn frame by frame then re assembled to make moving video. The riders merge with the animals to briefly become creatures of legend before separating into pools of colour on the ground. The sparse animation style gives little clue as to scale and perspective, at times disorientating the viewer in the visual space.
33 short movies in total without sound,
6 are shown below:
A commission for the main reception area of UCLH NHS London. Made from images taken from the archive of the Middlesex, UCH, St Peters, The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, The Eastman and the National Institute for Neurology hospitals, the hospitals that have now been amalgamated into the new UCLH, to show the history of the institusions. Each image used has been reinterpreted using animation, to change and bring each image to life in a short film. These films, begin and end on black and have been programmed to play in a random manner.
Commissioned by Bupa Great North Run Culture as their moving image commission 2007. About Running is a 9-minute animation showing individuals within the crowd of the world’s largest half marathon. Participants were interviewed the day before running the 2006 race. The images were hand drawn from footage taken from the race that year. It took almost a year to construct and involves thousands of individual drawings. Each person running has a story to tell and this animation focuses on some of them.
About Running has been exhibited at the Baltic Gallery, Gateshead, Glastonbury Festival and the Prince Charles Cinema London.
Artists, Suky Best and Rory Hamilton have been collaborating on works exploring cowboy myths for the past twelve months within western films. They have been investigating themes of heroism, romance, loneliness, drama and excitement. The work that has come out of this collaboration has a strong aesthetic flavour; it is hand worked, yet graphically clean. It uses strong stereotypes; while exposing their banality and frailty. Flat clear silhouettes replace the dusty blur of the wild west.
In these works only the hero or his companion (be they horse, tracker or love interest) are transcribed onto the finished image. All extraneous detail is removed. When a cowboy ties up a horse and walks into a building, the horse and rider are boldly drawn; any building only exists in negative when the rider walks behind a column. He defines the world around him.
In 2005 Film and Video Umbrella commissioned Suky Best to make ‘The Return of the Native’ as part of the project ‘Silicon Fen’, which was a series of commissions of digital art. The work itself and the wider project are both accompanied by publications. This was later extended to include species that were once common to the south east.
Selected animations, please contact the artist to see the whole series
Large Copper Butterfly, Lycaena Dispar Dispar. Near Ramsey 2005
Extinct in the UK in 1864. IUCN globally threatened species. Last seen fens 1851. Specimen courtesy of Bedford Museum
Norfolk Hawker Dragonfly, Aeshna Isosceles. Tydd St Giles Fen 2005
RDB Endangered. Last seen fens 1980’s. Restricted to Norfolk & Suffolk. Specimen courtesy of Bedford Museum
Bearded Tit, Panurus Biarmicus. Whittelsey 2005
RDB UK Amber List. Previously widespread on fens. Hope for breeding pairs to return to Wicken, Woodwalton and Needingworth Quarry. Original specimen image courtesy of RSPB
Wildlife sound: British Library
Black Redstart, Phoenicurus Ochruros. Battersea Park 2005
RDB UK Amber List. Under threat from development of Thames Corridor. With less than 100 pairs nesting in Britain the black redstart is a rarer British breeding bird than the osprey or golden eagle Specimen courtesy of Bedford Museum.
Wildlife sound: British Library
Privet Hawk Moth, Sphinx Ligustri. Bermondsey 2005
Previously common, London population now in decline. Depletion due mainly to loss of garden hedges. Original images courtesy of Paul Chesterfield and Jayne Herbert, Cornwall Wildlife
The Fens have always been a managed and constructed landscape; however, contemporary use of the land has exacerbated the loss of the range of flora and fauna. Over the last fifty years in particular, the volume and variety of birds and insects in this part of the country has declined dramatically. In The Return of the Native, Suky Best highlights a small number of wildlife species that were once commonplace in the East Anglian Fenland anThe Fens have always been a managed and constructed landscape; however, contemporary use of the land has exacerbated the loss of the range of flora and fauna. Over the last fifty years in particular, the volume and variety of birds and insects in this part of the country has declined dramatically. In The Return of the Native, Suky Best highlights a small number of wildlife species that were once commonplace in the East Anglian Fenland and whose numbers have diminished. They are now deemed rare, endangered or extinct in the region.
The Return of the Native is a series of six striking digital animations of insects and birds, including a Bearded Tit, a Large Copper Butterfly and two Soldier Flies. Using specimens taken mainly from the natural history collections at Bedford Museum, Best brings the creatures back to life and reintegrates them digitally in a contemporary Fenland location. The animations are presented on miniature screens, which play simultaneously and work to emphasise each specimen’s unique and rare status.
In addition to the animation series there are a number of equally evocative printed works also featuring rare and extinct flora and fauna that have been temporarily returned to their original Fenland home. The scenes depicted in The Return of the Native appear constructed, a deliberate attempt by Best to remind us that the images do not represent reality, but allude to a sad sense of loss.
London species, commissioned for the Pumphouse Gallery London
Fen Species, commissioned for BCA gallery Bedford
Hedgehog, Erinaceus Europaeus. Maida Vale 2005
Species of conservation concern, 40-50% decline in London in last 10 years. Partially protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. Specimen courtesy of Bedford Museum
Red Squirrel, Sciurus Vulgaris. Westbourne Park 2005
Extinct in London, last seen Hainault Forest 1950’s. Catastrophic decline and threatened in UK. IUCN RDB3. Specimen courtesy of Horniman Museum
House Sparrow, Passer Domesticus. North Kensington 2005
RDB UK Red List. Over 70% decline in London in last 20 years. Specimen courtesy of Bedford Museum
Common frog, Rana Temporaria. Battersea Park 2005
70% decline since WW2. Protected in Britain under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), with respect to sale only. Listed under Annex III of the Bern Convention. Specimen courtesy of Bedford Museum
Small lysonic inkjet prints 16 x12 cms
Marsh Fritillary, Eurodryas Aurinia. Tydd St Giles Fen 2005
Priority species protected under Annex II of the EC Habitats Directive; lost from fens pre-war. Restricted to west UK. Specimen courtesy of Bedford Museum
Marsh Moth, Athetis Pallustris. Near Sutton Bridge 2005
RDB3 Rare. Last seen fens 1970’s. Specimen courtesy of Bedford Museum.
Greater Horseshoe Bat, Rhinolophus Ferrumequinum. Albert Bridge 2005
Endangered in UK, extinct in London. Last Greater London record, 1953. Specimen courtesy of Horniman Museum
Crucifix Ground Beetle, Panagaeus Cruxmajor. Tydd St Giles Fen 2005
RDB2 Vulnerable. Last seen fens 1970’s. Restricted to Yorkshire. Original specimen image courtesy of Roger Key
The Aims of this project were to make animations that would alleviate stress levels in patients waiting to see doctors or to have treatment. This was achieved in 25% of patient viewers.
A series of 6 three minute, 20 second animations derived from movements of groups of insects, abstracted and simplified against non-representational backgrounds derived from natural environments, placed within healthcare waiting areas to alleviate stress. The animations were made specifically for waiting areas of hospitals; and were made with source material and help from the zoology department of the Natural history museum, and developed with collaborative input from Maggie Chapman a clinical hypnotherapist, and with Dr Cordelia Feuchtwang acting as a consultant during their development. Once completed, the animations played in a forced random order, to prevent anticipation and expectation in the viewer. The project was evaluated via interview and questionnaire at each location.
They were sited in three locations:
Clinic G (phlebotomy) in Outpatients, St Mary’s NHS, London playing during clinic hours for two weeks.
Women’s Outpatients Barts NHS, London, playing during clinics for two weeks
Yatton NHS Family Practice, Yatton Somerset, playing continuously for three weeks.
The staging in each location had to differ due to the constraints of working within a busy hospital or healthcare setting.
Yatton approx 2250 patients (over 3 week period including busy half-term week)
Barts 600 (over 2 weeks)
St Marys 2100 (250 patients attending outpatient appointments per week and 800 patients for blood tests)
Total number of people (excluding staff) who saw project 4950
Background and interests of team members in addition to artist Suky Best.
Maggie Chapman is a lecturer and clinical hypnotherapist. She has worked closely with the British Medical Association and The London Heart Hospital to develop the use of hypnotherapy within conventional medical practice, and is also is a senior lecturer at the London College of Clinical Hypnosis. She helped develop the animations to engage with certain parts of the brain that would help alleviate stress in the viewer. She has had an interest in this for many years. She also developed the evaluation process, designing the questionnaires, collating and analysing their data and setting guidelines for any interviews during evaluation. She is also director of City Minds and is currently running a longditudinal research study in the education sector on the effects of relaxation.
Mandy Holloway of the Zoology Department at the Natural History Museum identified suitable insects, fish and organisms that would make an appropriate starting point for animations of group behaviour. She also explained their behaviour, which informed the conceptual base for abstraction. Mandy Holloway was able to draw on the knowledge and expertise of colleagues in the museum suggesting and arranging fro algae other microbes to be filmed.
Dr Cordelia Feuchtwang a General Practitioner based in North Somerset acted as a consultant during the development stage of the project seeing the work every month or so for an informal discussion. With a broad range of interests she was willing to facilitate the installation of the finished work in her practice.
Suky Best writes:
This was a very successful project for me. I got to work with and develop a way of working with moving images that I hadn’t experienced before, expanding my skills and practice. I also worked with a variety of people from different disciplines, never having worked collaboratively before I found the experience interesting, enriching and on that I want to develop further and in corporate more within my practice as an artist. I also learnt a lot about insect behaviour. This has had a beneficial effect on my practice, whilst researching the insect movements I met with many etymologists and ecologists who gave me time and showed me wasps nests etc. I had a lot of help from the wildfowl and Wetlands trust, at Barnes and at Slimbridge, and from the team at Camley Street Nature Park, London. I am currently working on a series of animations and prints about the depletion of species and dwindling biodiversity in the Fens which will be exhibited at BCA Gallery Bedford April 2005 and the Pumphouse gallery October 2005, with possibilities of other venues.
This project originally came out of my own experience in hospital waiting areas and a personal desire to put something back into a context that had benefited me. I had never put work into a non-gallery setting before or had non-art audiences experience my work.
I am also working on a production grant proposal to the Wellcome Trust, as I want to take this project further. I think that the project needs much more collaboration with the nurses during its development and so I am proposing to make a permanent piece (by permanent I mean for 1-2 years, this is constrained by the limits of the life of the screen used) for the women’s outpatient waiting areas in at Barts hospital which has seasonal changes and incorporates sound. Made specifically with collaboration from the women’s outpatients’ nurses using data gathered initially from them and the patients of that area.
Maggie Chapman writes:
The study consisted of a random sample of 219 individuals over three locations. St Mary’s was a very crowded busy blood clinic, the screen was badly positioned and not able to be seen easily; there was an overall perceived relaxing effect of 20%. St Barts was a larger clinic, less busy than St Mary’s the screen was well positioned there was no increase however in perceived relaxation which remained at 20%. In Yatton a NHS GP’s surgery in Somerset where the DVD was presented on a TV as opposed to a plasma screen as at the other two locations, 51% stated that they experienced an overall relaxing effect.
The favourite screen in all locations was the butterfly screen; the most preferred colour was green in all locations. Suggestions from the feedback were that sound would be helpful and more natural representations would be more relaxing, however many found the screens interesting and were curious as to what they actually were and more generally people felt that the screens were favourable to nothing, though several mentioned the return of the fish tank would be welcome!