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.
short extract from Alwyn Park House
2011, large digital projection, 6 mins 22 secs looping with sound to see entire film, please contact the artist
An animated walk through a fictional stately home. Each room leads impossibly to another and seems to have been left in readiness by invisible human occupants. The only visible signs of life are the birds who carry on their tasks. We hear sounds of humans, ghostly remnants or simultaneous occupants. The birds do the same thing over and over as do we, the viewer also stuck in the space, unable to escape. Its possible that the birds have always been there, and the humans accidentally enclosed them when the house was built.
This film also has accompanying prints made as three dimensional objects, various aspects of the image occupying different planes within each frame.
2010, small monitor installation, each 1 min 30 secs (approx) looping with sound
Four scenes each just over a minute long showing a collage of filmed owls placed on top of a scene from a British film of the 1940’s (This Happy Breed 1941). In each scene owls appear and disappear. The work comes from ideas of transgressive animals within children’s fiction, especially Beatrix Potter’s, A Tale of Two Bad Mice, 1902 where two mice enter a dolls house, and, finding all the food to be fake, smash it up in anger and disappointment
The room, a film set, is used as a constructed fictional space, like a dolls house but for adults. The collage is deliberately crude to allow a space for the viewer to fill in the gaps and make the scene more real; what they are watching isn’t real.
54 Morning Lane (2010)
These are the birds that live in the house. An ordinary house where you, or I, could be live. When no one is looking they appear, becoming visible in the empty spaces; when your back is turned.
These are the real inhabitants.
They have always been there.
There since the space was enclosed by bricks; displaced from their trees, resentful.
Living in the walls, the cracks between, having a life amongst us. In moments of despair they can become visible to us, but we don’t notice.
When the house is empty they come out to play.
When our backs are turned they help themselves.
Camouflaging themselves against wallpaper, merging with the patterns, in control of their opacity.
Always angry, they change the space just by being there.
Eating cake, biting at the backs of chairs ill tempered and bad mannered.
If you don’t believe me, perhaps you just haven’t looked hard enough.
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
The Flowers of the Mansion 5mins with sound
commissioned by Tatton park biennial for the website.
The Flowers of the Mansion
has been made from images of the interior of the mansion at Tatton Park, vintage postcards of the park, images from the Tatton archive and live footage and sounds.
The room Mrs Waugh and Lady Beatrix Egerton occupy as they await their guests is a collage of domestic objects normally located in different parts of the Mansion. At the centre of the scene is a bowl of fresh roses, the focus of the piece. Through the window the Italian Garden can be seen, bringing live action into the composite of the sitting room.
Two voices bring us into the respective worlds of the house and garden: Marian Littler, the Mansion’s flower arranger, and gardener Peter Lofthouse. Both relate a minor aspect of the daily working of the house. Marian works closely with Peter who brings flowers in for her to arrange. Those working within the mansion appear to exist in a separate sphere to those working outside. The flowers bridge the two worlds.
The interior life of Tatton Park mansion alluded to as The Towers in Mrs Gaskell’s novel Wives & Daughters(1866) is a stifling class bound world of manners and etiquette where men have freedoms and privileges prohibited to women; the animation suggests this difference with the immobility of the interior spaces and the dynamism of the world outside.
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.
An animation commissioned by Great Ormond street Hospital, 2minutes looping without sound. It tells the story of a boy befriending a horse. It is now permanently sited in the Octav Botnar Wing, Great Ormond street, 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
Wildlife Documentary #7
40 seconds with sound,looping
Wildlife Documentary #15
40 seconds with sound,looping
These films examine the technology of representative documentation. #7, Flipbooks of seagulls derived from video footage have been through a digital editing process, are constructed, and choreographed reconstructed and then re-filmed. #15 is of flowers opening and closing. Time is played with and what appear to be visible events are usually invivble to the eye.
The flipbooks remind us that film/video technology still relies on an illusion of movement. The cinematic device of a film within a film, often to imply a past event, is mirrored in the two points of view in the video. Using a pre cinematic device within a video completes a cycle of technology. The images are video stills, and their re-presentation on video both allows us to see the images ‘come to life’, while denying any direct encounter with the physical form of the books, much less their living subjects. Accompanying sound is released when the flipbooks are operated increasing the sense of magic at the illusion encountered.
Offering a counterpoint to the drama and spectacle of conventional wildlife documentaries, this work elicits the same tendency to focus on those aspects of animal behaviour, which suggest human frailties and emotions. Offering a counterpoint to the drama and spectacle of conventional wildlife documentaries, this work elicits the same tendency to focus on those aspects of animal behaviour, which suggest human frailties and emotions.
A short loop of a starling, the same action repeated over and over.
As you watched it, the repetition began to seem like a nervous twitch of neurotic behaviour. The monitor was placed in the window to make the birds containment and isolation from nature more poignant
Digital work needn’t be screen based.
Interactive work needn’t mean a CD.
Filmic narratives needn’t be epic.
These are restless times. The first in a series of flipbooks given away free with make magazine resembling the custom of giving away samples of beauty products with women’s magazines. This issue of make coincided with the launch of the Ulay Award for Women Artists in association with make Magazine and the theme of the issue was miniature.
My work connects miniature with new technology in the form of ‘an interactive digital work’. A one and a half second screening is available to the viewer via flipping the pages, a pre-cinematic technique where persistence of vision gives the illusion of movement. This particular film is of two seagulls. One walks across the frame from left to right, the other pecks the ground behind. Seagulls scavenge at the edges of human activity, in harbours, fishing boats and waste tips, living off the debris of tourism. The territorial cawing seagull undermines the bird as an analogy of the human spirit, wild and free. Instead, the seagull has become a metaphor for urban society
I find it interesting to explore narrative form with a seemingly banal story. I enjoy grappling with visual depictions of time. Seagulls tie in with televisions current obsession with wildlife documentaries, where an illusion of the natural world is presented as entertainment in the guise of education to a post-industrial society with a collective yearning for Arcadia.