Interview with James Richards, Jarman Award Nominee 2012

The winner of this year’s prestigious Jarman Award is to be announced on 5 November. Launched four years ago in 2008, the Film London Jarman Award supports and applauds artists working with moving image and whose work avoids conventional definitions. Inspired by avant-garde flimmaker, Derek Jarman, the nominated artists are: Brad Butler & Karen Mirza, Marcus Coates, Shezad Dawood, Benedict Drew, Nathaniel Mellors, James Richards, Ben Rivers, Aura Satz, Matt Stokes and Thomson & Craighead. Aesthetica takes a moment to interview James Richards, an artist with many occupations, spending his time producing film, sculpture and setting up public film screenings. He graduated from the Chelsea School of Art and has hosted solo shows in the UK and in Istanbul, he discusses the work he will be presenting as part of this year’s Jarman Award Touring programme and the importance of the production of film in art.

A: What is it that attracted you to producing art using video?
JR: I really wanted to work with time, to make things that would take me on a journey of different sensations in the gallery. What would it be like to stand next to a sound in a gallery? Or to experience a film that was playing before you enter the room and that will continue when you leave? I’m also keen to work with the materials I found around me – the things in my life -and the audiovisual combination is such an important thing in our culture.

A: You also work with sculpture, do you feel like the two slot together?
JR: Indeed they do – the gallery for me is still about objects – about the phisical encounter with work – even if that work is a projection or a screen. Working with sculpture, or simply working with the environment of the gallery itself as well as the video, I’m able to really create viewing scenarios – for myself and the gallery visitors. It’s about using the gallery to sculpt what the visitor see’s – but also to frame how it’s seen.

A: Can you explain the short film you submitted for the Jarman Award Touring Programme.
JR: The work is a collage of materials brought together for emotional visual beauty, it’s about what happens when disparate things are laid aside – to make harmonies and dissonance’s in the mind. For The Jarman Award i’m presenting, Looking So Hard At Something It Distorts Or Becomes Obscured. (Not Blacking Out, Just Turning The Lights Off ), a single-channel video that maps a space between intimacy, desire and physical proximity – between the arbitrary and the erotic. It presents images and sounds that that are surrogates for the liquidity or porosity of the body, of oblivion and of being inside and outside, Looking So Hard At Something… slips between the sensual image and its screened digital abstraction.

A: If you were to win the Jarman award, what would the £10,000 prize money go towards?
JR: The first thing I would buy is a new laptop! Mine’s been on the brink of total breakdown for ages. I would also be able to spend more time on research – on watching work at archives and going to use specialist image processing equipment.

A: You organize film screenings, how important do you think it is for the general public to be able to access art in film?
JR:Video art is something that has to be activated – you can’t pass around a photograph of a video, it has to be experienced in time. So, the decisions on what to show, and what to show before or after – the sequencing of playlists if you like, is something that I love to do. The history of video art is also something that needs to be re-activated and re-discovered by every new generation, there’s just so much wonderful work I feel a responsibility to get it seen!

Jarman Award 2012, A UK touring programme showcasing works by the 10 shortlisted artists will take place from 12 September to 3 November at venues across the UK, including FACT, Liverpool , CCA, Glasgow and CIRCA Projects Newcastle . The tour will culminate in a special event at London’s Whitechapel Gallery on Saturday 3 November.

1. James Richards, Cigarette Drop.