Interview with Jerwood/Film and Video Umbrella Awards Nominee Lucy Clout

What Will They See of Me? is the second edition of the Jerwood/Film and Video Umbrella Awards and explores the importance attached to individual expressions of personal identity. The application process for the Awards was open in summer 2013, to artists within the first five years of professional practice. The four successful moving-image artists; Lucy Clout, Kate Cooper, Anne Haaning and Marianna Simnett have been selected for the first stage of the Awards, during which they produce work in response to the title. Aesthetica speaks to Lucy Clout about her approach to the theme and her interest in language.

A: How did you begin addressing the theme of the project: What Will They See of Me?
LC: The commission comes out of an on-going interest in how speech is used and valued. In previous work this has related to specific examples of unclear speech (wittering, pussyfooting, speech disfluencies). What Will They See Of Me? began with me thinking about the routine contemporary technological preservation of such language via social media, file sharing, street cameras etc. The question at the heart of this work is what happens when speech created primarily as a disposable language of kinship, comfort and context, is preserved and available for re-watching and interpretation. Importantly, this is not about a conservative desire to somehow protect this language, but an interest in the ways technological change effects the understanding and uses of this distinct mode of communication.

A: What does it mean to you to be nominated for the Jerwood/Film and Video Umbrella Awards?
LC: Like every artist I spend much time thinking about how I can continue to make art in the long term. The Jerwood/Film and Video Umbrella Award offers a model of production that is financially, practically and physically sustainable; the use of a producer, outsourcing labour and particularly the extended supported discussion of the work at an early stage. Much of this assistance is new to my work and I am enjoying it. There are also going to be four very strong and different works coming out of the project and it feels good to be around those.

A: Your piece scrutinises the speech of extras in Australian soaps – what do you want audiences to take from this?
LC: The extra’s moving lips are used as a kind of test-site on which we can observe speech that has outlived its imagined lifetime. One tiny clip is repeated again and again, broken down by a forensic lip reader and discussed on fan forums, an absurdly close reading if you like, of this very particular content. I want the audience to be able to pick their own way through the background noise that allows points of drama to be visible, and the egoism and kinship expressed in the perpetual manufacture of chatter.

A: Why video art? Do you work with any other art forms?
LC: I make sculptures, performances, texts and other hybrids but I keep coming back to video. It’s the medium most likely to affect me in others’ artworks. The presence and readability of the human body in video is something I am hugely interested in – the way a screen can turn the body into a reproducible sculpture feels very practical. Also, TV is my sedative of choice.

A: Would you like to expand this project in the future? How would you do so?
LC: Absolutely, this first strand of What Will They See Of Me? is essentially a trailer – it opens up the questions that the longer work will expand upon. This project uses points of slight recognition: the voice of a British actress, a line from a defunct message board, or amateur footage of a TV set, as a way of drawing the audience into the work. The larger project expands these small moments into the circular soap tropes of loss, amnesia and poor continuity. The work will culminate in the re-enactment of a high school reunion on a famous Australian beach.

A: Are there any artists you’d love to collaborate with?
LC: This is a tricky question for me. I have a set of people (friends and artists) whose opinion, practicality and continuity are the context for all my work. However the product is always my own – I don’t collaborate and don’t think I ever will. Some of my favorite makers (and people) use collaboration and I am ever impressed by their ability to work in that vulnerable way; to discuss uncertain works and to stand up for their opinions whilst not always having to win. But I don’t believe that collaboration is the only way to make resistant artworks, and I am temperamentally unsuited to it. Of course I would love to spend my days with Joelle Tuerlinckx, Sharon Hayes or Tatham and O’Sullivan. But I wouldn’t want to join in with them; I’d just like to chit-chat or maybe take their bins out. I’d also like it if they paid me.

The Jerwood/Film and Video Umbrella Awards: What Will They See of Me? will be at Jerwood Space, London from 12 March until 27 April 2014 and at CCA: Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, as part of Glasgow International from 4 – 21 April 2014.

1. Lucy Clout, Shrugging Offing, digital video, 2013.