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In Discussion With Bloomberg New Contemporary – Jesc Bunyard
November 26, 2014
Today sees the opening of Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the ICA. Fifty-five new artists picked from nearly 1,400 submissions join the ranks alongside the likes of Damien Hirst and David Hockney – both previous selectees. This year marks sixty-five years of the esteemed exhibition that showcases the hottest new talents hand picked from the UKs final year students, graduates and artists one year out of study. Candid attended the opening last night to talk to Bloomberg New Contemporary Jesc Bunyard about her work and it’s new setting within the exhibition:
Your piece selected for this year’s Bloomberg New Contemporaries is a video documentation from the performance Photo Piece, originally realised in December 2012. Do you find video art has more capacity to grow and change than static mediums?
I try to view the documentation or video from a performance as something which can exist on a separate level from the original performance. When I first moved into performative/live work, one of the first things I realised was that the video documentation could never relive or recapture the experience of the live event. So, instead of creating something that mourned that loss, with ‘Photo Piece’, I wanted to create something that referenced the original event, but also created something engaging, which could stand as a separate video work.
How do you feel about the restaging of your performance at the ICA? Does it add to or change the work for you?
Firstly, I’m deeply honoured to be allowed to perform at the ICA; I keep pinching myself to see whether it’s real! The restaging of a performance is always interesting, from a practical and theoretical point of view. ‘Photo Piece – Restaged’, will not be an exact replication of the 2012 version, purely because the musical performances are improvised. I wanted the new performance to be entirely improvised, so I have set a brand new score with new C-Type Photograms. The restaging will also be placed in a different context within a gallery environment alongside other performances. When ‘Photo Piece’ was originally performed it took place during a traditional classical concert in front of an unsuspecting audience, so it was an intervention as well. I’m looking forward to seeing it in this new context and how this will affect the work. I’m also looking forward to setting up the performance again because, with a work like this, there are always tweaks that can be made and aspects of the work that you’re not happy with. A restaging is an opportunity to explore these aspects.
The performers in this piece were members of The Angel Orchestra, directed by Peter Fender, who improvised using your photograms as visual scores. Your photograms are also standalone works of art; which do you think is their truer form?
It’s a tough question; I find the project/intervention/installation way of working very interesting. Going forward, I do think it’s a style of work that I will develop. On a day-to-day level, I tend to perform a lot of research and produce a lot of smaller works, which then feed into and become the larger pieces. At the moment I am more concentrated on the larger ideas and the long-term way of working. Although I would love to be able to frame some of the photograms and exhibit them, see how they work potentially with a sound piece. For me there is no truer art form, just more possibilities.
Audience reaction to visual and audio stimuli is the driving force behind your work; do you consider yourself part artist, part scientist? Can your work be considered part art part experiment, or is it something more?
I would describe my practice as an exchange between work and viewer; I can set up this exchange, but a certain level of discussion, interpretation, and interaction is left to the viewer. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a scientific experiment, more an awareness of what the viewer can bring to the work as well as myself.
Have you considered attempting to collect some form of results or data from the normal gallery goer like you did with The Angel Orchestra, or is the viewer experience intended to be a private one?
I have considered filming the reactions of the viewers when they enter my installations and see what work that transforms into, or perhaps interviews after. My intention at the moment is to keep the camera at a set distance unless they consent to an interview. I have one idea to film viewers’ interview responses to a transient work and show in a gallery space, thus making the viewer’s reaction the surviving work.
‘Photo Piece’ took place before the interval of The Angel Orchestra’s Winter Concert with no description of the performance being given. The audience, who had come to see a classical concert, were given no prior warning. Did you have a chance to view their reaction? What did they make of it?
I indirectly captured some of the audience’s responses with one of my camera angles, I didn’t want to have any cameras directly focused on them, and there were smiles of surprise and intrigue. One of the most intriguing reactions came from one of the musicians, who enjoyed performing and remarked that the performance and process was anarchic.
Your practise, especially in the above instance, comes across as having a mischievous side, potentially even an urge toward anarchy in your attempts to disrupt the status quo. Is this a fair assessment in your opinion? Has this playful/disruptive side to your work developed or always been present?
That is a fair assessment, yes. The disruptive side is something that has been developed, or I’ve become more aware of it. Aspects of my work, in particular the interventions, are seen as political or disruptive in some way. I will say that I am not a political artist but aspects of my practical and theoretical work can be. It’s a side I’m having fun exploring.
Do you think your body of work is open to a wider range of interpretations than maybe artworks less abstract in subject matter are?
I think it’s easier to explore a vast array of interpretations within more abstract, yes. When I say this I’m not dismissing works which are less abstract, it all depends on how many layers the work possesses. I wouldn’t necessarily define myself as an abstract artist (if such boundaries really exist now), but more an artist who uses the abstract language as a tool just like any other medium.
The spectator and their reaction to your pieces are key to your practise, is this ambiguity of a defined message intentional to provoke the viewer to elaborate?
I love getting the viewers to interact with the work, it’s one of the reasons I make the work. Yes, I try not to give too much away prior to the viewing of the work, because I don’t want to bombard the viewer with one opinion. Instead I try and briefly describe the process and a short statement of what it is without giving too much away.
Do you think this draws the viewer in and is there a higher risk that some just won’t get it or won’t attempt to?
I think there is a risk with every work, no matter who it’s by, that a viewer may not be drawn into the work. Every artist runs this risk, yet because most of my practice can be viewer dependant I play the risk higher than others. Every time I display my work I do fear, which may be considered paranoid, that no one will like it, or worse dismiss it, but so far people have interacted with and liked my work, and I can’t ask for more than that.
Who are your artistic influences, obviously Rothko springs to mind instantly; is this a correct connection to make?
Yes, absolutely. I find Rothko’s Seagram Murals particularly intriguing and inspiring. I love the layers of paint, which ripple, grow and shrink before the viewer’s eyes. I’m also in love with the works of Anthony McCall and Wolfgang Tillmans, there are so many artist that I find inspirational. I also watch a lot of films; I find I’m often drawn to film soundtracks and how they can help draw the viewer in and intensify the emotion portrayed on film. They also position you back within the film, when you’re listening to the soundtrack elsewhere. Music, as well, has a major influence upon my work. Often this can be just part of the working process; all these influences filter through somehow to the work or project.
What do you find is the most expressive medium, or do you naturally gravitate toward one depending on your ideas and where they’re taking you? Or does working in one often lead onto another like with your photograms?
Working with one medium can often lead to others. I find an interdisciplinary way of working far more rewarding. Combining mediums can help lead to new and exciting works, but also on a more basic level it adds variety to my day to day routine. One day I could be doing research, the next video, the next drawing etc., meaning that if I struggle with one aspect of my practice, I don’t have to beat my head against a wall to try and find a solution, I can take a break from it but still be productive.
Going forward, what are your future plans for your practise?
What’s most important for me now is to continue pushing my practice. I have a couple of large-scale works and projects, which I would love to complete, but for that I require funding and space. I would also love to collaborate with cultural organizations and explore where this takes me. The danger with something like New Contemporaries, is that you stop to admire yourself; I haven’t got time for that. I want to use the opportunity as a springboard; to see how the work interacts within this environment and to give myself a much-needed boost of confidence. New Contemporaries is an extraordinary opportunity and I feel so privileged to be part of it. It’s important that I continue to push myself and develop as an artist.
For more information on the artist Jesc Bunyard go to jessicabunyard.com
For more information on this years Bloomberg New Contemporaries go to newcontemporaries.org.uk/2014
Maxine Kirsty Sapsford, Arts Editor