After speaking with Kate Nolan before the first ever Slideluck Potshow Dublin, one of the featured Irish artists, Miriam O'Connor speaks with her about realising a multimedia version of her own work for the project.
Interview: by Kate Nolan, Director of Slideluck Potshow Dublin.
Attention Seekers evolved from O'Connor's constant photographing the curious world around her. Searching out the subject who is asking to be noticed she takes the banal, the un-noticed and singles it out for us, the viewer, to gaze upon.
KN: How did the project Attention Seekers come about?
MOC: The concept for Attention Seekers emerged over a long period of time. In my practice, I use the camera on a day-to-day basis recording vernacular experiences, scenes that interest me or ones which I find visually curious. These images I consistently print and edit, and through this process, this methodology of working, ideas for work begin to materialize. In Attention Seekers, the project is informed by the basic notion of looking and at the same time being looked at. So the project advances the concept that these scenes have a particular agency and allure of their own - returning the gaze – these scenes are looking back. In a broad sense the project challenges the role of the photographer and subject granting in this case, greater agency to the subject matter, conceptually at least.
KN: Do you think that once one makes the conscious decision to ‘look’ everything changes?
MOC: I think it is rather easy to take looking and seeing for granted. In my own practice, what’s closest to me, what I see everyday, what surrounds me, provides the most intrigue. In addition, this relationship between looking and seeing is never really quite settled.
KN: What other work do you look at or draw upon for your own practice?
MOC: In a general sense, I would like to underscore how all sorts of photographs appeal to me, and on some level I can connect with all of them, whether I like them or not. Sometimes it’s not a question of ‘taste’ at any rate, rather intent or context. I am generally curious about photography in a broad sense and the manner in which the photograph and photography performs in a wider social context. To this end, I have to say that it’s almost impossible to earmark one particular practitioner that acts as a singular source of inspiration. Some time ago, Matt Packer, a curator at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, introduced me to the work of Rosalind Nashashibi. I was particularly inspired by a piece of work entitled Eyeballing (2007), a 16mm film, and not a set of stills at all. For me, the film is about looking and seeing, about looking again and about everyday objects, people or scenes looking back towards the camera too. What has been viewed through the camera in Eyeballing takes on a type of agency of its own by virtue of being framed alone and I like this immensely. Equally, I am a rather large fan of David Hockey’s work. I have a book entitled, Pictures which I tend to keep close to hand, connecting with his work in a way that I am not sure how to articulate.
KN: There is quite unusual perspectives in certain images such as the green patterned wallpaper in the hallway. It confuses the viewer , encouraging them to hold onto the images longer. Can you tell me some more about this?
MOC: In any given day, we see countless scenes, people, objects and so on. Certain things will always invariably stand out, become memorable, even if only for a millisecond. In some senses, the images which you mentioned, and the series more generally draw eternal attention to these diminutive details of the everyday through the still image. Yet the backdrop consistently remains the same, the notion that in some way these scenes return the gaze, posses a tension of their own, and are performing for camera and photographer. In this regard, what is worthy to note too is the notion of scale in the work. In the images you underscored it is true that the subjects or details appear to have taken over the entire field of vision and everything else outside of the frame has become redundant through the framing process. This is an important facet in the work and wanders back too to the point of production. In the moments, scenes and objects that you see in Attention Seekers, it is clear that everything else in the wider scene has faded in to insignificance. Perhaps this factor alone serves as an explanation for their appeal.
KN: There are so many platforms for photographers now have to show their work. How does one engage with all of these while still trying to tell the same story?
MOC: Each platform requires a different level of engagement, a new edit or sequence, treated almost as a separate entity. Attention Seekers has, for instance, been presented in different galleries, in book & magazine formats, in online platforms, and more recently at Slideluck Potshow. When deciding upon the images for Slideluck Potshow I needed to revisit again the project and consider how it might work in this manner. Important factors at play in the slideshow production were sequence, pace and of course the music; the project was never created with music in mind.
KN: How did you decide on the music and what did you choose?
MOC: Without question, the music was the challenge. Instinctively, I did not want any lyrics in the audio suspecting that they would serve as a distraction and be somewhat intrusive. I was drawn to audio which was concerned with rhythm. For a while I considered works by artists such as Stereolab or Laurie Anderson, but in the end, after much deliberation, I choose Sundog by Penguin Cafe Orchestra.
See the Slideluck Potshow version of the work here.
KN: Finally now that Slideshow Potluck is finished, how did you find this combination of slideshow and sound?
MOC: There are many variables at play, such as the Slideluck Potshow viewing context, the audience, what is shown before your work in the show, what comes after and so on. In addition, when work is projected it looks different, perhaps not to a wider audience but the artist you notices the subtle shifts in appearance. I am reminded of books that are adapted into films; they are always different , something always changes in the process. And this is the case when combining sound and stills for slideshows. I would be curious about how the audience engages with slideshows having not seen the work in a different context. It is an exciting experience, both for the artist and the audience.