Tuesday, 9 March 2010

An interview with Christopher King

Camberwell College of Art Drawing graduate Christopher King’s background in drawing and electronics has informed his stunning, psychedelic video pieces, which use techniques from both 1960s experimental video art and the 1990s club scene. Christopher talks to jotta about his experimentation with sound and immersive art – more than just the push of a button.

Tell us about your Wire Recorders project:
The Wire Recorders were the last piece of work I made on the drawing course and one of two I displayed at my degree show.  The pieces consists of a very thin taught loop of wire stretched over a set of pulley wheels allowing you to pass the wire past a hand-wound magnetic play head to hear sound. Wire recorders were used for dictation and even music after WW2, and were one of the first commercially available ways to record sound. My interest in them began when I was researching the history of audio electronics. The recording on my piece was a found reel of a 1940s American kitchen appliance salesman. I cut random loops of his voice up and placed them on the wooden frames, which people heard for probably the first time in 70 years.

What kinds of themes or messages are you trying to communicate through your work?
I try to create work that can sit between disciplines in an attempt to show that categorising objects limits or disregards some of their attributes. I  take things which I think have been mystified and over-complicated, like communication technology, and go back to their roots to show how and why these complex structures and systems have developed.

Is interactivity a major part of your creative process?
I love the idea of immersive art that engages a viewer, however, I think that pushing a button (or something along those lines) can feel superficial. I have learnt a lot through mistakes made along these lines. I think even drawings can be interactive in a way as they allow the artist to understand their environment visually, and a viewer can often trace this cognitive process. I also actively try and collaborate and interact with other artists and I think working in this way can be very productive - forcing me to produce more efficient work by gaining the insight of others.

Your 'Video Feedback' project seems very technical, how does it work?

The video feedback experiments are actually very simple. Normally, they involve pointing a camera at a video screen displaying its own output and then recording the result. The technique was often used in early video art experiments from the 1960s onwards. My video feedback is slightly different as it involves no cameras -  just a video mixer. I first discovered the technique through experimentation but I have since watched hours of 1990s club VJ demos using similar effects.  The process interests me because it is cumulative: any small change is amplified and distorted within the mixer, resulting in strange surprises.

What are you currently working on?

I just finished sound-tracking a performance piece and am now currently working on many small projects, some of which I hope to show at some point. I have begun building some sequencers that will control light and sound with a slow rhythmic movement, which I hope will have some of the same effects as music while not being overtly musical. I am also working on a project using television transmitters in a similar way, and another project involving hand-built radios.

To see more work by Christopher King go to jotta.com  and view his online portfolio

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