Louise Ashcroft - Actions in london

5:49, 2011, Video Art
Actions in London is an ongoing series of spontaneous interventions in public space, which arise from a series of urban walks.
DirectorLouise AshcroftProducerLouise Ashcroft

CountryUnited KingdomEdition2011

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Who is Louise Ashcroft?
I’m an artist and curator. I live and work in London. I graduated from The Ruskin School of Fine Art, Oxford University, with first class honours in 2004. In 2008 I completed an MA in Cultural and Critical studies at Birkbeck College, University of London. Since 2001 I have been working with a wide range of media to create works which combine processes of research, story-telling and intervention as mechanisms through which to explore spaces and places I find interesting.

It is important to me that my works have a simple core concept, but also that this concept takes on complex myth and meaning when it interacts with specific sites. My definition of ’site’ is a loose one - in my practice a site can be anything from a set of social relations to an exhibition, a street, a sound or a story.

What is Actions in london about?
Actions in London is documentation of a series of interventions which I carry out as spontaneous responses to my walks through London. This is an ongoing series. My intention is to subvert existing spatial codes and hierarchies in the city by highlighting or editing this space through actions. These actions range from simply pointing out something which is symbolic or by occupying spaces which are interesting to me. Many of the actions use humour as a catalyst for political or philisohphical ideas.
The video is shot mostly in the first person, using a handheld mobile phone camera. I wanted to resist creating a high quality image like that of a commercial film and I didn’t want to make a video of passersby staring at a performance artist doing something weird (as so many videos of street interventions are). Shortly, I wanted to avoid presenting myself as a ’spectacle’ by remaining mostly behind the camera and by using a camera I could take anywhere with me and thereby react directly to situations I encountered. I alternate between whichever camera I have on me at the time: videophone/ still camera/ camcorder. I like the inconsistency of the camera type because it shows the make-shift spontaneity with which the piece was made. In a way, the video is simply a trace of the real artwork which was the live action itself, which was inaccessible to an an art viewer and was only witnessed by myself and perhaps a few passers by.

How did you start with film? And do you have an educational background in art or film?
I started using film to make animations in university. I now use film as a mechanism for recording and translating live gestures. The video frame allows me to control what th viewr sees and to limit what they see. Video helps me to retain an element of inaccessibility to my work on the part of th viewer - I dont ever want to make a finished piece, but, rather, to make a continuous process of investigation which eludes being pinned down to a conclusion or object.

Could you explain how you work, what themes or concepts you use and what is important to you?
I work in the studio very directly with cheap materials such as paper, card, glue, found materials. I make lists. I make drawings. This studio practice is open and experimental and often acts primarily as a way of coming up with the starting points for ideas - it is a process of meditation. I also walk a lot (either in groups or on my own), my walks have no destination, I just follow my nose and my instincts. Walks are naturally narratve in form because each things you notice relates to the next through the trajectory of the walk. I find the rhythm of walking is perfect for thinking. By exploring and playing with materials and places in this way I begin to create starting points for projects which I then develop further. I often work collaboratively, or initiate groups and events and I always engage with a range of real and imaginary spaces. I never make art which represents or illustrates political ideas, but I often make work ’politically’. My experiments could be seen as the opposite of science and the opposite of politics because they seek to question the world around us and provoke new thoughts by subverting reality and unhinging it, rather than by striving towards clear objectives and goals.

How long do you usually work on one project?
It varies. I often go back to projects and remake them in new ways or take them in new directions. My work is more of a process or practice than a collection of finished pieces.

Do you carefully plan the production process or do you work more intuitive?
I work directly and intuitively with my surroundings, or whatever materials I can get my hands on.

How does the title relate to the work, and how do you find a fitting title?
My titles are usually quite matter of fact. It was the simplest way to describe what the video is documenting.

How do you finance your projects (by yourself, sponsors or subsidy)?
I am self-financing. This work didn’t cost anything to make.

How important is sound in film, and if you use sounds, do you create your own or use existing?
I tend not to edit the sound. It is simply a background which brings the video to life and makes it more connected to the real space it was filmed in.

How would you describe contemporary videoart?
I think art videos are often too long and alienate viewers because they need to invest so much time, whereas most other work in galleries has quite and instant impact. I don’t think the gallery convention of the dark projection space works very well. People tend to watch a minute or two and then leave. Video art needs to find new ways for viewers to engage with it, it needs to look to spaces beyond the projection screen and make links to other spaces. My video tries to communicate the potential for future actions in real space as much as it documents past actions through the virtual space of the moving image.

What possibilities of the web are yet to be explored?
I think there are a lot of possibilities for using the web as new ways of experiencing moving image works. It’s a great tool for collaboration and for making connections between different kinds of spaces. I want to make soem interactive maps and journeys which incorporate video, drawing, sculpture and collaboration - the web has the potential for a gesamkunstwerk.

Did the web changed your view on art, or your career?
Yes. It allows me to set up projects, exhibitions and spaces to show work, withiut the financial constraints of a real venue. It also enables me to initiate collaboration on large scales, often resulting in real-space happenings. I think the link between the real world and the online world are increasingly important. I don’t want to make work that exists solely on the web, I want to use the web as a tool to tranform real space and off-screen experience.

Where would you place your work; cinema or art. And what is the difference between those according to you?

Art has more scope for playing with forms of presentation. Art thinks about space in a different way; in multiple ways. My work is located off-screen, somewhere else. The screen is just a clue or a trace of that other space.

Cinema is about visual pleasure and narrative and it is dominated by the commercial entertainment industry which aims to allow the viewer/customer to escape reality. I want to address everyday reality directly rather than escape it and I don’t want to have to be constrained by marketing to a mass audience who would pay to see my work.

How important is the reaction to your film by the audience?
I guess all artists want the audience to like their work, to think it’s clever and interesting. I certainly want to give the viewer the feeling that they ’get it’, that they catch the conceptual one-liners in the way they’d get a joke, but then I want those one-liners to linger with them and provoke deeper considerations and thoughts.

What is your next project about?
I’m continuing to do Actions in London and I’m working on a few other projects derived from walks, which will intergrate sculpture and other media. I’m also working on a poster series documenting interventions in public space. Check out my website www.louiseashcroft.info

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