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Constantine Gras - Vinyl replay

3:39, 2011, Music video
A meditation on a vinyl record collection amassed during 1966-1993.

In the studio and on location, long photographic exposures, often with a camera in motion, were used as a means of invoking the space and time of this analogue cultural existence: early days of collective family listening; rushing down to Woolworth’s with pocket money to buy singles; the flowering of sexual identity in post-punk teens; and the civil disobedience during Thatcherite Britain.
DirectorConstantine GrasProducerConstantine GrasCameraConstantine GrasEditorConstantine Gras

CountryUnited KingdomEdition2011 ScreeningsPortobello Film Festival, 2011
Photomonth 2011, East London International Photography Festival

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Interview

Who is Constantine Gras?
I constantly ask myself this question and there is a strong autobiographical quality to my art. For the man, look at the art. If you really want to know, I’m of Greek and Polish parentage, but a native Londoner through and through. I have been an artist for over 20 years now. Since 2008 I have waded into environmental art and always use film as part of my project work.


What is Vinyl replay about?
Vinyl Replay consists of 163 photos taken during 2008-10. In the studio and on location, long photographic exposures, primarily with a hand-held camera, were used as a means of reinterpreting my dusty and scratched record collection. These records range from 1966 when the Beach Boys filtered across my mum’s amniotic sac, up until my last days of vinyl collecting from Mole Jazz in the early 1990’s.

I want to reinvoke the space and time of this analogue existence: early days of collective family listening; rushing down to Woolworth’s with pocket money to buy singles; the flowering of sexual identity in post-punk teens (matters you couldn’t really share with your family); and the outrage and civil disobedience against Thatcherite Britain.


How did you start with film? And do you have an educational background in art or film?
Trained in film and literature at the University of Warwick. Important theoretical mentors were V. F. Perkins (Film as Film, Nicholas Ray) and Richard Dyer (Heavenly Bodies, Film Stars as Society, Federico Fellini). First started making films with Jakub Barua under the influence of the Lodz film school in Poland. Drifted into photography and fine art, but am now making a return to my first love, film.


Could you explain how you work, what themes or concepts you use and what is important to you?
All work is a process of discovery. I am interested in a number of critical concepts: acoustic ecology, urban studies, personal mobility and cycling issues, migrant communities and identity in the context of the diaspora.
Improvisation and music are also very important to the way I work. They are the back beat.
I tend to work in two ways. Community based projects, taking inspiration from and empowering people who don’t usually take part in art. Vinyl Replay represents the strand of more personal, fine art based projects.


How long do you usually work on one project?
Usually 1-2 years. Vinyl Replay started in 2008 and was completed in 2011. There were over 2, 000 photos, a book and the film.


Do you carefully plan the production process or do you work more intuitive?
A measure of both. The creative phase of art making is very intuitive. Bringing work out into the public realm is all methodical planning.


How does the title relate to the work, and how do you find a fitting title?
Always a challenge to encapsulate and put a label onto a work of art. It’s always done as an after thought and am never really satisfied with it. Vinyl Replay is quite self explanatory, probably too much so.


How do you finance your projects (by yourself, sponsors or subsidy)?
All three.
Vinyl Replay is my labour of love but has found expression as part of Photomonth 2011, East London’s International Photography Festival.
Water - Way of Life received funding as part of the West London Story for the Cultural Olympiad.
Flood Light, a film making project, was commissioned for the InTRANSIT festival of arts.


How important is sound in film, and if you use sounds, do you create your own or use existing?
Very and that includes the power of silence, non-sound.
I am also interested in the eco-acoustic soundtrack, natural and man-made. London is noisy.
For Vinyl Replay, I recorded my own scratch track using Garage Band.


How would you describe contemporary videoart?
Artists playing and experimenting with moving pictures and sounds. I don’t think this is a distinct art form and overlaps with other art practices. This is a strength. I like the variety of conventional and experimental approaches to videoart. Mixing and matching form and content depending upon project, inspiration, time, budget.


What possibilities of the web are yet to be explored?
The web is only in its embryonic form, so many more plugged, virtual and interactive experiences are to be had. There are also limits to the web which need to be acknowledged.


Did the web changed your view on art, or your career?
Completely. New ways of connecting with people, especially a younger audience, wanting participation rather than more passive modes of consumption. But I have my foot in both camps, still loving analogue photography and vinyl.


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


How important is the reaction to your film by the audience?
Very. No man or woman is an island. But it is also important to not let this dictate too strongly how you produce work.


What is your next project about?
Currently editing a photo book called Glasgow and Edinburgh As Built Environment - From Gulf War to Harry Potter, 2003-2007.
On the film front, I’m working with Union Dance on a dance film. It’s about the area I live (London borough of Brent), the blue in green public spaces and cultural diversity.


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