screen capture: an interview with pippa sanderson & kirsty lillico (2010)

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Jacina Leong When I was here on Tuesday I felt like an obtrusion, and now I feel like a voyeur … What has happened since I was last in the space?

Kirsty Lillico A lot. Lots of time stringing these warps onto these bamboo poles here, and trying to make sure they were the right tension. And, what else did you see? (The orange piece) wasn’t felted yet was it?

JL: No …

KL: Yeah, so we did that with those (bamboo) poles and bubble wrap. And the colours between all the layers made quite a lovely intense result ….

KL: And the other thing that might have changed since you were here are the lights.·

JL: Is that something that you had planned to put in?

KL: It was a suggestion to arrange these fluorescent tubes in some way in the space. At first we had laid them around the sides (of the room) but they looked kind of stagey, like they were theatrical lights. But this more informal arrangement works better and it adds a more industrial look to (the space and) this handicraft type of work.·

JL: And is it intentional to have spaces between the weaves?

KL: Yes. We’re sort of thinking that we might fill it up and create spaces by walking through it in the end. Because we don’t necessarily want a solid screen … we’re also trying to work out what the relationship is between (the screen) and (the orange felt).

JL: Is there a reason for choosing the orange and yellow?

KL: Yes. Orange is really intense, it creates a really intense mark and bubble. And obviously if we have two colours which are quite different to each other they won’t mix well. And we did think about the temperature of the colours …

JL: In relation to location?

KL: Yeah, exactly. And also blue is a nice colour for a bubble. It’s quite intense as well. But it positions it just as a synthetic material. We didn’t want it to look like the Australian desert either.

Pippa Sanderson: It goes from red to orange. Red when it’s full strength to orange and yellow when it waters down. Whereas the blue stays that blue. And red is too much like blood. And we looked at browns and greens but then it definitely became earth oriented.

JL: (Referring to the weaving process). For some reason I’m thinking now of a matrimonial ritual or something that you might do for a bride before she is married. Like keeping her hidden from her groom …

PS: (Pointing to the orange felt) And then there’s the bloody marriage. (Laughs).

JL: The drawing marks on the felt look like flagellation marks, and the round spots of ink on the felt look like the results of cupping

PS: Of what?

JL: Of cupping, the kind practiced in acupuncture. And it’s interesting how someone commented the other day that the ink marks seen underneath the layering of wool looked like bruising underneath the skin.

Ruth McConchie: The work says a lot about skin. Especially when you get so close during the bubble blowing process and the ink stains the skin. It’s kind of like butchers …

KL: A butcher’s apron. You can’t avoid those body references when working with wool. The other day it was really Rothko-like because there were these patches of colour … definite rectangular patches.

PS: There’s something about the felt and the reference to blood. You can’t really get away from it. Also, it evokes the hostility and fear of the other, so there’s a sense of fascination and exoticism. There’s also the potential of violence and fear. So today, after we’ve filled out (the screen) and it’s still relatively white … rather than going under and around we’re going to go straight through it.

JL: And stain it in the process.

(A visitor enters the space and suggests that the artists are attempting to corrupt the white cube gallery context).

JL: Are you corrupting the white cube space?

KL: Well, we did. Especially with the first one we did in Dunedin. The very first one we did we used black ink directly on the wall. It was in a basement gallery. The black (ink) was like contamination, we were a bit like coal miners …

PS: … and it was a long stretch of wall. So was the one we did in Wellington. That was really extended. Over 3 weeks we did 2 hours a day of not talking and concentrated blowing of the bubbles to fill that space. So we’re really enjoying the kind of spontaneity and responsiveness of this work. And you know, anyone can join in.

JL: Have people joined in?

PS: Yes

PS: There’s something too about the bubble … they talk about the bubble as the soul being trapped in the gas. So, in some ways it’s kind of like an attempt to breath life into something.

JL: Are you continuing to weave to the top of the screen?

PS: Yeah, we thought we would continue to the top and then cut some of (the orange felt) and weave it back into the screen. Kirsty, when did you want to do the orange?

KL: I’d quite like to do it when (the screen’s) complete …

PS: Because we can take out anything that we mightn’t or might want from the screen.

KL: I think the thing about the orange is it that it will fall on all the parts of the screen and emphasise the sculptural nature of it. So it would be quite good to do it in a way after we’ve climbed through (the screen) and messed around with. And it could be the top most layer that falls on top of all those bulges.

PS: Top most as in top of the surface or as in highest?

KL: As in highest so that the orange ink kind of drips down.

JL: Pippa, the other day when you were talking about Homer’s Odyssey and Penelope was that a direct reference to this work? Because I’m seeing more of that reference in this stage of the work.

PS: Yes. We had already thought of doing weaving and then I read up on it and came across this woman talking about her work. She made that reference (to Homer) and so I looked it up and read about feminist interpretations of Homer’s Odyssey. It does seem to fit in so well with this work especially when they talk about Penelope’s web … the task is never finished. It’s ongoing. Or another way of looking at it is valuing the process. But it’s interesting when you talk about the reference to the bridal thing because she was weaving a shroud but she was also unraveling as a way of forestalling of becoming a bride …

JL: What happens to the weaving once it’s finished?

KL: We haven’t really thought about that. We had thought that we might try to take the weaving (screen) down and the last gesture might be blowing bubbles on it. But we might see how we go. I kind of want some kind of continuity between the bubbles and the weaving rather than (leaving them as) separate things. I like the way that this screen is really malleable and changes so we do sort of see this as a drawing as well as the bubbles being a drawing. So i guess there is two sorts of drawings going on in a sculptural way.

JL: How long have you and Pippa collaborated?

KL: 2 – 3 years. 2008 was our first one. My desire is that collaborative projects don’t overtake my solo work and that my solo practice feeds into what we do together rather than this becoming the thing that swallows me. Or Pippa.

RM: Do you find differences between your collaborative and solo practices? Not just the outcomes but the working processes?

KL: Yes. I’m not used to having to articulate my creative process along the way. You know things that you can take your time over in the studio you have to actually say. But it’s good to be able to do that.

RM: Do you think you’ve worked out what’s important to you from collaborating with Pippa?

KL: Yes, because when you have to ‘defend’ your position it helps you to clarify what is important to you. And it’s amazing to work on projects like this where you get to work with people like Danielle and Ruth, who contribute to the development of the work.

KL: You know what? If we weave the orange from this side you don’t get to see the effect of the colour dripping down on the screen on that side.

PS: I know what we should do. We walk through the screen with the orange felt and then weave. And that’s when we begin to contaminate it because we’re bringing the orange through. And then we can weave it anywhere. So, (Ruth) will be filming a blank screen and then the next thing we’re walking through it bringing this orange felt through.

PS: Are we ready to go?

KL: Yeah, come on.

Image and videos courtesy of the artists and inbetweenspaces.