× Good Enough Sculptures:
What Happens When Sculptures are Made to be Filmed?
A Territory – Preface Introduction Three ‘Finished’ FilmsThe Research Practice Collaborative Films Improvisation Sequences and Split Screens The Camera, Film and by Extension Perception Aphorisms Filming ‘Real’ Sculpture Gifs The Sculptures and Objects More Generally Conversation with Franz West, April 2019 Table Tops – a Conclusion of Sorts. Nothing is Finished Download as PDF
Three ‘Finished’ Films

9 Objects (2016)

Pieces of Wood (2016)

Some of my sculptures move from left to right (2016)


The PhD began with a flurry of artistic activity as I set about making objects and ‘testing’ them in front of different types of camera. Three stand-alone films were created: one (9 Objects) a single reel of reverse processed black and white 16mm, another (Pieces of Wood) a series of shots of flying objects shot at one thousand frames per second using a Phantom slow-motion camera, and a third (Some of my sculptures move from left to right) shot with a studio grade Canon C3000 camera mounted on a motorised slider which pictured a series of plaster objects slowly moving across the screen.

At this point in the research (2015/16) my expectation was that I would create a series of individual films, each using a different film format and each responding to the specific type of image afforded by the equipment. Therefore, each of these three films might be seen each to represent a specific line of practical enquiry. ...9 Objects (2016) was the culmination of a period of exploration using a wind-up Bolex 16mm camera and hand processing the film in buckets. This rough and ready mode of filmmaking produced a highly particular, and for me, an incredibly exciting way of working. The whole process had an intensely manual and joined-up character as I was able to shoot short sequences and develop them in the studio, seeing the results within minutes. This enabled me to play with the camera’s settings, as well as make and develop objects alongside filming. The developing process meant that rather than seeing the results immediately (as with digital) there was a sense in which they emerged (literally and figuratively) through the process, allowing me to spend time and get to know them in what for me were unfamiliar conditions – reeling out the filmstrip in the dark and feeling the physical stuff of the film as I scrunched it into buckets of chemicals. The images were also things in the world; tiny squares on the celluloid which I could handle and peer at. in sharp contrast to the technical ease of reviewing digital footage the 16mm, when projected, had the exciting sense of an event taking place.

I was invited to submit a work to the film night Analogue Recurring in 2016 run by artist filmmaker Bea Haut. As only analogue films were to be screened, there would be no transfer to digital, and a single length of celluloid, which could be projected, had to be produced. I began working with reversal chemicals – a slower and more toxic process which produces positive images that can be projected. I had no means of splicing and therefore decided that the film should be made in one go, as a series of takes filling an entire three hundred foot reel. Shot on a wind-up camera, each sequence could be a maximum of thirty seconds in length. After each shot the camera had to be wound up and its settings adjusted before the next thirty second burst. The filming then became highly orchestrated, with a detailed schedule produced which included the order of objects and actions – developed over multiple test shoots – aperture and focal length settings and timings. The whole thing had to be run through without mistake. Several attempts were made, and reels of film discarded, before I managed to run through the whole sequence and develop the final film. The film was then hand processed in buckets filled with chemicals (developer, bleach, fix) re-exposed using a light bulb and then developed again to create a positive image. The process lasted around 40 minutes with the continual dunking and scrunching of the tangled ball of celluloid, scratching and marking the resulting images.

The final piece shows a series of glowing white objects on a deep and solid black background – an effect created by the high contrast film stock I was using, one which could be cheaply purchased and reverse processed. Each shot documented a small performance with an object – moving it, turning it, stroking it, presenting it. Over the image a constant dance of bright white scratches and marks produced by the development process seemed to give the images a faux- historical character; aged and degraded, but not entirely convincing.

Pieces of Wood (2016) marked another important stage in the development of the research. It represents the honing of a specific research path which explored the possibilities of the Phantom slow-motion camera; an impressively hi-tech, but equally clunky and unreliable, piece of kit. Unlike newer versions of this brand of super high framerate cameras, this ex-industry model was a large metal box onto which you could attach a range of old 35mm SLR camera lenses. It had to remain fixed on a tripod and required so much light that it could only be used with its aperture wide open, giving the operator a tiny depth of field in which a clear image could be produced. After a series of experiments with Pound Shop objects and other materials, I began to bring different sculptures in to the studio. There seemed little point in filming static objects beyond a conceptual gesture; movement was what the camera desired and what it reproduced most effectively. With this in mind, I made a series of small wooden constructions which could be tossed in the air in front of the camera, appearing to float in space. A series of shots were then edited together to create a choreography of sorts with the objects passing through the frame in different trajectories. The use of music (whilst adding a sonic dimension to the visual and making the images more lively) was found on reflection to be problematic, as it generated a profusion of questions around the nature, meaning and purpose of cinematic sound, which fell beyond the scope of the practical enquiry. As mentioned above this film was most informative to the research in the dissatisfaction I felt towards the process; that the objects ‘performed’ in the desired way and that little was discovered through the process of filming that was not confidently anticipated.

The third film Some of my sculptures move from left to right (2016) was shot on Kingston School of Art’s Canon C3000 studio camera, mounted on a mechanical slider. Choice of objects and lighting became key for this film as the camera was able to reproduce surface detail and texture in an incredibly vivid way. A series of plaster sculptures was made and others taken from the large collection of small pieces I had been making. Most had chiselled surfaces and angular features which could be intensified by lighting them from a severe angle. The resulting images show the objects with their highly defined features gliding effortlessly by; a vision of digital perfection, enabled by the hand-crafted.