Alfredo Cramerotti: Can you tell me the main idea behind ECHT?
Bedwyr Williams: The idea, I suppose, came from something that happened in 2000 in the UK, when farmers from North Wales blocked a fuel refinery in Stanlow, near Ellesmere Port, to protest about fuel prices. Within a few days petrol stations ran dry. As transport was effected, supermarkets started to run out of bread and milk. I remember thinking how fast order started to break down people fighting over fuel and ferrying petrol in watering cans from the pumps. It was interesting to see how people equipped themselves in the situation, and which people stepped forward. Whenever there’s an emergency, a flood or some minor disturbance, it seems like there’s a reserve legion of white British men in 4WD vehicles who take control. I took this idea, exaggerated it, and imagined where this kind of hoarding clannish behaviour could lead.
AC: Did you get any particular source of inspiration for the visual style of the video, or did it materialise ‘organically,’ so to speak, given the nature of the video?
BW: I work with two video makers, Ewan and Casey, who normally work on music videos. We looked at Richard Lester’s 1969 film The Bed Sitting Room, which is maybe more of a post-apocalyptic film but has nice absurd scenes like the one in which Arthur Lowe lives with his family on the circle line in the London Underground, permanently going round and round.
Because in the script I had these large groups of people living in nightclubs, some of the look of the film was dictated by the particular nightclub where ECHT was filmed, by its creaking disco lights, smoke machine, etc. Quite soon we understood the kinds of things that should feature in the film. Basically each scene needed to be either abject or absurd but preferably both.
I also wanted there to be a clumsy Photoshop look to parts of it, so I made awful iPad portraits of these new royal families that appear in the film.
AC: Can you dive a bit into the technical aspects of the video? The gathering of material, software used, editing process and particular challenges you and your team faced in realising the work.
BW: I don’t particularly want to get into tech talk but… the film is a mixture of live action and some animated sequences. The animation was necessary because a film about hoarding means there are a lot of objects and stuff being described. The narrator’s voice lists all these things and the viewer sees them stack up on screen. There are also some short video sequences from a club called ‘The Octagon’ in Bangor. They did this great thing of filming their customers dancing and gurning at the camera every weekend for close to ten years. These videos are funny but also an amazing record of haircuts and dress sense from the 1980s. It’s from a time before clubbers knew how to work a camera. It seems innocent somehow. The only challenge, really, was realising that we had to scale our ambitions down to match out budget. I would like to have been sleeping with a thousand old people on the floor of the gymnasium instead of having the same five composted over and over.
AC: I saw a recent installation of the piece in Basel, where it was ‘framed’ by another artwork (a wooden, 2D structure which basically contained and highlighted the video at the same time). Can you tell me a bit more about this choice, and whether it was aimed at ‘integrate’ two works in one, or rather create a specific contraposition of media (i.e. a digital adventure and a physical, almost traditional sculptural approach)?
BW: Art fairs are a compromise and mostly they are conceived for things to be hung on walls or plinthed. It’s not a great situation for video work to be shown so I though I would show it on my terms a little. The plank men which I created to show my films are kind of poking fun at the idea of trying create installations in cramped art fair booths for a limited time.
AC: Tell me a secret about this piece.
BW: I quite liked, practically speaking, living in an empty nightclub for three days eating marshmallows and drinking cheap energy drinks. One of the drinks was called ‘Pussy’.