Javier Sánchez Martínez: Most of your videos tend to be short loops, focused on single motifs and they tend to be edited in-camera. Movie (2015), however, differs in its duration, style of editing, as well as in its combination of materials and registers. This appears to be a turning point in your practice, or at least an opening up to new ways of working. What is the impetus behind your work in general and what was the impetus behind the making of Movie?
Hilary Lloyd: I think the impetus for a work comes from where it is going to be and what the gallery or museum looks like. I also consider the profile and the interests of the curator I am talking to about installing it. Somewhere the discussions we have influence the work I then make. Like in this conversation, for example. I like the idea of collaborating on something while we work on this show at Blaffer Art Museum together. Right now I am dying the fabrics and am writing this in between stirring. Dying fabrics is very like filming, there’s a lot of hanging around. In terms of Movie in particular, I wanted to make something different from the videos I had been making. I wanted there to be a casual narrative at least and I wanted to make it happen in the editing rather than the filming. Although, in fact, Movie is a combination of the two and there was no linear way in which it was made. I put together sections, then filmed something else, then put that together and then took something else away and so on. As it built up I was filming and editing everyday and the film changed very fast towards the end. The structure and rhythm were pretty well established from the start but it did get more varied as I worked on it.
JSM: At Sadie Coles gallery, Movie was part of larger installation alongside two other works, Curtain of Circles (2015) and Stream of Circles (2015). Movie was presented as a slightly elevated single-channel projection in a dark space, while Curtain of Circles offered an L-shaped silver curtain perforated by circular apertures, and Stream of Circles featured a black fan blowing threads of the same silver fabric. Curtain of Circles divided the space, creating a new room within the gallery and allowed the viewer to reframe the video through the circular cut-outs in the fabric. Stream of Circles was included within this new room, adding another layer of sound and movement to the piece. How did the space trigger the making of the work and how did it lead to new ways of working?
HL: I wanted to make a video for Balfour, the gallery that is part of Sadie Coles in London. It’s a passage into a parking lot and has an elevator that takes the cars below ground to park. It’s a dark space with no windows so I decided that it had to be a cinematic film experience, like a film in a dark cinema with curtains. It also needed to be a very bright video that would light up the dark space so you could see the curtains and the fan. I then started to look at collections of videos I had made that would suit this new way of working and put them together into iMovie. This activity of filming, editing, copying, re-editing, re-filming, and so on was like a blast of fresh air and I got really excited about it. Things had been leading up to this for about a year, with the kind of filming I had been trying out. It is also, I suppose, a combining of the slide works and the rapid moving of the split of screen films but a linear version. I might argue that it is essentially Colin (1999) in that it has rhythm and pace change, and a lackadaisical feel about it.
JSM: Movie starts and ends with the same image, a close-up of a bowl covered in sparkling, sunlit diamonds. The first shot remains still and silent for three minutes, forcing the viewer to scrutinize it before a montage of moving and still images as well as sound begins. Movie does not conform to a narrative structure, rather it is organized as a series of equivalences, correspondences, and juxtapositions. How did you conceive the arrangement of the shots and sequences in Movie?
HL: The arrangement of images came from growing and pressing some daisies that I had photographed and stuck up on the wall. Later I filmed the pictures on the wall and I thought, “well, this is interesting.” I started filming all the time and then trying to bring the whole thing together into one work. I shot loads of film and loads of pictures. I liked the variety of kinds of filming I had done and was working out if it was possible to combine it all in one work. In Movie there isn’t one narrative, in fact, as soon as it comes close to creating one it stops doing that and moves onto something else.
JSM: Your practice has always foregrounded the material and spatial conditions of video. The hardware and the support structures of A/V equipment interact with the architectural frame, guiding viewers through the space. In Balfour Movie is part of a larger display, while presented in Vdrome it migrates from the gallery space to the web. What are your thoughts regarding this transition from one context to another?
HL: I like to make videos part of a larger experience, so in the past I might have used the equipment in this way. The equipment would often obstruct the viewer as the crossed the gallery to see something else. The bottom half of Trousers (2010) is completely obliterated if you walk past it. The curtains obstruct the view of Movie but if you bend down you can see through a cut-out circle. In the first installation in the garage with the car-lift the curtained area felt, to me, like the back room in a club, particularly as the fan was blowing and moving the curtains. I think that this is the first video that I have made that you might feel inclined to watch on a laptop. I like the modern film experience in which you can watch a film on any old thing—a tiny laptop, a phone, anything at all. I think Movie can be seen like this too. I like the idea of someone watching it on a laptop, pause it for 10 minutes, or 1 minute, call someone, pause it again, scrutinize it, ignore it. Of course I also like it as part of the whole installation, hanging from the ceiling, up off the floor, the curtains, the circles, the fan.
JSM: The image of the sparkling diamonds at the beginning of Movie introduces a recurrent element during the video: light. In fact, Movie explores the interaction of different light conditions with the digital camera. Where does the attention to light and light effects come from?
HL: I think the light thing may be as a result of moving from analogue to digital. Digital video flattens everything and it becomes quite boring to watch. I’ve also found that the digital camera reacts in peculiar ways to light and I like messing about with that. At some point I stopped working with people so much but I wanted to film something that could move and change—I think I’ve always been fascinated by light. Here, at a certain time of the day, the sun almost obliterates the pavement and at night there are upward pointing spot lights in the pavement, so if you stand above them the light flashes around inside your eyes to the point where you can see the back of your retina.
JSM: From the early nineties to the mid-2000s, your videos included actual people performing. Since then, the majority of people in your videos come from fashion photography, and magazine imagery is another recurrent motif in Movie. For instance, you focus on clothing with geometrical patterns that dissolve the natural shapes of the body. The body then becomes a screen in which an image is projected like in the case of the cosmos printed in the female dress. Several times in fact the video camera reframes a model’s gesture or pose by blowing up and tracking down the surface of the image, rendering the human figure abstract. Could you talk about the clothing patterns, and why you turned from filming actual people to filming photographs of human subjects?
HL: I didn’t want to film people directly but I did want people in the films. As for the cosmos dress, that was the summer that it started to be used in fashion. The woman was sitting on Parliament Hill when I was shooting the light on a building in the city. It was the building that melted a Jaguar parked on Eastcheap Street with reflected sunlight. I printed out the images and put them on the floor of the studio and filmed them as a way to see what things looked like and then these photos and films inevitably became part of the work. I like combining motion and stillness. The fast run of stills have a different movement from the filmed sections, and both have a different sense of movement from the still images, which often feel as though they are moving and also that they may never end. I was very excited about the cosmos on a dress, captured in a film, and made static.
JSM: Sound has always played a key role in your video works and installations. It can disrupt the viewing process, but also connect different pieces through a space. The sounds in your work always come from the environment: white noise static from the microphone, a camera’s shutter-click, or the hustle-and-bustle of a large city. Movie combines all three. How do you treat sound in your videos and how do you think sound works in Movie?
HL: I listen for sound when I’m filming and try and get the part I want. It’s useful as a way to attract someone to where the film may be, such as hidden away in a gallery up some stairs or round a corner. There’s also a section in Movie which for a while the whole thing was hung around, a sharp click that coincides with a sudden jerked swinging movement of the camera across a printed letter on a page
JSM: At the beginning of Movie there is a dramatic image of a man bathed in a pink light lying on the floor. The image is almost a blink and although we do not see again, it haunts us through the rest of the video. What is the enigma behind it?
HL: The man is dead-drunk, passed out on the floor, reckless, abandoned, and ecstatic. This tie-dye is pink, too.