Interview with Annie Briard
DAR: Talk us through some of the processes you have explored throughout the residency.
AB: In my practice, the majority of my recent works use handmade or digital distortions to explore vision. Images are often partly simulated even if the referent is still visible, such as in my series Perceptual Moments.
As I progress further into deconstructing the act of vision, and the elements that constitute its phenomenological process, for my residency I was interested in affecting light itself through physical processes and exploring how we perceive the resulting images. My general focus tends towards how we can communicate our individual perceptual experiences, so here too I asked this question, but also looked at how light has been used historically in sharing knowledge.
I used various prisms found from old optical apparatuses such as telescopes and binoculars and went out on shoots in the old part of Cadiz. I prioritized locations that hold historical significance for vision and communications. It’s a city with an ancient, fascinating past in terms of communicating cross-culturally through sight. Cadiz has over one hundred watchtowers which were used to see who was coming to its ports, and to communicate war and political strategy through optical telegraphy within its borders as well as internationally.
I shot images through prisms from the port and from various watchtowers (torremiradors). The resulting images and videos, a number of which were previewed on my DAR residency blog, emphasize the viewing act and its elements – light, referent, failure and wonder. Scenes are thus turned upside down and flipped vertically; hues and tones are separated and reduced back to the primary colors of the visible spectrum; light is deconstructed and seen without the mediation of our brain.
I was also interested in the communication mise en abime one vista may have onto another, and used video and prisms to look at opposing spaces at the same time.
A third process I explored was using pure light to communicate poetic images through codes that would have been used in early forms of telegraph. This resulted in the video installation The Light of Dawn which drew passages from a celebrated Cadiz poet and transformed them into morse code. The verses illustrate a prisoner in a tower believing he has no need for freedom outside his cell walls, for its windows and his sense of sight provide all knowledge of the surrounding world he could possibly need. Eventually he realizes his eyes are telling nothing but inescapable lies. Looking at the work now I’m surprised to notice that this shares themes with an older narrative animation work I made about a tower.
DAR: You have spent the majority of the residency in Cadiz, Spain. How do you think a change of physical location has manifested itself in your work?
AB:A change of location can transform a number of parameters in one’s process, be it the influence of the culture and people nearby, the vistas a visual artist has access to, the different schedule (Spain’s siesta times, for example), etc. In my case, these all factored in to some degree, but the largest impact was the city’s history as I was focusing on its relationship to sight and communication.
DAR: A lot of your work has focused on the manipulation of light. Is this important for your practice overall?
AB:The work I have produced in the recent past have used light to explore vision, be it through video or photography, but I am now realizing to what extent I can use light itself to produce previously invisible images, or affective embodied experiences for my viewer. In recent installations such as Afterimages, Staring at the Sun or The Fabric of your Reflection I looked at light interactively and as simulation, but in this residency, I investigated it more materialistically and aesthetically, which opened up even more possibilities.
DAR: How do you think some of the more experimental processes will develop further into your practice?
AB: The opportunity to look at light from the vantage point of code and communication was intriguing. Attempting to analyze more objectively what lies within a beam of light and laying its components bare, as opposed to purposely shaping them into something I find compositionally or conceptually strong, was freeing in a way. It allowed for a more direct delivery about light, sight and communication instead of a more carefully orchestrated experience. I think this type of light and view distillation – as opposed to my usual act of construction -- is an approach that will continue to grow in my future projects.