UCA Farnham Fine Art Student Profile 2014 – Carrie Grainger

What are the main themes you have explored in your work and why are they important to you?

My work is an exploration of different cultural superstitions, symbolism and ritual celebrations put into practice through performance and shown through film. I have been exploring different cultural belief systems on the subject of spirituality that has intrigued me, in particular Shaman belief. My practice is also strongly influenced by the uncertainty of the uncanny subject and the films are made to dance between the lines of not only life and death, but also create an uncertainty between human and animal behaviours.

I was interested in the idea of the male gaze and read Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” early on and framed this idea in some early photo shoots, but that soon lost appeal to me and I found my self being drawn to the ambiguous imagery rather than the sexually suggestive. I looked at the guerilla girls early on in the year and their use of costume as a means to keep the identities of the members hidden. I was more interested in the fact they use costume to create a persona that allows them to be more outrageous then they feel they could be in their own skin rather than the concepts behind the work which I think is great but not something I was necessarily thinking about when creating the films. 

I did however look into Female hysteria in which Freud took on as a subject for study in the late 19th Century. Freud believed Hysteria was a coping method for patients who had endured abuse or tragic occurrences, some of the repetitive moments within my performances are influenced by “female hysteria”.  

How did you develop the idea that produced your final exhibition work? 

I decided to use the best two performance pieces to present in the degree show that linked the best and would work well together. I also used an extra piece of footage which was not originally intended but added an extra piece of narrative to the performance pieces in which was just as fragmented and uncertain.

I had originally planned to create a CCTV setting for the show in which was trialled and dismissed as it didn’t compliment the gothic appearance of the films and they really needed to be in a darker environment to feel the different elements going on in the film and to create a better visual aesthetic. Another issue I faced was sharing a big space with another student, because of the structure of the room it was inescapable that an audience would have to travel through one works to reach the other which would have obstructed the work at the back of the room. This was overcome by a move to a smaller space which was a lot of work to finish, but in the end the work was able to stand on its own and the room could be made darker.

Who are your heroes?

In terms of research into performance Marvin Gaye Chetwynd was significant in her movements and costume relating to culture and ritualistic behaviours. I witnessed a performance of Chetwynds for the Turner Prize a few years ago and I was fascinated by the way it could make you feel both discomfort and attraction at the same time.

Another thing that sparked my interest just after my first trial performance back in November was Butoh Performance Art which stems from Japan from the 1960s and creates elements of uncertainty during the transition after the second world war. It was founded by a dancer named Tatsumi Hijikata (1928-1986) and was a rebellion against modern dance of the time that came from the west. He wanted performance to be purely about expression of his culture and to allow his body to dance through unconscious movement. Hijikata’s performances displayed elements of what is unknown to man and he strived to tap into dormant primal and animalistic behaviours that had long been repressed.

I know Yayoi Kusama’s work fairly well and am aware of Carolee Schneemann and Gina Pane’s work, Chetweynd’s work is very different and I’m struggling to relate them. Although Chetweynd’s work is not always certain and is a fusion of different cultural elements I wouldn’t say it was disembodied as her performances are a physical presence, the subject is not absolute and they mess with your mind a lot because of this uncertainty much like Kusama’s work does but the actors are physical beings that interact with an audience which gives an entirely different feel to moving image or installation.  

What do you think is the most significant thing that has helped you during your time a UCA Farnham?

I think there has been a significant amount of tutorials including those with visiting artists has been most helpful and has allowed for regular critique and feedback which has created a smoother process of development. It has also opened other avenues of research that may not have necessarily been considered by me beforehand. Also being encouraged to start placing work into exhibitions from the first year encourages confidence and experience early on, which I know isn’t practiced in all art related courses from other universities.

What did you learn from the process of producing your graduation exhibition?

I have learnt that you can do a lot more in a short space of time then you think you can! If you have decent people helping you and keep at it, then the outcome can be very surprising. Compromise can also be very important and you have to take into consideration other people around you and how the show is going to look as a whole.  

What are you planning next?

In the short term I am exhibiting and screening work in two exhibitions in London as part of a graduate collective at A & D Gallery and The Strand Gallery. Before applying to do an MA in Fine Art I plan to do some travelling which will help me develop my performances further and to continue making work.

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