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Laurie Hill talks about his practice and running the elbow room

degree film Actor (This Is Not Your Sub-Culture)_2
degree film Actor (This Is Not Your Sub-Culture)_2
Still from Laurie Hill’s Degree Show film ‘Actor (This Is Not Your Sub-Culture)_2’
Written by
Jane Cuppage
Published date
19 June 2018

Print and Time-Based Media (PTBM) final year student Laurie Hill told us about his practice and projects he has worked on during his three years at Wimbledon.

Please tell us a bit about your background and how you came to study at Wimbledon?

For ages I was mainly doing things in theatre and dance. When I started the university process I wanted to be a performance artist, I was already at college in a dance BTEC course doing intense physical dance and contemporary theatre. My tutor came from that background and the second she recognised that I was probably the only student who wanted to do that she got very excited. Her style was very similar to Pina Bausch. She trained me for about a year to be a young associate choreographer at the Royal Opera House, but I didn’t get in. I was then planning to go to CSM for their Performance Design and Practice, but my interview went better here at Wimbledon. Rosie Potter interviewed me and she was so eager and made me feel like she really wanted me on the course. The moment I told her I did video she got excited and wanted me to show her. I looked up what Print and Time Based Media meant, people always latch on to the ‘media’ word and think I am doing media studies, but actually it’s the physical media that we use. When I looked it up they did mention that they include performance. So I thought I could document my performance with the cameras. My very first piece was a solo performance piece, but once I started fiddling about with cameras I realised it was a lot of fun. I am still in a lot of my films, but the whole process of making it and editing it, I find much more enjoyable. It’s a really interesting course because it is so experimental, you can do anything you wanted, the course team are so encouraging.

Laurie at work, image by Nadine Froehlich

Please tell us about your current practice:

My practice is video/ film making based, very ‘internetty’. It’s difficult to explain because sometimes I am in a tutorial and my tutors are not on the internet the way I am on the internet every single day. It’s a huge ideological divide, but I reference a lot of things from the internet or social media and the kind of internet humour comes up in my work, and a lot of collaging. The longest piece I did was a 20 minutes film collage, very in your face, intense visual. What I do is I write a lot of spoken word pieces and I put them through a computer voice like a ‘Siri’ voice online. I paste that on top of the visuals and make sure it works with the rhythm of my visuals. It’s interesting because before that my work was a very straight forward film style, working with actors. I then did a piece just for fun which was a comical spoken word piece poking fun at a lot of things. When I played it at an event it got quite a nice reception. My tutor came up to me afterwards and she said, “do that, do that, that’s way more interesting”.

What I like about computer voices are the way they will say words sometimes in a really strange manner, it emphasises the wrong parts and sometimes doesn’t pay attention to the punctuation you put in, it sounds so funny and sometimes sinister as well. I love using that within my videos. Sometimes it’s a conversation over my visuals or a manifesto piece. Recently, I have been working with actors again, but I am going back to the erratic collage pieces. My tutor did challenge me to use more original stuff in the works, so not using too much footage that wasn’t my own, too much music that wasn’t my own and perhaps for me to try with the actors again for the visuals.

Still from Laurie’s Degree Show film ‘Actor (This Is Not Your Sub-Culture)’

Please tell us about your final piece for the summer show:

At the moment it’s a lot more ‘vibey’, this thing I have been trying to explain to my tutors, this thing on the internet where it’s all about mood and aesthetic, just purely that and nothing else. It doesn’t really go deeper than that, it’s more about the energy it gives you when you look at it. The chilled kind of vibe. My Instagram is just a mood board really, things that inspire me, but also the photos I take as well are curated in that aspect. It is the way it makes you feel, rather than what you feel, it’s the fact that you feel in general. You get Tumblr blogs dedicated to things like paint stripping or really clinical photos of dentistry offices because it’s the kind of aesthetic that someone can really get engrossed in and I am fascinated by that concept and try to inject that into my work. This is why I call it ‘internetty’, it’s the only way I can describe it at the moment, because it doesn’t really go much deeper than that.

I am fascinated with social media, something I said in my spoken word is, “Do you feel oppressed by being lied to?”. I think it is interesting that people get very flustered by the idea of curating yourself online, they deem it as ‘not being yourself’, as if it has a very non-human feel to it.

There is a quote from a Lady Gaga monologue in one of her music videos where she talks about her whole artistic persona, she says, “truthfully the lie of it all is much more honest because I invented it”. I find it interesting, I don’t think that this idea of online presence is necessarily lying to people because it’s completely manufactured for yourself and designed for you and only for you. It is actually more honest than people think it is. The piece I am working on is called ‘Actors (this is not your subculture)’, it’s this semi ironic idea of acting, and mildly mocking people for it.

Still from Laurie’s Degree Show film ‘Actor (This Is Not Your Sub-Culture)’

How have your tutors or technicians added/assisted or influenced you in your final show?

I have had Helena as my tutor, she is very knowledgeable and very good. It is very refreshing to have an outside perspective on my work. Jennet is very nurturing and has a very similar practice to me. She has always been very motivating with the right references and ideas for me. She has put me in the right direction with the right artists all the time. She always tells me, “just stop researching and make”.

What are you plans after you leave Wimbledon?

After university I would love to go into curation, I am really passionate about curating exhibitions and keeping it all together. There is a little event that we run called ‘Elbow Room’, it is a PTBM initiative. The work that we do at PTBM is not publicly exhibited like painting and sculpture – they can physically put it up whereas we can’t. There is a lot of video stuff so we would have to get a lot projectors and it becomes difficult. So we put this thing together where people can submit their work, loosely time-based work, but it doesn’t have to be what you are doing in the studio, it can be something independent. This takes place in the film room and we have food and drink as well. It is a sweet, low key event. I have always been interested in it, I also think it has the potential to be something quite fun. It is a student run thing, usually on a Wednesday or Friday before the end of every term, there is one before Christmas and then one before Easter. The last one doesn’t usually happen because of everyone being very busy for final projects.

Work from Laurie’s Unit 6, ‘Lover(Boy)Girl’

As the Elbow Room is run by students it means it is not very professional, there is a lot of stopping and starting, it is all a bit all over the place. When I got into my second year, the third years were running it then, I wanted to be a bit more involved and I wanted to help – I started making the posters, I was helping with the advertising. Most people would send links to their videos which meant we had to rely on the internet and one event the internet wasn’t working in the video room which meant there was no work, it was a disaster! I thought if this was taken more seriously this could be a really fun event in Wimbledon and we could get more people involved. When it came to my third year I said I will do it, I sent out forms for people to fill out and I gave them deadlines. The tutors told me they liked the relaxed nature of it but I said since I am the only one running it, I would like it to be a bit more professional. I was taking all the submissions and putting them together and making the posters. It made people want to be more involved, like I got Elliott Dean (another third year PTBM student) to be an MC, we then had lighting. We needed to charge people because we needed to fundraise in some way so we borrowed a card machine that BA Painting have that do contactless payments.

What I want to do is come back to Wimbledon and run it professionally. I want to expand it and get more students involved. I want to take the pressure off the students in running it professionally. I have so many ideas for the university, I want there to be a performance festival, I want to make a self-portrait challenge across all courses where students can use any medium they want.

Still from Laurie’s interim piece ‘Melodrama’

Do you have a show must-see?

My friends on my course, I am looking forward to their work. My friend Luc, he does sound pieces and he collects lots of vintage musical instruments, he has lots of sound pedals and he links them all that make these incredible sound pieces. He is going to be doing performances every two hours at the degree shows. My friend Richard is a documentary film maker and he has a very tasteful style in his work. Someone in BA Sculpture is making a film piece as well, it is really cool because he bought a pay phone and is building the whole structure around it. He has hooked up the phone so that there is music playing inside of it.

Do you have an artist influence?

The main one who has been my influence since the first year, he is a video artist called Ryan Trecartin. His work is very alien like, all over the place, collagey, a lot of actors, a lot of costumes. It is very heightened in terms of the reality of it and the scripts are very strange, but poetic as well. His colour palettes are interesting. He did a piece with Kendell Jenner and Gigi Hadid for W Magazine, a short two minutes clip, called ‘Placebo Pets’, they were cats but acting very human. It’s so weird, but I love it and I have been adopting that style in my work. He ticks every box for me in terms of what I want to achieve.

My tutors have got me to look at actual writers but the writing that inspires me are song lyrics. Pattie Smith is a big influence on the poetry aspect. A little bit of David Bowie and a rapper called M.I.A. Music is really important to me and my work, I have chromesthesia which is a type of synaesthesia, where you can see sound so my way of writing down ideas is by making a playlist on Spotify. Songs that I put together create a colour palette in my head and informs the concept well enough like the lyrics and tones. There might be two songs that I will listen to and I think they work really interestingly with each other and I immediately put them together in Spotify.

Please tell us about a work placement you completed while on your course:

For my Personal and Professional Development I did an alumni exhibition at my old college where I did my Foundation, Reigate School of Art in Redhill, they were completely up for it. There are a lot of us here who went to the same Foundation, so we all did it together, we wanted to demonstrate how our practices had come along. That really fuelled my passion for curation because it was so fun putting it together and we felt so professional doing it and they gave us complete freedom. I used it as a chance to experiment, I didn’t do any film pieces, I did some sculptural pieces. I got as many of those paper bags you get when you have purchased something from a designer shop and I filled them with dirt, I named it ‘emotional baggage’.

The first Personal and Professional Development we did was an interview with the feminist library. It is an archive of feminist literature, which started in the 70s. We were told they were getting threats of being kicked out so we interviewed them. That was really fascinating, even though because of the size of it and everything being cramped in, it looked messy, but actually they explained how organised it was.

Still from Laurie’s Degree Show film ‘Actor (This Is Not Your Sub-Culture)’

Is there anything else you’d like to say:

Do not be afraid to branch out into different things for example I came here as a performance artist and I am leaving as a video artist and wanting to be a curator. You need to be open entirely, I think there are students who get very precious about their practice and these tutors are not trying to get you to change at all, they are wanting to get you to consider where your practice could go. They nurture you and are conscience about how different people are on the course. It is a very welcoming course that encourages you to try lots of new things.

See Laurie’s work at Wimbledon’s Summer Show until Saturday 23 June or see his Instagram.