London Art Spot: Patricia Vidal Delgado

Photo of Patricia above is courtesy of professional photographer, Ambra Vernuccio.

Meet Patricia from Portugal who speaks five languages and learned to pole-dance especially for her art: film-making. She’s studied in London, Jerusalem and Lisbon. She’s interned in London, Lisbon and Rio de  Janeiro. She’s held a residency in Morocco and exhibited her work in Stuttgart, Budapest, Zürich and, of course, London and Lisbon. She can’t keep away from London and if you read on below, you’ll find out why.

Patricia’s work reaches an international audience, not just for its movement in the world, but because she explores important subjects that touch people around the world. For this week’s London Art Spot, Patricia delves into the topics that have inspired her film-making, tells us about a new double-screen projection she’s working on and shares a few video stills and clips that she’s made available just for us.

Soundbite – Click to download:  NESIA

LLO:You’re originally from Portugal but have spent quite a lot of time living, studying and working in London. Which aspects of life in this city most influence your creativity and in which way?
PVD: I think that living in London makes me more adventurous in my creative endeavours. You can do anything you want here. For example, when I wanted to learn how to pole-dance for my ‘Monument’ performance-piece, I found that there were over 100 pole-dancing class venues in Central London alone. When I started to become interested in the idea of real-time live animation, after some research I found several London-based artists’ organisations that work with this type of technology. I then liaised with Bruno Martelli at Igloo, in order to talk about possible configurations for an interactive video installation.

LLO: Briefly describe your approach to film – the most important subjects for you to capture, the progression of an idea, etc.
PVD: This depends… It depends on whether I already have an idea in mind before I start shooting, or if I don’t have a definite idea in mind and I’m just shooting for the joy of it. I’m certainly drawn to certain images but at the time that I’m shooting them I won’t know why I’m so attracted to them. I think that part of the process of making art is understanding why, as an artist, you’re so drawn to the images that you keep finding yourself gravitating towards.

LLO: Roland Barthes’ book, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments has influenced your work Black Sand. Are you often inspired by literature? If so, which other pieces have motivated you to create? What else inspires you?
PVD: I am often inspired by literature. Sometimes I’ll start working on a film and then I’ll read around the themes of the film in order to flesh out my ideas – which is what happened with ‘Black Sand’. Or sometimes I’ll read a book first and find myself profoundly shaken by it. The first time I experienced that was with Jorge Amado’s ‘Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos’ (English Title – Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands), when Vadinho says to Dona Flor:

‘Tua mãe é uma velha coroca, não sabe que na vida só vale o amor e a amizade. O resto é tudo pinóia, é tudo presunção, não paga a pena…’
‘Your mother is an old hag, she doesn’t know that love and friendship are the only things that matter in life. The rest is all worthless, its all vanity, its not worth it…’

And this statement really hit me on the head, and whenever I write or make work about love or relationships (i.e Black Sand) I’m torn apart by the hypothesis that, if it IS an absolute truth that love is the only thing that matters in life, then its also true that you can’t live on love alone and, therefore, no matter what choice you make regret is inevitable.

Music often inspires me as well – I’ll listen to a song and it’ll get under my skin and circulate in my blood and it won’t leave me alone until I’ve re-created it in my art. This happened with Clara Nunes’ ‘Ternura Antiga’, which tormented me until I used it in my sound-piece entitled ‘Mermaid’.

LLO: On your website, you write, “Girl with Gun developed from my interest in the psychological and archetypal aspects of the phallic female.” Can you elaborate on this statement and tell us a bit about this film?
PVD: I’ll start with the psychological aspects first – I first came across the figure of the phallic female in Freud’s writings, where he talks about the phallic mother. Prior to the traumatic realisation that sets off the castration complex in the young boy, the child assumes that everyone possesses a set of genitals like his own and so, by inference, believes his mother to possess a phallus as well. Therefore, the phallic female is a product of male fantasy that stems from the young boy’s blissful ignorance of sexual difference.

Lacan also refers to ‘phallic women’ as women that display masculine characteristics and/or behaviour. In Renata Salecl’s writings, she refers to a woman suffering from hysteria as a ‘phallic woman’, because the female hysteric will not accept the terms of her castration. This feeds into feminist theory because 1st wave feminism reclaimed the female hysteric as a figure of female resistance to the patriarchy, precisely because she does not perceive herself as castrated and therefore weak.

In terms of archetypal aspects, Marina Warner has hypothesized that the goddess Athena was the first phallic female, because she was “the defender of father-right (…) the upholder of patriarchy” and was born directly from Zeus’ head. She is a virgin goddess that channels the power of the Phallus, but as an asexual female eunuch she does not ‘desire’ the Phallus and therefore poses no threat of castration.

In ‘Girl with Gun’ I sought to embody the figure of the phallic female in order to play with the psychological signifiers and archetypal guises that make up the many layers of her persona. Ultimately I wanted to explode the dichotomy of the phallic aggressor and the castrated victim, in order to move beyond such insidious politics.

LLO: Which piece are you most proud of at the moment and why?
PVD: The piece I’m most proud of is my video installation, ‘Coming to Term’. In this piece I talk about my father’s illness and death, and although I acknowledge that it is very raw, and somewhat relentless, and sometimes very cruel, I speak from experience when I say that watching a loved one die from cancer is also very cruel and there’s no other way to talk about that situation. The only way that I could accept that loss was to deal with it in my art, and I hope that it helps others that have lost family members to cancer.

LLO: You’ve mastered Portuguese, English, French and Spanish and are working on learning Hebrew as well. What are your thoughts on the effect of language on a film? Is the language it is presented in originally important or is your work easily translated?
PVD: I think that language certainly ‘flavours’ a film, in the sense that it constitutes a cultural signifier in itself, which in turn can convey exoticism or familiarity to the viewer. Exoticism can result in fascination or alienation, but what really interests me is the point where language is pushed beyond the point of signification, once we are in the realm of Julie Kristeva’s semiotic, and one can truly enjoy the jouissance of speech. When I use language in my sound-pieces I’m definitely experimenting with the different rhythms and phonemes particular to Hebrew, Portuguese or English.

I think in some cases, too much is lost in translation – for my film ‘Fonte da Saudade’ I asked a Brazilian actor to perform a voice-over, and the inherent warmth and sensual vowel-sounds of Brazilian Portuguese created the emotional atmosphere of the film. Needless to say, English is not as sexy!

LLO: Which stage of producing a film is usually the most enjoyable – from original idea through working toward a finished project to marketing and sharing your work?
PVD: The most enjoyable bit is when its just me and my camera, traveling and filming, shooting for sheer pleasure.

LLO: Is there a place or object or person specific to London that you would love to incorporate in a future project and why?
PVD: I’ve started collaborating with an artist called Philip Levine and we’re going to make a documentary together about his artistic practice for his upcoming solo show in Summer 2011. Phil is involved in a lot of different activities but his exhibition will focus on his head designs, which are amazing, anyone who is interested should check out his website: www.philsays.com

LLO: Other artists you admire?
PVD: While on residency in Morocco I met an Italian photographer called Ambra Vernuccio who takes the most stunning pictures. Whilst there I also met three highly talented illustrators: Seif Alhasani, Kiboko HachiYon and Raimund Wong. Seif is of Iraqi origin but grew up in Sweden and creates mostly hip, funky-fresh graphic design. Kiboko HachiYon is Kenyan and has his own artist-led collective called ifreecans and makes ultra-groovy designs for everything from murals to T-shirts. Raimund is from Hong Kong and makes beautiful prints from wood-cut blocks and also plays electric guitar in a band called Lord Magpie.

In terms of Slade colleagues, I’ve always admired the work of Michael C. Schuller who was in my year in the Fine Art Media area. Michael is from Nashville and his artistic practice includes photography, illustration, creative writing and book-making.

LLO: What are you working on now?
PVD: I shot two hours’ worth of footage in Morocco and I’m currently thinking about creating a double screen projection with the footage I’ve captured. One side of the screen will play a male voice-over and the other side will play a female voice-over. Its funny that you asked me how often literature inspires me, because I’m currently reading a seminal work in Portuguese feminist literature, ‘Novas Cartas Portuguesas’ (English Title – ‘The Three Marias’), and I’ve long wanted to make a work that deals with the female archetypes manifest in Portuguese culture…

Thanks Patricia!

Check out more of Patricia’s work here: http://www.pvdelgado.com/

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

Listen to a Londoner: Steve Cotton

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Steve Cotton

Steve likes street art, graffiti, punk music and taking walks with his camera. His website Art Of The State shows off some stunning images of London’s most impressive street art and all sorts of other London-y stuff (it’s a perfect place to procrastinate, but don’t say I encouraged you).

LLO: How long have you lived in London?
SC: Since I was three years old – any more of an answer would be telling you my age!

LLO: Tell us about your website, Art Of The State.
SC: Art Of The State is just a reflection on the parts of London that catch my eye. Typically that’s architecture, street art and punk rock, but over recent years it has pretty much expanded to anything worth taking a picture of. So recent updates have included the stair case of the Monument and Southgate Tube station.

LLO: Where are your favourite places in London to discover random graffiti or other street art?
SC: Well the best place to discover street art is around Shoreditch, but that’s not my favourite place. It’s kind of a jaded scene around Shoreditch. You could drive a full size paper mache buffalo spinning plates of jelly on the front of a neon triple decker bus around there and nobody would bat an eyelid because they’re so used to ‘urban art interventions’. So the answer I would give to this question is where you would least expect it – seeing a tag by serial rail trackside graffiti vandal 10Foot in the toilets of ‘mums with their chums’ eatery Giraffe on the South Bank ranks pretty highly on this scale.

LLO: Best part about living in your postcode?
SC: Hmmm, good question. I’m not sure there is a best part so I looked up my post code on upmystreet.com. That didn’t really help – it just went on about single parents, betting, bingo and satellite TV being popular pastimes and then oddly said that the Scottish Record was the most popular paper. So really I think the best things are the A30 and Tube into Central London. I realise that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of where I live.

LLO: Who are the most impressive punk bands around London these days and where’s the best place to catch a gig?
SC: I like Refuse/All for straight down the line / no nonsense punk. I go to see them at the Fighting Cocks in Kingston, but I understand other venues are available. I also like Gallows, but I’m not terribly sure if they’re cool or not. Whatever, I often play their song ‘Misery’ on the iPod when walking around London. It just works really well, it’s a slow burner but by the time it’s finished I’m normally up for whatever is next.

LLO: Any cool new up-and-coming London-based street artists to look out for?
SC: Really London is pretty quiet at the moment regarding street art. That said ROA’s animals are pretty neat. Most of the work is by out of towners and often on walls where they have been granted permission. Graffiti on the other hand is kicking on in my humble opinion. Old hands like Shok-1 and Lovepusher are in a league of their own with their respective styles but are only working legally as far as I know. Illegally, the nine members of Burning Candy are some of the most prolific often working up at rooftop level to avoid their work getting removed. They’re really getting about – a trip down the new London Overground line through Shoreditch will get you first class views of lots of BC member Mighty Mo’s work.

LLO: Favourite established London-based artists who started their work on the streets?
SC: Got to be Banksy and Dface as established artists. Banksy is still on the streets, Dface less so – which is a shame as he had scale and ambition.

LLO: Do you think the way street art is viewed in London has changed since you started photographing it back in 2001?
SC: Yeah. Back in 2001, I was photographing a stencil near Vinopolis and I got a mouthful of abuse from a dustcart truck driver along the lines of “Oi saddo, what do you want to photograph that for.” I could have pointed out to him that he was wearing a Spurs shirt, but that’s another story. Anyway fast forward to 2008 and I’m in the same location and another dustcart pulls up. This time a different driver sees me taking a photo, gets out of his cab and proceeds to reel off the location and names of all the street art he has spotted on his round. All the talk used to be of vandalism but now it’s all “Banksy…blah…blah…£100,000”. All the stories in the paper seem to be centred around the money street art is supposedly worth.

LLO: Where is your favourite place in London to take your camera if you’re not photographing street art?
SC: Probably along the South Bank – there is always something going on there no matter what time of year it is. I like the highs and lows of London too. I love to go high up on the roofs of the tallest buildings and down in the depths on it’s dark, dank tunnels – but getting access is always hard.

LLO: Share one of your favourite shots with us?
SC: This is taken on the South Bank. Rain and the light at dusk really add something to a scene. I watched this man waiting forlornly in the drizzle with an umbrella and a bunch of flowers in his hand. Seconds after I took this picture he kind of shrugged his shoulders and threw the flowers into the Thames. It’s a picture for me but for him I guess it could have been a total turning point in his life.

Thanks Steve!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

London Street Pianos: There’s Music in the Air

Classical music drifts through the leaves of Postman’s Park, swirls past the plaques for those who have died saving the lives of others, sweeps over the purple flowers in the middle and people sitting on wooden benches applaud lightly. The girl at the piano pays them no mind. She’s lost in her music. The words “Play me, I’m yours” are scrawled across the instrument that’s positioned in the garden near a tree.

Street Piano - Postman's Park 2

Down near St. Paul’s two friends entertain a small crowd – one on piano and one on guitar sitting cross-legged on the ground. People are smiling, the usual hurried City pace interrupted by curiosity and a lovely sound.

Street Piano - St. Paul's

The piano near Millennium Bridge is empty, but the occasional passerby plucks a finger on a key and giggles shyly wishing she knew how to play, or remembered from her childhood.

Street Piano - Millennium Bridge 2

Over at Monument, the afterwork boys have gathered round, the top of the piano a table for drinks, one lucky colleague appointed to the keys and the others drumming on the side or singing which is sure to get louder and more off-key as the night rolls on.

Street Piano - Monument

And the Royal Exchange has turned into a one-man stage, a piano man and a lonely soul with a beer and a cigarette drunkenly dancing and swaying his worries away.

Street Piano - Royal Exchange 2

There are 21 street pianos set up in London, a project by Luke Jerram. A similar project is going on simultaneously in NYC, only they get 60 pianos. Humph. Most of the London pianos are in the Square Mile, but a couple can be found in Hampstead Heath and Southeast. They’re around until 10th of July. Play them. They’re yours.

Here’s a video from the street pianos website on Carnaby Street last year. How often do you get Londoners hanging out singing “Hey Jude” together?

For piano map and more info: www.streetpianos.co.uk