"best known films combine close observation of everyday life with constructed scenes, inhabiting the same place or time to capture the friction that occurs at the border between the real and everyday and the fantastical or mythological. These works often explore issues of control, internalised into citizens or exerted by the state."Do I feel like I have a better understanding of her work having spent just over an hour watching two examples and two fragments of examples in a small room at the back of Camp and Furnace with Jonas Zakaitis as our interviewer and guide? Well, sort of. Yes.
All of the above is true. Her film, Eyeballing is about finding faces in every day objects. Yes, to an extent it's the internet meme, Faces in Places, but Nashashibi reduces it to its most simplistic level so that the top end of an electric toothbrush, the three holes become a face, and she notices how each of them project a different emotion, all human emotion.
She's also very passionate about her work and has a can-do attitude, desperate to capture her ideas as soon as possible, fired up even if it puts her potential danger. One of the works we were shown, Jack Straw's Castle, begins with scenes of gay men cruising in a park, and she was in there, with her camera, in full view.
She's clearly very aware of the risks she takes, but something within her, that kind artistic obsession, the itch, means she has to do it. Somehow. Zakaitis notes that in the past when she's told him what she was interested in doing, he can't quite believe the thing that she's about to do, and that sometimes it changes to become something even more extreme.
I was fascinated but equally frustrated because as is the way with such things the conversation didn't quite go in the direction I might have wanted, Nashashibi sometimes saying something unabashedly amazing, like the above, but Zakaitis never quite picking up on it, sometimes changing the subject. We also didn't get much in the way of first principles. The four double-yous and a hache.
Which might be why my own filtering and so this blog post is so thin. But here are some cool facts. The IMDb says she was a stand-in on Terence Davies's House of Mirth (assuming it's the same person). She was also a runner up for the Northern Art Prize this year and has an upcoming commission for the Imperial War Museum in London.
During the Q&A, I decided on something fairly generic but which always fascinates me about artists, about audience reception. I asked if the artist thinks about how her work is approached in art galleries and spaces and whether she tailors her work on the assumption that unless we're lucky, we won't approach it in the same way as a "cinema" film and might see the end before the beginning.
In short, she doesn't. She works on the assumption that we all realise that's the structure of how the work is approached in galleries and modify our behaviour accordingly and doesn't really care that much if we do see the end first, which is interesting considering how thematically rich and highly structured some of her work is. But she says, it's not really about surprising the audience in the traditional way.
That's a topic I'll presumably return to when I'm less tired, except to say that this is the kind of work which does stand up to multiple viewings and indeed demands them. This isn't in the“tut” or “cuh” genre of art I tend to despise, in which there's not much there once the point has been made. Nashashibi puts much thought into it, happy to excise beautiful images if they fall outside the remit of what she's trying to accomplish.
Was the event worth attending? Yes, because if nothing else it did leave me fired up and intrigued to see more of Nashashibi's work and listen to some of her other conversations elsewhere. Here she is at the ICA twice:
There was a camera there tonight so if that's uploaded, I'll post it here too.
Updated 02/08/2013 Here we go:
Rosalind Nashashibi in Conversation with Jonas Zakaitis from Liverpool Biennial on Vimeo.