HC: This one.
HC: So this is really the same as the taxi cab thing, this is first year of St. Martins – I did a foundation year before that, and then this is the first year of the BA. And I was taking a lot of pictures, but experimenting with what I was taking pictures with. And just before this I took a lot of films where I just labelled the roll of film and didn’t develop it. So I had a roll of ceilings and a roll of floors, and some others. And then I would just write the label of what the thing was, on the roll of film as an object, instead of having the pictures. But I still went through the motions of taking all the pictures. And then I did the opposite, which was this slide film, where I would take nice slide pictures of things, and then had them developed, and mounted them as slides and projected them. So this is a photograph of a projection of my slide film – so it’s a photograph of a projection of a photograph that I took.
HC: And there was snow in London, and I think I took this because of the ramps, and then also because obviously where the car was there’s now no snow. There’s also this opacity to the foreshortening that happens because of the snow. So in some ways it’s entirely pictorially determined – it’s a pictorial photograph, like most would be.
MB: But I asked you because I felt this comes from really when you were younger. And there is some really suggestive time perspective here, as these angles and objects which we can recognise interest for – like mounting or… Like a group of objects, a relation between objects and… It just comes at the complete top – so if you put it in a time perspective, it’s like you see that you need to walk towards it.
HC: Still caught up with all this picture in the foreground.
MB: You have to go over the snow of London first.
HC: But it could also be decline, right – it could also be sinking to the…
HC: Obviously the romanticism of the picture is conditioned by the slide film – so in a sense it’s performative; I was taking pictures because I had slide film in the camera, and because they were the conscious opposite of these undeveloped things. But I developed those rolls, the labelled rolls, last year, because I wanted to see the images.
MB: And were you surprised or…
HC: There was one thing which was extremely surprising, which was that I’d… Some time a bit later, two years later, I went to take a picture of a specific tree, of a particular type of tree – and I was looking around in central London for this type of tree which would be generic, a bit like the chairs. So I wanted this generic picture of a particular type of tree. And I found it and printed this photograph and printed it and stuck it behind a door, and this was a piece of work. And then looking on this roll of film there was exactly the same picture, which I’d taken a year and a half earlier, but had never developed. So it was like I’d registered, I’d remembered the process of taking that picture to the extent that I wanted to repeat the picture, but without the picture – without the evidence to myself that I’d taken it.
MB: You felt like you were doing it for the first time.
HC: Yes. But it’s also to do with intention, it’s that I’m not sure that my intentions are ever totally registered in exactly what I happen to be doing, it’s always somewhat backwards. The making of any idea is always a ruse to produce the material, which comes later, to an extent. You can have some idea of what you want to do, and it might do that more or less, but it also is a record of other things.
MB: There is a nice David Lynch insight into the way he works; he said what comes first for him is always an idea, which starts haunting you in a way – that doesn’t want to leave your thoughts easily. And you first meet this idea – so it’s like a separate entity to you; you put yourself in relation to this idea and then you get to understand, to struggle as you make it, you see what happens, and then when its ready enough you decide what to do with it.
HC: He has to direct people. So there’s perhaps a certain amount of mystique…
MB: Not only, I think he meant it for all kinds of work he does – also drawings and animations, and music.
HC: But I’ll try to be really precise – the problem is that whereas for him the idea of a sort of haunted image serves to reify his own subjectivity, the thing that interests me is that the material is produced by the work, independent of my subjectivity. So it’s not that I’m the somehow… I’m not the target of all of this activity, it’s the opposite.
MB: Yes, but we come to this notion of attributing intelligence to…
HC: Yeah, sure. And there’s this German romantic philosopher Novalis who talks about Urhandlung, as the potentiality of matter to condition itself, as opposed to producing or affirming subjectivity. And I like this, but the reason perhaps he’s a romantic philosopher is because in this way the concept precludes its own content.
MB: It brings me to this observation that Donna Haraway has about the relation between object and subject. I think she mentioned it in the context of cyber feminism – and artificial intelligence, what is real, what is stimulated intelligence. But she said it’s not important if the object we are looking at is real or not, the question is are we real or not.
HC: But again, I would say that’s a kind of mystique.
MB: I think her idea was to move away from discussion of duality – to find a way to move outside of these dual norms, which she considered to be a characteristic of society.
HC: In some ways I also believe that it’s not that the things can be legitimated by this way of approaching it, but rather that the things do not express an intention directly, or if they do, that I think that’s secondary to their behaviour, both with regards to how I think about them, or with regards to how other people might chance to think about this work. And although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that any reaction to my deliberate intention is my material – I don’t think the reaction of an audience is the material – but equally I don’t think that the things are solely conditioned by my intention. A bit like the tree on the film. I’m just not able to always… I mean maybe no one is. It would be absurd to assume that the things were an illustration of a will only.
MB: Yes, of course.
HC: Maybe that’s a bit optimistic. Maybe it is only an illustration of a will, but any reaction, including my own, already exists in a different situation.
MB: I ask you this because when we look at these slides, for me there is really this feeling of interest in clear relations, positions, perspectives, for physical qualities; I don’t feel any metaphysical questions about; you are not posing a question of the origin of things.
HC: As a narrative?
MB: As extra information about the thing, which can really slide into strict direction of a concept or metaphysics or… You’re trying to deal basically with a situation. There is something really about situation.
HC: I think it’s to do with available material. I wonder whether it’s ever possible to make things beyond the immediate relation. I mean certainly people have – with a studio that can produce things, or where the realisation would be outsourced to a different place. But I wonder if that denies the possibility of any negative experience. If you say outsourced to someone to make anodized aluminium boxes, you would deprive yourself of the possibility of having the negative experience of that work, not only the labour; you’re only conditioned by its positive result – or your experience is coextensive with its display, you equate yourself with its audience, as a sort of miracle or something.
MB: Have you ever been part of a group of artists working together?
HC: I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had good conversations with people over quite a long time – both at St. Martins and more recently in Frankfurt.
MB: So for you it’s more a discussion, an intellectual exchange.
HC: Of course.
MB: Because it’s quite a specific matter, and I myself I always have to make a decision of who to start to speak to about work.
HC: I like this idea of situation – that it’s a sort of deliberate action and thought within any given situation, and a sort of productive activity. It’s proactive.
MB: So you are more on the side of action?
MB: It’s like you’re more concerned about what is… You’re not concerned about some dogmas or norms which are circulating around the things that you’re working on. You’re determined to understand better the things which concern you, which interest you.
MB: Which is liberating – that’s what I found, in your work, there is really something you manage to transmit, to viewers like me to whom you show this, there is this kind of… It’s liberating in a way. Because it’s really about the… It’s free of norms, free of dogma, free of trends.
HC: But it’s also reductive to think only about material and situations.
MB: It’s not only, because this I think is already so complex, that we even don’t know what it is. It’s difficult even to say what the situation is. This time relation is so complex – physically already. You don’t need a cultural argument to add to it.