VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Skea, Ben

Ben Skea
UK videomaker


Interview: 10 questions

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background
I was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1971. Both my parents had an art and design background so I was exposed to contemporary art from a very early age. In the mid 80s, I began to experiment with a home computer to create images, sound and simple animation. Living in Dundee at this time, I became aware of a new Post Graduate Degree in Electronic Imaging that was established by the artist Stephen Partridge at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. I eventually studied on this course in 1994.

2. When, how and why started you filming?

From 1989 to 1993, I studied Fine Art Printmaking at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. GSA had recently introduced an Environmental Art department to its curriculum so the new ethos was to cross boundaries with other art departments and become self motivated as an artist. I responded well to this ‘DIY model’ and spent large parts of my final year making experimental films outwith the Printmaking department using my own equipment. My degree show comprised of photography, printmaking and five films.

3. What kinds of topics have your films?
My early experimental films explored the transient aspects of nature – specifically a focus on unknown nature and ideas about how empty spaces might connect all objects. Recently, my moving image practice has primarily explored the cyclical, transformative nature of experience, memory and matter. The moving image project I am currently working on is an examination of the uncertainty of truth – an installation that explores humans’ response to loss. The work touches upon many overlapping themes such as: computer codes, financial terminology, processes of grief, masks and the fluid nature of memory.

4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
My art practice is primarily lens based and utilises a multi-faceted approach – incorporating digital photography, digital printmaking, experimental animation and moving image. I also work with sound – specifically sound design in conjunction with moving image. I try to keep the creative process as fluid and open as possible to avoid repetition. As soon as I feel comfortable with a process I move on to another medium. I find my strongest work comes when I’m challenged by the concept or struggling with the medium. My recent moving image project has developed from written responses to visual experiences or static images I’ve created – experimental prose that has then triggered the structure, concepts and aesthetic of the final time-based work.

5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
I have a digital SLR camera for filming, photography and field-recording. I also use a desktop computer, laptop and a tablet with audio apps for sound creation and editing.

6. These days digital technology is dominating also video as a medium. In which way the digital aspect is entering the creation of your videos, technologically and/or conceptually?

I’ve recently incorporated experimental hand-drawn animation elements into my work – specifically using digital ‘paperless’ software. I have always been fascinated by the visual deception that can be achieved with traditional frame by frame hand-drawn animation and saw it as an alternative to shooting objects in live-action. Ironically, this has lead me onto making films with ‘real’ paper and pencil.

7. How do you finance your films?

All my film projects have been self-funded except for one which was part funded by an art grant.

8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team?
if you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

I sometimes view my art practice as a collaboration with the computer – I am using software created by teams, I share and utilize sound effects via the internet with other artists and I have an input into how these image-making programs evolve through discussions on forums. Collaboration, in the traditional sense, comes when I work with galleries or curators face to face in the creation of an exhibition. This process often sparks new ways of thinking that benefits the future concepts in my films.

9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
I’m currently interested in early video art and experimental animation from the 70s and 80s: Peter Campus, Ed Emshwiller, Suzan Pitt, Walerian Borowczyk, Lillian Schwartz, René Laloux.

10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
I hope to expand my moving image practice further by participating in more residencies both in the UK and around the world. As the digital landscape around me continually evolves, I strive to remain challenged and inspired as a visual artist.