Category Archives: Residency


Film Material: Supernormal

Review by Mary Stark: Film Material was delighted to be invited to take up residence in the all new Vortex stage at Supernormal Festival, 5 – 7 August 2016, presenting expanded filmic performances, screenings and projections that animated the space throughout the weekend.

Vortex, Supernormal Festival, 2016

We were pleased to feature work by artists Mary Stark, Nick Jordan, Lord Mongo, David Chatton Barker and Sam McLoughlin, plus screenings from Chris Paul Daniels, Clara Casian, Joe Duffy, Dave Griffiths, and a short film programme curated by Nick Jordan (Back Roads to Far Places).

Lord Mongo ‘MERZMONGO’ – a film by Nick Jordan

Kicking off proceedings on the Friday night was Lord Mongo, with The Slate Pipe Banjo Draggers, presenting an improvised electronic and vocal performance to the expanded version of Nick Jordan’s film MERZMONGO (2016), originally made for ‘Film is Dead, Long Live Dada’ festival at the ICA. Featuring stream-of-consciousness vocals, Babylonian masks, and one forlorn, masticated, bug-eyed ferret marionette, the stupefying/electrifying Lord Mongo kicked off the residency with wild and deranged abandon.


Mary Stark & David Chatton Barker’s 16mm performance encompassed three separate works: Boing – springs sourced from abandoned film projectors transform into 16mm photograms with optical sound and live spriinngggg action. Then Solar Spell – saluting the sun through fogged and scorched film with optical sound, pre-arranged soundscape and live lens based light play. Finally, Bread – a filmic ritual giving thanks to tactile magic and domestic alchemy, the craft of making bread. Premiering at Supernormal, the 16mm performances were made only this year at Film Farm in Ontario, Canada, and were shown at Film Farm as well as at CineCycle in Toronto.

00266.MTS_7.jpgMary Stark & David Chatton Barker

 On Saturday, following film screenings from Film Material artists Chris Paul Daniels, Clara Casian, and Dave Griffiths, Mary Stark’s Film as Fabric performance summoned the obsolete industries through 16mm film projection with optical sound, mechanical noise and sounds associated with the production of cloth. Incorporating audience participation and live stitching into 16mm film stock, the work made great use of the dramatic, triangular Vortex space, with multiple projections and light.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Mary Stark Film as Fabric

Following Sunday’s screening of experimental short film programme, Back Roads to Far Places, curated by Nick Jordan, collaborative duo David Chatton Barker and Sam McLoughlin enacted their Cognitive liberation happenings and ritual instruments performance. A mysterious, exploratory, alchemical, visual and sonic transformation of everyday objects, rudimentary electronics, instruments and natural elements.



In partnership with BEEF (Bristol Experimental Expanded Film), Mary Stark concluded the weekend festival residency with Your Cup of Tea,  a 16mm film with original soundtrack, plus live sound including a whistling kettle and clattering tea cups, and of course freshly brewed cups of tea, served to the audience in BEEF’s Cephalopod space, located in the Supernormal woods…


Mary Stark, Your Cup of Tea (photo courtesy BEEF)


BEEF: Bristol

BEEFBristol Experimental & Expanded Film, 7-11 September
Along with other Film Material artists I visited Bristol for a week in BEEF’s artist’s film lab and project space. The week included a reading group, show & tell about recent practice, a 16mm film workshop & a final screening & performance event. During the residency I tested a new process – using the darkroom to contact print onto 35mm archival microfilm, which I then sprocketed by hand and ran through the Micromatic projector. Many thanks to Louisa Fairclough, Kim Knowles, Vicky Smith and BEEF artists for hosting our visit.
Film Material artists Annie Carpenter, Clara Casian, Matt Denniss, Dave Griffiths & James Snazell got together with BEEF for a residency week in Bristol.  BEEF’s Kim Knowles led a reading group, looking at New Materialist texts, and in Tuesday’s show & tell Film Material presented recent work, along with talks & screenings by Vicky Smith, Alexander Stevenson and Shirley Pegna. Vicky ran a 16mm film workshop, and we attended the expanded cinema event by Rose Kallal at CUBE Microplex.

Annie Carpenter developed ideas for her October voyage on a tall ship with The Arctic Circle residency. Clara Casian experimented with 35mm found slides, whilst Matt Denniss edited new video work and James Snazell trialled 16mm film performance ideas. The week culminated in a BEEF event where the group showed results, along with multi-projector performance Oxide (ii)+(iii) by Ben Gwilliam, made using iron rusting, 16mm and Super 8 film and magnetic sound. Many thanks to Louisa Fairclough, Kim Knowles and Vicky Smith for hosting our visit.


(dis)Located Seminar: Oslo

Kunstakadamiet Oslo, 13-20 April 2013

A 10-day group residency based at Oslo Academy of Fine Art, for PhD and early career researchers based at Manchester School of Art, aimed at exchanging practice-as-research with Norwegian peers. With Hannah Allan, Jenny Baines, Joe Duffy, Dave Griffiths, Dave Penny & Emily Strange. Funded by Designing our Futures programme of PARCNorthWest/AHRC.

ArchiveAction #1: SWIFT

Department of Physics and Astronomy, Leicester University, 13-15 March 2013

Three amazing days observing the observers, at a short residency I set up with the SWIFT satellite astronomers at Leicester University. My aim was to prepare for Extinction Event, my upcoming commission at Phoenix Square, by researching gamma-ray bursts, or GRBs. I needed to find out more about these epic, cinematic, explosions that signify cataclysmic historical change in deep space and time. I came away from Leicester University with new perspectives to explore on Flusser’s notions of the apparatus and the technical image.

130313 Wednesday
I arrived on Wednesday to the Physics building, and briefings on X-ray astronomy with my hosts Dr Kim Page and Professor Julian Osborne. Along with a multinational team of astronomers and data scientists, they get to call the shots on which deep-space objects get examined using the SWIFT satellite orbiting Earth. SWIFT is rather like a huge DSLR camera in space, with a daily shooting script, recording durational takes of distant light beyond the visible spectrum.

Gamma ray bursts emit gamma photons and X-rays, and when the satellite’s BAT instrument (Burst Alert Telescope) detects a spike of radiation it tunes into the afterglow for more detail by ‘slewing’ in space (like a huge panorama shot). There’s a difference between short and long bursts: star collisions unleash short events measured in milliseconds, and novae bursts can last into a couple of hundred seconds. They probably occur once every million years, in each galaxy.

By way of continuing our interdisciplinary dialogue, I spoke to the Leicester team about Griffiths Cue-Dot Observatory, my 5-year mission to observe and analyse a catalogue of cinema changeover marks, a pseudo-astronomical process I engaged in from 2006-10. As I finished my presentation (right on cue)… a Burst Alert! Everyone’s mobile phones beeped as the satellite detected a potential GRB, and we all raced to the SWIFT lab to observe the radiation as recorded live by the onboard instruments. Just 11 photons registered, but it was enough to confirm the ‘sighting’ of GRB130313A, a short gamma ray burst that lasted merely 400 milliseconds, occurring billions of years ago in the early Universe. However, the GRB ‘image’ as such is only representable as reams of numbers and graphs flashing up on screens around the lab. Was the ‘photograph’ then the sum of these abstract data?

The new GRB was later confirmed in a teleconference (via the BAT Phone) between astronomers in Leicester, Penn State, and the Goddard Space Flight Centre in Florida. I listened in awe as they read science reports, and scheduled the next few days of detailed observations, re-examining X-ray source targets for more data. An exhilarating first day – spotting a new GRB, marking an epic changeover of life and death in its lonely region of time and space. I headed to the campus café to photograph the day’s newspaper headlines – dominated by the election of smiling Pope Francis I, the new ‘hand of God’. A papal changeover. Poetically apt images of a historical, yet insignificant, extinction event.

140313 Thursday
This morning Kim took me to visit the labs of Leicester University’s Space Research Centre, to see the design and engineering of satellites and observation instruments, such as the X-ray telescope onboard SWIFT. I met veteran scientists who’ve been working on CCD technology and space flight since the 1960s. After a tea break with Physics dept, Julian talked through more images of GRB peculiarities and Sino-European plans for a new X-ray successor to SWIFT.

I turned myself into a human microfiching machine, and spent the afternoon photographing in the SWIFT lab – the team of data scientists, their office clutter, and their postcards from exotic astro conference destinations. It is dawning on me that the team are like a film crew operating a big HD camera in space. To document the entire gesture of photographing one far-flung decisive event (GRB30313A), I realised I needed to capture fully the human, social environment of observation. I listened in my hotel room to The Swift Song, an educational ditty about GRBs by AstroCapella, a cool astronomers doo-wop group at Goddard.

150313A Friday
This morning I listened into a second NASA teleconference, after another long burst, GRB150313A, was detected. Julian showed me around the SWIFT database, a roaring, glowing patchwork of computers, telecom gear and hard drives in a climate-controlled server room. This was the heart of the photographic apparatus. It was also Red Nose Day, and I captured all the bakes on sale – again suitably dinosaur-themed. I asked Dr Kim Page to record a voice interview, in which she described the causes of gamma-ray bursts, and the fictional cataclysmic effects of a death-ray hitting a biosphere such as Earth. My last job of the day, and the residency, was to save all the data and images relating to GRB130313A. There were reams of text documenting the satellite movements, observing duration, photon counts, coordinates, and much cross-referencing with other ground-based (‘big glass’) telescopes around the world.

A three-day process to ‘photograph’ an unphotographable event – documenting the GRB’s physicality and short existence through its metadata and its social visuality here on Earth.

miriad - jpegFunded by MIRIAD, Manchester School of Art