Reynir Hutber creates performances and installations that are transformed and explored through the lens of emerging technologies. He works in a range of mediums and his projects are often concerned with themes of mediation, alienation and (dis)illusion. Live | Work is a three-part, multi- faceted project which involves performance, sculpture and a series of spoken texts and audio works distributed through a one-off radio broadcast entitled Evil | Krow. On the occasion of the exhibition at Arebyte, London, curatorial assistant Rebecca Edwards interviewed the artist about his work.
Sunday 17 July 2016, 12.15pm
Rebecca Edwards: Tell me more about your practice; describe your process of making, from initial research to an outcome.
Reynir Hutber: I don’t really have a template with which I develop an idea. I like to listen to the space and respond to it. I also have an archive of ideas which I adapt or resurrect, depending on the context and various other factors. The work often ends up being a negotiation between the space and an initial set of ideas.
RE: So a lot of your work is site specific?
RH: It is. Working with the specific qualities of a site or wider location is a big part of my process.
RE: How did the arebyte residency come about? and how did you envision each part; was it your choice to have it in two parts?
RH: I think that’s just the way the residencies at arebyte are structured. I didn’t really look at it in terms of parts, I just saw it as a residency culminating in a show. I met the curator, Nimrod Vardi, through a mutual friend and the collaboration developed from there over a series of meetings in the gallery.
RE: What has the relationship been like between artist and curator throughout the process of the residency?
RH: I think it’s been a positive one. Creating a show is always about collaboration and negotiation and there is a limit to which people are sometimes prepared to acknowledge that.. I think Nimrod and I have different skill sets which has probably helps.
RE: What was part one about?
RH: Part one was the residency. At this point in my life, I was trying to move from one rented space to another. I was bombarded by images of potential studio flats until they started to feel like geometric variations on a theme. It became slightly obsessive. I was thinking about this idea of going from one white room to another and what happens to the notion of home when you have very little security. At the same time a neighbour was evicted from a nearby flat. When the Estate Agents went into his rooms they found that the walls were full of hidden cameras and he had something like sixty metronomes. It was just this very surreal thing, like something out of a J G Ballard story.
I started thinking about people who keep cameras in their homes for reasons of commerce, security or voyeurism. These were the formative things that got me thinking. Then I found out that arebyte will be knocked down and replaced with flats in a few years…the architectural forms I was making seemed to foreshadow this future function of the space and, of course, there’s this link to housing prices and gentrification.
RE: Part two of the residency will be an exhibition and I’m wondering how you work between exhibitions – does the work stop to make way for something completely new or is there a continuation happening?
RH: There’s always a continuation even if if it isn’t obvious at first. I like the way works speak to each other and I don’t think you can really understand an artist’s practice by looking at one or two works. I have a lot of unrealised ideas too, so sometimes an idea from a few years ago will be reinvigorated by a new context or commission.
RE: I’m really interested in this idea of the unrealised, or the unpublished or the unmade project. I think there’s something quite fascinating to think that there are thousands of unrealised projects in the world, most of which will be forgotten. Do you have any unrealised projects or do you try to focus on one at a time?
RH: It is very interesting. A lot of these idea are dependent on funding or a gallery’s willingness to take a risk. I’m now working on a radio show that is not dependent on any funding or any particular space and, in that sense, it’s a very liberating format. I see this as being something which has an ‘afterlife’; a life after the exhibition. Working with audio and storytelling is becoming something very freeing to me.
RE: Are you treating the radio show as a platform for interview or experimental music or something else?
RH: I’m treating the radio show as adding a second narrative to the space. I’ve been writing slightly surreal stories that reflect back on the exhibition and talk about technologies of mediation and recognition in a very different way . The radio show is called Evil | Krow which is, or course, a playful inversion of the show’s title…
RE: What do you mean by the term performance ‘documents’ to describe the outcomes of your work?
RH: For quite a long period of time I’ve been interested in the performance document. RE: the archive material?
RH: Yes, so the films or photographs of a performance which might be curated, cropped or even digitally manipulated to emphasise a certain reading. Most of us will only ever experience the works through these partial records.
RE: I think that’s quite apparent in your work. Some of your works contain an element of this such as with Stay Behind The Line and Critical Distance. Virtual Reality is popular among artists today so how do you see this medium evolving in contemporary art? Is this a medium you consider to be as important as others?
RH: All mediums are valid and VR has been resurrected as a relevant and, slightly more, accessible technology. But it’s not only artists re-discovering this technology, advertisers; pornographers and the military have all seen the potential in creating convincing and immersive experiences. I am wary on this cultural trend to put the user/ consumer/ viewer at the centre of every experience. It raises the question of how artists will subvert these devices without being overwhelmed by them.
A lot of work I’ve seen recently aims to mimic and exaggerate the rather alienated language of advertising and video games. This is often presented as a critique, but if often feels rather cynical to me.
RE: How would you describe Stay Behind The Line contextually?
RH: It was about being a media witness. I don’t know what it’s like in an American detention centre – in fact few do, as photography is strictly prohibited in many of those spaces . But I do know what it’s like to view images of suffering and abjection through the media in which I am unable to intervene but, for which, I share a sense of national responsibility. The image also references certain types of performance practices in which vulnerability and suffering were used in certain kinds of poetic or ethical experiments. It’s quite a mournful work in a sense – you’re in a space and you’re reaching into a not so distant past to touch a recording of my body. You’re reaching into a document to touch a ghost.
RE: It’s almost like you’re issuing very subtle commands to the viewer. What do you expect from your audience?
RH: Hopefully I don’t prescribe any response, I wouldn’t want to do that. But hopefully the opportunity is there to see yourself as a protagonist and to interact with the figure.
RE: This idea of issuing commands, expecting something from your audience, is not something new but is exciting when we consider the way in which contemporary art is moving forwards. I feel there is a tendency towards co-ownership or co-authorship at the moment; is this something you are thinking about?
RH: I think my work is quite authored, You can interact but you’re not expected to change the fundamental conditions or the work. It’s a kind of disingenuous offer.
RE: So where do you place yourself within contemporary art and do you see any connection between your work and other practicing artists of this time?
RH: A lot of my influences come from artists of the 1970’s like Chris Burden, Bruce Nauman and Joan Jonas. Other artists I really admire are Tania Bruguera , William Pope L and Francis Alys.
RE: Yeah I was going to mention Nauman, especially with Waiting To Fall. What books are you reading at the moment and how much weight does reading form part of your research?
RH: I recently reread Kafka’s short stories partly in preparation for writing this radio show. I love his prose, so that’s probably the most recent thing I’ve read. I’ve also been re-reading a book by Darian Leader called ‘What is Madness?’. I think reading is very important. I mean I don’t think you can write without reading, it’s part of a continuation of language.
RE: What are you looking at visually? I think there’s an expectation on artists to see work a lot of work and while that’s a good thing to do, I think that’s not what informs their practice.
RH: CGI architectural plans have been a big influence. The stark lines of vector drawings and designs. I saw an of JG Ballard’s ‘the enormous space’ for television which has stayed with me. In that film there are a number of abstract geometric drawings that suggest rooms that don’t obey the laws of physics.
I’ve also been thinking about about Hackney Wick and how it’s changing. A lot of new housing developments are happening and this is something I’m referencing with the work in a way, foreshadowing possible future functions of space. I probably couldn’t afford to live in the space I am notionally designing. I’ve had a few shows recently that are in central London spaces that are between uses; next year they might be million pound flats , or offices or even libraries but for a few months they become DIY art galleries. I think it’s interesting the way artists occupy these gaps.
RE:I agree. I think the places, or non-places, are where the more interesting things happen. Tell me about the direction your work is taking now. What’s next?
RH: It’s been expanding and that I’ve been getting more ambitious. There are a few more projects planned but I can’t give away too much at this stage.
Live | Work / Reynir Hutber / Part 2 + 3 runs until the 30th of August at Arebyte.
Featured image courtesy of Lorna Milburn