Emily Kuger

NO NEWS BROTHER, sylvain flanagan: curated by todd colburn o sideshow gallery o BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

Sylvain Flanagan, "No News Brother" 3 screens slide projection with vocal sounds

Emily Kuger: The medium you use: slides and not video or film, your voice and not mechanical sounds. Tell me about these choices.
Sylvain Flanagan: In a way, I use slides like other people use video or film. My slides' sequences could be compared to video clips or short film sequences. I take a lot of pictures of the same thing in a short period of time. These slides' sequences are video or film clips from which I pull out a great number of frames. It's like making a 35 mm movie at one or two frames per second instead of 30 per second. So because all these frames are “missing”, I give a lot of importance to what is not shown, to what is not visible, to the little moments inbetween, from the beginning, because I use slides. Showing just a little bit, a few frames at a time leaves a lot of room for a lot of purposes. It makes room for interpretation of the images, for a questioning of what you see-whether you are a very critical person or not, you hardly ever really question what you see when you watch video or film. The sequencing makes room for sounds too. With slides, for each slide you show, there is a space before and a space after. A slide appears on the screen and it has the strength of a question. And a new slide appears . . . Using slides is also breaking away from a way of representing reality, I mean opposed to using video or film in terms of representing reality.
Another aspect of your question is analog/digital, which I will translate in to photographic slides versus video. Video is opaque and photographic slides are transparent. It might be an idea people are not accustomed to, but video is really opaque. You don't see through it, even when you project it, it is opaque. It's like that. Slides are transparent, I like transparencies; I like transparence. It is related to the side of me that wants to show a lot. On one hand I am showing a few frames, on the other hand, I am very transparent about what I show.
For the sound, it is the same. When I do the sound, the vocal recordings, in a way it is really a recording of my whole body pushing through my vocal organs. But what you hear is only the voice. The voice is very present but you don't see the body.
EK: So you want to be physical?
SF: You're asking me about physicality, yes, recording my vocal sounds is physical involvement in my pieces. I want to be physically involved in my work. I also do a lot of self-portraits, sometimes, while I am dancing or performing some kind of emotion. When I started taking these pictures of myself, I began to see the music that I was hearing inside. It is a strange thing to say “to see the music that I was hearing”, but it really happened like that. For the landscapes and the outside pictures that I take, it is the same. I move along the landscape or I get closer while taking a frame-a slide-or two per second. In a way, it is also recording my physicality. To me this physicality takes place in a moment, and it is very much about playing-and recording-the music inside.
EK: I also wanted to ask you about fiction and reality.
SF: The tools I use are made to tell stories: pictures, sounds, and time. The way I work is that I don't really write a scenario; I don't really write anything actually. I make sequences of images and sequences of sounds: “the pictures of the bridge, and then my head . . . ” I don't even write that, the slides are on my table, little mounts of them, and then they are in the slide tray. No written scenario. As a matter of fact, I don't use words, or hardly, in my pieces. The languages I use are non-textual: images and sounds. I remember when I was a teenager, for a couple years I had extraordinary difficulties to express myself writing in French. I was desperate because I had a lot to say, so I was really hoping for a world where you can use images on boards that you would raise in your hands instead of speaking . . . On the other hand, I grew up reading a lot, with absolutely no TV and no radio, my parents were really serious about that. I never watched TV in my whole life, just a couple of years in my twenties. Oh, you ask me about fiction and reality, and I am speaking about textual and non-textual languages. The last thing I want to say about that is, that I hardly use words in my work, but I may use more of them in the future. Maybe I am just learning how to speak. When my friend tells me about the sounds his four month old baby makes, I think he is speaking about my work . . . And maybe he is.
To come back to fiction and reality, (I deliberately place my pieces in a border zone where it seems as if there is a story, but it really is a sketch of it). The viewer/listener has to make the story. I try to give enough to make a story, but I don't give the story. I give a few frames, give my voice but not my body, or sometimes my body, but not my voice, or my body with my voice, but they were not recorded at the same time. Whether it is landscapes or my own persona, images and sounds were not recorded at the same time. If to that, you add the fact that both images and sounds are very transparent, you have a situation where the notion of reality is challenged. What you see and what you hear are both real, put them together and you have another reality. It is a reality in the space of the projection, and it is also a reality inside me.
EK: Would you say that your work is personal?
SF: Yes. I don't see what else I have.
EK: I mean my notion of personal is a notion that I challenge permanently: is this personal or did I get influenced . . . don't you feel the same about what is really personal?
SF: No, I don't feel the same. Although I am a person very susceptible to influences, I know what is personal, what is inside me. I doubt a lot about the world around me, about myself, but I know what is personal to me. I don't know how to say that, but it is like I can look into my body or at my memories, and take things outside. Personal things. And actually, that is why being transparent and showing only parts of myself is very important. Being personal is also being vulnerable. So I have to deal with that, show enough, be vulnerable enough to really offer something, but then not too much, or not everything, so it is not documentation. It's not really about me, it is more about being personal.

Emily Kuger
Brooklyn, New York