Slade School of Fine Art UCL
Gower Street London WC1E 6BT
Gary Stevens has worked predominantly with live performance since 1984. His background is in sculpture, installation and film and his projects reflect this diversity.
Box of Hours is a video installation inspired by illuminated manuscripts that illustrate seasonal activity and landscape. This work is a development of earlier installations commissioned by and first shown at Matt's Gallery, London: Slow Life, 2003, a five-screen video installation and Wake Up and Hide, 2007, a large-scale, two-screen, interactive video projection.
Future video projects include Containment, a limited sequence of repeating video images, which play on the representation of time in paintings and photography and Island where five performers invent relationships to conceptually tie themselves together to form a network. This work develops from ensemble work such as Flock, 2008, where the performers move as a mass with a strict programme governing their collective behaviour which holds them together like molecules or a flock of birds, and Ape, 2007 where three performers are inextricably linked by one rule, to copy and ape each other's behaviour. His work deals with problems of speech in performance operating in an art context, psychological integrity, artificial intelligence using low-tech models and duration while evading narrative. He ran a Performance Lab at Toynbee Studios from 1999 to 2009.
Now and Again: Westgate, Southampton2012
Southampton City Art Gallery, Civic Centre, Southampton, Hampshire, SO14 7LP
Now and Again: Westgate, Southampton, is a four-screen projection onto a central box in a gallery that shows a site in the old town of Southampton from four directions. It is shown in conjunction with paintings, prints and photographs of the medieval wall and Westgate archway from in the Art collection at the Southampton museum. The images for the installation have been filmed with a static camera over several hours and seamlessly cut together to create sudden changes to the light as one state dissolves into another. The projected images are of a quiet square, sparsely populated with pedestrians and cars that can be followed on screen as the spectator circumnavigates the box. No camera is visible from the opposite point of view. The apparently casual, incidental action has been choreographed and repeated four times with volunteers and local residents. So, what at first seems to be a single action seen from four points of view becomes a repetition of an action over several days. A figure seen in the distance through the archway is close up on the opposite face, a man concealed in an alley is revealed from another angle. It is an exploration of the different ways in which time is represented in painting, which is often ambiguous and contradictory. A still image can be animated by the act of looking and the time it takes to look at it. The repetition of figures across the faces of the box gives a sense of doppelgangers, of co-existence rather than identity. They are alike but not identical.
Southampton City Art Gallery, Civic Centre, Southampton, Hampshire, SO14 7LP
Containment consists of six videos of domestic situations and breaks them down into individual elements. Each short film acts as a portrait of a family at home. The relationship between the figures and objects that share the space is made tenuous, as each element is isolated within the frame. They are presented on small monitors as an array or cluster that blink at different times as the shots change. The fixed camera focuses on details that stand alone. Each object is given and taken away with mechanical regularity. Movement is implied by figures that disappear only to reappear in another place. A chair previously occupied is now empty and there is a sense that the figure has gone. That threat of loss is repeatedly replayed. A looping sequence perpetuates and holds onto a moment of everyday domestic life. Containment is part of large solo exhibition entitled Now and Again.
Cafe Gallery, Southwark Park, London
A group exhibition of sculpture and installation with performance as an integral aspect, dealing with process and addressing the space between the works. Artists include: Emma Benson, Ian Bourn, Claire Blundell Jones, Helena Bryant, Helena Goldwater, Michelle Griffiths, Zoë Mendelson, Graeme Miller, Frog Morris & Lee Campbell Steve Ounanian, Florence Peake, Tim Spooner, Fiona Templeton and Caroline Wilkinson.
Molten States, GSK Contemporary,Royal Academy of Arts, 6 Burlington Gardens, London W1, UK
Three performers copy each other's behaviour and speech.
Wake Up and Hide2007
Matts Gallery, London
Matt's Gallery, London
Five large video projections shown concurrently. The unbroken, real-time shots of domestic scenes explore innocuous, seemingly insignificant events. Everyday incidents are played very slowly. The consciousness of each performer escapes the intention of their slow action. As the nuances change in the slowly shifting picture, the subtle inference of relationships and situations is constantly modified. There is an acute awareness of being alive, of horror and of wonder. Elements within the picture - a fire, running water – are reminders that time has not slowed down. Unlike a fixed image that arrests and holds onto a moment, here moments inexorably slip by. The performers’ sense of awkwardness and isolation alerts the viewer to the imperfect stillness. Sounds from the video images invade the space to create an uneasy sense of instability. The movement produces inadvertent and painful noises of creaking, cracking floorboards and furniture in the performers attempt to be silent.
an illustrated talk discussing the way flesh is rendered and represented by different artists and how that may affect an interpretation of the work
Photographs and video extracts of various performances of mine.
Master Class on performance workshop and an illustrated talk.
Mutual Dependencies is part artists’ book and part academic research. It contains a range of collaborative and inter-dependent work exploring what the practice of art writing might be. This book includes drawings, recollections, photographs and diagrams, recipes for pigments or preserves, writings, ruminations, and tentative articulations. Taken as a whole, it engages with the overlaps between score, script, performance, concept, and drawing, including scoring the table or drawing conclusions.
An ensemble interact in a random repertoire of behavioural subroutines. Performed with UCL students:Dante Rendle Traynor, Ellen Kim, Jennifer Martin, Laura Malacart, Luuk Schroder, Xi Xi, Laura Cooper, Babette Semmer, Tom Rees, Harriet Poznansky and Will Saunders
Numerous performers co-exist and move through the gallery recalling or trying to recall and re-enact past performances. Participants include: Heather Ackroyd, Gina Birch, Frank Bock, David Gale, Helena Goldwater, Dave Goulding, Anthony Howell, Yoko Ishiguro, Glenys Johnson, Lois Keidan, Joe Kelleher, Calum F Kerr, Kristen Kreider, Paulina Lara Franco, Marie-Anne Mancio, Angeliki Margeti, Brigid McLeer, Susan Melrose, Katharine Meynell, Hannah Millest, Lucy Neal, Redell Olsen, Miranda Payne, Lorena Pena, Andrew Quick, Hester Reeve, Lara Ritosa Roberts, Donna Rutherford, Graeme Shaw, Steve Slater, Gary Stevens, Minna Stevens, Peter Stickland, Fiona Templeton, Howard Tong, Amikam Toren, Simon Vincenzi, Caroline Wilkinson, Silvia Ziranek. Bodies of Memory forms part of the Acts of Legacy event curated by New Work Network for Late at Tate Britain
Solo performance that essays a compartmentalised state of mind. Performed in relation to the video installations at Southampton City Art Gallery and an illustrated talk on other of my performance and video installations.
A performance workshop discussing and exploring the relationship between video projection and live performance
Writing and devising over three days to assist in the development of a performance for an artist who is part of Spin, an organisation based in Brussels.
The performance Still and Silent was the result of a weeklong workshop with Finnish artists. The imperative to be still and silent is constantly broken as one individual initiates some action that the others then are inclined to copy, which leads to behaviour feedback as the group become increasingly animated. The members of the ensemble respond to one another and copy any innovation. In one phase they sing a song quietly to themselves but listen to the others who are singing their own and different songs. They get gradually louder until they begin to hear some of the other’s songs. Once they hear and recognise the song, they switch to sing that song. The cacophony of different songs fluctuates but eventually one song dominates and they sing together. It is a system where each individual is subsumed under the group. Collective behaviour and vocal sound is the result of each individual responding to and copying what is around them from one small intervention. It is an experiment that runs through may of the ensemble works such as Flock and Little Systems. Behaviour and sound mutate as the performance evolves.
A large scale performance event with characters from Alice in Wonderland interacting with diners in the grounds of an estate near Norwich, with a text written by David Gale and directed by Hilary Westlake.
Illustrated talk about my work in relation to sculpture
An ambiguous internal or external conflict between a family group is played out by one performer who has a system for representing different rooms by placing single objects on a table and different people by wearing a single item. It is part of an ongoing project of representing a mind as partial, compartmental and multiple. It stresses the importance of the structure over any narrative and aims to be accessible to a wide audience. The context for the performance was a weekend of presentations by scientists and performers curated by Juan Dominguez with Oscar Hernández, Manolo Guzmán, Raúl Arrabales and Aitor Erce. Films by Anne Frances Ewert, Nicholas Ray and Sergio Oksman. Live performance by Gary Stevens, Juan Dominguez, Edurne Rubio and Ursula Martinez for an international audience.
A performance workshop was held for international artists towards an ensemble with the working title Ages, where an individual within a peripatetic group stops and makes a biographical statement. Others overhearing this may push aside the speaker and repeat the statement. A number of different singe biographical statements may be attributed to the particular zone on the floor. Any performer can replace and repeat the statements as they invent or overhear them. The statements are compatible and could be attributes to an individual of a very particular age. Other zones are established in the same way and any zone can be returned to. The group becomes less animated as more stations are invented. It becomes clear that a biographical portrait is being formed of a single individual at different ages, from infancy to old age. The text was generated by the workshop participants and often incorporated a number of different languages. Sub groups were dedicated to writing for the specific ages. The portrait emerged through this process where each individual contributed a detail without knowing the overall ‘life’. The workshop continues research into performance structures that can be used or interpreted as psychological models. The structures present a complex, multiple and modular model of minds. The ensemble performances work in two ways, one where each individual performer contributes to a larger whole, (Flock, Little Systems, Still and Silent) and the other that constructs a network between the performers (Island). The solo work aims to make a multiple of the single body of the performer (Not Tony or A Chain of Events Called Bob.) I am currently in discussion about a residency with an organisation and venue in Paris at L’Avant Seine where a large-scale ensemble work will be developed with international artists over the course of a year.
Five performers forge connections by inventing names and relationships. Someone points at an apparent stranger with a growing sense of recognition. The stranger is transfixed and mortified by the gesture. The person is released as doubt creeps in and the pointing finger is lowered. They make good their escape but the tendency spreads through a group until five people are caught in a gestural equivalent of a Mexican stand off. They invent, explore and uncover the interconnections and interrelations as their lives interweave. The character or name assigned to a performer does not necessarily correspond to their gender, ethnicity or age. Emotional ties become factual statements in a memory game. A complex network of multiple relationships grows up and dies.
Not Tony is like a comedy, quick-change hat routine, where single items (a hat, a beard, a wig or glasses) represent different members of a family. All speak with the same voice as an ambiguous internal/external conflict is played out. An unnamed, unknown identity emerges in the space between the other established characters. This alien entity was a residue that can only be defined negatively as not any of the others.
Illustrated introduction to my work dealing with multiplicity and fragmentation
Five performers forge connections by inventing names and relationships.
And was a repeating sequence of about 40 minutes cycles of live, ensemble action for ten performers that later expanded to twenty two. It was prompted by experiments in mechanical repetition of narrative film in video. The repetition was played out live, with the ambiguity of time and continuity/discontinuity of mind. It collided the dramatic imperative to develop a narrative and a sculptural imperative towards stasis and stability.
Flock is a large-scale ensemble live performance for an indefinite number of people that form a cluster, held together by a copying principle. The collective entity interacts with its immediate environment. It is an analogue of a primitive form of life. It tackles issues of artificial intelligence without the technology.
Discussion of themes running through the work.
Solo performance curated by Ben Roberts
A presentation of performance as a sculptural proposition where the body of work is not sited with the body of the performer.
Live performance with an original text. Four performers describe a scene from a Laurel and Hardy film. They establish the position of furniture and people from the film on the empty floor of the stage, each one repeating and re-establishing the architecture of the space. They break down the action, including speech, modifying and refining the action without reference to the original source.
L'Un de Nous is a live ensemble performance with an original text. Everyday phrases are built into the structure and there are sections that allow the performers to contribute stories that flesh out the structure. The work concerns the mechanisms the tie people together in groups or those that isolate and ostracize others. The performers construct ‘individuals’ that are interchangeable within the group. A sense of self escapes the body of the performer and becoming embedded in a network, while the performers struggle to maintain the fiction. Humour plays an inclusive and exclusive role in relation to the audience.