Poor Image Projects (PIP) is a new venture that explores the audio-visual in all its guises – be it computer-generated, analogue, high-definition, tactile, technical or sensual. Led by Leeds-based artists Anya Stewart-Maggs and Bethan Hughes, the project intends the viewers, participants and collaborators to glimpse and push the boundless nature of the audio-visual.
The first event presented the work of Harriet Rickard who was selected by PIP after they saw her piece ‘Muddafucka’ (2016) at the New Contemporaries last year. The event comprised of a screening of this piece along with a film entitled ‘Barry the Blobfish’ (2015), and a performance, ‘History of a Boat’ (2018), in which Rickard played a live score in a small band to the backdrop of a moving image installation.
The film ‘Muddafucka’ opens with a shot of a theatre. Positioned at the back of the room, the camera looks on the rows of seats that span out symmetrically towards a raised stage and red velvet curtains. The shot lingers and the audience waits to see what will happen next. Then, from the point of view of the camera, the shot travels down the aisle of the cinema while a slow, soft, menacing voice starts singing ‘I’m the Muddafucking King of this Muddafucking town…’. The piano accompaniment makes it all the more eerie as the camera moves onto stage to look upon the empty theatre. From this point the film flicks through an assortment of clips: a little dog’s “winky winky”; classical music; a headless chicken person wing-slapping to Nirvana; sheep in a field and various other strange and mundane scenes. The arrangement has impeccable timing, making the tone comic and tongue in cheek. For Rickard humour is an important part of her work, not to make the work ‘jokey’ but to emphasis the darker themes.
‘Barry the Blobfish’ is a more sombre affair. It is a lo-fi melancholic song about a blob fish called Barry living in the singer’s stomach and who looks through her belly button. The song is rhythmic, with the lyrics and melody circling round and round, on screen a swimmer does laps of an outdoor pool, bobbing in and out of the water surrounded by brutalist architecture on a bleak day. The piece is an intriguing continuation of Rickard’s surrealist sense of humour.
The final segment of the evening was a performance, in which a person sits behind the bow of a rowing boat, hammering and sawing away. Projected onto the screen above the boat maker is a white abyss with a window, through which a giant face can be seen. Occasionally the giant person slides their fingers through the window like tentacles, trying to touch the tiny boat maker. The performer pays no attention to this or the periodic mocking laughter. The scene is accompanied by Rickard and another guitarist play dreamy shoegaze music, dressed entirely in white.
The evening is a surreal and cinematic joy. The event highlights the breadth of Rickard’s output as an artist, musician, video-maker and performer. Her work also ties in with an integral part of PIP’s agenda to reclaim the so-called ‘poor image’ as rich. A ‘poor image’ does not have to be high-quality, with defined resolution and shot with expensive equipment. Instead it can be lo-fi, reproduced, compressed, transported, shared, it can reach places that other images cannot. PIP mimics this in its nature, tied to neither a single space or format of event. It inclusively encompasses all mediums in the audio-visual sphere… poor and otherwise.
Harriet Rickard, Poor Image Projects / 34 Boar Lane, 21 June 2018.
Poor Image Projects next instalment will present the work of Georgia Lucas-Going at The Tetley on the 22 August.
Anna Ratcliffe is a writer based in Leeds.