Tableau vivant: exploring life through the digital experience
– an interview with Samuel Fouracre
Samuel Fouracre (b.1977, UK) is an artist, digital content creator and experimental film-maker. Fouracre studied Painting at the Royal College of Art and his work is shown internationally as both multi-channel installations and at single-channel screening events. He lives and works in London. Selected exhibitions and screenings include 'D.^^.$.®. MIRA.mov', IDEAL Centre d'Arts Digitals de Barcelona, (ES), Asolo Art Film Festival, Edizione 2019, (IT); 'Jerwood Staging Series', Jerwood Space, (London, UK); Moscow International Experimental Film Festival (RU); Hamburg KurzFilmFestival (DE); Kassel Dokfest (DE) and Addis Video Art Festival (Addis Ababa, ET).
"I am not interested in how the digital experience can be contained within a fine art discourse, I am interested in engaging with the digital within its own ecosystem and within the context of raw, real, unrarefied life. "
Could you tell us about your artistic practice and how it has evolved over the years?
I used to make films on a VHS video camera as a kid, shooting them with friends and editing the footage on two VCRs. They were gloriously dreadful. When I eventually entered full-time arts-education I had become convinced I wanted to paint. This was a beautiful digression however, because as soon as I finished my MA I went straight back to making what I called at the time “home-made-Hollywood”. It was increasingly easy and cheap to shoot, edit, compose, grade and post produce a film. As 3d software became more accessible I began to integrate 3d environments and character animation into the work. From there it was a very natural progression to morph into an exclusively digital practice. The subject of the work hasn’t changed. It has always been people. I love what people do. And the purpose of my practice remains exactly the same, which is to connect to the world by proxy: to communicate intimately in a way that bypasses the complexity of intimate relationships.
How do you think digital art will evolve in the future?
Where digital art goes in the future doesn’t concern me. I am not particularly interested in digital as a medium for gallery based artists. I am interested in the digital as a way out of art. I am not comfortable with the nomenclature ‘digital art’, certainly not when applied to my practice. I think there is an argument for people who create digital content to call themselves something other than ‘digital artists’. I say this because digital creativity is not just a medium anymore. It is a marketplace, a community, its own landscape and informs and re-shapes our core behaviour. I am not interested in how the digital experience can be contained within a fine art discourse, I am interested in engaging with the digital within its own ecosystem and within the context of raw, real, unrarefied life.
There is currently a friction between the arena of physical art and the increasing expansion of the metaverse. And never the twain shall meet because they are active in such different ways. The digital realm is fizzy…it moves at such an astounding rate with a palpable sense of effervescing ADHD. To be reductive, digital is fast and art is slow. I am not optimistic about how the art environment can consolidate this without neutering the work or how it can provide anything of tangible value to digital creators. And why should it? I think in many respects the art system and its concomitant discourse is almost entirely antithetical to what is so alluring and transformative about the digital condition. And, I’m sure I am being a little territorial about this, but the art world needs to understand what is happening here and that it cannot instil its aesthetic quality control or drawling hierarchy onto digital creators. However, it can and will work out ways to make some money from them, so that should keep them happy.
What are the main themes you address is your work?
Sex, love, relationships, technology, eroticism, 20th Century cinema and sexual archetypes.
Does the art you make reflect the way you live? How much of your personal life is reflected in it?
Is there a personal life? I can’t really make that distinction. I make work all the time so that is my personal life. In a literal way, some of the work springs directly from my own experiences... for example, lifting text messages directly from my phone. However, these are used to develop a tone and I then expand the narrative by scripting fictitious messages or stealing comments from social media. Everything is then woven together in an attempt to reflect a common experience rather than an individual, idiosyncratic one.
Could you tell us a little more about ‘#aboutlastnight? What is the genesis of this work?
#aboutlastnight sprung out of a much larger multi-channel video installation called D.^^.$.®.(dance.music.sex.romance). I had constructed a convoluted narrative for that project where a collection of characters are all fucking each other in one way or another. In #aboutlastnight I wanted to further develop one of those characters by stepping back into a scene from D.^^.$.®. and observing her outside of the main narrative. I wanted a stillness to the work, so created a digital tableau vivant, pausing all the action on screen except for the activity of her phone. This allows the phone to act as a narrative device, giving us an insight into her personal life via a constant stream of DMs and push notifications. There is a companion piece (#aboutlastnighttoo) that does the same but for a male character. At the beginning of D.^^.$.®. he appears seductively lounging on a bed in a state of arousal. In #aboutlastnighttoo we see him again, but this time slumped over a bar in a state of flaccid inebriation, his phone glowing with frustrated messages from lovers past and present. I really love the idea of a set of characters developing over a series of works and constructing how their lives might be intertwining.
Hotel Rendezvous (2017)
What is your definition of art? What makes a good work of art in your opinion?
I like generous work. I like work that alleviates and ameliorates alienation in the viewer. I want to feel loved by a piece of work. I want it to accept me by demonstrating that it understands the complex, contradictory and sometimes unpleasant aspects of human nature. And I want it to do this using a cool, sensual control over a certain shared cultural inheritance of form. So, for me this is most apparent in composition, framing, light and character. This makes me feel connected to my cultural environment, it emphasises a sense of belonging, of consanguinity and it inspires awe and emotional appreciation in me. Additionally, I feel happy to be alive when someone works exceptionally hard to make something look effortless (I’m thinking Gene Kelly).
Do you listen to anything when you work?
Always. Unless I am editing.
What are your artistic influences, if any?
That’s simply impossible to answer successfully in a paragraph. There are too many things and too many people. Everyone I know and love gets in there somewhere. I studied English, so many of my early influences were literary and they still hold sway over my creative decision making. I go on long walks around the city and the relationship of light and architecture has a profound effect on me. Cinema. Powell and Pressburger, the American noir works of European Directors like Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder et al. And then of course there are 80s movies with the films and soundtracks of John Carpenter, Michael Mann, David Cronenberg and Walter Hill being constant reference points. And we haven’t even started with music!
If you could own any piece of art, what would it be?
One of William Blake’s original illuminated copies of the 'Songs of Innocence and Experience'. If that’s not available I’ll take Richard Hamilton’s '$he and he'.
What are you working on at the moment?
I recently bought some land on Sandbox so am developing a game based on Golden Age Hollywood movie stars behaving badly in a complex of villas on Sunset Boulevard.