Allsopp&Weir: Charlie’s Vision for a New World

An Interview with allsopp&weir about the work I commissioned them to make for artreview .com

allsopp&weir have worked collaboratively since 2003, producing video, animation, sculpture and performance works. Their practice addresses different shades of physical struggles or challenges often creating a mise-en-scene of an action that appears to consist of failure, yielding a complex relatibut their relationship with failure is anything bu: “The unrealisable doesn’t have to be seen negatively. If something fails then there is a possibility that something else will start to happen. The unrealisable struggle is more an openness to this potential.”

Their artreview commission can be seen here:

Ellen Mara De Wachter: Could you briefly describe the online project you’ve made and how it relates to the series of Charlie works?

allsopp&weir: We have made a series of animated drawings and a soundtrack in collaboration with an old man named Charlie Fuss. We have been working with Charlie for a while now, and he appears in our last four films. The work shown here is a development of some drawings we’ve made with him. According to Charlie, the drawings are a way of “making a new world”.

Ellen Mara De Wachter: Fiction and fact seem to come together in the Charlie series in an interesting way. Could you talk a little about your experience of this?

allsopp&weir: We wouldn’t make that distinction. Sometimes the work operates on the lines where fictions become fact, and facts melt back into fiction. People often asked us of Amplification Device (2007) for example whether the action was all directed (fictional) or whether we had documented an action that was happening already (factual). Really it was neither of these things. We had gone to City Airport in East London to film something else, and we bumped into Charlie there. We created a system based on actual events; Charlie builds a machine to make sound but every time a plane passes, he stops and makes sound. Charlie put himself into this system and negotiated its boundaries, ending up by turning away from the planes and banging a stick on a watering can. As Charlie discusses in our most recent video Drawing the Front Line, he has set himself a program of ‘jumping out his body’ and this jumping has to be both factual and fictional in order to have any effect, “It’s jumping out your body. It’s jumping out your body into another life. Well…the buzz..woahh. It’ll get you jumping about all over the shop, mate. You know what I mean?”

Ellen Mara De Wachter: There seems to be an unrealisable struggle in each of the Charlie films – what is it about portraying futility that attracts you? Or do you not see this as a portrayal of futility?

allsopp&weir: Futility suggests starting a process while knowing it will fail, or come to nothing. The unrealisable doesn’t have to be seen negatively though. If something fails then there is a possibility that something else will start to happen. The unrealisable struggle is more an openness to this potential. Charlie talks a lot about struggle in the video. Jumping out of his body is a struggle. “You have to quick and you have to be ready, so built up in your mind, and determined. Then, bump, and away. I don’t think this is really a portrayal of futility. Its exciting.” The futility from Charlie’s perspective comes from its transience, “You know. It’s beautiful, but…how can you put it? It don’t last long.” But then the films, and the drawings too, become a way of opening up and expanding these moments.

Ellen Mara De Wachter: An interest in the structures and fault lines of technologies of communication is present in other, earlier works such as Language Machine. What interests you in particular about the failings and treacheries of language?

allsopp&weir: Charlie talks a lot about sound rather than language in particular, and he often embodies it rather than talking at a distance from it. The rooster in his story becomes a raucous crowing, and the trumpet player becomes a series of toots. So many sounds. Sound becomes a way for him to collapse time, the subjective and objective, memory and history. It becomes a point of focus, hypnotic. As he says, “For as long as it continues to beat I will focus on the sound of its beat.” Charlie is always throwing down these little motifs, like his dancing to the music song. And sound also becomes his means of communication, playing back the radio and responding to elements. Some of it gets lost on our transcript in Drawing the Front Line. There are quite a few moments of unintelligibility. This is one of the points where language collapses back into sound.

“Whenever I hear them vibrations, I’m glued to the spot/ I can’t move my body, and my bones won’t stop / I love that music, I’m jumping about / All I’m doing is gonna scream and shout / I’m doing my thing / Enjoying that music all day long”

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