Tessa Garland’s E11_X is conceived as a three screen installation. The starting point engages directly with a place close to the artist’s home in east London. At the centre of the work lies a white tower, that acts as a strange watch tower both looking out across the space and yet being watched itself as work men install a mobile phone mast to its rooftop. E11_X draws on early B movie sci-fi classics such as The invasion of the body snatchers. In this instance the artist has used imagery of slime mould because of its ability to live as single cells, but aggregate together to form multi-cellular reproductive structures.
ASFF: How do you think the short form lends certain opportunities that other forms don’t?
TG: As a moving image artist, I make short work because of its power to highlight certain thoughts or ideas, I am not interested in communicating this through long narrative works but more through experimentation with video and sound. The shorter form just seems to lend itself to a looser more open-ended way of working.
ASFF: Briefly discuss the concept behind the film that you submitted for ASFF 2017?
TG: E11_X engages directly with a place close to my home in east London. For years I have passed a strange large white tower block with many large mobile phone masts on its roof. It is a building that emerges incongruously from a wooded area, surrounded by a larger area of grassland. People come and go and are more often than not on their phones. I started to make E11_X with no real plan but began to film people on their phones. In the edit and through a process of selection I teased out threads of imagined narratives that focus our attention to ideas of being watched and of surveillance.
ASFF: How important are visuals to your work?
TG: Visuals are key to the work, E11_X has no spoken language and so the image and the sound convey the meaning. I come from a fine art background and work with video in a very visual, often painterly way, building up layers and veneers across the screen. This work was conceived as a three-channel piece, this enabled me to work rhythmically across the separate screens, often giving power to certain images through arrangement, including using the device of mirroring.
ASFF: Where do you get your inspiration?
TG: I get inspired from what I perceive to be odd spaces/ buildings and often controlled public places around me. By filming them I try to unravel what it is that I want to say or comment upon. Many of the spaces I choose are in my home area of East London, where I can go out filming day and allow them to gain in significance. Once I start the edit-part imagined narratives build, often allowing unsettling psychological scenarios to unfold that question our relationship and often anxiety with communication technologies.
ASFF: What is your biggest achievement to date?
TG: I am lucky enough to curate an international moving image festival, Visions in the Nunnery at the Nunnery Gallery in East London (now in its 11th edition). Over the years we have shown brilliant inventive and thought provoking experimental film and moving image. Exposure to this has fed into my own moving image practise and kept me up to date with new patterns of artists responses to the global forces that act around and challenge us.
ASFF: What would be your advice to emerging filmmakers at the very start of the career, or those considering working in short film?
TG: I can only give advice based on my own career but firstly I would like to say that just to keep your practice going is a major success. A career in the arts has many challenges but I think key for me has been to keep making work even when circumstances have been difficult. Here are a few tips … challenge yourself- but try to seek support of other artists to gain feedback. Actively shape your CV, apply for quality festivals such as ASFF and be selective about where you want your work to be seen. Network and build your contacts, be proactive and create your own events that will bring other like-minded film makers together.
ASFF 2018 is open for entries until 31 May. We are looking for filmmakers who are driving the genre of short film forward through inspirational and innovative works. Whether you are an established or emerging practitioner, we want to hear from you. Find out more: www.asff.co.uk
1. Trailer from E11_X. Courtesy of Tessa Gardland and Vimeo.