News/August 2016

Fort Process is an expansive multi­disciplinary music and arts festival that takes place in the evocative spaces of Newhaven Fort in East Sussex.

We are thrilled that our Technical Lead Alex Peckham will be presenting his solo work Interstice as part of the festival programme. He caught up with festival organiser Lorah Pierre of Lost Property to answer a few questions surrounding his work and the event.
LP: At this years Fort Process you’ll be presenting your work, Interstice, as part of the installation programme. The extensive line up hosts a variety of artists from across the globe, are you looking forward to being part of this one day event? Can you tell us a little bit about the nature of the piece you presenting?

AP: Yes, I’m really excited to be a part of Fort Process. The fort is a very unique location with some great spaces and it’s fantastic to bring so many artists together to explore that environment and architecture. My piece Interstice is a work that is concerned with loss, incompleteness and scale. The work considers the human genome as a score which describes a four hundred year long melody. Each time a note is played the light within the sculpture rises in intensity, then fades away leaving participants momentarily in darkness. It’s very much a work about how we attribute value to things in the time that we have, as well as the wider themes which surround that.
LP: One of the unique aspects of Fort Process is the location, a 18th century fort in Newhaven. Each space is unusual and already rich in historical events. Interstice is intended to subtly enhance the experience of the viewer on a subconscious level, how do you feel the environment of the fort will impact on both viewer, and your work?

AP: Yes the sound does alter subtly as people approach the work but as you say it is intended to be something people don’t necessarily notice on a conscious level. I think of it a bit like a good edit in a movie, often the desire is for these edits to be almost unnoticeable. But the changes from shot to shot still fulfil a very important function, even if we are not particularly aware of them. The fort has a lot of history and that feels very tangible, so I think it’s a great context for the presentation of Interstice.
LP: When first sketching out plans for Interstice, how did you envisage the space in which this work would be experienced? How have you approached presenting Interstice in a unconventional space, such as the fort?

AP: Initially I envisioned a very large space, like a cathedral or just something very vast yet enclosed. I’ve shown the work in some pretty large gallery spaces but nothing quite on that scale. So I suppose I’ve already been adjusting the context each time I show the work. The space at the fort feels more tunnel-like so it is a lot longer than it is wide. That will enhance the contrast between the notes that come from in front of or behind the work. I think the space will create more of a sense of distance in that respect. It’s not something I want to fight in any way, I like that the space has an influence.
LP: An apparent theme for this years Fort Process is light, movement and sound – something that has a strong presence in your own work. Would you say these phenomena are dependent on location and environments? How do you approach working in these mediums?

AP: Well yes definitely, light and sound are what allow us to experience our environment. And movement too, not least our own movement through that environment. So if you are working with things that are a part of fundamental experience, then yes the environment becomes very important. When working with light I normally start by making the space completely dark first, to give me complete control. With sound I like to embrace the characteristics of the space, I wouldn’t try and stop a space from having an echo for example. It depends on what you want to achieve but for me light is more about providing focus whereas sound is more about an impression of the space as a whole. But of course there are always exceptions.
LP: Your artist practice has been influenced by certain fields within science, such as sonifying the human genome, can you explain these influences when approaching a new project?

AP: Well I think of that as a metaphor. It seems like a good metaphor, the code that creates us is more vast than our lifespan permits us to experience. It’s on a scale that is outside our own comprehension. It seemed like the right thing for that particular piece. Some of my other work is purely video-based or written/spoken such as my poems. It’s about finding the right media and metaphors for what you want to try and express. I think our scientific understanding of the world is a useful and quite often overlooked source of inspiration and metaphor. But equally, I think there is a problem within the art world in that often if a piece does contain something of that it becomes “about science” and everything else is ignored. Equally if a work requires technology to exist, that doesn’t mean it’s about technology. That’s like saying a painting is about paint. Science is interesting because it is constantly reframing our understanding of the world. But I think seagulls are really interesting too.
LP: You are currently Technical Lead at Blast Theory, a group of artists using interactive media to explore social and political aspects of technology. Where does your interest in sensor technology and interactive environments stem from? How does your own practice compliment the team?

AP: I think interaction with technically-enabled “aware” environments is really still in its infancy, especially within the real-world as opposed to contexts like games which we kind of understand a little better. Also within gaming, generally sensors and inputs have a more utilitarian context, so it’s interesting to explore those as medium of expression in their own right. Within Blast Theory, each project is very different. Everyone has their own areas of expertise. Because I have quite a deep knowledge of technology I am able to suggest ways to achieve things that might not otherwise be considered. My primary role within Blast Theory is about making a desired effect or thing real and how best to achieve that. But in any team, there is always overlap.
LP: Aside from the installation programme, Fort Process will see a whole range of exciting acts take place over the day – poetry, a film programme, talks, discussions, listening sessions and performances. Are these areas that you take interest in and what are you looking forward to catching on the day?

AP: Yes, I’m really interested in the poetry performances.
LP: Do you have any upcoming plans for future projects?

AP: Yes, I am currently working on a spatialised sound piece which I don’t yet have a particular outcome in mind for. I’m also in the early stages of research and development for a larger solo project which I hope to show next year. This project will be a little different to my previous work in that it will be more a narrative environment; the piece will be themed around death and mortality but not in a particularly negative way. Sculpture will definitely be an important part of this work, as will sound and light. But I like to think of it also as a kind of fine-art theatre, without any physical actors. It’s hard for me to say more because I haven’t made it yet!
For more information about the event, please visit the festival website at:
fortprocess.co.uk
For more information about Alex’s work, please visit:
alexpeckham.co.uk

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