Dialogue: Susie Green & Simon Bayliss

Splash Addict, 'Love Immersion'

A conversation with Splash Addict, duo Susie Green & Simon Bayliss, in the context of their Artists’ Music Videos event at Tyneside Cinema on 27 June 2019.

 

PROJECTIONS:  Your event has been programmed in relation to your Projections Commissions film Big Talk, so it would make sense to start by talking about that film as a music video; why you decided to make a music video in this context, and how did you approach making that very particular ‘type’ of short film as artists and collaborators?

SUSIE:  When I saw the Projections NE Commission call-out I wasn’t sure if it was for me, as I work across a number of media and at the time I was focused on painting and sculpture for a solo show at Jerwood. However, I was attracted to the commission for a number of reasons, so went on holiday, thought it through, and the idea became clear! Simon and I have previously made videos for the music we’ve made together – the first one (Love Immersion, 2016) was screened at an event called ‘All out of Love’ at Tate St Ives, commissioned by Mel Stidolph (Learning Curator at Tate St Ives). It seemed perfect for Simon and I to make a film together for the Projections commission, and that one of our songs should lead it. It was the perfect time frame: the same length as a trailer before a film. Also, I love going to Tyneside Cinema and was really into making something to be screened there.

SIMON:  I’ve always made music and through working with Susie I’ve been able to bring this work into an art context. I like the idea of working within a ‘tradition’. Mark Leckey said somewhere that music videos are the greatest art form.

PROJECTIONS:  We were watching Leckey’s March of the Big White Barbarians this week in the office in relation to your event. I hadn’t heard that quote.

SUSIE:  Shit, maybe we should have included a Mark Leckey film in our programme! To add to Simon’s comment through, we approached this ‘type’ of short film with Prince’s Alphabet Street as our first point of reference – a musician and video I had loved since I was a teenager. This film is sexy, irreverent, kind of ridiculous, but just a great video. When I began writing the proposal it seemed to fit with our song Big Talk, which we were working on at the time.

Our approach is to make videos and music which we both care about, but to not take ourselves too seriously. Or to try and take serious feelings and re-contextualise them as more buoyant. Would you agree Simon? Were you working on your Plymouth show at the time? That has the music video-style work in it…

SIMON:  I agree with all of that, yes. I make music videos as part of my solo work too.  

SUSIE:  We also live in different parts of the country, so the commission gave us the budget to travel to different locations and make the work in both Newcastle (where I am based) and Cornwall (where Simon lives).

PROJECTIONS:  Your idea for the event was to show some films that have inspired your own work as Splash Addict, or films that have some sympathy with your own practice. Is there anything other than this that holds the films in Artists’ Music Videos programme together? Do they share aesthetic sensibilities or subject matter for you? Is it about this desire to not take things too seriously? 

SUSIE:  It has been pretty hard to select the films: there are so many great videos by artists and musicians, but I’d say they present a combination of artists who we know personally, and so have had their work in our minds for a while, or some whose work one of us knew more than the other. For example, I’m looking forward to seeing John Scarlett-Davis’ Chat Rap, which Simon originally saw at Tate Britain in A Century of Artists’ Film in Britain show.

SIMON:  Many of the films we’ve selected use green-screen technology or have a retro DIY digital aesthetic. Chat Rap, made in 1983 for example, would have been made with the latest digital technology at the time, and is part of a genre known as ‘scratch’ videos, which went on to influence a generation of young artists and musicians.

PROJECTIONS:  Are there any direct references within your own films to particular work by other artists or musicians, such as scratch videos?

SIMON:  For me, some of the early rave videos have been a direct influence, because they often feature rural settings layered with fast-paced psychedelic digital effects, and I like the idea of romantic landscape imagery combined with fluorescent acid rave vibes.

PROJECTIONS:  Are these films which you grew up with or developed your practice through – and do you think they have any geographical specificity too? I think there’s something very British about them…

SIMON:  In my mind I associate some of these videos, such as Prodigy’s Out of Space, with Derek Jarman’s Journey to Avebury, a trip through the Neolithic landscape of Wiltshire, home of Stonehenge, crop circles, and no doubt lots of outdoor raves. The video has a yellow filter throughout, and is overlaid with an eerie electronic drone sounds giving it a sci-fi dystopian quality, which many of the Prodigy videos also have – although I have no idea whether it was an influence on Keith Flint’s video or the others I’ve mentioned.

PROJECTIONS:  You speak about Chat Rap and other older work like Out of Space and Jarman’s films in a way that traces an alternative lineage or reading through this ‘British rural rave’ aesthetic: is there anything about the work you’ve included from your contemporaries that relates to this lineage? What excites you about what other artists doing with the music video form today?

SUSIE:  In the films we’re screening I think there is a sense of exuberance and joy, of not giving a fuck, following a vision in either a public or imagined environment, which I love. Sophie Lisa Beresford’s film where she is dancing in a pizza shop, for example, makes me so excited. It is so massively energetic and strong, and Rory Pilgrim’s Software Garden videos combine beach scenes and drone footage of line dancers. He joined a line dancing group and got to know people in the group before filming them; it is all very unusual but just great.

Ravioli Me Away have been a big influence on me for a while. I saw them perform years ago whilst I was part of a band called Silver Fox, with Rachel and Laura Lancaster, and Rebecca Knight. Ravioli were all dressed as mermaids. Totally great. Another time they had loads of crisp packets attached to their costumes. What’s not to love about that?

PROJECTIONS:  What’s your favourite recent, commercial, music video? Give us a recommendation.

SUSIE:  I am totally out of it with current trends in big commercial videos. Tami T is an artist I really like, they have made some great videos recently. Of course Bjork always gets my vote.

PROJECTIONS:  Which Bjork video would you recommend?

SIMON:  One of the new ones… Utopia?

SUSIE:  That’s what I was thinking!

PROJECTIONS:  Rachel, the film programmer at Tyneside Cinema. also said Bjork – the old Chris Cunningham robot one. I guess Bjork gets everyone’s vote on the music video front. Are you going to make another music video? Will you use the same techniques or are you looking to try something new?

SUSIE:  I would like to make another music video, and continue to develop how we present ourselves together or apart on the screen, and I would also like to try new techniques. I was wondering what it would be like to bring in another artist/video maker, how that would feel, to have far less control and to have a different aesthetic. What do you think, Simon? We’ve not discussed it!

SIMON:  I’d be up for working with other people on a future video, shooting and perhaps directing, but the bit I love is editing, so we’d need a ‘big talk’ to decide if another editor was involved…!

Dialogue is a new series of interviews with artists and curators involved in the Projections programme. 

13 June 2019