Dialogue: Holly Argent

Holly Argent, 'Interleaving the Archive (Group Action With KK), Tyneside Cinema, March 2019.

Following her event Interleaving the Archive (Group Action With KK) in March 2019, we talk with artist and curator Holly Argent about her ongoing work around the archive of Polish artists KwieKulik, the Women Artists of the North East Library, and her future projects.


PROJECTIONS:  Tell us about your relationship and research with the KwieKulik archive.

HOLLY ARGENT:  I’d been interested in the KwieKulik since I came across the book ‘KwieKulik: Form is a Fact of Society’ in Warsaw when I was there as an Erasmus student at the Academy of Fine Arts. I remember being initially attracted to their use of games and the seemingly playful ‘look’ to their performances and I wanted to learn more the context in which they worked since it was an art history that had not been on any curriculum for me and I knew very little about the Polish avant-garde. From there, making my own work that in some way incorporated research around theirs, was my way of trying to learn about it or at least re-imagine it. I suppose I’m also thinking through their practice as a way to tell a story of another moment(s), the moment their practice is re-read, now in the present, and in a new context. Since a second research trip to Warsaw in April 2017, I’ve been interested in finding methods to continue exploring their archive while feeling both in proximity and at a distance to it.

At the moment I’m quite interested in the current status of the archive as the Kulik-KwieKulik Foundation, which is all the archival material and documentation of their own work but also contains ephemera and documentation relating to artist events that that Zofia Kulik and Przemysław were attending as a practising duo, many of them artists practicing within the same circle as KK. I don’t know how the Foundation would describe it, but it feels to me like it’s taking a responsibility to take care for the narrative around their own practice but also the practice of others practising at a specific time that went unrecorded by larger galleries and institutions and might otherwise be lost. I’m wondering how that legacy has impacted work made in the city today and more broadly how we learn about and share the context around historical art practice, especially when the people or spaces which were contingent components are no longer there.

Holly Argent, ‘Interleaving the Archive (Group Action With KK)

PROJECTIONS:  How have you developed this work and how does the Projections event relate to previous performances you have made with the KwieKulik material?

HOLLY ARGENT:  The event for Projections is an extended and developed version of a 15-minute performance with images on an OHP and live feed camera I made in my final year as a student. Whereas then I was writing with a small selections of images and focusing on an imagined slow break up of KwieKulik, for the performance with Projections I was interested in trying to articulate something about the economic situation of being an artist (duo) at that time and using their films as an aid to do this. The four films of KwieKulik’s I incorporated I wanted to use in different ways: sometimes write from them, use them as a moving image to read over the top of, explore the peripheral details not seen in the film, or to help plot build. Writing in relation to another artist’s films was a new process for me.

PROJECTIONS:  Why did you apply to the Projections open call?

HOLLY ARGENT:  I applied for Projections because I was looking for an opportunity to present a new version of the work in a different setting that could provide the space and technical support. It was also encouraging to find an opportunity that was there to support the development of new work and provide you with a space and audience to show it to. I’d been to a number of the previous Projections events and had always really enjoyed the breadth of interpretations of the ‘moving image.’

PROJECTIONS:  In your performances you employ various projection methods to show different layers of still and moving image content (OHP, digital film, live feed): how have you approached working with moving image in the context of a cinema, where both audience and film are configured in a very particular way, rather than arguably more flexible gallery or project spaces?

Holly Argent: ‘Interleaving the Archive (Group Action With KK)’, Tyneside Cinema, March 2019

HOLLY ARGENT:  I think the cinema can be a very flexible space too and I love that Projections is convincingly showing that. For me moving image is an approach to making that sits within many others, and I find that really generative. I suppose the gallery or a project space can offer a somewhere to show this multiplicity of approaches but I was thinking how could a ‘flexibility’ be interpreted within the confines of a cinema setup, where the screen and audience is usually fixed but the pleasurable things about the cinema, the seats, the warmth, the permission to watch, aren’t compromised too much.

KwieKulik used to do a lot of slide presentations as a way to present their images (sometimes incorporating performative elements) and they would do these in many different situations, galleries, art festivals, their home, but always as a way of sharing their practice with a live audience. For me, the cinema is this kind of sharing and pedagogical space, where the audience is there to witness something, feel something or learn something (at least that is why I watch films), which, although pleasurable, can also be putting yourself in quite a vulnerable position.

I’ve been thinking, when you programme film you can also be offering something of yourself at the same time as presenting another’s work and I wanted to sandwich myself within and around KwieKulik’s films as a way of doing that, to be vulnerable and to take programming film as a component of a practice just like any other. That said, I’m still trying to work out what this being with others, either physically or by bringing others’ work into a narrative with your own, does for us as a collective and as an individual.

PROJECTIONS:  As well as your own performance you also run the Women Artists of the North East Library. Could you briefly explain what that is for anyone who hasn’t heard of it?

HOLLY ARGENT:  Yes, the Women Artists of the North East Library is a project that brings together donated material, including: research, books, audio and images to form a usable resource that contributes to the history of women* artists working in the region.

It started out in October 2017 as a six-month research residency at The Northern Charter through their Graduate Bursary and now exists as a collection of donated material and a rolling programme of events. So far, the project has been a way to start an archive, and programme events that either I want to do or others have got in contact about doing. There has been a Walking Library with Dee Heddon and Misha Myers; an event around the archive of Carole Luby with Dawn Felicia Knox; a zine workshop with Ellen Welsh; and an exhibition at Workplace Gallery in Gateshead — and it’s always open to proposals for events from everyone.

Soon, I will be gathering a ‘library construction group’ together to work on designing a physical home for it in The Northern Charter, which will mean it’s more accessible and can be open more often. So watch this space!

Women Artists of the North East Library at Workplace Gallery, 2018

PROJECTIONS:  Do you have any future events or projects coming up, either with your own work or through the library?

HOLLY ARGENT:  I’m currently organising a screening through the Women Artists of the North East Library, of Sandra Lahire’s films: Serpent River (1989), Uranium Hex (1987) and Plutonium Blonde (1987) alongside an exhibition of political activist posters from Penny Remfry’s collection. It’s going to be at the Star and Shadow Cinema; part of a series called Revealing Women, a collectively organised programme of seven events exploring women’s histories, and the representation of women, in comedy and horror, through political and social documentaries, in experimental forms, and within debates around science and technology – it’s going to be such an exciting programme, with films by Chantal Akerman, Sarah Pucill, Ngozi Onwura, Alice Lowe and more! It all starts on 24th April.

Find out more about Revealing Women and more at the Star and Shadow Cinema.

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

16 April 2019