Lenard Giller


Lenard Giller: The feature length film Productions consists of 360 found images (from a 1982 Panini sticker album) which I scanned and reinserted inside the exact time frame in which they first appeared in Disney's 1950 Cinderella. The timecode and soundtrack both mirror the duration of Productions while simultaneously highlighting the passage of time and the reduction of content. It's important to title both the timecode—Timestamp (107232)—and the soundtrack—Soundtrack (01:14:28)—so it's clear we're talking about three individual works which exist in relation to each other but could potentially also be shown separately. 

Ben Broome: I really like the idea of showing them separately. The stickers themselves are a reduction, and then Productions, and the way you’ve framed the imagery, reduces it further. It highlights the negative. 

LG: It highlights the negative space...in the context of the sticker album, it's complete, but in the context of the film it is highly incomplete. So there's a complete object within a durational time frame making it seem entirely incomplete. Even though it's actually a condensed 'full thing'.

BB: But then by further removing the images, it's noticeably reduced. I wonder if people would still associate it with Cinderella if you just played the sound? 

LG: I think what it's doing is highlighting the passage of time and the reduction of content. But the sound does also highlight the moments in which there is content. It's like a push and pull. 

BB: The sound also highlights the passing of time because you become aware of the absence of sound. 

LG: Yes, there is a soundtrack that exists from start to finish, but parts of that soundtrack are conceived to be background noise, white noise. It's designed so that you notice it when you walk in and you notice when you walk out: something that creates an atmosphere but you're not so aware of it while it's playing/you are still immersed in it.

BB: You were telling me about how sound and image are historically different entities in that, when film first started to be developed in the early 20th century, sound was an accessory to film or it existed separately and the two were not as intertwined as they are today. Can you expand on that? 

LG: To us they belong together because we are used to seeing images alongside sound but, technologically, they are two different things (or let's say within the evolution of technology). At first there were silent movies and the film camera was not able to record sound at the same time. Early cameras were loud: powered by a motor or hand-wound, the noise of the camera would drown out any other sounds. As cameras became quieter over the years the sound recording accessories were added to moving image equipment. 16mm was an obvious choice for the first iteration of Productions because it's inherently a silent medium. To me, its silent nature relates it more to photography.  There are two elements at play: the idea that it's silent and the idea that there is no movement between the images because they are static stills. In an animation or a movie there is movement because the images, placed in a sequence, create movement. My images are static, and this makes it more of a photographic work than a moving image work. I like the idea that it's a photographic work within a time based container. 

BB: So you see your film based work as static, more akin to photography than to moving image, in that it captures something singular? 

LG: I like to say that I work with time rather than with moving image. I consider the durational aspect of the piece and then I place static content within that container. The other way I like to work is by having a fixed camera and one static shot: the camera is still and whatever is in front of it, moves. It's a type of a long exposure, a kind of photograph. I'm thinking about my more recent works DreamWorks and Actors. 

BB: I've been thinking a lot about the gallery as a time based entity: exhibitions open and close, they're up for a fixed amount of time, mostly without permanence. Once an exhibition closes, works are rarely ever reassembled in the same way. The extension of that is the lifetime of a given gallery space. A lot of galleries set out to exist indefinitely... forever. And I think it's interesting for me as a curator to consider longevity in the life of the gallery. To consider curating and existing in a gallery space in a durational context...maybe defining fixed start and end points. This is one of the reasons why I'm so attracted to your work: time is so ingrained in contemporary artistic practice. As young people working in art, I feel the pressure of time and I think you do too. 

LG: That's also why I don't want to become a filmmaker and why I have no interest in cinema or theatre spaces. I have an interest in exhibition making and time based work because it exists durationally and can be accessed whenever one feels like it. I'm drawn to the concept of reflexive as opposed to consumable time. Consumable time is when duration is preconceived and something is consumed from start to finish and where an exchange happens (for example: an exchange of money). Reflexive time is a self- constructed duration: you're not a client, no exchange is taking place and you have free will to come and go as you please.  If you're a filmmaker showing work in a gallery context you run the risk of the work being consumed the same way as it does in those other applied practices: from start to finish. I try to emphasise a conceptual point by making work specifically for a gallery or museum context in which, most of the time, it's accessible for free and people can walk in and out as many times as they want. Even though Productions is a work that is feature film length, it's not meant to be consumed like a feature film...one can spend an hour or two minutes in there.

BB: Do you think that it can be as impactful in two minutes as it can be in an hour?

LG: Yes because I think Productions is a work that relates to conceptual works from the 1960s and 1970s where, yes, I was the one executing the work but it's really about an idea and this idea can be understood in five minutes or in an hour. If someone decides that they want to experience the installation for longer, then they can.

BB: As an extension of that, we were talking about the notion of boredom within the context of the viewer faced with your work. I think we're conditioned to constantly have stimuli and, if there's no stimuli, we turn to our phone. Was that considered when you were making the work? A very intentional lack of stimuli, a still moment? 

LG: I've definitely been thinking about attention spans and how the contemporary consumption of culture is generally fast paced. There's a tension in the work between flashes of images, which is similar to, let's say, an Instagram story, and a build-up that is exactly the opposite, a build-up that is drawn out. I'm influenced by conceptual and minimal art—the idea that minimal art is reductive—getting rid of content to focus on a container and highlighting the formal qualities of an object. I think that's really clear in Productions. I am looking at the materiality of film, at nothingness...that's the minimalist aspect.  And then the influence of conceptual art becomes clear in the way I placed the images and how a subject enters a minimalist container. I don't want to go on too long about minimalism, but what minimalism did was to confront the viewer with something that wasn't consumable in a linear fashion. I want to make time-based works which confronts the viewer like minimal sculpture. 

BB: Which is why I think it's interesting in this context, because Disney films (in this case Cinderella) are designed to be universally consumable and accessible, this is their inherent nature. They are the opposite of minimalism, they are about as maximalist as it gets. This is a piece that originated from a Disney film, but it demands an entirely different engagement on the part of the spectator. 

LG: I think it's also interesting to look at when this film came out: in the 1950s, Cold War USA. It was the time of post-war American glamour, of Marilyn Monroe. The cultural industry in the United States tried to remove any signs of labour in whatever it produced: let's say a Disney cartoon has a lot of hand-drawn labour in its production, but its surface appearance is slick. It was a decisive moment—industry trying to get rid of any artisanal trace—you can see this in minimalism too. 

BB: I know the amount of work that has gone into developing Productions but it is also inherently slick at surface level. The different ways in which you've installed the work, both as a 16mm projection and now in digital format, both these methods of display remove any trace of labour. It appears as a found object rather than something that is meticulously crafted.

LG: Yes, there was a huge amount of work in cutting the film physically but it's hidden inside a slick container.

Exhibition view, Productions, Galerie Noah Klink, 2022

Exhibition view, Productions, Galerie Noah Klink, 2022

BB: Going back to the audio element, the first time you showed it on 16mm the sound of the projector was a tool you relied upon to ground the piece. This sound is removed in the digitised version. The sound and timestamp exist as two individual works and are shown concurrently in Revisions, reminding the viewer of time passing and perhaps of the labour taking place behind the scenes. Is that fair to say? 

LG: What the 16mm projector does is to materialise the passage of time both through sound and through the film material being pulled through the machine, by the machine. So in the moments in which there are no images, you see the celluloid moving and the roll spinning and you have the sound which suggests that something is operating, happening. You are aware of something not being static and the viewer is physically confronted with the passage of time. This was the conceptual starting point for thinking about how to translate an analog work into a digital one. What we came up with together is to look at the components of this work and build three separate channels. We have the entity of the moving image, a feature length film comprised of 360 images (Productions) which, in its digital form, exists as a silent film. Another entity is the audio composition, which tries to do something similar to what the sound of the projector did. It is mostly white noise—a sound that you are aware of but it remains in the background —similar to the sound of digital machinery rather than analog. And in the moments where an image flashes on screen there's also the synchronised sound of the voices from Disney’s Cinderella, playing intermittently within the wider score composed of white noise. The third entity refers to what was originally seen in the 16mm version: the spinning roll of film. In the digital version you have timestamps synchronised with the images, playing on a Sony Cube...again this relates to the other two works, but can also be seen as a separate work. The timestamps visually illustrate the passage of time. 

BB: Seeing the work as these three separate entities that come together to have the same effect as showing it in an analog format is what is so compelling about this second iteration. You have referred to the digital version as a facelift, can you expand on that? 

LG: When I was making Productions, I was also following a philosophy of language course with Paolo Virno in Rome. Amongst other things, Paolo Virno is a great scholar of Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht and we were reading The Storyteller by Benjamin. Here, Benjamin describes how we lost our ability to tell stories and he discusses the fairy tale and the Brothers Grimm, the idea of an oral history passed on generation after generation. He looks at how stories change through oral dissemination. I was interested in the history of fairy tales: how they have travelled and how they have changed over time.  So now, back to your question. With Virno I was also looking at how Benjamin wrote about his friend and colleague Bertolt Brecht's writing from the same period. Benjamin wrote a review of Brecht's writing in which he describes Brecht's modus operandi as being similar to an industrial one: where human traces are lost. I think all these things I was reading came together with this work. I was thinking about style of production in writing, in commodities, in literature...plus the added subject of the fairy tale and The Storyteller. Around that time I found these images which were made in the 1950s but were reproduced for the Panini sticker album in the 1980s. So 30 years later. That, to me, is an example similar to that of orally transmitted stories changing over time. I realised that the story of Cinderella has essentially stayed the same over the past 80 years but its imagery has evolved with technology, becoming flatter and flatter. 

BB: That brings me to the image you chose for the invitation: a mirror image of a still from Cinderella...can you speak about this in your own words?

LG: I think every image undergoes some form of metamorphosis. So it’s a hybrid of sorts, an analog or digital film with the surface appearance of a printed image. I looked through the time-line of Cinderella to find the corresponding time-stamp of the 360 still images from the sticker album...to decipher where each image existed. Out of all the images I found, only one was mirrored. It is the image we used for the invitation. I don't know why but on the sticker the dog jumps from the left to right and in the film it jumps from right to left. It's a sort of glitch I guess. 

BB: I think mutation is an interesting word to use in this context because we're living in this new age where everyone has the tools at their disposal to transform images through memes, the Internet, Internet culture. Everything is in flux, everything is sampled, everything is regurgitated and re-contextualised. I think it's happening in a very different way to the mutation of oral storytelling, but it is no less relevant. And I think humans are obsessed with the idea of reworking pre-existing materials.

LG: What I'm doing is creating a transfigured version of a pre-existing work and translating it into different media. I like the idea of the version and the idea of mutation— I don't really see my work as being fixed anyway. That's also a reason why I chose to separate the channels: I want the film, the sound and time itself to exist independently from one another. If I want to change the sound, I can just change the sound. I don't have to change the other two elements. There's an element of control there too—I can also decide to just show it silent and it's still conceptually round—I can just show the sound or I can just show the timestamp, they can work together but they don't have to. There's curatorial freedom for the future in the separation of channels. 

Lenard Giller
Curated by Ben Broome
The Shop, Sadie Coles HQ
April 28 – May 5, 2023

All images courtesy the Artist, Sadie Coles and Galerie Noah Klink.