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Interview with Jonathan May, Digital Producer at LIFT

12 September 2013 Tom Hunter

We chatted to the Digital Producer at LIFT about the upcoming event Past Is Prologue in association with Goldmsiths College...

Past Is Prologue is a one day seminar of dialogues and presentations exploring the ways in which artists re-animate archive material such as photographs, film, artefacts and oral histories and use these collections as stimulus for new work. Jonathan May is the Digital Producer for LIFT (London Festival of International Theatre) who are organising the event alongside engage and ICCE Goldsmiths, University of London

London Calling: What’s the main theme of the Past is Prologue event?

Jonathan May: The main focus of Past Is Prologue is to look at the way artists across creative disciplines, producers, organisations and communities engage with and draw creative potential from archive collections. How archives can be used to create new work; and how artefacts such as photographs, films, objects, and oral histories inspire new creative pathways.

LC: Who should attend?

JM: Anybody interested in the creative process, or how archive collections are used creatively. We've got a fantastic line up of high profile artists in fine art, theatre and dance; producers, archivists and entrepreneurs who are all engaging in innovative creative projects around archives.

LC: Can you give us some examples of artists who are actively engaging with archival materials at the moment?

JM: On the day we'll have keynotes from artist Richard Wentworth, theatre-maker Tim Etchells and dancer Siobhan Davies who have all done an incredible amount of diverse work across fine art, installation, writing, dance and theatre around archives. Outside of our programme the range of artists engaging with archive collections is huge; from film like Luke Fowler who's Turner nominated film All Divided Selves (2011) used archive footage of R. D. Laing to create a deeply effecting work about the polemic psychiatrist, to Grayson Perry who has created amazing works and ceramics inspired by collections. It's a fascinating area that the art world is exploring in all kinds of exciting ways.

LC: Is this really a separate practice given that all artistic creation builds on past materials in one way or another?

JM: I'd not go as far as to say it's a separate practice, but there is a definite trend in artists turning to archives for inspiration and creative potential. With so many fascinating collections now on hand, and with so many organisations taking the time to take stock of and utilise their own rich history as stimulus for new work, many artists use collections as a source of information, inspiration and a way of examining what interests them.

LC: Is the concept of the archive itself becoming a more interesting area for artistic exploration, and is this perhaps linked to our shifting attitudes towards information availability and storage online?

JM: In a world of information overload, there's stronger need than ever for good curation and editing. I think what archives offer, unlike something like the information you'd get from a Google search, is a quality of material and authenticity. It's a focus around a given subject matter that, when pulled together, can be used as a lens to view many other aspects of society and the human condition from a given perspective.

LC: And finally, what part of the day are you most looking forward to?

JM: The day is packed with amazing artists, key note speakers and professionals with a huge amount of experience across many forms in this area - all the talks will be fantastic. However for me the best part of the day will be the breakout groups we have planned, and the networking - it's the opportunity to meet, discuss and network that will make the day useful and rewarding for me. 

 

Past Is Prologue takes place on 18 September, 10.00am - 6.30pm at ICCE Goldsmiths. To book tickets visit liftfestival.com.

 

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