December Mostra 2017 / Meet the artists… Dominic Watson

This is the second in our series of blog posts leading up to the December Mostra, our first exhibition of this academic year. We will be taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists and resident architect. Second to be interviewed is Dominic Watson, our 2017-18 Rome Fellow in Contemporary Art.

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Photo: Antonio Palmieri

Dominic is a video artist who will show a video of Fascist sculptures at EUR and Foro Italico

You mentioned a transition in your practice from sculpture to less physical work (video art)… could you tell us a bit more about that? 

I studied sculpture on my BA, when I was a young artist figuring out what art is and what it all means. After a four-year course doing sculpture I sort of felt that it was what I was supposed to be doing, and felt like I had committed to it. But I struggled with making sculpture for ages and really found it difficult to make it do what I wanted it to. I would often make something and expect too much from it. But no viewer is ever going to have as intimate a knowledge as you do of the work that is in your head. So I went through this very public divorce, trying to get over sculpture. I began to make videos. When I started to make the videos I really went right back to the start of what it might mean to make art. I tried to forget all my art education and just start from the beginning.

 

I started to make these performance of quite crude gestures or actions. Essentially using my body to make sculpture within a landscape, as opposed to using clay or bronze.

In this second video I used the idea of sculpture as the subject to try to talk about sculpture in the dumbest and the least respectful way possible, adopting the persona of a wayward football fan trying to provoke or undermine this inanimate object.

I made a whole series of these performances and eventually stopped with the sculpture and became more interested in the physical body and dancing. Now I have come to Rome and sculpture has come back into my work, so really I have come around full circle.

What are you working on in Rome?

I am making this video which is comprised of footage I have taken of Fascist sculptures from EUR and Foro Italico.

The scenes are intersected with footage of objects that I have made. One is an internal bodily scene – here are some cells I have been making.

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Mitochondria cells (Photo: Alice Marsh)

 

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Muscle fibre (Photo: Dominic Watson)

These mitochondria cells, which entered the human biological system about two million years ago are responsible for the ageing process. Scientists think that they are able to essentially prevent the ageing process, which is fascinating and also, quite disturbing. The idea that this invention would create a dystopian world and a divide between society — a sort of fascism in a way. Between those who can afford it and those who can’t.

I am interested in exploring this idea using the sculptures that were built in the 1920s and 1930s at EUR and Foro Italico.

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Statue from Foro Italico (Photo: Dominic Watson)

The bodies are very distorted and overly muscular. I have been filming and focusing on them to the point where they have become abstract and a lot less like human bodies. I am essentially trying to create an aesthetic that is kind of a genetic mutation and genetic preservation I guess.

The protagonist of the film is a modern-day alchemist.  I’m taking this historical figure and putting him in a contemporary context, he will be a kind of puppet animated through stop frame animation. I’m working on these prosthetic hands at the moment.

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Prosthetic hand (Photo: Alice Marsh)

The film will be overlaid with a musical score which I’ll edit too.

Have you chosen the musical score…?

No, it’ll be less music and more sound effects. I want to make it sound very clumsy and heavy handed, sound effects — as opposed to musical instruments — are less harmonious which really helps with this. There shall be very little language in it, and what I do use will be very basic. I am even thinking of putting in a few words in Italian. My grasp of Italian is pretty poor and I am quite interested in limiting the vocabulary I can use.

Has it been easy filming in these locations?

I have done loads of filming so far at the Foro Italico. I’ve filmed once at night because I wanted the spot lights on them. But when I got there the lights were off and it was pitch black. There were some sculptures that were close to the football stadium and they were lit by the light from the car park, which gave this really nice amber effect, it gives the stones this strange molten-like quality. Then I went back again and the lights were on and the footage is completely different, it looks very black and white almost like Expressionist cinema. The size of the statues, being so tall, means that the angle of the camera is always quite tight so the footage feels quite ominous.

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Statues from Foro Italico (Photos: Dominic Watson)

EUR is weird, here there are more references to mythology and Classical sculpture. But at the Foro Italico you can see the true obsession with form and that is when the true and real ideas of the sculpture come out, there is something a bit more subversive.

Do you think you will be coming back to Rome?

Yeah I think that I will, I would love to. There are already so many other works that I would like to make while I am here. So after the show I shall see what what materials I can extract, and make extra footage.

 

Dominic’s work will be exhibited alongside the seven other resident artists in the December Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 December 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 December 2017, closed Sundays. 

Interview conducted by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events)

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