Interview: Chris Lewis-Smith
Luca Curci talks with Chris Lewis-Smith during VENICE INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR 2020 at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello and at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
I’m currently a Course Director for Postgraduate Dance at Bath Spa University, UK, where I work in the areas of screendance, collaborative practice, and interdisciplinary practice. My own creative practice is in screendance and performance making, and writing. I am interested in the language and design of movement, the language and design of landscape, and the relationships between them. The designing of movement, for me, is both choreography in a conventional sense, i.e. constructed for and in ‘live’ performance, or it can be other things, especially choreography created for, and by, the camera lens, and in the editing of film and video. By ”design of landscape” I mean design that comes into existence and evolves through human intervention. In an urban environment I’m interested in design by considered architecture, by the less considered chance relationships between structures, and the aesthetics of decay. In rural landscape, I’m especially drawn to design by agriculture. My current research concerns the relationship between the dancer and the lens and seeks to develop and experiment with a system of video production that draws on an alternative camera operator/director and dancer relationship during the filming of improvisation.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Chris Lewis-Smith – An interpretation and a questioning of the human experience.
LC – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
CLS – I have always danced but have been lucky to have had a wide range of other experiences that combine to lead me to where I am now. At 18 I went to Art College but dropped out in my last year, choosing to make the overland journey to India where I studied Indian classical music. Studying at Art College and the Indian experience have served me well to this day though, it showed me how art forms overlap in lots of ways and I learned about design, energy, texture and form in both media. In my 30’s I became a professional dancer, something I had wanted to do for a long time. This led on to being a choreographer and I have ended up being a university dance lecturer although I’m still a practicing artist. A passion for photography led into working with film, which seemed a natural extension of choreographic practice and I guess that my current work mostly resides in combining the two. There are so many things that influence me in my creative work. I’m influenced by painting, architecture, the patterns of agriculture, music, films. The list goes on!
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
CLS – All over the pace! A girl skips across a car park. Two elderly people laugh on a park bench. A potter at the wheel. A couple in my rear-view mirror argue at the lights. A flock of pigeons circles and turns in perfect unity. The patterns in a newly ploughed field. A piece of music. A poem. A dance. A conversation. Corn in the wind. I find that I can sense the world in a somatic fashion, through the interaction of consciousness and the textures around me, and I can interact through the viewfinder of a camera. Right now I’m interested in just how close I can bring these two experiences.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
CLS – I am fortunate that I have a reasonable income from my work at the university, so this puts me in a privileged position I suppose. I means that I am semi-funded in my creative practice, which I also see as an element of my research. Would that money didn’t matter, but of course it’s essential. I love my creative work. It keeps me energised. I find myself curios about re-presenting the world through my film work and working with dancers is a wonderful privilege.
LC – Did your style change over the years? In which way?
CLS – My style has changed a lot but there’s a thread that I recognise that runs through it. Some of the work that I find most satisfying is when that thread is broken, when circumstances pull me out of my normal creative decision-making process and add chance to the mix. This might be because a restriction or a chance event that happens. I write, play music, choreograph, take photos and make films. I see the same process in all of these things. To me they are all related. My style has changed over the years if for no other reason that I have got better at the craft of these things, but also because, I hope, I understand the world a little better.
LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this exhibition? How is it connected to the theme of the entire festival?
CLS – The message is whatever the viewer/listener gets from the work. But my idea is how the nature of our existence is temporary, and very fleeting compared to how the landscape, that’s the wide-open spaces of natural and farmed landscape, changes. We are made from the earth, what we eat is from the earth, and we end up being part of it. In a sense we are a part of it all of the time, as linked to it as gravity keeps our feet on it when we walk out in the countryside. In Boneline, the film I showed at the exhibition, I worked with the idea that the stones in the ground are like the bones in our body. This was a metaphor for the connection between us.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
CLS – This is a great theme in my opinion and I clicked right into it.
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
CLS – I like the very name ”ITSLIQUID”. The sense that one thing can turn into another, things shift and change and morph from one thing to another. I like the idea that nothing is static, and if it is, it’s kind of stuck.
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
CLS – I’m not sure how to answer this because I don’t know what a collaboration would look like! But yes to collaboration because I’m always up for collaborating. It’s one of the ways of working where two parties in the same space create a new artwork that neither would have created alone. It’s where the unexpected can emerge. So yes, I’m in! And your services are rather exciting actually!