Jude Browning and Anne-Marie Copestake, meeting for the first time, filmed an interview session at Jude's flat in May 2019. The extracts of the interview below are taken from a much longer version.
This collaboration celebrates the compendium of films, Trigger Tonic, made by Copestake during the period 1999 to 2004, in which she invited artists and musicians, who had been previously unknown by the other, to meet in pairs as interviewer and interviewee with an unscripted direction.
A-M: Are you an artist Jude?
J: Yeah, yeah, I’m trying to be. I’m doing a PhD. At the moment that sort of feels like it’s taking up most of my time. I’m doing final corrections and I’ve got some new supervisors, but yeah, I work a lot with text and performance. I don’t really do interviews or work in film but was thinking about the Paula Yates Big Breakfast where she gets people to sit on her bed and chat to them.
A-M: Oh right, I think I’ve seen one, a long time ago.
J: So, I thought we could sit on my bed and I could chat to you. If that doesn’t make you feel too weird or uncomfortable.
A-M: No, it’s fine. What a great view you’ve got.
J: Yeah it’s nice waking up next to... I’ll get you a table... the train tracks. And at Diwali and stuff it’s amazing — you can see all the fireworks lying down.
A-M: I love them, I always want to film those.
J: The streamers?
A-M: Yeah. I haven’t done it yet but keep meaning to.
J: Most of the time I’m writing I’m just staring out the window.
A-M: Yeah I live, I mean you can even see it [from here] — it’s at the end of Maxwell Road, my flat, so it’s just at that wee block there.
J: Ah nice.
A-M: It’s a bit more scruffy than this bit.
J: Yeah, I used to stay on Pollokshields Road where you kind of feel like you’ve no privacy as you can see into all the flats. Now I assume that nobody can see me from the other side.
I wanted to start by asking you… do you want a little table or something? If you spill tea on my bed it’s okay.
A-M: My boots, I shouldn’t really have put boots on... It’s okay — I did that to enter into the spirit of it. But I also broke all the rules.
J: You broke all the rules?
A-M: I say that in the interview [at Cooper Gallery where Copestake recently had an exhibition].
J: Yeah it was really nice. I stayed in the gallery for ages watching all the Trigger Tonic films. It was nice seeing them next to other film work you’ve been doing or you’ve done. That shift from using an unscripted format, to a format that invites an immediacy, to something that feels a lot more formal in terms of the way the images are composed. I was wondering about that relationship between the unscripted interviews and the later work that has a more edited or, maybe more considered point. Or maybe not?
A-M: Was that a question?
J: I guess, well I wrote it down. How did the Trigger Tonic interviews influence the later film work — these everyday and unscripted encounters?
A-M: I think they gave me confidence to improvise a bit more. They made me realise I can improvise, can make decisions on the spot which are good decisions.
J: Kind of like directing people?
A-M: Through props, more like collision of incident. Somebody would say something, or something would happen, and I would have to react to make a decision, or not to make a decision ’cos that’s also a decision. And I think that... ah... it gave me a lot more confidence to do those sorts of things. I learned a lot about organisation. How organisations work as well, like communication.
J: So do you mean organising these encounters between people fed into how you approached or organised your later films?
A-M: It wasn’t so direct, it was a general ground bed of how to approach people and how to work with people. I suppose what I did learn was the sort of information people might want up front, a bit more quickly.
J: People who are participating?
A-M: At that point yes — if you’re doing a project and you want people to be involved, how do you approach them at the outset? If you don’t know them it’s quite an important thing. Yeah, you don’t want to say too much but you want to give a little bit.
J: I was kind of wondering about that. Did you ever use interviews as a way to meet people that you were intrigued by for some reason but were too shy to talk to? The interviews can almost become this vehicle to grant access to someone or gives you licence to approach someone you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to.
A-M: Well, I think the thing is that, I only approached people who were already doing a public event and I knew that most of them expected some sort of conversation around that, so that some sort of sharing was already expected. They didn’t not expect the press. I don’t know if I would have just approached anybody. It had to be a public event thing. Ah, I’ve forgotten the question...
J: You work across sculpture, performance and writing?
A-M: Yeah, I haven’t done so much sculpture recently but made some little clay things. Do you also work in lots of media?
J: No, but I did painting.
A-M: Are these your paintings?
J: Yeah, they’re very old.
A-M: How old’s very old?
J: Maybe eight years or something. When I moved to London to do a Masters we didn’t have studio spaces — you start making work out of something different…
A-M: You didn’t have a studio? So what was the idea?
J: I looked at writing as practice.
A-M: Ah I see.
J: So then everything sort of starting getting made on my computer, writing and stuff, which was nice, I mean, I never really imagined I’d get into writing, was never very academic at school and always felt like I was using language incorrectly or something.
A-M: Do you miss painting?
J: Yeah, I do but I find it quite hard to relax into now. I do a lot of drawing still and the reason I started moving into performance was because I was trying to think about how writing can exist in a space, how it can be shared beyond the printed text and what does that do — what happens to a text when it’s read out by a specific person, how does that person inflect [meaning] into the reading of it.
A-M: Have you witnessed people reading your texts and how does that feel to you?
J: Yeah, that’s how I first started working. I hired actors to read text but now I’m interested in the durational mode of memorising a text I don’t really think I can ask someone to do that because it’s not necessarily very pleasurable.
J: Using other people though can be very helpful as a way of editing. Almost throwing it off the page and making it visual in some sort of way to get somebody else to read it. How to you know when a text is finished or piece of writing is finished?
A-M: I think when it feels like I’ve said all the things. If it’s going to be spoken for a moving image work, I like to have too much so I can cut it out at the editing stage. It’ll go through editing when it’s on paper and then go through editing when it’s been recorded as well. And, I didn’t think I would do this, but very often I have chopped up the order in the editing stage when it’s become medium, moving medium. Even though I spent a long time trying to get the order right in the paper stage. But, still you find you sometimes have to move things around to suit. I think perhaps it’s when you’ve got other things added. Images or other audio, things can shift.
J: I was wondering if you imagine, when you’re writing, that you take on the point of view of a camera? If it’s a kind of mediated perspective? Because of this removal or this idea of bearing witness to something?
A-M: No, I don’t think I do think about cameras, I don’t think it’s that objective. I try to think a lot about how the person might be feeling, which I don’t think a camera can always show — it can and it can’t.
The feeling of the person as they’re going through something.
I spend quite a lot of time trying to think about how to put that into words. As we’ve said before, in a succinct way that can roll it all forwards. I mean, do you find it easy to write about feelings?
J: No I think I avoid it. Personally, there’s a hesitation to write about feelings ’cos I don’t know I have the language to do that without maybe quoting existing… maybe Abba’s a really good way to go...
A-M: Could be.
J: But that’s interesting, it makes me think of psychoanalysis or something. How you express your feelings to somebody else, or how your feelings might be being read by somebody else [in relation to] your body language?
A-M: I suppose the thing is that although bits of writing are banal, the day’s banal. The [texts] are very plain, quite reduced, things are inferred and things are paired down, but what drives them is an undercurrent of emotion somewhere. Whether you get a tiny hint of it where it says, ‘she looks at her sleeping family’, or ‘she avoids gossip in the tearoom’, or ‘she wipes a tear away in her lunch hour’. You might only get a tiny, tiny hint, but these narratives are written in a way that although they’re not long there’s a sort of intensity to them. But it’s also got to be less than the real time of our life otherwise it wouldn’t work.
So, with that in mind, it’ll always be just about how somebody’s feeling in particular. It might be that the whole thing pivots on one event of the day and how they feel in that one time. And you could say, like in an Abba song, you could say that everything before that point is going towards that place and everything after that point is coming from that place. I suppose I’m trying to condense my words. Whether I’m editing something or writing something, I’m arranging things as intensely as possible to get a feeling across. Even if there’s lots of free space, it’s all about this feeling which is somewhere.
J: Do you think that’s from having had played in a band or having played music yourself, that approach to structure?
A-M: I don’t really think it came from the band. When you make any artwork you make a lot of choices all the time, don’t you. You’re always making choices about what to leave out and what [to leave in]. I always found it always easier to make sculpture when I brought a lot of things in, arranged them, chose them or made them, and then took some things away. I did a stone carving course once and found it really hard to imagine the work in there already, to chop away what I didn’t need. I like to bring in, and think this intensification process, whether in writing or filming, is just reducing all the time till you’ve got a distilled point.
A-M: I used to have a job DJ-ing and one of the things I really enjoyed was the preparation of it at home. It’s perhaps because I didn’t know my music very, very well so I’d have to pull things out to remind myself…
J: Did you work on vinyl?
A-M: Both vinyl and files. I would just play things to see if two things were good together. That’s how I approached the screening [at Cooper Gallery]. I had an idea that they sort of flowed together.
J: That’s a nice thought, it’s sort of like layering. Do you think you want to leave a gap between things... so you’re aware of these different sources... I guess I’m thinking that in one of your Super8 films there’s someone on their smart phone and there’s a sound that goes with it that is quite rounded or cartoonish that makes the gestures seem more tactile, but not in that artificial tactile way that your phone makes those noises. It seemed like they were layered on top of each other, but weren’t necessarily meant to be knitted together. It enhanced the experience of it.
A-M: Yeah, that’s definitely how the audio and visual work but I think that’s a bit different to what I was trying to describe for the screening. What I meant was, the screening you talked about there with Tina Keane and the others, I wouldn’t interfere with those works. We just showed them straight, one after the other.
J: What was the Tina Keane film?
A-M: In Our Hands, Greenham.
J: Is that a kind of, well I don’t know her work… documenting Greenham Common?
A-M: Yeah, I don’t know if she shot it herself or got footage from somebody else, but whatever it was there were two main video sources. One was footage from the camp. Reams and reams of footage actually. Just women, what they did there.
J: Was she interviewing people?
A-M: Well, again, that’s [the audio] is a different source, but the camp footage is the women with their balls of string, then there’s policen charging sometimes and then they’re all just hanging out or lying the sun or clapping, milling about.
And on top of that she [Tina Keane]… she must have worked with another woman… she shot her hands and these hands are sort of doing different things. I don’t know if she gave a direction for these hands, but they look like they’re shaping things or capturing something or moving like that, as if they’re trying to hold something. You see these hands in silhouette. This is 1984 so it would have been an early video effect… it’s video but it would have been quite basic, though probably not basic at the time. You don’t see the flesh, the hands form the silhouette, the shape and there’s background footage— quite often times there’s a spider or insects on a web. So you see the silhouette shape of the hand, the background and The Greenham Common footage. It’s kind of three things, does that make sense?
J: I think other people are just more interesting aren’t they, more interesting than myself.
A-M: Or do you just think you’re shy?
J: I don’t know. I used to be really shy, when I was little. And yeah, probably still am. But then you just have to learn to be more confident even if it’s a front.
A-M: You talked about performance and kind of hating that idea. That’s very hard for a very shy person.
J: Yeah maybe, but then what it reveals I find quite interesting. What it causes me to ask is what I find uncomfortable about a situation and then it becomes more...
A-M: Do you use that in your work then?
J: I write about it a lot.
A-M: The awkward bits?
J: Yeah but I don’t want it to be about awkward in a way that’s sort of, almost as if awkwardness or nervousness can have its own materiality. I don’t want it to just be about being shy and uncomfortable because I think it should be like a sense of control over what you’re doing. I don’t want to feel I’m being passive to the space.
What time is it? Need to…
A-M: Half-past five.
J: Oh right, I think Kati has to swap the battery. Do you want to keep on talking?
A-M: Do you feel like you’ve asked all your questions?
J: Yeah well I kind of, I’m also really bad at methodically asking questions, but I think we talked about, covered what I…
A-M: That’s a lot longer than I ever did any interviews.
J: I’m so glad I’m not doing the transcriptions [lol J]
A-M: Well hopefully you’re not going to use all of it.
Jude Browning is an artist and writer based in Glasgow, Scotland whose work examines the voice and acts of writing and performance.
Anne-Marie Copestake is an artist living and working in Glasgow.
Thanks to Peter Amoore of Cooper Gallery for transcribing this interview and for all his help in its arrangement.
Anne-Marie Copestake | Looking in either direction... Cooper Gallery, Dundee 15 March - 13 April, 2019