An Interview With Alex Turvey
Alex Turvey is one of those rare people with the ability to turn concepts into actualities, crafting the unmediated impulses of idea and thought into coherent objects, transporting an idea into the realm of the real. His videos for the likes of Grizzly Bear, Shakira and Cheatahs amongst others, along with promotional work for Burberry, Ford, and Percival have marked him out as one of the most intriguing young visual artists in the UK. On the eve of his solo exhibition at KK Outlet, in which the work he produced in conjunction with Benjamin Powers, aka Blanck Mass, aka one half of Fuck Buttons, is displayed alongside reams of other material, we were lucky enough to have a chat with Alex.
Before you read further, bask in the Technicolor fantasy that is his video for Blanck Mass’ ‘Icke’s Struggle’. If you’ve got 3D glasses, don them.
Would you mind outlining your work for our readers – thematic interests, things you favour aesthetically etc?
I’m a film director / visual artist. The macabre, the natural world and the future have always been key ingredients in the work I create, the end result tends to tread that fine line between the beautiful and the unsettling.
How did the collaboration with Blanck Mass come about? Who contacted whom first?
Mutual friends and a mutual respect for each other’s craft. It was never a planned collaboration; everything has just fallen into place nicely over time.
When talking to Ben about his music/this project, I asked wether there was a formative record that made him realise that music was the thing he wanted to dedicate his professional life to, to which he responded by stating that these realisations, these new emergences, come about gradually – would you agree? Or can you pinpoint specific cultural artefacts/objects/products that made you want to immerse yourself in the world of art?
My path has been guided by a raw passion for bringing ideas to life, the medium I have found over time that suits my voice creatively and allows me to realise my ideas vividly is film. My thought process has always been structured in narrative / image sequence so I guess it was inevitable I would move towards a craft that allowed me to create moving images.
When making music videos how much dialogue is there between you – as the artist – and the group you’re working for? (or rather, does the relationship operate on a ‘working for’ or ‘working with’ basis?)
I approach each project and artist differently. An equal level of collaboration and trust is incredibly important when being chosen to visually represent a musician.
My relationship with Blanck Mass is very unique; we respond instinctively to each other’s work so the dialogue is fairly constant, the visuals are constantly evolving in response to the music, it’s an incredibly pure form of creation.
Could you talk us through the technicalities of the process behind both ‘Icke’s Struggle’ and the live show animations?
The process behind Icke’s Struggle was obscenely hazardous, but still remains to be one of my favourite shoots.
The set was built by model makers Die Mortal over a period of two weeks carved entirely from polystyrene; we then essentially had one chance at destroying the set as beautifully as possible under a shower of Acetone, a first for everyone involved.
The main problem was that we were in no way prepared for the fumes the combination of polystyrene and Acetone would create, so by the end of the single take the entire room had ascended into madness climaxing with a ritual burning of the remaining set. I love the stark contrast of the controlled, beautiful decay we see on screen and the ridiculously uncontrolled process we undertook to achieve it.
The birth of the live visuals originated entirely as an instinctive visual response to the beautiful complexity of Blanck Mass’s soundscapes, created to support Blanck Mass’s live performances. There was never a predetermined style for the visuals and each stage was unplanned, allowing the visuals to be moulded by an instinctive programme in response to sound, rather than as part of an overt design master plan. The result has ended up being a strangely emotive and equally jarring watching experience utilising basic CGI techniques and heavily manipulated archival footage of natural elements to create a surreal journey which mimics the gestation of an alien life, from a small metallic stone into a contorted entity that then travels over kaleidoscopic, volcanic landscapes.
You’ve already worked with the likes of Grizzly Bear, Shakira, Fiat, Levis, Nike, Burberry etc – but who’d be your dream collaborator?
I have always wanted to collaborate with Bjork; I don’t know a director who doesn’t. I would actually love to work with an R&B / Hip Hop artist, Frank Ocean would be good.
Take a look at Alex’s video for Zulu Winters’ ‘Silver Tongue’ – it’s on some Hyperreal trip and is utterly wonderful.
Alex’s show Hollow Earth runs at the KK Outlet from thr 4th of May all the way through to the 27th. Go. It’ll be rad.