Sean Roy Parker
Sean Roy Parker is a video artist living in south-east London, he recently graduated from LCC with a degree in Graphic and Media Design. He’s also one of the main people behind poetry collective Clinic. He recently directed and produced the Tubelord video for their new single, My First Castle, which we featured a few weeks ago. Sean works extensively with VHS creating montages out of found recordings and original material to create his own distinct analogue style. We sent our man Dale Marshall to catch up with him for a quick chat on what makes him tick, his work and his plans for the future.
Why the move into directing music videos?
The first one was for Phanes back in May, when I had just started using the VHS camcorder that my Dad bought me for my birthday. I had two weeks to complete all four of my projects for my final Uni deadline and obviously hadn’t planned it properly. At the same time, I was getting into my housemate George’s (Phanes) music, which is full of different textures and layers, so I decided to put the two together. I filmed and edited it in three days, and I was quite impressed with the result. I thought: this isn’t too hard, I could do this.
How did the Tubelord video come about?
It was another short notice thing. Creatively I’ve been involved with Tubelord for about a year and a half, so if we’re hanging out we’re thinking up ideas for videos, or visuals. Jo (Prendergast, of Tubelord) had this cassette coming out, which had a single on one side and the other he had the guys from Clinic reading poems. Then he was like “well, we might as well make it a Clinic thing, I want you to do the video”. I only had two weeks to do it, but that was fine because I don’t tend to plan anyway. I tend to work with what I’ve got as I’m more of an arranger than a maker, so it’s more about making do. That’s the beauty of collage, you make do with what’s there. You’re recycling, and it becomes more of a task to match textures and build these sort of geographies, rather than spending loads of money buying ridiculous amounts of materials. To me that just seems wasteful.
On your website, you call yourself a ‘dead media resuscitator’. Would you say your work deals with appropriation or pastiche?
I wouldn’t really call it appropriation as that particular term hasn’t come to mean anything. It’s not a term for a specific genre of art or a specific way of working as everything is appropriated. Nothing can really be original anymore until we have another technological advancement. I would just call it recycling, and I’m not ashamed of that. I think if you try to skirt around the issue you are trying to hide from it. I don’t think I’m ground breaking or anything like that, I just use materials that are cheap and readily available. At the moment I can’t see the pull of wholly digital work or the Net Art thing, so I would rather work in the medium I am comfortable with.
I would say your collage work does have similar elements to Net Art though.
It is influenced by that, sure; because I spend a lot of time on the Internet. But if you look at the piece I have on the homepage of my website, it comes from a real situation and real materials. So a lot of it is as much about the honesty and transparency of the materials. In my case, I don’t see it as Net Art, I see it as just another medium to work in. You can’t class someone as a Net Artist just because they use a digital program to make their work. I think it’s a bit of a throwaway term at the moment anyway, it could mean anything.
rWhat is it that draws you to the lo-tech style of filmmaking?
I’m not trying to be purposefully lo-tech. It’s more about the analog memory of the tape, as it changes while you watch it. You can pick up a lot of detail and it is quite three dimensional in a way. I see people shooting on HD cameras and it just looks see-through, as if it is not there. With VHS, it is nostalgic and it is romantic, no matter what anyone says, but it is also funny in a way and I like to make myself laugh. It’s something I find very important.
Are the references in the Tubelord video purely playful or are they symbolic?
I based the video on The Generation Game, cleaning product commercials, and corporate presentations, which, to me, are simultaneously aspirational and depressing. To be honest, I only want to look at things that make me laugh. I don’t take my work too seriously, because I am scared of missing the point. My friend Jethro’s love of all things shit has affected my way of seeing; its omnipresence is hard to ignore, and you just start telling yourself “Stop fighting it, it’s actually quite good!” It’s post ironic, because it is so shit that you put it on because it reminds you of something else and then you find yourself liking it. If it was ironic you’d be embarrassed.
How did the Louche video come about?
That was through a friend of a friend who had seen my video for Phanes. They had seen the VHS stuff I did and had recommended me for the project, as they were launching a new clothing line with the theme being Midsummer Murders. It reminded me of the times when I used to go round my nan’s house and watch it on her VCR. So with that in mind, I wanted to create a pastiche with these tableaux of the “whodunnit”. We shot it all in one day in the pouring rain in Kennington, but that didn’t matter so much as for me the fun isn’t in the shooting. If I am gathering raw footage I wont gather that much because I don’t want to give myself too much to work from. I’ll give myself about an hour of footage and then I’ll spend ages picking out what’s interesting from that. So, for me, It’s a lot about composition, shape and colour, the basics of graphic design. The way I work has always been based around the primitive sense of art and design, color, shape, texture and composition, that’s what interests me. It doesn’t matter what medium it is, you find interesting complements.
So, with the Tubelord video, you don’t really care if people don’t get it, it’s more about those visual aspects?
With my work, I am really selfish. I think to a degree you should be selfish, otherwise, it becomes a service. Having done a three-year degree that I was aching to free myself from art and design that ticks boxes. Maybe not everyone gets it, but the people who do get it can attach themselves on different levels. Some might just like the aesthetic; it might remind them of The Generation Game or whatever. It is always flattering if people want to talk about what you make and they show an interest. Even if they don’t like it but want to talk about it, at least it is a touch point for conversation.
Do you have an affinity to any one medium?
When I went to University, I chose an illustration course purely because I knew they were going to work me the hardest. I didn’t want to draw, I don’t really think I can draw, but it was more about getting annoyed that people were just making, for the sake of making. I am so sick of watching people draw a stag’s head on a t-shirt, all that visual waste. The reason I started doing collage was because I just have loads of things and it started occurring to me that all those books I had collected weren’t monetarily worth anything, so it seemed silly to be so precious about them. Collage can be commercial as well, people like Anthony Zinonos and John Stezaker have made a really decent space for themselves but they have their own little niche. You see people copying them and it hurts but you know they were doing it long before.
Would you say you are moving away from the more traditional style of print-based collage?
Collage was a starting point because it was there. It was accessible and immediate. From there, collage became less of an aesthetic and more of a mindset, or an ongoing theme. I then started making sculptures as I thought that was the next step. The Phanes project was the first thing I had ever done on video but I just seemed to really get on with it. Then the Tubelord thing came along and I thought I will give it a go, and now I’ve got a few more projects coming up. If people are enjoying my videos and they think there is something in it that suits the music that is great. I would never do it to get money. If it doesn’t suit the music it would just look silly. It’s more about finding something in the music that matches what I do, or something I can latch on to. I guess it sort of suits the lo-fi bands, as it is lot about the actual technology breaking down and not performing well. It is quite funny as Phanes had his track played on Radio One as part of Jamie XX’s essential mix and after that it just blew up. The video on Youtube went up to 10,000 views in a few days, which sounds like nothing but I was pretty chuffed, and people were leaving comments saying, “this is so sick”. Then there was this one guy who wrote ‘it’s just Clash of the Titans edits put together.’ Of course it is, look at it! I’m not trying to hide it.
Would you ever feel precious about your own work, say if someone took one of your collages, videos etc. and reused them?
I don’t think so. I think that is what is interesting about collage. Rauschenberg got William De Koenig to do a drawing and then he erased it, and people were like “that’s not art”. You just think; why not? It’s all about the idea. The execution is something you can learn, it comes with practice, but if there’s an idea there and you can pull it out in a collage, ten second or three hour long video it doesn’t matter.
Do you think there is an emerging creative “scene” in South East London?
Well yeah, it has been coming hasn’t it? When I was at LCC (London College of Communications), a lot of the people I hung around with weren’t actually on my course or even at my Uni, so they were studying things like photography, sculpture, social anthropology. If you just hang around with people doing the same thing as you, it’s difficult to get excited at the things that are going on around you and that’s common down South. There’s also the addition of the East London line, the South London Art Map, Deptford Cross, PAMI festival. It is just so cheap to work and find a space, and I think South functions completely different from East. It’s a lot more honest, it’s hard working, and it’s exciting. Lucky PDF are doing incredible things, along with Off Modern and Clinic, Utrophia and New Gallery, they are all exciting projects and spaces. If you can put together an exhibition it might not even be well attended, but the point is you are doing it and that is something to build on. It’s not like a fucking trade fair round here, it’s mates hanging around, building up that following. In East they make to sell. We make to build on. It’s not about selling things. It’s a competition but everyone is winning (laughs).
What stuff have you got in the pipeline?
I am going to be in a show by Baz and Chaz, which is like a moving gallery. They did a show at New Gallery, and their next show is in January at a temporary project space called Mexico in Leeds. Other than that, I don’t have any plans and I don’t want to do something in particular. If people are e-mailing me to do music videos then I will do music videos. If I am going to be an “artist” then I am welcome to suggestions. I want to be peripatetic, to be a sort of wanderer. This time next year I would like to be in a position where I can put on events, shows, work with artists. As long as I am getting by.
Any last words?
It’s quite nice to be told something about yourself that you don’t know. I think that’s a reassurance thing, I used to always need reassurance, but now I feel comfortable in my own materials. It was always, and it always will be, about finding that medium or idea that excites you. It’s immediate, what I make is immediate.