Friday, 4 July 2014
Interview | Paul Batt & Fernando Montiel Klint
The present exhibition explores CHINA visually, we thought we would get some further insight from the artists themselves:
>I would like to start with some logistical questions; how did you guys meet? How did you concoct the idea of travelling together and plan/fund the adventure? How long did you spend there? Did you fight?
PB -The project came about by chance in many ways. Fernando and I met in China at the 2012 Pingyao International Photography Festival while we were both exhibiting there. I was flown over to China as part of the FutureGen exhibition that had toured from the very last FotoFreo Festival, while Fernando was there with a Mexican exhibition curated by Alasdair Forster. I think it was Alasdair who made the initial introduction.
FMK – Yes we both met in Pingyao, when Paul and I were having different exhibitions during the Pingyao Photo Festival. We got along immediately and we found we shared a lot of things common, even despite the fact that we lived on the other side of the world to each other, Australia- Mexico. It was then that we decide to travel together to Beijing with our partners, to photograph for a week. In my case it was my second trip to China and I spent a month there before meeting Paul. It was 2 weeks in total and during our final week in Beijing, we would go out and get lost in the city, finding diverse situations which motivate us to shoot.
>I’m interested in collaboration, you know, ‘death of the author’ and all that… Especially photographically it’s fairly rare. Can you talk about how you worked together both shooting and editing and, importantly, how the actual photographs are not credited to either of you but the project overall?
FMK – We took a lot of photos together walking through the streets of Beijing but most of the work we shot separately. Once we were back in our home countries, we start to doing our own editing and we would reunite on Skype, email and share our editing thoughts. While doing this we would give each other comments on what was or wasn’t working.
PB - It wasn’t long after this process started that we were approached to exhibit by the Auckland Festival of Photography in New Zealand and the results of our collaboration eventually become a part of the 2013 festival.
>Are there other collaborative projects you know of and respect?
PB - I think you’re the right the idea of photographers traveling and collaborating is fairly rare! Aside from agencies like Magnum, where a group of photographers would go out on assignment, there are only a few examples of collaborative photographic projects I know of and respect. A favorite of these would be ‘Of Time and Place’ by Walker Evans and William Christenberry where they travelled through Hale county in the American South, revisiting the places made famous by Evans in his FSA photos. More recently I discovered the book ‘A Russian Journal’ its quite rare and documents John Steinbeck and Robert Capa’s collaborative 1947 journey in post-war communist Russia. It’s a surprisingly under appreciated book now but served as an inspiration when I trying to translate our own tour and work.
>I hate to get technical, but it seems like the works are made in a few different mediums. I’m guessing (and don’t kill me); small & medium formats, video screen stills and maybe phone cameras? How did this work into your methodology?
PB -There is a designation of the works as such, my images are the A3 even sized white boarded shots and Fernando’s are the larger, smaller and uneven sized prints. Fernando used a number of different cameras (Yes including a camera phone!)
while I exclusively used a Nikon D700. I tend to be fairly strict about using the same camera right through a series, be that 35mm, digital or 4x5, while Fernando is the complete opposite, employing a number of different cameras or even using a video. Despite these technical differences, ultimately we were both surprised by how close both of our visions were.
>In regard to the last question, this working method obviously reflects the fast-paced flow of Chinese society – care to elaborate on this?
FMK – I think the diverse use of the medium I employ, goes with the chaos of the cities and the multi-screen society that the Chinese lives in. I became more and more use to seeing the different daily life there and the heavy use of advertising TV screens and signage. It was like a new way for humans to view and be in the world and I wanted to translate those surroundings.
>Being photographers from both Australia and Mexico can you nominate a few words to perhaps describe the art/photography scenes in both places?
PB - In Australia I think we have a particularly vibrant photographic scene, that tends to punch above its weight. Part of this due to the fact that we’re not in the direct spotlight of attention you’d associated with parts of Europe, the US or UK and that can have a withering or conforming effect on the art in those countries. I think this relative isolation is an ironic strength of Australian photography and it tends to breed something of greater interest.
FMK – In Mexico we have a very long history of documentary photography and the perception of what photography is, is only just starting to change. In the last 10, 15 years, as a viewer, you can begin to see more of a change towards that. In my case I work a lot of construct image and I really enjoy shooting in this way with larger formats. In China I experimented, shooting with small cameras, without a tripod to find images that weren’t pre-conceived, while also trying to be open to find situations in the streets that inspired me.
>Dare to enlighten our audience with any details of new projects?
FMK – In my case in this last 2 years I’m working on a project call Doubernard that is based on my family and my roots with a little twist in it between real and fiction because I think family albums are fictions.
PB – Much of my work over the years has been concerned with the same set of ideas concerning human absence or presence in urban environment. I’ve explored this in a number of ways and at the moment I have a few new projects that try to further develop these concepts.
>Lastly, as we usually do with interviews, what tunes would you recommend listening to while viewing the CHINA project at Wallflower?
FMK – Paul is a better DJ than me and China for me sounded a lot like Grimes, Jazzmataz, maybe even some of Phillip Glass or some rockabilly.
PB – In terms of recommendations, I remember Fernando and I had Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker playing lot in our hostel in Bejing. Single wise I seemed to be playing the Dead Kennedy’s Holiday in Cambodia an awful lot too. Presumably because I was having a ‘holiday in Asia’ but also because the album Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death seemed to sumerise some of my thoughts about what was happening in modern China.