N.B. Originally published to accompany the group exhibition ‘arc.’, curated by Kristian Day at Herrick Gallery, 09/08/2018-31/08/2018.
Kristian Day recently opened his latest exhibition, ‘arc.’, at Herrick Gallery in Mayfair, featuring the work of young London-based artists Mark Corfield-Moore, Victor Seaward, Nathaniel Faulkner and Fani Parali. Over the course of it’s three-week duration Writer and Art Historian Hector Campbell spoke to the artists about their influences, creative process and exhibited work. Parali spoke about the evolution of her practice throughout her studies, her studying of presence and absence, and learning to be an effective collaborator.
Hector Campbell: Having gained a BA in sculpture from Camberwell College of Arts, you went on to complete postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy Schools. Although sculpture still plays a part in your live performances, you now create work involving multiple mediums. Was performance and video work something you were always interested in? How has your work evolved whilst studying at the RA Schools?
Fani Parali: The different mediums I am working with all have an importance in the bigger picture of my practice. It is the moments when I make them come together somehow, when it all finally makes sense, that I find exciting. I also enjoy different aspects of each distinct step and process, so I feel richer if I take from them all and more generous if I give back through them all.
In terms of challenge and ambition, I think I want to feel I am making my own ‘species’ of mediums, I think that is found in the details of the stretching of each element to its most concentrated purpose, again for the bigger picture. Whilst on my Sculpture BA at Camberwell I quickly realized I wanted to do more than just sculptural installations, so I went on to work with moving image and sound, incorporated in quite large-scale settings.
The live performance works came while I was studying at the Royal Academy Schools. It was an inevitable development for me to start creating characters, and that lead to writing, casting, and directing. The timing was right, I wanted to try and evolve my work that way, and I was given the space, literally and metaphorically, to test it again and again, to see what it was I was making. I had two great opportunities to communicate my ideas with the audiences, one with the Premiums Interim show and one with the final Degree Show. I worked hard with lots of ambition for both, but I also had incredible support and trust from the RA Schools, which I believe allowed for spirited things to happen
H.C: Ideas of mythology and folklore often play a part in your performative and video works, does this interest recall your own Greek heritage?
F.P: I am not specifically referencing my Greek heritage in my work, but I do feed from it when I make the works, and I am happy for that to be the case. My bank of memories and images has inevitably grown plentifully during my formative, and later, years in Greece and I was surely taking in the beautiful landscape, the sun and the sea and the smells, and the songs. But I am still filling that bank with all sorts of other things too, and many are not to do with Greece at all. My dad was Greek but my mum is from Bristol, I grew up with both languages and both cultures. Humans move a lot on this planet, they always have and we are all a great mix of place and time.
H.C: Many of your video and performance pieces include instances of lip-syncing to pre-recorded sound. Could you talk some more about this aspect of your creative output?
F.P: I became deeply interested in the power and use of the voice while writing my dissertation, which was a comparative study of John Akomfrah’s exhibition ‘Hauntologies’, Samuel Beckett’s text ‘Ill Seen Ill Said’ and Richard Boyce’s performance ‘Lost in Trans’. I came to critically think and ask questions that have followed me through for years, that still feel important and still inspire me to make work.
The dissertation was an analysis of what I called ‘haunting presences’, and one way of defining them was through absence, an invisibility that is yet very much felt in the works when you encounter them. I believe there is a strong resonance in the recorded and the narrated voice, as well as in the silence, the stillness and the pauses. When that is communicated through a living person, with the use of lip-syncing, that resonance becomes even stronger, kind of undeniable.
I worked with Richard Boyce on a performance, where we mediated this haunting presence by him lip-syncing my recorded voice, which carried the words of an isolated monk. Through Richard’s incredible skills and magnetic lip-syncing I got deeply inspired and worked with this method ever since. What’s important for me is that I write the source material, which then gets lip-synced. I have moulded that into singing often; singing voice, and voices in general, move me and I hope they move other people too.
H.C: Collaboration naturally plays a large part in performance, video and sound-based artworks, is this true of your own work? And how do you navigate working with actors to produce your own artistic vision?
F.P: My desire to lip-syncing required I find people who can do that very well, its power lies in the perfection of the timing and the performer instilling a whole load of soul into the words. Drag artists use lip-syncing in their own work all the time, and they also understand the sensitivities of working with recorded voices, so that’s where I knew I would find the right people. I also work closely with the people who provide the voices, it is a lovely task to find a good voice.
Directing people, and with them making the words into songs and performances, is a challenging process but such a rewarding and amazing one, I learn something new every time.
Having to communicate what I want from people helps me a lot, as it forces me to really examine what it is that I want from the work. Finally seeing the work come to life out there in the world is the best feeling.
H.C: In November of last year, you were one of seven artists awarded the Studiomakers prize by Tiffany & Co/Outset Contemporary Art Fund, for which you received rent-free studio space in London. How has this award affected your creative practice?
F.P: Having a free studio was hugely helpful. Living and dealing with the costs in London, especially as an artist, can be a stressful position to be in. Being given that time and space from the Studiomakers prize allowed me to keep working and focusing on my practice, instead of having to do other paid jobs all the time. I wish artists were more supported and initiatives like this came more often.