Trout Descending a Staircase 1990
A satire on painting and technology, made using a Fairlight CVI and a few props. This was commissioned by BBC2 for the Late Show. “In a more lyrical manner we find Steve Hawley's "Trout Descending a Staircase" which explores the coincidence of the apparently insignificant (a bunch of flowers, assorted vegetables, a fish) with the power of the computer and its representational transformative potential. Through establishing such contradictory conjunctions of information Hawley can apply a deconstructive lever to his subject, the relationship between representation and its means, in what is a surreal and poetic amalgam.” Simon Biggs A satire about painting and technology, made with a Fairlight CVI. Broadcast BBC2 1990.. German video art prize 1994. Broadcast VPRO TV Holland 1993, Meisterstein TV Germany 1993, Sudwestfunk TV 1994, SBS TV Australia 1995.
Barnum Effect 2008
Statements addressing you, the individual spectator, over a series of images of a deserted salt pans; seduction by word and picture. 2007 L’Alternativa; 14th Festival de Cinema Independent de Barcelona 2007 National Review of Live Art, Tramway, Glasgow. “You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage.” The famous showman P.T. Barnum, believed that a spectacle should have something for every member of the audience, and used the human propensity for belief in vague statements in a mind reading act. In 1948 the effect was investigated by the psychologist Bertram Forer, who used random excerpts from horoscopes and tested them on his students, who rated the personality description produced as astonishingly accurate. In the video, a series of statements are voiced by a narrator addressing the individual spectator, over a series of images shot in high definition video of a deserted salt pans, on the Adriatic coast in Slovenia. The seduction of the audience by the voice seems to question the seduction of the viewer by the hyperreal image itself. Voiceover Heidi Schaefer Camera, script, edit Steve Hawley
Ghost was made in Hong Kong just after the handover from Britain to China, when I was artist in residence at the Microwave Video festival. Commissioned by Videotage fl. 1999 Rencontres Video Art Plastique Caen Nov 99 Homeport Rotterdam 2001 Director's Fortnight,Cannes Film Festival 2000. Gweilo, or ghost, is the Cantonese term of abuse for the paler skinned westerners who appeared to the Chinese of the Middle Kingdom to be like ghosts. I made this film in Hong Kong overlooking the old Kai Tak airport, just after the handover from the UK. The collisions of scale were vast, and I felt like a ghost myself in Hong Kong, a place where even History itself was put in a museum. Performer Grace Ng Videotage/Microwave Video Festival
Yarn 2010 (excerpt)
Yarn is an endless DVD video which presents scenes and soundtracks at random in order to create a generative narrative. Australian International Experimental Video Festival Melbourne. Cleveland International Narrative Conference 2011 Manchester City Art Gallery 2013, Seamless MAO Ljubljana 2013. Funded by LabCulture; Arts Council of England; Thanks to N. W. Film Archive, Manchester School of Art In 1952 the French ‘nouvelle romancier” Michel Butor wrote a novel L’Emploi du Temps, about a young Frenchman who comes to a Northern English city called Bleston for a year, and about the difficulties and triumphs he has adapting to the cold, the rain, and the British way of life. In its strange repetitive style, part experimental narrative, part detective story, the novel seems to anticipate interactive fiction. In fact the story is based on Butor’s own experiences in Manchester, where he worked as a language assistant at the university. The Manchester of the fifties is readily recognisable, its architecture and cathedral, the awful food, the buses that the protagonist uses to criss cross the city, even the map of Bleston that Butor includes at the beginning of the novel which resembles that of the present city centre. I have made a film inspired by the novel, written by myself, as a “recombinant narrative” or generative cinema DVD video installation, using archive footage of Manchester of the 1950s, and a voiceover spoken by a computer programme, which uses the capacity of the DVD medium to present different scenes and spoken text so that the narrative never repeats itself. The experience is like the 1001 nights, in that the story has no beginning and no end, but rather an immersion in a narrative world where fact and fiction are blended. The piece is both a meditation on the nature of narrative itself, as mediated through technology, but also a series of speculations on the real and the fictional Manchester, as seen through the pessimistic eye of an outsider, a foreigner 50 years ago.
Speech Marks 2004
One of the first mobile phone videos, when the primitive cameras could only take short scenes in low resolution, reminiscent of early television. VAD Digital Arts Festival Girona 2004 (Special Award Prizewinner). Chroma 2004 Mexico City. San Francisco Art Institute 2005. Videoformes Clermont Ferrand France 2005. 11th Biennale Image en Mouvement Geneva 2005. Speech Marks was one of the first art videos shot entirely on an early mobile phone, and edited digitally. The limits of the phone as a video camera were challenging at that point; the image was low quality and small in size, and there was a maximum length of 9 seconds per shot (on that first cameraphone). To use these limitations creatively the piece builds up a collage of moving images, a series of marks that build a fragmented picture in space and time. The scenes are a collection of moments drawn from life; an art opening, a day in the garden, a meeting at work. Using the phone in this way to transmit pictures instead of speech harks back to the early days of television, when low quality images were sent by phone lines in the 1920s, by the Scottish TV pioneer John Logie Baird. These primitive stuttering images and lo fi sounds celebrate the everyday.
Human and Natural History 1996
A 16mm film melodrama- a struggle between a man and a woman to the soundtrack of a documentary about fish in the Persian Gulf. 16mm film onto video. New York Video and New Media Festival 1996 Experimenta Media Arts Festival Melbourne 1996 Brussels Semaine De Videos 1996 Videokunstpreis Germany 1997 SWF German TV broadcast 1997 SF2 Swiss TV broadcast An improvised set of performances from Bruno Ouvrard and Jöelle Dépont, edited and set to a soundtrack from a documentary about fish in the Persian Gulf. The Gulf becomes more of a gulf between the man and the woman, engaged in the age old struggle for attention and supremacy. Performers Bruno Ouvrard, Jöelle Dépont Camera assistant Tony Steyger Funding Southern Arts
Stone Troupers 1998 (with Jonathan Allen)
Projections on a building in the centre of Sheffield of faces of the people who live there and passers by, commissioned by Photo 98 and Lovebytes. Video installation in central Sheffield. Faces from the community projected on four stone heads high up on a listed building, for six weeks. Dir Tony Dowmunt for Channel4
Love Under Mercury 2000 (16mm film)
Feel like you’re walking on air? Lost your appetite? Hear music when there’s no-one there? You’re not in love, you’ve got mercury poisoning. Love Under Mercury, Steve Hawley’s first film made for the cinema, is about science, transformation, and tragedy. Louis Daguerre invented the Daguerrotype when some drops of mercury, accidentally spilled from a broken thermometer in a cupboard, developed his iodised photographic plates, and thus revolutionised photography. But some years later the early Daguerrotypists developed symptoms of mercury poisoning - irritability, insomnia, and “childish over-emotionalism”. Just the very symptoms of love melancholy. Like Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter they had been poisoned by the mercury vapour. Thus science, like film (and like love) can bring about magical transformations, but they all bring with them the potential for tragedy. In the film the two lovers, the unseen protagonists, comment on and interpret a stream of images; chemistry laboratories, waterfalls, transformed objects, and a malevolent ventriloquist’s dummy, but above all on mercury, the alchemists’ metallic essence, the liquid mirror, the solvent of gold and silver, and ultimately the poison which is a medical and environmental disaster. Actors Claire Marshall and Richard Lowdon Sound Design Joakim Sundström Pictures, words and music Steve Hawley Funded by the Arts Council of England Experimental narrative about science, transformation , and tragedy. Lux Cinema London July 2000. Rotterdam Film Festival Feb 2001 Ann Arbor Film Festival 2001 (award- highly commended). 13th Onion City Film and Video Festival Chicago 2001. Transmediale Berlin 2002