Owen Kydd

Owen Kydd’s “durational photographs,” as he calls, them are in fact barely moving videos. Working in his studio, he composes still lives as static images, and after he records them their temporality is revealed only in subtle disruptions: a breeze catching gauzy materials, passing light, and so on. The longer we look, the more conscious we become of the fact that we are looking. Paradoxical tensions ensue, about the life of a thing, the value of images, and the beauty of the everyday. His latest piece is perhaps the most considered visual study of drywall tape ever.


Owen Kydd

How did you arrive at the parameters, and taxonomy, for “durational photographs”?

I generally use two types of time, a shorter 30-40 second image, and permanent extension or loop. I found these only through the experience of looking for subjects that are nearly still. The most stable parameters are those of the picture itself and any historical antecedents, and then after that the control of the durational experiment where time is the only variable in the photograph.

You explicitly muddle the lines between photography and video in your work. However since you’re working with physical objects to compose still lives that inhabit specific framings, I could imagine sculpture, drawing, or even painting figuring into the way you craft the compositions you record. Typically what guides you in making a still life in the studio?

I am essentially a photographer because there is a camera between me and the subject, and I often use the lexicon of photographs. But after that I feel that I have the freedom to introduce elements from other mediums, including sculpture or even cinema. I think anytime someone is constructing something to be filmed, they encounter these ideas, even if it is a self-conscious mimicry. An artist that I think embodies this is Paul Outerbridge, he photographed meticulous sets that referenced different genres like Italian Metaphysical painting or Surrealism.

Are there any other artists you feel are especially meaningful precedents to what you do?

I think Andy Warhol or Michael Antonioni for example, or any artist that creates the feeling of something being photographed while still operating in duration. It’s a hard effect to describe, but when it occurs I think it says a lot about how we see time.

Are you trying to create an image in your mind, re-create something you’ve seen, exploit the qualities of certain materials you think will look neat on camera…?

I always try and reference situations I’ve witnessed, and sometimes I create an amalgam of those situations. I’m not concerned with the veracity of an object or event, and on that note I don’t think many camera artists have been since at least 1988 when Photoshop was introduced, or arguably ever. I’ve learned to look for certain materials that work well on video or at near-stillness, things like plastic or light reflections, or anything that synthesizes with the clear screen, liquid crystals, or refresh rate of the digital display.

Your videos are strikingly, almost startlingly, crisp and clear. Is there a point at which you could imagine them looking too lifelike? We are still at a point with technology where real life has a visual edge over the most sophisticated monitors and projectors. What I’m wondering is if your final destination resembles real life or some endless digital horizon which may hypothetically appear even realer?

You’ve put your finger on the mimetic irony in this process, that no matter how constructed something is, the technology has a way of giving it a tromp l’oeil effect. But I wonder if that is because the quality of the screens themselves or because we now see everything on screens, or both? In terms of a horizon of virtual reality, I think I have to stop somewhere I feel I have knowledge; I don’t imagine making Oculus rift artworks for example. Human vision evolved in a tension between two and three dimensions, and as such there is always intense pleasure in looking at the world as flat and imagining it round.

Do you feel limited being synonymous with such a consistent type of work? Do you see yourself bridging to anything else in the near future?

I don’t begin conceptually, meaning I don’t prioritize the idea of the work before the image; my concern instead is to use this system to make good pictures. So essentially it is an open field, as long as I feel I’m able to keep trying.