Ones to Watch: Bethany Chamberlain

Find out more about Bethany's work in our artist interview!

April 30th, 2020

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Your full name, and university course/year.

Bethany Chamberlain, Leeds Arts University, Fine Art Level 6

What medium do you prefer to use?

My preferred medium is currently film and installation. Most recently I have been working with digital film, but I love to also work with Super 8. Super 8 is really difficult to source cheap and can be very unpredictable, but the results are unlike any other form of film. I’m hoping to develop my experience with other forms of film in the future.

What is the inspiration behind your work?

The inspiration behind my work comes from a long line of research varying through ranges of philosophy, film theory (particularly structural film theory) and art house films. I’m interested currently in the philosophy of repetition, influenced by the writings of Deleuze, particularly ‘Difference and Repetition’ and also Camus’ essay, ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’. My work moves forward through research and also reading fiction, but on a deeper level I think my practice is rooted in a curiosity of the other, dreams and time. 

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

Having been completely anti-digital prior to university, I think it comes as a surprise to even myself how heavily I now rely on digital softwares for my work. I mainly use Macs and the softwares I use are mainly Adobe Premiere Pro and Audition. Despite being a film artist, I still rely massively on my sketchbook for sketches, ink drawings and writing notes. I rely heavily on high tech equipment to produce my films, but I still really value traditional tools.

During this uncertain time what will you do to occupy yourself?

During the COVID19 isolation period, I plan to keep myself busy with my work as much as I can. We all had to act rather quickly in terms of working from home and I felt that setting myself up a mini studio with all the things I will need was really important. I’ve luckily been able to source a lot of my equipment from university and will still be producing work from home. I think it’s also a good time to read and reflect on my work and where it is going in the future. Other artists I’ve spoken to have found that they are reflecting on their work differently than they might have expected, due to the recent circumstances also.

Other than working towards our deadline, I want to spend more time outside, get Lucy to teach me how to play the piano and do more yoga.

Which artists are you most influenced by?

The artists I’m mostly influenced by are David Lynch; particularly in his use of sound, dreams and liminal spaces. I really love Marijin Ottenhof, who was selected as part of 2019’s Bloomberg Contemporaries. Her sound piece ‘The Paranoia is Real’ has stuck with me since the first time I heard it. I completely love 2012 Turner Prize winner Elizabeth Price’s use of multiple screens and the way she uses space and narrative. I spent a lot of time looking at Structural film and would have to mention artists like Michael Snow and Ernie Gehr, who not only made aesthetically interesting films but also informed me of structural film theory, which enables me to see film with a slightly different eye. Structural film, and I guess film in general is dominated by men, so I also think it’s important to acknowledge and actively look out for female film artists like Maya Deren (experimental/avant garde filmmaker), Daria Martin who works on 16mm film and other female directors like Celine Sciamma and Greta Gerwig.

How do you seek out opportunities?

I seek out opportunities by attending openings, staying active enough on social media, using sites like Curatorspace. I try to push myself outside of my comfort zone by speaking to new people, volunteering and collaborating with as many people as you can. 

Which current art world trend are you following?

I’m not really sure if I’m following any trends right now but maybe if I am I’m kind of too absorbed in them to realise? Because we go to Leeds Arts at the moment I feel like because we are surrounded by creatives all the time, I wouldn’t know what was a ‘trend’ and what was just something we all do.

Plans for the future?

I intend to stay in Leeds for the time being: me and sculptor Lucy Clayton have secured a house with a lovely dark basement, which we plan to reinvent as our very first externally shared studio. I feel that Leeds is my home now and I really want to stay connected with all the people I’ve met here. I am looking to hopefully get as many residencies as I can, and eventually do a Masters when I feel ready. 

Tell us about an exhibition that has stayed with you

‘A Long Memory’ by Elizabeth Price, which was at The Whitworth, is still one of the most amazing exhibitions I’ve ever seen. The narrative, to begin with, was so carefully threaded together to create such a rich and immersive sequence. I visited the exhibition on two separate occasions, just to absorb as much of it as I could. I loved that not only were there two huge rooms dedicated to her films, but also a selection of works on paper that appeared almost to be like water marks. It felt like entering into a different world and language. Making work in the digital field, I found I related to all of this alien language. ‘SLOW DANS’, ‘KOHL’ combined with everyday lexis created a weird, almost futuristic dialogue about a new world. I’m currently reading a book I borrowed from a friend all about her work and that exhibition so hopefully after that I will be more cohesively informed about the details.

Any books/ films/tv series that you’d recommend for anyone interested in art?

I love anything written by Mark Fisher: most recently I’ve read ‘The Weird and The Eerie’ and ‘Ghosts of My life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures’. This has really informed my practice but also informed further research that I’ve begun myself. I love books that tell you to read other books. 

A recommendation which is slightly more light hearted would be shows like RuPauls Drag Race (obviously); Next In Fashion and I also loved Glow-up. These shows are about creatives who are trying to get well known in the industry, whether it be in drag, as a makeup artist or fashion designer. I really like these kinds of shows because they talk about what it is to be a creative, what it means to be part of a community and also just generally inspiring. 

What are your favourite Instagram accounts?

My favourite instagram accounts are cinema dedicated accounts like @cinemamonarmour  which is quite popular with lots of people. They post stills from films and you can save them to accumulate a watchlist. I also follow loads of tattoo accounts of tattoo artists – I wanted to be one when I was younger and still would like to try my hand at it one day. My favourites at the moment are park_hyun_gi and I got a tattoo from a tattoo artist called magictatty, who creates wonderful and whimsical tattoo designs. 

What is your dream project?

I think currently my dream project is ‘Aspect: A Particular Mode Of Viewing’. This was a project my friend Archie and I have been planning for a while. Because of the current circumstances surrounding the virus, we have had to postpone indefinitely until we can be assured that it’s safe to go ahead with the event. 

The idea was to exhibit a collection of film work from local artists which examined the essential modes of film-making and pushed the boundaries of the ways in which films are viewed. From our open call, we selected a group of very talented and innovative artists. We were so excited for the show! At the moment I can’t stop thinking about getting the dates fixed and getting our work installed at Assembly House, who are hosting us. I’m determined that when the show is back on the calendar, it will be everything I hoped it to be and more. So keep an eye out and support us on our instagram _aspect_2020 !

What is your most successful piece of work and why?

A work I’m particularly fond of was exhibited in association with Yorkshire Sculpture International at Central Square, on Wellington Street. I thought of it as a deconstructed projector which I constructed using metal and motors. Stretched across three pairs, the motors passed a reel of super 8 film through, infinitely turning through the spools. Influenced by Structural film, I wanted to emphasise the materiality of film : having it pass through the spools meant there was a focus on the physical piece of film, the way it moved, the sound of the motors. I imagined a film that never had to stop playing. 

I was so proud to be a part of this project, which we named ‘Trading Spaces’ because of the great artists I got to put on the show with and also the independence in being commissioned to make a piece of work. I think it was the most ambitious project I’ve ever done and also the most successful because not only did it do what I wanted it to, but I learnt so many skills along the way.

Find out more about Bethany’s work here.

Read about all the Ones to Watch exhibitors here.

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