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Hilary lloyd

By Catherine Grant

1. Say Directly What You Want

In one of Hilary Lloyd's first videos, Say Directly What You Want (1993), a group of clubbers dance in front of her camera, dressed in Katharine Hamnett T-Shirts with logos proclaiming "Save the World" and "Stay Alive in 85".Dancing to songs such as Wham's "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", the static camera records the clubbers repetitious movements, from groups of self-conscious, boisterous men, to a man and woman who ignore the camera as they go through a practised routine of flirtatious dancing. Overexposed, and shot using coloured lighting, Lloyd recreates the look of early i-D fashion shots, a quotation that echoes the appropriation of her subjects - clubbers from an eighties revival club night. Lloyd's video is not an ethnographic study of a subcultural group, or a portrait of the people who perform before her lens, as we know little more about her subjects at the end of the video than at the beginning. The one figure who refuses to dance and instead sits, smoking, laughing and periodically smouldering into the camera, evokes the ghost of that constant voyeur of cool kids, superstars and freaks: Andy Warhol. Lloyd's vision shares similarities with Warhol's early films, his combination of mechanistic structure and ambiguous eroticism recurring across her works. The artist's presence within her work is difficult to describe: absent in terms of biographical content and explicit personal engagement with her subjects, whilst being constantly felt in the control maintained over shooting and the durational methods of production. Known for her sculptural installations of looped video works, Lloyd's practice encompasses a range of filmic, photographic and textual practices: from slide shows to actions filmed in a single take to recent experiments with movement, and editing in-camera. With each work, Lloyd appears to set herself a series of parameters, the most often used being 'moving subject, static camera, single take'. These kind of prescriptions can be found in the work of filmmakers such as Victor Burgin, but when employed by Lloyd they operate less as distancing techniques and instead produce an intensity to the filmic vision that is more akin to earlier experimental filmmakers, such as Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger or Jack Smith. The strict parameters that are found in each of Lloyd's works sets up a tension that is akin to Bertolt Brecht's instructions for 'epic theatre', in which the viewer is made aware of the act of viewing through the 'demonstrative gesture' of the actor, and the making strange through quotation and ritual which allows for a critical rather than unthinking response to the scenes depicted. In an early essay on how to produce the correct kind of engagement in theatre Brecht says that theatre should be "Witty. Ceremonious. Ritual." In Lloyd's work, the making strange of an action or image through repetition, framing or installation does not simply drain it of emotion, but instead revitalises the gesture, filling it with new meanings that are in part up to the viewer to complete.

1. Bertolt Brecht, "A Dialogue About Acting" (1929), in Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic, ed. and trans. John Willett, Metheun Drama: London, 1964, 1995, p.26.

2. The Broad Walk

After Say Directly What You Want (1993) Lloyd created a series of films that continue her focus on movement and a peculiar kind of anti-portraiture.

The Broad Walk and Puma, both 1994, are videos taken whilst working with roller skaters in Hyde Park. The Broad Walk is a montage of shorter videos, showing a series of skaters going through their routines, confined to the small window of space marked out by Lloyd's still camera. Puma is one of only a few videos to feature the artist, and sheds light on her relationship to her subjects. The film shows Lloyd in a public toilet cubicle, using the toilet and then re-lacing her Puma trainers so as to imitate the lacing of the skaters she was working with. An oblique act of homage, or assimilation, this is the nearest the viewer gets to entering into the negotiations and relationships that Lloyd builds up with her filmic subjects. Lloyd approaches people in clubs or at work, asking them if they would like to be filmed. When asked what she is interested in depicting, she points to a focus on people doing a job, or doing something well; whether this is clubbing, washing cars or building a house of cards. Even the film Nuala and Rodney (1994), which at first seems to be a scene of leisure, is framed by Lloyd as being a scene of work. Nuala is filmed having her hair cut by Rodney; her serious expression indicating the fact that as a model, having her hair cut is equally a part of her work as is Rodney's act of cutting it. This interest in people at work is developed in Lloyd's triptych from 1995-7, 3 DJ Sculptures. Each part of the installation is a double video, presented on monitors back to back. Three DJs are shown - Ewan, Sal and Dominic - although only Ewan is shown playing a set in a club. The portraits of these three are developed around the act of DJ-ing, featuring Ewan practising his set at home (which is tunes/tracks played alongside the film of him in the club); Dominic travelling in a taxi to and from his set at Heaven; and Sal listening to records in a shop, intent on choosing just the right tunes. A related work features the DJ Princess Julia (Princess Julia, Slide Projection (1997), presented in a series of 80 slides through one evening at a club, from home to meeting friends to playing her set. A number of the slides were published alongside an interview with Princess Julia by the artist in 1997, with the opening sentence "I'm always looking for things that are going forward rather than standing still" seeming to fit Lloyd's approach to her films as well as the restless energy of her DJ subject.

3. Constructors

The almost narrative engagement with her subjects that is emphasised in Lloyd's DJ work is minimised in her installations at the Chisenhale Gallery and Tate Britain in 1999 and 2000 respectively.Rather than filming everyday activities, Lloyd proscribed her performers' actions, focusing in on the simple gestures that take place in front of her camera. In Maddy and Kate (1999), two women unravel a ball of twine in between them, staring impassively at each other, incongruous in the setting of green fields edged with trees. Their almost meditative action is in contrast with the pseudo violence of Fiorenzo (1999), which pictures a young man bashing cardboard tubes, with the sound dominating the installation. As two of the seven works installed at the Chisenhale, they are part of a series of small actions, including a man taking off and putting on a red vest as slowly and sensually as could be imagined; a woman sitting on a chair; a one minute film of light reflecting on water; the landscape whizzing past, filmed by cameras held by skateboarders. Lloyd describes how she mapped out what she was going to film, saying "I wanted to make a stripping film - and I knew I wanted a woman on a chair. And I knew I wanted to do a violent film - and something very fast." Her minimal beginnings point not to portraits of individuals - as the naming of the films by the protagonists' first names might suggest - but instead to an orchestration of movement and gesture that is dislocated from their beginnings in the everyday. Discussing the film's relationship to portraiture, Lloyd comments: "I am interested in the fact that they are great performers, but I am not interested in revealing their personality. I am interested in the fact that nothing is revealed. You're kind of thrown back on your prejudices when you are watching.." The central work in the installation, Constructors (1999), shows series of men from building sites creating sculptures with their bodies, responding to Lloyd's suggestions for poses. With the materiality of the videos emphasised by Lloyd's installation, the individual works operate in conversation with each other, building up a vocabulary of gesture that is not defined by socio-political concerns, although these are never completely erased.

4. City Film

This interest in gesture was developed in Lloyd's suite of works installed as part of the exhibition Intelligence at Tate Britain in 2000. The works included Monika, which shows a woman painstakingly building houses of cards; Darren and Darren, in which the two men repeatedly scramble in between each other's legs; and Sotiris, which depicts a man ripping pages out of magazines (all 2000). City Film (2000), the final film in the installation, shows the city of London slowly processing past the camera's lens, filmed from the top of the BT Telecom Tower. This circling motion operates as the central motif, revealing the other three films' focus on circularity, repetition and a mechanical approach to a simple action. This emphasis on repetitive gesture would at first appear to suggest a rather cold, clinical approach to filmmaking. However, the elegance and grace of Lloyd's performers creates a more ambiguous representation of the bare actions that they are asked to repeatedly perform. Lloyd's stilled camera creates a viewing situation that is defined by an intent concentration on its subject, echoing the viewer's position in front of the video monitor in the gallery. In the installation of Lloyd's work, the intensity of the actions performed for the camera draws the viewer into more than a casual or disconnected engagement with Lloyd's protagonists, so that viewer and artist are often layered onto each other. In this context, Lloyd's films that do not feature performers, such as City Film, take on the quality of a character in their own right, so the city of London is presented as another figure in Lloyd's urban dramas. The circling mundanity of the repetitive landscape is transformed into a view across a personal kingdom that is filled with hidden beauty and secret narratives, to be revealed if the viewer can just stay for long enough, and look hard enough.

5. Waiters

In 2003 Lloyd spent a number of months in Venice, where she reprised the slide show format first seen in Princess Julia, Slide Projection. Interested in depicting a mobile viewing position, and a process of editing, Lloyd created the large-scale slide show installation Waiters. Here the parameters of the project appear to be 'moving subject, multiple viewpoints, still image', replacing the movement within the frame with the movement of a mobile camera - as if too much freedom with movement would destroy the intensity of the work. With four carousels of 80 slides each, projected in staggered intervals, the installation of this work is as material as the previous video installations, with the relentless click of the slide projectors forming the soundtrack. It is possible to see this work as Lloyd's portrait of Venice, with the photographs depicting waiters at Caffè Florian, although as with her earlier work, this is not a conventional portrait of either the men or the city. Edited from thousands of images taken over her stay, Lloyd focuses in on the orchestrated movements of the white uniformed waiters as they efficiently sweep around each other in a small corridor - with all signs of other people in the cafe edited out. Lloyd subverts what could have been an unremarkable documentary project by the sheer amount of images taken, forming more of a document of her act of looking at these men, her admiration for their swift, eroticised movements, rather than a typical scene of cafe life or tourist experience. In a partner work, Car Wash (2005), Lloyd describes how she photographed until her camera broke, her images of a group of men working in a Sheffield carwash again focusing on the beauty of their gestures, with the sprays of water found in each image lending a glistening, delicate sheen to this study of men's bodies at work. The sexuality presented in these two slide works is unusual for a woman filmmaker or artist, a desiring yet impersonal gaze that fits more comfortably into homoerotic modes of looking and desiring, recalling films such as Warhol's Blow Job (1963), or Karlheinz Weinberger's photographs of rebel boys in the 1960s, transforming swaggering straight boys into gorgeously queer pin-ups.

6. Car Wash

At the Kunstverein München in 2006, Lloyd exhibited Car Wash alongside five other works including: Untitled (Cut-Outs) (2006), Daisies (2004), and Local Boy'z (2005).

These three works extend Lloyd's exploration of a desiring, repetitive gaze, focusing not on individuals, but objects. In Untitled (Cut-Outs), the crotches of male models are cut from mens fashion magazines, and arranged on a white background, specimens of a commodified masculinity that are made strange by the disembodied, compulsive accumulations of poses and costume. Alongside the continual explosion of daisies filmed in Mile End Park, London and the swirling camera angles that reveal the shop name "Local Boy'z", these three works focus attention on Lloyd's interest in the frame, and the way in which this produces a particular kind of engagement with her chosen subject matter, from the earlier intense, static shot, to the repetitive, tactile movement in these slide works. Here the gesture is not that performed in front of her camera, but that of the artist behind the camera, dancing across the surface of her subject. For Lloyd, the process of filmmaking is sometimes similar to that of drawing, using the camera as a tool to explore and refine ideas that are not fully formed. First apparent in the actions shown in her videos from around 1999, which started out as drawings of "things people can do", to the collages that are photographed in Untitled (Cut-Outs), to the use of multiple viewpoints in Local Boy'z, Lloyd's work focuses on the process of making and looking as a form of knowledge. Rather than a completed tableaux, that has been storyboarded and finalised, the element of collaboration - whether with someone briefly met in a club or a field full of flowers - is always present. This element of collaboration extends to the experience of viewing Lloyd's work, with the emphasis on the materiality of the installations, from the monitors on their Unicol stands, posed in sculptural configurations, to the flow of images in her slide installations, challenging the viewer to absorb every single image as they are clicked across the walls of the gallery. Rather than the dark, comforting space of cinema, Lloyd utilises the gallery as a performance space in which the viewer becomes a participant in the action, choreographed as much as the images viewed on screen. However, there is always a sense of restraint, which in Lloyd's hands is almost a seduction, as from hours of footage, the viewer is allowed entry into a condensed moment of looking that is defined as much as by what has been left out of the frame as by what is left in.

All quotations are from conversations with Hilary Lloyd, March 2007.

Catherine Grant is a Visiting Lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art and a Teaching Fellow at the Slade School of Fine Art.

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