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Add to Queue: Billy Kenrick’s musings on photography and experimental sound

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words, photography and curation – billy kenrick
location – dublin, ireland

Visual artist Billy Kenrick specialises in analogue photographic techniques, in combination with contemporary technologies. He applies a process-led approach to subjective documentary, focusing on print media and book-making, as well as experimental sound. For this special instalment of Add to Queue, he shares a recent update of his long-form project ‘Land’s End,’ along with some ambient music tracks as complimentary listening. Here, he offers some notes on the process and development of the project:

“I try to stay open when making work, and tend not to prescribe any one approach at the outset. When I find a method that seems to work, I will cultivate that and see where it leads. If a project becomes protracted, it is difficult for me to maintain a sense of flow and editing becomes overly painstaking. For this photographic series, I wanted to preserve a certain kind of atmosphere. To me, photography is much closer to something like music – the conceptual part often surfaces later on. I find it challenging to revisit work again after the initial freshness of seeing recent images, and I tend to prefer to make things anew. I will often shoot the same things repeatedly over time. I eventually reached a point where I let go of the idea of finalising the work, but kept shooting periodically, nonetheless. Sometimes dropping a project for a couple of years is the best way to let it develop, of its own accord.

“The impetus for this particular project emerged out of a sense of needing to find a specific kind of environment within which to spend time and, inevitably, create work. More often, I found myself drawn toward isolated locations: spaces with seemingly little subject matter to draw on or respond to. The idea of the ‘peripheral’ – something open-ended, at the margins, non-representable perhaps – stayed in my mind. This, and a sense of divergence – between the usual experience of an urban setting, versus time spent in relative solitude, away from this environment – were the starting points for this work. Over the years, the project took on the form of a sort of repository for images; material was regularly being added, without cause for resolution. New projects emerged in the meantime, and older work fell by the wayside. Lately, I spend more time than ever researching; this can help clarify and shape the work when things begin to dissipate. For this project, for example, I found resonance in the work of authors such as Jacky Bowring, Byung-Chul Han, Seamus Heaney, John Moriarty, Rebecca Solnit, Santōka Taneda and Liz Wells, amongst others.

For this particular feature, I decided to attempt an overhaul – this time dividing the project into three four-year sections, the first of which I have just completed. I reprinted the earlier work in the darkroom, and revisited unused video footage from this period. The next two sections will feature more work in colour – instant film is something I used extensively in this project from 2015 onwards – as well as objects, sound and more monochrome darkroom work. The project starts from a position of lack, and represents an attempt to create a body of work using minimal, often textural elements such as geological features; the gloomy drama of the Irish weather; seascapes and mountain terrain, in combination with the limitations and imperfections of analogue photography. It involves patterns of revisitation and repetition; over the years, motifs and scenes become recurrent, varying according to seasonal and temporal shifts. This is, in turn, echoed in the parallel and distinct act of developing, processing and reworking the photographic materials in various forms. Within all of this, I am interested in the tension that arises between what Hubert Damisch calls ‘photographic substance’ [images as fragments that inhabit a distinct material basis] and apparent subject-matter.

“Throughout the making of this project, a lot of time was spent in the car driving around back-roads in the rain, invariably with some droning music playing on repeat. To my mind there’s something of an overlap in the open-ended, atmospheric quality of this kind of music with my approach to visual art. These are some of the tracks that I recall listening to during this process.”

01_Goat Mountain, Loscil
02_Spectacle Of Ritual, Kali Malone
03_As Long As I Can Hold My Breath, Harold Budd
04_The Artificial Pine Arch Song, Stars of the Lid
05_Depths, Windy & Carl
06_Made of Air, Grouper
07_There Is No-one To Tell Me When The Ocean Will Begin, Kate Carr
08_Aallokossa, Olli Aarni
09_Sex, The Necks
10_Stolen Ground, Richard Skelton
11_Traummaschine, Ash Ra Tempel

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