Three Channel Video
The exhibition gathers a series of new, near-life-size nude pencil portraits of the artist’s friends, fellow artists, curators and acquaintances, some of whom Boswell had worked with previously on her interactive installation Mutumia (2016), a salute to those in history who have used their bodies in protest when not permitted to use their voices. These new portraits show women standing up, holding their mobile phones to their chests as if to take a selfie, but showing the devices’ screens to the viewer. The pose is inspired by Adrian Piper’s Food for the Spirit, a series in which Piper periodically photographed herself over the month of July 1971, in front of a mirror, variously clothed and unclothed. On each of the phone screens, Boswell has hand-drawn a code: when scanned with a mobile device, it will link online, revealing an article, image, thought, personal truth or observation directly chosen by the woman in the portrait. Each woman was also invited to choose the title of her portrait. Drawing on a lineage of black female literary and artistic ancestry, Boswell’s works will tell the stories of a networked community that cannot easily be contained within a single image. For Every Real Word Spoken will demonstrate that a body is never just a body, but a sign which is read according to categories – of gender, family, race and so on - through which connections between groups are inevitably inferred. Varied societal approaches to the body, and the similarities or - more significantly - conflicts amongst them, therefore carry critical power in the way we relate and respond to one another. The female body, especially the black female body, has a persistent stereotyped portrayal: of frailty, naivety, primitivism, vulnerability, victimhood, a body to be dominated or, indeed, a body to be ignored, one lacking in portrayal or visibility at all. The trans body tends to be situated even further outside these margins. In acknowledgement, Boswell’s portraits will highlight the materiality of the body, its composition as flesh and bone, its outline and contours, its weight, its individuality and history, revealing scars and marks, flaws and alterations. In For Every Real Word Spoken, bodies are things that one inhabits, objects that others look at and signifiers that must bear the interpretation of others’ subjective standpoints. The relationship between viewer and model will be radically re-negotiated: standing in the presence of these women, the audience will be expected to acknowledge them fully by activating their speech. The women in the drawings are not passive models, but will confront the viewer, both with their bodies and their speech, as participants reclaiming their voice. The exhibition will thus strive to address and undermine the currency of the silent muse in art history: a woman typically shown as an object rather than possessor of the gaze. Surrounding the viewer, the work becomes an inversion of the Panopticon; these women, standing together and gazing inwards, will imbue the installation with the power of women’s activism, collectivism and collaboration. Boswell writes: 'so many incredible women (artists, thinkers, etc) came forward to be involved, and their participation has inevitably become part of the work'. For Every Real Word Spoken will therefore shift the emphasis from the silent labelling of surveillance and the gaze, to the groupings that can be built through action, solidarity and speech.
Interactive installation. Mixed media: handdrawn animation, looped projection (29mins 55secs looped), pressure sensors, arduino, Mac Mini, interactive code (devised by Fabio Lattanzi Antinori), sound recordings (including the voice testimonies of women in London and Kiev, vocal elements from the B.I.G. Choir, lead by Leonn Meade, the essay Silence Is A Woman, read by its author Wambui Mwangi, the essay The Khanga is Present, read by its author Ndinda Kioko, and the many names of the artist's sheroes sheroes), carpet, paint, charcoal, chalk.
(Commissionned and produced in its original form on the occasion of the Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement 2016, organized by the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, in collaboration with the Fonds d’art contemporain de la Ville de Genève (FMAC) and the Fonds cantonal d’art contemporain, Genève (FCAC) and co-produced by Faena Art and In Between Art Film.)
An exploration of Shakespeare's intentions when writing Othello, exploring the play's racial themes in a historical and contemporary setting and drawing wider parallels between immigration and blackness in the UK today.
Written, performed and animated by Phoebe Boswell, and directed by Shola Amoo, Dear Mister Shakespeare is the ninth film in the British Council / Guardian commissioned Shakespeare Lives short film collection, originally released on The Guardian Website
In this series, Boswell redraws the profile pictures from her Facebook page that have received the most 'Likes'. With a nod to a long history of artist self-portraits, portraits that have previously offered the viewer some sort of inroad into the inner psyche of the artist, these drawings question how we can even begin to start to portray our true selves, when our social media selves demand so much of our attention.
Pencil on paper (series)
23cm x 25cm each
Multimedia Installation. Looped projection, table, two chairs, two speakers, family photographs, rug.
Dadangu is an intimate exploration of sisterhood and shared history. The installation, named after the Swahili for ‘my sister', shows the artist (based in London) and her sister (based in Dubai) mining a collection of treasured family photographs, using these as triggers to explore the narratives of their shared lives. Echoing the migratory nature of their family story, the process of creating the work involved the physical photographs traveling between the two sisters. They told their stories separately, and their voices are brought together in the installation. In overlapping the two sisters' versions of what should be the same stories, Dadangu explores the harmony but also the inevitable disconnect and dissonance of personal memory.
A projection of the looped film projects downwards onto a square table covered in the artist's old family photographs facing downwards. On either side of the table is a chair with a speaker placed upon it. One speaker holds the artist's voice, the other her sister's, so they overlap within the space.
Phoebe Boswell: The Lizards Within Us
Preview: 6 November, 12-6pm
Talk: Saturday 21 November 4-6pm – Phoebe Boswell will be telling stories and discussing the work
Finissage: 27 November, 6-9pm
Everything we tell you today is true…if you wish to believe it is. It’s all just words anyway, right?
The Lizards Within Us is a multi-sensory installation in which Phoebe Boswell uses film, drawing, sound, and interactive sculpture to examine how storytelling, nuance, and language aid our personal predilections towards belief.
In the summer of 2014, Boswell spent three months in Zanzibar, researching the island’s prevalent belief in an ulterior ‘spirit world’. She was on a yearlong residency at the Florence Trust in London at the time, based in a studio situated in a church. Boswell was intrigued by the notion of what makes a redundant but never deconsecrated church remain ‘holy’; what that actually means, and how it is upheld. Wanting to explore belief systems as a whole, the fundamental notions of why and how we believe, but not wanting to delve into the politics of organised religion, Boswell began to realise as her research progressed that nothing honest was going to come from her vantage point, as a cynical Londoner examining the intricacies of this deeply entrenched East African belief system. She would have to place herself within the work, and explore the frailties within her own body, if she was ever going to make any true and valid work about belief.
The exhibition’s central film The Lizard of Unmarriedness (It’s All About How You Tell It) is the starting point in which Boswell begins to narrate her tale. Subsequent artworks such as The Mechanics of Illusion I, II, III, and In Case of Corporeality deal with notions of ritualistic practice, identity and illusion. Through various gaps in Boswell’s narrative, all sorts of illusions and beliefs can begin to emerge from her initial encounter with the witchdoctor when he first mentions ‘the lizard’ spirit. The installation invites a consideration of belief and human frailty and what it is that gives us the impulse to believe. Epilogue acts as the final paragraph to Boswell’s tale and the viewer is left to discern what they make of the story.
Curated by Lanny Walker
Pencil on paper.
40cm x 30cm (each)
23mins 30 secs
The Matter of Memory, 2014
Installation, variable dimensions
Phoebe Boswell’s The Matter of Memory is an immersive multimedia installation, drawn from conversations with both her parents about their memories of Kenya. The audience is invited to explore Boswell's grandmother's colonial “living room,” discovering hidden narratives within the fabric of this intimate space, personal narratives that relate to memory, family, and love. These narratives, however, also speak of wider themes concerning place; they explore the brutalities of Kenya's colonial past and admit the historical burdens passed down through generations, ultimately shaping the artist's identity and delicate sense of belonging. She combines traditional draftsmanship and digital technology to create drawings, animations, and installations that form a language communicating global, fragmented narratives such as her own; narratives that cannot be easily explained – contained – in a single image, or a single screen film.
The Matter of Memory, 2014, Installation view Hasselblad Center, GIBCA 2015. Photo: Hendrik Zeitler
In 2012, I became one of the first two recipients of the Sky Academy Arts Scholarship, a £30,000 award given to an emergin artist under 30 to produce a new body of work. In this short film, made when I was very much in the throes of it, I discuss the process of making the work.
Animate Projects presents Pipeline: Powered by PechaKucha
Speaker: Phoebe Boswell
Phoebe Boswell is an artist; she was the first recipient of the Sky Academy Arts Scholarship in 2012.
phoebeboswell.com / @PhoebeBoswell
Accelerate Animation is a practice and professional development programme developed by Animate Projects in partnership with London College of Communication, University of the Arts London and with support from Jerwood
The Accelerate Animation report, published in November 2013, set out to map the changing landscape of contemporary creative animation and its practitioners. The findings are helping inform the creation of a new professional and practice development programme for independent, creative animators working across a broad
range of cultural and commercial practice.
Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England
accelerateanimation.com // #APPIPE // @AnimateProjects
Project exploring my body in the city of Gothenburg, during a monthlong residency there in April 2015
‘The Girl With Stories In Her Hair’ was my final student film at Central St Martins. It was made in collaboration with the National Gallery Education department, as part of a commissioned programme called ‘Transitions’, where we were asked to choose a painting from the permanent collection as inspiration for our final films. I chose Edgar Degas’ La Coiffure and focused on the contradictive nature of Degas’ voyeuristic, misogynistic manner through which the painting was conceived, juxtaposed with the conveyed warmth and intimacy of the painting itself, and also memories of my mother combing my hair as a child.
Transcriptions - Sainsbury Wing, National Gallery, London
Norwich Film Festival – The Forum, Norwich
Bradford Animation Festival – National Media Museum, Bradford
Filmstock International Film Festival – The Hat Factory, Luton
British Animation Awards Public Choice – Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast; AUCB, Bournemouth; National Media Museum, Bradford; Bristol Watershed, Bristol; Chapter Arts, Cardiff; QUAD, Derby; DCA, Dundee; Filmhouse, Edinburgh; Phoenix Arts Centre, Exeter; The Poly, Falmouth; Glasgow Film Theatre, Glasgow; Westminster University, Harrow; Lincolnshire University, Lincolnshire; BFI Southbank, London; FACT, Liverpool; UCCA, Maidstone; Cornerhouse, Manchester; Animex, Middlesborough; Cinema City, Norwich; Edge Hill City, Ormskirk; Peninsula Arts Cinema, Plymouth; Portsmouth University, Portsmouth; Showroom, Sheffield; Staffordshire University, Staffs; Dartington Arts, Totnes; Lighthouse, Wolverhampton
British Animation Awards – BFI Southbank, London
7th London Independent Film Festival – The Roxy Cinema, London
Rushes Soho Shorts – ICA, London; Soho Film Lab, London
Jersey Branchage Film Festival – as part of the Rushes LONDON selection, Jersey, Channel Islands
Whistling In The Dark – curated by STOMPER, Shoreditch Town Hall, London
Distinction - Central St Martins 2D Character Animation Postgraduate Diploma
Best Student Film nomination – Bradford Animation Festival, National Media Museum, Bradford
Best Film nomination – British Animation Awards Public Choice, BFI Southbank, London
Best Animated Short nomination – Rushes Soho Shorts, ICA, London
Pencil on paper
Pencil and Ink on paper, on video.
Projected onto wall, with 'sticks' drawn directly onto the wall surface.