Kwan Makes Bread 2013

Mike Marshall

The Projectionist 2013

Mike Marshall

Mike Marshall’s videos, photographs and soundscapes quietly transform and re-evaluate simple scenarios and ambient spaces. Just as the ‘minor’ events of daily life often only slowly reveal their interest and potential, Marshall’s work slows down the time of looking, emphasising close engagement and the sensory qualities of experience. In doing so it reverses conventional hierarchies of looking and at the same time provokes examination into the nature of our engagement with the immediate world around us.

Each of Marshall’s video works have a rich and detailed sound component that fill and pressurise the depicted space. Ambient sounds are layered, re-orchestrated and often allied with musical composition to form a deep space filled with sonic events that both cut across, coincide, accelerate or slow down their visual counterparts.

His large-scale photographs present densely filled environments as ‘milieus’ with distinct ambient qualities and are full or ‘rich’ in terms of the textured detail provided by the format on which they are shot. Each uses an unexpected layering of depth and focus that places the viewer at an uncertain threshold somewhere between a generalised looking or ‘blank staring’ and a concentrated optical mode of vision.

Marshall’s multi-speaker soundscapes utilise the almost holographic representational qualities of sound to invite a listening and produce a fluid temporality that unsettles expectations of fixed space, either meticulously re-constructing familiar sonic environments, or overlapping one sound space over another. In ‘The Sound of Bombay’ (Tate Gallery St Ives 2004) a recording from a gallery roof terrace in the busy centre of Bombay was superimposed onto the ambient sounds of the St Ives Gallery terrace; gulls, sea, beach life mixing with a distant Asian metropolis. ‘Cloudburst’ (2005), presented recently at the Ikon Gallery, involved the recording and layering of individual droplets of water falling on different surfaces, with around 200,000 drops falling over a period of four minutes, the small noises slowly accumulating to become the sound of heavy rain.

Recent work has focused in on people engaged in their daily work: the projectionist of a small town cinema in India, Vietnamese farmers working an olive grove in Cyprus, a woman making bread for tourists in Thailand.
Each of these projects examines work as a spending of time and energy in relation to the environment in which it occurs, the activity of a person or people merges and coalesces with their immediate surroundings in a combined process of creative production.

Description of Works

Kwan Makes Bread

HD Video for projection with sound, 14.40 minutes, 2013

Kwan is a bread maker, everyday from early in the morning until the evening she makes bread for tourists who travel to a remote location in Thailand. This video work is the second by Marshall to examine the activity of others engaged in their daily work.

The Projectionist

HD video projection with sound . 9 minutes, 2013

a projectionist prepars to screen a film inside of a dusty, ramshackle projection booth in a small town in India. He winds film onto spools using a device adapted from an old bike, the projectors are antiquated and have to be gently nursed into operation while surrounded by equipment that is outdated, improvised and held together with tape. The film to be shown is called ‘Fashion’, its modern electronic soundtrack collides with the sounds of traffic from outside the building while the film’s images of glamour and aspiration jar to an almost absurd degree with the surroundings in which it is shown.


HD Anamorphic video with sound, 5 minutes, 2013

The surroundings of remote settlements in tropical forests often hum with diesel driven generators that supply their electricity, these engines are usually quite loud and from a distance their sounds blend with the those of crickets, cidadas and birds. This video work amplifies these sonic relationships, interweaving the machinic and the organic, the man made and the natural, into an interdependent system predicated upon energy, intensification and entropy.

Vacuum (A Concise History of Photography)
Quadraphonic sound installation.

5 minutes 54 seconds, 2013

This sound installation takes as its starting point the simple act of leafing through a book of visual images - ‘A Concise History of Photography’ by Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, published by Thames and Hudson in 1965. It begins with the sound of the book being flicked through, the pages rippling as they fold over, then pages being slowly and deliberately turned along with the sounds of finger tips rustling against the grain of the paper. At first these sounds seem close and intimate, seemingly magnified by the recording apparatus, over time they build up, layering upon one another until a sound akin to wind in the trees emerges.

Axis (A Brief Moment of Tropical Delirium)

Quadraphonic sound installation. 5 minutes, 2013

Composed from field recordings of tropical forests in South East Asia, cicadas, crickets and various bird calls have been combined together to form a detailed soundscape that is apparently natural yet carefully constructed. Each bird and insect makes its own call to attract mates and demarcate territory, the sounds are repetitive and rhythmic, the effect is hypnotic, lulling the senses. After a few minutes this forest reverie begins to increase in speed and rise steadily in pitch. As it accelerates towards the limit of human hearing it begins to transform into an airy rushing sound, with an accompanying lower harmonic tone, the sound begins to rotate around the space of the gallery, the rotation increasing in intensity then slowing down again and separating back out as it returns to the familiar sound of a tropical forest.

A Prism Splits Light

8 minutes 40 seconds HD video with sound, 2011

An olive grove in Cyprus is tended by a Vietnamese couple who live in a small prefab on the property. Hoa typically wears a traditional Vietnamese conical hat when she is working while her husband Tung often dresses in army fatigues. They work together amongst a typically Mediterranean landscape in springtime. On the soundtrack can be heard the variety of birdsong at that time of year along with the occasional sound of distant gunfire issuing from an army base located just over the hill.
made in conjuction with stour valley arts, artsway uk and the pharos trust Cyprus. Exhibited at the New Forest Pavillion for the Venice Biennale 2011.

Past Commissioned Projects

Cloudburst. (Ikon Gallery) 2005. 4 minutes

Eight speaker surround-sound installation of the sound of rain.
Individual Droplets of water were recorded landing on a variety of different surfaces; glass, paper, concrete etc. Each carefully timed, layered and placed in space. Around 200,000 drops fall in a period of four minutes. These small noises slowly accumulate until they reach a high detail crescendo of multi-textured rain.

Birds Sing in Response to a Distant Calamity. (Grundy Gallery) 2006. 12 minutes

5.1 surround-sound installation occupying the main gallery space.
A variety of modulating and melodic birdsong which lies between a sonic depiction of ‘natural’ space and precisely structured composition.

Birdcatcher. (Film and Video Umbrella) 2006. 5 minutes.

Super 16mm colour film transferred to DVD.
A very slow continuous travelling shot through tropical trees and plants with soundtrack of a Skylark slowed down to one tenth its usual speed. Presenting a verdant exotic world viewed from an unfamiliar perspective, the camera slowly carves a straight path above head-height over a distance of about 70 metres. Filmed in super 16mm colour, the shot has a particular optical quality; with the depth of field fixed in the middle distance, trees and foliage pass close by, dissolving into and back out of focal range. The horizontal movement of the camera parallels the unrolling of the film, its smooth mechanical slowness lending an uncanny feeling of virtuality in contrast to the exotic ‘natural’ space it explores.