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Marty St James’ latest book: out now

Being in Time – performance art – Marty St James published by Zidane press

Out now – available at: James/9781999764319 dp/1999764315/ref=sr_1_1? dchild=1&keywords=9781999764319&qid=1595431801&sr=8-1

Artists Statement James/9781999764319 

Adagio No 8’ is a Kaleidoscope of movement, a visual dance, a portrait, an assemblage. I set myself the challenge of working with the figure within a classical form, physical landscape through the use of moving image, digital media, sound and drawing.

I have always considered my drawings as types of kaleidoscopes of thought, tunnels of thinking and time-based moving image works as navigations across time and through space in different and innovative ways. All of my art works I refer to as types of portraits of both others and myself. The curator Matthew Shaul suggested that‘His (St. James) work then is perhaps an attempt to map this new grammar and to provide new understandings of identity and portraiture appropriate to the digital age’[1].

In 1990 I made a large multi-screen video installation called The Dancer[2], working with an Indian Bharata dancer. Prior to this I was a Performance Artist using and exploring social elements through movement and audience relationship in real time and space.

I can understand Renoir’s[3] obsession with ballet but sense that the pure physical effort is something opaque. Also the mental strength needed (shown up recently in the Hollywood film, Black Swan[4]) as being a very real obstacle course of ambition and drive.

With these new works I wanted to consider the formal classical movements of ballet within the virtual and actual landscape of new technology but through my ever-present interest in portraiture used and considered within the widest sense of the term. In many ways the presence, physical ability and attitude of the person in the new works (Iveta Petrakova[5]) interested me more than the dance itself as I found her own personal history deeply involved in this classical performance dance form. As Yeats suggested the two are possibly intertwined, O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, how can we know the dancer from the dance? [6]

The language of Ballet is to me a mystifying and magnificent experience encased within extreme formal physical movements. To consider it through the lens is for me a type of Alice in Wonderland[7] experience, falling through a tunnel of visual fear and the unfamiliar. The challenge was to put together all of these different elements (digital image, the formal and precise movements, the person, the sound etc) to deal with this as a starting point for exploration within my chosen medium. And at the same time locate another series of forms in which the ideas and images could be suspended within the current digital media and software against the more traditional aspects of paper. In neither do I see a hierarchical difference.

In a sense I suggest these issues as symptomatic of my working processes and thinking, i.e. relating to the past whilst attempting the future.

Marty St James May 2011

[1] You, Me and It  Marty St.James(UK 2011) exhibition catalogue, Matthew Shaul text P27 ISBN 978-0-9550478-8-6

[2]Dancer, The (collar: Wilson A) Marty St. James, 1990, 14 screen, 14 mins, video, colour, sound. Sitter: Shobana Jeyasingh. First exhibited: Camden Arts Centre, London

[3] Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919), Limoges France. Impressionist painter

[4] Black Swan, (USA 2010) directed by Darren Arnofsky

[5] Iveta Petrakova, (1966- ) Ostrava, Czech Republic, Ballet dancer

[6] Among School Children (1926), William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939), Dublin Ireland, poet

[7] Alice in Wonderland (original title: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) 1865 novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll

Moving Image Review 2011

Marty St James’s Upside Down World (2009) employs an apparently simple and naïve estrangement device, announced in the title prior to the start of the piece. It is simple, maybe, but powerful. Immediately we are transported back in time to memories of hanging upside down from the railings, or similar, a literal bouleversement. The structure is straightforward – binary – with the transition between the two sections underlined by the frenetic music by Julia Wolfe, which accom- panies the first section, shot appar- ently from a moving vehicle. The image content of this first section is by no means simple. It consists of four shots.

The first, very short shot, gives us a view along a road, seen from the front window of a car and then inverted (or shot upside down, I don’t know). The second shot is much longer, and again appears to be taken from a moving vehicle, but is ‘upside down’ only by virtue of the camera pointing vertically upwards into the sky. The third is an artfully composed static shot where a solitary inverted tree, dominating the top left quadrant and surrounded by thin pillars, insubstantial wires and sky, is buffeted by a vigorous breeze. In the final shot of this section we are on the move again through a rather French avenue of trees, but here either the camera is slightly askew or there is a considerable camber to the road, for the inverted image is a few degrees away from vertical. All the shots are linked by cross-fades and it is a cross- fade that moves us into the second section. The music, which had become increasing frenetic, suddenly stops.

Part 2 consists of two shots only. In the first, over half of the top of the frame is occupied by grass. Beneath, amongst a few trees and the sky, a lone inverted figure walks away. The inversion of the gait of a human being causes a frisson the first time one sees it. Although, as an adult, one can be entranced in general by upside- downness, we are capable-enough signal manipulators to mentally set things right. We’re bemused, perhaps, but not shocked. I defy anyone who is not a physiologist not to be taken aback by upside-down walking, altogether a laboured, ungainly affair. One initially believes that re-inverting it would evince the same awkwardness in the ‘original’, but no. The figure slowly recedes in what might or might not be an intentional homage to the last part of Zorns Lemma (Frampton 1970).

I can’t quite tell whether the final shot, an old chestnut, but one which works beautifully here, of inverted reflections in water (you have to look twice, you do, no matter how many times you’ve seen it, then you feel stupid because it’s so obvious once it comes into ‘focus’) is a still or a very uneventful bit of moving image. As with all the ambiguities of this piece, the uncertainty enriches it, makes us look more closely and beckons us into its strange parallel world.

This complex of decisions, of suggested meanings, of reference, could easily be a dog’s dinner. Some might find it so. For me it is a concrete exemplar of ‘looking outwards’. The piece is a tiny visual lyric poem/ticking bomb. Subsequent to writing this I discovered that the One Minuteversion of this piece is an extract from a longer (4 minutes 31 seconds) piece. Of course this alters my argument not a jot.

Reviewed by Michael Szpakowski Writtle School of Design

Moving Image Review 2011


Antarctica Hat Action

The form that visual artist Marty St James’s work takes is that of a fragmentary or sequential nature resulting via digital video or digital photographic print technology and more recently handmade drawings. In 1990 he invented the term Video Portraits, a number of which are in major collections. Originally a performance artist, touring North America, Europe and Britain, time based practice features strongly in the artists use and intentions. The physical practice of movement across time and space and the notion of journey as found to be the components of a live performance are essential elements in the artists thinking and understanding of form. These notions of working with time, translating movement into non-static forms and vice versa are a logical progression across his use of media, from live works to single tape videos, video portraits and digital works.

Snow print


Marty St.James  UK 09

“This will involve the making and recording of a giant complex non-toxic print image in the snow/ice based on a photographic memory.”

Memories, images, people

We carry with us images and memories of our past: people, places, things, events, disturbances, desires, failures and successes.

Current data

Current data informs us that our environment is changing. The landscape that we are familiar with right now may not be available for future generations.

A metaphor in time and space

This project proposes locating the creative process in a place of flux and movement. A visual memory translated into marks in space and time. As memory is fleeting, as people are passing this work aims by its construct to be a metaphor in time and space.

The intention

The intention is to stream the process and the making and to record the result photographically.

This will involve the making and recording of a giant complex non-toxic print image in the snow/ice based on a photographic memory

The result will be two fold.

A set of sequential large-scale photographic art works made during its construction, making and as the piece disappears. To be shown in a gallery setting after the event.

A streamed live video version via The Streaming Museum New York – showing to a worldwide audience.

Background in relation to Antarctica.

My recent video art work [1]Upside down world is one starting point i.e. thinking of the ways of the world are upside down and that Antarctica is located in the minds of people as we view the map as the under part of the world…so which way up is the world? (a metaphor).

I once travelled across Canada in the winter by train and stopped and at Medicine Hat. A couple of Australians got off at the station and went mad in the snow…they were in their 70’s and had never seen snow before! (a metaphor) – disappearing world.

Antarctica is a place that has been split up by the countries of the world with claims and counter claims. Territories and divides…this work aims to locate concept and place i.e.: transience of materials (Antarctica) / transience of ownership / transience of people / therefore transience of political dogma.

A POLE OF ENERGY Important as a pole of energy, opposite poles of energies – a complex point of pinnacle reference, which is a requirement for the whole of existence. It is a measurer of our doing and yet at the same time they are opposite poles we live between. Here we are back to my ideas of 2Betweeness- a state of existence.

Somewhere or Inbetween

Marty St. James is a modernist in post-modernist clothes. As an artist his primary medium is digital technology but his concerns are firmly rooted in the spiritual and Utopian subtexts of modernism with its hallmark of self re-flective thinking. Whilst existential alienation of the Outsider, as exalted by Colin Wilson, Camus and Sartre, opined that life was futile, that it was characterized by estrangement, such nihilistic thinking, ironically, acknowledged its mirror image. For doubt, per se, admits to possibility. While Vladimir and Estragon knew that there was ‘Nothing to be done’, they nevertheless, waited, in anticipation, for the imminent arrival of M. Godot. Modernism admitted to a gap, to a god-shaped hole at the centre of Enlightenment is humanist enterprise…..Somewhere or In between .places (Marty St.James) …firmly in this arena between exhausted modernism and a world dominated by bland of celebrity and co modification. It is an uncomfortable place, more concerned with the witnessing of truths than with offering easy or glib panaceas. His natural progression as an artist has stretched from Performance art, through video to digital video. For him creativity – line with Joseph Beuys’s legacy – is the purest form of political statement. For Marty St.James believes that art only matters if the artist has something important to say, that his or her work is not simply an item of commercial transaction.

Sue Hubbard   Art critic of the Independent Newspaper

[1] Upside Down World by Marty St James, with music by Julia Wolfe. A video art work 7mins, colour c 2009

[2] Somewhere or In Between – exhibition Chelsea Art Museum, New York 2005