David Blandy in conversation with the Young Creatives
Despite the Pavilion being closed, the Young Creatives – a group of young people who meet at DLWP every month – are still meeting digitally, working with artist Sam Ayre to generate conversation, ideas and creative outputs informed by a concoction of everyday activities, historical actions and artists work and ideas.
Last time they met, artist David Blandy was invited into the conversation to talk about about gaming, portals and the importance of creating with whatever materials you have to hand. Here is a transcript of the session, giving insights into how Blandy creates his work.
Young Creatives: What has inspired you to make art?
David Blandy: After you had killed the baddies and stuff in games like Doom you had all these empty rooms and I found them really interesting. So I started doing these artworks where I would delete everything from the game apart from the background, for example there’d be these really beautiful landscapes in the background of certain fighting games, so I’d take everything away and you’d be left with this forest scene. You’re left with a place that you’ve kind of been to, and had some sort of experience of, through playing the game- but it doesn’t really exist.
Games like Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which was is a really old version now of the Zelda games on the N64 the Nintendo 64, where you had a time system and you’d have to wait until certain times of day to play certain elements of it. You could watch the sun come up and then there would be the sunset and then a moon, and I’d record the day to night cycle and how it affects the landscape. You’d be watching it with it’s eerie reality, and that’s also happening in real life. It could also describe me playing the game, sort of wasting, killing time (he laughs).
A game I’ve used a lot in my work is Grand Theft Auto V. The game is five years old now but it has one of the best what’s called ‘Machinima’ modes in it, which is like a video editing part of it. So you can choose where your character is going to be and what they want to do and then choose separate camera angles and modes to watch it happen. You can have your character do pretty much anything, and then watch them do it in all manner of different ways like some Hollywood film.
The Finding Fanon II film I made with Larry Achiampong was made like this – we had to meet online in the game to make that together.
YCs; Is play important to you when making art?
DB: Yeah, I think so but more importantly, and this has always happened but is happening more often recently, artists are using things that come to hand. The things that you’re always looking at, the things that are right in front of you that are there all the time, it’s using those to say what you want to say in your art work.
YC: I’ve been making lots of characters for my final major project around law related stories and gaming, world building, making a whole story around something and someone. I’ve gone down the route of mythology and deity related stories, I’ve been trying to put my own spin on the things by researching and making them different to the existing deity works out there as there is a lot! I’ve shared some pictures in our group chat of what I’ve been developing – what do you think?
DB: Oh these are really cool, they look super cool! They look like they could fit right into the world I’ve been building, The World After, which is a role playing game, set in the future where humans have evolved very quickly due to some substance that has sped this up. I’ve been working with different groups in different places across the UK to create different societies that live underground. Just before lockdown I was working with a group in North London to create a bird-based society and an amphibian society, and I can see your rabbit-like character living in these societies.
I’ve really enjoyed getting back into role-playing games. It’s been eye opening to explore the space that is created in the mind when you share an actual story with someone else – it’s a way to get off the screen and back into real life somehow – which is almost impossible now! But it’s through these sort of portals that you can make them happen, making these worlds become actual but there’s still a virtual element. But it’s a great experiment that I’d like to explore more.
YC: I make films and take photographs, what do you use to make your films?
DB: I’ve used an old iPhone SE with a macro lens on it. You can get quite a decent one for £5 and then use a programme on the phone called Filmic Pro – that costs about £15 – but it doesn’t compress the images as much as iPhone. I used this a lot on this film I made to go with The World After where I filmed bugs, water and all sorts of nature close up. I’d recommend it during this time of lockdown, – get a macro lens and spend some time looking at the world through a totally different perspective.
In another film I made with Larry Achiampong we use the lens to film our own skin and taxidermy birds, to get all the different textures that are there. It looked like we were filming some sort of alien landscape, very lo-fi and not very expensive but still making something good that gets the idea across that you want.
It’s good to make work with what you have to hand!
YCs: Using a digital portal to create a piece of work like you did with Larry in Grand Theft Auto that’s one way of getting around the current restrictions we have at the moment and still being able to work together. Do you like working that way?
DB: It does feel quite physical to meet in these digital places as an avatar especially as we were also talking via Skype to work things out. It’s also quite dream-like, as you are watching yourself do all this too. The avatars we made also look a bit like us too so that makes it extra weird.
YCs: A bit like in Animal Crossing, making an avatar and creating a world around it, though they look nothing like us!
DB: I see some other pictures in your group chat, I like these drawings, are they an anime character, I’m not familiar with this particular one?
YC: Yes, me and some friends set each other challenges to draw different characters and also to make a comic strip out of the conversations we are having whilst playing online games.
DB: I really like them and the digital drawings of hands, they’re interesting, I was wondering what they are about? I thought they were about somebody not being able to get in the chat!
YC : They’re about making a piece of work in response to the question, ‘How do we engage in community?’ and this one is about the online communities I’m part of. We’ve been asking this question and others to our friends and family to make a podcast about community and rituals.
YC: Are there any particular works, things, games that have had a big immediate impact on how you make art work?
DB: Oooh big question! Maybe Final Fantasy VII, that was the game that really made me feel that video games were a real art form and also involved emotion. I’ve always loved video games as a geeky pastime but Final Fantasy was the first game that got me feeling something about the possibilities in games.
Another thing or person would be Andy Kaufman, he’s really important to me, he’s a performance artist form the 1970s and 1980s who was a recurring character in a TV show and a stand up comedian. He did some really unexpected things, you were never quite sure whether his life was real or a performance. There’s a film about him starring Jim Carrey, called Man on The Moon and then there’s Jim and Andy which is about how the character of Andy Kaufman took over Jim Carrey’s mind whilst he was acting as him.
I really love anime, and especially Hayao Miyazaki’s work, that’s really important and shows how to deal with big themes and ideas like identity, the environment and art.
In hip hop, I love like The RZA from Wu-Tang Clan, he was one of the first people to use samples in an incredibly raw way, he’d use samples in an almost punk rock sort of way. Instead of trying to make it seem as slick and smooth as possible he would make it really crunch and make you aware that you were listening to a looped thing from a record on a song. That got me thinking about how you can use things that already exist in the world already to make something else and re-purposing them which led me into some of my video works.
YC: I noticed how there’s no artists in there that you mentioned, no Picasso or anyone (laughs) , as we’re often taught and led to believe that artists are inspired by other artists in a nice neat line of inspiration.
DB: (laughs) Yeah I like artists but I want to try and make work that is maybe accessible and understandable by people. So these artists that I’ve just mentioned are people that have been successful in getting a message across to all sorts of people, so I’m always going to be interested in what they are doing. My background is in art and so my work always ends up being arty.
YC: What game should we be playing right now?
DB: Animal Crossing maybe is a good one, any adventure game is good right now, maybe Zelda: Breath of the Wild or something that takes you into nature like that. Final Fantasy VII has just been remade and I’d like to go through that, supposedly there’s a really meta thing going on with it where it’s aware of itself being a remake. Sounds really weird and great, almost a self aware game.
Anything that brings people together, any group playing games like Splatoon: = it’s a shooting game but it’s artistic too and you can chat whilst you play.
Also I’d really recommend Dungeons and Dragons or The World After! You just need a Dungeon master to run it for you and you don’t need a board. It’s about creating and generating a story.
Thank you for having me, for asking some great questions and sharing your work.
Read more about the Young Creatives here
Posted by sally on Wednesday 17 June 2020