Coinciding with their current show at Carroll / Fletcher, London, John Wood and Paul Harrison share and explain four of their early films
Boat was made with our first grant from the Arts Council. I think we were awarded £1,000, and we managed to make about three works. Relatively small amounts of money early on in a career can make a huge difference. However the money didn’t stretch to buying any power tools so the boat structure was very ‘hand made’ and took ages to build, and kept breaking, and cracking and it was very creaky (which you can hear in the video). We spent a long time building up the courage to capsize the boat (the sequence after the cut) as for some reason we thought it was going to hurt a lot. We are not very brave.
This the first piece of work we made together. At the time we never really thought of ourselves as having any kind of working relationship. We had just left college and we were just trying to continue to make things. We had access to a school theatre for the summer and so we set a camera up (an old S-VHS camera borrowed from the school) and made hours and hours of tests and experiments. Something about playing around with an 8x4’ MDF board stuck with us and so we spent two weeks working on a continuous sequence, a sort of dance piece with out us having to dance.
3 Legged, 1997
We had been commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella to make a work, Untitled, for a touring film programme. We had hired a tennis ball machine from Bridgnorth tennis club in Shropshire and managed to shoot the commissioned work quite quickly and so we had a few extra days to play around with it. 3 Legged (1997) came out of us just messing around, firing the machine at each other, standing against a wall or on chairs. As is often the way, some of the most interesting things come out of just messing around.
Device was made for the TV series Expanding Pictures, a commission by Arts Council and the BBC shown on BBC Two in 1997. Originally produced as a single piece it was split into six parts and used as the title sequence for the programme. Pre-production took about eight months and was followed by a two-day shoot, the only time we have worked with a professional crew. The idea was to make devices that enabled a figure to move in six directions across the screen: left/right, right/left, up/down, down/up, diagonal left/right, diagonal right/left.
John Wood and Paul Harrison live and work in Bristol, UK. Recent solo exhibitions include ‘I DIDN’T KNOW I DIDN’T KNOW IT’, Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada (2016); ‘Some Things Are Hard to Explain’, NTT InterCommunication Center, Tokyo, Japan; ‘Erdkunde: The Study of the Earth’, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Bristol UK; and ‘An almost identical copy’, Carroll / Fletcher, London, UK (all 2015). Other notable solo exhibitions include Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (2011-12); Kunstmuseum Thun, Switzerland (2010); Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2009); and Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2007). Their work is held in collections including MoMA, New York; Tate, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; The Arts Council Collection, British Council Collection, and the Government Art Collection, UK.
‘Some things were recorded 1993-1998’ runs until 29 October at Carroll / Fletcher, London. The show comprises 12 videos and a selection of drawings by Wood and Harrison during that period – the early years of a collaboration which spans more than two decades.