Ben Cullen Williams
Ben Cullen Williams is a London based artist, whose practice consists of sculptures, installations, photography and video. In his work, Williams explores humankind’s relationship to the world in a rapidly changing environment; he focuses on the intersection between space, technology and landscape. He investigates how related spatial typologies can be understood as a physical manifestation of our own human condition. He draws on a range of fabrication processes from physical to digital to understand our changing relationship to the material world.
Q: WHAT WAS YOUR ROUTE TO YOUR CURRENT ARTISTIC PRACTICE?
I originally studied architecture before deciding to study sculpture: even though I am fascinated by the discourse around architecture, I was slightly frustrated by the current practice of architecture, I needed something more immediate and responsive. So much of my practice is rooted in the conceptual fundamentals of architecture and its concerns. My working practice as an artist has been punctuated by numerous different stints in a range of architectural roles. These have bled into my work, each one a technical learning experience with skills that can be directly applied to my practice. This led to my interest in exploring the intersections between technology, space and landscape – I interpret each of those terms literally and conceptually. Much of my work revolves around collaboration, building teams or contributing to teams to make large, ambitious works. I am increasingly interested in work that exists outside the conventional notions of art practice or the art object.
Q: CAN YOU IDENTIFY ANY ELEMENTS OF YOUR COMMUNITY OR COLLABORATORS THAT HAVE HAD A STRONG INFLUENCE?
Within my work I am fascinated by our relationship to space – we can question our environments or systems that we inhabit. However, the self needs to be located within there somewhere; either physically or conceptually. Furthermore, when I create work I feel it’s necessary to consider the idea of a human body in relation to the work – the work is suddenly animated and brought to life when it is viewed. In 2016, I was wonderfully honoured to be asked by the choreographer Wayne McGregor to collaborate with him on his latest contemporary dance at the time. I was a fan of his work for a long time prior to collaborating with him, so watching him work was a joy. His understanding of the body and the body’s relationship to space is incredible, so the time I spent in rehearsals watching him work completely made me change my understanding of the body in relation to work and the spaces that are formed around bodies.
Q: HOW IS YOUR PROJECT TIED TO THE CIRCA X DAZED CLASS OF 20:21 THEME OF ‘COMMUNION’?
Cold Flux is an AI generated video created from footage I filmed of the Larsen-B Ice shelf whilst on an expedition to Antarctica with polar explorer Robert Swan. The ice shelf splintered off the Antarctic peninsula in 2002 and has been disintegrating since. The ice connects us all, our fate is completely linked with the life of the ice. The footage of this fractured ice shelf was used to train machine learning algorithms to generate the video landscapes which visually seemingly exist within a state of melting and freezing, forming and un-forming. To rebuild the ice through the use of technology, the very thing that has led to its current destruction. The video comprises different stages of the AI machine learning process, some learnt and some yet to learn, this relationship between knowledge and non-knowledge, mirrors the crystallising of the water into ice and ice thawing into water. Cut into this video landscape is an AI generated video of the surface of the sun, synthetic and uncertain. Our communal life-giver and also our life destroyer. Accompanying the video is a haunting audio track by musician Gaika. The track is delicate, yet strong, digital but also human. The work maps the complex network between technology, environmental change and our understanding of the world, something I think we can all relate too. Our world is all of us.
Q: HOW WOULD THE CIRCA PRIZE OF £30,000 IMPACT YOUR FUTURE PRACTICE?
Finance is always an issue with my working practice, since selling art objects isn’t at the centre of my practice, it often revolves around raising the funds in order to develop the work I wish to create. Within my practice I aim to present my work in numerous different settings, so it isn’t exclusively consigned to the gallery and the world that revolves around it. The prize would allow me to push forward with the collaborative model that I am trying to work in and develop it further. I would be able to build out a team in order to work together to achieve a body of work that I (and hope others also do) deem of importance. Hopefully, I could use this collaborative team structure as a template to build other projects from. I would be granted the space to focus, away from other distractions in order to be in a mental state to create clearly. The ambition that I have in regards to questioning our relationship with technology could be pushed, bringing in the correct people from a range of disciplines, from science to literature. I want to form a model of working that isn’t about the individual, but a mode of collective projects that a number of people can take ownership of.
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