Arte e Critica (interview), 2008
Arte e Critica (interview), 2008

Arte e Critica (interview), 2008

A Gang in London_conversation with allsopp&weir.;_By Ilaria Gianni,
published in Arte e Critica Magazine, January 2008

Ok so lets start with a very simple question in order
to introduce you to the Italian readers.
Allsop & Weir is an artist collective. Can you tell
us how this collaboration began?

Andy Weir : We met at Goldsmiths in 2002. We first worked together in the summer of 2003 making a piece in conversation with Sophie Hope (from B+B) at the Prague Biennale. It involved setting up a mini housing benefits (welfare state support) system inside of a modular structure built from children's play houses. The piece ended back in London with interviews at the benefits office in bethnal green, east london, and a video documenting the event. After that we decided to keep working together, we created the name allsopp&weir;, working with someone else seemed a natural and productive way to work.

Now allsopp&weir; is a brand but i think its also a 'gang' - Deleuze - gangs live through the worst dangers, each goes about his own business while encountering others, each brings in his loot making the richest use of his solitude, using it as a means of encounter, making a line or a bloc shoot between two people. The gang shows what the conjunction AND is, neither a union nor a juxtaposition but the birth of a stammering, the outline of a broken line which always sets off at right angles, a sort of active and creative line of flight. He writes somewhere else about not working together but working between the two, and I think that's what a duo can do, having conversations that ricochet back and forth between the two, neither in one nor the other.

IG: I’ve always been fascinated by Deleuze’s idea of gang.
In this case it explains your approach towards working
as a duo and at the same time I really think it also
associates to your art practice which has something
political to it - intending political in its sense of
“acting together”. Acting together also has the
significance of communication underlaied in it, and
your work seems to explore the argument.
The common idea of communication is immediately
related to that of language and your pieces, question
this last concept in various ways. In your works,
language isn’t used as a narrative vehicle but as a
metaphor for a lack of communication or understanding
in our society that lives through and survives thanks
to communication devices. I’m actually referring to
your latest works: Amplification Device (2007) and
Language Machine (2007). In Amplification Device we
see a man creating an artifactual complex megaphone to
communicate with airplanes that take off. What I
perceived was a desperate and pure need of being heard
and a metaphor of its impossibility. In Language
Machine, instead, we are witnesses of the learning of
language, again as a necessity to communicate, but at
the same time, as a way of dealing with ones identity.

It seems as if you are looking at language in its form
of resistance and rupture….
Also, why are you using machines (the amplifcation
device, the cassette player) as a filter for
communication? What do these machines represent?

AW: I don’t think technical machines really play much of a representative function in our work. They tend to operate more often as components of a larger machine: the voice; the wind; the planes; which actively produce something - sound maybe, rather than representing something. This machine becomes a way of working, which takes processes out of our control and introduces contingencies into the process and effect of the work (a shift in auto focus, a camera shake, often digital accidents). They become part of the gang perhaps. Of course we do have moments of control – right now I’m editing for example, looking at all the shots and sounds laid out in front of me on one screen - but editing becomes a way of moving between these two poles – being open to the deforming encounters; and forming them into an art object (the film); which then gets re-deformed in our discussion. Also, you could read the shift from found devices (the tape recorder in Language Machine) to temporary constructed devices (amp device) as an attempt to turn away from the histories of representation embedded in objects and focus more on their effects.

So to answer another part of your question, this leads to thinking about Amplification Device not as an attempt at communication but as the production of sound. It is interesting you read it as communication because we didn’t really think of it in that way initially. The timetable of the aircraft provided a structure for us, which measured when building would be arrested and output as sound. The figure in the film is put into that structure (directed) and pushes it to its limits (gets tired, starts to improvise), turns away from the planes and focuses on something else (banging the watering can). This is a compositional structure that we repeatedly employ. One of the problems it proposes I think is that of sound. If his shout is not even an attempt (failed or otherwise) at communication, not a protest nor an exclamation then what potential function/effect could it have? I don’t think the film provides an answer but it seems to me he could equally be calling the planes to him (shaman of the airstrip) as shouting to or at them. Or more interestingly perhaps what they provoke in him is completely unconnected to them and madly out of control. Its not just a question of creating a metaphor for a lack of communication but of asking the question of what happens when communication reaches a point of exhaustion. These are difficult questions for the politics of ‘acting together’ you mention at the start.

Finally I wanted to mention something about ‘resistance’ as this word stands out. I don’t agree that we use language as a form of resistance in the sense of opposition to a pre-existing political structure. I don’t think this notion of resistance is a very useful model within a system which produces, accounts for and feeds on its own critique. In To The Place.. for example, we weren’t happy with the actor’s non-native English speaking voice being read as ‘resistant’ in relation to the ‘dominant’ native English voice, which is left unchanged and re-affirmed, which is why we took out and started working with his voice separately. Juxtaposition here seemed a lazy attempt at politics. When the voice ceases to be resistant it can be given its own force, affect or politics. It still retains a trace of the language cassette discourse but doesn’t re-establish it as monolithic. Perhaps we do work with resistance in different ways however. One would be thinking of it in a more physical sense, points where a system starts to break down and become something else, perhaps this is what you mean by rupture.

Paul Allsopp: I'd like to say something in relation to the second question,
specifically with what you term 'lack of communication' and 'being

You picked up on one potential reading of 'Amplification Device' which
I think tends toward a question of subjectivity and subjectification.
In this case, the man and the aeroplanes are in separate,
uncommunicable worlds. He is faced with absolute indifference despite
his desire for 'being heard'. If this act toward 'being heard' is a
call for recognition then it could be characterised as a desire to
exist or to be confirmed in one's existence. As it is, confronted
with indifference, the man is a ghost stripped of the power of
appearance. His failure to present himself through the act of calling
is also a failure of the means at his disposal. The amplification
device, haphazardly assembled from an assortment of pipes, tape, and a
watering can, is completely inadequate for this purpose. The man
fails to consitute himself as either a speaking or technological

On the other hand, one could read the assembly of the device, the
shouting, the planes taking off at regular intervals in a rush of
overwhelming sound, through to the man beginning to use the device to
beat out a relatively independent rhythm, as the composition of a
musical territory constituted by varying degrees of improvisation.
This improvisation is, however, always in relation, and moves toward
and away from the structuring elements of the territory: the
subjectifying sign of 'the call'; the sign of the aeroplane and it's
tendency toward travel and terror; the airport's departure timetable
and it's boundaries and security measures... These structuring signs
become things to be 'played with', in the sense of both a game and as
kinds of musical instuments. It is here that communication takes place
and becomes heard.

a&w;: Yes, the project we are working on now is a solo exhibition of art for Permanent Gallery in Brighton. We will show 'Amplification Device' (which we have spoken about already) and a new film 'Grass Breath Spit Trumpet'. This film uses the same actor and we are thinking of it as the second part in a series of three films. Here, the man is transposed to an anonymous piece of urban grassland where he sets about a ritualistic movement. First he breathes onto a patch of grass, then tears up the grass, puts it in his mouth, crawls over to a trumpet which is half buried in the ground, spits the grass into the trumpet, crawls over to a pipe buried in the ground and connected to the trumpet underground, blows through the pipe, making a sound with trumpet, then crawls back to the original patch of grass and continues the loop. I think it easier to see it than describe it! As his circuit goes on, he becomes increasinlgy tired and the trumpet becomes increasingly full of grass, making it harder to make a sound.

We will project these two videos in the main gallery space and we are also working on a project with Italian curator Lucia Farinati. She has recorded an interview with us, which we will use as the basis for a live event at the gallery and possibly a sound installation in the gallery bookshop area. Alongside these pieces we have invited writers to submit texts which will form an accompanying publication. Francesco Pedraglio for example has rewritten Grass Breath Spit Trumpet as a myth of the alchemist Paracelsus. Finally there will also be a screening in the gallery of some films we have selected, including one of our personal favourites 'Boudu Saved from Drowning' by Jean Renoir.

IG: I'll just have to stick to a very simple qustion
again, asking you how the idea of Nudge Nudge Wink
Wink Say No Fucking More came about. In some sense
when i was watching it, I felt as if you were pointing
out to the possibility of a sort of disruption in the
ordinary activity of sleeping. the work is showing a
small but violent change in a flow which isn't
perceived by the protagonist of the spleeping
experinece but that the specator who remains a bit
troubled by the inconcious recations of the actor.
Again language, mechanized language is involved.

Ok last thing....
How do you choose the people you are working with, the
protagionist of your works? What kind of relationship
do you create with them? And how do you direct them?

Do you work with a script?

a&w;: Our relationship to the people we work with is that of artists to actors. we pay them and they perform a role for us, its pretty simple really. People always ask us about backstories of the actors but that's pretty irrelevant to the work I think. its also important though that they are not actually actors. we have always found that non-actors are better performers than 'actors' for the purpose of our films. i don't know why that is. perhaps the experiences they draw on, create and repeat are more open than the specific training of the actor, which I imagine would usually fall back onto that training when pushed to a limit of control (we have worked with this process specifically in previous work with trained singers like Call to Prayer). There is a certain parallel with neo-realist film traditions but rather than valorising the everyday as a more direct access to truth, non-actors become a way of exploring an expanded notion of acting. Both of the protagonists are people we know and we thought would look good in our films. Its not scripted but more based around a simple repetitive structure like I mentioned before (eg, every time a plane comes past, make a sound), which allows space for improvisation.

Nudge Nudge... is a bit different in that its entirely improvised (around a set of imposed restrictions - the bed etc..). The phrase 'nudge nudge wink wink say no more' is used most commonly in British traditions of bawdy comedy (Carry On films etc..) It operates as an expression of the known but unspoken / unspeakable thing. For example, I know what I did, You know what I did, but I'm not going to talk about it, just hint at it (because its taboo) and let your dirty mind fill in the rest. The phrase came from the actor and the rest is a variation on it as a motif which passes through various forms and connections until it exhausts its combinatory possibilities, exhausts its meaning and exhausts its speaker. I like the way in the film it also provokes its own series of movement and gestures - nudging with the elbow; winking with the eye etc.. I suppose we came to it from thinking about sleeptalking as a trance-like use of language hovering between being deep asleep or fully awake. Language becomes a rhythmic force which passes through and animates a body in waves, eventually, in this case perhaps, crushing it with its weight.

Italian edit

A Gang in London
Breve conversazione con allsopp&weir.;
Di Ilaria Gianni

allsopp&weir; è un collettivo formato da Paul Allsopp (UK, 1977) e Andy Weir (UK, 1977). Artisti con un forte background teorico, lavorano principalmente con il film, analizzando il concetto di suono attraverso l’attivazione di rituali, la creazione di macchinari e la messa in discussione dello strumento linguistico, in ciò che può essere letto come una serie di disperati tentativi di comunicazione che spesso portano all’esaurimento.

I.G. Potete raccontarci come è nata la vostra collaborazione?

A.W. Ci siamo incontrati a Goldsmiths nel 2002 quando frequentavamo entrambi il Master in Teoria dell’arte contemporanea. Abbiamo lavorato insieme per la prima volta nell’estate del 2003. Stavo ragionando su una vaga idea per un’opera che volevo realizzare a Praga e mentre ne discutevo con Paul abbiamo sviluppato un progetto comune. Dopo questo episodio abbiamo deciso di continuare a lavorare insieme dandoci il nome di allsopp&weir;, che è ovviamente l’unione dei nostri cognomi ma somiglia anche ad un’agenzia immobiliare o uno studio legale. Adesso allsopp&weir; è un brand ma credo sia anche una “banda”, come la intende Deleuze. Il concetto di banda dimostra il significato della congiunzione E, che non rappresenta un’unione, né una giustapposizione, bensì una sorta di punto di decollo collaborativo, attivo e creativo.

I.G. Nel vostro lavoro il linguaggio gioca un ruolo fondamentale. Esso non è usato come veicolo narrativo, bensì come metafora di una mancanza di comunicazione della società contemporanea. Mi riferisco in particolare alle vostre ultime opere: Amplification Device (2007) e Language Machine (2007). In Amplification Device, vediamo un uomo che si cimenta nella creazione di un composito megafono artigianale allo scopo di comunicare con gli aeroplani che decollano. Ciò che ho percepito è stata una disperata e sincera necessità di essere ascoltati e una metafora della sua impossibilità. In Language Machine, invece, siamo testimoni dell’apprendimento della lingua inglese: di nuovo entra in gioco la necessità comunicativa, ma allo stesso tempo nel lavoro emerge anche il bisogno di ridefinire la propria identità. Visto che in entrambi i lavori fate uso di apparecchiature (l’amplificatore artigianale, il mangianastri), vi chiedo se li considerate filtri di una comunicatività necessaria.

A.W. Non credo che i macchinari abbiano una funzione rappresentativa nel nostro lavoro, piuttosto tendono ad operare come componenti di un macchina più ampia: la voce, il vento, gli aerei, anziché rappresentare qualcosa, la producono attivamente. Magari può trattarsi di suono. Si può anche leggere il passaggio da una strumentazione esistente (il mangianastri in Language Machine), ad apparecchiature costruite (il megafono in Amplification Device), come un tentativo di allontanarsi dalle storie incorporate negli oggetti, focalizzandosi maggiormente sui loro stessi effetti. Per rispondere all’altra parte della domanda, questo fa pensare ad Amplification Device non tanto come tentativo di comunicazione quanto come ad una produzione di suono. È interessante che tu legga tutto ciò come un’idea di comunicazione perché all’inizio non l’abbiamo proprio concepito in questa maniera. Gli orari di partenza degli aerei ci fornivano una struttura, che determinava i momenti in cui la costruzione del megafono sarebbe cessata per far cominciare il suono. Il protagonista del film è stato inserito all’interno di quella struttura (diretto da noi), spingendolo oltre i suoi limiti (stancandosi, cominciando ad improvvisare). Egli si distraeva dagli aerei e focalizzava la propria attenzione su qualcos’altro. Uno dei problemi che il lavoro propone credo sia proprio quello del suono. Non si tratta di una metafora della mancanza di comunicazione, piuttosto si tratta di capire cosa avviene quando la comunicazione raggiunge il suo punto di esaurimento.
P.A. Mi piacerebbe aggiungere qualcosa rispetto a ciò che definisci “mancanza di comunicazione” e “voler essere ascoltato”. Hai colto una potenziale lettura di Amplification Device che credo tenda verso una questione di soggettività e soggettivizzazione. In questo caso, l’uomo e gli aeroplani appartengono a mondi separabili e non comunicanti. Egli si scontra con l’assoluta indifferenza nonostante il suo desiderio di “essere ascoltato”. Il suo tentativo di “essere ascoltato” rappresenta una richiesta di riconoscimento. Scontrandosi con un’indifferenza, l’uomo diventa un fantasma spogliato del suo potere di apparizione. Il suo fallimento di presentarsi tramite l’atto del chiamare, indica anche esso un fallimento dei mezzi a sua disposizione. L’apparecchio di amplificazione, assemblato casualmente da un assortimento di oggetti, risulta essere completamente inadeguato per questo scopo. L’uomo fallisce nel suo tentativo di rendere se stesso un soggetto parlante o tecnologico. Da un altro punto di vista, si potrebbe leggere l’assemblaggio dell’apparecchiatura, le urla, il decollo regolari degli aerei, il loro flusso di suono travolgente e la produzione di un ritmo relativamente indipendente da parte dell’uomo, come una composizione di un territorio musicale costituito da vari gradi di improvvisazione che è, tuttavia, sempre in relazione con gli elementi che strutturano il territorio: il segno soggettivante della “chiamata”; il segno dell’aereoplano e la sua tendenza verso il viaggio e il terrore; l’orario di decollo degli aerei e le sue misure di sicurezza… Questi segni strutturanti diventano “cose con cui giocare”, sia nel senso di gioco (play) che nel senso di suonare (play) uno strumento musicale. È proprio lì che la comunicazione prende avvio e viene recepita.

I.G. A proposito di sugli strumenti musicali. So che state lavorando ad un nuovo film: potete darci qualche anticipazione?

A.W. Il progetto a cui stiamo lavorando è per una personale alla Permanent Gallery a Brighton. Mostreremo Amplification Device e il nuovo film Grass Breath Spit Trumpet. In questo lavoro, usiamo lo stesso attore e lo stiamo pensando come il secondo film di una trilogia. Qui, l’uomo è trasportato in un anonimo prato urbano, in cui dà avvio a un rituale. Prima respira sopra una zolla di erba, poi la strappa, se la mette in bocca, striscia verso il trombone che è mezzo sotterrato, sputa l’erba nel trombone, striscia verso un tubo sotterrato e connesso al trombone, soffia nel tubo facendo un suono, poi torna verso la zona di erba e ricomincia da capo il procedimento. Man mano che il rituale continua, l’uomo diventa sempre più stanco e il trombone si colma, rendendo difficile l’emissione di suono. Stiamo anche lavorando con la curatrice Lucia Farinati che ha registrato un’intervista con noi che utilizzeremo come base per un evento live nella galleria e possibilmente per un’installazione sonora.