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Interview with Portfolio NW artist David Henckel

Portfolio NW Rebecca Chesney, Tadhg Devlin, Dave Evans, 0point3recurring (David Henckel, Dan Wilkinson & Leon Hardman), Hannah Wooll, Kai-O Jay Yung

The Bluecoat’s current exhibition Portfolio NW celebrates creative talent in the region by bringing together eight North West-based artists all creating new specially commissioned works. Here's an interview with one of the artists, David Henckel.

What is your background as an artist? Where did you study? 

I did a BA in Fine Art at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, then spent quite a while wondering what I was doing after that and worked various jobs.. including as a chef in a pub (for which I had no qualifications) and as a cycle courier delivering packages on a pushbike - where I met lots of other creative people, so it was a really inspiring environment to work in, and was the first time I made art and music with other people as part of a collective. 

I recently moved back to the NW after a round the world trip and spent a couple of years screenprinting at the University of Central Lancashire, where I met some really interesting artists and tutors - so decided to stay and did an MA in Fine Art Site and Archive intervention.. which shifted my practice away from the gallery towards site based and interactive work where the audience take a more active role.

What are you showing here? What are themes you explore in your work?

During the MA at UCLAN I began working with 2 other artists/musicians (Dan Wilkinson & Leon Hardman).. we found that we had a really interesting and dynamic relationship and have been working together for the past year as a collective called 0point3recurring.

When I was asked to show at the Bluecoat I thought it would be more exciting if I came in as part of this collective and I was impressed that the curator Sara was totally up for that and not at all concerned that the piece we were proposing was pretty experimental, unfinished and with no guarantee it would work (at that point). The piece we created called MODZ is an interactive audio-visual installation.

Essentially, it functions as an interactive documentation of a performance we did in Preston using 3 x VW Golfs modified for extreme audio. We drove into the city playing analogue synthesisers in response to the environment and the speed/direction we were travelling.. this culminated in a short improvised performance with all 3 cars parked together at the top of Preston's iconic bus station & car park, before leaving in convoy

Two bright yellow arrows, copies of those from the car park, lead the audience into the gallery where they see 3 different views of the bus station projected on the walls. in the centre of the gallery are three bucket seats such as you'd find in modified cars each fitted with 3 speakers.

You have the option of watching the films of the bus station and listening to a surround sound recording of the audio within the bus station, or you can sit on one of the seats and the film changes to the view from inside the car where you can experience the journey along with hearing and feeling the sounds created.

All the films are synced and last 40 minutes.. so there are a variety of experiences you can have depending when you arrive in the gallery, what you do when you're in there and how long you stick around.. I'm particularly pleased with the audio recording of the bus station and watching the cars arrive at the top of the car park. During the opening night it was great to see the audience interacting with the piece and I was surprised by how much they seemed to be a part of the finished work. 

How has your practiced developed in the last recent years?

Over the last couple of years I've been making work that is more multi layered, involving different disciplines and groups of people. I was fortunate enough to be commissioned by in Certain Places to make a piece of temporary public art for The Preston Guild 2012. I ended up creating a beer to celebrate the Transit of Venus, which meant collaborating with a local brewery to produce the ale, working alongside a village community where we held a tasting event and getting craft brewers to enter a competition. I worked with the same community and a composer on another transit piece where we created a live digital link between the village of Much Hoole and Hawaii, where NASA were observing the transit.

My MA piece was commissioned by Lancashire Science festival and was shown at Digital Aesthetic 3, this has led on to a residency within the University of Central Lancashire's Research and Development office where, alongside Dan Wilkinson, I've been continuing to work across different areas including Solar physics, engineering and games design towards a large public art installation in Preston called "The Sun at Night". I really prefer working with other people and enjoy bouncing ideas around and coming up with creative solutions - its a lot more fun than working in a studio.

What does it mean to you to be commissioned to make work for the Bluecoat?

It's brilliant! It's a step up from the level I've been working at. The Bluecoat is a really intriguing space in that it is truly multifunctional and draws in a wide audience. I think the cafe and the courtyard.. as well as the regular workshops have a lot to do with democratising the space. For me it's one of the first three galleries/art spaces you think of when you're in I was thrilled to be asked to take part in the show. I've been really impressed by the amount of assistance and encouragement that the Bluecoat has provided in the build up to, and during the installation as well as ongoing support in the development of the work. It was a new experience having so much technical help on hand and all the technicians are extremely professional, friendly and helpful. They made a pretty complicated install relatively pain free.

Have you get any events or talks planned whilst the installation is showing at the Bluecoat?

Yes, we met Adam Rayner - legendary car audio journalist/enthusiast at the modified Nationals in Peterborough while we were researching the modified scene in the build up to the show. He's been incredibly helpful in arranging the car seats from Corbeau and the speakers we use from Ground Zero. His passion for sound is infectious and we thought it would be great to have him give a talk, rather than us give artists talk. So he's going to be discussing his obsession for the extremes of audio this coming Saturday 31st August at 2pm - from being within a hundred yards of a lightning strike, to the basso roar of Niagara or the geothermal vent outside Rekyavik, let alone volcanics or Siberian meteors .. I can't wait, he's informative and hilarious in equal measure. We'll also be brining along the KORG synthesisers we used in the performance so the audience can have a play around with them.


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Bluecoat is Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts, the oldest in the UK. Our landmark building, located in the ...

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October Half Term at Bluecoat

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