Their videos, showing their dead-pan antics as they dangle precariously from a ladder, slide on office chairs around the back of a moving van, and submit themselves to a drenching from dozens of watering cans, are both hilarious and thought provoking.
JW: I’m John Wood. PH: I’m Paul Harrison, and we’re in our studio in Bristol. I guess you could describe it as being a very nice workshop and a very cheap TV studio – that would be the… it’s a very kind of basic space, and we’ve been in here about five years, six years? JW: Ten. PH: Ten years? JW: Yeah. PH: Ten years. JW: We kind of see it as a big garden shed, where we come and potter about. All our videos are shot in here, we construct different sets and change it and adapt it to whatever the video that we’re shooting at that time is. When we began, it always had one or both of us doing some kind of performative action that was often to do with the architectural space that we were in, and it first began much more geometrically, using sort of objects that we’d built around the human figure, and what boxes you could fit in, or what happened if you stood on a semi-circle, and things like that. To then how a person interacts with an object - it may be in a different way, whether it’s a plank of wood or a chair hitting you. The work in the Tate Collection is called Twenty-six drawing and falling things, which we finished in 2001, and it’s a series of 26 videos based on the human figure interacting with everyday objects… PH: …or architectural spaces. One of them was shot in the back of a van. It was us two sat on two office chairs. We built out the back of the van so it looks like a kind of cube space. JW: We slide around in it, sort of crashing, banging into the walls. We did it across Bristol in the kind of, you know, everyday traffic, which turned out to be slightly suicidal. And we’d thought of it… and first of all it was hysterically funny for us, and we’d spent – just kept laughing and unable to keep straight faces, because it was a weird sensation to be sliding around in a vehicle as it was moving. Until a bus pulled out on us, and we – I sort of smashed my head and neck as I sort of flew down [laughing] the van. But after that it became not fun to shoot it at all, and it was just like let’s just get it really quick and get out of here. We are always trying not to repeat ourselves. We’re always trying to push either how stripped down that we can make something that is still watchable, or how densely we can push ideas into one piece of work. PH: Pretty much all of them start with a drawing or a series of drawings, so there’s this kind of whole editing process of deciding what the overall structure of the video will be, and what goes in it, and what doesn’t go in it. So there’s this whole kind of filtering process through drawings. JW: The filming process will take us a long time, either through getting a take that we’re happy with, [Sound effects] or getting a take that actually works, and at that stage it’s very often slightly like an ordeal, trying to get it right.