In Tate Britain

Biography

Steven Pippin (born 1960 at Redhill, Surrey) is an English artist. Pippin works with converted or improvised photographic equipment and kinetic sculptures.

Pippin's work shows a strong interest in the mechanical, which he has said stems from an early childhood memory of seeing his father surrounded by the wires and tubes of a television set he was repairing. Pippin's early work was based on converting furniture and everyday objects into makeshift pinhole cameras which he then uses to take sympathetic photographs. Sympathetic photography as seen through photographer Allan Sekula (1951-2013), is "ethico-political orientation of sensitivity, receptivity, or exposure to bodily vulnerability and suffering."

His work often involves a significant amount of planning to overcome the practical problems posed by the chosen object. Pippin typically has to plan and construct a significant amount of supporting equipment in order to achieve his pictures. Frequently the resulting photographs are distorted or otherwise compromised by the manner of their construction, but the imperfections are seen as an important characteristic of the image, giving a link back to the object which was used as a camera. The photographs are always shown alongside an image of the converted object, and for later works, much of the equipment used in the conversion along with supporting documentation.

During the digital revolution in 1980, Pippin began to make a name for himself. He chooses to take more pride in the process of creation than that of the end result. He is one of the many so called artist-engineers who find alternate uses for everyday objects.

In 1993, Pippin turned a train lavatory into an improvised studio and darkroom for the duration of the journey from London to Brighton, for a work entitled The Continued Saga of an Amateur Photographer.

In 1999, Pippin was short listed for the Turner Prize at the Tate Gallery in London. His entry was based on the work Laundromat Locomotion, in which he converted a row of 12 washing machines in a laundromat into a series of cameras triggered by trip wires, and then rode a horse through the laundromat to recreate Eadweard Muybridge’s The Horse in Motion (1878). Laundromat Locomotion was showcased in the New Work exhibition hosted by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1998.

Pippin abandoned photography for ten years, after which his frantic race towards the instant image began anew. The reunion was violent: the Non Event series staged the destruction of cameras at the very instant when a gun was fired at point-blank range, rendering them useless. The first of these were again produced in the United States, and Pippin recalls how, while he was on his way to Las Vegas, he had to show his driving license to buy a beer, but once he was there he didn’t have to show anything to buy the bullets he needed for the project, the friendly salesperson even trying to sell him a gun!

Pippin's more recent work also includes kinetic sculptures, works in which movement is perceivable by the viewer.

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Artworks

Artist as subject

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