The American Artist’s Latest Video Work is Fueled by the Indy 500
“I wanted to slow down the race so one could see images that are not available during a normal broadcast,” says artist Slater Bradley of his latest project, a 16mm film shot at the Indianapolis 500 Speedway race in 2012. “The cars become alien, insect-like space invaders. With new rhythms, the race starts to feel like an orbital sci-fi ballet.” Following his childhood best friend, driver Townsend Bell, Walk That Tightrope is a hallucinatory realization of destiny through American race car culture. Bradley’s fascination with tragic heroes, from Michael Jackson to River Phoenix and Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, has resulted in fan paintings and crumbled photographic work such as the Berlin-based artist’s piece that features at this year’s Armory show in New York with the Sean Kelly gallery. “I did an interview with Townsend before the race, and he talked about the toll that going 225 mph for three hours takes on your mind, body, stamina, and concentration,” says Slater, the youngest male artist to have a solo show at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. “The mental and physical shape he is in is just unreal. He's also risking his life out there. To walk a straight line you have to spin in circles.”
What interested you about racing culture?
Slater Bradley: To be honest, I had never seen a race in person before. I've never really had a vested interest in car culture but I am interested in synchronicity, time travel, manifesting unconscious and conscious desire. The mind versus intuition, and dramatic aspects of storytelling and myth-making within structuralist film.
What was the impetus of the film?
SB: After an absence of two decades or more, I reconnected with Townsend Bell, my childhood best friend, who has carved out a place among the top racers of his generation. I had no idea until by chance I heard he placed fourth at the Indy 500 in 2009. That achievement in itself is extraordinary, but what made it more remarkable was a prophecy he had made when we were 10 years old. How could he so clearly feel his future? I wanted to make a film about Townsend's pursuit.
Sound feels very important here. What are we hearing?
SB: I like to think that while the brain processes the images, sound processes your gut. This stereo soundtrack mix comprised of manipulated field recordings and the helmet communication between Townsend and his pit crew. It was developed with my frequent collaborator, sound engineer Ben Gebhardt. The searing sounds of the race, gut wrenching and vertigo inducing, have provided a blasting-off point.
Click here to see the full version of the artist's Armory-exhibited work, on show at the Sean Kelly gallery stand.
"I've been studying Astrology pretty deeply for the past two years," says Bradley. "With this ongoing Pluto Uranus Square (2012-2015) project, the energy has felt like a pressure cooker. We have all felt it—the foundations of all our lives are being destroyed and rebirthed in dramatic and unpredictable ways, so that we can all find our deepest, truest identities."
Credits: Saturn Trine Neptune, 2013 Framed digital C-print mounted to Dibond with gold marker and moon gold leaf Paper: 40 x 60 inches (101.6 x 152.4 cm) Framed: 46 3/4 x 66 3/4 inches (118.7 x 169.5 cm.
The 2014 Armory Artist Opens the Doors to His Shanghai Studio in Our Collaboration with Artsy
Every year The Armory Show gives one artist free rein to make his mark on New York’s largest art fair, including an on-site installation and a limited-edition work. This year, that artist is Shanghainese firebrand Xu Zhen, recognized for the playful and provocative works he has produced with his 2009-born collective MadeIn Company, spanning performance, sculpture, video, photography, internet art, and painting. A collaboration with online platform Artsy, today’s film by Anthony Chen captures the artist’s beguiling practice in a rare tour of Xu’s Shanghai studio. “Behind a lot of the work we do is our desire to express the curiosity of being human,” says Xu. “When it comes to taking initiative or being confident, curiosity is a motivating factor. From this perspective you can see why a lot of our work is in so many different mediums, styles and methods.” His work appears in conjunction with the fair’s Focus: China series curated by the Director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Philip Tinari: alongside MadeIn Company’s candy-colored, frosted “Under Heaven” oil paintings, which serve as the primary visual for The Armory Show, Xu’s “Action of Consciousness” installation and performance piece sees objects created by the artist hurled into the air from an enclosed white box. “The audience will see artwork flying overhead,” he says. “Every 30 seconds there will be something new. This is an artwork that is seen only in a moment’s time, then it immediately disappears.”
Learn more about Xu Zhen on Artsy and visit The Armory Show through March 9.