Deliquesce by artist Vicky Smith is a short 16mm film made on Southsea beach this summer. Commissioned by Aspex with support from Victorious Festival, the artist uses visual metaphor to explore concerns about coastal pollution.
As an artist primarily making experimental film, Smith often uses a 16mm Bolex camera to capture performance. She is interested in the materiality and unpredictability of using analogue film and as with a number of previous works, for Deliquesce Smith has used black and white film stock, which relies on bright daylight conditions to record a legible image.
Deliquesce is made up of three short takes, or three long breaths. For each 25 second take Smith would inhale and submerge herself in the shallow waves before hand winding the camera to take the next shot. We see her struggle to stay under water, to breathe or open her eyes. The abstracting effect of the analogue film entangles Smith in seaweed, bubbles and reflections of sunlight, and as described by the title, the artist’s body and hair becomes somewhat liquid.
Commissioned as a response to issues of ecological damage, and more specifically to coastal pollution, the resulting work illustrates a fundamental human connection to our environment. As an island population, the sea is inseparable from our treasured memories, leisure and pleasure, and rarely before has the damaging impact of human activity been so visible or felt so acutely as in August 2022 when many public beaches have been closed to holiday makers.
Vicky Smith has close ties to Portsmouth and for many years she has been travelling to Southsea to visit family and swim in the sea. This piece is the first work in a recent exploration of self portrait, which addresses Smith’s connection to the city, and perhaps even her relationship with her mother. In past works the artist has interacted with film through the Bolex but also directly with the strip of celluloid; sometimes mark-making with her feet, spit or bicycle tyres. Smith has also created animation by scratching and rubbing the emulsion from the film to allow light through the fogged negative.
Image credit: Deliquesce (still), 2022, Vicky Smith. Image courtesy of the artist and Aspex Portsmouth.
Vicky Smith is an artist, filmmaker and academic who has worked in experimental animation and 16mm film for 30 years, and has screened work internationally in galleries and at festivals. She was part of the London Film Makers Co-op, has a PhD in experimental film, is co-founder of artist collective Bristol Experimental Expanded Film (BEEF) and lectures at the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham.