Monday, 14 December 2009

Mass Observation Artist

I have been invited to make an artwork in response to the Mass Observation Archives, based at the University of Sussex in Brighton. I plan to make a film about observation with an original piano score that I am composing. This work will hopefully be exhibited at the Jubilee Library, Brighton in May 2010, as part of the conference, 'New Perspective on Mass Observation'. For more information about Mass Observation please visit their website:

Artist Residency: Mansfield Road Community Centre, Essex

I am currently artist in residence at Mansfield Road Community Centre for People with Mental Health Difficulties, based in Ilford, Essex. I am working in collaboration with the Community Centre’s Music Group that takes place weekly, making a short film about their experiences and the music they make. Service users are working with me in the making of the film, including camera operation, voice over and creative direction. The film produced will be screened at the Centre, uploaded onto the Community Centre website and DVDs will be made for all involved. For more information please visit:

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Video Screening in Bristol 17 October 2009

Two of my video works have been selected to be part of 'You and Your Work 7', a contemporary performance showcase taking place in Bristol at the Easton Community Centre in assocaiation with 'The Cube'. This event is curated by Sylvia Rimat, Jo Bannon and Ray White and will take place on the 17.10.09 from 5pm - 11pm. There will be lots of exciting new work to see so please come along! You can visit the blog about the event at:

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Reunion (2009, UK)

I have just finished editing my new short film, 'Reunion'.

In December 2008 I visited my parents in Lancashire. They have been married for 37 years and have rarely spent time apart. In this film they try to imagine that they have not seen each other for a very long time, and how it would be to have a long-awaited reunion. Filmed on location at Cureden Valley, Lancs.

© Kate Rowles. 2009

Friday, 27 March 2009

The Camera Points...

Yesterday I happened upon some wonderful home video footage of a colleague of mine, filmed by his young son. The boy had followed a common theme within the genre: a guided tour of his house. Below is an extract of selected text from the video:

There's my playground
Here are some bananas
This is my dad, that's his eyes, that's his nose, that's his mouth, that's his ear.
Here's my brother, here's my mum.
These are my fish, as you can see.

(Brother asks)
What are you doing?

(Boy answers)
I'm making a film.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Photography of Performance

My skills as a photographer are increasingly drawing me to document events and performance works of my friends and peers. In May 2009 I am due to do the photography for a wedding. In January 2009 I documented Kings of England's performance, 'Where We Live and What We Live For' at London's Battersea Arts Centre. To see these images visit:

In February 2009 I documented 'Living Structure's' Carte Macabre performance at The Shunt at London Bridge, see: (images unavailable at present).

I am happy to be contacted should you require a photographer to document your event / performance.

Monday, 23 February 2009

The Small Time: Make Film not Fame!

Home Video is a free-style genre, a hybrid form of film that is generally not acknowledged in Film Studies or the history of Film with a capital 'F' because it is not 'official'. It is made by people who are not experts in their field. It is an amateur's game. So let us make of it what we want, and let us call for the recognition and acknowledgement of our small time productions.

Popular film and television conventions have certainly influenced the way Home Video is made by YOU the general public, but to what extent is questionable. (What usually happens when someone you know picks up a camera?) Bringing a video camera into an everyday context, a personal context, changes the way people behave, and witnessing the overcoming of that 'camera-freeze' is part of the beauty of home video. Building confidence is part of it.

My mission with the Home Video Series is to document family life in an unconventional way, a poetic way, a brave way. I focus on my relationship with my parents because it is the most important relationship in my life. I owe them my life and now I try to make sense of it. I strive to be playful and varied, to allow duration and repetition to reveal the similarities and differences, connections and idiosyncrasies that exist within and between us family members. I consider the work to be a form of art, of documentary operating outside of traditional documentary conventions, involving sequences of performed actions in the context of 'real-life' relationships.

Influences include filmmakers such as Kieslowski, Jean-Luc Godard, Tarkovsky, Terence Davies and Duane Hopkins.

© Kate Rowles. 2009

Current Projects: 'Beginning to End', 2009, UK

New work is in the pipeline: a video piece with the provisional title Beginning to End. This is on the cards to be filmed next week when I return to Lancashire for a brief spell. The piece shall be a slow motion video of my parents running towards each other, to be filmed in a valley near where we live. Alternative versions will include my mother and I and my father and I performing the same action.

© Kate Rowles. 2009

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Home Video 6: Family Name, 2007, UK

My mum, my dad, my brother and I each write our own name on a single piece of paper. We lean on the desk in my mum's home office that used to be my brother's room before he left home. The writing of one's own name is performed perhaps thousands of times during one's lifetime. I simply wanted to document the four of us performing this task together, to record the way our hands move and the way we make the name 'Rowles' our own. At 10% of the original speed, the action becomes weightier and takes on an air of finality. There appears to be a mixture of confidence and hesitation in the performance of this task.

© Kate Rowles. 2007

Home Video 5: See-Saw, 2007, UK

A ride on a see-saw is a game of weight and balance between two people in gravitational flux. One rider begins by pushing off the ground with their feet. From then on the weight of each body becomes a potential force; a source of energy and momentum. One at a time the riders send each other up into the air and back down to earth, playing their weight in turns along a single beam of wood or metal.

In this video my parents and I take turns at playing our own weight against gravity and being moved by the weight of each other.

© Kate Rowles. 2007

Home Video 4: The Changing of the Guards, 2007, UK

My family perform our own version of the traditionally British 'Changing of the Guards' ceremony outside our semi-detached house in Lancashire. This ceremony is usually performed by the highest ranking members of the British army as guardians of the Royal residence: Buckingham Palace in London. In doing so we make a claim for the recognition of the 'common' household of the citizen as part of a wider national heritage, each with a legacy of its own.

We are nervous and some of us more than slightly embarrassed. Understandably. The neighbours are watching. The local children are playing out and we don't really want to make a spectacle of ourselves, at least not here. The piece is not choreographed. The only rule is that during the change-over my brother and I should touch the hand of our parents to symbolize the handing over of the keys to the residence.

The props (flag and horse) were made by my mother and I for the occasion. The flag depicts an old family photograph taken in the living room of this house about 15 years ago.

© Kate Rowles. 2007

Home Video 3: Gardener's World, 2006, UK

I watch my dad mowing the lawn from the bedroom window. His movement is strategic and persistent, it has rhythm. The yellow wire is a kind of play thing that mustn't get caught underneath. It travels with him and together they dance their 'routine' perfected over decades.

© Kate Rowles. 2006

Home Video's 1 and 2: 'Home and Away', 2006, UK

Growing up in the UK in the 1980's, I often used to watch the popular Australian soap operas, Neighbours and Home and Away on the TV at tea time. A decade or two down the line, I decided to re-play those (tea) times casting my parents and I as the singers of soap opera. Gazing directly into each other's eyes, my parents and I sing the theme tune, claiming the words and meanings for ourselves. Between England and Australia, between parent and child, between life and death there are yearnings, yearnings for that old belonging; oh the years, the miles between us.

© Kate Rowles. 2006

Kate Rowles and Family in Context: Many Happy Returns

An introduction to 'household' through lens
Through eye, glass and view-finder
Through old VHS
Through wobbly frames and aging

Family speaks of mortality, of age and aging, of generation and generation gap. It embodies a structure of need and reliance, of care and commitment. It takes on a specificity and a locale, and holds on to a sense of value and tradition. It is for hope and consolation, it is a constellation, and perhaps, for some, the point of it all.

This ongoing series of 'home videos' engages with an acknowledgement of 'family' as verb, as doing word. I am exploring ways to frame, perform and record that 'doing' through the development of a collaborative practice with my own family. In actively exploring the relationships between us and the house we have in common, there is an effort to learn a version of family, our version.

Working largely within the domestic tradition of home video-making, we attempt to record ourselves 'from below'* as historical subjects, and to acknowledge the care and negotiation involved in our belonging. It is not perfect and we have other commitments, but we have ways of being with each other, and this helps. Much of the work operates through the idea of 'serious play' as conceived by the late Jo Spence as part of her writings on Phototherapy. As time passes, I realize that moments are slipping through our fingers and we need to make something of them. Holding on to a sense of personal dedication, negotiation and risk both in and outside the frame, I attempt to articulate the particularities of our mortal ties and social lives that are both privately and publicly bound. 'Many Happy Returns' means Happy Birthday, means live long! Means come back, please come back.

"Dwelling historically meant to settle a piece of land, work it and build a home on it - to stay in a place. Building meant much the same thing but with connotations tied to the construction of material form and thereby establishing a form of life. Behind this distinction is the overlapped set of connotations whereby building also means cherishing, caring, protecting, preserving and nurturing". (Dart, Tim, 1999, Material Culture in the Social World, Buckingham: Open University Press, 61-2)

*History from below is a concept of historical narrative in social history, which focuses on the perspectives of ordinary people, rather than political and other leaders. The term was coined by French Historian Georges Lefebvre (1874-1959) and was popularised by British Marxist Historians during the 1960's (Wikipedia, 7 July 2008,

© Kate Rowles. 2007