Saturday, 14 August 2010

Garry Sykes

By Max Renn. From The Pictures #2, August 2009

Garry's films are like home video artefacts, implicitly viewed from some future (or past) perspective. Dated lo-fi collages of found footage, home documentary and noise, their narrators speak in past (or future) tense and talk in eventualities, influences and paths taken that led to their present, off camera and invisible state. The films display an obsession with recording things that will fade and documenting disappearing moments, be they literal as in 21, contrasting photographs of his grandmother at age twenty-one with footage of his sister at the same age, or more figurative, mental states of optimism and youth that give way to compromise or are abandoned as time moves on. Parallels are often drawn between the characters and movie stars, stars that age and fade and are remembered by their blank younger portraits. The narrators of Karaoke and Camera Lucy are absent presences, talking of the times before they fell away and of the idealism they knew they'd lose.

The elements of the collage conspire to give the films the impression of memory. The soundtracks, noisy adn layered with static become elegaic and warm. Esoteric, fast cut images pinpoint details of locations and times while the larger picture remains evasive. The video itself is aesthetically cheap and constitutes a conscious recording. Garry also produces a poster to accompany each film, again highlighting each as an artefact, an object. The narratives are only related in fragments and incomplete consequences of some unseen relationship or encounter. These narratives are often dark, dealing in power plays that start as romance, acceptances of inevitabilities and defeats and addictions, seduced into losing control and failing to hold on to the very things the film is trying to document and preserve. A frequent reference point is Invasion Of The Body-snatchers. "Here lie some failed revolutions" says Alice Saint at the close of Karaoke, "buried by love".

But they are not necessarily despairing. The elements that compose the collages - dances, fireworks, parties, balloons and magic tricks - are celebratory as well as fleeting. The unstages sequences in the films are often affectionate home movies of friends, diary footage. The staged set pieces feature dancing and costume. Time passing is a constant feature, but even as the characters lose themselves, something is preserved in the images and their repetitions. The dream of city romance never dies even when most efforts towards it fail.

The narrator in Ecstasy, who had a dream about the future, relays a message from that time - that when everyone tells you things will go wrong, they go wrong. In instructing not to listen they voice a rare note of defiance within one of the films while so much else is submission. This defiance is always externally present, in the act of recording moments and in the characters and images as they dance into the dark.

THE PICTURES: What made you want to make films? When did you realise you could do it yourself?

GARRY SYKES: i wanted to be a photographer or writer or in a band, all that stuff, but i'm a mediocre photographer, i have difficulty writing at any length, nothing ever gets finished, and i can't really play any instrument or sing for shit, but making films, these kinds of films, maybe combines what i like about those other things, and just seems to fit. when i saw films by people like Vivienne Dick or Jonas Mekas, the whole thing suddenly seemed really accessible. i liked how you could say things in your own way, like there were lots of possiblities maybe.

TP: What influences your films?

GS: i like lots of those older underground filmmakers. i like how film is a lot like music, the way you can keep digging and find new things, there are always new things. i really like Harmony Korine, Bela Tarr, i like Godard a lot, especially the 60s films, like girls and politics. i like music a lot too, maybe that's more influential than films. maybe i'm just frustrated to be such a shitty musician. and just little things you pick up on that have resonance. all the moon landing stuff lately, and how sad it is we didn't go further. i'm starting a campaign for a manned mission to Mars.

TP: Why the interest in stars?

GS: i really want to have a star system! a better star system. a star system of my very own. i've always really liked the Hollywood star system, maybe when it was a bit more interesting, and Hollywood Babylon is one of my favourite books. and it does still throw up the odd Lindsay Lohan. like, i'm usually not affected at all by celebrity deaths, and haven't even listened to Michael Jackson much since being 15, but when he died it seemed really powerful. he was the most famous man in the world, up there with Mickey Mouse and Coca Cola, and before all the scandal and everything that was just for being an entertainer. that's worth something i think.

TP: How important is music to your filmmaking?

GS: it's really important, but usually the soundtrack is the last thing that gets added, and it's a case of asking a friend who makes music, and lots of my friends make really great music, so there's always something that'll work and then it becomes a part of things. except for Karaoke, we recorded a whole soundtrack for it with the actors and some friends and Daniel Jones producing it. it's a real shame a lot of it got cut out when i realised the film needed to be a lot shorter. we'd recorded three songs and everything but only one ended up in the final version. some people got to see the long version, with all the songs, but in the end i didn't like it. i'd really like to do more original soundtrack stuff in future. i want to make more musicals.

TP: What's next?

GS: there's a couple of things when this zine is finished. everything i've done so far has been a bit limite by the equipment to hand, just a crappy DV camera, which is fine, but it sort of puts a restriction on the number of people who can stand to watch. i'd really like to borrow a better camera from work or somewhere and make something that looks a bit better. i've got a couple of super 8 cameras i've been playing with too and maybe make some proper documentaries, and maybe something longer would be nice too, but maybe that's a couple of years away. there's definitely a lot of work to do.

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