Steve Hawley is an artist who has been working with film and video since 1981, and his work has been shown at video festivals and broadcast worldwide since then. Themes include a recurrent preoccupation with language, and the exploration of new forms of narrative in the moving image.
Hawley is Professor and Head of Art and Media at the Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University.
Speech Marks was shot entirely on a mobile phone, and edited digitally. The limits of the phone used in this project are challenging; the image is low quality and small in size, and there is a maximum length of 9 seconds per shot. To use these limitations creatively the piece builds up a collage of moving images, a series of marks that build a fragmented picture in space and time. The scenes are a collection of moments drawn from life; an art opening, a day in the garden, a meeting at work. Using the phone in this way to transmit pictures instead of speech harks back to the early days of television, when low quality images were sent by phone lines in the 1920s, by the Scottish TV pioneer John Logie Baird. These primitive stuttering images and lo-fi sounds celebrate the everyday.
Love Under Mercury is about science, transformation, and tragedy. Louis Daguerre invented the daguerreotype when some drops of mercury, accidentally spilled from a broken thermometer in a cupboard, developed his iodised photographic plates, and thus revolutionised photography. But some years later the early Daguerreotypists developed symptoms of mercury poisoning – irritability, insomnia, and “childish over-emotionalism”. Just the very symptoms of love melancholy. Like Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter they had been poisoned by the mercury vapour. Thus science, like film (and like love) can bring about magical transformations, but all bring with them the potential for tragedy.