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Space and Freedom

Helen Petts

UK, 2019
22 minutes, 43 seconds, B&W/colour, 5.1 surround, 16:9
Original format: 8mm FilmHD video
Available formats: HD Video / HD Digital file / BluRay

When Chinese artist Li Yuan-chia left the London art scene for rural Cumbria in 1967, he said he was going in search of ‘Space and Freedom’. There he created a lively art centre – the LYC Museum – where he gave exhibitions to over 350 artists from both home and abroad. But for the last few years of his life, after closing the Museum, he was beset with financial and legal problems. His work became increasingly solitary in response to the landscape and his personal situation, and he died alone at the age of 56. Finding personal identification with his work and his life, artist filmmaker Helen Petts set out to explore the site where he had created the Museum. Walking in the surrounding landscape, exploring rhythm, textures and borderline abstract images and sounds on the way, she was given permission from the LYC Foundation to edit Li’s own archive film footage with her own. With this, she creating an entirely new soundtrack from her own field recordings and sound recordings from feature films she has worked on. In addition, in the LYC archive, she discovered two previously unknown sound recordings, one of Li whistling which she edited with a shot of birds, layering and repeating it – and a second recording of Li talking alone to a microphone of his plans for the new museum. This she has used in its entirety. Then knowing that Li Yuan-chia listened to a great deal of contemporary classical music, she inserted small interludes of pianist Steve Beresford improvising to the images on prepared piano.Originally commissioned by Manchester Art Gallery and independent curator Hammad Nasar for the exhibition “Speech Acts” (May 2018-April 2019).Financially assisted by the Arts Council of England National Lottery Fund and the Li Yuan-chia Foundation. http://www.lycfoundation.org/