CONTINUED SAGA OF AN AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHER - 1993
first encountered Steven Pippin's quirky photographic
practices during a visit to the Tate gallery in 1997.
Here is a true performance artist, who is able to express
both wit and ingenuity in his artwork. The following text
is an except from an exhibition catalogue, describing
one of Pippin's most amusing pieces.
Steven Pippin's admission to the Brighton Polytechnic,
in 1982, up until 1991, his entire work involves the conversion
of pieces of furniture, architectural features, and sundry
objects into cameras, and all his works have an outward
aspect consisting of two parts. The first, presents the
transformed object or the device used, without any frills.
The second, the imagewhich this antiquated, monsterous
device can actually produce, after much tentatively effort
and extremely long exposure times.
sophistication of the the present day camera seems to grow
proportionately to the increasingly banal subject matter it
records. Everything can be photographed and everyone is a
photographer. But as we can see, things do not stop here.
Because, with a few little arrangements and a canny ration
of light and darkness, everything can make photographs.
bowl was converted into a camera on board a British rail train
travelling from London to Brighton. A specially designed aluminium
'insert' fitted into the recess of the toilet bowl. This housed
both lens and shutter device as well as a pneumatic seal which
when inflated (by the use of a bicycle pump) holds the contraption
firmly into place as well as sealing out unwanted light. The
operator then removed his trousers in order to 'load the photographic
paper, placing his arms down the legs in the manner of a changing
bag. Once exposed the toilet was flushed (taking care to avoid
flushing whilst at a station) and developer simultaneously
injected into the toilet cistern pipe at the rear of the bowl.
The operation was then repeated for the fixer after which
the toilet was flushed washing the print of any residue chemicals
and finally retrieved.
whole process of photography seemed to align itself perfectly
with the toilet. The initial qualities of the toilet bowl
and lid gave a light tight unit with which to load the photo
sensitive material. The water then accepted the addition of
developer (at the correct ratio) which enabled the flushing
and simultaneous development of the photographic image in
the bowl below.
Continued Saga of an Amateur Photographer, November 1993,
Image dimensions: 18" x 23". Exposure time: 1.5 min.
Documented on video tape Hi-band U-matic, 22 min., colour
act of working in the face of such a low grade situation almost
verified the photographs as being 'important and worthwhile'
given that such a basic and humble object, normally used to
expel matter, could ever produce a reasonable rendition of
it's own immediate surroundings seemed a peculiar inversion.
The final pictures were less objects of beauty or adornment
and closer to fragments of eveidence, proof that the event
links forged by Steven Pippin with photography should not,
in effect, make us lose sight of the fact that it is above
all the purely speculative energy, shared by engineers, scientists
and artists alike, which interests him, and which all his
works present. The artistic quest is not just heroic. It is
neither more nor less speculative and thus neither more nor
less fundamental than other forms of investigation. What is
more, Steven Pippin's videos do not show us the spectacle
of the groppings and impasses inherent in investigative processes,
but rather the application and dedication of the little soldier,
who must be the complete artist, scientist and researcher
in the exercise of his quest.
from 'Steven Pippin - Discovering the secrets of monsieur
ISBN 2 908257 17 3
Copyright - Paul Fillingham
Last update - 19 August, 2001