MLitt Fine Art Practice School of Fine Art

Alison Piper

(b.1988, Scotland) lives and works in Glasgow. Her background as a director in scripted drama informs her practice as an artist – she draws inspiration from Scotland’s rich natural world and from characters who grow through their relationship with a place.

Alison will graduate with distinction (MLitt Fine Art Practice) specialising in photography & moving image. She was the inaugural recipient of GSA’s Niamh Forbes Postgraduate Fine Art Scholarship. In addition, her studies were funded by academic grants from the South Square Trust, the Glasgow Educational and Marshall Trust, and the Grace Wyndham Goldie BBC Trust.

Encompassing film, photography, and writing, her recent work investigates multiple layers of truth within cinematic narratives. Alison works with subtitles by avoiding dialogue transcription, and instead, by exploring the potential of subtitles to translate images and ideas.

Her short films Duck Daze and Free Period have broadcast on BBC Scotland and picked up awards at film festivals in the UK and internationally. She was recently commissioned by the Edinburgh International Book Festival to make a film in response to T.S Eliot award-winning poet Jen Hadfield’s new collection The Stone Age.  Alison’s film of the same title premiered at the EIBF on 24th August 2021 and is available on their website on a free / pay-what-you-can basis. (Link below).

 

 

Contact
alisonpiper@gmail.com
A.Piper1@student.gsa.ac.uk
Website
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IMDB
Latest Commission - 2021 Edinburgh International Book Festival
Works
The Stone Age (2021)
The Earth Talks About Me Like I Am Not There (2021)
Minn Beach (2021)
Mycelium Screens (2021)
Field (2021)
Still, Passing Between Worlds (2021)
Authentic Footage (2020)

The Stone Age (2021)

In June of 2021 I was awarded a filmmaking commission from the Edinburgh International Book Festival. As part of their program Reading Scotland, six authors chose filmmakers to create a short film in response to a book they were set to promote.

I was lucky to be selected by Shetland-based poet Jen Hadfield to make a film in response to her new collection The Stone Age. I chose to collaborate again with Oscar Prentice-Middleton (MDes Sound For Moving Image).

Oscar worked with an abstract palette of field recordings from Shetland-based sound recordist Jenny Sturgeon. As a starting point, he built a tempo based on the sun’s path across the sky during a Shetland solstice. The soundtrack embodies a synthesis of the natural and the human-made, and includes calls from a local seabird colony (Storm Petrels, Oystercatchers and Gannets), trickling gyös, spinning wheels, and traditional musical instruments. Short excerpt below:

The Stone Age (Excerpt)

Short excerpt from 'The Stone Age' Dir: Alison Piper Dop: Kirstin McMahon Sound Design: Oscar Prentice-Middleton Field Recordings: Jenny Sturgeon Costume: Kirsty Halliday HMU: Babs Clubb 1st AD: Henry Gordon Produced by White Stag Films

I took this opportunity to expand my practice as an artist filmmaker within a professional context. I devised a pitch to incorporate my work with subtitles as a form of writing; Jen’s poetry offered a fresh way of exploring text and how it interacts with other media. The film was shot digitally by cinematographer Kirstin McMahon, and I shot parts of the film myself on double perforated standard 8mm, with elements of 16mm celluloid animation.

The Stone Age responds to Hadfield’s synthesis of human and non-human experience and explores who we are as individuals, and who we are in relationship to the places we call home.

The Earth Talks About Me Like I Am Not There (2021)

Digital video with sound. 4 mins 30 seconds. Projected on to a honeycomb hand-grown mycelium screen.

The Earth Talks About Me Like I Am Not There draws inspiration from the mycelium network’s ability to distribute nutrients on a needs basis.

The mycelium hexagons connect my body to the earth, to the air, and to water in each landscape. Through a process of fabulation, of writing against footage and attempting to collapse the divisions between land, and sea and creature, The Earth Talks About Me Like I Am Not There is written from the perspective of our planet as if it were just discovering humans as a species, which (in its relative lifespan), seems quite possible.

The mycelium screen is a mirror. It holds itself before us and reflects our fragilities as a species but also our potential to find innovative ways to nurture the environment by harnessing biomaterials.

The Earth Talks About Me Like I Am Not There (2021)

Clean version of the film without mycelium screen. Digital Video with sound. (4 mins 30)

Minn Beach (2021)

40-second loop, mute on sound. 16mm film leader soaked in seawater and animated with sand, seaweed, and sheep’s wool from Minn Beach, Shetland. Projected onto a hexagonal hand-grown mycelium screen.

The film is a portrait that imagines how Minn Beach might see itself and all of its elements tumbling together in waves. Minn Beach is an archive of a precious place, dancing on celluloid.

Minn Beach can be re-installed in a gallery setting. (Contact for booking)

Minn Beach (2021)

40 second loop, mute on sound. 16mm film leader with seawater, sand, seaweed and sheep's wool from Minn Beach, Shetland.

Mycelium Screens (2021)

  1. 25 x 8 x 8-inch hexagons. Mycelium, hemp shiv shavings, rice flour.
  2. 1 x 15 x 15-inch hexagon. Mycelium, hemp shiv shavings, rice flour.

The hexagonal sculptures which serve as a canvas for the moving image works The Earth Talks About Me Like I Am Not There, and Minn Beach, were not built but grown, over a three-week period in July of 2021.

I organised a workshop with Iain Findlay of Aurora Sustainability so I could learn how to grow mycelium. This workshop was partially funded by GSA Sustainability and hosted by GSA’s Highland Campus, Forres.

Underneath the forest floor, intertwined with the roots of the trees is a microscopic network of fungus.

When most of us think of fungus we imagine mushrooms sprouting out of the ground. Those mushrooms are in fact the fruit of the fungus, while the majority of the fungal organism lives in the soil interwoven with tree roots. Mycelium composes what’s called a mycorrhizal network, which connects individual plants together to transfer water, nitrogen, carbon, and other minerals. German forester Peter Wohlleben named this network the woodwide web, because it is through the mycelium that trees communicate.

In its inert form, mycelium can be used as a construction material; design innovators are beginning to use mycelium as an alternative to polystyrene packaging. Mycelium bricks are strong enough to stand on, flame retardant, and will decompose within six days if they are left in the garden.

 

Field (2021)

quietest.rivals.rinsed (Size: A1 – 24×32 in)

downward.drum.condition (Size: A1 – 24×32 in)

invisible.reckoned.winded (Size: A1 – 24×32 in)

shadowing.defeated.fells (Size: A1 – 24x32i n)

Digital prints on discontinued permajet fibre-based satin paper. The photographs were taken in the Rothiemurchus forest, Cairngorms National Park, and the Ridorroch hills six miles outside of Ullapool.

This photographic collection found its titles through the mapping app ‘What 3 Words.’ Each photograph is named by the location address allocated to the grid where the image was taken. Both the titles and the compositions are found poetry, curated rather than produced.

quietest.rivals.rinsed

For Sale: A1 print - please contact for enquiry.

downward.drum.condition

For Sale: A1 print - please contact for enquiry.

invisible.reckoned.winded

For Sale: A1 print - please contact for enquiry.

shadowing.defeated.fells

For Sale: A1 print - please contact for enquiry.

quietest.rivals.rinsed

Temporary frame

Gallery handout & business cards

Still, Passing Between Worlds (2021)

Digital video with sound (7 mins 30)

Rather than experiencing twenty-four frames per second ‘Still, Passing Between Worlds’ keeps the audience in the dark, allowing them to see a single frame at a time, and imagines a world outside the boundary of the lens.

Collaboration with Oscar Prentice-Middleton (MDes Sound For Moving Image.) Oscar took a holistic approach to the sound design, which happened concurrently with the editing of the film.

Official Selection: Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2021

Still, Passing Between Words (2021)

Digital video with sound (7 mins 30)

Authentic Footage (2020)

Digital Video with sound. (6 mins 30)

Authentic Footage questions the reliability of the director as narrator.

Both in cinema and in reportage, the one-shot has become a hallmark of truth and reliability through its indication of ‘real-time’. Authentic Footage uses its form as a one-shot film to demonstrate how even an unbroken, unedited take might contain a manipulated narrative.

Official Selection: Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2021

Authentic Footage (2020)

Digital video with sound (6 mins 30)