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Image of Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard, 20,000 Days on Earth, 2014 (Production Still) Photo: Amelia Troubridge

Jarman Award Shortlist Artist Profile: Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard discuss 20,000 Days on Earth

Date posted: 17.09.2014

Part of a series profiling all the shortlisted artists in the 2014 Jarman Award shortlist, we spoke to Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard about their practice and their upcoming feature 20,000 Days on Earth.

Drama and reality combine in a fictitious 24 hours in the life of the musician and international cultural icon Nick Cave.

With startlingly frank insights and an intimate portrayal of the artistic process, the film examines what makes us who we are, and celebrates the transformative power of the creative spirit.

About the artists

Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard are London-based artists who bring together film, video and sound work to create re-enactments of cultural and art historical events.

Their first major public solo show was presented at South London Gallery in 2011. Their work is collected by museums and institutions worldwide, including the Tate Gallery.

“I want to make art that moves people, that makes them feel and believe, and think last.” Jane Pollard

Unique documentary

In keeping with this, 20,000 Days on Earth stands outside of traditional rock documentary filmmaking as it doesn’t offer a look into the ‘real’ Nick Cave or a behind the scenes exposé.

Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard, 20,000 Days on Earth, 2014 Photo: Amelia Troubridge

Instead it takes the unusual approach of inhabiting Nick Cave’s world, employing his storytelling techniques to encourage and sustain the myth-building around the musician, while also exploring his legacy and the making of his fifteenth studio album, Push The Sky Away.

Largely unrehearsed and spontaneous, the film takes on the immediacy of a live documentary with the lush, stylised aesthetic of a music video, reflecting the artists’ experience in producing promo and music videos.

Why moving image?

Iain and Jane met while studying at Goldsmiths and started working collaboratively, partly uniting as a reaction against the mainstream contemporary art movements emerging from art colleges in London in the 90s. They also connected over the immersive worlds of music and theatre, and after forging their way with live art commissions at the ICA, they found that moving image was the medium to create this expression.

Performance and music culture play a significant role in their work, where art and music often collide. Notable collaborations include a sound installation with Scott Walker at Sydney Opera House, an ambisonic installation with subliminal sound with Jason Pierce (Spiritualized), a film with Gil Scott-Heron and a video installation featuring Ben Drew, aka musician Plan B.


As well as music and performance, the artists have found inspiration in Derek Jarman’s seminal moving image work Blue, in particular in the mythology-building around the exhibition and the immersive quality of the work.

Jane expands by saying “[Blue] was one of the most immersive experiences of a film work…we’re always looking for something that connects to you emotionally first and then analytically second. That work is unique and fearless for that.”

Celebrating a body of work

Launched in 2008, the Jarman Award celebrates the spirit of experimentation, imagination and inspiration in the work of UK artist filmmakers, and recognises individual artist filmmakers whose risk-taking work resists boundaries and conventional definition.

The award celebrates a body of work by an artist rather than a single work, and takes a 360 degree look at an artists’ output.

“It’s a really important award because it feels to me like it’s the one award that stands for and looks to celebrate attitude and ambition, as well as artistic merit” – Jane Pollard

This year, work by the shortlist is being taken on a national tour in the run-up to the award ceremony in December, from Towner in Eastbourne to CCA in Glasgow.

The other shortlisted artists include: John Akomfrah, Laura Buckley, Sebastian Buerkner, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Steven Claydon, Redmond Entwistle, Ursula Mayer, Rachel Reupke and Stephen Sutcliffe. All the artists will follow the screening of their work with a Q&A.

On that tour, Iain and Jane will be participating in a Q&A session following a screening of 20,000 Days on Earth at Chapter in Cardiff on Wednesday 8 October at 8pm.

20,000 Days on Earth is released nationwide on Friday 19 September.

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