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Kelly Bryant revives the legacy of Paignton Picture House

MA Fine Art student created an immersive sculptured installation celebrating the cinema’s history
<p dir="ltr">Arts University Plymouth MA Fine Art student <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Kelly Bryant</a> has been awarded Artist in Residence at the Paignton Picture House. Her project ‘Screen Future Memoir’ not only celebrates the history of the cinema, but also integrates her unique practice of film projection art.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Paignton Picture House, Europe’s oldest purpose-built cinema, opened in 1914 and closed in 1999. It is currently undergoing restoration, set to reopen in 2025. <br /></p>
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Kelly Bryant with a liquid latex impression

<p dir="ltr">The project is part of a significant restoration initiative funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport through the Cultural Development Fund 2, managed by Arts Council England and represents a collaboration between Torbay Council, Paignton Picture House Trust, South Devon College, Torbay Culture and Agatha Christie Festival Limited. It aims to restore the cinema to its former glory and deliver a creative public program, Wide Open, coordinated by Filament with local partners.</p> <p dir="ltr">Kelly Bryant, originally from Paignton, was awarded Artist in Residence in June 2023. Her installation, ‘Screen Future Memoir’, is a fusion of film, projection and sound and invited audiences to become part of the Paignton Picture House’s rich history. Working alongside sculptor Tony Weaver and Norwegian sound designer Jonas Bjerketvedt, as well as young producers from Sound Communities, the project featured interactive sculptures made from materials found in the cinema. Audiences were seated amongst multiple screens and projected imagery, accompanied by original music interwoven with recorded memories and stories of the Picture House.<br /></p>
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<p>Kelly said, “Everything came from the cinema; sounds, footage, the screens themselves. The essence of the installation was to capture the cinema’s spirit, its whispers and echoes through time, creating a tangible connection between the past and present. I worked with <a href="">Fab Lab Plymouth</a> in Arts University Plymouth to 3D scan the whole cinema. Fab Lab Manager <a href="">Ben Mundy</a> was amazing, I couldn’t have done it without him. Technical Demonstrator <a href="">Matt Holmes</a> too, for creating ‘fly throughs’ to integrate into the projections. Although they were quite challenged, as they had to use the 3D scanner in a whole new way. I also painted liquid latex onto found objects, walls and peel it off leaving an exact document. All of this history will disappear as it's restored, so I wanted to approach it as some sort of media archaeology.”</p>
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A 3D scan of Paignton Picture House

<p dir="ltr">Sculptor Tony Weaver collaborated with Kelly in creating the projection screens, used not only as a device to hold the projected image but also as a device to capture, document and reflect a moment in time. Research and development for the project led to the concept of the ‘palimpsest screen’, something reused or altered, but still bearing visible traces. The screens were produced using processes and materials such as liquid latex and Worbla thermoplastic, applied to the interior of the cinema to create the screen material. Sound designer Jonas Bjerketvedt, based in Norway and known for his work in hip hop culture, flew over to the UK to work with young producers from Sound Communities to create the audio content, with participants involved from concept through to production.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Since I was in the cinema space for so long, I began to think of the cinema as coming alive. After a while, I knew every crack and crevice of that place. It was quite intimate and I started to feel like the cinema was breathing. The place was dormant for so long but is now waking up to a new era. People would come in and tell me stories if they saw me working with the door open. A man came in and showed me a ticket from 1945 from when he would visit the Picture House with his wife. I wanted to collect its memories, as there’s so many fond of the cinema. This opportunity was not just a project but a personal journey back to my roots. Being born in Paignton and having my first cinema experience, as well as my first date at Paignton Picture House, made this a real full-circle moment for me.”<br /></p>
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Sculptor Tony Weaver collaborating with Kelly Bryant

<p dir="ltr">Kelly said, “We held 12 performances a day, which we sold out a week before the events. Of the 350 attendees, 320 of them left feedback which was quite incredible. I wanted to make sure people didn’t feel alienated by contemporary art. I didn’t want the audience to try and understand it, just to feel it. People really got that, and I had a lot of people tell me it helped them break through the mundane.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Kelly is an avant-garde, contemporary artist with a background in theatre and dance. Her practice is heavily influenced by site-responsive environments and a blend of sculpture, film, performance and sound. She values collaboration and tactile processes, creating experiences accessible to all works of life. </p>
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The sculptural installation's multiple projection screens

<p dir="ltr">“I was a professional dancer from the age of 16, living in London. I then worked as a dancer in Norway for six years before discovering film. I started working with film in a performance sense, which is how I got into projection. Because I work so much with digital, projections, technology etc, it’s important to me that the process be tactile. I don’t do special effects, everything has to be created through the lens. My inspiration is the sites I work in. I work best if you throw me into a building or space I have to respond to.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“I came away from the Paignton Picture House project knowing that if you spend that much time in a space, the walls will talk to you! You might go in with an intention, but if you really listen, you’ll know what to do. You have to keep open-minded and not be rigid. Stay flexible and don’t let the fear mess with your instincts. It will be authentic if you just keep at it.”<br /></p>
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<p dir="ltr">Fab Lab Manager Ben Mundy said, “Using our environmental 3D scanner not only enabled the interior of Paignton Picture House to be captured, but texture detail of the deteriorating wall structures were also extracted. From that data, moulds for some of the screens were created in the Fab Lab. It was great to work with Kelly to develop this innovative, new process at Arts University Plymouth.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Anybody considering MA study can visit Arts University Plymouth’s Tavistock Place campus on Saturday 25 November for a <a href="">Postgraduate Open Day</a> from 10am to 2pm to speak to postgraduate academics. This is an ideal opportunity to explore a community of makers and thinkers, ask questions and visualise what it’s like to study at Arts University Plymouth.<br /></p>