- Jordan Baseman
- National Paralympic Heritage Centre
- Arts Council
For Arts&Heritage’s Meeting Point 5 programme, six museums and heritage sites were selected to work in partnership with artists to commission a new work of art inspired by each venue. As well as commissioning a new artwork which responded to their collection, each venue also received training in best practice for working with artists.
The National Paralympic Heritage Centre in Aylesbury was one of these sites and worked with the artist Jordan Baseman, who produced the film, Do Faster Win More.
Do Faster Win More explored ambition, success and failure through the lens of Paralympic cyclist Lora Fachie OBE.
Jordan Baseman explained:
“Lora’s relationship with her sport is not simple and it’s not straightforward and through this film we hear Lora talk about her experiences of training, succeeding and failing.
“I wanted to explore questions around why we, as human beings, try to do things we’re not sure we can achieve. What’s the point in trying? Why do we push ourselves to do things which we can hate and love at the same time?”
Lora Fachie started competing for the Great Britain Cycling Team in 2009. She was selected for the London 2012 Paralympics and went on to win two medals – gold and bronze – at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Most recently, Lora won gold and silver medals at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Inspired by the history of the National Paralympic Heritage Trust, Do Faster Win More revealed the timelessness and universality of certain human qualities and ideas and created new ways for people to connect with Paralympic heritage.
Jordan Baseman’s 11-minute film built on interviews with Lora and was then added to the collection of the National Paralympic Heritage Trust.
Amy Coleman, Administrator at the National Paralympic Heritage Trust, said:
“We hope that by using a contemporary artwork like this, we can help people see sport in a different light: as something which is accessible to everyone, and which has parallels with our own experiences of success, failure, and picking ourselves back up again.”
Do Faster Win More was on show from September–October 2022.
A free online panel discussion for the project took place on Thursday 27 October 2022 between 7pm and 8.30pm.
The panel was chaired by internationally acclaimed curator Linda Rocco, joined by Meeting Point artists Jordan Baseman and Chisato Minamimura, writer, speaker and activist Mathy Selvakumaran and author Kay Ashton MBE.
A&H commissioned the filmmaker Pascal Vossen to work with Jordan Baseman on a ‘making of film’ for Do Faster Win More, capturing the artist’s process.
The National Paralympic Heritage Trust was established in July 2015 to protect and share British Paralympic Heritage. Stoke Mandeville is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of the Paralympic movement and the National Paralympic Heritage Centre at Stoke Mandeville Stadium celebrates and explores this unique history.
George Vasey, freelance curator & writer based in Saltburn-by-the-Sea, interviews artist Jordan Baseman on Do Faster Win More, a Meeting Point commission.
George Vasey: Could you tell me a little about the commissioning context for Do Faster Win More?
Jordan Baseman: I was invited to put a proposal together by Arts&Heritage for their programme Meeting Point and I was given a menu of sites to choose from. I’d never had that before. I thought that was really exciting. Looking at the list, the National Paralympic Heritage Trust immediately stood out to me. That was also partially because I’m a big fan of sports.
George: Did you have a specific ambition for the work at the outset of the project?
Jordan: I wanted to make a work that was uplifting but not obvious. I wanted to focus on the training and try to convey that sense of commitment and time that athletes put into their sports. I was also interested in the fact that the site was developing an oral histories archive and my work often involves interviewing people so it all seemed very aligned.
I had a clear idea that I would use the oral history archive and edit from available interviews and then put that to some form of visual. I knew that I didn’t want to have any conventional representation of the human body. In many ways I don’t really see the work as a film. The content of the interview is primary. The audio is really important and everything serves that.
George: Could you talk about the audio description in the work. How do you see this audio layer operating?
Jordan: As a non-disabled person entering this space it gave me certain anxieties. I knew that I wanted the work to be accessible and while I didn’t really know what that meant I was committed to learning. I didn’t want accessibility to be an afterthought. It was important that it was embedded from the outset and I met with various groups to hear their perspectives. It was really hard to strike a balance between those different voices and retain the abstraction that the work demands. It was a really interesting struggle and I learned lots.
George: The audio description removes the need for visuals in many ways; you end up creating the images in your mind.
Jordan: I love that at the start of the film the audio describes visual elements before they happen and at other points it switches around. It has a lovely pace and a wonderful sensitivity to the work. I worked with VocalEyes on the script and I agree that it removes the need for the visual element in the work. You don’t have to see the work to understand it. That feels very powerful.
George: I’m interested in the gendered quality of the work. The audio description is male and has a very different quality to Lora Fachie’s voice in the interview. It has a different rhythm and tone. How do you see the voices interacting?
Jordan: I was unsure about the gendered aspect of it. There is also a class element to it; Lora’s accent is hard to place but the audio descriptor could be read as upper class. Class underpins everything in the UK and people can come with a set of assumptions.
George: Perhaps because it’s the sound of old school authority. It’s interesting that while you remove representations of the body we’re still trying to locate identity in the voice.
Jordan: Yes, I’m trying to remove information in my work. I want to convey the most with the least. I’m interested in the work being minimal while retaining the power of someone’s voice in as few words as possible. I think the voice-over adds something and opens up space in the work but I’m still trying to figure that out.
George: How did you work on Lora’s interview?
Jordan: I didn’t record the interview. It was recorded for the work by Dr Rosemary Hall for the oral history archive. I spent a huge time editing it, condensing it and creating a narrative. I wouldn’t publish anything that she wasn’t happy with but it’s very different from the original longer form interview.
George: How did you come across Lora? She has a decorated history as a cyclist, winning gold medals at the Paralympics and World Championships.
Jordan: I got lucky. My original intention was to work with existing interviews in the archive but I couldn’t find what I needed. The interviews didn’t open up and I realised that athletes of a certain age were not used to reflecting on their feelings and certainly not up for speaking about them in any public forum. I find that a younger generation are more used to articulating their feelings. I came across Lora in a public talk and I just knew she was the right person.
George: How come?
Jordan: It was her vision of the world which is nuanced and complex. She’s ambivalent. She loves what she does but isn’t sure about what she does. Lora’s exceptional at what she does but hasn’t always been. She talks about that complex relationship really elegantly and she’s humorous and determined.
I didn’t get too involved in the interviews but I was keen that they incorporate some of my questions. I tried to be more expansive in my questioning asking the interviewees to describe how they felt and to talk us through their experience in more detail. I wanted descriptions. It took me a while to figure out that I wouldn’t get what I needed in the archive, that I would need to develop new interviews. I needed something that connected to me more personally.
George: You originally proposed to create a portrait of hope and the resultant work deals with failure, mental health and ambivalence. We don’t often talk about success through the lens of difficulty.
Jordan: I’ve said similar things throughout this project. That’s what attracted me to Lora. We don’t have many narratives around failure in sport. I was interested in doubt and how we can talk about that. On seeing the work people have noted that it doesn’t mention disability. Lora is an athlete. The work is about her humanness and aspiration.
I originally wrote the proposal in Summer 2021 just as we were coming out of lockdown. I was very much thinking about the big questions: where are we going, what are we doing. I was desperate for a bit of hope. I do think the work is hopeful in Lora’s relationship with herself. She recognises the need to grow and change as a person and that is what is hopeful about the work. It fights against entropy and malaise.
George: That resonants so much. We’re built as desiring machines and can often feel an emptiness when we achieve our dreams. The journey to the top of the mountain is more interesting than standing there. The interview really captures the idea that you have to enjoy the journey.
Jordan: It reminds me of something the songwriter Warren Zevon said when he was dying. An interviewer asked him if he had any advice that he’d like to pass on and Zevon just said, “enjoy every sandwich.” I love that. No matter how bad the sandwich is just enjoy it because it means you are alive. For me, that’s what Lora is saying when she says that you have to enjoy the journey or you’ve got nothing. I think about what Warren Zevon says a lot.
George: Wow. I think the work encapsulates the sense that hope comes from inside, you access it by looking inwards.
Jordan: I completely agree. The work isn’t overtly cheery but it does sum-up where we are. Hope seems far away but is essential. We need hope and we need to strive for it and I think that comes from personal development and a will to learn.
George: It also makes me reflect on the importance of holding onto multiple identities. This is a big issue in the sports world isn’t it. Athletes struggle to readjust to life after retirement; their sense of self has been taken away and they have to rebuild their identity.
Jordan: An athlete’s life is dictated by the rhythm of training which defines their whole existence. The removal of that structure can be very traumatic. I can imagine that must feel like a type of grief.
George: A moment in the interview that stands out to me is when Lora says that time is running out. She’s not getting any younger. She’s only in her early thirties!
Jordan: Yes. She was talking about having a family but I edited much of that out, as I wanted to concentrate the listener’s attention on that line. Everything is finite.
George: I’m interested in how you compress language through editing. Why is that so important to you?
Jordan: I love the writer Raymond Chandler and his economy with words. I use that as my model. This literary economy opens things out rather than reducing space.
George: It creates space for the reader. The Japanese have a lovely aesthetic term ‘Ma’ for emptiness in a picture. For them, the gap is a space of possibility, a place of growth. The same can be said for intervals in music, the space between the notes. These pauses are as important as the sounds and images that follow them.
Jordan: I’m trying not to force an experience onto people. I’m allowing other experiences to resonate with your own and this takes space and time. When I listen to Lora I think about what we share rather than what we don’t. Her view of the world is so similar to mine. I often think that making art is so ridiculous and stupid. Sport is exactly the same. That’s why I love it. Even though sports is ridiculous so many people dedicate their whole experience to it. It’s meaningful for them. I find that fascinating.
George: Gilbert and George once said in an interview that they hated football because there was nothing at stake. I always thought it was such a misunderstanding of what sport is. Sport and art are symbolic spaces. They share a huge amount I think.
Jordan: I agree. On the one hand it’s all ridiculous and yet, also everything is at stake. It’s a matter of life and death.
George: The philosopher Jules Evans writes about this idea in his book ‘The Art of Losing Control’ (2017). His argument is that every society designates spaces of ecstatic release: the football field, dance floor and church etc. If society doesn’t have this space as a kind of collective release valve it can move into a war-like mentality. Sport lets us play on certain narratives of victory in a symbolic safe space.
Jordan: Not everything is fun and games but I do think it’s important to find the ecstatic where you can. I like that word. We need more joy. We need to cultivate spaces of joy and I think that’s what Lora does. She has a complicated relationship to cycling and her career but she realises that it’s not going to stay around forever but it’s worth chasing and worth the difficulty.
George: Pleasure and joy. In seven years of art education I don’t think I ever heard those words.
Jordan: I think that’s changing. Coming out of lockdown people are desperate for more joy.
George: Your work often deals with other people’s bodies and lived experiences that sit outside your own experiences. You deal with the big issues: ageing, illness and dying and I’m interested in how you deal with these freighted spaces. It’s a question I often ask myself as a curator: how do I speak on behalf of others? When do I listen and when do I speak up? This can be very complex and I’m interested in your take on these questions.
Jordan: Yes. You’ve said it really. It’s a big dilemma and a big challenge. I don’t think there is an easy or all encompassing answer. I don’t know what it feels like to be Lora and I’m very conscious of that when I edit her voice. I need to be constantly anxious and doubt it at every developmental stage. I’ve learned that throughout my career it’s important to bring other voices and eyes onto the work throughout its development and be able to openly critique it and for me to be open to that process.
George: I often say that I’m an editor of other people’s stories. It also comes back to being in a space of constant learning I guess. We can’t grow unless we seek out difficulty.
Jordan: That’s exactly how I feel. I’m an editor and I know what to leave out and what to put in to construct something that condenses a narrative that leaves it open for the viewer. I want my art to ask questions. I’m well aware that it’s not my voice and I’m trying to represent other people’s experiences but I try and develop those relationships with as much transparency as possible. I don’t see it as a collaborative process but I hope it’s certainly a transparent one. Now, I wouldn’t make anything public without the permission of the participant. Ultimately, I see my work as experimental portraiture. As an artist I want to be in a space of continual learning and I think this is also a fundamentally human need.
Recorded July 2022
Jordan Baseman is a visual artist and filmmaker. He received a BFA from Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and an MA from Goldsmith’s College, University of London. Baseman is currently the Reader in Time-Based Media, Senior Tutor in Moving Image at the Royal College of Art, London.
Baseman has a long history of creating projects in collaboration with UK-based and international, not-for-profit and public institutions. The artworks are installations, audio works, and single-screen films. Jordan Baseman’s films are frequently featured in international exhibitions and film festivals.
Jordan Baseman is represented by Matt’s Gallery London.
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