FVU Frames: Guy Oliver

Guy Oliver is one of two recipients of the Jerwood/FVU Awards 2020: Hindsight. Awarded £25,000 following a nationwide call for applications at the beginning of 2019 to respond to the theme of Hindsight, each artist explores the power of reflection through film-making, how ideas shift through time and generations, and the complex nature of hindsight itself.

Guy Oliver’s film, You Know Nothing of My Work, is a multi-chapter rumination on the cultural dilemma of the disgraced popular icon, the tension between a problematic past and a more enlightened present, and the role of the male voice in a post-Me Too era. The work, which is his biggest commission to date, develops Oliver’s established practice of mixing pop culture references with self-deprecating character performances and complex social issues. Idiosyncratic in style and form, this moving-image work takes the unexpected form of a musical to unpick the notion of celebrity, toxic masculinity, and moral ambiguity. Oliver adopts various male archetypes as he probes what to do with the work of cultural icons such as Michael Jackson, Woody Allen, Kevin Spacey, and Bill Cosby. Stepping into the backdrop of familiar film and television sets, Oliver also looks specifically at British culture, particularly how to marry the importance of era-defining shows such as “Top of the Pops” with the knowledge of their systematic, institutional failure. By exploring this difficult subject through the medium of song and the device of rhyming couplets, Oliver blurs the comic and the tragic, questions his own stance on these issues, and allows the awkwardness of his position as a male artist to spill onto the screen. Collaborators on the project include: contributions from Rebecca Lucy Taylor / Self Esteem and Kevin Peterson “T1J”, with music by Suzy Davies featuring the The Angels of Kaos choir.