Sean Dower Lecture

Tuesday 8th November.

Today we were introduced to a very interestingly odd but accomplished artist Sean Dower. Sean was born in 1965 in Walsall. Sean’s early career started studying Architecture but he dropped out. Sean attended Camberwell school of Arts in 1988-1991 where he got a BA Hons in sculpture and attended the Rijksakademie van Beeldenden Kunsten in Amsterdam 1993-1995.

Sean has a Multidisciplinary approach and likes to work in different media rather than concentrating on a specific academic discipline ‘I don’t  like to repeat myself’ this is evident in the work that he has created and talked us through. Sean showed us a variety of work starting in 1988 to 2006. He would have liked to have shown us some of his recent work but with so much to get through we ran out of time.  Sean is influenced by his early travels around Europe on the industrial music scene of the early 1980’s and worked with the radical performance art group  *The Bow Gamelan Ensemble. They were a group that formed in 1983 that used some elements of the traditional precussion music of Indonesian culture but with a dynamic experience using radical performance arts, cassack dancers, installation pieces, visual recognition, metal bathtubs, light, drums, metal and metal sheets, water, distress light flares, smoke, camoflage and other art creating a dynamic experience that went beyond the conventional definitions of music.

Sean produces work in sculpture, photography, film, live performance and sound.

Sean went on to study Sculpture at Camberwell School of Art and Design. The images he showed us from around that time were sculptures called

* Spring instrument, 1988 made from wood paint and steel


*What is dark but made out of light 1989


Sean went on to say that one of the most difficult things to do as an artist is to give your work a name. Sean has been known to use Riddles in some of the names he has given his pieces.

*Bluebell wood 1988 was recording on super 8 film.1 minute of film in black and white showing a view into a wooded area and as i watching and wondering what your supposed to be looking at Sean jumps out of a tree and lands as if from no where and then the film stops. Sean was inspired to test physical limits. How long he could hold his breath, How long he could perform a headstand for and how high can he jump from.
Sean talked about his part in the 1983 * The Curfew recordings.They are an accustic  arrangement using various instruments that could 3 men could carry including whistles, chimes, gongs, flutes, metal wood and bones. They were recorded on a disused site at the side of the river tyne in a an empty metal bitumen drum 26 meters wide and 10 meters tall in Derwenthaugh Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

*Bathrooms of the world.  During Sean’s travels over the years he would document his time by taking photographs of the hotels bathrooms he was staying in and uses them as a reflection on the places he has been and what he was doing at the time.  I am interested in the anonymous, formal qualities of bathrooms and how we inhabit their ‘minimalism’ and make them more personal and intimate.’ Initially it was because Sean was struck by the interaction of mirror, water and light but has developed into a fascination that he ultimately cannot understand so continue’s to take them.

Sean dropped out of university because he wanted the freedom to work in different disciplines so attended the Rijksakademie van Beeldenden Kunsten in Amsterdam ( English state academy of fine arts) Talented and ambitious artists from all continents come to Amsterdam to pursue a two year residency at the Rijksakademie,  the Rijksakademie offers them a professional environment where they have the opportunity to concentrate on research and experiment and devote themselves to producing new work . Artists are stimulated to reflect critically on their work and break new ground. New techniques can be explored, different disciplines intermix and links are laid between divergent cultures. (

During Sean’s time in Amsterdam he would visit the market and he came across some video tapes he thought he could use to film on but could only afford the one. when he had a look to see what was on it he discoverd a film. A circus clown performance of a mime and he watched a few times and started to imagine the space that Zou Zou was describing through his mime.

*Zou Zou’s mime reconstructed. Sean’s  interpretation became a 3D  installation made from plywood.  Sean even installed a Television monitor to screen the film in. This resulted in creating a paradox,  watching the video within the space. It was exhibited in 1996 in London and in 1997 Vienna. Because the installation was so big it couldn’t be transported or stored anywhere so Sean has to rebuild the installation. In 1999 Zou Zou’s mime was screened on the side of the Southbank centre London. It took several years and multiple magazine articles to track down Zou Zou the circus clown in an article on a German Theatre festivals website and successfully contacted him. Zou Zou finally saw the reconstructed mime  in 199 at an exhibit in Lokaal Antwerp.  when asked what Zou Zou’s reaction to the work was he quoted him ‘ you piss in the wind and 15 years later it smacks you in the face’. they stay in touch. Zou Zou even loaned some props to Sean to show with the exhibit. In 1993 Sean had photographed a series of photographs where he impersonates Zou Zou and they were shown 2005 in Musee des Beaux-Arts arts Dunkerque. Sean even went sightseeing around Dunkerque town dressed as Zou Zou.

Zou ZouZou Zou

My Favorite film/video and narrative that he showed us had to be *Clothes Recycling video 1996. Sean had moved back to south London and came across the Clothes recycling bins and realised it was quite easy to just climb inside. Sean explained that there was no manipulation and no edit to the 28 minute video exhibited on a loop on a monitor. We got to see an exerp of 4 minutes highlights. He had a friend sit dressed as a council worker and film him climbing inside a series of Textile containers while the world just carried on passing by outside. Sean would  emerge from the container in a different set of clothes, skirts and mismatched clothes.  I liked this piece the most I think because I could relate to the time in which it was filmed. (21 years old, I would have been living in Reading at that time.) As he was describing the film and telling us some of things that happened while he was filming it like jumping into one and finding a homeless man that had set up camp in there and about a young boy who through in a trainer and it hit him in the face so he threw it back.
My first impressions of Sean were that he liked to use tech and he came a across a bit odd but the more he got into talking about his work he relaxed and the more I came to find him interesting. I like what Sean does although it’s nothing like how I see myself evolving. I like how he doesn’t take himself to seriously, he is not afraid to experiment and goes beyond the barriers and definitions of what most may consider art. I did find Sean inspiring but it wasn’t so much his work he had created but more his mind and thought process, he is so clever. I have visited his website since to check out some of his latest work and I really like the * 2012 Enochian sound Reflection a cast acrylic resin sculpture. I like it most because I could imagine it on a wall in any modern home. Sean was inspired by the Enochian tablets of Elizabethan alchemist Dr John Dee.


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