The Mysterious Island: Interview with Collette Rayner

Satellites Programme participant Collette Rayner discusses her show at Collective Gallery

Feature by Adam Benmakhlouf | 01 Dec 2014

Collette Rayner has recently completed the Satellites programme with the Collective Gallery and Access as an Idiot Distraction is the last exhibition of the 2014 cohort. Having graduated from the Glasgow School of Art in 2012, the Satellites programme has provided a peer group and strong formal system of mentorship which Rayner credits as allowing her to develop significantly from a year and a half ago when she first submitted her proposal for the programme.

In Collective gallery through December into January, it was important for Rayner to exhibit work that expressed itself as a precise statement, after she “spoke with the other Satellites artists who have exhibited already, and they agreed that this was the best approach to the space.” At the moment, the Satellites programme of exhibitions is housed in a temporary white cube space, which Rayner couldn't but imagine as a “shipping container.” Working with the simplicity of the space, Rayner has chosen to exhibit a digital animation along with an accompanying text, both responding to the research she has undertaken over the past 18 months.

However, though the work is expressed succinctly, there were difficulties encountered during the making of the work. From the very first proposal, Rayner has been interested in the Principality of Sealand. This sovereign micronation is six miles off the coast of Felixstowe, that was originally built to be used by the navy during the Second World War. Changing hands regularly after WWII through the 60s when it was used to broadcast pirate radio, later in the 60s it was acquired by Roy Bates. Sealand now belongs to his son, Michael Bates. Though the island’s history and controversial international legal status are interesting, the island has remained outside of general knowledge.

Following her original proposal, Rayner initially set out to access the island in order to lower a camera from the platform and down the metal legs of Sealand. She negotiated access to the island. On the scheduled day however, radio silence was the response to their requests for the lift – that controls access to the island – to be lowered. It was with the mentorial support of the programme that Rayner recognised this obstacle towards the work she originally proposed as an opportunity to develop her practice further. It was at that point that Rayner began to consider 3D digital animation. This led her to work with Hackspace in London, “a non-profit hacking community that runs workshops on model making, drone building and robotics.” Here she encountered “two kinds of people – some people were using the technology to build models of things they loved and wanted to own somehow. Others were building commercial prototypes.”

As she continued to learn about digital animation, Rayner began see it as the appropriate medium to respond to the history of Sealand: “For Roy (the original founder) it had it been an idealistic endeavour, but his son Michael is more interested in exploring Sealand’s business potential.” Caught between a hobbyist’s passion and entrepreneurial spirit, representing the island as a 3D rendered digital animation for Rayner best engaged this ambivalence.

Rayner acknowledges that the history of Sealand and the process of frustrated and recalibrated proposals are interesting in themselves. It’s for this reason that “the accompanying text is important as while there’s an economy and ambiguity that is complemented by a certain openness in sharing the processes and frustration that went into the work.” Rayner sees this as an essential part of being a young artist – “it’s important to be generous with the work, and give viewers a way in.”

Access as an Idiot Distraction will be open until 25 January in the Collective Gallery, Edinburgh