September 23 – November 11, 2017

Patricia Boyd exhibit poster

New York-based British artist Patricia L. Boyd will exhibit Operator (2017), a single-channel video from which the title of the exhibition is taken. The video was produced through a moving image commission from EMPAC / Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.

Positioned in a space not much wider than a corridor, the video—which Boyd refers to as an ‘exhaustion engine’—is structured according to a rule-based scheme whereby the duration of each section is determined by the mathematical calculations of a specific loan repayment plan. Both debt and interest are payable quarterly over a period of three years and three months, which is the interval of time since she started preliminary research towards the commission. Sections of footage are carved up according to one parameter, namely the amount of debt that has been paid at whatever moment the ‘payment’ appears in the duration of the video (12 min 56 seconds, looped).

Operator was shot using a custom-built system of four video cameras fixed into motorized rigs to produce up-down and right-left tracking shots. The cameras were designed to run in constant motion and to repeatedly scan the room they were situated in. Within the context of a commission from a highly resourced media arts production facility, one way of looking at this setup would be as an expenditure of resource without any apparent object.

The system somewhat exhaustively makes a record of itself. As it moves through space, the frame of each camera captures its counterparts and the elements working in their support (stabilization devices, static lighting, other technical equipment). The edits between cameras provide a shift in point of view that only serves to emphasize how restricted each one particular perspective is. There is a sense of totality that is again and again evaded, even as the limit of the system as a whole—the extremities of the room—is extended.

In cinema, PoV shots are used to get inside the subjective space of a character, to represent what they are ‘seeing’. The cameras in Boyd’s video appear to operate themselves, moving in an often gestural fashion over and towards a scratched floor. However, at moments, there is a distinct sense that something or someone is driving the cameras at a distance and that there is some kind of intention behind the movement.

These hyper-vigilant cameras, their footage seen through crosshairs, suggest all sorts of anxieties about production and productivity, the saturation of time and space with sensory overload, and our being monitored by ever-present surveillance. The structure of the loan repayment plan to which the footage is put in service suggests a broader economic context to these questions and our entrapment within a constant accumulation of debt.

Patricia L. Boyd would like to thank Vic Brooks, everyone she worked with at EMPAC, Nour Mobarak, David Cunningham, Jeff Preiss, Robert Snowden, Rachal Bradley, Jason Hirata and Jamie Stevens.

Patricia L. Boyd (1980) was born in London, UK and currently lives and works in New York, USA. She has had solo exhibitions at 3236RLS, London (2017); Kiria Koula, San Francisco (2015); TG, Nottingham (2015); Jan Kaps, Cologne (2015); Modern Art Oxford (2014); and Cubitt, London (2013). Earlier in 2017 she organized an exhibition, AEROSOL, at the 500 Capp Street Foundation, San Francisco. Her work has been featured in group exhibitions such as Steirischer Herbst, Graz (2015); Gasworks, London (2014); and the 12th Biennale de Lyon (2013). Boyd holds a BA from Oxford University, and an MFA from Chelsea College of Art, London. She has received moving-image commissions from EMPAC, Troy and Frieze Film, London. Later this year she will participate in a group show, Mechanisms, at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco, and has upcoming solo exhibitions at Potts, Los Angeles, and 1856, Victorian Trades Hall, Melbourne.

Operator is curated by Nicola Lees, director and curator of 80WSE with assistance from Jessica Barker, Ben Hatcher and Hugh O’Rourke.

About 80WSE Gallery (@80wsegallery)
80WSE Gallery, located at 80 Washington Square East between West 4th Street and Washington Street, is an extension of the Department of Art and Art Professions in the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Under the direction of Nicola Lees, 80WSE presents experimental contemporary and historical exhibitions, produced exclusively by and for the gallery, through unique collaborations between faculty, students, and noted artists and curators. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. For more information, please visit or contact the gallery at 212-998-5751 or

About the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development (@nyusteinhardt)
Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development prepares students for careers in the arts, education, health, media, and psychology. Since its founding in 1890, the Steinhardt School's mission has been to expand human capacity through public service, global collaboration, research, scholarship, and practice. To learn more about NYU Steinhardt, visit

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