Monday, 23 January 2017

Sam McKnight Video Interview | Culture Trip

I spoke with international hairstylist, Sam McKnight at his Somerset House exhibition, Hair about working with Vogue, styling Princes Diana's hair and why the 70s were the most stylish decade.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Joanna Vasconcelos Interview | Baku

Read my interview with Portuguese artist Joanna Vasconcelos for Baku Winter 2015/2016 issue here.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Susan Hiller Interview | Time Out

Portrait: © Freire Barnes

I had the pleasure of visiting the influential American artist, Susan Hiller in her North London studio to talk about her first show at Lisson Gallery. Read the full interview here.

The show is an overview of your career but it shouldn’t be referred to as a retrospective?

‘It’s not a retrospective. There is a difference to being retrospective and looking back and a retrospective, which traditionally takes a form of chronological presentation of work to show development or lack of it. The reason I don’t think of it as a retrospective is things have been juxtaposed for reasons other than chronology.’

You originally studied anthropology. How and why did you become an artist?
‘I always wanted to be an artist, but by the time I was a teenager I became aware there were no women artists: none. Later, when I discovered some, they were always denigrated:“She’s the wife of so and so”. So unconsciously I was separated from my ambition to be an artist. At secondary school I found a little booklet called “Anthropology as a career for women” by Margaret Mead. Honestly no one had ever expressed anything interesting as a career to me as a woman. You could be a secretary, a teacher but an anthropologist? I didn’t even know what that was, it was so exotic and interesting. Then I went to a very prestigious and academic New England women’s college. They didn’t teach anthropology, but they had a very good art department. American universities don’t produce specialists, so I took a variety of subjects. I got out of college with this very broad background and no sense of vocation, so I went to New York for a year and took courses in life drawing, film and photography as well as anthropology courses in linguistics and archaeology. Because of this deeply internalised sense that as a woman I could not be an artist I went to postgraduate university and did anthropology. It was during a lecture I was giving on African art that I thought: this is ridiculous. I am not going to be an anthropologist. What can I say? It took me a long time.’

Initially you started to paint?
‘Yes. I had a couple of exhibitions but at the same time I was also interested in working in a different way which was with groups of people to do performative experiments, I suppose. I did pieces like dream mapping and street ceremonies, which were a subversive kind of performance because they didn’t have an audience, they only had participants. Then at a certain point I saw there was a dualism between art and anthropology, a dualism between the painting practice and the time-based practice and so I developed installations as a reconciliation of those two poles.’

Monday, 12 October 2015

Patrik Staff Interview | Bon Magazine

For the Autumn/Winter 2015 issue of Bon I spoke with Patrik Staff about gender identity and queer legacy.

Patrick Staff is the poster boy for an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) generation that will not conform to or be confined by stereotypes. Splitting his time between London and Los Angeles, the twenty-seven year old artist’s interdisciplinary practice questions the categorisations of marginalised groups by an austere political system. Yet behind all the hype and the heavy sub text, you’ll find Staff mining labour politics, the queer body, social attitudes and how counter-cultures are shaped with the most effervescent attitude. Goldsmiths educated and shrewdly knowledgeable in everything from contemporary dance to Crip theory (about how bodies, pleasures, and identities are represented in relation to disability and queerness), Staff isn’t just another pretty art boy.
We meet in London’s east end, ironically at the Proud Archivist to talk about ‘The Foundation’, Staff’s most ambitious and complex work to date. Currently kipping in Dalston after being acrimoniously evicted from his studio due to London’s encroaching gentrification, Staff exudes the Californian calm of his new home town against the hubbub of Haggerston Riviera: ‘When you’re an artist in London you make sacrifices for the dialogue and the sparkiness. LA for me is queerer, it’s easier, and the quality of life is better. You chill a lot more.’

With Staff strategically positioning his practice, it was only a matter of time before influential curators and non-profit gallery directors would come calling. Staff has subsequently fostered productive working relationships with the likes of Catherine Wood (Contemporary art and performance curator, Tate) who included his multi-dimensional work ‘Chewing Gum for the Social Body’ in Tate Modern’s 2012 Tanks series ‘Art in Action’. While Emily Pethick (Director, The Showroom) showcased ‘Scaffold See Scaffold’ a workshop led project that foregrounded the body as the vehicle to construct diverse identities. And then there’s Polly Staple (Director, Chisenhale) who recently co-commissioned and exhibited ‘The Foundation’ which has firmly cemented Staff’s rising stardom.

Shown within a darkened gallery that is only illuminated by a film projection, ‘The Foundation’ is an immersive and multifaceted installation. Insulation material is strewn across the floor, rolled in some areas to create potential seating. A rigging of scaff-like poles creates a support for the projection screen. These industrious materials are echoed in the film sequences of choreographed scenes between Staff and an older actor set within a minimally constructed set. And then there is the footage shot, sometimes on Staff’s iPhone, at the late Tom of Finland’s former home in LA. But this isn’t your regular artist’s home preserved for weekend tourism, it has become a dedicated foundation to the Finnish artist’s (aka Touko Laaksonen) homoerotic art where a gay commune live, work and play. Tight-framed interior shots of the house are interspersed with convivial clips of Bears hanging out. The bathroom is surveyed with the sink, some soap, an obligatory gay Grecian statue and a giant dildo. Domestic rooms have been converted into makeshift offices where correspondence is taking place. At one point someone, wearing archival gloves, opens the drawers of a plan chest to reveal the abundance of Tom’s creativity. Drawing after drawing of his archetypal buff, overtly male characters in lewd, explicit acts are pulled out.

The film draws on all of Staff’s prior experiences of working with minority groups and using bodily gestures as a form of expression. Most importantly this is not a documentary about Tom and the foundation. His legacy and diligent followers is merely a prism through which Staff is able to contemplate gender identity and queer intergenerational relationships. It also offers him the chance to work within the parameters of an exhibition and within a gallery context.

You might expect Staff to rest on his laurels whilst ‘The Foundation’ travels to the other commissioning sites: Spike Island, Bristol; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; and Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver: ‘In some way I guess I could put my feet up and let it tour until the end of 2016. But I think like lots of artists my self worth is slightly at its peak in the middle of a project.’ So he’s already planning his next collaborative project that explores the hormonal properties of plants.

Why do you think people are starting to take notice of you?
‘I guess I wandered into the Tom of Finland zeitgeist, his work is having this renaissance and people are excited which is funny because my work isn’t really about Tom of Finland.’

So how did making ‘The Foundation’ come about?
‘When I was in LA for a small exhibition in 2012, a friend said I should visit the Tom of Finland foundation and check out the archive because I was making works about collectives and alternative living. I went because it seemed anachronistic that the foundation was in LA are not in Finland.’

Were you a fan of his work?
‘I knew it although it's not one of my references. I totally thought it would be a regular archive; white gloves, a receptionist, you need an appointment. Actually it was when I turned up that I realised it was this crazy three-storey house where you couldn’t tell who was living there and who was working there. This guy welcomed me at the gates and asked if I wanted some ice tea because “It's really hot.” I was given a tour of the house, and the kitchens and bedrooms were given as much importance as the archive. I was shown the dungeon with all its chains, slings and harnesses.’

Was that Tom’s dungeon?
‘It’s the house’s dungeon and the garden has shackles in it. The house has a urinal that when you piss in it, it runs out to a shower in the garden, which they had rigged up themselves. They were like: “The urinal isn’t working right now but we’ll fix it soon.”’

So did you have an idea of what you wanted to make?
‘It was only really once I began working away from the foundation that I began to understand what I wanted to get out of it. It’s a complete artwork in itself. I was interested in the history of Bob Miezer and Robert Mapplethorpe pushing to legitimise Tom’s work and how that relates to my practice and what responsibility I have to these historical materials. Also how the house started as a commune and at some point formalised itself into an organisation and what it entails when the commune members convert to employees. That was the stuff that got me hooked and got me really like: “Fuck I need to work with these guys somehow.” ‘

‘The Foundation’ might not be about Tom but it really emphasises a queer legacy; both his and more generally.
‘Tom was a very real person to the guys at the foundation, yet to me and to many others, Tom is just this spectre that is never quite there. That's where this intergenerational thing gets really complicated. Prior to the project I had been having conversations with older gay male artists who had been belabouring this idea: “Well you need to carry the torch, you have an obligation to our generation. Men of my age all died. You need to carry on the legacy.” Within the queer community we talk a lot about our chosen family with many people getting pushed out of the normal familial structures, we start to reconstitute things and establish a family that exists in its own way. So I have really been dealing with this and asking myself: “If I am a child of this older generation what responsibility do I have?”’

And do you feel responsible?
‘I've always really taken pride in the fact that my community is diverse, it’s sexually and gender diverse, there’s a range of sexualities, races and ages. Yet any community is dealing with how do we look after ourselves. Do we shut the gates and preserve what we have and protect ourselves from the outside world? And how do we remain open and how do we change? That seemed like a really underlying question at the foundation.’

So what did you want to achieve in the choreographed scenes with the actor?
‘The guy that I cast is totally familiar with the world of Tom of Finland, he's a real ‘top daddy’ type and he carries that in his body. I wanted to look at how the archive played out through gesture and the way that the body moves? How does that information and knowledge circulate through the materials in the archive, to the space itself and to the bodies that inhabit it? That sort of plays out through lots of different projects I've done but it comes most to a head in this work.’

How have people responded to ‘The Foundation’?
‘It really varies between who watches it, amongst my peers people respond to the gender politics. There are certain other ephemeral elements to the work that people have responded to a lot. The clouds at the end get a really mixed and strong response. I’ve been surprised and amazed by how complex a reading it gets. The guys at the foundation got the most poetic and questioning about.’

Why is collaborating so important?
‘Originally it was a reaction to leaving Goldsmiths and suddenly being out in the art world. It was about being rebellious. It’s a lot more acceptable now, but then it wasn't the thing to do; authorship was golden and agency was key. I think it was also a certain reaction to feeling as if I had to produce a commodity even though I've never really dealt with the commercial art world. The first serious video work I made was with fifteen other people and I would doggedly argue that the work existed as raw footage on everyone’s own hard drives; the edit I might show is just one edit of many others. Stuart Comer, when he was at Tate Modern, asked me: “How do expect an archive or museum to be able to contain this work if it's spread between fifteen different people?” and I thought, “Huh, that’s the institution’s problem.” I’m not going to tow the line in that way.’

Collective authorship factors in many of your works. You worked with Olivia Plender on ‘Life in the Woods’ that took you around the UK devising strategies for alternative living.
‘Olivia and I were both really interested in reinvigorating people’s interest in intentional communities and back to the land way of living particularly post financial crisis. This was combined with an interest in queerness and queer paganism and various environmental ideas: rambling, the implications of trespassing on land, what's the history of the commons and how does that affect how we see public space, new forms of activism and a queer identity that is constituted outside of cities. We spent a year travelling around the country meeting crazy people and different communities. It was trying to figure out how we live now, how our identity and subjectivity is constructed.’

There are multiple levels to you work. There’s the research, the active engagement, the performative aspect, the documentation. How much do you consider all of those things?
‘It’s really changed the longer I've worked and varies from project to project and with the group of people that I work with. I used to be interested in the set of conditions that led to the production of the work. Then I started to really feel the limitations of that. What originally felt pertinent and liberating – what really matters is what’s happening in this room right now and something will come out of it but let's not think about it – shifted. I guess now I want to do something a little bit more expansive.’

Is that why you work in a variety of formats including choreography and dance, because that allows elasticity?
‘I think I get most drawn to the mediums that you can inherently push the limits with. For me I get the most tension out of choreography and dance and a certain amount of film and video.’

You reference the choreographic work of Siobhan Davies and Rudolf Laban but there is also a feel of Yvonne Rainer?
‘Yes completely, I think of Yvonne pushing mattresses in her ‘Parts of Some Sextets’ in relation to the installation of ‘The Foundation’. Steve Paxton is also really big for me in how he developed contact improvisation and just let this choreography travel out into the world. It's viral and rhizomatic. That relates to how I approach workshop methodologies. Post-modern dance is totally important to me. I think choreographically although dancers I work with are like: “You don't know anything.” But then I'm like: “You guys know fuck all about art!” But then I’m a punk and an anarchist and I don't need to know anything.’

Malleability is a word that is used a lot in relation to your work
‘For me it’s powerful to make everything malleable and to keep massaging a set of conditions until you can reformulate them, which is not to say that is always easy. It all comes back to that question of strength, this current government asks nothing more than for us to be infinitely flexible, and so does inflexibility become more powerful? Or does inflexibility render you a non-citizen? How can you be flexible without being manipulated? I don’t really know I just keep poking at thee questions from multiple points.’

I wanted to ask about the quote on your website: Every cocksucker is well aware that he same man who out on his badge to arrest him probably gets his blowjobs at a different truck stop.
‘It’s a Patrick Califia quote, who is a queer writer. I suppose it’s a little petulant, an antiauthoritarian thing and a little bit of… [Staff finds it hard to put into words]. I still get people that want to be able to Google me and to get a very concise summing up of what I do blah, blah, blah. And there is still a part of me that is resistant to that.  I’m not a brand, my work is not instantly recognisable and there is a little bit of me that is: “Come and fucking deal with it. Come and talk to me. Turn up and be in the room.” The quote is a good way of dealing with the art world.’ 

© Freire Barnes

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Judy Chicago Interview | Time Out

I spoke with one of America’s most important, prolific and pioneering artists, Judy Chicago at her studio in Sante Fe. As charismatically outspoken now as she was in the 1960s, she told me about her show at Riflemaker, her inclusion in ‘The World Goes Pop’ at Tate Modern that feature her famous spray-painted car bonnets, what it means to be a woman artist and why she changed her name.

Read the interview on Time Out London here.

Image: © Donald Woodman

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Carsten Holler | Time Out

I took to the skies over the Southbank all in the name of art for Carsten Höller's exhibition 'Decision' at Hayward Gallery. 

Carsten Höller’s art requires you to use your hands quite a lot. Whether it’s finding your way through pitch-black metal corridors from the entrance to the lower gallery; gripping on to the handrail of a flying machine that soars over Waterloo Bridge; attempting to get inside a giant die; taking a red and white pill that may or may not be a placebo or getting yourself in position before you whoosh down a slide upon exiting the show.  

You can read my full review at Time Out London.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Magnificent Obsessions video tour at The Barbican | Time Out

I met up with Lydia Yee, curator of the Barbican's 2015 spring blockbuster 'Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector' along with some of the exhibiting artists to talk about the intriguing collections on display.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Publication | Catlin Guide 2015

For The Catlin Guide 2015 I interviewed the award's curator Justin Hammond about the process and legacy of this essential annual guide and exhibition.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Marina Abramović Interview | Time Out

I caught up with the doyenne of performance art, Marina Abramović to talk about her Serpentine Gallery show, '512 Hours'. Apparently the New York-based artist will be doing nothing, but as we know from her celebrated MoMA show, 'The Artist is Present', the nothing principal of her work will be the most extraordinary experience you'll encounter in a gallery. 

In 2010, visitors to New York's Museum of Modern Art were confronted by a woman sitting on a chair, behind a simple wooden table. Facing her was a similar, empty chair. People came and sat in the chair, shared some moments of silence with the woman, and then moved on. Day after day she sat there, for 736 hours and 30 minutes in total: no breaks, no trips to the loo, no movement, no words.

This was Marina Abramović's 'The Artist Is Present'. It was a milestone piece, characteristically both confrontational and cerebral, confirming the Belgrade-born iconoclast as not only the queen of performance art, but also as one of the most exciting artists in the world.

Now 67, Abramović has been putting extreme performance into galleries for the last 40 years. She's been stripped, had a loaded gun and a crossbow pointed at her, taken dangerously powerful medical drugs, deprived herself of oxygen, nearly died. She's also inspired Jay Z, who was so taken by 'The Artist Is Present' he made his own (rather briefer) version: a six-hour gallery performance of his song 'Picasso Baby'.

Now Abramović is coming to London to stage another gruelling artistic event at the Serpentine Gallery. Typically for an artist who puts risk at the heart of her work, she has no idea what it's going to be yet. But if anyone can pull off a 512-hour show about 'nothing', it's her.

Are you nervous about performing in London?
‘Unbelievably so, because you are not an easy audience. You have a great sense of humour and are sarcastic. You want to be entertained and you get easily bored. It’s hell, but I wanted to see how I could get you on my side.’ 

What is the thinking behind '512 Hours'? 

'Recently I discovered an old TV interview from 1989 when I was asked what art in the twenty-first century would be like. I said: "Art without objects that would directly use energy." Now, 25 years later, I finally have the courage to do it. For "The Artist Is Present", I had two chairs and a table and [during the run] I removed the table. Now I'm removing the chairs. I'm trying to see if it's possible to remove structure and instructions and create things out of pure energy.' 

To read more about Abramović's love of chocolate, training Lady Gaga and not having a personal life, read the full interview on Time Out London

Image: Marina Abramović, photograph © 2014 by Marco Anelli

Friday, 16 May 2014

Richard Jackson Interview | Time Out

I spoke to the American artist about bobble heads, bodily fluids and getting cuckoo whilst setting up his show, 'New Paintings' at Hauser & Wirth

Over the past four decades, the Los Angeles-based artist has been exploring the boundaries of painting. From smearing wet canvases directly across the gallery wall to activating his painting machines that take on different sculptural forms and spray paint from various orifices. For his London show at Hauser & Wirth, the 74-year-old maverick painter makes a splash with works like 'Pain-t' (2012) - a row of boys bent over that fired paint from their bottoms into the gallery.

You're not a typical painter, what can we expect of the show?
'It's an experience; it's evidence of an action of a performance. I always see it as entertainment.'

There's a lot of humour in your work.
'I have a good sense of humour. Why not take advantage of it? I think it's pretty funny how the art business is taken way too seriously.'

There are lots of different kinds of works in the show, where did the idea for a bobble head version of yourself come from?
'They're usually of sports figures and there's a whole community who collect them. I went to a Los Angeles Dodgers game and they gave away a bobble head of Sandy Koufax, a famous Dodger in the 1960s. So I thought it would be cool to make a giant bobble head of myself.'

Your painting machines use paint like bodily fluids. Are you being purposefully suggestive?
'No I don't mean it to be insulting or provocative. I don't care about political correctness. But to be honest the bodily fluids thing is probably overdone.'

Why can't we view the painting machines in action?
'Because it would give the viewer too much information, then they don't have to use their imagination. I'm trying to provoke their thinking.'

Your work constantly questions painting. Do you think it's still relevant in this internet age?
'I think painting doesn't relate so well to what's going on. It's basically married to old materials and old tradition. It's overdue to change. Painting is really liquidity; it's the market's cash. And until somebody challenges that idea, it's going to go on for ever and just be boring.'

You're definitely challenging it.
'I'm challenging it but I don't expect it to change. I'm trying to change the way people think about painting and how they relate to it and how painting can occupy a space and be there temporarily.'

Is there an artwork you dream of making?
'Yeah, I want to make an upside-down and inside-out cuckoo clock. It would look like a log cabin and when you went inside there would be a bar with people drinking - getting cuckoo, and on the hour all these animals would come out.'

Read the interview on Time Out London.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Publication | Prologue

To accompany London-based design duo Fredriksson Stallard's monumental sculpture 'Prologue', which was installed at PMQ during Art Basel Hong Kong 2014, I wrote about the inspiration behind the Swarovski commission for the limited edition publication. Read the text in full here

Monday, 21 April 2014

Idris Khan | Zurich Opera Magazine


I was commissioned by the Zurich Opera House to write about the London-based artist, Idris Khan in relation to his set design for Wayne McGregor's new ballet, 'Notations'. 

Floating Notes 
There’s black and then there’s black through the eyes of the London-based artist Idris Khan. It takes on a translucent, silky and luminous quality with incredible depth. The 36-year-old has always made work in a predominantly monochromatic palette, so his photographs, paintings, sculptures and wall drawings blur the distinction between light and dark, history and present, rendered and erased. 

The Royal College of Art graduate layers varied information in different media. His photographic composites have condensed every page of the Quran into a 136 x 170 cm digital print; transformed the eminent psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud’s seminal text on the uncanny into an eerie mass of words and combined Bernd and Hilla Becher’s extensive series of industrial machinery into ghostly apparitions. 

Khan's technique of overlaying appropriated imagery and text is certainly at it's most poetic with his photographs of complete works by composers. Pieces such as ‘Struggling to Hear…After Ludwig van Beethoven Sonatas’ from 2005 capture the cacophony of sound or the lack thereof for Beethoven with distilled poignance. It was works such as this that caught Wayne McGregor's attention. And it seems to only have been a matter of time before the right collaboration would require Khan's visual language: 'I think his choreography is really complex and he saw a relationship between my way of thinking about layering and got in touch.'

Following in the footsteps of Picasso and David Hockney, this will be Khan's first set design, which one might expect to be a daunting undertaking when your natural habitat is the confines of a gallery: 'The context has completely changed so you have to think about the dancers, the lighting and their interaction with the art. One thing that really struck me straight away was when are you going to get the chance where an audience is going to sit and look at one of your pieces for forty minutes. So for me it was all about how the audience responds to looking at something for that length of time. I don’t think you really think about that when you’re creating work for a gallery.' Rising to the challenge, he's effortlessly translated his artistic practice into an immersive design that eloquently marries the sublime fluidity of McGregor’s choreography crossed with the serene tones from Richter splicing of Vivaldi’s 'Four Season'.

This is the first time Khan has ever created one of his music pieces using an arrangement by the Baroque composer: 'I always used music that has influenced my life in some way, whether it’s my mother’s favourite pieces or something that's educated me. It made complete sense to create a music piece because of the nature of what Max did to the Four Seasons. When I listen to that piece of music it’s all about stripping it down and keeping something familiar and then creating something new and that’s exactly what appropriation is.' And Richter's composition of disarranged notes comes alive in Khan's large gauze screens printed with superimposed sheets of Vivaldi's complete work. 

Every note is seized in a state of limbo. They're caught between lines, squeezed between other notes, gripping each other and sandwiched together. What is once claustrophobic is also a release from conformity as notes meld into one another, inadvertently posing as another. They're captured together in a single moment that will last the duration of the performance. There is no beginning or end, just now. There is no order, only chaotic exaltation.

This intense compression of information is balanced by the contemplative element of the entire design that echoes Vivaldi’s priestly background. Accompanying the notes will be a sculptural structure that has certainly  been informed by the physicality of Richard Serra’s large-scale steel sculptures along with Sol Le Witt's obsessively drawn formations: 'I wanted it to look almost like a sketch on the stage in the middle of this black field and you'll only see the curve when the light hits it. I’ve used the same process as I do for my paintings with layers of gesso, which is made with rabbit skin glue, black pigments and slate dust and then it’s sanded back and sanded back so it creates this incredible marble finish. What I love about gesso is the way is absorbs light, it really sucks it in.'

But the curved form isn't just inspired by Khan's artistic background, it also mirrors the performance's context of dancers interacting and responding to music. It'll sweep down the stage like a bass clef, emulating the arced movements of the dancers as well as providing a constraint to their presence on stage, a boundary to which they must adhere. By restricting the space on stage Khan creates a tension for the dancers to reverberate off. But he's also created a realm aided by the lighting design of Lucy Carter where they will literally physically interact with the music: 'I've used transparent gauze so when you light it from the front, the audience will see the music but when lit from the back they'll see the dancers. So at any one given point the dancers are immersed in the musical notation, becoming part of the music, becoming notes.' 

In the same way that McGregor will build phrases with his ten dancers and Richter has rephrased the notes of 'Four Seasons', Khan has created a design that echoes these abstract interpretations to create a new orchestration: 'At any one point I'm jumping over phrases and putting them back on top of each other, almost creating my own symphony.'

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Joyce Pensato Interview | Time Out

The New york-based artist told me about painting 'The Simpsons' and keeping things fresh for her Lisson Gallery show. 

What's been a constant inspiration? 

'I'm drawn to discarded stuff like toys that have a history. They give me something, I don't know, a connection.'

Are you satirising the candy coloured world of cartoons? 

‘I’m not political. I just don’t want the work to be nice or sweet. Disney’s cartoons are usually very sweet. I want the work to be deeper, to have more personality.’

Read the full interview on Time Out London.

Portrait: © Freire Barnes

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Sensing Spaces video tour at Royal Academy | Time Out

Kate Goodwin, architecture curator at the Royal Academy of Art gave me a private, pre-opening tour of 
'Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined'.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

David Lynch Interview | Time Out
I had the pleasure of to the film director about the factory photographs in his forthcoming Photographers' Gallery exhibition as well as finding out about his love of coffee, curtains and Chinese food.

Cinematic surrealist David Lynch is more than a director, musician and coffee connoisseur: his debut photography exhibition opens in London this week at the Photographers Gallery. The rarely interviewed renaissance man tells us ten things you didn't know about his life and career.

He was a Londoner... but only for a year.

'I was working in London on "The Elephant Man" for a year almost to the day. My lasting memory is of Gun Wharf and the London docks. But within a year of finishing, they started tearing down so many places we had shot in. Urban renewal meant that all the old places - which had this tremendous mood - were just disappearing. It was a big, big sadness for me, but that's the way it goes.'

Crispy-fried seaweed floats his boat.
'During post-production of "The Elephant Man" I moved to Twickenham and I would go to the local Peking Chinese restaurants. I was in seventh heaven every time I had the crispy-fried seaweed: one bite of that and you leave your body.'

Everyone could wake up to a David Lynch coffee.
'The "David Lynch Signature Cup" blend of coffee is really good: that's what I drink all day. Whole Foods Market in the US has started stocking it, but only in 20 stores on a trial basis. So go to your Whole Foods store and say: "Listen, Jack, I want you to sell the David Lynch Signature Cup." That would be a real help.'

Read the interview on Time Out London

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Elmgreen & Dragset Video Interview | Time Out

I got up close and personal with the Scandinavian art duo Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset amid their latest creation commissioned by the V&A. They took me on an exclusive tour of the home of reclusive architect Norman Swann.

image: © Rob Greig

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Jane and Louise Wilson Interview | Time Out

I spoke to the Turner Prize-nominated siblings about their recent work 'False Positives and False Negatives', in which the twins camouflage their faces to confuse CCTV technology and visiting Chernobyl for their haunting series of photographs, 'Atomgrad'. 

Why have you turned the lens on yourselves? 
Jane: 'The gift of us being twins was too good to pass up. Especially as the "False Positives and False Negatives" portraits are about identity.' 
Louise: 'We've used paint to scramble facial recognition software.' 

Move over, David Bowie... 
Louise: 'It's not quite "Aladdin Sane." It's totally military. If you go back to the First World War, they started painting planes with dazzle camouflage.' 
Jane: 'It's a nod to that idea - it's designed to confuse biometric readings of the face.'

Read the full interview on Time Out London.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Conrad Shawcross Video Interview | Time Out

Known for his complicated sculptures that have the appearance of machines, east London-based artist Conrad Shawcross isn’t one to shy away from a challenge. So when the Director of Camden’s iconic Roundhouse contacted him last year to create a site-specific work, Shawcross jumped at the chance.

Taking its inspiration from the 24 columns in the main space, ‘Timepiece’ has transformed the building into an immersive clock installation. I caught up with Shawcross ahead of the opening to talk about this awe-inspiring piece that will turn everyone into their own gnomon (that’s the spike of a sundial to you and me).

Monday, 24 June 2013

James Franco Interview | Time Out London | June 2013

He acts, directs, writes and makes art. Is there anything James Franco can’t do? Freire Barnes caught up with Franco on the eve of his first UK exhibition, 'Psycho Nacirema' at Pace Gallery. 

Your exhibition is presented by Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon. What was his involvement? 
‘We had previously collaborated on a project and we liked the idea that he would help curate and produce this show. I discussed all the pieces with Douglas as I made them. You could say that the subject was partially inspired by one of Douglas’s most famous pieces "24-hour Psycho".’ 

The exhibition’s title is a play on words, can you explain it? 
‘Basically it’s "Psycho American", but American is spelt backwards. The title comes from many places. I like to incorporate the work of other people who inspire me. So in that way I’m the American, and "Psycho" comes from Douglas, comes from Hitchcock, comes from even Gus van Sant’s ‘Psycho’. Later I was told there is some sort of anthropological study of Americans called "Nacirema".’ 

Previous work has also dealt with iconic films, why did you choose ‘Psycho’ as the basis for an art installation? 
‘There are so many themes and approaches in the film. There’s role playing...

Read the entire interview with James Franco on Time Out London.

Image: © James Franco, courtesy Pace Gallery London.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Venice Biennale | Jeremy Deller Interview | Time Out

The Venice Biennale is art's Olympic Games and Eurovision rolled into one. Representing Britain this year is Jeremy Deller. We caught up with our magic man to talk tea, gifts and queuing. 

What does it mean to be chosen to do the pavilion? 
‘Initially I was quite surprised; I wasn't expecting to be chosen. Often when you're asked to do things like this; a, you think why me? and b, what can I possibly do? Your mind goes blank and you have mild panic for a few minutes and then you settle down and think, actually I can do this. But was does it mean? It means more as these opening days go on and you realise that it's a very big deal. I knew it was a big deal, but for me it is just a big exhibition, on the world stage. I don't feel any responsibility to the UK even though the shows all about it. It's in a context where I know a lot of people will see it and so I'm trying to make a show that's quite open, friendly to the public.’ 

Did you have to approach it in a different way to past projects? 
‘Only because the architecture of the pavilion is very specific. ‘English Magic’ is an exhibition, it's not an event or a project outside a gallery. It's a very traditional environment, which I like, meaning I could do a traditional gallery show in my own way; paintings, drawings, lots of old objects, things you might expect to see in a gallery or museum. Most of the things I do, I do because I want to – I get the idea and I try to make them happen. Here it's a specific thing with a time limit, it had to be finished last week.

Read the entire interview with Jeremy Deller on Time Out London.

Image: Jeremy Deller outside the British Pavilion, Venice, May 2013 © Alan McQuillan. 

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Michael Landy Interview | Time Out

For the past three years, Michael Landy, known for destroying all his worldly possessions in 2001, has immersed himself as the National Gallery’s artist in residence. Admittedly an unusual choice, the Goldsmiths-trained artist found enlightenment in the Renaissance galleries where he became captivated by the depictions of saints. Facinated by their faith, determination and gruesome deaths, Landy has made beautifully detailed collages and engaging, spectacularly fun kinetic sculptures that animate this often reserved collection.

Had the National Gallery collection been an inspiration before the residency? ‘I’d like to say it was but it wasn’t. I didn’t come here when I was a Goldsmiths student, so it wasn’t until the residency. Suddenly I was faced with the thought of getting to know the collection and making an exhibition for 2013. But actually........

Read the entire interview with Michael Landy on Time Out London.

Image: Michael Landy, installation view of 'Saints Alive', 2013 at the National Gallery, London.