Interview II - 13/08/2019
Last year I spoke to Kirsty Harris, an artist and good friend living in London.
We sat down and had another chat about what has been happening since, and what is coming up for myself and Broken Grey Wires!
What is the most beautiful moment in your work?
When my imagination goes into overdrive. When the pieces of the puzzle begin to mold into shape and I can envisage the work happening. I even love researching things, learning, I strive for that. It is beautiful when bits of information overlap, resulting in ideas.
What is your favourite section of your art world? (i.e. when the work is installed in a space, or making it, or getting the idea?)
I think the idea part just about comes first for me. It’s like an adrenaline rush, a pounding heart. Second would be making the work, being hands on. I like being troubled with a creative problem, and then figuring it out. That’s a really good feeling too.
What do you cherish most about curating and how do you make sure it always happens?
I think I try to be experimental regarding curation. I like to push the boundaries of what curation is, and how we view art. I cherish the opportunities I have to do that.
Looking at the work separately and as a whole entity helps, seeing what works together, what doesn’t. If it doesn’t then will causing that friction be a good thing, or a bad thing. Questions need to be constantly asked, by myself and others as we install and plan.
Does art make you more independent or more tied up?
Both I suppose. I spend a lot of time on my own, working. Art can be isolating, but it’s also very social; installing work, meeting other artists at private views, having crits, we need that interaction or we can become very insular and one dimensional.
Could you be a solitary artist who never showed their work?
I don’t think so. Most of my installations only work if there is audience interaction, so I need that collaboration between viewer and artist.
What do you think about the idea of the tortured artist?
I think it can actually be quite damaging. To say mental illness can inspire or improve creativity, it’s just untrue! When I am in the midst of depression, I can barely move, let alone create a masterpiece.
It’s sort of making mental illness ‘sexy’ and relevant. Which I don’t like.
Depression is a bitch, it’s not sexy, unless you like it when I don’t wash my hair.
In April 2020, I will be curating the next major Broken Grey Wires (BGW) exhibition, at Auxiliary Gallery in Middlesbrough. Artists will be announced very soon!!
What drew you to the Auxiliary Project Space?
The size of the gallery is a massive plus. It is 10,000 sqft with huge ceilings and a side gallery. It is also industrial aesthetically, and fits with the BGW ethos.
How do you know Anna and Liam?
I first met Anna & Liam in Middlesbrough in 2017, at the first Art Weekender in the city. We had drinks in a local pub and chatted for hours. It was obvious then, that we had a lot in common and it’s very easy to get along with them both. I’m really excited to work with them in the coming months!
Tell me about the title of the exhibition.
‘Two plus two makes four’ is the title. As with all my exhibitions, the title comes from a quote I love, from literature or film.
This one is from the Orwell novel, 1984. The full quote is – ‘Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows.’
In the book, Winston believes that freedom is defined as the ability to use our mind and eyes to express how we perceive the world. If people could actually trust their instincts to study the fact that two plus two makes four and be able to believe in that, then they would reach the ultimate freedom. Winston has finally overcome his fear of Big Brother and will now search for the truth.
I wanted to use the quote as I feel it fits in quite nicely with my ideas. I do think we should trust ourselves more, believe in what we see and have the confidence and self-belief to shout it out loud.
Do you choose the artist or the work usually when curating?
Usually it is the work that draws me to the artist. Art that inspires me, and makes me question things. Art that forces me to explore different avenues, to delve into their world. It’s a bonus when I like the artist as well!
Sometimes if I really love a particular artist, I will choose them and then open up a conversation with them about what piece could work in a show. That’s also a really nice way to do things.
Thanks for chatting to me Kirsty, i hope i gave you a little insight into things. Here are a couple of links to stuff i spoke about.
See ya! x
Here i am, in Venice. At PROFORMA Pavilion, working through a residency. It is my last day, and i will be showing a presentation of my time here, tonight. However whilst this plays, i will be in the pub, letting my anxiety get the better of me. Again.
It has been a wonderful opportunity and experience for me here. I am very grateful to the PROFORMA team for all their support and encouragement through out these 11 days.
I created two new pieces of work. 'The Crocodiles say they cant' & 'Stop the world i want to get off.' I will share more information about both pieces soon, but here is an image from the set up in the gallery.
I recently completed a mini residency at The Pod, in Coventry. It was an intense period of work, and i created a film zine (below) and a paper zine, which will be printed soon.
It was really great to work in a studio and be disciplined in my productivity.
The zine is a tumbling mish-mash of present emotion. The ups and downs as i struggled with inspiration due to a bout of depression. The result combines horror film imagery with sarcastic wit and minute positivity!
I am looking forward to working with all at The Pod again soon.
I recently had the opening for my second solo exhibition this year, in Coventry at the CCCA. I worked closely with a technician, to build an ambitious installation, responding to the Winchester House, anxieties, structure, and childhood fears. The exhibition is open on Friday and Saturdays, for six weeks.
For more information, please get in touch.
My first solo exhibition will be at SLOE Gallery, in Manchester. Private View is on Thursday 5th April 2018. Everyone welcome!
'Feed me a stray cat' will explore a range of themes- from mental illness in society and the impact of technology on the experience of loneliness in the community, to Orwell’s 1984 terror and the fear-inducing effect of statistics.
Event page found here.
Sloe Gallery - your solo show coming up on 5th April 2018, what’s the title and how do you arrive at titles?
The title for the exhibition is ‘Feed me a stray cat.’ It is a quote from the novel/film American Psycho. Generally all the titles for my shows and events are from books, films, philosophy masters. I just find my favourite quotes and use them!
What advice would you give your younger artist self?
Keep making work. Whether that is research or physical work, just keep going. Keep learning new things, keep talking about art and don’t worry when you have a slow period. It will pick up again soon.
Do you have a working routine for making work? Music played etc?
It depends what kind of work i am doing. A lot of my video work will have audio to it, and i need the environment to be quiet, so i can think. But if i'm building things, experimenting with strange concepts, i like music on. And the music can vary from punk, to hip hop, to classical.
Which aspects of mental health do you address in your work?
It has always usually been the negatives. Depression, anxiety, suicide. But more recently i have been looking at the contrast in mental health, and that obviously means the positives as well. This has been good for me and something i want to focus more on.
What part of art feels the most satisfying?
The moment you put an idea into reality. It has happened for me recently and it feels great. Seeing that research, the idea becoming a physical object is wonderful. I’m not sure there is a greater thing in life (maybe Everton winning a trophy!?)
How do you feel about the art world, or your art world?
THE art world is a scary place. It seems almost too big at times, full of strange people and concepts. But MY art world is incredible. My artist friends support each other, we thrive on creating work, and discussing art. We create exhibitions and we give each other opportunities. It is fascinating and raw and nerve wracking but rewarding too.
Does art owe you anything?
One Turner Prize please.
Tell me about one of the pieces you are developing for Sloe Gallery:
You enter the gallery down some stairs. There will be CCTV facing the stairs and filming people as they enter. This will then be played on a short delay, on some old TVs round the corner. The work is to signify a little anxiety and stage fright as well as ideas surrounding the ‘self’.
Do you consider the audience when making work?
A little...i try not to actually, because i want to make work for myself. But most of the work i make is interactive and so it would be silly to not consider an audience at all. I want people to feel some of the contrasting emotions i feel each day, dread, anxiety, paranoia, but also hope and wonder!
Which art material/equipment can you not live without?
Old TVs. I think they are just wonderful. I love the feel of them, the bulky heavy material. The white noise maggots on screen when you switch them on, and the way they trigger conversation.
Who is your favourite artist right now?
Difficult one. I have been looking a lot at the work of John Baldessari recently and he wows me constantly. In a lot of ways he makes me want to create more simplistic works, because they actually have a huge impact, over something too complicated and boring.
What do you hate about art?
Everything! In all seriousness though, I think I hate the exclusive groups that form around certain galleries/cities. It can be difficult to break the glass ceiling of these establishments.
How much consideration is given to the spaces you show work in, does it influence the making?
No. I try to make work without thinking too much about the space. This sometimes hinders me due to constraints in spaces but i adjust and alter work to fit. I have ideas stored in notebooks for when i get to work in larger spaces, i just need to find the right place, but this is definitely an afterthought.
If you had £5000 you can only spend on making work what would you make?
I would create my panopticon installation. With a CCTV stack of TVs as a central base. I don't want to give too much away haha but it would be pretty cool i can assure you of that.
How do you feel when you finished a piece?
I feel anxious because i never really know when a piece is finished. I suppose once i sit with it for a while and realise it is done, i can feel excited. But generally i've moved onto the next thing. Id like to be able to feel a bit more pride and positive emotions about my work.
What one sentence would describe your work?
A juxtaposition of emotions which create intense installations, coming from a warped sense of entitlement.
How do you handle art related rejections?
I am pretty good at ignoring rejections now. I move onto the next one quite quickly. Its nothing personal most of the time so you just have to get over it. Moan, complain, swear at them, then move on.
Do you feel someone could walk up to your work and get it without any additional text?
Perhaps not. But that doesn't matter, its the experience of the audience that is important in a lot of my work. Whatever they feel is correct, there isn't one specific way to react. Id like to think they would want to find out more though...
CCTV seems to recur in your work, where does the interest stem from?
I guess it comes from a few places, the panopticon theory, where people could be being watched at any moment, to 1984 by Orwell, to my own paranoid thoughts. It is a fascinating idea that we are constantly filmed and sometimes, we don't even realise it. If we DID realise it, would we act differently?
Do you make performances?
NO! I am too anxious to perform. I like to blend into the wallpaper.
What do the voices say when making work, are they quiet or loud?
I don't generally hear them when i'm in the midst of making. I'm being distracted and so the voices are a distant second on my mind!
Who would you bring back from the dead for a dinner (date) with?
David Bowie. I would love him read ‘Peter and the Wolf’ to me. Hahaha
Does art make your life easier?
A million percent yes. I complain about art constantly but in reality, if i wasn't able to create, then life would be tougher i think. Its a release of emotion and that is needed, constantly.
Tell me about the projection you are planning at Sloe Gallery:
It is a kaleidoscope nightmare with the 1984 Orwell eye watching you.
What have you been learning about this week?
I have been learning a couple of things, one; how to actually make the CCTV idea work. This meant going onto a video forum and asking questions. And two; I have been re reading parts of RD Laing’s ‘The Divided Self’ - to further enhance my ideas surrounding the self.
How does the rest of life fit in?
It is difficult because i never really stop. Its a constant nag in the back of my head. I do try to go to the gym, see friends, play video games...but generally its 100% art all of the time. Which can be draining. It is hard to switch off.
Where did your latex heads begin?
With the idea to literally create my head exploding. The latex heads would be ‘blown up’ mimicking a shrill yelp which would be created using a raspberry Pi computer device. This idea is on standby but its definitely something i want to keep pushing.
Is an idea ever done with?
As you can see from my last answer...no! Not for me anyway. Other ideas break off, work is left, you move on. But generally I come back to it at a later date with more experience and better ideas.
What do you like about Manchester?
I love my friends here, the transport system, the bars, i love that i know the area, and the quiet spaces. People are generally friendly and supportive, and there are some amazing bands and artists here.
Does it have a supportive art scene?
Hmmmm not particularly, well the ‘underground’ scene does, in fact its very supportive. But like i mentioned above, there is a frustrating glass ceiling in Manchester, that is very hard to smash. It needs someone to really break the clique up, and i think the city would benefit greatly from that.
How do you learn new techniques for the technical side of making work?
Generally, youtube. Google is a wonder and i mainly watch youtube videos to tell me how to do certain things. People have pretty much filmed themselves making or using, everything, it’s great!
How could the art establishment change?
To be honest i don't have the answer to this. I do'nt know how it could change because there are so many levels to the art world. Its about breaking into each one, causing a bit of havoc and getting out of there as quickly as possible. Hopefully leaving an imprint of yourself where people want to know more.
If you had money to undertake some training what would it be?
Polaroids! Tell me:
The Polaroids are a manual experiment formed through past ideas relating to infinity and death. The image of self is exposed, is an instant gratification repeated over and over again, until the original image becomes blurred and intangible. To me, this conveys the very essence of identity and keeping a persona ‘alive.’ I won’t last forever, but perhaps these images will. It is a shot in time, capturing a moment, almost like the cycles of my emotion, over and over again, the cycle will transmit signals; depression, joy, anxiety. And I will capture them like little ships in bottles on a shelf. This helps me get ready for the next wave of melancholia, of happiness.
I am ready.
Do you feel self doubt (as we all do) more in yourself or your work and conversely, do you feel more confidence in yourself or your work?
I definitely have masses of self doubt about everything i create. But i have more confidence in my work, than myself. I do feel that i have a number of really strong ideas, and maybe if i had a little more confidence in MYSELF, then i would go further.
Why do we make art? What is it for?
Questioning fundamental definitions of art, will get you nowhere…
Is there an age to bow out, like sometimes rock stars seem past it, are we safe from that as artists?
I think so, don't we get wiser as we get older, like an owl? Our work will adapt and grow i would hope!
What did you learn at art school?
I learnt how to conduct myself as a human being in this fucked up world
How do you get through artist’s block?
I stamp my feet, complain, cry, sleep a lot. Then slowly start to watch films, read books, go through old sketchbooks and look over ideas. The block very very slowly disapparates.
How do you prepare yourself for making work? Any little rituals?
Not really, i generally just throw myself into it. I get very anxious because i don't want the work to be better in my head. But you just have to go for it really and not let those doubts interfere with actions.
What is your workspace like?
I don't have a studio anymore, and mainly work from home (at the moment i'm doing a lot of video work so i'm on my laptop.) I have sort of taken over one of the sofas in my house, its full of HDMI cables, scart leads, books, letters, and empty packaging bags. The other side of me, the table is also full of crap. With stained mugs of tea of course.
How important is money (funding or other) when it comes to making art?
I think its pretty important, especially when you don't have anything spare generally. Im pretty poor and the latest funding grant i have got, has enabled me to produce more work than i have for a while. It keeps production moving and allows you to test/experiment with things.
What sacrifices have you made in the name of art?
Sometimes i feel i have sacrificed recovery, because i go over the negative aspects of my mental health. I explore it in detail and sometimes it can trigger bad memories. Also sacrificed a normal life, being an artist is a bit of a strange life to live.
What do you think this government has done for artists?
What should they do?
Has an artwork ever changed your life?
Yes and unfortunately it was a Damien Hirst piece! ‘A Thousand Years’ - I still think its genius. Just the way he has created a life cycle within that glass box. It seems so simple and complicated at the same time.
Which artwork do you hate?
Damien Hirst's dots …. Haha
Playing the art collector game, which artwork would you like to live with?
Id love a Mike Nelson installation in my house, or to live in a Gregor Schneider Haus.
That would be pretty intense ha ha!
Great insight Lizz, nice getting to know your work more!
(questions by Kirsty Harris - )