Conversation between Isabel Denny, George Nesbitt, Moa Alskog and Cecilie Skov.
The 21th of October on Skype in the lead-up to the second exhibition of the series 'Sig mig, at tingene taler'.
Isabel Denny is currently doing her MFA at Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg
and has a BA art practice from Goldsmiths in London. George Nesbitt has a BA art practice from Goldsmiths in London, from 2012.
Cille: What are you planning to do for the exhibition?
(he shows a sculpture)
C: Yeah the tape sculpture!? Wow!
Moa: It reminds me of a cupboard?
G: Well I kind of want to make it look less like a cupboard. But it does have some similarities.
M. I just made the connection because of the text you sent.
G. It was inspired by the shop we nicknamed 'the hatch' in New Cross, because after a certain time you have to order and pay for things through a hatch in the window. It's an off-licence shop, where you can buy alcohol and crisps. I was just thinking about how colourful everything was in its packaging, but how brown it was underneath. I couldn't think of a product in there that wasn't brown.
M: You mean the actual food was brown?
C: Yeah, crisps, chocolate, beer, bread! No, you've only got white bread in the UK.
G: The crust is beige.
C: What about the fetish, the form and the function that you mention in the text you sent. It seems to be very much about the products that surround you, I mean, you don't talk about stones.
G: I think it's about having a certain proximity to a brand. You know when you're standing right in front of a billboard; you're not looking at the whole thing. You are just looking at a detail. Or you suddenly just see the shape of the logo rather than what the logo says. I like the idea of living in a house that has a huge permanent advert on it that doesn't specifically relate to me, and how that image of the advert would just have this private non-verbal existence in my head that would have nothing to do with the product really.
M: Is that what is happening in the video in a way? I mean you are zooming in on parts of London, just to put them together again, forming your own pattern?
G: The starting point for the video for me was not about escaping the existing iconography of London as such, but I suppose that was one of the strategies I took on when making the film. My main desire was to create a representation of a certain mood and experience of being in a city. I also wanted to set up a specific process and criteria for the film that would force me into encountering the city in a way I would otherwise not get the chance to. I think it would be a shame to over-explain this mood other than let it speak for itself, however I would say I want the film to have a provocative energy. I often talk about mood when describing my works and the ongoing task I set myself is to search for a sort of ideal mood, not that I have quite settled on what that would be.
M: And what about the F that you are planning to draw on the wall, how does that relate to this? Is it important that you use a credit card to draw it for example?
G: It is important in as much as it is something that is on my person, that it's in my pocket, and that it's easily obtainable. It's not about money, it's about the need for a straight edge. It could be any card actually. I may use my passport as I will have it on me in Copenhagen. I want it to be quite small, and I want it to have a nice rectangular shape.
C: Can you talk a bit more about your process?
G: Whenever I make a piece, each time I tend to jump from medium to medium especially in this show where I show a sculpture, a drawing and a film. The most important thing for me is the process. I spent a lot of time adjusting the process and editing the process while making the film. It is really about making the experience enjoyable for me and for it to have a cohesive feeling.
When filming I was really fussy about how I got the footage. For example I wanted a really straightforward but fun way of getting the moving shots, and not to have to use any technical equipment. I was planning to do it on rollerblades, then on a scooter, but I realised these were quite romantic aspirations for me as I am not very good on either, and they would have been an unnecessary hardship producing shaky shots! I like the autonomy of those methods of transport and the exhilaration they seem to suggest. However I still wanted a smooth relaxing glide to the footage, so in the end I hired a 'zip car', a pay as you go rental car in London, and drove before sunrise when the roads were empty. I wouldn't have used the zip car as a pure means to an end, ultimately it was the most care-free way I found to make the footage. Having said this, I think my work is to do with an illusion of casualness as much as it is about the casual approach I take to producing it. Using the car was the outcome of this.
C: Ok, there is an illusion of casualness, but your process is still quite intuitive? Like the text you sent I got the feeling you just sat down and started writing?
G: Yes, at first I didn't realise I was writing a text. I was just brainstorming and then halfway through I decided I was going to use it, so I carried on.
C: And you Isabel?
I: I am going to show a work with frozen Chips (French Fries) and pale pink/purple coloured plastic, with rounded corners. The plastic is a bit raised above the ground, which makes a shadow gap. The chips form a pattern on top and there is a pool of LED light in the centre. It looks very flat, like a compacted landscape.
C: But the Chips have a volume, no?
I: Yes, they have volume but then the beige colour of the chips gets sucked into the 'crocus' colour surrounding them. But the effect of the shadow drop is very 3D!
M. The line in the text you sent Food it transformed into an abstraction, becoming inedible.
I: It refers to the moment when something edible becomes something you can't eat anymore, but then it dances back again. It dances between something that could be consumed, and something becoming like a cartoon of something you could consume.
M: Because it has become art?
I: You can eat art! If you think about the idea of what chips are. Or take a swimming pool, where the water is always that specific bright blue, actually when you think of the colour blue you think of water, the form becoming a symbol of itself. If the chip gets too square it's not right. It has a very specific form. I am interested in what it means to live in this sort of conceptual space, to consume it or to swim in it.
M: It's like Baudrillard's thought about the simulated reality.
(Skype makes a sound)
I: George what have you sent?
G: Just a picture of chips.
M: And the other sentence you sent you talked about foam and silicone?
I: These are materials I keep coming back to in my work. They're all chewy - they give way and then they bounce back. They are beautifully forgetful, they have a completely present tense materiality.
C: George you've worked with food too?
G: Yes I have in fact! I have written about burgers before. And this is the semi-circle piece, which is made from food packaging.
(George shows a flat blue object, with three brown dots on it).
G: It's from a Maltesers chocolate-box that I painted blue. I left three chocolates, pictures of chocolate. Originally it was red and there was an image of perhaps fifteen Maltesers scattered across the box with the brand name.
M: Why, do you have to conceal it?
G: Initially I just really liked the box and wanted to somehow interact with it. But also I suppose it is so the form and shape of it can travel more in your mind, travel away from the original context of food packaging, to make you look at the shape differently. Like the McDonald thing, in the text I wrote titled "What is a gate"? I don't mention McDonald's the brand, because that is too specific somehow, because it is not specifically about looking at the whole product from the "right" distance. It is not about seeing the products full out line or silhouette but just the part of it that makes me tick, removing the bits I'm less bothered about.
I: I am quite interested in seeing that whole outline. It still has a kind of abstraction.
C: Is the cultural references also important? I mean Maltesers and Chips are something I connect very much to London. Did that change when you moved to Hamburg?
I: Actually yes but in the opposite way. The work with the chips partly came out of thinking more about cultural references because of moving to Hamburg. The chips I use are not like typical English chips (fatter and shorter). I mean to call them french fries. They make me think of motorway service stations, airports, ferries. Fast food! They have a faux ubiquity, they're a characteristic of landscapes designed to be soothing, easy, a-cultural.
C: You always work a lot installing your work up to an exhibition.
I: Yeah that is really a big part of my process. I think about it like setting up a scene. It is always kind of theatrical.
C: So the things are performing?
I: Not exactly. It is more that they are setting up a landscape. I think once the spectator is involved then that relationship is performative.
C: How do you want the audience to approach the material?
I: I think both of us are looking for a kind of over sensitivity that is coming out when someone is experiencing the works. I use the material to put the spectator in a certain space, to provoke an excess of feeling.
G: Yeah, I want the spectator to have this sort of alertness, to feel live, and provoked by these different objects that might be asking you to do something. Provoke a sort of anxiety. Not literally, because the experience of seeing art is actually quite universally similar and emotionally reserved I think, but I mean for someone to experience some level of this anxiety, an intensity.
I: Yeah I guess there is always a kind of theatricality to these feelings, I mean these feelings are somehow acted out. I like the idea that it becomes messy the relationship between fiction and reality. I guess that's what I'm trying to say with the word excess. A bit like someone coming in and changing the channel when you're watching a sad film and so watching QVC (shopping channel) with a tear streaked face.
G: Yes, it's just a description of an experience. And ultimately they can feel what they want and I am not disappointed if they don't. The ideal would be that it is this creative, inspiring crisis for the spectator. It's not like I expect them to feel that, but that is what I am trying to describe. I'm torn I suppose. I still want it to be subtle, I don't want it to be a bold experience.
M: What are your thoughts on what the room does to your work, the white cube. It seems you work mainly with references coming from outside the art world. Do you also connect it to the history of art?
G: I certainly think about white spaces. When I was studying I found that really difficult and I painted my walls a different colour. I hated the thought of having to put my work in a white space, and how the framing of a gallery makes you look quite intentionally and knowingly at something. Now I think I make stuff to infiltrate the white space or to negotiate with this problem. Like most of the stuff I make could also be there for another reason, they might be there not because they are art objects but perhaps they are there just by accident. That it could be part of the heating system or something.
That is how I have worked around being stuck in the white space, because I do find it hard to escape as a starting point and galleries are very useful places to have to look at art in. I want the spectator not to look at my objects square on. I want them to be in the periphery of their field of vision for a while before you even contemplate looking at them. I don't like the idea of walking up to a sculpture with the intention of scrutinizing it. I rather just wish it could be in the space with you for a while, and then maybe scrutinize it for a bit. Then forget that it's there again and maybe lean on it.
M: How do you do that?
G: I came up with this tactic to partially hide artwork in the space. Like the F I will be drawing, it has an alibi to be in the space as perhaps a functioning sign, it could work as a meeting point for people or… it refers to you know in a car park you have A, B, C, D, E, F - all these different parking zones. I thought F was a nice letter because it is low enough in the alphabet to exist as a carpark zone, or gate to a festival, or the 6th apartment of a block, it is rare they ever reach Z in any of those situations. It's familiar and I like the shape, because – and this is another alibi for it to exist in the space - it could just be a collection of lines, it might not be a letter at all. In England you have these fire hydrants, where the fire brigade could pump water from in the street, that are yellow with an H on. Let me send you a picture:
Apparently that's not an H. It is actually a drawing of a network of pipes. It's like a map of some layout. But if you don't know that, you see an H. I'll try to do it a bit like that when I draw it. Thinking about it as a letter and a shape at the same time.