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The Colour of Sound

Danny Fox. Jeannette Ehlers. Nadim Abbas. Paul Fryer. Herman Kolgen. Alex Prager. Filmography of Sound and Light. Sound Worshippers.


Danny Fox photographed by Alexandra Uhart


Editor EVA PELÁEZ . Creative Director ANA AFONSO . Managing Editor LINH NGUYEN . Photography Director JUSTINA ŠUMINAITE . Graphics & Web Design ANA AFONSO . ANNA FERRY . Art Department PAULA AFONSO TOM GOSLING . Photography & Video IVAN CORDOBA . ALEXANDRA UHART . Editorial Assistant DAVID RAWLINS . Fashion Editor TANIA FAROUKI . Writers CAROLINE ADEYEMI . JESC BUNYARD . SAMANTHA COOMBES . HEIKE DEMPSTER . ZOE KINGSLEY . ADAN JERREAT-POOLE . NATE JIXIN ZHANG . LINH NGUYEN . JEREMIAH TAYLER . RACHEL WORTH . SUZANNE ZHANG . Media & Advertising JENNIFER MENDEZ Commercial Department ISSABEL FEHRNAND . MOHAMED MAHAYNI

Published in London by RAU Studio London National and international distribution by Central Books General enquiries info@roomsmagazine.com Subscription enquiries subscriptions@roomsmagazine.com Advertising enquiries media.department@roomsmagazine.com Thanks to our beautiful team and great artist of ROOMS 14 Special thanks to: David, Linh, Jez, Jesc, Heike, Rachel, Moha, Sam, Zoe, Justina, Tania, Patri, Alexandra and Suzanne, you are all fucking amazing. Robert Dempster, Sabs, Amyra, abuela Lola, Francesco Patti and even more specially to our beautiful adopted little sister ; )

©RAU Ltd. London All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission of the publisher. The information and images, contained in this magazine, are materials supplied to the publisher by the artists and contributors. Opinions and images expressed in this magazine’s contents are those of the author. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, Rooms Art Uncovered Ltd. does not under any circumstances accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. ISSN: 2046-5505 Issue 14 – 2014 roomsmagazine.com

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The Colour of Sound In a visually driven world, it’s more important than ever to listen. We are living in what Guy Debord called his collected theses, The Society of the Spectacle (1967); a critique on the cult of the image, so charming and narcotic, and how we, as a society, are drugged by its sensationalist ideal. We are too distracted and too defined by appearances that we have forgotten how to listen. Sound gets left behind and is silenced by the hyperreal. When we asked people about the Colour of Sound, unsurprisingly, they thought of music, because music has associated meanings with which we can anticipate and predict. If it isn’t music, then we call it noise. The former is a beautiful construction; the latter a babel of confusion. However, there is more to sound than this ossified cleft; this two-sided balancing scale.

How do we talk about visual sound? ROOMS is not interested in the visual as a whole, for when we speak of something as a whole we form a judgement; but when we speak of it in parts we form a narrative: how do we connect shades, tones, lines and facets to resonance, timbre, rhythm, tones and sonority? The theme of this issue is on the power of conscious listening and how it influences the way we perceive the world, compose and orchestrate it to infinite measure. What does it mean to listen? Most of the time, sound hits us before we understand what it is. Only when we truly listen, can we conceive of it to have a colour at all.

When we listen, we can turn outwards, to our environment, or inwards, to peer into the self, but either way we discover a new dimension in which complexities are broken apart to reveal nuances of knowledge and feeling. If we are to look at a deep red and listen to a sound that is cacophonous, we will feel angry and violent. If we are to look at the same colour but with more harmonious notes, we may feel semblances of love or the rare warmth of the setting sun. But it’s the way in which sound allows us both freedom and to feel free that is also the interest of issue 14; sound is a phenomenon that can’t truly be contained. It escapes us like the passing of a stranger, or a moment in time. ROOMS 14 aims to engage your mind with sound again, through the words of those who remind us that although sound is left behind, it is not lost. We are the ones that need to slow down, to tune in what is important and zone out what is not; because fundamentally sound does not wait for us the moment it catches up, and our ears will reach out with immaterial hands for something that can never be held. But reach nonetheless. Choose not immobility, that which confronts and crushes like existential angst. Reach; for our ears implore it. Reach; for it is the activity of reaching from which meaning arises. Reach; for we are what we reach for. Reach; before we forget what it means to reach at all. 14 ROOMS

By Linh Nguyen

Enter Art.


Caves of wonders, visual delights, factories of dreams, predators of emotions, merciless provocateurs. Enter Art.

Enter ROOMS.

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20

Seeing Ourselves: Seed Animation Studio Trunk Animation Mummu Animation Order Animation Blue-Zoo Shroomstudio

34 44

ABSOLUT ART Nadim Abbas

Unpacking the Image

Filmography of Sound and Light: Andrew Hewitt

A Life’s Soundtrack

Kerry Brown

96 Stefan Saalfeld Darran Rees Alexis Marcou James Gilleard carola Schapals Mr.Frivolous

Hunting Emotions

Larry Smith

Framing Real Life

Collecting Moments

Cliff Martinez

Tales of Sonic Identity

66 72 78 84 90

SCAN

Natural Art Selection

New Shelter Plan presents: Jeannette Ehlers History as a Blank Canvas

The Arts Club presents: Alex Prager Staged Realities

Beers Contemporary presents: Andrew Salgado The Act of Painting

Galerie Gmurzynska presents: The Haas Brothers

The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship

Craftsmanship of Seduction

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Handpicked

We Enter Sacred Ground

Erik Wilson


John Rogers

124

Tamsin O’Hanlon

130 132 134 136 138

Dan O’Gorman

Director at Mercury Artist Management & Iris Films

Greg & Myles

Founders of The Brothers McLeod

Adam Scrimshire

Musician & Founder at Wah Wah 45s Record Label

Vincent Dean Flumiani Creative Director at Earnest Sewn

Lonneke Gordijn & Ralph Nauta

Founders of Studio Drift

Joan Costes & Adrien de Maublanc

Founders of Masomenos

Jamie Stockwood & Paul Kennedy

Founders & Directors at The Zeitgeist Agency

140

Sound Worshippers: Primavera Sound Outlook Festival Sónar ATP

150

Michael Salu

Visual Grammar

156

Anthony Burrill

I’m Talking to You

162

Herman Kolgen

The Viscera and The Vessel

170

Elliot Grove

The Making of Raindance Film Festival

174

Christopher Makos

The Ulysses of American Photography

182

Michael Vasquez

A Masculinity Essay on Canvas

182

Paul Fryer

Let There Be Light

196

Typoe

What is the Adventure After Death? No Borders No Boundaries

128

Event Director at The Truman Brewery

Why Do You Do What You Do?

126

Founder & Director at Durbin Lewis Ltd

The Cover Artist Uncovered

122

202

Danny Fox Fantastic Mr Fox


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Seeing Ourselves What does it mean to design a life? To design a universe? If we look at the world like Play-Doh, it means using what is presented to us and moulding it to our impressions. Perhaps this is why animation is so popular with all ages. It speaks to our need for playfulness and fun ‒ no matter the subject there is always a lightheartedness running through the reels of animation. Characters are given life, personalities and interests; a sphere in which to exist. We are in awe at the makeup of their outlines and their stories, yet what’s so unique about animation is that its aim is to always invite us in. This invitation is extended when ROOMS checked out some of the best animation studios in London for some insight.

London/UK

.

Photography by Justina ŠuminaitE Words by Linh Nguyen


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Seed Animation Studio Founded in 2003 by Morgan Powell and Neil Kidney, Seed is a company filled with anthropomorphic sentients and vibrant personalities. It’s worked with brands such as Tetley Tea, Coke, Nickelodeon in which they mix 2D with 3D, and the heart melting O2 Hugs – an animation that reminds us we should cuddle more.

seedanimation.com


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Trunk Animation Trunk has an eclectic style and varies according to each project. Working with big names including Discovery Channel, Kaspersky, Ogilvy, Land Rover and Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Trunk clearly has a diverse and elastic approach to its animation. Over the years, Trunk has received more than 50 awards from organisations such as London Film Festival in 2011 and multiple Children’s BAFTAs.

trunk.me.uk


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Mummu Animation If power is knowledge, then Mummu injects this into all its animation. With information and education at the forefront of its identity, Mummu’s clients include the BBC, Nokia, DK Books and Boehringer Ingelheim. Mummu adds another dimension to the often at times tediousness of learning by transforming information into an imaginative experience rather than just consumption.

mummu.co.uk


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Order Animation Based in East London, ORDER reaches far and wide for its digital concepts. Its rainbow method has attracted the likes of the V&A, Unilever, Tesco, PWC and the BBC. ORDER’s animation is graphically refined, broad-based and technically skilled.

thisisorder.com


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Blue-Zoo Blue-Zoo has a small studio filled with big minds. It is a multi-BAFTA award winning company with clients such as HSBC, Cartoon Network, Disney, BSkyB, ITV and Lego. Dealing with a range of methods from 2D and 3D, to motion graphics and mixed media, Blue-Zoo has a strong hand in creating quality production.

blue-zoo.co.uk


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Shroomstudio Shroomstudio, established in 2001, deals with design and animation, as well as installations, film and live events. Working for the likes of the Green Party, Google, WWF and the V&A, Shroomstudio vacillates between art and culture to environment and education with the aim of always getting a message across. With over 100+ projects completed, the brains behind this company led by Alexander & Christos Hatjoullis are not running out of fuel anytime soon.

shroomstudio.com


ABSOLUT ART Stockholm/Sweden

From Andy Warhol’s iconic adverts, to multimedia installations at major international art events, Absolut’s art mission is grand and limitless. We talk to Absolut Art Manager Saskia Neuman on the brand’s pioneering art commitment and artists’ collaborations which make the company an exciting platform of ground-breaking creativity.

Absolut at Art Dubai 2014 A Grain of Sand, an art bar installation by Caravan, 2014 © Courtesy of Absolut.

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Words by

Jesc Bunyard The Absolut Art Bureau is responsible for all of Absolut’s art endeavours. The Bureau commissions and supports artists, writers and institutions in a bid to present new and intriguing work. These projects include an art bar commission at each Art Basel (Miami, Hong Kong and Basel) and the Absolut Art Award. For each Art Basel Absolut commission, an artist creates and installs the Absolut Art Bar. Every artist creates a unique space, which is simultaneously an installation, bar, and event space. Each plays host to a series of nightly events and serves a specialty selection of drinks designed by the artist in conjunction with Absolut. For Art Basel Hong Kong in May, artist Nadim Abbas was commissioned. At this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival Absolut expanded its collaborations and worked with Ólafur Elíasson and his Little Sun Project to create the Absolut Little Sun Art Bar. The Little Sun Project aims to bring clean, sustainable electricity, with the focus being on those without the power or ‘off-grid’, with the use of the Little Sun Lamp. Since launching in 2012 the project has distributed over 165,000 ‘Little Suns’ with the number growing daily. The bar at Coachella was illuminated by glow-in-the-dark walls, whilst the ceiling is decorated with drawings detailing the work achieved by the project. The main feature of the bar was a pitch-black photo booth where visitors, using a Little Sun for light, could write down whatever design they imagined. The result was a long exposure photo filled with spinning lights. Alongside these collaborations, the Bureau also hosts the Absolut Art Award, launched in 2011. In 2013 they updated the format to include: two categories formed of art work and art writing, the potential of creating a ‘dream project’ and a selection process with a combination of open and closed nominations. The 2013 winners were Coco Fusco and Renata Lucas for the art writing and art work categories respectively. I interviewed Absolut’s Art Manager Saskia Neuman, in the interim between Art Basel / Hong Kong and Art Basel / Basel, to find out more about the Absolut Art Bureau and the art bars.


Dual Air [Dürer] An Absolut art bar installation by Michael Riedel Le Point Perché, Palais de Tokyo, April 2014 Photo by Aurélien Mole. © Courtesy of Absolut.

What is the Absolut Art Bureau and what does it do? The Absolut Art Bureau was set up in 2011 to develop an international programme of support for contemporary art and artists. We set up a series of partnerships with major events in the international contemporary art calendar, including Documenta 13; a multi-year partnership with Art Basel which began in June 2012 with a collaboration with Berlin-based artist Jeremy Shaw; and a year-round partnership with Palais de Toyko in Paris. Since 2013, all Absolut’s art activities have been under the Absolut brand in order to align our global and local partnerships under one umbrella. Over the last three years we have developed a series of international partnerships, including those above, as well as re-launching the Absolut Art Award, which now offers substantial support to both artists and art writers to fulfil their dream project. The 2013 winners, whose projects will be delivered over the next 18 months, were Coco Fusco (Art Writing) and Renata Lucas (Art Work). Absolut has a long history of collaborations with artists, and has been active in the art world since 1985, when we invited Andy Warhol to create the first in a series of iconic advertisements inspired by the Absolut bottle.

Since then, we have collaborated with more than 550 artists on over 850 commissioned projects. Today, Absolut continues to support acclaimed artists, art writers and institutions through partnerships with major institutions, the biennial Absolut Art Award and numerous site-specific art bar installations. Select previous collaborations include Jeremy Shaw on Kirlian (2012) and Mickalene Thomas on Better Days (2013) at Art Basel; Los Carpinteros on Güiro (2012) and Ry Rocklen on Night Court at Art Basel in Miami Beach; and Adrian Wong on Wun Dun (2013) and Nadim Abbas’ Apocalypse Postponed (2014) at Art Basel in Hong Kong. 36 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship

What was behind the idea to start the art bars at each Art Basel?

How does Absolut decide which artists to commission?

As well as being Associate Partner of the three Art Basel shows, and the Conversations series, we wanted to develop a new artistic concept facilitating something that would not have existed were it not for our involvement. We also wanted to work with artists on a project that would help them to really push their creative boundaries and stretch their creative processes. The brief to each artist is very simple – to produce a fully operational bar. The rest is up to them. We’ve been delighted at the sheer range of concepts that have been developed across the series, from Mickalene Thomas’ 70s-themed house party to Nadim Abbas’ dystopian, post-apocalyptic vision of the future: a bunker on the 17th floor of a Hong Kong skyscraper.

Artists are proposed and short listed by an external council of curators and art world professionals, who keep their eyes open for potential collaborators. We particularly look for artists who are not household names, but who are already established in their practice, and whose multi-disciplinary practice can match the scale and ambition of the art bars.


Absolut at Art Dubai 2014 A Grain of Sand, an art bar installation by Caravan, 2014 © Courtesy of Absolut.

The drinks are in part designed by the artist for the installation. How does Absolut work with the artists to design the drinks? We have a wonderful team of mixologists who work closely with each artist to develop limited-edition cocktails inspired by the overall theme of the bar. There are in-depth consultations to determine flavour combinations that work but also themed cocktails which are inspired by the concept of the collaborations. Recent Absolut art bars featured artists Michael Riedel and Nadim Abbas. What first attracted you to their work?

Michael is an important European artist whose highly conceptual practice encourages engagement with art processes.

We have been following his practice for some time, and we were particularly drawn to his multi-disciplinary approach – in particular his

Freitagsküche, a fun weekly party held in an abandoned building behind Michael’s studio. Absolut has been working with Michael Riedel since his first installation at Palais de Tokyo in July 2013 where Michael created an immersive architectural intervention through the use of text and sound. What was your favourite aspect of Riedel’s art bar?

The live, interactive aspect of Michael’s work is particularly fascinating. He brought the concept of the installation to life by transforming the sounds of visitors to Palais de Tokyo into text, which was then projected on the wall.

When did you first encounter Nadim’s Work? We were first introduced to Nadim’s work on a visit to Hong Kong in 2011 and our collaboration with him has been nearly two years in the planning. Nadim’s interest and connections within the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese cultural scenes made him a logical choice to take on the challenge of an Absolut art bar.

His multi-disciplinary artistic practice also really lends itself to the art bar concept. He pushes boundaries and we knew he would create a truly unique and immersive environment for visitors to the fair and the general public alike. What was your favourite feature of his art bar?

It would be very easy to say the cocktails, which were superb, but anyone who was there for, or who has since seen the videos of, Ming Wong’s Anime drag act will remember it for a very long time! What makes an Absolut artist?

AUDIENCES

An Absolut artist creates beautiful and meaningful work of the highest quality through a range of disciplines. Their work also needs to encourage participation, discourse and engagement with contemporary art by broad, diverse audiences.

absolutartbureau.com


Absolut at Art Basel in Hong Kong 2014 Apocalypse Postponed, an art bar installation by Nadim Abbas 15 – 18 May 2014 Nadim Abbas Afternoon in Utopia 2012 Š Courtesy of the Artist Mixed media installation (sand, concrete, pigment prints, painted wall text, red tinted lighting) Dimensions variable (sandscape coverage approx. 46 sq/m)

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Unpacking the Image


NaDIM

ABBAS Hong Kong/China

Nadim Abbas was recently commissioned to design and install the Absolut Art Bar at Hong Kong Art Basel. Entitled Apocalypse Postponed, the bar was designed as a ‘cyberpunk bunker’ filled with sandbags. A series of performances featuring different musicians and performers, a musical soundscape created by Steve Hui, (who Nadim has previously collaborated with in a band) and a surreal science fiction animation created by Wong Ping. The installation continues Abbas’ interests in Sci-Fi and the military. Abbas is renowned for creating works that feature installation, photography and sculpture. These works are often heavily researched and alongside Sci-Fi explore the mechanics of seeing and physiological traumas.

Absolut at Art Basel in Hong Kong 2014 Apocalypse Postponed, an art bar installation by Nadim Abbas 15 – 18 May 2014 © Courtesy of the Artist


Words by

Jesc Bunyard

of my current research, which deals a lot with this relationship between domesticity and warfare, and also my own interest in Sci-Fi and cinematic landscapes. We used those kinds of themes to construct the setting and to basically set up a parallel space within the context of the fair. It ended up being this very defined bunker space, which was constructed out of sand bags.

What does sound mean to you? Does it directly influence your practice, or is it more of a tool? In the beginning I had this dilemma when I was trying to figure out what to do with my practice. The question was whether I should do two things at the same time, to be a musician and an artist. I ended up pursuing both in a way, but focusing more on the visual art practice. I think a lot of times, for me the question is how I can find ways of incorporating that musical side into my practice. Nowadays, I almost approach making art in a musical way, and approach music in a visual art way. There’s a mathematical and an intuitive logic to music, and we have a very visceral, emotional connection to it. I try to apply that to a visual art practice. Visual arts have a distance, you stand back and look at something, in some ways I apply that kind of thinking back to music too. I use the qualities of both music and visual arts and apply them to one another. You installed an Absolut art bar at Art Basel Hong Kong entitled Apocalypse Postponed. What was the concept behind the work?

The whole project was developed out of the commission from Absolut. They set us a very simple brief: to make this event happen during Art Basel, for it to be a convivial situation and for there to be a functioning bar. Everything else was left to us, to decide what to do and how to construct that situation. The first thing was to design the space and the location, which is what I did with Sebastien [Sebastien SaintJean]. I draw from some

Absolut at Art Basel in Hong Kong 2014 Apocalypse Postponed, an art bar installation by Nadim Abbas 15 – 18 May 2014 Marine Lover: A Hermatypic Romance 2011 © Courtesy of the artist Mixed media (Polyresin coral casts, fluorescent black lights, plywood, door frames, mirror) 300(h) x 100(w) x 1800(d) cm

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A lot of the thinking behind the structure was developed from military occupancy. It tried to confront the fascinating elegance of that architecture, but at the same time being aware of its very dark and violent history. It’s related to the question of modernism, its architecture and how a lot of modernist design is connected to the history of warfare. In hindsight, now that I think about the project, I’m often questioning why I use these military themes. Am I trying to glorify violence? It’s really a way of trying to work through and think about these questions.

For the art bar installation you collaborated with numerous people. How did the collaboration work, and have you often collaborated with others? This year has been very collaborative. I normally work alone and develop things myself. This project (because of the nature of it) was also a design brief instead of a straight art exhibition; I consciously decided that it needed to be a very collaborative project. There were areas of expertise that I am not so expert in. It was very important to me to try and bring in people from other disciplines and to bring in other qualities to the project because it was such a big undertaking. Aside from the space design, the


Nadim Abbas © Courtesy of Absolut

performance programme was very crucial to the whole understanding of the project. We spent a lot of time crafting the programme and giving a different dramatic emphasis to every night: getting different musicians involved, talking to them and working out different performances. Steve [Steve Hui] produced the soundscape, so in a way he’s very much a bridge between the space and the performance because I asked him very early on, actually before I had really started to work on the performances. I asked Steve to design an ambient soundscape, which would play in the space, what he did was a cross between the spatial and the performative. I also asked the animator Wong Ping to produce some animations, which were played on one side of the space. In a way, I took the role of curator as well as bringing my own artistic effort. Even though my name is splashed all over the cover of the project, it was a combined effort. How has growing up in Hong Kong influenced your work?

Of course. I’ve been in Hong Kong almost my whole life; the only time I was away was for university in London. There’s very much a sense in which the space and the culture of Hong Kong has shaped my thinking and my way of approaching what I do. A lot of my work deals with the question of the city and the kind of cultures that have developed out of urban everyday life. If you go through the work that I did after coming back from Hong Kong there was an emphasis and response to that question.

QUESTION

I’d done work that relates to specific subcultures, this is a while ago now but I think it’s still relevant. In a way the Apocalypse Postponed project is somehow linked to the same question. There’s a kind of fetishizing of the military there, because Hong Kong doesn’t have its own army: you have these guys who are into war games and they go out into the mountains on Sunday and they shoot each other with pellets, and they go out in camouflage gear. So there’s a culture of middle-aged males who are into that, and I find that fascinating in some way because it’s a fetishization of the military experience, but it's being done by people who have no idea of what it’s like to be in a war and to experience that kind of violence. I talk to people from Israel or Switzerland, where they have compulsory military

service, I remember talking to this guy from Israel and he was shopping for clothes. He would go into a shop, see something like a khaki jacket and he wouldn’t buy it, because it was such a traumatic thing to wear something like that; it reminds him of his military service. Whereas in Hong Kong, where there is no military service, the whole ‘camo’ thing is very fashionable to wear. Looking at your CV, after completing your BA in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art and Design you undertook a Master of Philosophy in Comparative Literature, The University of Hong Kong. Some would foresee this as a shift of focus. How have the two impacted your practice and how do they work together?


After I finished my fine art degree I felt a bit lost. I started reading a lot at university. A lot of the stuff they throw at you is visual culture and critical theory, and I felt like I wasn’t really equipped to understand the theories and ideas, and I felt I wanted to get into it more deeply. I come from an academic family as well; my father is also a teacher of literature, so there was also a connection there. The third and most practical reason is that in Hong Kong if you do a postgraduate degree you can apply for a scholarship. It was a way of not having to find a job when I came back. I actually applied for an art history postgraduate programme, thinking that it was what I should do, but one of the professors in the fine art department, after I told him what I was interested in and what I was reading, said that I would actually be more suited to study in the comparative literature department. During that period I didn’t make any art, I stopped making art for a period of about five years. I was writing, reading and being a student, so it was a little bit of a break. I was rethinking what I did during my studio degree and when I came back out of the postgraduate course, I was able to think about my work in a different way and apply a lot of the ideas to the making of my work. One of the problems I experienced, and why I felt I was on a plateau, was I felt the work was too deterministic. I wanted to try a new physiological dimension or a socio-political angle. This critical theory training helped me to develop a new way of thinking about my work. What are your favourite fiction and critical books, and why? I suppose there’s a lot…

Could you give me a top five? I realized I’ve probably asked a really difficult question, it’s like someone asking me ‘what’s my favourite album’; it does change from week to week… Exactly yeah. When I was at school I read a lot of French theory, a lot of that kind of thinking is very influential to me, especially George Bataille’s The Story of the Eye. Roger Caillois, as well, who wrote this very famous essay called Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia, which is something I always go back to. I’m a Sci-Fi guy as everyone knows, so J. G. Ballard or more recent people like Neal Stephenson. I wrote my thesis on clichés and at the time I was doing research on Walter Benjamin and Charles Baudelaire, so the usual suspects really. What fascinates you about Sci-Fi?

There’s a kind of mathematical logic like music. I think one way of talking about this would be to compare Sci-Fi with fantasy, at least how I understand it. Fantasy can be anything, but of course it’s also developed its own mythologies, it’s got a very different kind of history to it. Fantasy almost looks back, whereas Sci-Fi is a very speculative meditation on the future or situation that might happen or is happening, because of that it’s based on a very precise understanding of reality or even questions what reality is. It’s speculative imagination but it’s always something that you can connect to, that you can grasp and understand. For example Philip K. Dick wrote a novel called the Man in the High Castle, which was basically a parallel history of the 20th century, imagining what the world would be like if the Axis Powers won the war. In that sense the book is not set in the future,

42 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship

but in a parallel present. It has a connection to history, an impossible future that might have happened. So a lot of these ideas are things that I feel are very important. I try and apply that to my work. Different Sci-Fi writers develop different thematic, which give you different ways of thinking about things. J.G. Ballard for example presents you with a very different situation, he sets up a spatial situation like an apocalyptic environment and digs deep into the psychology of how people would survive or relate to the environment that is surrounding them. Research plays a large part within your practice. Can you explain your process? How do you start a project?

There’s no real set process. There are just habits. I read things that I’m interested in; I collect objects that are compelling. Sometimes I might not go back to these things until a year or two afterwards. I keep a record and one day you are trawling through this archive and you find something that you were looking at a few months ago and suddenly there’s a new significance. I think I try to approach it relatively intuitively. There are certain things that I might be exploring at one point that I might come back to later. I get distracted quite easily, so that’s a reason, but I’m also very obsessive so it’s a combination of the two. You’ve been quoted in the past as saying you have a fetishistic approach to your subjects. Can you explain more about this and how this affects your practice and your life? It’s the way in which I get attached to things, in a physiological way, something gets hold of you and you can’t put it down.

Something fascinates you but you don’t really know why. It’s partly a conceptual, intellectual experience but it’s also very unconscious and intuitive. I’m always trying to find ways to balance and approach a combination of the two. You work with a lot of different media. What ties them together, and do you have a favourite medium? That’s probably like asking you a top five authors again!

There’s no specific medium for me, it’s just whatever works. I’m not the kind of artist who really wants to toil away on one thing – like I said, I’ve a very distractive personality. I’m interested in traditional methods of art making but also in new technologies, but at the same time I’m not a new media artist; I’m very wary of glorifying technology in that way. Secondly I had a mixed studio education: I started off in secondary school doing conventional paintings, then I did ceramics for a while, then ended up in the sculpture department at Chelsea, and when I was at Chelsea I was always in the photographic studio. There’s always something else that I want to do. One way of thinking about it is how one kind of media can inform another: how can music inform visual art, or how can photography inform sculpture? It’s that kind of relationship that I’m interested in. If I was to say a specific medium I guess I would say the image. The image is something which is very slippery. In a way, a lot of my practice is about unpacking what the image is now, in the future or in the past. What’s next for you?

I’m continuing this very collaborative year. Steve is writing his second opera,


which is going to be staged in September or end of the year. It’s a cinematic opera based on 1984. He asked me to help him with the libretto and he’s writing the music. I’m also going to be working on the stage design. I’m also doing a couple of musical performance projects. We’re doing a performance in Korea called Tradition (Un)Realized; it’s basically a musical based on our mutual interests in a singing tradition called Naamyam. We’re going to stage a contemporary restaging of that tradition. I think some of those elements will feed into another performance we’re doing in October in Hong Kong and we’re also going to be collaborating with choreographer and theatre director Kanta KochharLindgren. So we’re going to use elements of the music and incorporate it with dance and some visuals, maybe video.

Absolut at Art Basel in Hong Kong 2014 Apocalypse Postponed, an art bar installation by Nadim Abbas 15 – 18 May 2014 Nadim Abbas Afternoon in Utopia 2012 © Courtesy of the Artist Mixed media installation (sand, concrete, pigment prints, painted wall text, red tinted lighting) Dimensions variable (sandscape coverage approx. 46 sq/m)

Full list of collaborators for Apocalypse Postponed: Bar concept & art direction: Nadim Abbas

Spatial concept: Nadim Abbas & Sebastien Saint-Jean Made in: LAAB Animation: Wong Ping Soundscape: Steve Hui Costumes: Moustache

Performance program co-curators: Xue Tan & Shane Aspegren Project manager: Jessica Kong Stage manager: Jade Ouk Audio engineer: MISO Lighting engineer: C’est Bon Projects Essay: Philip Tinari Cocktail design: Andres Basile Leon Chief bartender: Axel Tesch Graphic design: Jake Noakes Photographer: Roberto Chamorro Videographer: Stephy Chung

Press relations: Sutton PR Event production: Gregg & Bailey Bar operations: Liquid Management / Multisensory Mixology Strategic partner: Chiczando Concept Venue sponsor: Soundwill Plaza II - Midtown

Special thanks to the Absolut team: Ulrika Lövdahl, Frida Hyseus & Saskia Neuman


Filmography of sound and light One never thinks of film as a living, breathing entity, when in reality it is all about its existence and its ever-changing play on colours and sonic textures. It is in this organised, compulsive chaos that one finds the holistic components of plot-twisting narratives and staggeringly deep visuals. There is a cerebral joy to the whole process of film-making, and the whole enterprise can be seen as a universal collaboration between different craftsmen: cinematographers, directors, photographers, film score composer, scriptwriters etc. No other form of art is as saturated by collaboration as film is, and in being so, it brings forth the kind of fascinating and uncompromising intelligence that only arises when several talents collide all at once. The creatives we talk to are exemplary of how teamwork is bigger than the sum of its parts – both Andrew Hewitt and Cliff Martinez tell us tales of sonic identity, while Kerry Brown recounts how he became a unit photographer on film sets, and finally, Erik Wilson and Larry Smith, renowned cinematographers, shed some light on their particular vision. It truly is the beginning of a beautiful and fascinating friendship.

By

44 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship

Suzanne Zhang


aNDREW

HEWITT

London/UK

Composer

KERRY

BROWN London/UK

Photographer

LARRY

SMITH

London/UK

Cinematographer

ERIK

WILSON

London/UK

Cinematographer

CLIFF

MARTINEZ

LA/US

Composer


Andrew Hewitt

Words by

Caroline Adeyemi

A Life’s Soundtrack Sitting reclined in an office chair, drink in hand, in a North London studio, you soon realise that there is much to be said for those who don’t do the talking. Those masterminds who create an aching soul of middle-aged man and forge a foreign beauty in a disappointed child without the use of paint, canvas, film, photo, touch or space. Film and TV Composer Andrew Hewitt is one of a few who are able to produce, again and again, the music that completes the magic of a fantastic film. In a brief catch-up, he was happy enough to open up his mind and art to us.

46 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship

There isn’t very much information about you so maybe you could fill us in with a little bit of background? Who were your biggest influences when you started out? After I graduated from Cambridge University I spent a year at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama training as a singer. I was going to be a classical singer, and had toured all over the world since I was ten, though I started to see films at the same time. The first thing I was able to do was sing, so I just did it, but it wasn’t my first love. When I first wanted to compose


AnDREW

HEWITT for film I was thirteen, and when I first started to do it I was in my mid-20s. So really what you’re asking is who I was listening to when I was twelve/thirteen, and they’re still the same people that I listen to today. There are around ten guys who have been the Hollywood royalty since the late 70s, and they’d include John Williams, James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, James Newton Howard, Thomas Newman, Howard Shore and Danny Elfman. Howard Shore familiar?

sounds

Howard Shore did Lord of the Rings and Silence of the Lambs, and in the 80s he was doing films with Cronenberg. So I was taught all of the classical stuff at school, and then would go and listen to film music. Everything I’ve ever owned is on my iTunes actually; that’s every soundtrack album of those composers, plus lots of classical stuff, American concert music written from the 60s onward (Steve Reich and John Adams in particular). I spent the first part of my working life performing classical music written before 1900, but if I’m going out on the tube I’ll listen to film scores from the last 25 years or so. I became obsessed with film scores from the moment I discovered them.

How did you first get into this profession? I started in the TV world, which you kind of have to do. I was sort of sitting around not knowing how to get into it [the industry], since there are no auditions and no advertisements. It’s a very strange world, but it was a dream-come-true when I did get an opportunity to begin. Tell me a little bit about how you got your first job?

Richard Ayoade and I had been at Cambridge together, and he and Matt Holness created Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (2004) – my first opportunity to score a TV series. It was a spoof series in an 80s style, everything I’d grown up with – it was a joy. I then got a BAFTA nomination for best new composer for Film and TV, so I started to fade out the performance and get more into composing. After that, I started fading out TV and began scoring feature films. How long does it take you to do one piece, and what is that process like?

Because I was a classical pianist as well as a singer, I actually sit down and compose at the piano. I press record and play. And the fortunate thing is that you do need to be quick. That isn’t the same as rushing; you just need to move quickly in your head. But it’s not like I can write five cues a day if I have five three-hour blocks; I digest for a long time. It’s an unconscious process. I might need to go shopping. I’m not thinking about it but it’s sitting in the background and then I come back and record my ideas. If it has many instruments, I select each instrument, go back to the beginning, and press record – I play it again, and make sure they all sound well together. I can do that in just a few hours. You have to trust yourself and get more confident, and then after a spell of intensity you just have to leave it, to breathe for a bit. What is that intense session like?

DRAMA

It’s great. That’s the really, really enjoyable bit, that’s the heart of the enjoyment of this type of work, so that’s my favourite part – I’m just reacting to the drama.

Do you know how to play all of the instruments that you use in a piece? No, I don’t have to. As a composer you don’t have to be able to play everything. From my understanding of ranges and combinations of instruments, I play them in at the piano, along with an understanding of the woodwind and brass, which require breath, and the strings and percussive instruments like the piano and harp. You need to listen a lot, as well as write a lot, so having performed with orchestras since I was ten, I’ve just learnt how all the instruments sound and work. There used to be composers in Hollywood in the 40s and 50s that didn’t have orchestral training, or enough time, so they would sit down with an orchestrator and they’d sing – then the orchestrator would write it down in full form. That’s where you get the phrase a ‘Hummer’! Have you ever written anything for someone that they just really didn’t like?

Sure and that’s the infamous part of the job. It’s not our show, it’s not the composer’s film, and if the director doesn’t like the effect it’s creating he’ll say it doesn’t work; then it’s my job to say let’s discuss it and I’ll do it again. Some people will do


aspects of the Teapot, so that was fun to do. And I would of course never give anything to anyone if I didn’t believe it was good enough – so in that sense I’m proud of everything I’ve made, though it’s not really something a busy working artist thinks about, I’d say! Have you ever made anything for a film that you thought was good enough at the time and listened to it a few years later with regret? No.

You’ve never experienced that? That’s really good. No, I would have never given it to them in the first place. I don’t think you would be able to do this kind of work if you didn’t believe absolutely in everything you do; you probably wouldn’t be able to survive! Haha, okay. So you’ve described the creative process, what about the other stuff? two or three versions and say, “I did it this way”, then rewind and say “I did it this way too”, but you know, if we’ve had a really good chat and I know what we are going for, then it’s not always necessary. We’ll do the first version and then move onto another one – if it doesn’t quite hit the mark, we tweak.

you hit a piece of glass, it’s one thing and then it all shatters and goes all over the place. Jesse’s so good at showing his interior madness and the film is designed to get inside his head, and to get us inside his head. He’s brilliant because you can’t imagine anyone else doing it, not with the same kind of acumen and intellectual wit. There’s also a piece in The Brass Teapot (2013), which is an American fantasy comedy. There is a bit when they go into the library to research the history of the Teapot – it’s called The Library. It starts off very bright, and ends up very dark as they find out dark

What is a piece that you are most proud of? Or a few that you are very proud of?

There’s a piece in The Double (2014) called I Am a Ghost. It’s meant to mirror the point when Jesse’s falling apart. He sees a doppelganger and he starts to go mad so it’s just about his life fragmenting and slipping away. Like when

48 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship

DARK

Well at the core it’s the creation of music and drama, but it is also a business, all of the other bits are very hard work and a film production can be quite complex and personal. You’re usually given a budget and you have to work out how to spend it on your instruments and players and studio. It’s not just music; it’s also quite delicate because everyone’s so passionate. The director has spent his life wanting to make feature films, the producer has, the editor has, I have, and everyone can all have very different ideas of what they want and it’s up to you as a composer to figure it out. Sometimes it takes a bit of hard work to get to the best results, sometimes it’s really smooth. On a personal level and psychologically, it takes years to learn how to do that properly and


professionally; just knowing how to handle yourself. It’s a whole other area of knowing how to do things. With a director like Richard Ayoade, he likes me to start writing music as he’s doing the script. There are filmmakers that are very fluid like that, and there are others that say they’ll do it at the end, in one month. You can do it anyway you like, there are no rules.

When working with Ayoade, how does the process work or differ if you’re composing alongside whilst he’s writing? Well it means that I’m not just responding to a film. It means that after we’ve sat down, based on what we’ve talked about, I’ll just write something a couple of minutes long and send it to him. For The Double, every piece I did he said, “I love it!” and that’s when he went to play it on set to Jesse and Mia, I think to create an atmosphere before a take. The music isn’t the difficult bit; it’s understanding what the narrative needs. Creating music is the same kind of experience, a challenge and excitement, over and over again. A lot of composers start off being given comedies because the tone is easier to grasp, dramatically, whereas with complex psychological dramas it’s a lot more intricate. In psychological dramas like The Silence of the Lambs the tone is very complicated, nuanced – which requires a lot of experience in drama, life and music. I’ve not done horror but I’ve loved the opportunities to do drama, fantasy and psychological dramas, because that’s the direction I’m headed in now. What are you listening to right now on your iTunes?

Basic Instinct by Jerry Goldsmith, which is one of the finest thriller scores I can think of. What do you love about it?

Wow, that’s like, when you’re going out with someone and somebody asks you “what do you like about them?” You can’t find the words for it – it’s just a fact. It’s not explainable, but the score to Basic Instinct is very concise. It uses very few lines within the music, and that’s what I like in the very best scoring. It’s what i aim for – to say as much as possible with the fewest gestures. Goldsmith is a master at creating a whole ‘moment’, with very few musical materials. What do you wish that you did do?

I’d be very excited to have a massive orchestra in front of me. I would like to do some Sci-Fi, or Space Opera. They are large, emotional, epic films, on huge cinematic canvases. On a larger budget you can line up a correspondingly large orchestra, and so go between small and huge sounds, which can be very powerful cinematically. The orchestra for my next feature film [Bill] will be bigger, about 60 players in the recording studio, though I can image it would sound even better with 70-80.

Is there any aspect of your work that you have ever struggled with? Not creatively but the most difficult project to understand? The Brass Teapot took some getting right, in terms of understanding it and what the director wanted, the comedic timing, the kind of pace required. It can be quite difficult work, but of course there’s the logic that if you give up, you never get there. How do you experience music? Make it real to you in your everyday life?

Music has always been there, it is something that I am very used to. I grew up in a house with music-listeners so it has been an everpresent thing; a language that I really understand. I believe it is very enriching and expressive, so I listen to music very deliberately, if you like. I use it to take me to a particular place. I never put music in the background, because it’s too powerful to me. If I put on a piece of film

FILM

music, it’s because I have something in me that needs matching. So I want to go into the space of that music, to express something which I am, in that moment. So what’s next?

I just started working on Bill, the BBC comedy feature film about William Shakespeare. It’s by the guys who created Horrible Histories. They’ve filmed it and I’ve been working on that over the last month. There’s also an American film which is looking good and a film called Berserker [a Supernatural Western with an ancient Viking twist], coming out next year, and which I cannot wait to do. People sometimes believe that a composer only writes music akin to the last film they did, and I’m glad that, in contrast to say The Double or The Sea, the music for Bill is for full romantic orchestra, with a style that is very outwardly emotive, so it’s really a great opportunity to work on the larger canvas that I’ve always wanted to.

andrew-hewitt.co.uk


Kerry Brown

Words by

Suzanne Zhang

Hunting Emotions How do you manage to have an original voice in the 21st Century? Asks unit photographer Kerry Brown. The only way to ensure you have a voice that is at least unique to your vision is to work harder than everyone else. This New Zealand born, South-London based unit photographer makes a living from taking photographs on films, and understands that photography, just like film and music, is an emotional medium. Describing unit photography as a kind of documentary, he goes on to explain that in the film industry, it’s all about trust and establishing good relationships with your team. Brown has worked with the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Ridley Scott and Lone Scherfig on films such as Bel-Ami, Prometheus and An Education, but he also understands the need to be creative at times and control it on an artistic level – which is why every now and then he creates his own photographs and works with his wife, Rosanna Raymond, the multi-media artist. A cheerful and always curious creative, Brown follows his camera around and gets taken to all sorts of obscure corners of the world where he meets new people and learns new things, like the boundaries of his own camera, which he describes as a beautiful instrument. Perhaps now it is ROOMS’ time to follow him around and learn a few tricks. 50 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship


Kerry

Brown Could you tell me a little bit about your job? You are a unit photographer, what does that really entail? I’m on scene everyday with my camera and I document the process of making the film, so everything from behind the scenes, to what happens in front of the camera. I work with the director and for me it’s very much about performance. I have a silent camera which enables me to shoot during takes and a big part of this is building up trust with actors, because they are a few feet away from you, crying their eyes out, so there is a trust aspect to it – they are exposing themselves. How do you build that kind of relationship with the actors and directors?

It’s about them trusting that you won’t do something stupid in the middle of a take, put them off or get in their eye line. Some of the actors hate getting their pictures taken. I did a film with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was incredibly difficult about it because he hated having his picture taken. You need to be very discreet and respectful about what they do, especially with the director – if he gets the sense that you are disrupting the flow or don’t have the right kind of energy, you’re out of the door. Luckily, I do get on with the crew quite well, and I do understand the process of filmmaking so I can be efficient with what I do. I’ve held a camera in my hand all my life and I’ve done everything from advertising to fashion, so I have a real sense of what images are needed. If I don’t think an image will ever be used, I will walk away. But when something is really important I will push for it. What in your opinion makes a great photograph then?

On a film still level, it’s about capturing performances and telling a story, giving a sense of seeing. Photography is an emotional medium, you remember a photograph if you connect with it and can be moved by it. How would you characterise your position within the crew?

I’m always with the director, the cinematographer and the actors. It’s a one-man job, which is not common on a film set. It’s difficult as you are not part of the process of making the film and getting that scene completed. The smart people know to give unit photographers time to shoot because it’s

in their benefit, especially with young actors looking for a breakout. It’s about trust, which it always is with photography; it’s always about your relationship with the person you are photographing. In that sense, would you say that the key to being a good unit photographer is to remain discreet?

Yes, that’s how I like to do it, but other people may do it in different ways. Some people have large personalities and might be a big fan of the actors, and be very humorous and take it a different way, but I just try to remain very respectful of their job as actors, because it can be extremely difficult. Before going on the set, you already have your images visualised in your head, right?

the director is going to give me some time; it’s crucial that he understands this in order for both of us to be efficient. Even asking for the time is a form of respect and courtesy, I would not have had the same effect had I just gone there and taken my time without asking or telling anyone. I always try to be efficient; if I do have to take time with a scene, I will make sure the actors know about it. If I need a certain prop I will make sure the prop director will know about it, same with the lighting and the gaffer, so all people on set know that I am going to do this. Is it quite stressful then?

Yes, all the time. You’re under pressure to get the right image, and at the end of the day, you either did or didn’t. On film sets, there are a lot of things that are fighting against you, like time restraints, and technical problems. On a stills level, you also require a certain kind of lighting

Lighting

Yes, I make decisions in my mind about what I’m going to frame and shoot, and some scenes might not appeal to me. If for instance there is an important scene and the two main actors are in it, and the right tone is there, I will go to the director and ask for some time with it because it’s important. Then


that works as a film still. There are also a lot of big egos in the film industry and sometimes some of these people are in a bad mood, or stressed out. If an actor is in a bad state, they look around, and the first, easiest target, is the still photographer, the closest one to them. So if they want someone it’s going to be me first – I’m first in line! [laughs]

You’ve worked a lot in fashion, TV, music and films. Is anything different? Any job presents different challenges but my approach to photography is very much the same: there is a decisive moment and I am looking for emotions. Photography is an emotional medium, so whether it’s fashion photographs or film, it’s always about rooting for people, capturing something. A camera is like an instrument, and I had to learn the boundaries of my instrument, where to push or not just like you would with a guitar for instance. With a camera it’s about light and exposure and the boundaries of it. It’s exciting to be able to push myself around it, but I have the same approach to everything I do.

How did you get started in the film industry? You started out as a photographer when you were quite young when you were filming your skateboarder friends… I did a film called Once Were Warriors [dir. Lee Tamahori], a very hard, domestic kind of drama, and that was because I was friends with the director. I had also directed music videos for a long time and actually moved to London to do that. I did this for a

while but it was a tough way to make your living in the music industry, so once I got offered the chance to take photographs on film, I took it. It went well, and then I did another one, and I looked around and said to myself “Okay, I’m going to do this unit photography thing”, and I put the stake into the ground and worked really hard. London has the best people in the world in any field, so obviously there are some people who are already extremely good at photography. I spent five to ten years working very hard, and the only way you can do this is by working harder than everyone else.

Carey Mulligan and Dominic Cooper in An Education

What is your favourite film genre?

Sci-Fi! I’m a big Sci-Fi fan and when I worked on Prometheus with Ridley Scott, there were amazing sets. However, I’m happy to work on any genre, I like doing different things. I follow my camera around and it’s taken me to all sorts of obscure corners of the world, introduced me to all sorts of people. When I work on film I enjoy doing the behind the scenes for the DVDs, it’s a whole other dimension to it. I’m trying to do more of that. I did a film with Dustin Hoffman, called Quartet, where I did all the behind-the-scenes for the DVD extra, I interviewed him – we were meant to talk for 40 minutes but ended up talking for three and a half hours! To talk to someone like Dustin Hoffman about directing for three hours is amazing. I want to make films myself – I make documentaries when I have time, and it’s about what I can learn from people. I get to work with the best directors of photography in the world, the biggest directors and actors, so I get to learn a lot. I’m a sponge – I soak it all up!

52 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship

Ray Winstone and John Hurt in 44 Inch Chest

Pete Postlethwaite


Michael Fassbender in Prometheus

Susan Sontag claimed that photography cuts sympathy… Photography is an individual’s perspective on something. Everyone captures things differently, which to me is what photography is about: having a unique vision. I always say to young photographers, “the photos you take now are going to be some of the best photos you take because you learn, you’re open, the more you take photos the more you narrow down your view”. Photography isn’t a lie, but it isn’t decisive either – simply somebody’s perspective on a specific situation. What is the strongest photograph you’ve ever seen?

The pictures of Vietnam by Don McCullin are very powerful because of the subject matter. Different photographs mean different things to different people. Ultimately photography is about finding your own voice, which can take a long period of time, especially now. How do you manage to have an original voice in the 21st Century? How important is sound to you?

I have been around music all my life and I listen to it continually. I shot a scene a while ago with an Irish singer at a Christmas party for the homeless, it was so beautiful and so moving. That just set the tone for the whole scene; everyone was completely knocked down by it. Musicians have a sense of the moment, they put a few people in a room and something happens. It’s the same with photography. What kind of films do you enjoy?

sHocking

When I go to the cinema I want to be moved. One of my favourite films from last year is The Act of Killing [dir. Joshua Oppenheimer & Christine Cynn]. It’s a shocking,

disturbing and powerful documentary, one of the most extraordinary pieces of cinema I have seen. What I’m interested in is originality, films that have their own unique way of telling stories. I really liked Her [dir. Spike Jonze] as well, because it was an original take on things. I like films that get under your skin too, like Snow Town [dir. Justin Kurzel], that makes you think and moves you emotionally. What are your upcoming projects?

I’m working on a film called Brooklyn [dir. John Crowley] with Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, and Julie Walters. It’s on a 50s island in New York. After that I’m flying to Marrakech to work on Rock the Kasbah [dir. Barry Levinson], a comedy starring Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Zooey Deschanel and Kate Hudson.

kerry-brown.com


Larry Smith © Photo by Suzanne Zhang

Words by

Suzanne Zhang

Framing Real Life What is an artist but one who has a vision? Much can be said about Larry Smith, but one thing we can be sure of is that he has a strong vision. The London-based cinematographer worked his way up slowly but surely, and in doing so has secured work with the greatest directors: Stanley Kubrick and Nicolas Winding Refn amongst others. Larry creates beautiful, interesting and almost surreal scenes in which the narrative moulds and twists itself unrelentingly while he works behind the camera. The success and style signature of films such as Eyes Wide Shut [1999, dir. Kubrick], Bronson [2008, dir. Winding Refn] or Only God Forgives [2013, dir. Winding Refn] have a lot to account for Larry’s brilliant and passionate eye, whose flair is exemplary of what good films represent: a play on forms. For the distant observer, Larry’s career has been skyrocketing ever since he set foot in the filmmaking industry, but he tells me that filmmaking was merely a world he fell into, having started as an electrician in his early days. What started the infatuation with the visual strongly grew into a fascination, and it wasn’t long before Larry’s opinion became valuable, even when he worked as a gaffer on set. As such, the transition from electrician to cinematographer presented itself naturally, and Larry has, since then, worked alongside the biggest names. Our afternoon conversation in his London house is regularly punctuated by Larry’s calm and funny anecdotes on his career, and it becomes transparent that this is a man who is at ease with the way he works – there is a certain confidence that emanates from him, which stems from assurance and faith in his own creativity. 54 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship


Larry

Smith Larry, you’ve worked on several big productions, including Eyes Wide Shut and Only God Forgives. How did you become a cinematographer? I’ve been working in this industry since I was 20 years of age, and I first started as a young technician who worked within the filmmaking world from side to side. I guess it’s a classic case of working your way through, which I did. It was a wonderful opportunity for a young person to work in this business. I know it’s much more difficult nowadays to get the sort of break I had when I started. Not too many people knew too much, in particular the agencies and the creative people within them. They very much relied on directors who were all powerful in those days. Because of that, you were able to get opportunities with directors. In a way, I suppose I came in at the right time. I think if I were starting today I would probably not get a job! [laughs] Did you have an initial interest in the filmmaking industry?

No, I fell into it! I didn’t like the idea of staying in school until I was in my twenties, so I decided to become an electrician. I had to learn a lot and cover a lot of different aspects and fields, which was very interesting. I worked on films as a freelancer electrician for the next couple of years. After a while I was asked to go work on a film called Barry Lyndon, by Stanley Kubrick. Back in those days I didn’t really know just how well known and talented Kubrick was. I eventually got sucked into the filming crew, one day the gaffer was sick and I somehow got dragged into the spotlight… This was thrust upon me and from that moment on, I built a really good working relationship with Kubrick.

KUBRICK

We worked together for the next couple of years, deciding how The Shining (1980) would be constructed. When I was a gaffer, I used to work with a lot of directors as opposed to cinematographers, and now in hindsight I kind of understand that perhaps they saw something in me. It was too much of a coincidence; I was working with too many directors.

One day, as we were short of a cinematographer, I jokingly said I could do the job. It was a very peculiar feeling because from the moment I said it to the moment I went back to my office, I just knew. There are some things in life which you know are going to happen. I knew I would get the job as a cinematographer, and it turned out I did. It was like an out-of-body experience! It wasn’t until I drove home from my first day as a cinematographer that it really hit me, and I suddenly got very nervous. Nobody had really questioned what I was doing, and I remember thinking “what if I got it all wrong?” How was it to work with Stanley Kubrick? And how did you create the very


threatening yet fantastic atmosphere in Eyes Wide Shut? Working with Kubrick was very enjoyable but also very, very, intense – it gives you a really good grounding and schooling in how you might be able to do things. Kubrick was always very unique in the way he works. He was an incredibly intelligent man and had the kind of intellectual mind that could have made him a scientist. Everything he did was very deliberate. I, on the contrary, am the complete opposite and I’m still amazed that we got on so well! I’m a very spontaneous person, and I don’t particularly enjoy days and months planning meticulously. Kubrick, however, did it, and that was the way he had designed his life. When we tried to get into this realism atmosphere in Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick would always say, “It’s real. But is it interesting?” He would always go for something that is interesting rather than real, and that is a philosophy that I try to adopt. With films, there are no rules and you can go too much within reality, or you can go more on the theatrical side, in terms of colour. I’ve always been interested in saturated colours, and Stanley liked it – he said, “it’s not real moonlight but it’s interesting”. So we went along with it like that. What is process?

your

creative

I read the script and see it visually. When I first read Eyes Wide Shut for example, the fact that it was Christmas meant I could really picture it in a particular way. It didn’t turn out that way, but you do have to start somewhere. I also visualise certain characters, and I start looking at the locations to help absorb the script in an interesting way. Then I work with the

production designer. After that, I get involved with the colours: nothing white and everything toned down. Generally speaking, I try not to pre-judge what a set will look like on the day. If I have a set that has really rich, natural colours, then I can work very quickly. Other times, you are put on sets that have nothing, which is much more of a challenge, so you have to think very quickly. It irritates me at first, but soon I start thinking of a solution I enjoy. The set has a voice, talks to me, and I respond to it. What makes a good shot?

A very well designed set in terms of tone, colours, and props. I don’t like extreme colours, I enjoy pastel colours and I don’t mind saturated colours and white. You can always adapt if a room is a little bit lighter. I enjoy sets that breathe and have their own voice. I also enjoy shooting wide angles: I see no reason why you would go to the extent of making a beautiful set and then not show all of it.

Yes, the key people on set are the actors, the director, the cinematographer, the first assistant, and the production designer. You’re down to about five to six people who work together. Some directors will get very upset if things don’t go as planned, and that really doesn’t solve the problem. The director has the power to say, “let’s do it another way”. To me, this defines a very good director: one who can think on their feet and be pragmatic. If the director goes crazy, it affects everyone; I think he has the responsibility to remain rational during problems.

56 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship

What are your favourite film genres to work on? I like interesting scripts. I don’t seek futuristic genres, I like contemporary, and I particularly love period pieces! That is definitely my favourite: candle light scenes during the 20s-30s where there was a particular kind of romance. I love that kind of atmosphere, where you get to be very expressive with certain elements of music. What makes a script stand out?

I love true stories; I always feel that if they are told correctly, they stand out better than fictional stories. These are the kind of stories I seek. The three main elements to a good film are: a good script, a good director and good actors. As a cinematographer, you must have a very strong sense of the visual. How does that translate into your everyday life?

When I’m in a restaurant for instance, I always look around for the light and think that I could shoot something. I could be talking to you in a restaurant but my mind will also be framing a shot, or looking at someone behind you in the shadow… Colours, textures, these things please me. Equally, if I’m somewhere that looks very dull, I won’t enjoy sitting there. How important is sound and music to you?

In films, sound design plays such a huge part on a movie, and it’s at the core of the film. You don’t realise this so much until the end. When you’re shooting you might have a few sounds to help the scene, but you are so caught up with getting the performance right that you don’t think about sound. Really, at the end, sound design takes longer and when you watch it you do realise how important it is to get all these elements right. Sound engineers are unsung heroes of the film industry. They don’t get the credits they deserve.

Susan Sontag argued that photographs cuts sympathy. What is your take on that? Does it apply to moving images too? I wouldn’t agree with that. One of the photographs that got Stanley Kubrick into the film industry was a photograph he took, right after Roosevelt died, of this newsman in New York, looking completely shell-shocked… That is a picture that adds to the sympathy. Another that comes to my mind

MIND


– and we’ve seen much more horrific since – is the one of kids running out of a forest, having just been napalmed, their skin blistered. Sometimes I think a still photograph can even say more than a moving image. I believe you can lengthen out the feeling of a situation on a movie in a still image – that’s what you’re seeking to do as a filmmaker; you want to press on all the human emotions. What is your favourite film? Only God Forgives

Bronson

Eyes Wide Shut

It’s called Scent of a Woman [1992, dir. Martin Brest], with Al Pacino playing a blind, retired ex-naval officer. The performance is a bit over the top and I haven’t revisited this film in many years – I’ll probably be disappointed if I watch it now. I think that when you see a film you really enjoy, you should see it a maximum of two times, once you go back after a while, they become dated and will always disappoint. However, I particularly loved Al Pacino’s performance.

I don’t really like saying I have a favourite film, as it might change with the next film you see. People also ask me what my best work is, and I always tell them that I haven’t made it yet. You can never be fully satisfied, you might be satisfied with elements of it, but never wholly, and that is what pushes you forward, what pushes you to progress and do better. Perhaps you never achieve the masterpiece you want; our lives are peaks and drops, and that is the way to enjoy it.


Erik Wilson

Words by

Suzanne Zhang

Collecting Moments Erik Wilson is a cinematographer whose film images haunt you in a beautiful, tender and soothing way. Known for his work with Richard Aoyade on his first two debut features, Submarine (2010) and The Double (2014), Wilson has the quality of knowing when to leave off, and when to slow down with his camera when scenes demand it. He is also known for his brilliant work in The Imposter (2012) and Tyrannosaur (2011), which subsequently went on to win the Sundance Film Festival competition. As an adorer of the visual, Wilson is proof that creative and visual people never stop working – a stroll down the street sees him mentally adjusting colours and contrasts of his surroundings. His blood is saturated with cinema, for better or for worse… But he tells me it’s for the better, before telling me about his interest in black and white film projects. 58 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship


ERiK

WILSON Erik, tell me how everything started for you. You studied at the London Film School, how did that shape your career? Initially, I was interested in either music or film, but the London Film School was the one that accepted me. We were taught on film, no digital editing at all, which is a nice way to learn the basics of filmmaking. Nowadays everything is digital, but most of the process of filmmaking doesn’t concern itself with it. The storytelling elements are the same, the way you work with the camera with lighting and movements. Moving into the digital world was interesting, but I’m trying to avoid all the technical things, which is hard. I did learn some basics, but I try to treat it the same. I had hoped that cameras would become simpler but it looks like they haven’t!

The rest of my education and career was meeting good people, making friends who would eventually start creating things. You end up working with your contemporaries from school. It was a lot of work transitioning into a cinematographer, and it took me about ten years before there was any decent work I was proud to show people.

PEOPLE

Tell me more about your job as a cinematographer. What are the kinds of decisions you have to make on a daily basis? The main decisions get made in prep, and then you simply have to deal with what arises. The most important thing when shooting is the influence over how a scene is blocked and where the actors move. If you have a wide scene, it gives more time for the actors to get at ease, whereas the closeups are the most intense ones in terms of performance. It’s very rare to arrive at a place and make something up – it’s not very efficient and no one likes it. You must have good relationships with the actors and directors?

Yes, the thing with the director is that we meet beforehand, there’s an interview and we see if we have similar types of ideas for the job. It might be a nice job, but if you don’t get along with the director, it’s not going to be a good experience. Also, I’m not going to do a very nice job if I don’t agree with the director on how to approach things. You set out to be a collaborator and rarely are there any politics on set. Between set-ups, I’m always busy so I don’t have that much time to talk to actors, and very rarely do you meet them before shooting. Tell me about the main constraints and challenges in your job: time and budget. What are the hours you work?

The bigger the budget, the less time and money you have, whereas with smaller budgets, it’s the opposite – so much more is expected from big productions. The smaller films tend to be the ones where you feel like you have more control, time, and money, bizarrely. Time constraint is necessary though, because if you had all the time in the world you would never finish anything – you’d never be happy. My work tends to be long hours on set, five to six days a week. You always need to get on set an hour before it starts. For example if we start at eight, I need to get there at seven, and if we finish around five, you would stay at least an extra two or three hours, either pre-lighting for the following day, or seeing the location. Fourteen hours tend to be my average working day!


Erik Wilson and Richard Ayoade on set The Double with Jesse Eisenberg

In your opinion, what makes a good shot? During the shoot, a good shot is one that goes according to plan. It creates a nice atmosphere and everybody is happy. However, I find that more often, the way the shot was achieved on the day has no correlation with where that shot sits in the final film. When you look up from the camera and you see the director smile, you know instinctively that was a good shot. It always amazes me how the emotional attachment to a shot rarely corresponds to how good it is in the film. I also believe that the shots that didn’t go quite as planned tend to be the most interesting ones. What is your favourite scene from the films you’ve worked on?

It would have to be a scene from Tyrannosaur [2011, dir. Paddy Considine], a British drama that won several awards, including the Sundance competition that year. It’s a scene with Olivia Colman, the main character, who goes to see Joseph, her new ‘friend’, when she didn’t know who to turn to. Something terrible has happened, and there is a shot of her sitting in a white kitchen. There is a little camera pan around her face that slowly reveals her black eye. You see a little bit of the bruise at first, but as you reveal it, it looks worse and worse… By the end it looks really nasty. It was a nice point in the film to not go ‘Bam!’ and expose it startlingly, but rather show it very slowly – it’s a terribly simple thing to simply pan around with the camera, but I think that it worked for me. It was a very simple film to shoot 60 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship

for me; it lasted four weeks because the director, Paddy Considine, was simply extraordinary. He knew exactly what he wanted to do and was very straightforward. You worked with Richard Aoyade on The Double and Submarine. He doesn’t come from a film background, so how was it to work with him on his first feature film?

I initially met him on a music video for the Arctic Monkeys. He has done a lot of acting, but he has also been directing TV shows, and he is probably the most knowledgeable person I know about films. He knows pretty much everything about all films! He has a very clear idea of what he likes, and the tones – he knows there are ways of making films that are not traditional and commercial. He knows better than to please everyone. One of the things I find fascinating about him is what he brings to a film that would otherwise be told in a very traditional way. He is always interesting and absolutely fantastic to work with. Is there a definite quality to have in order to be a good director? The trouble for me is defining a good director. Is it someone who makes films that generate good money, or someone who wins many awards, or someone who remains inf luential many years on? I think this is just


the beginning of Richard’s career – it seems like things are going well. He has that quality where he doesn’t try and do everything in his film: he does one thing with one, and another with another film, not trying to please everyone. Also, a director who likes a script that I enjoy is probably someone I will get along with.

You worked on a couple of psychological thrillers like The Double, The Imposter and Tyrannosaur. How do you choose the films you work on?

It always starts with script. I try to read all of it, although it’s hard at times. Many times it comes through people you know, the producer, or someone who recommends you or you know is going to be good to work with. How do you successfully create such a threatening and yet captivating atmosphere in your films? Is sound and music an important part of it?

It’s always a combination between the photography, the art direction, the editing and the acting, but most importantly, the music and the sound. Performance, music and editing really make a scene. Quite a few directors will have music on set to play during scenes to set a mood and pace, and invariably, when reading a script, I always listen to music to block out the sounds. Sometimes you put on music that you think is going to be suited to the scene of the script.

Erik Wilson on set Submarine

Would you consider shooting a film in black and white? Absolutely! I wanted The Double to be in black and white. I actually shot it so that if we wanted to do it black and white afterwards, it would work. My approach to the whole film was black and white. I am probably going to make my own copy of The Double in black and white. The first day, when we went to the grades, we had a look at it in black and white, just a few shots… But perhaps for a next project! When you work with things that are visual, how do you ever stop working? I imagine that your mind must register every detail anywhere you go, in terms of lighting and framing.

It depends on which part of the process, but yes, when I’m walking down the street I’m working in my head. It never stops and it mostly has to do with lighting, like if you are in a narrow street and the sun reflects on a window to then cast a shadow on the other side. I mean you’re always observing, taking notes, videos and pictures. There is always so much happening. When you work with the colour gradient, it wears off on you – when you look at people you suddenly wish you could change the colour of the neck, just to readjust the contrast or the colour of someone’s clothes. Your brain is always involved in this work mode!

SCRIPT

Do you remember the first film you watched?

The first film that had an impact on me was The Pathfinder. It was all set in the 1800s, up north, and the bad guys came to the village to kill everyone. I remember this young guy outside chopping wood. He suddenly went after them to

show he had an axe and could fight back. It was quite violent and very scary, and dramatic. In your opinion, what makes a good film influential and original?

If it affects you on a personal level, then you’ve done an amazing job. A good film makes you feel something. If you could transport our world into one of the films you’ve worked on, which would it be?

Submarine. It was all very natural: not much lighting, simply adjusting what was already there. It was about seeing the world as it is, just with an odd perspective. It wasn’t a world that was created for the film, we simply went to places that we liked and filmed that.

erikwilsondp.com


Cliff Martinez © Photo by Ricardo DeAratanha Los Angeles Times Contour by Getty Images

Words by

Suzanne Zhang

Tales of Sonic Identity American film score composer Cliff Martinez is one whose unique talent and musical genius transpire vigorously through the screen. His creativity and versatility is evident, having composed the film scores to most of the Hollywood blockbusters of the past four years. This former drummer (he played in the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and The Dickies, amongst other acts) has indeed established himself as the leading name in terms of unconventional sonic identity: Spring Breakers, Drive, Only God Forgives, Contagion, Solaris, and Traffic’s soundtracks owe it to him. Martinez’s apparent creativity is deployed through his relentless innovative approach to instruments, bringing forth Baschet Cristal with synthesised sounds, thus producing film scores that possess not only character, but also texture, layer and depth. Martinez reveals his tricks to us, before deciding on one album he could listen to on repeat for a lifetime – Lick My Decals Off Baby by Captain Beefheart. We trust him with it and put the beginning of our musical issue in his hands – after all, he is the best in his field. We speak to Cliff Martinez, whose work is haunting and made especially acute through the unflinching visuals of the films’ narratives. 62 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship


Cliff

Martinez Cliff, you are a film composer. How did you get where you are today? Did you study music? I am pretty much self-taught; the only form of education was when I took drum lessons at school then with a local drummer. In the late 80s I became fascinated with the beginnings of music technology – I was playing in the Red Hot Chilli Peppers when I first saw a drum machine. I was terrified by it as it looked like it could do anything I was doing, only better. I took an interest in it. One of my first early gadgets was a sampling machine; you could record any sound you wanted and program it as a drum machine. It changed the way you thought about writing and creating music, and the bands I was in at the time had no interest or use for that kind of new music technology. It seemed like film was the place where there was a broader range of musical style. It was definitely exciting to grow up with the evolution of computer-generated music. What is your creative process when approached with a film?

The director is usually the guide for creating the music. He has worked on the film for up to a year before I start working on it, so he has direction and approach. Some directors send me scripts, asking for my opinion, but looking at the pictures is ground zero. After that, asking the director for his directions on style, approach and also placement. The rest of my work is lying on the couch, staring at the ceiling, trying to come up with some interesting musical identity. How do you manage to maintain a unique voice, especially in an age where anyone can make music?

HONEST

It comes second nature to me now. I always try to have my own musical identity, which I probably acquired from imitating other people to be honest.

You are asked to imitate others a lot, especially for big films. I depend on being able to fail in an interesting way: if you try for something that is new and different, it will sound unique and distinctive, even if you don’t achieve it perfectly. Many people call your work ‘unusual’ and ‘unconventional’…

I’m glad that’s my reputation! Usually people don’t want to do it this way because sounding very familiar is more rewarding than sounding different. However, if you do it often enough like I did in Drive (2011) it becomes the new normal. For me, a big part of that came from working with Steven Soderbergh on so many films. He always had a very strong philosophy on music being very simple, mysterious, yet not obvious and redundant. When working, how do you manage to successfully translate a character’s mood into sound?

Film score is all about what is going on in the character’s interior self, and not so much about the situation they are in. I am not quite sure how I make it happen – that remains a mystery, but I always take the character’s general view; sometimes I like to take the point of

view of someone observing the situation. I think Traffic (2000) was like that: the music took the point of view of an omniscient observer, while The Limey (1999) was achieved through the eyes of the main character. Additionally, I think the audience wants to see it through the character’s eyes, not their own – it’s much more interesting, especially if they are bad and evil, as they don’t see themselves that way. When I worked on Spring Breakers (2012), a lot of people thought it was simply young people doing bad things. However from the characters’ point of view, they were simply having fun. I try to make the music serve perspective and not the audience’s. Where do you position yourself within the film team and the filmmaking industry in general? How long does it take you to compose a film score?

For better or worse, I don’t get to interact with anybody else than the director. I wish I interacted with the actors or the crew, but it usually is just me with a pot on the stove and a pizza slice under the door, and the director. Occasionally, producers will stick their nose into the door. Picture editors are responsible for most of my job, as they are in the process of editing a


rough assembly of a film, and they often are the ones choosing the temporary music. Some directors would bring their picture editors with them, but for the most part it’s a very oneon-one collaboration with the director, it’s a very antisocial enterprise. I don’t get out of the house when I am working; in fact most of it is done on a computer. Only God Forgives (2013) was done in a hotel room in Thailand. Drive (2011) lasted five weeks, which says something about doing things fast and instinctively when it comes to sound. Other times it takes three months, as it usually does with Steven Soderbergh, who likes to bring me in early on. Your music, especially in Traffic (2000) and The Lincoln Lawyer (2011), is acutely sinister, menacing and quite dark – are these the kind of stories you gravitate towards?

A lot of my early films were like that and I think that a certain typecasting occurs with composers. It seems like the films that have gotten a lot of attention are the dark, psychological stories, like Traffic or Drive. No one ever asked me to score romantic comedies, which I would be interested in as long as people got stabbed, shot… or there are violent explosions! [laughs] I would love to do lighter material and different things, but I can’t complain, I do love the dark side of stories like Spring Breakers or Drive!

How do inspired?

you

remain

I’m taking a vacation now! Clearing your brain once in a while is important. I would like to say that I listen to a lot of music and go to live music events, but I don’t do it often enough. To me, one of the biggest inspirations is the amazing rate of change in how technology is affecting the way you write and think. In that light, where do you see film scores going in the future?

I’m a very cynical person, so I think film composers are the last of a dying breed. Singers/songwriters have been beaten up with pirated music and illegal downloads. Financially, the industry seems to be in such bad shape that becoming a full time musician has become an even less attractive career choice than it was when I started out. I believe there are going

What kind of challenges do you face when working on films?

Deadlines because I like to procrastinate. Also, you can’t wait for inspiration to strike, and the length you spend at your keyboard and the quality of the end result are not correlated at all. 64 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship

to be less people making music full-time. On the other hand, the technology is such that anyone can make good quality music. In the future, the only people who will be making music professionally will be billionaires paying the studios to use their music! [laughs] Or perhaps some kid who will write the next Oscar-winning score on his iPhone, on an app that will mash up all the famous film scores… You worked on different very successful films, including Steven Soderbergh’s 1989, Oscar-nominated Sex, Lies & Videotape, or Traffic, for which you were nominated for a Grammy, as well as Solaris, Spring Breakers, Drive. What has been your most enjoyable project so far?

My favourite score was Solaris. I’m not sure how the music came out the way it did, but I still enjoy listening to it! It was the first time I had a 90-piece orchestra to write with, and I had a big studio that gave me the best engineers and conductors. It was a challenging film to write music for because it was very ambiguous and the music had to fill in a lot of blanks in terms of the storytelling. Sometimes the best music seems like automatic writing. Solaris was, in some way, a very easy score, and remains one of my all-time favourites, perhaps one of the reasons was that I had 90 human beings performing for me. You worked on a couple of French films too, is it any different from the Hollywood blockbusters?

The directors were very different. I’m reluctant to generalise, but I love that while in America film score is treated as popular, in Europe, film scoring and filmmaking is like fine arts. They take it very seriously: they have a different attitude and are extremely demanding, which made me realise that Steven Soderbergh has a very European take on filmmaking, giving the audience a lot of credit in figuring out holes in narratives, and regarding its audience as a complex entity.


Have you ever written a piece only to realise that it resembles something that already exists? Are legal and copyright issues parts of your daily life? Yes! [laughs] It’s a big problem that comes up a lot, and it comes up by way of the practice of temp music, which is when a picture editor or director puts in music temporarily, before replacing it with original soundtrack. Sometimes directors get very attached to this ‘temp music’ and will ask me to imitate it very closely. That never used to be a problem, but in the last couple of years, when you’ve worked on something as successful as Drive, a number of people ask for music that sounds similar to that score. When in doubt, I work with a musicologist, who determines how closely you can copy the temp music without a lawsuit. I’ve only used him a couple of times… I don’t know what’s legal and not! What are your favourite instruments to work with?

Strings, guitar, base and piano. I like to add in some kinky musical flavour to familiar sounds: I have the Baschet Cristal in my living room, an experimental instrument that is played with wet fingers on glass rods, which featured heavily in Drive during the love scenes.

SOUND

Which instrument produces the sound that is closest to the human voice?

A wind instrument I think, anything that you have to blow through to produce sound.

What about the colour of sound? Often, the combination of which instrument goes with which one is talked about as ‘colour’ or ‘temperature’ – that’s a very important part of what I try to achieve, unexpected combination of sounds. In Contagion (2011), I tried to blend in very organic sounds with synthesized sounds: that was a colour choice. In that sense I rely more on colour of sound, more than harmony, rhythm or melody.

Cliff Martinez is currently working on the score of a top-secret video game, and has just finished working on The Normal Heart, a film by HBO. He is also adding the finishing touches to The Knick, a TV series.

cliff-martinez.com


Lola Ruiz Garrido, Pedro Font Alba, Bruce Irwin and Juan José Ruiz Martín

Words by Linh

Nguyen

Natural Art Selection SCAN (Spanish Contemporary Art Network) is the result of four passionate minds: Lola Ruiz Garrido, Pedro Font Alba, Juan José Ruiz Martin and Bruce Irwin. Yet, what is really at the heart of SCAN is access to a network which provides a platform for anyone who loves and does art. It is a hub of stories and pictures; a world filled with many worlds; a cluster of bright stars ready to shine their light onto those who cannot see. SCAN is about guiding, exploring, discovering and discussing. With their backgrounds in architecture, it’s clear how SCAN holds some of the structural guidelines of architecture, such as support and making establishments in space; but it is far from the commerciality and, some may argue, corporate qualities of architecture. Upon talking to the team behind SCAN, the sincerity and genuine relationship among the group was apparent. If a stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet, then, if SCAN is anything at the least, it’s about friendship.

66 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship


SCAN A New Collective is Born SCAN started as a fast bilingual conversation between four friends over drinks. The topic that fired our minds was the skilful and provocative works of art being produced by emerging artists in Spain and Latin America. It seems to us that there is so much to share and to celebrate in the current generation of artists, and that there is not a forum for this work, not in one place. As these conversations were going, we were inspired by the energy of the conversation and by our passion for the topic itself. Thereafter, each time we got together, the vision evolved and grew, until quite quickly we took positive steps: setting up a Facebook group, building a website, organising collaborative digital projects. We want to promote and call attention to both emerging and also established artists, and to promote dialogues and collaborations between artists we highlight. Because it’s such a new project, it can grow in lots of different directions; as long as we keep having fun with it, then that’s the whole point. Creative Roots All four of us are architects by training and experience, three from Spain, one from the USA. We all also have experience of one form or another at the edges of the art world. Juanjo and I have organised a highly successful community art competition over many years in Jaen, for instance. And Pedro and Bruce are long-time collectors of art, who have already established relationships with some artists. We all have for many years, combined experiences in teaching the creative and inventive aspects of architecture, acting as tutors and critics in London, New York, Sevilla and elsewhere. SCAN is enthusiastic and strongly supports the visual arts. Nothing is quite as exciting as talking to an artist in studio! We are constantly on the lookout for new artists and new creators. It’s a lot of research, but it’s also a lot of fun, and really rewarding. With Spain, we do not think that the community is ‘struggling’ – not in a creative sense. We are constantly amazed by the works we find and how it finds us. In an economic sense, it’s no secret that a creative life can be hard and the crisis has hit artists as hard as anyone else in Spain. So in this sense, yes, many are certainly struggling, in life, and possibly to afford the materials for creation. And yet within that context so many people continue to make really great work and that is really inspiring. The Power of Collaboration Collaborations have been such a source of spontaneous creativity in the history of art, from productive friendships to direct mutual participation. It’s about the conversation that is cultural, the sharing of skills, and the energy that emerges from creative contact. At various times certain cities have played the role of hosting these intensely productive moments

– think of Sevilla in the early 17th Century, for instance, or Florence, Paris, New York or London. Now the internet makes a new kind of place for this sort of conversation, not to replace real presence, but maybe to enable parallel conversations. We are currently piecing together the results of our first online collaboration. What we find is that SCAN is becoming a real network. We learn about other artists through artists we’ve already published. The potential of social media and the internet allows us to do all this discovering and it’s organically expanding. The fact that we are not experts but people who just enjoy this, means that we can open more doors to new selections for our website. We’re setting up a part of the website that’s going to be called SCAN INDEX and we’ll invite curators to nominate who they would like people to know about. We intend to have a physical as well as digital presence and are working on a pop up event for this autumn. Seize the moment. Don’t wait. And don’t think you have to do it alone. Defining the Art World It is always difficult, if exciting, to try to make your own place in a creative field, and in this way architecture and the visual arts have something in common. There is so much competition and so many voices and points of view; the challenge is to participate in a way that is both true to yourself and at the same time relevant to the conversation. Not easy, and in this SCAN hopes to help. In

terms of selecting artworks, the only real criteria we have is that we find it of good quality. We are very conscious that we want to portray the variety and the texture of the production of contemporary art. There’s a lot of stuff going on so we don’t want to pigeonhole anything, we want to capture the entire texture of it. We always feature more than one image by an artist to demonstrate how that person is following a path. With contemporary art you need to be open minded but also put a limit on it. Sometimes you can approach an artwork on an intelligent level, and sometimes you can approach it as an aesthetic thing, and sometimes it’s part of a bigger project. There are many ways in which you can find a piece of art interesting. It’s different layers of looking. Some things are really not worth compromising, particularly the pleasure of good company. We think this is part of what good art is also for: making links, promoting communication and thought. We’d like to help facilitate and encourage this. We’d also like to help art to reach nontraditional audiences and markets. Art is for everyone. SCAN selects four young artists from Spanish lands:

scan-arte.com


Vicky Uslé travesiacuatro.com alexanderlevy.net

Vicky Uslé’s works on paper display a spirit of optimism and play. Colourful and ambiguously scaled, her compositions recall children’s games and architectural illustrations. They are a path for the eye to wander, to rest and turn, start and stop. Her drawings are at once uplifting and unpretentious, yet mesmerizing with their ease of execution.

Hole and Labyrinth Courtesy of Isabel Hurley Gallery

68 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship


Ruth Morán facebook.com/ruth.moranmendez

Ruth Morán paints imagined topographies of intricacy and luminous depth. Using only pale lines over dark grounds that blur and overlap one another, her works suggest and deny a sense of depth or volume, like a kind summary or shorthand of reality. Her paintings bring to mind the pioneering neurological drawing work of the Spanish pathologist and scientist Ramón y Cajal. Equally one can imagine explorations of other regions of space or the deep sea. In our time of technological webs and real and virtual pathways, we find her work both relevant and beautiful.

Gravitaciones Courtesy of the artist


José Carlos Naranjo Bernal josecarlosnaranjo.com

José Carlos is only in his early 30s but his production is mature and self-assured. His nocturnal and ‘gothic’ paintings combine an edge of street culture with something of the sombre classism of Goya, who he credits as a major inspiration and influence. Combining both technical brilliance and urban subjects makes Jose Carlos a very interesting young artist to watch. He is currently exhibiting in a solo exhibition  _OJO POR OJO_ in Cadiz, Spain. He is the winner of the 28th BMW Painting Award, one of many awards to come his way thus far in his career.

Venus y Marte Courtesy of the artist

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Lois PatiÑo  loispatino.com

Lois Patiño is a video artist whose work is startlingly beautiful. He works as a kind of 21st century Romantic. His films capture with awesome beauty the grandeur of the landscape and its metaphysical and transcendental values. Humanity seems desperately small and helpless against its scale and timelessness. His Movements in the Landscape series are the closest to paintings in motion. His latest work on La Costa de la Muerte was awarded numerous prizes just last month. Lois’ work deals with the sublime and the human. He has won numerous prizes and is definitely an artist we will be following with great interest.

Estratos de Tiempo Courtesy of La New Gallery

Figura en Catarata Courtesy of La New Gallery


Jeannette Ehlers Š Photo by Casper Maare

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New Shelter Plan presents:

Jeannette

Ehlers Copenhagen/Denmark

History as a Blank Canvas

Ehlers work is both captivating and thought provoking, and the visual impact of her videos merging real live film footage with digital manipulation leaves the viewer with a unique experience of an almost magical reality. Her work elegantly confronts the historical legacy of slavery and colonialism while touching on the enigma of reality and imagination.

New Shelter Plan focuses on hosting exhibitions that reflect and address current social and cultural issues in an experimental or unexpected manner. We believe Ehlers work convincingly succeeds in both criteria and we look very much forward to exhibiting her work as part of Possession [June 6 - July 5, 2014]. Possession showcases the work of 12 international Black women artists, whose work explores multiple concepts of being and belonging, and reflects on Black womanhood while investigating what it means to travel with this identity through public and private spaces.

New Shelter Plan Gallery, Copenhagen newshelterplan.com


Words by

Heike Dempster

A trip to Ghana led Danish artist Jeannette Ehlers onto a path that changed her career, her identity and her understanding of post-colonialism and race relations. As she began following the footsteps of the men and women brought to the New World as slaves, Ehlers travelled to the Caribbean and started a journey into deep explorations of history, slavery, colonialism, postcolonialism, race and identity. Of particular significance was the relationship between her native Denmark and its colonial history, mainly one of denial, informed her earliest examinations of these global issues which have now become central to her work as she continues to create a contemporary dialogue through her art.

Is your work in general dealing with topics like colonization and the slave trade? In general my work revolves around those topics – for many years. It started on a trip to Ghana. I realised on my trip that Denmark had been very much involved in the slave trade. I did not know that before because it is not a topic that is very well known in the Danish national identity or in general. It is an unspoken chapter in history. It really shook me. It shook my world up. Of course I knew about the US Virgin Islands as the former Danish West Indies but somehow I did not really know how much it would get to me to really see where they took the slaves in Ghana. To be there and discover, realise, and feel a sense of all that, it really just moved me so much and from then on I knew that I had to make works about this topic because I took it personally.

Tell us a little about your career to date please. I was born in Denmark and I am based in Denmark. I studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and I graduated in 2006. My father is Trinidadian so I have roots in the Caribbean. I have been to Trinidad many times and I have been to other Caribbean islands, for instance the US Virgin Islands that were former Danish islands. They called it the Danish West Indian Islands during the slave trade. They were Danish for around 150 years. Actually, it is almost 100 years since Denmark sold it to the US in 1917. They abolished slavery in 1848.

Did you take that trip specifically to find out something about your roots? The Invisible Empire

1848

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I was actually going there because I had a friend who lived there at the time. I was going to do an art project but I immediately changed my mind about the project when I went to some of the forts that were there. They are there still, the ruins. I changed my whole idea about what I wanted to do. After some photo shoots in Ghana I decided to travel in the footsteps of the slave trade so I went to the US Virgin Islands and I also did some pieces in Denmark at specific places, historical places.


Atlantic (endless row) © Photo by Jeannette Ehlers

Can you elaborate on the video Three Steps of Story? It is a video that is filmed in Government House in St Croix in the US Virgin Islands, which today functions as a government house as it also did under the Danish flag. I am waltzing in the ballroom of the Government House and you only see me in the mirrors. I have erased myself in the ballroom. I work a lot with manipulation. I work with manipulated images. Many times I have erased very important parts of the image to twist the image and the perception. I have done that in this piece as well. For me it is a poetic way of talking about something that is there still but is not acknowledged and is a ghost thing. It is there. You can feel it but it is hidden away.

Is the mirror aspect also something that relates to the fact that people’s history is not acknowledged by the common conscience? Like they are almost non-existent? Exactly. It is also that I cannot mirror myself. I am just there but I am not there in the real. This piece is based on a story about the Danish governor Peter von Scholten. He was the one to abolish slavery. He really had no choice because there was a riot. Anyway, the rumour says that he was actually kind of friendly to the slaves. He used to invite freed slaves to the balls that he kept, that he had in that specific ballroom. That was very provoking to the bourgeoisie and in that sense he was kind of brave, I think. That’s how my idea started. I wanted to make something in that specific room. It has a lot of history to it in many ways and the interior of the video is Danish furniture. Those are copies because the Danes took them all to Denmark when they left but it looks very European so you can’t really tell that it’s filmed in the Caribbean. It is just a poetic piece made in this specific space. Has the perception changed in Denmark at all? Can you observe an acknowledging of this aspect of their history?

Right now, there is a bit in the media about it because there were people from the former Danish West Indies who came to Denmark to get an apology from the Danish government but they did not get one. I don’t know if they actually came all the way. I think they might have cancelled it because the Danish government, they are not willing to do it. I don’t understand why. So there has been something in the media about it and actually at the moment there are also discussions about structural racism, which is very hard for many Danes to deal with. People say racism does not exist and when people talk about it and actually want to discuss the situation it is really not well received. There are a lot of intellectuals also who completely deny it.


Installation shot from Say It Loud! © Photo by Lea Nielsen

Do you think that art can play a part in rewriting that history and informing the public about a part of their history that has been omitted before? Yes. I have a major solo show in Denmark and it has been very well received because it talks about these issues. I think people learn a lot from this exhibition because they were not aware of the Danish history. You can say it is an attempt to rewrite history. Art can do that.

What are you currently working on and where do you see yourself taking your art? I have been challenging myself because I have begun to do performance. My latest performance is called Whip it Good. It’s a piece where I

76 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship

whip a canvas. I have a whip that I rub in charcoal and then I have a white canvas, larger than myself. Then, I whip this canvas for some time. When I do it live, I invite the audience to participate after I whipped for some time, to finish the painting, because of course it is a painting I am making. It has actually been very well received by people – not that they like it, but it really gets to them. Very powerful. Some people, they are very aggressive when they do it and some people are very weak and some people, they don’t want to do it, which is also a choice of course. It does not mean that it does not affect them. They are uncomfortable. It is very emotional also to see who is doing the whipping, who holds the whip. Is it a black person or a white person? Male or female? It all has different connotations. That’s what I have been working on at the moment. I made it as a video. It is filmed in a specific historical place in Copenhagen. It’s a warehouse of what in the old days was called the Danish West Indies Company. That’s where all the goods from the Danish West Indies arrived, like sugar. I was told that there were slaves there, too. Today it hosts these white sculptures from Western art history. From the Antique up to Michelangelo. It’s all white statues in there. I made this video in that place. I painted myself inspired by African body and face paint. It deals with a lot of different issues: art history, my own history, history in general and it has a lot of different interpretations and layers.

LAYERS


Depending on how much the participating person knows about the slave trade, the more uncomfortable they might be. Maybe someone who is fairly oblivious might feel no way about it until they know. Until they know. That’s my hope. I was talking to a guy that did the performance and he said it really hit him. He really did not think it would hit him that much, but when he started he was very nervous and suddenly history just came to him. Then, you would also see people who won’t reflect on history and just do it because they think it’s fun but I hope that they will reflect afterwards. You use sound/music in your video installations and performances. How do you choose the music? What does the sound mean to your art?

Sound, and especially music, has always played a huge role in my life and I love moving to the beat. Music and the beat are essential to me. I use sound in many different ways; sometimes I use found material and at other times the soundtrack is created specifically for the piece. Sound is a huge part of my work because sound affects you in a way that no image can affect you. Sound is also very manipulative and it sometimes weakens the image. At other times it strengthens the image or twists it. By adding sound to an image one can drag the viewer in certain directions or connect unexpected components. Can you give some examples of how you use sound in your art?

One of my video pieces called Speed Up That Day consists of a time-lapse video from Fort Frederik in St. Croix. Fort Frederik happened to be the place where slavery was

Black Bullets video still, 2012 © Photo by Jeannette Ehlers

abolished in 1848, due to a riot. The soundtrack to this video is a manipulated version of Dr. Martin Luther King’s groundbreaking speech “I have a Dream” from 1963 in which I have left only the crowd noise, except from a short excerpt of the speech where Dr. King shouts out: “When we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day!” The sound and image constellation in this piece bring together many layers and periods: It is filmed in a historic location from 1848 and the soundtrack stems from a historic moment a hundred years later and the timelapse video itself, my work, was made in 2009 only a few months after Obama became President of the United States. By using the sound from Dr. King’s speech I intertwine historic moments and hopefully create a space for contemplation and resonance.

Black Bullets, another video work of mine, consists of images of a series of black figures that move in a looping sequence across the silvery sky to the pulse of a heavy, hypnotic dronelike sound. The piece is filmed in Haiti and is inspired by and pays tribute to the Haitian Revolution. The sound emphasizes the slaves’ determination to fight the colonial power. To me working with sound and image is an experimenting process that draws on both concept and intuition. What are some of the mediums that you would want to explore further?

I would definitely like to do more performance because even though this is my first art performance I have been performing ever since I was young, as a kid and as a teenager. I used to dance and I also played music for a short while when I was younger. I know how this feels a little bit so I want to do it more and more, and maybe I could combine all these things. It feels natural to me. I just need to get the right approach to it and put it into an art context. I am open to whatever happens and whatever inspiration I get as long as it makes sense and as long as it talks about these serious issues.

jeannetteehlers.dk


Alex Prager, Crowd #3 (Pelican Beach) 2013 Archival pigment print, 151.1 x 233.7 cm, Edition of 6, Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong and The Arts Club

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The Arts Club

presents:

Alex

Prager LA/US

Staged Realities

There is a lot to love about Alex Prager’s work. The mis-en-scenes she creates are highly artificial, stylised and draw on old Hollywood, and yet they feel intimate and reveal the different characters’ unique vulnerabilities and characteristics.  For A Face in the Crowd, she pinpoints the dichotomy of how we relate to crowds; the sense of anonymity and being lost or alone in a sea of people and at the same time the fascination with the idiosyncrasies and life stories of the individuals within it. We love to show important artists who we believe in and who have not yet had a lot of exposure in London.  Following her recent museum show at the Corcoran Gallery, we felt it was the right time to showcase her work.

Amelie von Wedel, and Pernilla Holmes Curators at The Arts Club, London

theartsclub.co.uk


Words by

Rachel Worth

Alex Prager is a Los Angeles-based photographer and filmmaker. Harking back to the cinematic splendour of Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’, the self-taught artist’s stunning visual works are loaded with tension, nostalgia and ever-potent shots of melodrama. Her female subjects recall Hitchcock’s heroines caught in a Lynchian nightmare, or Lichtenstein’s girls coming to life – all pained and paralyzed in their saccharine, candy-coloured worlds. The viewer is forced to confront them, these archetypal ‘troubled women’, in all their timeless, synthetic glory. Most unnervingly of all, perhaps, is that they seem aware of this. They know we are watching them, because that is exactly how they have been designed; to be watched, to be scrutinized. Prager’s latest series, A Face In the Crowd, takes this idea one step further. Directed on a Los Angeles soundstage: a beach, a courtroom and a movie theatre all become fair game for the artist’s ‘retromaniac’ eye. As you focus in on the subjects’ perfectly made-up faces, it becomes clear that they belong to actors. Each is immaculately dressed and caught mid-gesture. Armed with their designated personas and props, not one expression or hair is out of place. But any sense of solidarity amongst the crowd is absent. Each figure stands alone, wrapped up in the drama and flurry of their own introspection, prickling under the spotlight of the observer’s gaze. Paradoxically, Prager’s heavily saturated style seems to compliment the feeling of hollowness that pervades her images; the characters’ highly stylized, sharply defined forms leave the overall aesthetic bordering on kitsch. The edges are softened, somehow, by an underlying twinge of humanity. This is a sea of faces battling against the ebb and flow of modern life, the salts and tones of an existence that is alien, yet painfully similar, to our own. It is bewildering to imagine how the artist created and captured these dreamlike scenes, and almost eerie to discover how meticulously they have been orchestrated. This is fine art shrouded under the glossy veneer of fashion photography. Fiction, but with all the hard-boiled substance of reality.

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How did you get into photography? What inspired you to pick up a camera? I went to a William Eggleston exhibition at the Getty Museum in California. I had been searching for something to put my energy and focus into, basically looking for something to show for my life I guess. I had been working random jobs for a while, and just felt like there had to be more to my life than being a receptionist or working at a car wash. So after seeing the William Eggleston show, I just knew that same week, or day, that this was what I wanted to do. So you count William Eggleston as one of your major influences?

Definitely. Well who knows, maybe it would have been someone else if I hadn’t seen that show. But it was a really significant moment for me.

Where do you draw other influences from in general? Your work has a very ‘old Hollywood’ aesthetic. I notice strong echoes of Hitchcock in particular? I think filmmakers inspire me the most, especially Hitchcock, Fellini and Godard. The Swedish director Roy Andersson really inspired A Face In The Crowd. In every single scene you see in his films, the sets are built around a fixed camera. His work is really ambitious in production.

A lot of street photographers are also influential to me, like Bruce Gilden, Enrique Metinides and Martin Parr. I really like combining the two worlds of fiction and illusion with the rawness of street photography and portraiture. How would you describe your creative approach?

The ideas usually just come into my head the second I start focusing on something. I have a folder full of images I’ve scanned from the internet and other interesting things I’ve found in my day-to-day life. But mostly, I’ll come up with the idea and then start figuring out how I can physically produce the shot. How does your approach to making films differ from that of taking pictures?

There are storyboards, sound design ideas and scores that obviously don’t apply to still photography, but in terms of production and how I approach it, it’s quite similar. My films are pretty much an extension of my photography. Both mediums communicate different things for me, so it’s great that I get to work with both. How do you physically create your work? Which camera do you use?

I always use the Contax 645. It’s a medium format SLR film camera, but I think it was discontinued a long time ago. I scan the negatives, and then there’s the post-production. This probably makes up around fifty percent of the final

PRODUCTION


Alex Prager, Crowd #6 (Hazelwood) 2013 Archival pigment print, 151.1 x 215.9 cm, Edition of 6, Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong and The Arts Club


photo. I like manipulating the perspective and the colours to create the feeling of something being a little bit off, or staged. Essentially, I’m not trying to recreate real scenes; I’m trying to create a false reality.

Even though your work is highly visual, does sound or music inspire you in any way? Yes, definitely. If you watch any Kubrick film, especially The Shining, which I watched again recently, you can see how important sound is. I was really interested in watching it silently because the soundtrack is so intense. So I watched it this time as more of a study on sound, the visuals and their effects on the story, as opposed to being immersed in the film as a viewer. I was really impressed with how the sound led you through these different emotions. Just listening to that music alone, I feel like you don’t even need the visual story so much. The sound tells you everything. There’s this band I like called BADBADNOTGOOD. They just released a new record and they have a really interesting soundtrack quality. I don’t know if they ever do scores, I might look into it. It’s amazing how certain music can tell a story. Your recent body of work focuses on crowds. What attracted you to this idea?

There were several things which culminated in this. I had been wanting to shoot crowds for years because it’s a subject that fascinates me. A Face In The Crowd is basically street photography but amplified, with all of the different faces and characters and interesting things going on. I think it was after my MoMA show in 2010 that I started exploring crowds a lot more than I’d done previously. I come from Los Angeles, where you rarely see crowds

of people; no one really gathers on the streets and there’s no major public transport. The only time you’re really in a crowd is when you’re at the Dodger Stadium. So when I found myself suddenly travelling all the time through London tube stations and airports it was a really jarring experience, even though I’d travelled before.

I noticed that my attitude towards the crowd would change depending on the mood I was in. Sometimes I saw the crowd as a swarm of anonymous people, which could feel overwhelming and chaotic. Other times, when I was in a lighter mood, I would become really curious about each individual. I liked making up stories about where they might be going, or what inspired them to put on that outfit that day. Just things like that. So I became very interested in the idea of the crowd from that perspective, but I was also being asked to do public speaking for the first time. I discovered that I had this really intense form of stage fright where I would have an actual physical reaction to having to be in front of a crowd. In a way, it was a cathartic move to shoot crowds, because I had to be in control and decide whether my fear of having a crowd’s attention on me was greater than my interest in photographing and filming it. What kinds of reactions do you hope your work generates in people?

I really want people to feel connected somehow. I think one of the most interesting things about art is its ability to create ways for people to connect, even people you think you would have nothing in common with. I read this really cool quote yesterday: ‘Art offers the possibility of love with strangers’. Walter Hopps said this. He ran the Ferus Gallery here in L.A. But that’s not to say I make love to all of my fans or anything! I just think it’s all about showing someone a part of a story that maybe sparks something. It could be something from their past, or something that they can add to that story. What’s your personal favourite piece or body of work?

I started out shooting individual women because I can relate to their psychology and the emotional aspects of what a woman goes through. And as a Los Angeles based woman, I’m interested in exploring the surface, the superficial, and how Hollywood is projected onto the rest of the world through movies and other means. I was kind of able to evolve that idea into my recent work. I don’t necessarily know where I’m going next. I have some ideas, but I really saw this as an evolution.

A Face In The Crowd is currently being exhibited in London. What else are you up to at the moment? Do you have any plans for future shows, projects or collaborations? I’m working on figuring out a way to break away from what people might expect from me… That doesn’t really sound right. I am currently working on something, but I don’t want to give too much away just yet!

My favourite body of work would probably be that last one I did, A Face In The Crowd. It’s usually that way though, everything always moves forward in a sense. So would you say that your practice, or approach to photography, has evolved over time?

It’s interesting because when I arrived on the set for A Face In The Crowd I saw all of my costumes, wigs and props alongside everyone I had shot over the years. They were all suddenly in one shot. In a way, I realized that I’d been learning how to do these crowd pictures for the last decade, ever since I had picked up a camera. It was as if all of the things I had been accumulating over the years were suddenly in use all at once. So I do feel that this was an evolution.

EVOLUTION

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alexprager.com


Alex Prager, Face in the Crowd Film Strip #3 2013 Archival pigment print, 48 x 23 inches, 121.9 x 58.4 cm, Edition of 6, Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong and The Arts Club


Beers Contemporary presents:

Andrew

Salgado London/UK

The Act of Painting

Andrew isn’t afraid to challenge himself or take risks. He is an artist that never rests on previous accomplishments and works even harder to reach the next level. As a result, his practice continues to evolve as something so discernibly his, but always manages to surprise. Just when I think I’ve seen everything he has to offer, he’ll totally subvert my expectation and come up with something completely new and refreshing but still true to himself and his practice. He’s becoming an internationally relevant painter, and is so focused as an artist that it is a real pleasure to watch him evolve. Beers grew out of a reaction to a perceived movement in the art world where dispassion was being celebrated. This is not the same as conceptual art, or even stark, cerebral art; but Beers wanted to triumph art that exhilarated the viewer, where the passion of the artist was moved to the foreground rather than art that is about the market or riding upon trends.

Kurt Beers, Founder and Director at Beers Contemporary Gallery, London beerscontemporary.com 84 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship


Words by

Adan Jerreat-Poole

Grecian decadence, luxury and sexuality tease the viewer, while playing cat and mouse with tattooed cities and threatening edges. The background is as rich and full as the foreground, and is riddled with reflections, scars and subtle shades that suggest the psychology of the subject: the emotional landscape of what it means to be human. Inspired by an assault in 2008, Salgado’s art has taken the raw human experience of fear and anger and created a powerful and iconic battleground of artistic conflict. The result? A dark and dangerous aesthetic, featuring geometric shapes, sharp angles and vivid colours. Still, the faces are beautiful and sensual even in the gritty surrealism of the 21st century, as touches of gentleness and vulnerability make their way into the gridiron streets. Andrew was born in Regina, in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada. He now lives in London, UK, and continues to push the boundaries of art and genre. I was lucky enough to have the chance to talk with him

20 Years Oil on canvas with spray, mixedmedia, and collage -210x340cm, two panels


Pretender Oil on canvas with spray - 200x180cm

How did you get to where you are now? Hard work, determination, and perseverance. When did you decide that you wanted to be an artist?

I always knew I wanted to be an artist. I often say that being an artist is the only thing that defines who I am, and everything else is derivative of that. Without art, I’m anonymous. Where do you get your inspiration from?

There is a misconception that inspiration can only be sourced from some divine 86 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship

fount of feeling and thought. But in reality, that’s quite a naive sentiment. Inspiration can and does come from anywhere. A conversation, a line of prose, a memory, a taste, a lover, a song.

Painting is about communication. And it’s true that it’s all been done before. Picasso stated so eloquently that “good artists borrow; great artists steal”, and so I think as artists (and particularly painters) we are endlessly paraphrasing and re-contextualising one another, forever. I am constantly absorbing visual means. Painters from Antiquity, Classicism and Renaissance, Modernists, and my contemporaries today. Everything that one deems valid becomes valid. The hierarchies begin to crumble when you can mash together Caravaggio, a painter down the road, and Bacon, in one new statement.

STATEMENT


in hand, for hours each day, these paintings just won’t get finished. What challenges you in your work? How do you overcome these challenges? The fear to fail. The desire to What is rewarding your work?

improve.

the most aspect of

When people are genuinely moved by my work. People often, frequently, come to me and want to share with me how my work has moved them. That’s an incredibly powerful and humbling experience. What mediums have you experimented with? What do you prefer to work with and why?

A Century of Painting Oil on canvas with spray - 210x170cm

Can you tell us about your creative process? I have no process, really. I’m quite organic and my process is very causal. I tinker about, experimenting and trying things. Sometimes they fail, but sometimes they work. Can you walk us through an average day in your life as an artist?

I think the outside has this fallacy that being an artist is so romantic, that I’m smoking opium and lounging about naked. In reality I’m quite insular and introverted. I spend eight to ten hours a day in my studio, about six days a week. It’s incredibly important to ‘work’, because unlike other art forms that can be quite immediate, say… photography, or conceptual art, or even sculpture that is outsourced to an external workshop, as a painter, unless I am moving, brush

Everything. In grad school I stopped making paintings and made videos, but that was a result of poor scholastic facilities that we were offered and so I hardly had a studio, combined with the fact that at that point I was still greatly psychologically affected by my experience as a victim of hate-crime only the year before. So I made some very dark, very honest video work. But at the core of each video, I was still working with paint in very bodily ways (I like to think of them as a cross between Nauman, Barney, and Schneeman) but when I looked at them critically, I realised that they were still ‘all about paint’. And so I realised that I was still a painter, just perhaps temporarily wearing someone else’s skin. My return to painting was reaffirming. It’s where I belong. Now, I’m interested in toying with sculpture, and I have been for some time. But it can never feel excessive or gimmicky, it has to be purposeful. I’m


big on this idea of purpose. No more and no less. As an artist we know when it’s ‘right’, so if the sculpture fits in my next body of work, it will go in. If it doesn’t, it will have to wait in the shadows. Does the creative vision come out of reality or fantasy?

Reality is so boring. I think my new paintings have really pushed the frontier of fantasy where the works are not at all about portraiture anymore. In Green Dionysus or A Century of Painting, for instance, you can see this collapse. They’re operating on a different level, something like magical realism, perhaps, like a García Márquez novel. I don’t want to be tied down to the question of why? Why? Because I can. Can you comment on the urban quality of your work? The relationship between violence and beauty?

They are chaotic, bombastic, adventurous. My new mantra is ‘ugly is beautiful’ because my critique of my own show for Cape Town in January 2013 was that the works were too round, too pretty, too warm. These new works are colder, sharp and aggressive. And to answer the second part of your question I will quote Bacon: “It’s not my art that is violent. It’s life that is violent”. Is your work influenced by British culture or Canadian culture?

As a Canadian living in London, I think these things are inherent. But again, if I tried intentionally to pull them out then they would just appear as trite, clichéd. I’m also half-Mexican so I think I’m naturally drawn to darker, melodramatic aspects of humanity as well.

What do you feel is the connection between music and visual art? For me, personally, I think it’s so obvious. One feeds the other, and back again. They are inseparable. My NYC solo is called Variations on a Theme which takes its name loosely from this idea as it occurs mostly in Classical music but also in Classical art. I like to put on my headphones in the studio and just let it fill me. I noted your reference to Dionysus, the Greek God of wine and fertility, served by the violent and wildly creative and sexual  Maenads. Does this reflect your view of the creative process? Are you  influenced by Greco-Roman mythology and art?

I often look to prose, or mythology for some inspiration from these archetypes – archetypes that still exist today in contemporary society. I love the notion of Dionysus as a representation of the bacchanal, but also ultimately self-destructive. His foil is Apollo, who is the god of order, but Apollo is so right-wing, he’s the Republican, and nobody wants to be aligned with that. So I think the line between destruction and creation is so convoluted, and I relate to Dionysus in particular, as an archetype. This exhibition was also supposed to have a modern play on Daphnis and Chloe, two mythological figures that are like precursors to Romeo and Juliet, but in particular Daphnis, who was kidnapped and tortured and sodomized. These hyperbolic mythological figures are still happening today. They say one out of three children is abused physically or sexually. That is a terrifying number. But looking at things as metaphors allows us to comment on real sociopolitical ills in a way that is less tacky, less self-serving. I think I can go on and on, but there are so many elements that come together to inform any body of work, and the mythology is a method for me to explore humanity. I noticed the repeating motif of the checkerboard pattern in your latest exhibition, Variations on a Theme. Could you comment on its significance?

I mean, this is purely stylistic, but why not? Not everything has to be laden with meaning. It does reference, however, the floor of my father’s music room in the house where I grew up. It was a black and white rhombus/checkered floor. My father was the first person to expose me to a love of music. So I think things come full circle. The show is also about time, and mortality, and suddenly, in your 30s, you realise that you and everyone you know will die someday. Time is a scary thing. There’s a bunch of references to time in the paintings as well. Can you discuss the colour scheme in your recent collection?

GREEN

Scheveningen grey is a colour that I am obsessed with. He leads the pack, like the hunter. And then there’s a variety of deep, forest-like greens. A reference to nature, perhaps? Nobody paints with green.

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I like that it seems surprising, daring. And oxblood, which is so seductive to look at and say aloud I had to use it. What themes do you explore in your work?

Identity, typically. But time, as I mentioned. Actually this body of work is specifically about the ‘act of painting’; both my own and historically speaking. The works are slowly becoming less and less and less autobiographical. Where do you think your work will go in the future?

I look at the work I did last year, and think “wow, I am a completely different painter”. Actually it’s very exciting for me to think about the changes that have taken place. If I was still doing the same paintings today that I was doing, even, two years ago, how boring – I should just quit. But I’m not and I’m confident that in two years I’ll look back at the works I am doing today and see another marked growth. I don’t want to be the painter I was in 2012, and some people want me to be that artist, but I’m just not. It’s not enough to do variations of the same painting over and over. Lots of painters are contented in being a one-trick pony, but that’s the difference between someone who paints, and someone who is an artist. An artist is always competing against himself to better his production, to better himself. They are one and the same, after all, aren’t they? Variations on a Theme is on show at One Art Space until July 6th 2014, New York City

andrewsalgado.com


Fin de Siècle Oil on canvas - 160x170cm


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Galerie Gmurzynska

presents:

The Haas Brothers LA/US

Craftsmanship of Seduction

The Haas Brothers bridge humanity and nature with their design. Every work is unique, however there is a clear overall message. This concept of the complete artist is what the gallery has been built on since it was established in 1965, a pioneer in showing the Russian Avant-garde in the West. We showed artists such as Rodchenko who was fluent in painting, design, photography, as well as architecture.  Niki and Simon are to me also multitalented young Renaissance men that are able to produce their very personal point of view across design, painting, as well as music. 

Isabelle Bscher, Head of Contemporary, Galerie Gmurzynska, Zürich gmurzynska.com


Words by

Nate Jixin Zhang

Crafty, unswerving and photogenic – those are the most crude and unimaginative ways to describe the design-world phenomenon, fraternal twins Nikolai and Simon Haas, of The Haas Brothers. Growing up in their father’s stone-carving business, the brothers have hands that have touched enough carpentry tools to be covered in calluses and formed muscle memories to meet their needs when they return to their design roots from their respective jobs, which the world welcomed the stunning Versace Home collection which surged the twins into rock star status. The Haas Brothers is a piece of social and sexual machinery that gained well-deserved visibility through its fuck-ability, and it’s not even about sex.

Nikolai Haas: I think the difficulty in verbalization comes from lack of the opportunity to do so. Once you get the conversation started everyone has lots to say about it. Everyone loves sex, right? This is really a large part of why we interject sex into our design, to start the conversation in a larger social context. These designs are good ice breakers for the subject.

Their designs feel like a re-integration of craftsmanship and sexual liberation, bits and pieces of which solemnly confront and covertly mantle but somehow end up being extremely uplifting. Even by listening silently to the sound of them, there’s an echoing danger of seduction that lingers. What’s behind the mysterious sound?

S: Niki is an amazing drummer. A lot of drumming has to do with feeling a ‘pocket’; it is the difference between sounding like a metronome and sounding like an amazing drummer – it’s something that can’t be explained, only felt. I think there is a lot about music that has to do with understanding and manipulating a specific feeling and also with riding the very fine edge between one feeling and another. We always try to make objects that have the same kinds of subtlety and emotional impact of music.

Sexuality is ubiquitous in your designs, so much so I wouldn’t be surprised if people are turned on by them. Why do you think the sexual qualities are quite evident and yet many people struggle to verbalise the mystery? Simon Haas: The Dance of the Seven Veils is more sexually stimulating than a woman who just enters a room naked. Why? Because the Dance of the Seven Veils builds interest on interest, while the woman who enters a room naked has nothing left to show. Sexual tension is built on mystery and it’s very internal – a person can be guided into a state of frenzy, but that frenzy is completely internalized – it builds on a person asking him or herself questions: “I wonder what her breasts are like – are they going to be as amazing as they look under that veil?” “Her eyes are so seductive, is she smiling at me?” “When is she going to drop the next veil?” And so on. In pieces of ours that are meant to be turn-ons, we try to get users to ask questions and think to themselves about sex instead of being handed an idea of what they should feel. In our stimulators for example, visitors are invited to feel some hand-made genitals, but they are forced to look themselves in the eyes as they do it; we isolate the visual and the tactile and try to make the visitor consider him or herself more than what he or she is touching. In every sexualized piece we make, nothing is as one might assume it would be, our intention is to remind you of sex and let you run with whatever pops into your head.

HEAD

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As a drummer, Nikolai is undoubtedly musical. Do you see resemblance of any musicality in your designs?

N: I’m a drummer yes! I also play many other instruments, as do [my brothers] Simon and Lukas. We’ve recently built sculpture that incorporate songs we’ve written. We’ve scored all of the video press we’ve gotten. Even in less evident work such as our hex stools or tables music is an influence. We often relate our process to how you write a song. When you write a song it usually starts with a very enlightened brief moment where it all spills out very quickly. Most songs I’ve written will

happen in five minutes, then I’ll spend days or weeks recording it perfectly. Our hex objects are much like this. We’ll sculpt the form in just hours but spend months applying the hex tile skin. It’s this balance of raw, in the moment expression mixed with laborious perfection that I think is part of what makes our work special, as well as relates it to music. Many articles about you have credited your family influence or “aptitude”, do you believe in such things as innate talents? What’s your take on that?

S: I believe that aptitude has mostly to do with the ability to sustain direct focus, which is something that anyone can achieve. I also think that innate talent means innate interests; the talent comes in being able to admit your interests to yourself, then being able to focus on them. Our parents absolutely had an influence on us, we would say in the sense that they always let us feel that we could do anything we wanted.

N: There is no doubt that my family is talented in the arts. My two brothers and I were raised in a way that held artistic expression in very high esteem. We always had musical instruments, paints, stone and chisel; really anything one would need to be expressive. I do believe that humans have a certain set of things that they are born better at than others. That being said the nurturing of talents is what really makes the difference. If my family wasn’t so ready to support everything I do creatively I’m not certain I would have become an artist. It’s a mix. Natural talent, practice and support.


Where do you get your exuberance from? S: I think our exuberance comes from a deep curiosity about reality. We are not weighed down by preconceptions about life and culture – we have made an effort in our lives to accept and explore what we don’t know and don’t understand. If you approach everything in the world as an opportunity for progress you can’t help but be exuberant. N: Haha... Curiosity! Freedom! Also, our job is lots of fun. What gets you depressed?

S: I usually get depressed if I feel like anything or anyone is making it unnecessarily difficult for me to express myself freely. My highest priority in life is liberty, and there is not a human on earth who has the right to reduce the amount of liberty enjoyed by any other – if someone tells me I have to do something, I will stop listening to them. Depression only comes when I have gotten stuck in a position of having to supplicate to anyone or anything.

N: Very little. Long periods of conformity? But that’s no longer my experience in life. I also don’t like witnessing friends or even strangers becoming their own worst enemies. Lots of people compulsively do their best to please. What they don’t realize is that their own self suppression isn’t helping anybody. Least of all themselves. You guys left your day jobs to impregnate The Haas Brothers, which was born into a design-world phenomenon. Can you tell

us about the time of its infancy? What were some of the struggles, doubts or hiccups? How did you manage to fund it? S: Starting our business was definitely a difficult task. Niki had to fund it out of his savings (which was only enough for a small set of tools and a few months’ rent), and I was so broke that I was sleeping in our wood shop for the first six months. We rented our studio space (the one we are still in!) in order to complete the one and only job we had ever been offered, a fabrication project for Johnston Marklee. Though working


with other designers is what made us who we are now, our biggest struggle at the beginning was breaking away from fabricating other people’s ideas. It’s always been difficult to explain what we are, and you can imagine the difficulty that comes with trying to convince people to buy odd, sexual, anthropomorphic, and expensive pieces when nobody has ever heard of you. Breaking that barrier for the first time was our biggest challenge, but once it came down our vision was pretty unstoppable.

N: Oh man... Luckily I’d saved up some money from my day job when we first started the business. We spent it all opening the studio. Luckily we worked consistently since we started. We would dip into debt and then hustle for a job to cover our bills. It all worked out though, and the money never bothered me. At least not as long as I believed it meant expressive freedom in the end. We’ve achieved that freedom now. That’s all that ever mattered and all that still does matter. Maybe if we hadn’t achieved that for ourselves I’d have a different attitude! Haha. The toughest moments were when we’d be working 60-80 hour weeks and not be able to buy dinner. Or when I’d have to sell part of my music equipment collection to pay rent. That always sucked, but was easily worth it in the end. Your designs with Versace probably earned you the publicity to surge into the global spotlight. Where do you go from here? What still keeps you motivated?

ABILITY S: The Versace project was certainly a pivotal moment for us. Donatella’s ability

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to trust some kids like us to design and produce a collection for her was actually a real shock to us. We have to give her a huge amount of credit for taking the leap of faith with us considering how little we had to show her at our first meeting. We like to think that the collaboration happened because it was immediately clear that our working dynamic would be fluid since our outlook was similar. Being unafraid to jump fully into what feels exciting is exactly what made Versace what it is; it’s exactly what made Donatella choose us to work with her, and it’s exactly what keeps us motivated. I


don’t believe we’ll ever run out of feelings to explore, and since we know that taking the leap pays off, we don’t expect to stop taking leaps.

N: No doubt Versace was a huge press machine for us, and really it broke us in and got us used to extreme pressure. Donatella gave us carte blanche which was unbelievable and gutsy. We still collaborate with people we love. That being said nothing beats working for yourself. Being given the opportunity time and again to make whatever we see in our dreams come true is pretty spectacular. Solo shows, entire room commissions, painting, sculpture, film, design, travel, social interaction... this is our everyday reality. It’s easy to stay motivated. It’s a dream come true. How can people have better sex?

S: People can have better sex by admitting that they love it! Anyone who dismisses cunnilingus because it’s ‘filthy’ is unlikely to be sexually fulfilled. I say just deal with it and eat the pussy!

N: I think if people can shed shame they’ll have better sex. There’s a lot of things people won’t do in their private lives because they’ve been taught not to by people that have no clue what they are talking about. Sticking something in your ass, having lots of sex, eating pussy, sucking dick, it’s all a lot of fun. Whatever it is someone told you not to do, do it (given the other person involved agrees of course). This is really a larger ethos that can be applied to anything though. Successful and happy people do what they want. The most creative people in the world investigate every aspect of their realities. Sex is just an easy window to explore because it’s a faux pas subject. Anything else you’d like to add?

N: I’ve said too much already! Haha!

thehaasbrothers.com


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With my work I’d like to share a certain experience: a feeling of an open and floating space, different elements side by side, moving, forming new constellations. I work mostly with digital tools which helps me to achieve an aesthetic language which combines technology and painterly, romantic elements. My ABSTRACT works can also be understood as visual noise, the stripes and patterned elements I use are a kind of a woven sound structure. There is a rhythm of movement and pause in the flow. The colour makes the character of the tone, also the mood of the picture.

Stefan Saalfeld stefansaalfeld.de Germany


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Darran Rees darranrees.com UK | US

Photography is my language; it allows me to speak and is simply a way of life to me, an obsessive passion wrapped up in a compulsion, maybe! I can relate to sound directly to my work; it is like the silent energy that is all around when I am in the zone of making pictures. Sometimes even if there is a lot of background noise there can be a moment of silence when the magic appears or briefly shows itself, and if I'm properly in tune I am able to recognise it and capture it.


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Alexis Marcou alexismarcou.com UK

I wouldn't be able to spend much time working without listening to music. I even play films and just listen and imagine the scenes. In some respects I believe that listening to music while drawing helps build a good memory of what you are designing at the time. You can recall areas in the design quicker by combining them with the sounds you were listening to at the time. To me colour is too limited to describe music.


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I am an illustrator and animator living and working in London for the past nine years. I am obsessed with old cartoons and illustration, particularly 1950s animation. I have been trying to create something that is unique within the field; despite being heavily rooted in the past I'm hoping the way I draw characters and environments is something quite new. Sound is very important to me creating work – I need to be listening to music. Recently I have been listening to the playlists on ISO50.com, which seem to have a certain nostalgic feeling to them that is perfect for the work I am trying to create.

James Gilleard jamesgilleard.com UK


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I grew up in the 60s in a wartime harbour city. We children played amongst the rubble and bunkers – for me that was one huge adventure playground, dirty and often not safe. I guess, these pictures are engraved in my memories. As long as I can remember I was fascinated by pictures and found out early on that by observing and even more so painting and sketching I could immerse myself in another world, one of my own. The trigger to search for motifs was and is the search for something almost forgotten, vaguely remembered or experienced. Tattered rugs. Dark nature pieces. Strange cityscapes. The hidden glance at an unfamiliar house.

I have to presume there is something behind the objects or landscapes, then my interest is awoken and I start to paint. In this case the borders between objectivism and the abstraction thereof are undefined, and my colour palette is the expression of my momentary state of mind.

I often make use of the emotional impact of particular sounds: When I am concerned that I am painting in too much detail I listen to Punk. When I want to elevate my mood I listen to Händel and when I want my work to flow easily, I listen to Jazz. For me the sound has an equivalent in the colour pallet. So the sound of a saxophone is a deep red, while a distort sound from a guitar is a bright toxic green.

Carola Schapals schapals.com GERMANY


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Mr.Frivolous mrfrivolous.com UK The words that spring to mind when describing my work is Poor man’s painter. Sound is what keeps me company when I’m alone, by my lonesome, with me, myself and I, plugging away at a piece of work [insert sad violin song here].


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_blank


_blank is an empty room for you. Express yourself however you want. Tell us about you. Write it. Draw it. Be crazy. And when you're done, take a picture of it and send it to us, so we can share it with the world. blank@roomsmagazine.com


John Rogers Founder & Director at

Durbin Lewis Ltd

Photostructure – Technics SL-B2 Turntable (red shift) 2013

Photostructure – Sony TC-377 Reel to Reel Tape Deck (red shift) 2013

Photostructure – PYE V4 TV (redscale) 2013

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WDYDWYD? The origin of Durbin Lewis is styled as an art brand which sits somewhere between producer and retailer. I decided to publicly portray my work based on the idea of the antiques shop. My background is in antiques and this forms the major crux of my work and my decisions as a creative. Every time I exhibit work, I feel like I’m acting as an antiques dealer with the latest auction find or restoration project on show at an antiques fair. I see myself acting in this paranoid manner of researcher, producer and dealer, and how that as a creative exploration within itself will progress over time just as much as the artworks or ‘products’.

I’m deeply rooted in the nature and substance of what it is to be or have an object. The choice of names, Durbin and Lewis,

are drawn from my maternal grandparents surnames, for they were largely responsible for my upbringing. I not only choose to remember them through their names but also establish the fictional idea that this ‘dealership’ I’ve created goes back to my family; to parody that effect when businesses of a certain age choose to promote their year of formation or incorporation as a sign of trustworthiness or solidarity. My daily 9-to-5 can vary depending on the day, but I am highly engaged at present in the process of analogue photography and cinematography. The day may involve shooting on film, developing films that has been previously shot or scanning or printing out these film, or preparing things for the next shoot. I will spend a lot of time on eBay, tracking down rare films or photographic paper to give me the widest possible scope when considering what goes before the camera. I describe my title as Director of Durbin Lewis Ltd, where I run the business in all capacities. I pose this deliberately in the context of art to cause confusion and to jar with our established notion of the artist.

Raising questions through such manoeuvres is far more productive than flowing with the norm, even if you’re not quite sure what you’re asking yet or even expecting.

I am part of the sculpture course at the RCA. It’s a great part of the school benefiting massively from

having physical space in which to exist. I am not what I would describe as a typical sculptor. I identify as a sculptor or working within the remit of sculptural concerns but my material basis uses film and photographic emulsion. Thus I spend the majority of my productive time in the darkroom at the photographic department at the RCA. Existing in this hybrid state isn’t an easy way to operate at the RCA, which in its nature can be frustratingly departmental. However my determination to work in this hybrid manner was not going to be overturned and I now consider myself to be part of both departments, one on an academic level, the other on a technical. Having a head of sculpture like Jordan Baseman is of great importance. As a filmmaker with a sculptural background, I feel he is in the prime position to take the course forward and work with those challenging the medium from outside its usual parameters. There will always be room in sculpture for the metal casters and the more typical ‘material’ enquires but that should not be to the exclusion of any other approaches, which I think is a mantra that should go for any discipline.

My work at present is undertaking research into film as a material and object within itself; considering film as an object at the same time as what’s before the camera is also an object. Object derived from objects is perhaps my line of enquiry while working with analogue media harmonious with digital technology through scanning and editing techniques. My interest in the principles of Lomography, its interventionist and

facebook.com/DurbinLewis UK

deliberate manipulation of the usual applications of film, has greatly impacted on me. The idea of going against manufacturer's instructions in order to achieve something inherent in film that would not normally be expressed is fascinating. I manipulate film through using: cross-processing, redscale, bleach bypass, non-camera film and film well past its expiration date. I am currently working on a long term 16mm and large format video/ photographic work that is developing over the period of the course. I am currently realizing that mahogany as a major material constituent of antique furniture is becoming a much greater focus within the work. The completion of this major video/ photographic work will be the main focus for the next year; it may be the first in many years’ worth of future work but at present it’s an exciting but daunting challenge. I will be part of The Royal Photographic Society International Print Exhibition this year, which among other places will be exhibited at the Royal Albert Hall. For those starting out in this field my advice would be to really learn the history of what it is you are entering, find out how discoveries were made and what brought about such passion in our predecessors. However it’s equally important to understand the injustices and corruptions that prevail and cloud what it is we think we know about something. The hardest thing about this way of life is the combination of personal pressure with professional and fiscal pressure. Failure is an important part of learning to improve and progress but there are still those times when the knock back hits you on that deeper personal level, more at the core of what makes you who you are and not just what you go and do day to day. The best thing is the feeling that, after considerable effort, struggle and determination on your part, you have created or enabled something that contributed to our understanding of what it is to be human, which in itself is always changing and thus new things can always be found. Progression and not contentedness in the now should be the drive for this way of working.

Interview by Jesc Bunyard


Tamsin O’Hanlon Event Director at

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The Truman Brewery


WDYDWYD? When I was eighteen I took a tour of Europe with intentions of returning home to South Africa to study Architecture, but I fell in love with London and decided to stay. I swapped Architecture for a Graphics degree at The London College of Communication. Whilst studying I joined the Truman Brewery family through working in one of their bars – Vibe Bar. By the time I finished my degree I was an assistant in the events department. Within a matter of weeks I was planning our first Free Range, and have been directing events at the Old Truman Brewery ever since. As a recent art school

trumanbrewery.com UK graduate shows in that the space is entirely the exhibitor’s; it can be manipulated and used in any way. The addition of having it open to the public also gives graduates an international audience and creates more opportunity to be seen. Free Rangers create fantastic exhibitions because they aren’t confined to a stand; they are given freedom to create their own show and identity. Most importantly, Free Range offers

It’s a potential dream maker and oneof-a-kind. Over the years we graduate, I understood the have built lasting relationships with

difficulties creative graduates were facing in attracting potential Although I was employers. in a fortunate position and found

my niche, I knew I was an exception rather than the rule. With this in mind, and the demand from universities and colleges to use the space at an all-time high, I wanted to give graduates the opportunity to exhibit in a larger, more attention-grabbing way. We did this by grouping all the universities and colleges together and created Europe’s largest graduate art and design exhibition! Set within the ever-diversifying East End of London, The Old Truman Brewery was the perfect setting for Free Range, both facilitating and encouraging enormous growth for the project. ‘Free Range’ seemed a fitting name to describe the organic nature of how the project came into being. Also, all the shows are free and offer a huge diversity of creative disciplines. Over the years, our hunger for finding the ‘next big thing’ has grown massively, from Graduate Fashion Week to various university degree shows. Industries look to these gatherings for future employees and collaborators. Free Range is different to other

opportunity.

colleges, universities, students and visitors. It’s refreshing to have created and be part of such an organic process. It’s all about being inclusive. The exhibition is one aspect of my role at The Old Truman Brewery which I adore, and due to the size, takes up a lot of my time. I also work on other events, including filling the many retail, market and pop up spaces. It’s rewarding to be a part of a creative team and a key factor in the process of its successful running.  


Free Range has grown massively over time. Over the years we’ve been extending the run time; we’re now on seven weeks, with each one devoted to a single category involving scores of colleges and universities. In recent years we encouraged students to create their own events to add another element of interest and heighten the Free Range experience. There are so many students, colleges and shows involved over the seven weeks. We have 3000 students exhibiting with us this year. Keeping track of them all is definitely a challenge! 



Now in its fourteenth year, Free Range is for the first time introducing a series of talks in collaboration with Cass Art throughout the second week of Art and Design called Free Thinking. We’re also working with IdeasTap to provide a series of onsite advice surgeries/career workshops for Free Rangers during the photography weeks. There is a huge database of charities, arts organisations and communities across the UK and in London that are dedicated to helping young creative individuals succeed in their chosen discipline, which I think all new graduates should use to their advantage.  This year, we’re focusing on various programmes such as Get Your Art Out, a talk discussing how to promote yourself straight out of college. Ultimately, it’s about getting out there and showing people who you are and what you can do. Social media is a great way to connect with like-minded people, Twitter especially. Another great use of this tool is to keep up to date with art organisations on upcoming opportunities, from bursaries and residencies, advice and networking events to all-important employment opportunities. Above all, get yourself out there and don’t give up!

Interview by Rachel Worth


Dan O’Gorman Director at

Mercury Artist Management & Iris Films

©Photo by Luke Keegan

Dan O'Gorman

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©Photo by Luke Keegan


WDYDWYD? What is my job title? Many people have asked me this, and I've often found it difficult to really pinpoint what it is that I actually do. On paper, I am the Company Director of both Mercury Artist Management and Iris Films, and recently the Head of Theatre at Red Stag Management in London. However my vocation is creating: making an idea, a concept, a desire from a brainwave into something tangible, credible, successful and desirable. That is my passion.

everything from the fabulous to the repetitive, meticulous to the mundane, adventurous to the infuriating, and spontaneous to diligent; with my job, nothing is black and My job consists of

white. I truly believe that to be successful within the arts you have to bloody love what you do, it’s not as straightforward as ‘carry out task A and you'll get result B', so my job consists totally of enthusiasm, ambition, passion and a real desire to make a difference. I think the role of Director or Producer can soar or crash on the shoulders of the individual behind the role depending on how much they are willing to commit themselves over and above the black and white job description and duties in front of them. So what am I getting at? Well, my job consists of a simple process: Idea/Development/Delivery, across Film, Theatre and Music . Yes it’s always about the end goal to a certain extent, rave reviews, sell out shows, box office hits, but the process is a great deal of fun, and I always try and immerse myself totally in every aspect of it. My job is not black and white – I like to think of it as Purple!

I first became interested in production when I was about eight. Thanks to my fantastic grandparents, I was brought up around The Sound of Music, Shirley

Bassey and Michael Flatley's Lord Of The Dance. So from a young age I was exposed to some of the greatest musical scores, voices and critically acclaimed performances of all time. I'll always remember watching videotapes of Julie Andrews with my notepad and pencils, writing down camera angles, stage movements and how many scenes per film. At nine I guess I became the next Lloyd Webber, I sat and listened to Shirley Bassey's diamond collection album over and over again until, unwittingly I had written my first masterpiece James Bond: The Musical; granted it was terrible but from there I progressed onto my first choreography job... well not actually, but I took note of every twist, click, tap and slide of Michael Flatley: every light used, the backdrops, the musicians and the number of performers. Then my big break came at 11. I directed my first play to a sell-out audience of about 100 people at my primary school entitled: Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. Granted not an original work, but turning a film into a stage play at 11 was quite difficult – plus there was the opening sequence of a Robbie Williams megamix to choreograph – time to whip out my Lord of The Dance notes. But seriously, despite my Olivier Award nomination before secondary school, I've always had an enormous drive for production, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do and luckily I've been doing it professionally from the age of 15. I'm sure other creatives reading this would acknowledge that they too have these traits; but I think for me, there is an aspect of my personality that I utilise in everyday life, outside of a working environment, that really sort of enforces and adds (I’m told), an element of fearlessness to my professional life, and that is that I genuinely give not one shit about what people think of me and I think when you’re in an industry where (it may surprise you to hear) everyone has hang ups on image, public and professional perception, credibility, artistic integrity and commerciality – ok, who wouldn't – the arts, while glorious, is the most overcrowded and competitive profession in the world. I, after spending years worrying about what people think, now couldn't care less, and think that’s a vital tool in my work and for anyone who does what I do, and truly can say to themselves that they care less about outward perception than inward perception.

mongasta.com redstagmgmt.com UK The hardest thing about my job is partially self-inflicted; balance is key and often some things may slip: an email unsent, a missed call, a spilt cuppa as you fall over your scarf on the way to a meeting you’re ten minutes late for, but this is something

It's always important to remember who helped you get to where you are with each project, and to always do whatever you can to build that you learn to get right.

relationship and commit to that project. People drive projects, not pens or smartphones. On the same note, the other aspect of my work that can be difficult is the time I often need to spend away from my partner; it can be very challenging, particularly with the level of intensity I work at, but when we both know that my work is for the benefit of two people then the time away becomes more bearable. The best thing about my job is doing what I love. Simple. I get to work with some of the most amazing, talented, gifted professionals in the business, and working together on creating something that we all love is magic.

What’s next for me? Well, I may go fly a kite, make clothes out of curtains or become a nun like Julie Andrews; write James Bond 2: Return of Dr Jazz Hands or try my hand at Jurassic Park: The Interpretive Dance – who knows! The world is my oyster right? I have a lot on this year, something I'm truly grateful for – my work with Live And Unsigned, Star Of Stage and Red Stag Management is really picking up speed, as are my investment projects for film. It’s all very hush hush, but keep one eye on the UK Top 40, one eye on the West End and another eye on the UK Film Industry in the next 12 months; you may very well see a glimpse of Julie Andrews as 007.

Interview by Jesc Bunyard


Greg & Myles Founders of

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The Brothers McLeod


WDYDWYD? We write, we draw, we make animations... mainly because it’s fun and we like doing it, which is a really

We’ve won things like BAFTAs and Webbys which means other people like what we do too, which iswithreally cool. We’ve worked a whole pile of folks, like Hit, good reason to do anything.

Entertainment One, Disney, BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Aardman, Royal Shakespeare Company and plenty more. One of us is called Greg (dark hair, no glasses) and the other one is Myles (fair hair, glasses). We look really different so it’s easy to remember who’s who.

The name ‘The Brothers McLeod’ was actually our sister’s idea. Our aim with the collaboration was to be a one stop shop for creative development and production for self-generated and commercial animation projects.

Before we got to where we are now, Myles wrote for BBC Online, and I did freelance illustration. Then we moved into doing online training courses for Eskyweb which involved animating hours of Health & Safety and Food Safety clips. Not the most exciting but an animation and writing boot camp.

During our first year as The Brothers Mcleod we got very busy very quickly and had to grow from the two of us to a team of 40 within a short space of time. Learning to manage many projects and staff simultaneously was a very steep learning curve but we delivered all projects to a high standard. We also managed to make a short film during this time which went on to be nominated for a BAFTA.

brothersmcleod.co.uk UK Making a film and having it well received by an audience whether at a festival or online is the most exciting thing about our jobs. Most days have a specific list of to do’s depending on which projects are in production. However whatever we have on we always try and work on our own projects as well. It may only be a quick drawing or blog post but it’s important to keep your mind actively coming up with ideas and creating new personal work. We have turned down some work as it was morally dubious. It’s a gut thing with some projects. You have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror. For us, our ideas come from a combination of crashing the subconscious up against the conscious. In response to a brief, ideas just occur to you then you can rationally develop them or let them swish about in your head and let connections and ideas form. It’s a combination of free thought and logical reasoning. Myles wrote a series of doggerel verse for the Royal Shakespeare company on this.

Sound has always been really important to us and we have always made sure we spend a good amount of time matching the sound to the project. We produce a lot of our soundtracks ourselves but it’s great working with contributors and engineers. We regularly work with Paul Johnston at Rhythm Studios who has mixed most of our bigger projects. We’ve also recently worked with David Kamp and Tom Angell. The Brothers Mcleod to me means

I’m drawing pictures and making noises and getting paid for it. It’s a tremendous privilege.

I don’t have to fully grow up.

[Greg] For me , some of my favourite projects are my two short films Codswallop and my recent project 365. Also our half hour comedy pilot Isle of Spagg which was a real labour of love and a tremendous challenge. [Myles] Isle of Spagg has a special place in my heart too. Also very fond of our two minute comedy short Phone Home.

Myles is now writing a novel. We have a book coming out called Breeds – a jokey look at dogs. I’m about to make a short animated travelogue called Marfa about a trip to the small town in Texas where our film 365 is screening. We are also in the early stages of our first feature which we are funding and making ourselves. This will feature our character Colin T Heart who is a kind of amalgamation of both our personalities. He featured in a series of shorts we made called The Existential Pleading of the Inner Heart.

Interview by Linh Nguyen


Adam Scrimshire Musician & Founder at

Adam Scrimshire

130 ROOMS W hy Do You Do W hat You Do?

Wah Wah 45s Record Label


WDYDWYD? I started making music at 13 and was inspired to play the keyboard. I could play by ear quite well so my dad bought me an 8-bit sampler and synthesiser to programme. I was hooked, and everything in my life kind of stopped as I stayed in my bedroom programming music at every spare moment. I went on to learn the drums and the guitar, so there were always challenges.

Music is brilliant for the fact that you can never master it. It’s always a step ahead of you, even more so in production. That appeals to my stubbornness.

Songwriting and production came along side by side and have stayed that way. I spent the first six, seven months getting CD’s of my favourite records and working out how to programme all the individual elements, writing music using those ideas. That’s always how I’ve worked, as a producer writing songs. My mum, dad, nan and granddad played a lot of music. We all lived together those first years I was learning and writing. Music was a big part of our home lives. We’d all eat dinner together on a Saturday night, play loads of records, chatting, and making a mess of the place with vinyl’s everywhere. They always wanted to listen to my work and I had really inspiring teachers at school which helped me until I went to study audio engineering – which was when I moved to London.

I’ve always had broad tastes, taking influence from acoustic, folk music to real deep electronica. I’ve tried to nail down my sound, establishing who I am

musically, but throughout the albums I’ve not really achieved that yet, so that’s something I’m trying to work towards.

scrimshire.com wahwah45s.com UK The first album Along came the Devil one night was about my battle with sleep deprivation and insomnia. It was quite organic and influenced by Jazz. This was at odds with where I started inside a computer, so with the second album The Hollow I was trying to connect to the electronic music I was making when I was 15-16 years old and the time I spent outdoors when I wanted to blow off steam or got frustrated with music. I’m still really into the countryside and nature. It keeps me grounded and makes me feel good, so it’s a good place for me to start creatively.

The third album Bight was inspired by the time I spent by the sea as a child. I felt like I got the track Siren right as it really encapsulated what the album meant to me on returning to the sea as a home. We live in such a noisy world so it was the idea of being enveloped by the sea, sinking to the bottom and all the noise around you ceasing. But I have mixed feelings about Bight now, as I don’t think it was as cohesive as the second album, which is probably my favourite. Writing is something I just do. I’m sitting on about 11 tracks of various content I need to work out what I’m doing with, whether there’s a continuation of the Scrimshire project or something else. I’ve wanted to take a break from thinking about it and just enjoy it to have a re-assess and rediscover what it is I want to do.

Ialways lovebeen Wahon myWah 45s. It had mind that running a label would be something I’d want to do. I met Dom Servini in 20052006 and he and Simon Goss had real faith in me as an artist even though it was a struggle to get people into my music at first. I massively believe in what we’re doing and I’m proud to be an owner and partner in running it. It’s very family orientated, making its own rules in what music we do and focusing on songwriting. We only work with artists who get that. It encourages a lot of collaboration, great ideas shared and great events

when we all get together. So it’s that friendliness, that honesty, the sense of humour that we have. That’s the impression I got from the start and I’m very pleased that when I got involved it runs through every element of how we run a business. There are days where I wish I could just do the music, lock myself in a cabin in the middle of nowhere and not have to think about Facebook or Twitter or when our next newsletter’s going out. But equally there are days when I hate making music and it feels destructive. So it’s wonderful to get away and work with my best mates at the label. I like lots of different challenges; it keeps me focused, fresh and creating good work.

There’s so much excitement this year with Wah Wahs 15th Birthday Party at the Oval Space on the 11th October with Kenny Dope, myself and others playing. I’m currently mixing the Stac’s second album. She was one of the first, most exciting artists me and Dom worked with on her first album. She’s a phenomenal writer and beautiful singer. We’ve just signed Dele Sosimi who was the keyboard player and musical director for Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s Egypt 80 band. He’s the real deal when it comes to afrobeat and is an incredible writer and musician. It’s so exciting to be working with someone that was connected to Fela Kuti and his family. We’re over the moon to have him on the label. Plus loads of our artists are coming back with second and third albums over the next 18 months so it’s lovely to see them grow and develop. We’re increasingly working with genuinely brilliant talented artists. Giving them a platform and an opportunity to make incredible music, uncompromised, with the freedom we allow them to have at Wah Wah. It always feels like a blessing.

Interview by Samantha Coombes


Vincent Dean Flumiani Creative Director at

132 ROOMS W hy Do You Do W hat You Do?

Earnest Sewn


WDYDWYD? The beauty of denim is that it is Denim autobiographical. is more than just another piece of

clothing hanging in your closet; it is a retelling of your story, a vivid account of a person’s life, your life. It knows your ins and outs, your ups and downs, your challenges and your successes, joys and sorrows. Denim is living and it will know you well if you let it. It will hide secrets and never get around to telling them, and at the same time will speak your truths. Denim will tell your story and your story is more than legs and swagger, hips and hikes. More than physical. No, your story is a peculiar alphabet of beauty, each stitch and curve speak a new language unique to you. The way you wear it changes, and with it, the universe. It is shifting; with your mood, your gait, your complimentary pieces. Denim gives shape and direction. It reveals things about you, your life, your history and your journey. Denim answers your longings and gives you an invitation to declare them. My day often starts very early and ends late. Some days it’s crowded and some days it’s lonely. There are days when I feel like I am moving forward and some days where I am standing absolutely still. It’s unpredictable. It’s evolving. It’s new and exciting. It’s beautiful and a privilege.

Every person at Earnest Sewn is how everything is kept in check. The truth is I would be nothing without them. I am surrounded by a team of incredibly talented individuals.

The biggest struggle I have had to face in my career and still face, is figuring out who I was created to be and then being that person without apology. I am definitely still reaching my goal, and if I ever answer this question with the contrary you officially have permission to beat the shit out of me.

earnestsewn.com US

The most exciting thing about Earnest, Sewn is what matters the most: my work. I want to do good work. I want to produce things that are true and will stand.

Saying YES is the most important thing I’ve learnt so far. It’s easy saying no. It’s safe and predictable. It’s secure and lazy. Saying no is calculating and boring. No is for the close-minded and greedy. No is for wimps. No is for those who want to live small. The most important lesson I have learned and continue to learn is to say yes. Yes to every meeting and every phone call. Yes to new things, projects and plans. Yes to getting people together and doing something, trying something, even when it’s corny or stupid. Yes

and sit in silence and hear songs that have never been written and gaze into the night sky and discover new planets. I want to write a novel and direct a film. I want to invent and reinvent. I want to be interesting and I want to be interested. I want to know what it’s like to have everything and to have nothing. I want to rub shoulders with Hollywood celebrities, politicians, beggars and criminals. I want to experience the world, climb Mt. Everest and surf Indonesia. I want to go out and blow all my money on strangers. I want to win battles and save people from fires. I want to be all of who I was created to be and give it all away… and that my friends, is what I will never compromise.

Yes to breaking the rules, colouring outside the lines, taking risks and challenging the status quo.

to the little things and the big

I would never compromise my story: who I am and who I was created to be. I will not compromise my story, the chapters of my book that I will leave to the universe. I want to see real living in the hours of my own days. To meet the someones in all the somewheres. I want challenges and I want things to be difficult. I want to invent and imagine. I want to heal and inspire. I want to explore and create. I want to stare at an empty canvas and create a work of art

Interview by Linh Nguyen


Lonneke Gordijn & Ralph Nauta Founders of

134 ROOMS W hy Do You Do W hat You Do?

Studio Drift


WDYDWYD? [Ralph] In my head outside of work, I think about human behaviour and the individual’s function in society with all its borders creating our freedom. We need to behave in our self-invented system to function. This conflict is endlessly fascinating. I feel like an observer of this phenomenon and still don’t understand it. 

The beauty and hunger for creation. Most of us don’t realise that this is what happiness

means for people. Even sometimes destruction can be a satisfying creation.  In order to fund our projects, we didn’t buy new clothes or expensive iPhones. We lived from the lowest possible income and invested everything we earned into the development of our work. With this we could convince an organisation in Eindhoven called Brainport to invest in the development of our first pieces in an incubator program. With no money at all to set up an exposition, we did it anyway during the Salone del Mobile in Milan.  Here we actively built our network of collectors, architects, curators and press. With no business background we learned everything by practise and making mistakes. We got introduced to our gallery Carpenters Workshop in an Exhibition during Art Basel Miami and they decided to fund the development of the next generation Fragile Future III so we could make 3D sculptures with this work.

The Shylight we developed at our own expense over a period of five years, and we also developed a control panel that can drive the lights and motor. Just weeks later the Arduino appeared... Our interactive Flylight is based on algorithms of swarming birds and came to life by inventing our own hardware and software in 2008. It was initially created for a fence company commissioning Lonneke for an art piece. We invested all the money of the commission into the development of the piece because we wanted to research the possibility of the work rather than make a profit from it.

studiodrift.com The Netherlands We have learned never to think in ‘not possible’, for the fact that the more we hear someone say this, the more we feel we have to prove them wrong. Acquiring the right skills is understanding the bits and pieces of the puzzle that we need to bring together to create our work. As artists we have the role to bring these minds together to get the result we are looking for. This is a demanding process because you need to find likeminded people with totally different fields of work willing to jump into the deep end. In terms of a career success story, in my case it’s a bit of a sad story and very cliché for a creative person. I never fitted in. I grew up in a small village where being normal is the highest goal in life. The interest in human social behaviour came at a very young age. I just didn’t understand it. I was in constant conflict with the world around me. I learned to fight my way out and therefore this survival instinct is still a part of me in bad and in good. If you believe you are less than the world around you, you will be. If the world around you doesn’t want to see you for who you are, step above it and look down on it.

Analyse it.

[Lonneke] I grew up in a very safe environment, with two teachers as parents, almost in a fantasy world where my animal toys were my friends and I thought they were really alive. I had all these small adventures of being chased by a wolf (my mum) and going on expeditions. When I was not a rabbit, I was making drawings of rabbits, horses, and flowers. I still like to make up an environment that I feel very good and relaxed in, but more in objects that give me a feeling of complete balance, floating and endlessness. Last week we were in a small town in the Netherlands, which reminded me of my own birth village. Everybody walking around was so disconnected from their surroundings and the people around them that it made me sick and angry at the same time.

How in the hell can you just accept the life that is given to you! I despise the career choices of people taking satisfaction out of the idea; the safe choice. These people are dead before they start living. Just a waste of energy. Life is not life!

Life is a platform to experience and research!  Look for your boundaries and cross them. More importantly, stay with your roots. Never let anyone determine your path, and don’t believe in fashion or trends, especially not as an artist. If working with technology becomes a trend don’t do it because of this – only do it for you.  I believe in the only Muslim in a Christian community, the only baker in a street full of butchers. These people have done their research not believing the hype! 

[Ralph] Talking about childhood makes me feel so old! I would rather see life as an event that has no boundaries between being a grown-up or a child. We are still the same people we just forgot how to play and to be curious. Our intentions as a race are not aimed at distorting nature; it’s just our sheer numbers and efficiency that is killing it. We might already be in the Matrix who knows and who cares as long as they got the taste of chicken correct! One of our proudest moments was when we were collected by the V&A museum in London. It was a feeling of relief and pride. We recently installed a Flylight in a privet house in Nigeria. This made me realise the global scale we are working on and it has been one of the most interesting places I ever visited with the kindest people you can ever meet! 

Interview by Nate Jixin Zhang


Joan Costes & Adrien de Maublanc Founders of

136 ROOMS W hy Do You Do W hat You Do?

Masomenos


WDYDWYD? Masomenos was born when we met even though we didn’t realize it at the beginning. We both had a background in images and when we met, we were both experimenting with music: Adrien was a producer and I was a DJ. Neither of us thought that it would become our main activity a couple of years later. Even if we now extended the field of our creative playground, music would still be the lungs of it all. The list of our inspirations is long; colours, maybe, to cut it short.

The way sound influences us is all about frequencies; not just sound, but in images and in energies. Sound in a way is always there. On some occasions nature’s soundtrack is much more interesting than music. We were both experimenting with our creativity through various tools, like moles in two different yards. I had been working in advertising, collaborating on the creation of the Superman Lover music project, directing short films and ads, and as for Joan, when I met her she was directing a café in Paris, but before that she was freelancing as a graphic designer, and had started to DJ at fashion parties.

welcometomasomenos.com France

Our struggle is also our force, which is to be independent. We can feel lonely from time to time because we don’t belong to any crew. We’re our own planet, and we have to trust ourselves constantly in order to move on. Also, we often feel like we’re missing time, because we love to learn and discover new grounds, but that all takes a lot of time.

We don’t have plans for something bigger than ourselves. It would be too huge. We’ve never really perceived this for us, for sure we love to gather friends and family in our world, but it is very intimate. We would never compromise on anything that would jeopardize our love and family. Without this, there is no Masomenos. We’re working day after day on what we love. The next steps are an album and an opening of our workshop for this autumn. Our long term plan would be to put on a show. Learn to be patient, to keep on working instead of looking for work opportunities. Masomenos for us is home. A fun, sweet, and lovely home, and always a bit messy.

Interview by Linh Nguyen


Jamie Stockwood & Paul Kennedy Founders & Directors at

The Zeitgeist team © Photo by Justina Šuminaitė

138 ROOMS W hy Do You Do W hat You Do?

The Zeitgeist Agency


WDYDWYD? [Jamie] The name was made in haste to be honest. We left our previous company one day and were trading at full capacity the next. The name seemed to resonate with what we were trying to do. Create trends and build brands with discerning audiences. I used to work at various record labels and PR companies but have loved working for myself for a few years. Setting up the agency in the depths of the recession was the biggest struggle.

For me, the most exciting thing about working for Zeitgeist is being able to work day to day on projects I love, with people I really respect and at the moment we like all our clients too, which is a rarity I think! Dr. Martens is one of our key brand clients and we are at the heart of their music strategy. It’s great working directly with Brand Directors and being able to implement fast turnaround idea based campaigns. It’s a truly creative process. We are lucky in that although we are a specialist agency we aren’t hampered by genres. We work and interact with some of the biggest acts in the world, and the very best in emerging talent; and in turn we have huge clout within the media from editors of broadsheet supplements, through to mainstream music and lifestyle titles and as importantly with those tastemaker sites with small but very engaged and influential audiences. Touch wood, we’ve not had a bad campaign since our inception. I would never work a project that was unethical, or just for the money. The whole integrity of the agency is built upon reputation for delivering smart outstanding campaigns. We turn down as many projects as we take on. The Original Penguin campaign that we have just started called Be An Original, Plugged In Sessions is a brilliant example of a brand providing a great platform for acts right in the peak of their promotional cycle. Brands and bands really can help each other if it’s worked in the right way.

thezeitgeistagency.co.uk UK

Zeitgeist means everything to me really. I am lucky enough to work with staff that are way more than that – they are trusted friends too.

The lines between my social, family and work life have always been blurred. Just the way I like it. For those who are starting out, my advice

is come and work for us. Our three key national staff members have been very rapidly promoted from within. [Paul] I worked at record labels working directly with artists, but I began to enjoy working on events more, so joined an agency that worked with music festivals. I began working with brands at festivals and saw an opportunity for an agency that understood the value of live music and could incorporate those insights into the brand world. Lots of agencies working with brands were trying to do music and I felt that was an opportunity for an agency who understood music and could bring a real understanding to the brand world. Zeitgeist was the first agency I had set up and whilst Jamie had run his own business before this, was a first for me. Jamie came up with the name, he’s clever like that. As a creative it was a real challenge to try and get to grips with the complexities of setting up a company, employing staff and dealing with what we call ‘the boring stuff’.

We have a great team. They all have their idiosyncrasies but they are fun to work with at events as well as in the office. We spend a lot of time together, work a lot of hours and it can be full on at events so we’re lucky that they are such a jolly bunch! Jamie can be grumpy sometimes though!

We are music people. It’s what we do all day, every day. All our

team come from music backgrounds and I firmly believe brands now value having a dedicated music agency as part of their overall offering when they are investing so heavily in music, as a conduit to engage with young people. You’ll be surprised how many corporate agencies will phone up the NME about a brand project that has Little Mix as brand ambassador!

I have to echo what Jamie says on the integrity of the projects you decide to work on. You really need to believe in the project, and when you are working with small business and start-ups then you need to believe in the individuals behind them who are as important a factor as their concept. We were asked to pitch for Reading and Leeds festival which is one of the biggest jobs in the festival world with 170,000 people attending. The event owner felt the whole approach to comms around the festival needed refreshing and wanted an agency that understood the digital landscape so we came up with some great ideas for obtaining coverage in areas the festival hadn’t been represented before and some new initiatives to reenergise their traditional, alternative music supporters and I’m please to say we won a very competitive pitch process. Work hard. Don’t start off with a sense of entitlement. If you get a foot in the door then research the agency and their clients thoroughly so you can make valuable contributions to meetings and campaigns. You will very quickly rise up the ranks if you can contribute and add value.

Interview by Linh Nguyen


Sound WorshipPers There are few people in the world that are blessed with the inundation of chromatic sensuality known formally as Synesthesia. For the rest of us mere mortals, there is the singular and beautiful experience that is the mass performance of live music. For many of us the summer music festivals of Europe are the highlights of the year. ROOMS chats to four creative masterminds who put their energy into curating this gift of bliss, of our own euphoria, sensual escape and opportunity for local communion.

Words by Caroline Adeyemi

Primavera Sound Outlook Festival S贸nar ATP 漏 Photo by Alexandra Uhart

140 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


Primavera Sound Pablo Soler, Director: I used to be a lawyer.

Amongst my first clients there was a promotion

company, Murmurtown,

who still runs Nitsa Club. It didn’t take too long for me to feel disappointed with the law world, too

competitive, too greedy. Then I had the chance to become a partner

at a record label and

distribution company. I quit law and not too

long after that convinced my former client to

start a project together

which materialized into Primavera Sound 2001. We felt that existing festivals could be

improved, at least the

ones in Spain, and tried to imagine what kind of set and

job and by doing it you get

focus on small names in the line-ups as we did with big

experiences; but it’s hard

line-ups we would have at our perfect festival, and then implemented all these ideas. We tried to put as much

names and wanted several stages working at the same time so there was always a choice. We didn’t feel too keen with the idea of camping sites etc.

We have an amazing team of people here who work

very hard to complete a line-up that’s both unique and

appealing. There must be space for the newcomers and

for the bands that influenced them. We make lots of lists and listen to many contributors and collaborators, then

try to find a distinctive balance in the line we have been drawing for the past year.

The whole project starts with booking, more than a

year in advance. Tickets are on sale in early July when promotion starts and production planning starts in

September. We move to the site three weeks before the festival starts and set all the infrastructures up. The

challenge is to keep up with the details. It’s an amazing

Primavera Sound © Photo by Santiago Periel

142 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies

to meet amazing people

and live lots of remarkable

to keep up with the proper standard unless you are very careful about the details.

It’s all about music. I

get to meet all of these

interesting people who are passionate about

their work and it’s very inspiring. We wanted a

festival for the discerning music lover in an urban environment. What

we do is put artists on

stage to perform and we have to provide the best


equipment and human support so the artists and the

audience can enjoy the experience. Music is the language of ideals and emotions. We all relate to it, no matter age, origin or credo. We have to set up a venue that helps the audience to engage with the artist’s message. 

There are only a number of bands available every year and you have to keep up with at least the same quality

you offered in previous editions.  With a limited amount of resources you have to build a line up that’s appealing and distinctive including big names, newcomers, solid long distance runners, reunions and local talent. All of them have to be significant in their own way but

sometimes there are just so many slots we can’t program all of the music we’d like to. Our booking team work

to have the best possible line-ups each year. With all

considerations, we turn around on how to make the most of what we have. 

There are not many venues that can hold more

than 50.000 people. Most of them are totally or

partially public properties so you work your way

through local governments and depend on them for

infrastructures. And most of the time it’s difficult to

make them understand what really matters and what’s superfluous. We are happy with the experience we

deliver and it’s a challenge to improve the quality and comfort to every edition.

‘We wanted a festival for the discerning music lover in an urban environment’

One of my favourite

elements of the festival is the closing ritual. Every

year DJ Coco has one of the last slots on a Saturday

and everyone at the office

gathers there to celebrate the fact that we made the weekend and are

still alive! We go onstage, sometimes disguised, to

dance and there’s usually a big crowd in the audience. It’s a pretty cool end to a party and of a job that’s

taken a year long to achieve. I love this job and I love the festival we created.

We’re always happy to hear from the people that we’ve worked with especially

when they say that we’ve created a very friendly

and passionate working environment through a

weekend full of tension, risks and last minute

decisions. I hope we can

keep up with the standard

that we have been offering for the last 13 years and

improve it if possible. I’d love to see Primavera

Sound trying to depict the

‘zeitgeist’ of music through its line-ups for a very long time.

Spain primaverasound.es


Outlook Festival Johnny Scratchley, Creative Director: What made me get into this business was being a

musician and wanting to

get into the music industry but not really wanting to get into the world of just

being a musician. I’m also a singer in a band called

Gentleman’s Dub Club so I

wanted to be able to work within the industry that I love, but also still have

more control over my own destiny. That’s when I started putting on club-nights.

The actual festival

started off of the back

of a freak incident. My

business partner and I

were running a club night in Leeds and another

guy that we knew just

offered the opportunity

to go and start a festival in a readymade venue

in Croatia. I got a call at

like 10pm from my friend

saying, “do you wanna run a festival?” But I literally didn’t know anything

about running a festival

so I thought, “how are we going to add or benefit

Outlook © Photo by Marc Sethi

144 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies

from it?” None of us had any idea what we were doing but we just said we’d give it a go.

The whole thing is really a full year process. We probably have six-seven people working on it full-time year round. It’s important from our point of view to not see things

as a year-by-year process. We did that for the first year

and quickly realised that it was a very dangerous game. You work incredibly hard up to the finishing line and

then suddenly you drop the ball, rest and congratulate yourself for a month or two, but then the moment you

come from your hibernation you realise that suddenly

you’ve got all of these extra decisions to make and longWeterm only promote bands that we like rather than stuff that’s planning to do. going to be massively successful. There are five of us who run it which is both the best

and the hardest thing about it .We’re all fairly similar so we get through it, but we also have creative differences

so you have to make sure that your idea is seen through to realisation. Working in another country also has its

challenges. We have a local team, who are essential. We try to go out there five or six times a year, but there is a

language and cultural barrier which can be challenging, but then again, the challenges are the enjoyable bit.

Everyone who is involved in the festival really cares

about it so it makes it all more exciting. For that reason diplomacy and communication skills are really important.

It’s all very music-focussed. We look at who we want

to book and where we want to go and everything just

springs from there. After that first year we realised that we suddenly had an incredible opportunity to craft a

weekend of music, so we knew that as long as we did that right, and in the right location then it would all work.

It was a lot more than a club. People would come back

from the festival and get in touch saying: “I’ve met this

person and we’re getting married”. Suddenly you realise that there’s this whole world that has formed around

something that you’ve created and as a response to the music. That really motivated us.


For me this festival is really everything. It’s given us the opportunity, as a small group of promoters, to create what we see as the perfect environment to listen to

the perfect music. It means an opportunity to craft an

experience and be truly honest in our process. The end

result is that it really connects us with people who aren’t too dissimilar from ourselves.

Lauryn Hill (this year’s Opening Ceremony headliner)

is almost the perfect artist to have because she bridges the gap between Reggae and Hip Hop, which is at the

heart of our festival. The moment that that idea came

to us we had to make sure it happened, and we did. It’s

really rewarding to see all the artists that you’ve grown up listening to and idolising perform to the crowd. In

that moment, when you can see it all working, there’s a

real feeling of self-worth. But the most rewarding feeling

‘There’s this whole world that has formed around something that you’ve created and as a response to the music’

is when you get an out-of-the-blue message either from

people that you’ve known a long time or from complete

strangers that have been moved in some way by the event. Musically, I think that our aspirations live in the physical bodies of many of the artists that we want to book. In

its simplest sense that is what we love to achieve, but to

continue curation in music and experiences in which we believe is enough as a reward.

Croatia outlookfestival.com


Sónar Sergi Caballero, Co-founder: Music

consumption has seen a

relevant change in the last decades, and not only by

young people. By far, this

idea of festive atmosphere which runs through the

music scene has become a strong formula that is for people an outlet for

immersive experiences in their cultural environment.

I am a workaholic. I always try to do what I love, and as I‘m so addicted to my job, it back feeds into

the rest of my interests. I am part of a big team,

and some of us have been working together for 20

years. We know each other really well; there’s an

agreement and harmony. At the beginning there

was an idea to go beyond the festival image as

graphic items. Now there is definitely the idea of

an image of Sónar as an experience.

Before Sónar, I was

working in two different

collectives. One was with the band Jumo, playing

Electronic and Hip Hop

music, and the other one

was a collective of visual artists working in plastic art, graffiti, movies, and videos. After [Francisco] Franco’s

death, we were all immersed in an explosion of different creative lines. It was a great time.

The biggest challenge of my career was to come from still advertising images with the earliest computer

technology and having to film a whole feature film,

but I’m very glad I made it. I came to film more out of a creative process from my work in the visual arts and

music fields than from a purely academic background. When I began conceiving a film project, I tackled it

just as I would do with a new music composition. First, I choose a series of sounds or timbres that create a

sonic palette and it’s that which brings me to the final composition of the piece and its tempo, never the

reverse. This is the way I approach filmmaking. Once I start filming, the movie starts having a story, but I always write the script after.

I have never had specific goals in my life. I have often

thought that the process – when you get in contact with the matter – is the most important thing from which we can

learn. Also in my professional life I have experienced how

the process and creativity could not be torn apart. I would

never compromise my creativity. The most important thing I’ve learnt so far is that time creates distance.

Sónar is exciting because of the freedom to develop

both the professional and personal in a place that you

feel is indeed yours; a place you have founded and seen growing up. My job is a place where everything runs

without conceptual plots, but is settled on a fresh and innovative creativity .

In terms of an achieved global identity, I don’t feel

this way towards Sónar; I have never felt that, not

currently and neither with the first edition. The point

is if we have generated something so huge, it is simply

a reflection of many factors related to the explosion of

digital creativity, such as the always growing interest in electronic music and new media arts.

146 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


‘There is definitely the idea of an image of Sónar as an experience’

Sergi Caballero, Ricard Robles and Enric Palau

Spain sonar.es


ATP

All Tomorrow’s Parties

Barry Hogan, Founder: I used to work

only the stuff that you

the person who would

It’s been a lot more

at a music venue called

Ginghamhorse and I was book the bands in and I was getting frustrated

with booking things like

The Lighthouse Company and Placebo and thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if we could book music that

we actually liked?” I first

started with a band from America called Tortoise

and it just spurred from

that, me putting my record collection on the stage.

We only promote bands that we like rather than stuff that’s going to be massively successful. There are a lot of

promoters who try to do

the same thing but at some point think, “if we need to keep going we have

to start doing a lot more

commercial things”, which is understandable. Doing

148 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies

like and trying to remain independent can be tricky at times.

competitive now, when All Tomorrow’s Parties started 15 years ago

there weren’t that many

other promoters around, alternative bands didn’t come over like they do

now because that’s when

you just sold records, but now there are so many,

and so many festivals that everyone is trying to look for new ideas and new

ways to present music. One of the bands that I

worked with was Belle & Sebastian and they

approached me saying

they’d like to do an event where we pick all of our favourite bands and get them in a holiday camp.

They originally suggested Butlins because one of

them used to work in a


‘We only promote bands that we like rather than stuff that’s going to be massively successful’

goalpost is constantly moving. We always try to secure the best acts so the key is to work way in advance and be persistent.

We’re always excited, getting carried away with people we want to see and new bands, for example with

Jabberwocky festival, the event is being curated between ourselves, Pitchfork and Primavera, and there’s so many great bands. We’re just excited to see a lot of the bands whose music we know but have never seen live!

We put a 1000% into everything we do, so sometimes

when it doesn’t work we get a little bit disheartened and money can be a problem since we’re independent. We’ve tried to avoid sponsorship over the years because we Butlins in Scotland; it

put down people like

would go for tasters and

you invite people and they

was kind of like a Soul

Weekenders where people stuff but with indie bands. We did this one event

and it was supposed to be an annual event but

then Sebastian decided

that they wanted to keep it unique so with their

blessing I started ATP, and focussed it on the fact that there was a

curator selecting a record

collection for an audience. It’s a small boutique

festival so we normally

like to work for a year and ask whoever we invite to

curate. It’s always people that we know have really

good taste in music; we’ve read up on their articles or seen them in various shows. We ask for an

A-list and B-list, with the

essentials and the backups. Sometimes people get

ahead of themselves and

Leonard Cohen, but going the other way sometimes pass away, or they’re on tour and what you start

out with generally doesn’t end up being the same as

what you first wanted. But I think 90% of curators

would say they’re really

happy with how it’s turned out.

Getting people to contain things within a budget can be difficult, so we

obviously try and balance it out so that it’s always an eclectic affair – you

don’t want 35 rock bands or it might as well be

Download. We try to mix it up and make it diverse but I mostly want people to

discover new stuff; like go and see some free jazz!

We always have obstacles dealing with other venues and regulations so the

want the festival to be about music. We do realise that we do live in a different world now so we have started

to embrace it with Jabberwocky but we want to do it in a

very subtle way that it’s not overbearing for people. Cash flow can be difficult because you don’t get the money

until the show matures. Back in 1999, the festival section in a newspaper was a paragraph but now it’s a full-page blow-up and there are guides.

We don’t try to cut corners, we always try to focus on

having great sound and lights and stuff even if the show is losing money. It’s got to sound great. The line-up’s are carefully crafted and we try to make them affordable

and attractive. We just want them to hear good music and hopefully they’ll like it!

Every time you do it, it’s a learning curve and your

audience won’t settle and get complacent so you can’t

either. We really listen to what people are listening to

and what they say and we try to get them. We only want to work with bands that we really believe in and make good music. And the way we design our events is to

make it how we would want it if we were them. We try

to make it rewarding and comforting so they’ll want to come back.

Currently, we’re doing events in Iceland, but we’d like

to do more events in unusual locations like, we’ve done

something in Japan and South America and other parts of

Europe. We like to find odd and unique venues to put great music in, the kind of music we’ve never visited before.

UK atpfestival.com


Michael Salu Š Photo by Alexandra Uhart

150 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


Michael Salu I definitely find it integral to my writing. There’s a kind of lyrical style to the writing and you can probably see the influences of Hip-Hop within that.

Visual Grammar Words by Linh Nguyen

T

he presence of Michael Salu has been pretty much under the radar; but walk into a bookshop and you’re mostly likely to find one of his designs. It’s natural, after a career in publishing, to go on to writing and its visual counterpart, film. The kaleidoscopic lens through which Salu sees the world is vast and profound, insofar as a conversation with him is transformed into a wandering discourse filled with critical thoughts, relaxed attitudes and infectious laughter. Salu’s perpetuating curiosity is perhaps the only reasonable explanation for the absence of an appellation. Only the term ‘artist’, in its broadest sense, will suffice. After a career designing covers for Random House and Granta Magazine, Salu also worked with the musician Tricky and rebranded Curzon Cinemas. Despite the difficulty of pinning him down, the river that runs through Salu’s work, however, is the strong current of narrative. Something is always being communicated, in which language takes on many forms and mediums of translating human experience. ROOMS caught up with him over coffee for a chance to dissect the scope of his vision and the path on which he is walking.


‘I’m fascinated by memes. I think they’re incredible and really succinct’ succinct. Everyone has this kind of graphic language now

where they know how to subvert and appropriate an image. Do you start off your illustrations by hand first? What tools do you use?

It really depends on the nature of the project. I do a whole

range of things with illustrations, and I use a lot of existing imagery. I don’t have an approach, and that might sound

insane but what I mean is that it depends on what I’m trying to execute. The end result determines the process. I’ve just finished a web app which is based on Persian architecture and I’m using age old references. Rather than creating a

piece of architecture, I’m creating a website; it’s the same

principle. I hope that if anything allows the work to resonate it’s the conceptual approach. I don’t take image making

lightly. There has to be a level of consideration. If the core

concept is not solid enough, you can strip away all the visual and realise that it’s kind of a dead space.

With these book covers, do you feel these

images belong to the book or do you feel a sense of ownership?

You used to design book covers for Random House. Do you get inspiration from the content or something completely unrelated? I think it’s a combination of things. It’s not just with

literature; when you visualise anything you get to the core themes of it. Then you associate it with a modern visual

grammar that you’re used to seeing and you bring the two together. If you’re illustrating, say, Dostoyevsky, then you say well this is 19th Century literature, pre-revolution

Russia, but how can I make that a contemporary image for

people to appreciate now? So I thought of crime tattoos and how much symbolism you can get within those. I do a lot of subverting the kinds of imagery that you’re familiar with.

It’s all in the classic mould of Duchamp, etc. Movements like

Dadaism and Surrealism are hugely responsible for the way our visual language is today. If you look at internet memes for example, it’s about taking an image out of context,

appropriating something and re-imagining it as something else. So that features in my work quite a lot and I have a

conceptual approach to even the simplest of images. I’m

fascinated by memes. I think they’re incredible and really 152 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies

It’s a very personal ownership that you have and one that does not apply at all to the book as a commodity. But this idea that you’ve also had a bit of a relationship with this classic writer quite intimately, it says very much that they’re still on the shelf now.

My copy of Crime and Punishment was actually done by you and I had no idea!

Haha. I’m one of those people who exists very much in the

shadows. I’ve never had time to put a website together and that’s finally what’s happening now.

And what will the website be consisting of?

It’s mostly about new projects. Since the book covers

period, I’ve done a lot of different things. This new agency is an amalgamation of these different types of activities

and everything is very conceptually driven. My previous role at Granta, I was art director as well as art editor, so I published a lot of writers and photographers, and I’m

going to set up a new publication under this brand as well as doing creative projects with different clients. The new

business comes from a history of what I’ve done and there’s going to be an archive area of the chronology of work from


and the wave arriving on the beach is interlinked

Oh goodness me, do you

is light but critical and it’s

to everything I do. I used

is the woman’s. The Wave out already in The Short Anthology [first issue].

I published one last year which relates to the

riots in London. The riot story (The Children of

the Children) came about when I was in Dalston in

a Turkish restaurant and it all started kicking off

in the street outside. As I

walked outside, there was a gang of kids and I looked at them, and their faces were partially covered. I was

really interested in this idea of collective intimidation,

and also the issue of mental health within cities that

with but I bring in a number of different people for certain projects such as developers, filmmakers, and animators. My approach is free spirited and the same principal

applies to making personal artwork as well. I think today, everybody can have these skills technically, but if you’ve

got ideas behind it, that’s where the substance comes from. You also write fiction. What kinds of themes do you deal with and how do you write?

A lot of it comes from just observing the world. I have a very particular viewpoint from where I stand, where I

come from and my experience of contemporary life. The

most recent one I’ve just finished, for me, is quite a strange one; it’s kind of a love story. It’s entitled The Wave and

it’s loosely about how we can extend relationships that

used to be quite fleeting. So you might meet somebody on holiday, and you might have a moment of intimacy with them and it dissipates and you go back to your life, but

through the social mediums of everything else we may

drag these things out longer than we realise, and you end up having this long distance relationship for two years. The Wave is like this brief moment: the wave coming in

is the man’s voice and his description of the experience,

influence your life?

between the two of them,

and then the wave leaving

the last 10 years or so. I have a business partner that I work

How does sound

doesn’t get talked about.

This story kind of integrates the two of them as separate ideas. You have someone

who is slightly emotionally

unstable but he’s observing the environment around him and trying to make

sense of it. There’s a certain level of society that doesn’t pay any attention to these people, to these children so they’re just shadows.

It’s kind of written in the style of a screenplay, in

the way we consume an

image through our devices all the time – that’s the

form it takes. I published that one last year and

now I’m working on a film

installation for it; it’s a more audio driven piece. The

actors themselves will be quite ambient.

want me to start with this, really? Sound is integral to think I had a certain

kind of synesthesia, and

once I started discovering what it was a few years

ago, I thought maybe that’s what I have. As much as

literature has been a part

of my inspiration ever since I was a child, music, like

anyone, I have a very deep

personal relationship with that you don’t really share that much, and you can’t

really share that much. I

definitely find it integral to my writing. There’s

a kind of lyrical style to

the writing and you can

probably see the influences of Hip-Hop within that. My visual work, again, is very much rooted in that. It’s really punchy, it’s really

loud – even when I’m trying to be quiet it’s really loud. I listen to music all the time, and it’s a constant thing,

it’s a constant discovery. I like really progressive music. I look for really

expansive work. I look

for a lot of new stuff, like

Oneohtrix Point Never who makes expansive, ambient, electronic music. I don’t

think we should tie down genres and that’s what’s

great about it. When I first fell in love with Hip-Hop was when I listened to

Outkast. I’m talking about their first three albums.

To me it was a discovery

of the South and of French


colonial legacy, and you

can hear it in the language.

They brought in a lot of the P-Funk, a lot of 70s Soul.

You got a sense of the really

sweaty, sweltering nights in the Savannah and Atlanta all through the music. To

me, Aquemini was one of the best Hip-Hop albums ever made.

You talk a lot about studying

‘Subcultures don’t really exist anymore because of the fact that everyone is a little bit exposed to everything’

your environment; what other aspects have you observed about contemporary life? I think living in the city,

you’re basically wearing a series of masks, and some of that is quite enjoyable because it’s theatrical.

You’re playing a role, going

out at night, partying, nobody really knows who you are,

and nobody really cares who you are. And if you’re smart enough, you can play with that. But there are moments

when you kind of get lost in the fog of all that quite easily.

It’s good to just step back a bit. This city is very predatory in that way. It can suck you into that kind of simulacra of real life.

I think we are a very transitory generation. It’s interesting to watch but there’s a lot of fall outs as well. Subcultures

don’t really exist anymore because of the fact that everyone is a little bit exposed to everything. You end up with a

much more generic culture. But we can have this fluid

multifarious identity and that’s ok. And also that transient [ society ] has changed more fundamental issues.

If you look at it anthropologically, it’s kind of changed the role of what a man and a woman plays in society. So the

old hunter gatherer type male and the responsibilities of that, and also the post war austerity where men needed

to quickly gather their family in order to survive and get things going. But we don’t have those responsibilities

anymore. If you look at modern masculinity, it’s one of

those things that is quite fraught because that need, or that responsibility doesn’t really exist. I think modern man can feel quite challenged like that. It’s like what are we now? We don’t have that role to play anymore.

Yes, and I feel that society is not only transitory, but there’s also a virtual disembodiment. A conflict between our physical self and our online presence.

What I’ve noticed is that the actual physical world, if you’re

looking at it right across the border, East to West, society in general has become a lot more conservative. But then the virtual space has become as wide as you like so I’m quite

interested in that juxtaposition. It’s the free transparency of information and ideas of the internet that is the only

thing that’s allowed our culture to evolve. I’ve decided to

embrace it. I think freedom as a notion is something that has dissipated anyway. You don’t necessarily see a lot of artists experiment with technology the way they could. Because

the two are very connected, science and art. You can simply

create an augmented reality with your phone, so things like that could be interesting to play with but you don’t really

see much of that. You see a lot of that technology being used

in more obvious areas like advertising and selling products, but not in terms of art work.

154 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt so far? Wow, haha! To kind of forgo complacency and I don’t just

mean that in a career ambition sort of sense. I mean more for your own self and life. That curiosity is kind of what keeps me going. I’m a generalist as in I have a general curiosity towards everything.

What advice would you give to your 21 year old self?

Just keep going. When I was at that age, at the time I used to feel slightly anxious because I wasn’t overly focused on any one thing and I thought that was a problem for me but then I realised no, I think it actually makes sense to look back

retrospectively and say that. It has taken a long time for me to grow up, and like how I was talking about masculinity

earlier, it takes a long time

make because the writer is

understand who I am, and

out in June at Salu.io. The

for a lot of men to grow up. It’s only recently I get it. I

that isn’t determined by any one thing, but by how I see

the world and how I want to experience it.

How shall we end?

Films, this is how we’re

going to end. So I’m working on a number of small

projects. The riot one will

be out pretty soon. It feels

like an obvious transition to

very much inspired by the

image. My website is coming reason I did it is, like we

were talking about before,

I’ve done a lot of work over the years that nobody

actually knows about, so it’s nice to have an area where

it all comes together so you can understand a little bit about me.

London/UK salu.io


Anthony Burrill

156 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


Anthony Burrill I’m Talking to You Words by Rachel Worth

A

sk More Questions. Think Of Your Own Ideas. Work Hard And Be Nice To People... Anthony Burrill is a master of the punchy, playful slogan. Stamped boldly onto bright blocks of colour, the graphic artist and designer’s prints manage to grab your attention, cheer you up and really make you think. All of this is achieved through nothing more than a handful of words. Aphoristic, succinct and steering clear of any clichés, his posters and prints, with their ingenious balance of the vocal and the visual, have gained the artist worldwide recognition across the graphic design community and beyond. His typographic, text-based compositions are held in the permanent collections of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and New York’s


‘The things I’m trying to talk about are things that we all share in common’ Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and his work has been exhibited in galleries around the globe. His distinctive style has also caught the eye of an impressive number of clients over the years, from London Underground to Amsterdam’s Hans Brinker Budget Hotel (aka ‘The Worst Hotel In the World’). Regularly collaborating with animators and musicians such as Air and Kraftwerk, there are many strings to Burrill’s bow. We caught up with the “Godfather of the graphic art scene” to discuss typography, optimism and overheard supermarket conversations. Hello Anthony! What piqued your interest in graphic design and typography prints? Can you tell us about where you studied or trained? When I was at school in the 80s I was really into music

and music graphics. I collected all the record sleeves of

my favourite bands and used to make pencil drawings of

people like Adam Ant. I was just always really interested in the kind of visual culture around music at the time. After doing an art foundation I did a degree in graphic design,

and then I did an MA at the Royal College of Art and it just kind of carried on from there.

Did you find that it was a tough industry to break into?

When I left college in the early 90s it was a pre-internet

time; nobody had a website, so it was more difficult to get

your work out there and seen. The only way to do this was

to contact people one-to-one, and that was a bit hard on me because I was quite shy at the time. I used to spend time

making little books and things to show others, so that was kind of how I got started.

Can you tell us a bit about the woodblock

technique? Has your practice changed at all over time?

I’ve always been interested in letterpress, woodblock and printing with mostly traditional methods, but it’s only

158 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


‘I’m generally quite an optimistic, happy person anyway’

when I moved down to Kent that I found the printers I work with, Adams of Rye. That was ten years ago now. They’re

very traditional printers. Most of my work is analogue, but then it’s always great to work with technology at the same time.

Alain de Botton has commented: “Burrill is a great designer because he makes you notice and appreciate truths that would otherwise remain dead and inert. His work has such resonance because it’s so true: we should all work hard and be nice”. Do you think the bold simplicity of the messages goes hand in hand with the medium?

I think that because what I do is visually very simple,

along with the ideas, it can maybe sometimes look a bit 160 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies

throwaway or a bit easy. But the things I’m trying to talk


about are things that we all share in common – you know,

Which piece or

thinking that I think can help create a happy life. So yeah,

of? What’s your

common truths and a bit of life knowledge. I’m trying

body of work are

it’s all kind of very simple stuff, it’s not complicated.

personal favourite

you most proud

to talk about the way I see things really and the ways of

print and why?

The playful, upbeat mantras in your posters

are very optimistic – I found myself grinning looking at some of them! Does this sense of optimism reflect your own character or worldview?

Yes, completely. My work’s a sort of real extension of me, so

all of the statements in my posters stem from ideas that are really important to me personally. I don’t just pick random phrases or clichés, I want each bit of text that I work with

to really mean something. I’m generally quite an optimistic, happy person anyway.

What’s the story behind your now-famous Work Hard And Be Nice To People poster?

What inspired it, and what are you typically influenced by in general? It was something that I once overheard in a supermarket

in Clapham, where I used to live. There was a lady talking

to the checkout girl, and they were just generally chatting

My favourite is probably

Work Hard And Be Nice To People. Even though it’s

been around for about ten years, I think it’s the one that a lot of people have

seen and tend to remember the most. But I guess it still represents what I’m all

about. I think that whatever I do, that’s always going to be the piece of work that will first come to mind when people think of my work.

What future projects or

when I heard her say: “Do you know the secret to a

collaborations can

that I remembered and thought a lot about. I think this

any exciting new

happy life? Work hard and be nice to people”. It was just

we expect from

is the thing that is most associated with my work, and

ventures on the

you? Are there

a comment she kind of said in passing, but it’s something it’s something that still rings true. From just listening to

horizon?

people, and trying to distil information.

I’m currently thinking about

about half past eight, and then I’ll normally be working in

covers general ideas about

What is a typical working day like?

Well, we’ve got two children so we get them off to school by the studio. I really like being in the studio most of the time. I tend to work a lot on the computer and I’m constantly

working out ideas for putting things into a certain medium, whether it’s screen print or woodblock or some other

kind of production technique. So I’m in the studio a lot,

answering a lot of emails, and then I tend to stop at around

writing a book, which will

probably be something that creativity and the way that I work.

Lastly, do you

have any advice for budding designers?

five o’clock. I try not to work in the evening or

Aim to create work that you

I think what I enjoy most is just finding out about new

on and make your own

on weekends.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

things and meeting new people. I’m a very inquisitive

person by nature, so I love discovering new things and

being actively involved in my surroundings, rather than

think has something to say, be involved in what’s going things happen!

being wrapped up in my own little world. I like to work a lot collaboratively, so having conversations with other people who have got different ideas to share is always enjoyable.

London/UK anthonyburrill.com


INJECT

162 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


Herman Kolgen

Sometimes the visual does not exist without the dynamic of the audio; I have to make something to create the colour that feeds back the music.

The Viscera and The Vessel


SEISMIK

Words by Zoe Kingsley

D

ynamic in his approach, Herman Kolgen’s textural dexterity as an audiovisual artist continues to make impact on the burgeoning digital aesthetic. The effects of his work having been recently felt at a special edition of Alpha-ville LIVE in London, which showcased two of his acclaimed pieces Inject and Dust. Retrospective of the premiere of his latest project Eotone, the fluctuating subject matter of Kolgen’s art reflects the innate intellectual kinetics and psychological oscillations that shape his nature. The one constant that remains in his pioneering work is the metaphoric and membranous vessel: the derailed symbolic train in Train Fragments; the receptive bodily sites in Seismik; and the technological mooring devices, which anchor Eotone. By utilizing a deductive and denotative monochrome aesthetic the Montreal based artist manages to de-flesh the stark environmental tensions that dominate his pieces. With a humanistic elasticity underpinning Kolgen’s outlook what is offered in his art is a complete experience.

164 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


TRAIN FRAGMENTS Train Fragments is a reinterpretation of Steve Reich’s Different Trains, right? Not exactly. The story was three years ago I received a

commission from France [Festival Cultures Electroni(k)]. It was a big night; it was a tribute for Steve Reich [composer] and different music pieces of Steve Reich. Each piece

was played by a different orchestra and one of them was Different Trains. It was not my idea, it was an idea from

the festival, and so I started to work on this piece. At the

beginning, it was supposed to be just for one night and then finito after that.

It was a great success and afterwards I received a letter of invitation to present this piece with another formation –

i.e. another orchestra. So that was the starting point. It was a little complicated to present this piece politically with

Steve Reich, and I decided that I had worked too hard on

this piece to let it go. I couldn’t present it if the orchestra didn’t have the [copy]right to Steve Reich‘s work and

subsequently it wasn’t possible to present the piece which

was a shame. I decided to continue and adapt this piece; I’d create the music and everything and therefore be able to

present it everywhere. That’s the time when I wrote Train

Fragments. It’s inspired by Different Trains, I took maybe 25

per cent of the images from Different Trains but I recreated a totally different story.

The link between both the pieces is very simple. Firstly,

Steve Reich used on the stage a reel-tape, a pre-recording which the musicians played over. In Train Fragments I composed music that the musicians play over and

improvise over, I created also a graphic score to cue the

musicians. This was a common point between the pieces. I decided to keep the train. The train to be honest was not part of my overall artistic approach but I had a lot

In your art you seem to focus on the bare bones of the investigated monolithic concept. By focusing, or zooming in, and magnifying the lens onto the parts of a whole, what are you saying about the whole, as well as the parts, and their relationship to each other? I work in a very intuitive manner. I work with a lot of

technique but also at the same time, I follow ‘something’.

I think what interests me is the territories near the human. The near territory can be very microscopic, which can influence you. Then there are the large territories, as

explored in the Urban Wind project, where there is a more

large-scale connection between the human and his territory. In Dust it is also this: the invisible near you, which can affect you more than you think.

The idea of space and time along with other tensions, I find, come up in your work. In Train Fragments, the idea of space seems decontextualized with the scattering of train pieces across landscapes. In your following pieces, Seismik and Eotone, your artwork is contextualized in real-time. How do you contextualize time in Train Fragments?

It’s very different. Train Fragments is a mix of a cinematic approach. Time is more considered inside this piece with the relationship between the musicians because we have to follow together, build up together. We have to react in

real time to make the other time-scale happen, the timeline of the story. We have an elastic timeline which we play

with, and which we have to follow to maintain a dialogue between the musicians and myself.

SEISMIK

Seismik makes the invisible visible through the appropriation of the New Aesthetic: a digitally founded visual medium. Does such an artistic

of train images so I decided to keep it. Also with Steve

Reich this piece was about the war: before, during and

after the war. It’s a beautiful piece with a human charge and emotion so I decided to be a little more abstract but

keep something that is very important: the tragedy which occurs to the train. In my piece you don’t know what has happened. I transferred that dramatic moment from the

original to Train Fragments. In French we call it souvenir

[i.e. an elegiac memento], I kept this element within Train Fragments: it’s a flashback to the past.

‘What interests me is the territories near the human’


Train Fragments 166 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


Herman Kolgen © Photo by Justina Šuminaitė

endeavour, to make the invisible visible (or

I find this work very symbolic of the entirety

heard), make the use of digital inevitable due to

of your art in evoking mass anxiety through

its innate construction to render the abstract

an exploration of tension. The tension in this

For sure, you are totally right about this. Technology

was and is always important for the artist. Before the computer it was very important. In history, the artist

is very connected to the technology. Now everything is

work specifically is embodied in geological topography, the compacted shifts and movements of rock. What are you suggesting is the social cause of anxiety?

multiplied thousand by thousands. I can say that at the

To be honest, I do not have a message in my work.

the closed circuit of the computer was a machine, which

inside my work that is a reflection. It is not my goal to

beginning, fifteen years ago or twenty years ago, when I

started playing with the computer it was so important. In calculated and helped me work faster, but with another

type of thinking i.e. we can deconstruct like this etc. It was not just fast; it was a new kind of thinking. Now, the very

important thing is that “yes, we have a machine”, but this

machine is connected with other machines, other data, it’s

huge! The painting pigment is now replaced by the pigment of data on the screen and on the internet.

The work is very connected to me, it’s very personal. Without thinking too much about it I put something

convey a message; I think it’s an effect of ricochet that

interpretations happen. For example, when I created Inject it was very hard for me at that point in my life: my mother died, I broke with my long-term girlfriend who was very

important to me. This year when I started to work on Inject I had an image in my head: it was a human body preserved

in a liquid. I created Inject by placing a man inside a cistern without oxygen as a means of exploring what happens

when you cut off a fundamental element to a human. Again it’s about the territory, but it’s more so about the cut of the thread and his relation to the cistern. The cistern is more like a mirror; he can see the camera. This piece was very connected to how I lived and felt at the time.

168 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


‘Technology was and is always important for the artist’ When people saw Inject, depending where they were in their lives, they came up to me and said: “Wow! I

can relate”. So I can understand that some people can

understand some things [in a work]. But I’m too respectful of the liberty and freedom of the [audience], and I know if

you try to say something fifty per cent of the time it will be badly received. For me it is enough to just be honest, and

take what I feel inside my work, and if I just satisfy myself, then that is more important.

Generally, in what sensory form, either visual or aural, does a concept come to you initially?

It happens differently. Before I was a visual artist and a musician, and before using the computer I always

vacillated between both mediums. When I bought my first computer twenty years ago it was a kind of psychological [revelation]. It was difficult; to play with my band and

not pay enough attention to my visual side, and when I

was young my father would say you have to choose. Now

it is not true: we are multi-tasking. I’ve always vacillated

between visual and music but now through the computer,

it’s the same language. With the same data you can create

at the same time the same visual and the same music. The difference between the two mediums is becoming less

and less. Sometimes the visual does not exist without the dynamic of the audio; I have to make something to create the colour that feeds back the music.

EOTONE In your investigations between the visual and aural in works such as Eotone and Train Fragments, what are your findings? It is different. Eotone is more of an installation than a performance. Firstly the relation between time is

completely different, because now the audience go inside the works and the world inside is now territorially-

prepositioned. It’s like Seismik; each structure is connected in real time with different cities in the world. So the

audience goes inside this structure and for the first time they will hear the dialogue between New York and Paris and Berlin and Tokyo for example. I wanted to make

something which approaches the invisible again, but

something that was once

An argued aim of

of Berlin and Paris. We can

element and

choose symbolic cities that

through a medium.

theory of a butterfly’s wing

As an ‘audiocinetic

Australia, and how it can be

engagement

the world. I was thinking

effective way to

impossible in dialogue for

art is to try and

connect this with different

express, convey

used to be at war.

It’s almost a

movement in one part of

sculptor’ do you

received somewhere like in

with sound and

about this: taking the wind

produce art of true

example, between the cities

grasp an elusive

parts of the history; we can

or represent it

The idea came from the

utopian pursuit.

the world for example in

feel an equal

London on the other side of

image is the most

from Tokyo and receiving it

dimensionality?

in Montreal, and from there

For sure we have a lot of

cities; to put the audience

is one of them. But this is a

also receiving the wind

from New York or different inside this and make them feel what’s happened in these cities.

different ways to express,

and this [audio and visual] very, very strong way to express.

When you combine the

sound and image together it’s not 1+1=2. It’s 1+1=10!

The power makes the sound and image in one medium, which the human sees,

listens and feels in the body, at the same time without

thinking, just receiving it, so strong!

Now we have the computer, and we have a way to meld the two so perfectly. It is

something that is connected with our epoch. It is

something that is particular

and very strong. At different levels as well: psychology; in the flesh, in the body, in the vibration of the body; and the intellect, at the same time.

Montreal/Canada kolgen.net


170 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


Elliot Grove Movies are made, not by the pictures, but by the music, or the sound.

The Making of Raindance Film Festival Words by Jeremiah Tayler . Photography by Justina ŠuminaitE

H

e’s a man of many tales with a penchant for reeling them off through such rhetorical arts as parenthesis, nonchalance and the occasional dramatic pause, so that it may take a while before one realises which iconoclast it is he’s divulging for you as he speaks, as he dips, anthropologically into our English idioms like one who was born under the banner of the Union Jack. Elliot Grove’s got some ability, and is something of a philanthropist, too. In contrariness to the now globalised and heavily marketed term of ‘independent’ cinema, you’ve finally been able to tune a festival where people from various means and places can champion their efforts to the world of film. Do you feel you’ve achieved a vision? What I do now with Raindance, or what I did before? My parents were Amish and told me never ever to go to the

theatre because the devil lived there and when I was 16 I

snuck into town and saw Lassie Come Home. It was my first movie which only cost 99 cents, and I thought “wow, it’s

amazing”, then I ended up in Toronto, and when I graduated high school I got a scholarship and studied Sculpture in

this very famous art school and ended up a specialist and based on that, in the

mid-70s, I came over here

and worked as a stagehand at the BBC, working with

Monty Python, The Old Grey Whistle Test… I later went

on to work for Henry Moore. I went back to Toronto with painting sets, and I came

back here in the 80s with my kids; then, fancying

myself an entrepreneur, I

started buying and selling properties and in the last big recession of 1991, I

went completely bust and

at that time I was living just outside of London in one of those state national trust properties. The farmer

that was living in this big

surrounding property, said,


What do you think

after about a year, “I can’t

stand watching you mope around like that, feeling

sorry for yourself, and as

long as you’re feeling sorry for yourself, no doctor can help you”. So I said to him:

“what should I do?” and he said, “you should do what

helps to drive that

‘He made it cause he wanted to prove he could do shit and his film Godzilla has just come out’

momentum? Is it a large crowd around you or having pure and simple control over your directorial vision?

you love”, and I thought,

the road from here in the city of London, another guy said I

We all, I mean all of us, do

then I’d lost all my contacts,

to Belfast with the best maritime engineers and builders

know we have to do, like

“well, what do I love?” Lassie Come Home; movies. But by so I started Raindance. So that gives a fact file, I’m

not sure if I answered your question or not…

Erm, I don’t know, but it situates

things very nicely. It suggests that one should always follow one’s lofty goals! What I would say to

someone that’s starting out, is (I go very religious): the story of Noah and the ark;

whatever several thousand years ago you have this

guy in Persia and a guy in

the middle of the mountain says to his family one day,

want to build a boat, and he went around with his shirt and tie and briefcase and he got tons of money and he goes up the world has ever known and builds the biggest, fastest,

most expensive passenger liner in the history of maritime navigation: the Titanic.

So now you have your choices, do you want to float and work with your own stuff and do it on your own, or do you want to wait for the one-in–a-million chance that

someone’s going to give you a shit load of money. But then,

the route seems to be that; a mate of mine, Gareth Edwards, made a film called Monsters (2010) four years ago, he made it with a camera not much better than that [he points to my own camera]. He was a special effects guy, he made

it cause he wanted to prove he could do shit and his film

Godzilla (2014) has just come out. So he went up like that. Another guy I used to know, self-taught, a bit like Noah,

but he started off with a little Noah’s ark and moved on to the Titanic. The difference between Chris Nolan and the Titanic is that none of his Titanic’s have sunk yet.

So, is it a natural progression for you to build

up from movies to writing books, the way of the Titanic?

“I want to build a boat”

No, it just sort of happened. Well, part of it was ego. I

don’t know anything about

that might be published sometime next year, and then when

(make a film) and they say,

“but why, you’re crazy, you boat building, why would you want to do that, and

besides” they said, “we live hundreds of miles away

from the sea” and he says,

“no, I want to build a boat” and he did, and it floated,

and we know that because we’re all here today: Noah and the ark. So that’s one

way you can do it, the other

way is if you look at history, 111 years ago, just down

wanted to write a book, so I wrote a book and then I wrote

another one and then another and then I wrote a novel and

I was writing, I realised I was actually quite enjoying it. But I never thought I would do it, I never thought it would be

a natural progression. One of the things is, since I started

Raindance, I get up every morning, seven days of the week and do exactly what I want to do. No one tells me what to do. Of course, I have to do dishes and laundry and every

once in a while, I do have to go shopping for more food or whatever, but y’know, I’m so called ‘living the dream’. Yeah, yeah, being your own man!

It’s hard work, though – the getting there is hard work!

172 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies

lots of things we know we shouldn’t be doing, but laundry or cutting the

grass, or whatever, although I think… I don’t know, I

think it’s really simple, do

what you love, that’s what the trick is. There will be someone working in this

coffee shop who just loves the smell of good coffee,

just loves the expression on someone’s face when

they hand them a sandwich or whatever, and that’s

great – I think it’s amazing

that someone can be happy

doing that, but my suspicion is, there’ll also be someone

working in this coffee shop who woke up this morning and said, “oh fuck, I’ve got to get up and go to work”.

People get lazy too; society is getting dumbed down,

they don’t want you to get

better, they don’t want you to get rich, they calculate, “well, we have this many people working in coffee

shops for minimum wage, that’s good, and we don’t

want them to get more, and we don’t want them to get smarter because they’ll

ask awkward questions to the government, and it’s difficult to defend

and all this shit. We want


people dumbed down”. Our

audio cassette in, turn it up

music, our dance, our visual

could hear it, we liked it, we

culture’s being dumbed

down, our filmmaking, our arts are being dumbed

down, and if you wanna

see the cool-shit stuff, go

to China where they work their fucking asses off . I

saw a new young twenty’s art show at the Saatchi

Gallery two years ago, it

blew my mind; style, craft,

really loud, and drive down the motorway, and if he

thought it was an okay mix. Yeah?

Yeah, that low res. But that’s what most people hear now, we’re forgetting how to

listen, and we’re forgetting how to see.

On music, when you work with

wit, ideas way beyond

film, composition

American art show, because

and narrative as

like Picasso, by the time

important is sound

anything you’d see at a new,

can carry or

they had the skill – they’d

well as any other

they were thirteen.

to you?

young British or young

convey emotion

done their 10,000 hours,

signifier, how

I feel I’m inclined to think, for whatever reason, that the state of society has turned into one where we’ve become much more susceptible to accepting rubbish.

Well, let’s just take music; you can get the cheap

download, and listen to it with your cheap earbuds,

with all the noise and stuff, and people are forgetting what live music sounds

like or what a really good recording sounds like,

because they just don’t

know. When I was a kid, growing up, I knew a

music producer who was

recording a new song for a

band that he was managing,

Sound is everything, when I’m working late I’ll find a favourite track and I���ll just put it on repeat and it just sort of sits there

and in terms of movies,

movies are made, not by the pictures, but by the

music, or the sound, and it’s huge. In fact, you can make a movie with really crappy images, but if you’ve got a

great soundtrack, musical score, people will think

it’s an awesome movie. On

the other hand, if you have

the best cameraman in the world, the best pictures in

the world, but get the wrong soundtrack, people think,

“oh, that’s kinda shit”, you know, very dire, and that kind of thing.

That’s very

interesting, do

and he would say to me,

you think auditory

his car and we’d put the

visual ones, then?

“come with me”, and he’d put the soft-top down in

‘I think it's really simple, do what you love, that's what the trick is’ Well, the way our brains are wired (I found this out at art school), is when you have to strain to hear something,

our vision dims, so if you have the right, proper sounds;

boom, everything’s good. We threw a party last week, the Independent Filmmakers’ Ball, and when people walked

in, there was just a shit-hot band playing. It wasn’t a ‘cool’ groovy band, it was just a good, ‘golden oldies’ kinda fun, happy band, but people just loved that. If we had walked in and there was some new-age electronic band from

Helsinki, that’s the coolest and hippest and everyone in

their magazines says, “oh my god, this is great”, and they’re ‘stylish’ but they don’t have rhythm, then hmm… You know what I mean?

Of course. So you work hard at what you love and enjoy being your own boss. Do you see yourself, the people you’ve worked with, or

those who may be yet to screen at Raindance Festival to be the people to shape the future of film and cinema? Well, I certainly hope so, I’m very fortunate to have known Christopher Nolan, he’s done amazing, but what I’m really

looking for is the person who’s going to do the cross media thing, because that person, and it could well be you... Yes, I’ve stolen your idea just now!

But seriously, that person, when they figure out how to do that, is going to do for cinema what Lucas did with Star Wars, what sound did for movies; it’s going to be huge.

Someone’s going to really figure that out, and that persons going to be much copied and admired, and if they get their

career sorted out and don’t get ripped off or die in oblivion

somewhere, that person’s going to be the new cultural icon. That person could be anyone, you just don’t know.

And so I’d learnt the importance of a strong work ethic, on pursuing what makes you happy, and how, sometimes, it can do you good to suffer and overcome your own personal hunger. And also, what a lot of stories one man can collate in his life!

senses take precedence over

London/UK raindance.org


Christopher Makos

The Ulysses of American Photography

174 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


Christopher Makos Words by Zoe Kingsley

A

s a means of creating historiographical order an

back to the

comes parable: educational, connotative and

and fundamental

element of mythology is employed to validate

the notion of order in the first place. From myth instructive to the next generation. Reactionary

oscillations between paradigms (Modernism to

Postmodernism, Abstract Expressionism to Pop

Art) are part of the grand cultural narrative, as are the consistent roles those figures assume. Artists

are mere instruments in the creation of their own cultural epoch, and identities are hijacked for the purposes of defining subsequential – possibly

incidental – eras. The carved enclave positions of mentor, protégé and collaborator are consistent hierarchal roles which are sustained within art

movements and which are essential to the history and mythologies we maintain.

Photographer Christopher Makos is the ultimate paradox who both reinforces this ontological

narrative and breaks it: the Ulysses who debunks

the experienced odyssey. A contemporary of Andy

Warhol and an active photographer in his own right (1980s BXW, Equipose, Exhibitionism, Altered Image), his position from behind the camera has often

obscured him from the historical narrative that he has helped construct. The narrative concisely and sensationally captured in his scene-defining 1977 publication (now available in an Uncut edition) White Trash which juxtaposed the New York

uptown and downtown cult of celebrity with a then still-developing highbrow/lowbrow photographic aesthetic.

Makos is a transitional and vacillating figure himself. In conversation he digresses with a

persistent fixation on the ‘now’, before sliding

boyish whimsy symptomatic to a Pop Art

tradition: instead of the metonymic Campbell's soup can, a Kiehl's

cosmetic bottle is presented with a Makos design on

the label. The epic

becomes incidental, inflations deflated and the inverse a

likely occurrence further along in

conversation. It is with such turns of earnestness

and refreshing

disregard for scale and proportion that the idea of

play and reality are interwoven

and become one. A distilled essence can be found in

such digressions and ellipsis. For this reason the

interviewer lets the Man and Myth, who run tandem, speak for themselves:


I was wondering if you

Tennessee Williams and collaborator to Andy Warhol,

could elaborate on Man

how do the dots connect in this narrative?

Ray and your relationship

In the 1970s you came to New York City and you

as an apprentice to

21-year-old blonde-haired blue-eyed cool guy. I’d

a friend and as a protégé?

were open to experience. The city was a fertile ground for artists, writers and actors. I was a

him. How long were you connected to him as both

talk to everybody and they’d talk back to you, and

I’d like to take the

was as easy to do things in real terms and in real

because I’ve been

before you knew it you were talking to Tennessee

Williams or you’re being invited to The Factory. It

time as it is for people to push buttons and become

friends on Facebook. I love all the new social media, but for me, I guess you’d have to say I’m more of a

theatre actor: I like the response from real people and I like real things. Because of that vibe, of

bumping into people, I met Dotson Rader, a political writer in New York City, and he was a good friend of Tennessee Williams and then I met Tennessee. Tennessee was so fascinating.

When you come to New York and you’re 21, people

that have money just say, “well, why don’t you go and do this for me” and help them out. I do this all the

time: if I see a young person I’ll just say, “go to my

studio and speak to the guy who works there (Peter Wise), and why don’t you work there for a couple of weeks until you figure out what you want to do?”

So, I learnt that lesson very well, of apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship is something so valuable and people don’t get to do it anymore because rent is so high and young people can’t live in the city anymore.

Because of Dotson Rader I also met Andy Warhol at the Whitney [Whitney Museum of American Art]

and Andy asked me to come to The Factory, which

I didn’t do because frankly I thought he’d died! So I

didn’t go, but then I had an exhibit of my photographs downtown called Step On It, Photos On The Floor, and I thought, “this’d be a good time to ask him [Warhol] to come and see my show”. He didn’t come but [a

friend of his] said I should come to The Factory so I did. And then Andy and I became friends.

Andy appropriated lots of photography like Electric Chair and from newspapers, so he thought:“Great, this guy is a photographer we can work together

and take pictures”; and I taught Andy how to take pictures. [Andy’s] art dealer Luciano Anselmino

was Man Ray’s art dealer, so then I took a trip to Italy and that is how I met Man Ray.

176 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies

opportunity to set

the record straight

doing this recently.

People – journalists

– often say I studied

semester. People

also turn that thing about ‘studying’

with Man Ray or

‘apprenticing’ with

him into this. Some people may take

four years to gain an

education and others a couple of days. In my time with Man Ray I learned a lot from him in those two days.

architecture in

Thank you for answering

and I’d just look

can imagine after decades

Paris; I’d go to

that question and de-

at these places, so

of this it accumulates to

Paris all the time

mythologising it because I

they’d [journalists]

some point, doesn’t it?

say, “you studied

There’s this thing

The same thing

and I don’t want to

architecture?” and

I’d say, “yeah I did”.

with Man Ray; I met Man Ray twice in

a two-day period, and we hung out

all day. I talked to him about what was the biggest thing he could

remember about

photography and he had told me at the

time that it was the idea of ʻtrust your instincts’. When

you’re looking at a contact sheet and

the first thing that

comes to you: obey that instinct.

If you go to college

or university, if you learn one amazing thing about your

craft that is enough for the whole

sometimes: people mistake stories

burst their bubble. We all live in our

own special world and it is so much

fun to live in your

own world. Let you

believe in what you want to believe… I never want to

burst their bubble

because life is this

ongoing education, it’s so much fun, I

love what I get to do

and I’m a very happy guy. So, for me, I

don’t want to make anyone unhappy, why bother? I’m

happy to reminisce and tell you my

stories about the past but I’m very much a current

person… For me

the most important

Altered Images

You were the protégé of Man Ray, an assistant to


moment in my life

right now is talking to you. That being

said, I understand the importance

of history, of my

background, where I was at that moment

and where I’m going.

In an article for The New

York Times, you explicitly separated yourself from Warhol’s Factory scene. You said you were more of a friend of Warhol’s, is that correct? I am a Factory

member by default

because I was there and I spent time there. I wasn’t a

salary [paid] person, all my projects like

Altered Image, where Andy is wearing a

wig, that wasn’t for a magazine article,

that wasn’t a Factory project: it was for me and Andy and the collaboration

we came up with. I would go on all these trips with Andy to Paris.

Can you imagine a 25-year-old Debbie Harry

guy flying on the

Concorde every few

‘I am a Factory member by default because I was there and I spent time there’

178 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies

months to Paris?

You can’t get a better education about the world than that.

New York was, and

still is a great fertile ground for learning.


Man Ray

In your portraits are you trying to capture the denotation or connotation of the subject? What I’m trying to capture is the essence of the

people. I hate to sound like Christina Aguilera but everybody is beautiful. You just have to find that spot in them, and if you can’t find that spot right away, help them bring that spot out. Everyone is beautiful and they have to realize that. You may not be exactly physically beautiful the way you want, but there is always something about so

many people that I meet and I can find that in that person. When I do portraits of people, whether

they’re paying for them or I just think they’d make good subject matter, I always have this interview process with them to see what’s going on in their

mind: “I want to see what’s going on in your brain;

Earth and so we

taking pictures,

image is out there,

asked, “do I ever

want to use it well.

If our picture or our

if it’s not portraying us as a happy

person, or that we

want to be alive or in a good way, it is

not good. So I always want to make sure that I always do

that, I want that

same feeling about myself to be had for others.

are you ready for me to take your picture?” I want

How has The Digital

then you can imagine. For me, I find it difficult to

the essence of the

to make sure that they understand. Doing a portrait

affected the medium

have my picture taken, I have to trust the person; if

photograph, of the lens,

of someone is very intimate, it’s more intimate

of photography? Has

you’re going to take my persona and freeze it I want

the camera changed?

to make sure that it represents me properly. It’s

so important, we only get a certain time on planet

No it’s the same.

When I was first

analogue pictures, people always take coloured

pictures” and I’d say: ‘When I’m

looking through the

lens they are always coloured pictures,

it’s just how they’re recorded”. I look

through the lens

and it’s the same

thing that’s been

going on for years,

for me. It’s just how I capture them and

hold onto them. The capturing them and holding onto them

is much quicker. It’s a different process. For me, it’s not so


much the process – the mechanical or technical

process of photography – once again it’s about how I use my eye, and how I cajole or direct my subject matter into the pictures I’ve taken.

Throughout my adult career it’s always been about collaboration, which I love to do. Whether it was

collaborating with an art director for a book project or collaborating with Warhol on the Altered Image material, or as I did in my last book, which I did

with Calvin Klein called Exhibitionism. Currently

I have an ongoing collaboration with Paul Solberg [The Hilton Brothers] who does these beautiful

prints, beautiful flowers, beautiful series, and we’ve been doing that for the past ten years. That is part of my brand along with Christopher Makos, Mr.

Solberg has his own brand as well. It’s like a rock group, and the lead singers go out and they have

their own albums at the same time. I guess I always

wanted to be in a rock group: so the Hilton Brothers are perfect for that.

That leads straight into my next topic, which is about

collaboration, especially with Warhol and specifically with Lady Warhol, the collection of images you took for two days in the factory. It’s an homage to Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp’s collaboration: Rrose Sélavy. Through that utilization of homage what are you saying

We The People

about yourself, about Andy Warhol, about Man Ray and about Duchamp? What does Lady Warhol say? It talks about how history is important and you

have to respect it. Also, in a way, Warhol and I were collaborating with Duchamp and Ray because we were using an idea that they had and we updated that idea. For Andy it was a perfect fit because in many ways he was an appropriation artist in the way he took pictures. Everybody always puts it

into context of: you hung out with Warhol, but it’s more like: Warhol hung out with me. People don’t

understand that, I try to express that to journalists. Sure, I hung out with him too but the thing is, it was give-and-take. It was a true friendship. I wasn’t a fan – I’m not Calvin Klein’s fan; we’re friends, he lives three blocks from me.

Collaboration is just like a conversation. Right now we’re collaborating, we’re having a conversation… Sure you have to be strong enough to let go of

things. Some people absolutely cannot collaborate

180 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies

because their ego is so overwhelming. If you’re familiar with yourself and you love yourself

enough, once you understand who you are then

you become free to let go and you are able to love

another person, you are able to love your own work and you are able to love somebody else’s work and it doesn’t confront you. There is no reason to be jealous of other people’s work.

When I work with Paul, actually sometimes – I’d do

it with Warhol – we’ll go and take the same pictures together, and then I’d think, “his is much better

than mine” but that’s okay, because I realized that when we do the next round of pictures maybe I’ll

take the better picture. But it doesn’t matter to me who comes up with the better thing. In a kind of a

way I’m very socialist about this: whoever comes up with the better idea, it’s cool, it’s alright. My life is


have so much fun doing what we do, it is about

‘happy’. The images that I’m trying to do, because they are so in the moment and there’s not a lot of

lag time between when you take them and produce them, they’re really about happiness. I don’t try to

show sad photos. I don’t live in Syria, so the photos

I’m taking are not going to show how unhappy that world is. But I’m sure if I were there I would try to find it in the most terrible situation, I’d try to find some happiness or some relief from the horror of being in a war.

I’m such an optimist that I’m sure I’d try to find the bright moment in life, because I can’t believe how

quickly my life has gone. I mean my life is not over

but it moves so quickly. Enjoy every moment of your life and do not get wrapped up in small things. If

you’re getting stuck on a chapter or paragraph as a writer just pass over it because if you get stuck in a spot you won’t get to enjoy the rest of what you

are doing. Photography pretty much reflects that.

I learnt early on never get stuck in a thing. If I can’t get a good picture I’ll just go onto the next thing, and that is my philosophy in general about how I

We The People

lead my life.

Do you see anything recurring in the art scene today? Are there particular motifs that are appearing in younger artists work?

‘Enjoy every moment of your life and do not get wrapped up in small things’ not like a monarchy. My world is not quite like that. That world works and it’s fun and it’s great with

the pageantry. It’s the same thing with the Catholic

religion: there’s no pope in my life, no cardinals and bishops. For me, it’s much more egalitarian.

What do you think the current epoch of photographers

The theme is money right now. Corporate America and all the big art dealers and stuff, it’s all about

turning over artists. Money has never been such a big factor in the arts scene before. For a brief

moment it was the influx of the Chinese artists,

and that was five year ago. Solberg and I have this project called We The People and it’s images from China and quintessential America that relate to

this connection the United States and China has to have, and does have. In China now the Gross

National Product is bigger than in the United States. Although they may beat us in that work and money, we’re inventors in America and as long as that continues I’m not really worried.

are achieving now or trying to achieve now? What are you trying to achieve in the current climate? What I’m trying to do is what [Pharrell Williams] does by default with his song, his theme is about ‘happy’. The work and the pictures that I take,

especially with Solberg when we get together we

NY/US makostudio.com


Totem 2011 Acrylic on canvas

182 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


Michael Vasquez The content of my work has strong foundations in rap music. But I think that beyond the connections with content, the aggressive, tough, and intimidating aspects of my aesthetic are also influenced by the sonic qualities found in rap music.

A Masculinity Essay on Canvas


Words by Heike Dempster

M

ichael Vasquez’s imposing figurative paintings

It all started with

immediately hit the viewer with their raw

the saying ‘You

tension. The artist’s very real, yet imaginary

are the company

narratives offer glimpses into the world

you keep’. Taking

of American gangs, exploring hierarchy,

a conceptual

territory and structure. Vasquez also uses his

approach to

own experiences with gangs in his native St

self-portraiture,

Petersburg, Florida, as the basis for his in depth

Vasquez presented

examinations of masculinity and power.

photos of his friends for a

Vasquez’s work is rooted in his upbringing and

project while

struggles to identify a male role model. Growing

studying at the

up as an only child of a single parent mother

New World School

Vasquez found himself in pursuit of structure

of the Arts in

and a sense of belonging. His friends, many with

Miami. Now,

gang affiliations, became his extended family

represented by

and as he interacted with them during his quest

renowned Miami

to understand what it means to be a man, he

gallery Fred

found answers in the rules and shared group

Snitzer, Vazquez

sensibilities prevalent in gang culture.

has emerged as a powerful voice

In his powerful paintings Vasquez visualizes St

that explores

Petersburg gang culture without stereotypes.

street reality via

He paints his subjects with an aura exuding

fine art based on

toughness and masculine prowess but also

his in-depth and,

humility, using his signature style of obvious

anthropologically

markings.

speaking, emic understanding of

I enjoy the evidence of the hand. I enjoy seeing the

gang culture.

evidence of somebody sitting there and making these marks and how all these marks come

Some may not

together to compose this image. Talking about

like the subject

his style, Vasquez adds, Let’s say I need to make a

matter and

mark and it is supposed to be a square but when I

dismiss the work

make it, it is not quite a square. It is a little rough

as glorifications

around the edges. It does not matter because our

of violence but

eyes are going to take care of it.

Vasquez rather portrays the

Each mark is part of the story that unfolds

human aspect:

through Vasquez’s paint strokes, collaged

inviting the viewer

together from the many individuals the

to have a dialogue

artist has met and photographed. Aspects of

and understand

hundreds of tales converge onto the canvas and, if combined, present a continuing narrative in the form of a concise essay on masculinity. 184 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


to go beyond the surface, discover new depth, finetune his art and develop it further. You graduated from the New World School of the Arts in Miami. Why did you choose that school? I was born in St Petersburg. I lived there for 18 years and when I graduated

from high school, I knew I

wanted to go to art school and I knew I wanted to

stay in Florida, which was not necessarily the best

way of thinking, but I did not have the intention of

going off to school and then becoming some art star. I

wanted a degree in graphic design that I could go and get a job with. It was just an obvious choice to me to come to Miami. I felt

like there would be more opportunities here.

Can you tell us

The Neighborhood Tour 2006 Mixed media on canvas

why many young men need the sense of belonging to a group with set rules. Looking back at what I have done, I would say I have been somewhat successful in letting people into this world or hopefully like my way of thinking and how these people in my paintings got into the situation, explains Vasquez. Why does someone get involved with a street gang? What are all these factors? There is no way I could just make one painting that carries all that weight. As Vasquez keeps painting his gang of dudes that he envisions meeting one day in a retrospective, he allows his work to evolve organically. As he matures as an artist, he takes every opportunity

more about the environment that initially inspired your current subject matter?

Dealing with me growing up as an only child of a single

parent mother. That’s where the work comes from. All of it. That’s why, when I

came of age to go hang out

in the neighbourhood after school, I latched on to the

neighbourhood hoodlums. It was this idea of an extended family. We did not do

anything crazy, just riding around on bikes, going to


Chain Strangle 2010 Acrylic on canvas

the park, hanging out, skipping school every now and then, drinking a beer. Some of these kids had older brothers

that were more involved with a gang and I saw those sorts of symbols and identifiers. Why are these kids all wearing the same thing? They all got on the same shoes. They

all have their socks pulled up. They all have on a certain

colour. Everybody’s hat is to one side. I liked that. I liked

that idea of a group. From a naïve teenager’s perspective,

that was attractive to me. At the time I didn’t know this but

retrospectively thinking it’s almost as if I was sort of looking for or found what I was missing in my life, like not really

having any brothers or sisters to play with. Not really having that full-fledged sense of family. No father figure in my life. Who teaches me how to be a man? What does a little kid

think a man is? I think I saw those things in those people. A

certain level of toughness, a certain level of demanding and being in control. Masculinity. Power. The respect that they got. Dressing the same, talking the same, being a part of something, being a part of a group.

186 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies

‘Dressing the same, talking the same, being a part of something, being a part of a group’

When we think about St Petersburg we don’t really think of hard-core gangbanging. In St Petersburg gangs are a very suburban thing. There is a large Southeast Asian population. When these

people moved here from Cambodia and Laos and

Vietnam, their kids were

six, seven years old. There

was a lot of struggle in that region. These people came from tough lives and their parents didn’t speak any

English and they are getting picked on at school so


they ended up cliquing up.

What is your responsibility as an artist?

There is a gang scene that

My responsibility is to make my work, whatever that may

there but it has certainly

too crazy. I definitely understand where people are coming

started in St Petersburg in the late 80s. It’s still

changed. What we had in the 90s in St Petersburg as far as gangs, was like

West Coast gangbanging. Dickie sets and Chuck

Taylor’s and Cortez shoes.

A real West Coast aesthetic.

That’s because a lot of those families who were from

Asia went to California first.

be. Hopefully we have kind of described it here. That’s the

only responsibility that I have. I have never made anything

from when they look at my work and see it as a glorification of gang culture. I say culture but they would probably

say violence. I think that sort of sums up the perspective. You are coming in with that mindset that gangs are bad

and I am over here trying to address what are gangs and

why people join them. On surface level I think it’s easy for people to identify with that idea of glorification but it’s deeper than that.

Your paintings are probably the only context in which some people can look at for that long and

Do you still paint

really see the person. Do you maybe feel like

from photographs

that’s a responsibility of yours? To humanize

now as you did

your subjects?

when you started portraits in school? Do you take those images yourself? Yes. Most of them are people that I know directly. Not

Yes. I think that’s definitely a responsibility of mine

because that goes back to me trying to give people the perspective of what I saw and how I saw these people

when I was growing up. That is bringing them this level of humility to the individual through the painting.

You also have a clothing line. What made you get into it?

really new people that I

The line is called So It Seems. It has always been a dream to

but I don’t really deal with

cultural commentary through street art. Then we started

meet. Every now and then I will do something like that

strangers. More like friends of friends. I still have some

sort of connection even if it is several branches down

the tree. I am still connected to it. A lot of the work lately, I have been constructing

these collages first, so I take elements from different

photographs and I collage those together to create

these sort of worlds that

allow my ideas to play out a little more effectively. The

photographs are reference. Hopefully the painting

transcends the photograph.

do a clothing line. In college I was part of a collaborative art group called Gorilla Tactics and we did a lot of social and

making clothes. It was called Fabricated. We were basically taking older garments like older graphic tees and taking

elements from those tees by cutting them out and affixing them to other garments, like t-shirts and jackets. We

never really pursued the Fabricated thing but we knew we

manageable, a territory.

These things are obviously all important in gang

culture. Coming from this

culture, people take a lot of

pride in their block. All this

stuff is inspired by personal experience but I want it

to transcend that and be

something a little bit more universal.

How does music

inspire your work?

The content of my work has strong foundations in rap music. But I

think that beyond the

connections with content, the aggressive, tough,

and intimidating aspects of my aesthetic are also influenced by the sonic qualities found in rap music. I usually work

while listening to rap,

but on the opposite side of the spectrum. I also

have an interest in down

tempo, ambient, electronic music. I utilize this genre

when zoning out on colour

harmony and mark making.

wanted to do another line at some point. We came out as So it Seems – we are working on that. It’s like a marathon, not a sprint – slow and steady. We are in Shoe Gallery here in

Miami and we have a store in St Petersburg called Freshly Squeezed and we actually have a store in Japan, too. We

have had really good responses in Japan. They are fashion forward and we get these photos of these fashion savvy Japanese dudes wearing our stuff and decking it out.

Please elaborate on your new series based on Google maps.

Those are actually part of an installation that I am working on. It’s basically the idea of a neighbourhood throne. I like the Google map perspective on a neighbourhood block.

It is sort of talking about territory. Territory, power and

control. I feel like the Google map view really underscores those things. It sort of presents the land as something

Miami/US michaelvasquez.info


Paul Fryer Let There Be Light

188 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


Words by Rachel Worth . Photography by Justina Ĺ uminaitE

P

aul Fryer is an artist who could quite aptly be described as an alchemist. His genre-defying pieces, which have been exhibited worldwide and collected by the likes of Damien Hirst and Karl Lagerfeld, probe and attempt to capture the elusive and often ineffable fabric of our universe. Physically and thematically uniting science, religion, natural phenomena and notions of human suffering in a heady and luminous mix, his art inspires nothing short of wonder. Stepping into his Greenwich studio on a sunny afternoon, the first thing I notice is Let There Be More Light emblazoned across the ceiling. I can hear the distant hum of electricity, feel it crackling in the air. The artist himself is a bundle

190 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


‘Thinking outside the box is very difficult for the human race’

of energy and enthusiasm and, for someone who once captured the essence of the aurora borealis in a bell jar, is warm and down to earth. We walk up to his mezzanine. This is where I think, he says, because I can look out and I can see the whole studio from here. To our far left, a series of celestial lenticular prints are mounted onto the wall. Punctuating the studio floor are a host of other curiosities: Bibles embedded with handguns and hypodermic needles, small-scale satellites and a homuncular Jesus slumped into an electric chair. An installation sprouting neon tentacles buzzes eagerly. A teacup turns slowly in the air and a supine, waxwork girl levitates: What’s remarkable about her, you’ll notice, is that she’s naked and there’s not a single seam on her body anywhere. It’s like she’s made out of one piece of wax, which is very hard to do. She’s made out of oil paint too, and human hair, with glass eyes. Paul makes me a cup of tea. I say something asinine about the possibility of the cup levitating. I would be delighted, he says. And so we begin the interview. How did you begin making art? I’ve been making art since I was a little boy, especially

things made out of bits and pieces of electrical equipment, like robots with motors on them. Often they didn’t work, but I wanted them to, and I used to put all the parts in

and kind of willed them to work. I didn’t really have the knowledge to connect up all the gears. But I’ve been

committed to the practice of art since 2005 which means

I can’t do very much else. I’ve always been into electricity. I couldn’t believe it when I found out about it as a kid. I’d been to school and church, and they told me that God is invisible and everywhere and that he was powerful or

could kill you. When I discovered electricity I thought, “Well, that’s exactly the same thing”. It’s the life of the

world, it lights our world and allows our minds to think.

You can use it to kill people in electric chairs, or you can

use it to help people live again. So for me, the ineffable and invisible divine force has always been electricity.

Your show The Electric Sky explored ideas of

the universe being composed of electricity and light. Can you expand upon this? What attracted you to the idea? Wait a minute, look over there…

[With four almighty thuds of his foot, the neon tentacles light up in succession.]


That’s from the show,

it’s called Electra. I did

a really big version of it,

with 150 tubes controlled by a computer. It was

like a forest you could

walk through. It’s based on the idea of lightning

because lightning is a flow of electrons in a rarefied

ionized gas. So that’s exactly what’s going on in the neon tube. A neon tube is, in

effect, captured lightning. There’s lightning flowing through the gas inside it,

and that’s what creates the light. It’s kind of a low-key lightning. So I thought

it was obvious to make

lightning out of neon tubes; it was one of those little leaps I get occasionally.

But the idea for The Electric Sky came from the theory of the Electric Universe, which is discredited by

mainstream science mainly because the sun requires

too much power to deliver an electric current in

space. But that’s only in

our current understanding. It could be that there

are other ways that the current is arriving or

being propagated. So, I still happen to think there is a lot in this idea. The sun is a big ball of superheated

gas in the sky, but it’s cold on the inside and nobody

disagrees on that nor really understands why. It’s also got something called a

corona, which is created

by electrical discharge in a vacuum, like in an LED

192 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


‘Artists never really retire; they drop dead on the job usually, like comedians!’

don’t do that here, just do

be wearing little electric

it in different ways”, and

years after I made the thing,

that instead” and I would

say “Yes, but I can improve it would just drive certain

people mad. So I discovered that my creative force, or

whatever else you want to call it, is something that I can’t really negate. It’s

always been with me, and I think it always will be. lamp. The idea that the sun is a thermonuclear ball in space also came about at the same time we were messing around with thermonuclear bombs. As William Blake says, “man

can only perceive that which is already in his own sphere”. I think that, a lot of the time, thinking outside the box is very difficult for the human race.

So you think it’s important to continually

question and challenge existing ‘truths’ and ways of understanding the universe?

There isn’t a paradigm yet that hasn’t collapsed, and I think that that’s significant. Galileo stood up and said that we

don’t live in a geocentric universe and was challenged for

heresy and threatened with excommunication and possible murder, so he recanted in his own lifetime; this was one of the world’s greatest astronomers. If he’s capable of doing

that, then who knows? There are some real bullies around who will not relinquish their view of things. The thing is, the scientific establishment naturally breeds arrogance.

There’s good in that, but there’s also a lot of bad. You need

confidence to know that you’re doing something correctly, to open somebody up with a scalpel and mess around

with what’s inside, or to spend over a million pounds on a collider. It can be amazing, but at the same time it can

be really negative. Iconoclasm, in small doses, is probably quite a good thing.

How would you describe your creative approach?

It’s innate I suppose. It’s in everything I do, and it’s in every part of me. And that’s why, eventually, I had to

become an artist. Because you’re not really welcome

anywhere else when you have that kind of disassembling and reassembling approach. You have to eventually be

the person you are. I did lots of other different things, but I don’t think it did me any harm because I found out lots

about the world. What would happen a lot is that I would

be in different situations and people would say, “Look, we

Because artists never really retire; they drop dead on the job usually,

like comedians!

You use strong religious iconography in some of your work, namely in your Pieta series.

Why does religion interest you? Pieta was inspired by the horrible state of affairs

that humanity’s in, even

two thousand years after Christ’s death. I think it’s

easy for me to resort back to the usual things I say, which is that it’s obviously about

capital punishment and all that. Interestingly though,

I wasn’t being judgemental

when I made it. It was pure exploration, of putting the

chairs around our necks. I

didn’t hear that quote until when I was researching it. Artists do that, they

back-engineer and research because you might have a great idea and not really

know where it comes from.

So you kind of have to make up a justification for it. I

don’t think many artists are above that skill.

From doing things like

redacting the Bible, putting Jesus in the electric chair, crucifying an ape and

goodness knows what else I’ve done, people tend to

think that I’m some kind

of Satanist or something,

but I’m not. I really love the idea of God and the divine in people’s lives, and how

people can become better and help one another. I

think that some religious ideas are fucking crazy

though, and I don’t believe they have anything to do with God.

What memorable responses have you had from your work?

two things together. In a

The Bishop of Gap put

is a meditation on capital

record numbers of people

sense it’s a meditation on

crucifixion, and crucifixion

punishment. What is capital punishment? It’s sort of, the endgame. Lenny Bruce said that if Jesus had been alive today he would have been electrocuted and we’d all

[Pieta] in his cathedral

for Holy Week and he had

in the church. And then he came up to visit me at my


194 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies


house and gave me a gold

How has your practice evolved over time?

medal because he’d never

I don’t know, I still think I’m in kindergarten in some ways.

during Holy Week. So he

confident or a little bit arrogant about what I was doing.

before had so many

people in his church was just delighted.

You work with a multitude of

materials. Do you have a favourite? Which mediums or techniques do you enjoy working with the most? I have fads when it comes

to mediums and materials, and some of them stick. I wish I could work more with electricity, but it’s

time-consuming, expensive, and difficult to sell. I know

I still feel like I’m finding my way. There was a burst a

few years ago where I felt quite confident, maybe over-

Then I got a slap on the wrist from the universe that I was very much at the beginning of what I was doing, and that

humility’s a really good thing. Sometimes I get this sense

of things flowing through me and I open my mouth and it

seems like words and artworks will just keep coming out of me. You can get a bit power crazed about it. But sometimes you open your mouth and nothing comes out, and you look around and there’s no one there to help you and you feel very alone and realise that maybe you’re not as great as

you thought you were. The universe is a very big place, and pretty much everything you can think of or do has been

done before. And if it hasn’t been done by people, it’s been done by nature.

What are you working on at the moment? What can we expect from you in the future and where can we see it?

that might sound a little

I might have new representations, so watch this space for

studio like this going and

shows, one about the life and work of Kubrick, one as a

bit mercenary, but in the end, you’ve got to keep a it’s difficult. So I have to work with things that I

like working with that also pay the bills. My current

favourite medium is glass. I’ve been making a lot of glass in Murano. I love

light, and the transmission of light through glass is

wonderful. Working with

wood is also amazing; it’s really hard to beat as a

material. Wax is wonderful too. I sometimes feel that I would like to work with

clay, but I haven’t got round to it yet. But all of these

materials are of the earth,

that. It’s looking hopeful, a really good gallery in London. I’ve been offered a New York show and I’m in a few group response to Duchamp, and the third opens at Shoreditch Town Hall in June. It’s called Out of Our Heads and it’s all

about hallucinations and psychologically based issues. I’m also working on the waxwork girl, amongst various other

things. I’ve got a little boat I work on a lot, which I love. When I’m not working on those things, I try to improve myself.

I feel very privileged to be doing what I’m doing and I’m

very curious as to where it’s going to end up. Some weeks it

looks like I’m going to end up in the gutter, and other weeks you just feel like anything’s possible. I suspect that most

people feel like that. I think it’s actually really difficult to

connect with somebody else’s sanity, but you can connect with people’s madness quite easily. If you can make

something sane come out of madness, or shared madness, then I think we’re really onto a winner!

they’re all elemental.

London/UK paulfryer.net


Typoe Music influences my work most definitely. It helps calm my mind and enables me to get lost in my work.

What is the Adventure After Death? Words by Heike Dempster

T

o all that come to this happy place: welcome. Typoe’s art is a celebration of happiness that reveals shadows, dark thought and the artist’s demons while exploring life and death through a continuous artistic commentary. Represented exclusively by Anthony Spinello, Typoe has been gaining momentum continuously as an artist and as co-owner and

Process Roof Top © Photo by Zack Balber

196 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies

curator of one


of Miami’s most

the narratives

the centre of contemporary art is also central

forward thinking

he presents in

to Typoe’s work. He develops complex concepts

galleries, Primary

his work. His

that define his work yet he simultaneously

Projects. He

neurosurgeon

offers them up as a satirical interpretation of

applies his belief

father’s skull and

conceptualism and asks his audience to play his

in challenges,

fossil collection,

game to the end, pushing his own concepts right

pushing past

his past addiction

up to, and sometimes right over, the edge.

boundaries and

and the deaths of

living dreams

close friends have

As an avowed art enthusiast, Typoe has a deep

of artists like

shaped the artist’s

understanding of the materials he is using

Christina

path and forged his

and who has used them before. Gunpowder

Pettersson,

unique perspective

paintings are an important part of Typoe’s

Magnus Sodamin

of the world

current body of work, partly inspired by his

and Andrew Nigon.

surrounding him.

relationship with Miami. Additionally fuelled

His relationship

by a desire to paint, his gunpowder paintings

Typoe sees himself

with death and,

have reached a new level of sophistication

as a sculptor

subsequently, the

after a hiatus from the medium. Using various

and found that

continuation of

strengths of glue Typoe has created his own

objects play an

life and happiness

palette of shades. Colour and texture variations

integral role in his

have led to many

now allow Typoe to literally use gunpowder

work. The objects

of the fundamental

to paint and create pieces that are somewhat

become part of

questions Typoe

oxymoronic in essence. He creates beauty, quite

his sculptures

asks through his

literally, out of death and the smouldering

or function

work. ‘Do I live the

quality of the burnt gunpowder adds a sense

as a source of

life I want to live?

of life and continuation, which seems ironic,

inspiration.

Am I happy?’ and

given that gunpowder simultaneously suggests

Typoe thrives on

‘What do I want to

finality.

imagining the

do in this life?’

histories and

In his current work Typoe explores dualities

endless potential

The subjects

and illustrates the juxtaposition of life and

stories pertaining

Typoe examines

death, happiness and despair. Melancholy, yet

to the previously

are framed by a

hilariously self-aware and always with a wink,

owned objects

slightly twisted

Typoe engages in the negatives so he can arrive

that he finds

contemporary

at a place that celebrates everything positive.

during one of his

commentary on

In the landscapes he creates with seemingly

favourite pastimes,

art. His knowledge

mundane objects, taken out of context and

antiquing.

of art history and

bestowed with new meaning, Typoe provides a

awareness of the

continuous commentary on life. Conceptually,

With many stories

contemporary art

he invites viewers to engage in a direct dialogue

as inspiration,

canon consistently

with him.

Typoe’s personal

inform his work.

I use the gallery to share with people who I am,

journey still

He also always

he explains. That’s what I try to do. Just put my

provides the

remains aware

own experiences into my work and responding

main plot for

of the balance

to life. Initially you could look at my work and it

and irrevocable

looks very dark but it really is about what makes

connections

us happy. That’s the most important thing to

between past and

me. Life is so short. Let’s enjoy it. Let’s enjoy the

present.

fucking ride!

The conceptualism that so often is at


How does music inspire your work? Music influences my work most definitely. When I am working on concepts or on new pieces I usually am playing some Chopin or Yann Tiersen. It helps calm my mind and

enables me to get lost in my work. When I was in grade school I would wake up every

morning to my parents playing classical music while my sisters and I had breakfast. I’m

sure it was in some sort of parenting guide book to activate children’s brains or something. Anyways, it is something that makes me feel relaxed and collected. Tell us about your earliest connections with art.

I have always done art. My mom is an artist, so, when I was a child she used to sit me in the centre of a room and make me draw perspective and teach me about horizon. I had to draw her reading the newspaper. My dad has a workshop and makes things out of

wood and works with stained glass. I have a very creative family. My sister is an artist as well and a musician. It has always been something I’ve done. I remember, I think I was in

new materials, doing

assemblages with found

objects, working with caps, I remember Anthony walking into my studio, which at the time was my living room in my apartment. He was just like: “This is it. You are on

the right path. This is who you are”.

Tell us more about your fascination with skulls.

kindergarten, and my teacher called in my parents to school because they wanted to have

My dad is a neurologist. I

to talk about this”. It was a picture of somebody holding someone’s head and the body

and Tell, he came in with

a conference. We all sat down. My parents on one side and the teacher is on the other side

holding up a piece of paper. She says: “This is what your son drew at school today. We need falling all the way down the stairs. The first thing my mom said when she looked at it was: “Wow. The perspective on this is really good”.

What was the first piece you presented as a professional artist?

I remember the first time Anthony Spinello wanted to look at my work. I was really

excited. At the time, I was doing these paintings and I was super pumped. I brought these

paintings to his gallery and I laid them all out and he walked in and looked over all of them for like two minutes. He said: “This is shit. This isn’t even art”. He just destroyed me for

like 20 minutes. He was like, “Dude, this isn’t anything. This is garbage. This is the worst I have ever seen”. And I was like, “Oh my God. This is the worst experience of my life”. At the time, I was very experimental. I did everything from landscapes to abstracts. I was

showing him these paintings that were very surreal. They were just weird. I don’t know what the hell I was doing. I was just painting just to paint. Really. What was coming out was completely ridiculous. Around that time I was getting my life on track. I was just

getting sober. I was doing drugs from such an early age. From elementary school until

I got sober when I was 20 years old. I have been sober for 10 years now. I was getting a

bearing on who I was. My art, of course, wasn’t even making sense because I was trying to figure out how I interact with people and myself and what I wanted to do. It was a really

awkward stage. He kind of destroyed me. I went home and threw all that shit away. Then, I pretty much just started from scratch. What did you do next?

I looked at what I had around me and, instead of buying a bunch of paint and brushes and new canvases, I started walking around my neighbourhood. I was looking in my bags

and I had spray paint caps and that’s where, eventually, I got the skull throwing up all the caps piece. That’s where that came from. Just me finding my materials around me. I think the problem was that I was using these materials that I did not relate to, so I was making things that did not make sense to me. It did not really match. When I started finding

remember, when I was in

elementary school, for Show his white coat and he had a brain. A human brain. Kids could stick their hands in there and touch it. A real human brain. I grew up

in his office playing with

skulls. He would say, you

should not smoke and then take me to people dying of cancer. I saw these things

first hand and I knew how gnarly it was. It all stuck

with me. How fragile life is. He has fossils lying around the house that I would just take for granted, “Oh cool

it’s a dinosaur fossil!” Who the fuck has a dinosaur

fossil laying around? It’s

amazing. I think that’s kind

of where I get this obsession with life and death and happiness.

You also work

with text in your neons. Where do you derive the text from?

All the text I have been

using with my neon is from Walt Disney. The text ‘To die would be an awfully 198 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies

big adventure’ is one of my


Confetti Death Master

favourites. Peter Pan said that. It is sort of like the found objects when I first started working. I take these things that are already pre-existing and by taking it out of the original context I think it allows us to have a dialogue

with it and how we relate to it. What is the adventure after death? I do not know. But, I never noticed that reading

Peter Pan when I was growing up and I don’t think anyone

that has seen that did know. “Wow, that’s Peter Pan? That’s crazy!” You don’t notice it because it’s just this little piece

of this massive puzzle. It is very dark and a lot of the Disney stuff and a lot of fairy tales are really dark and really

aggressive, and really interesting. There is just something that I relate to. That’s how life is. It’s all jumbled together

but then there are these little things that if you pull out and focus on, they are really intense. Like, holy shit, I did not even know that was there!

‘There are these little things that if you pull out and focus on, they are really intense’


‘We fuck up everything and then we get it right. We learn the hard way’

What fascinates you about Disney? Disney to me is just interesting in many different respects. I had a solo show two years ago during Art Basel Miami

Beach at an abandoned school, with Spinello. The show was called Black Sunday. That’s when I really started working

with Disney stuff. I started researching a lot. Black Sunday is like the unofficial title of the opening day of Disney

World in 1955. That’s when everything went wrong. Walt Disney was trying to build this amazing next level place

that all of the world could come and marvel in its greatness

it to be about that. I don’t want it to be a show. “Oh

look it’s like this dramatic thing”. I want people to see the image and not

necessarily know what it is yet and go through the

journey of figuring it out. You are now

experimenting

and everyone would be happy and dance around. Everyone

with text and other

was working and all the celebrities that were slotted to

Where do you want

went there and all the women’s high heels were sinking

objects in your

come throughout the day all came at the same time. Rides

to take the new

in the asphalt and all the water was broken and nothing

were breaking. It was a mess. It was a disaster. Everyone

gunpowder style.

work?

was like, “this is disgusting, this is horrible”. Nobody

Yes. I did crosses and text

because it was such a powerful day. It just became Black

some commissions to do. I

was happy. He tried to literally make that day disappear. He could not erase it from history no matter what he did

Sunday. I thought that was so interesting because it’s this

American icon that is made of happiness and the beginning

of it was a complete fucking disaster. I think that’s how a lot of things are. Everything. Even with humans. We fuck up

everything and then we get it right. We learn the hard way. No matter what country you are from. As humans, that’s our nature.

Were you ever scared of working with gunpowder?

No. I don’t get scared off stuff like that. Sometimes, in the

beginning especially, doing large pieces, I had a 12 foot piece literally just blown up. Everything caught on fire. It was

super crazy and really just intense. You just deal with it and roll with it and learn from it and move on.

What was the experience like when you tried it for the first time?

The first time I set it on fire I was so excited. My eyes lit up like I was a little three year old that just discovered what

pieces. I am going to do

a series of objects. I have

am going to do those right now, which I am really

excited about. I love doing commissions. I am really collaborative so I like

picking at people’s brains and understanding what

they like and what makes them excited and what

makes them move and tick

so that I can create that for them. That’s definitely one

of my favourite things to do. What ideas or

mediums would

you like to explore further in the future?

birthday cake was. From there I was hooked. Everybody

There are so many mediums

a lot of people the actual explosions because I don’t want

as I mature as a person, it is

that comes in and watches, they are hooked. It’s fun but I

don’t necessarily like it to be part of the thing. I don’t show

that I am going to work with in the future. I think, just

going to keep changing with me. That’s my favourite thing about my work. I

never know what’s going to happen. Five or ten

years ago I was somebody completely different and I 200 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies

was using different things


and I was a punk. I was

a 20 year old punk from

Miami doing stupid shit on the streets. My sculptures

consisted of gold teeth and

brass knuckles and bullets. At this point in time in my

life I don’t have these same things around me. Things change and now there is

neon and there are more things from books and

literature. As I get older

and I travel more, as my life changes my work changes. Who knows, I could be

making work about Bed, Bath & Beyond one day

and I am like 80 years old… I don’t know what I am

going to relate to. I could

slip on a towel and fall and then that’s the only object

I use for the rest of my life

because it is so meaningful to me. That’s what I like

about it, that I have general directions right now of

where I think I am going for the next few years but who knows. The work always

hits me like a freight train.

When it does I am so excited and I never knew it was

coming. I just find it because I keep working and working and then it just brings itself to me.

© Photo by Robert Dempster

Miami/US spinelloprojects.com


202 ROOMS T he Cover Ar t ist Uncovered


DANNY FOX

FANTASTIC MR. FOX

H

e has a thing for tattoos and a love affair with pigments. He even exudes a brooding quality à la James Dean,should t� he rebel without a cause̕ have been inked and bearded. He combines the most unusual suspects (Daniel Johnston meets Ernest Hemingway) in the most unusual fashion. Hawaiian shirts and orange Aviators are just some of his staples. In short: he is too cool to be categorized.

© Photo by Alexandra Uhart

Hailing from St. Ives, Cornish painter Danny Fox is somewhat of a precocious fellow: his work first appeared in a group exhibition when he was just eight years old. Since then, the now London-based painter has held several solo shows, including last year’s gripping Bloom in his hometown’s Plumbline & Orchard Gallery, where he is a recurring artist. Showing this coming October at London’s Cock N Bull Gallery, ROOMS had the pleasure of interviewing the 28 year-old on his non-existent creative rituals, what makes a good painting and his ‘think less, do more’ mantra.


Words by Tania Farouki

Tell us a bit about your background and education. So you were born in Cornwall? Yes, born in Cornwall, raised in a place called St. Ives. It’s a place where people go to die, I mean it’s that beautiful. I left school at 16 and went to the local college for a couple of months but the teacher told me if I wanted to paint I should just get out of there and get on with it. He was cool. He killed himself shortly after.   When did you first encounter art, or ‘painting’? Did you grow up in a creative environment? My granny looked after me a lot when I was a kid while mum was at work; I remember painting the flowers on her table a lot. All kids draw and paint, it’s nothing special, but I remember the act of doing it felt like more than just drawing or painting, it felt somehow important. As far as I know there were no artists in my family, but I was always encouraged by them.

questions. It’s not just beauty. It’s guts too. It’s got to have bollocks, but not too much.

How has the move to London inspired your work? I’ve been in London for the last ten years give or take and it hasn’t been easy. Trying to keep the rent up and paint and stay sane. I’ve seen many come and go. I painted before London but I’ve always worked from that internal dialogue. The first real paintings I made were of my first girlfriend when I was about 14. I made a lot of those paintings but I don’t work like that anymore. I use the history books now, Why choose painting? so maybe that’s how London got me. As everything is slowly going digital, what does the painting platform offer Less personal. But mostly the pressure that no other medium can? of London's make-or-break is what I Painting doesn’t really offer you anything. A blank canvas offers nothing. It’s think I mean. about what you’ve got to offer it. I don’t know about everything going digital but if it is then painting is more important than ever. I don’t know if I chose painting, How does an idea for a piece maybe I just fell into a barrel of tits and came up sucking my thumb. come about? Tell us about your creative process. It’s interesting that you say painting offers nothing but a blank canvas. I don’t start with an idea. I don’t really But when the canvas comes alive, it’s a different story (I mean, I’m certain use ideas at all. It’s just solving this some contemporary artists have offered a white canvas as a finished problem in front of you. It’s always piece.) Why paint then? What does it make you feel? What does it offer you wrong, wrong, wrong. And then it’s right. as a person? It’s hard to explain. I’m in it now and I can’t see past it. I just feel like I started But what triggers that very something a long time ago and I’m going to see it out. Sometimes it makes creativity? I understand you might perfect sense to me, the painting and the reasons and everything, and on other not be able to trace it because when days it’s all a blur. you do it you ‘think’ of nothing else   and you’re just in the moment – Is there a particular message that you aim to convey in your paintings? what do you feel most passionate No. A painting doesn’t need a message. You don’t have to look beyond the about? For instance, do you think painting, you just have to look at the painting, and enjoy it for what it is. Forget you paint sad or happy depictions? about everything else. I feel that could be the difference between my generation I never think about this stuff. It just of painters and the ‘street artists’ that just went before us. There was too much happens. I’m working hard. It’s about message, not enough painting. It got to the point where you were walking hard work.   around a gallery reading punch lines, waiting for the joke. It was from there that   I knew what I had to do. What are the influences you tend to look upon when creating pieces? That’s quite refreshing to hear, really. So is it correct to say you paint for What inspires you the most: the the sake of art? As in, just to admire its beauty? As subjective as beauty is… people, the places, media, etc.? I paint for my own sake. When you look at one of my paintings, it’s never going I just look at the last painting I did to mean the same thing to you as it did to me when I painted it. These are tricky and think “where do we go from here?” All that other stuff is in my head and comes out as I go. All of it, the whole universe.

‘It’s not just beauty. It’s guts too. It’s got to have bollocks, but not too much’ 204 ROOMS T he Cover Ar t ist Uncovered

Do you have a favourite piece from your body of work until now? If yes, why? A big red one called What Are Cornish Boys To Do. It’s got the magic juice, it just works. When I was a kid, those words were written in big black graffiti letters across a bridge on


Two Weeks a Year ( Stella)


Boxer

206 ROOMS T he Cover Ar t ist Uncovered


Wow. And what was the idea the motorway as you drove into St. behind Beef? Ives. I think it was done after they I first got the feeling to do this closed the last of the mines. On the painting whilst driving through left is a miner with a canary tapping California. They have these endless away on his helmet and on the right grey fields of cattle, unimaginable a fisherman, getting his head around numbers, as far as the eye can see. It selling an ice cream. The only industry just keeps going and going and the left in Cornwall is tourism. It’s not air is filled with death. Once, it was meant to be a political statement. I raining torrentially and we pulled don’t know anything about politics or into a gas station. There was this the industry, especially in Cornwall, drunken cowboy paying for his gas. so if anything, it’s about my own lack I always try to remember the people of identity as a Cornish boy who just that have to do these jobs, it’s no more spent the last ten years getting drunk his fault than it is yours or mine. These Describe to us a typical day at the in London. people come up often in my paintings studio and/or when working on – human history, the big accident, the a piece. Many of your portraits are of a little fuck up. Anyway, I’m not a veggie Get up. Drink tea. Start work. Miss sexual nature. Can you elaborate but the beef industry… we all know it breakfast. Keep going. Drink more a little bit on why? Are you simply ain’t right. tea. Keep painting. Miss lunch. illustrating the human nature of Keep painting. Eat an entire pack of arousal? The good and the bad stuff I guess it’s a disturbing truth no chocolate HobNobs. Paint. Dark. Stop. that comes with it? one is ready to face yet. So travel Have dinner with the wife. Nudity isn’t necessarily sexual. triggers initial ideas for paintings Even in a recent series of ladyboy often then? What do you consider your paintings I made where the tranny Yeah. I painted Two Weeks A Year ‘big break’? has an erection in its hand, it’s still not (Stella) after visiting Thailand earlier It hasn’t happened yet? I hope sexual. Not to me. this year. The simple black trees, fish not anyway. and boats are taken from drawings What kind of satisfaction do you get I did of Thai children’s memorial I take it you’re not looking for fame when completing a piece? paintings after the tsunami. They or recognition of your talent? You Not much, some momentary peace but were so good that I had to take them. may be the only one! And I admire the work is never done. The women are English tourists, that. But at the same time, don’t you getting tanned, getting fat, drinking want to share your work with The one titled Leonard is beer. One of them is wearing an an audience? particularly intriguing… English chainmail swimsuit. I might beDon’t get me wrong I want all I use hats to symbolize the point super sensitive to tourists because I that stuff. I’m just saying it hasn’t where it all went wrong for humans. grew up in Cornwall but I do feel shittyhappened yet. I’ve been doing shows Mankind got so advanced that it when I’m around them, and even all my life. Last March I did a show in fashioned a nice little hat and put it on worse when I am one. This painting Paris’ Maison 1575 with my [tattooist] its head. It’s like the briefcase in that is a celebration and damnation of the friend Liam Sparkes. It was great fun. famous illustration of man evolving English holiday.    from an ape and gradually standing First thing you do when you wake up straight.  Who are your favorite artists? Any up in the morning? particular movements you are Have a spoon with the Mrs. On the other side of the coin though fond of?   it seems like people forget how hard I like the movement they call Naïve This issue is called The Colour of life was before it was so easy. The Art or Art Brut [raw art] which isn’t Sound. Although your main medium tiger was the king of the jungle, a movement. It’s everything but the is painting, how important is Sound feared by any man who crossed it, movement. I’ll say the king is Alfred in your work or creative process? then all of a sudden man puts on a Wallis. I grew up opposite his house in Music on all day long in the studio, to hat and the tiger is nearly extinct Cornwall. I like his work because it’s drown out the sound of Kentish Town and has no forest to live in. It’s the got the bollocks and the beauty. I took going mad. Movie soundtracks and big joke, the big accident. Life wasn’t a lot from that growing up. classical compositions mostly. supposed to be easy. We’ve destroyed     the world trying to make it easier. What do you think of today’s art in What would you like to do that you I feel the same way about my own general? Do you tend to look at your haven’t done already? Where do you life, when I was working on building peers’ work? see yourself in ten years? sites or in the markets I slept in like Most of my peers are photographers, I just need to make it through this a baby and dreamt of one day selling tattooists or illustrators and they are hangover. Ten more years of these my paintings. Now I’m selling my great at what they do. There are some hangovers, who knows.  paintings and I can’t sleep. The game damn good painters out there though, was survival but I miss my enemies in New York, in Norway, in Australia. and I miss my boss. I’m just on my own mission though. London/UK

‘Life wasn't supposed to be easy. We've destroyed the world trying to make it easier’

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Leonard

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