Installation, Photography

Eye of the Beholder: Lucy Tevlin

Lucy Tevlin

Lucy Tevlin is a Dublin based artist, who’s work explores a broad range of topics like technology, language and theory. Through this interview with Lucy we really get a sense that theory is really important to her work, and how it has gone on to inform her practice. She has implemented these ideas without distracting or taking away from the work itself. It was a very interesting conversation to have and to hear her discuss her goals within her work. With that said I hope you in enjoy the interview.

A piece of particular interest that I would like to talk about is Alternative Means of Experiencing Images. Could you talk about that?

Yes, this work was a dual slide projection. One projector showed images and the other, text. The work was heavily influenced by theory, and there is one particular Tom Gunning text called The Cinema of Attractions that really influenced the work. There’s this part about Hale’s Tours, which was an amusement ride in London in the early 20th century where you sit in a train carriage. There was a projection of typical scenes outside of the train carriage that you could see through the window, and the seat that you were sitting on would move. You would hear all the sounds of the train, basically imitating the experience of a train ride. Tom Gunning described this ride as an alternative way of experiencing cinema, one in which you are more involved, which is more physical, so I reference that in the text I used. He had written about this moment in history. So, to reference this, I spliced it in with images I had taken out of moving vehicles in Ireland, so it was this sort of looking back at the past but also considering our present relationship with images.  

Installation Shot Alternate Means of Experiencing Images, 2019

In this respect, the material was the theory or language surrounding the work as well as the slides. I used the text as material to play around with. While I was making the work, I would print out texts and cut them up and collage them, so really thinking about language as a physical material.

The title is very interesting.

It just seemed to fit. It was initially titled Alternative Means of Experiencing Cinema, but I decided to change it because I was thinking about cinema in its most basic form, comprised of images.

Titles have become something that is more important lately, because of the package works that I’m making. It’s like that tricky question of, “When is the painting finished? When you have given it a title?”

Can you talk a bit more about what have you been working on recently?

The overall project is called Conjecture. Which in mathematics means a conclusion that is yet to be proved true or untrue, but is suspected to be true. So this idea of presumption or expectation. 

But within this I’ve been writing these texts called The Structure of A Second. I’ve been working with projectors and 8mm films for the last while. Initially, I was creating digital edits from the footage I collected, but I have since moved away from that now to a more sculptural series of works.

I have this system of producing the works now where I order 8mm film online and before the film arrives, I write a text about what it might possibly contain. This work hasn’t been shown yet, but the first in this series of works will be a projection of one of these found films, alongside a voiceover of the text. From this work, I realised I might even be showing too much, so the next work in the series is just the unopened packages of film alongside the text.

400Ft Standard 8mm Cine Film. Holiday To Austria Italy 1966. (184), (2020), Printed text, 8mm film in unopened package 21x24cm

Where are you getting this Super 8 film?

I’ve been going online and onto eBay to find them. I often see people selling home movie footage on 8mm. Either stuff they have shot themselves, or acquired in different ways. What I’ve found interesting is on eBay, the sellers have a limited amount of space for information about the film on their eBay page, so I began to write texts based on what I thought was in the package before it arrived as a way of getting my creative thoughts going. Initially, it wasn’t meant to be presented with the work. But now the writing has changed. It’s become a lot more fluid and abstract; influences might come from the description on the package or on the eBay page, which remind me of a memory, and I write about that. So, it has almost become like poetry, rather than the very regimented exercise that it was originally. So, I present the packages with the writing, and the work has almost become one now, where I have six packages that I haven’t opened. In a way, I think it might be one artwork, ‘cos with this heavy and conceptual idea, for it to work, I feel I need multiple packages that are never opened to make it more a statement of intent.

You said the texts weren’t initially meant to be presented. How did this practice of “supplementing” the lack of information on the eBay listings make its way into the work for presentation?

I was thinking about the idea of expectation. Initially, I tried to play with the audience’s expectation in my response to the home video that I’d bought. I’d explore the viewer’s expectation through editing. For example, there was footage of a couple walking through a shot, but the shot breaks before they actually leave the frame (normally an editing faux pas), so playing with that idea of expectation through the editing.

Writing the text beforehand was just a sort of exercise to get my brain working before the film arrived. Then I was speaking to a friend about the work, and they pointed out that the text is actually my expectation, before I try to create expectation for the viewer. I was already exploring expectation with the texts, so I didn’t need to do it through the editing necessarily. So then the text became a central part of it. Some of my previous work – like a lot of my slide projection pieces and especially my grad show work – used language as an important part of my practice.

In particular, Narrative Structures (2019) is focused on certain kinds of readings to do with what the work is about, so it’s making this work around narrative. I was reading a lot about narratology and deconstructing narrative, and so too the language used when discussing the theory made its way into the work. The work included these phrases from narratology texts, mixed in with a narrative I had written, and slides I had shot that I felt conveyed a sense of narrative or mystery. So, the work was both a narrative and also talking about what it was; there was quite a self-reflexive quality to it. In hindsight, this is where I stumbled upon the fictional format of how I make these works. I have reintroduced that element of language into the work and it went from there really.

Installation shot Narrative Structures, 2019

The way I would consider narrative is that within the work, it’s a bit fragmented. I prefer that the narrative isn’t presented explicitly in the work so that I can allude to it rather than saying, “This particular thing happened.” I will play around with language in such a way where it presents itself, but it’s still subtle. That’s what I aim for. When I was growing up, I was quite into poetry and descriptive writing , and I think that has been an influence too. There’s also a rhythmic element as well. One of the things that drew me to slide projectors in the first place is the sound of them and how they click when a new slide is projected, and so a lot of the time when I’m writing I will think about how the words will sound when spoken.

Projectors have a strong physical presence in your work. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I think what originally drew me to projectors was the physicality of the image. On a screen, the image seems very fleeting, but when you have a slide you can hold it, you can bend it. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on whether or not the projection apparatus could be considered a sculptural object. So that’s definitely something that I think about a lot, particularly when I was producing my grad show work. I guess it’s an attempt to acknowledge the importance of the presence of the apparatus. I’m really curious about the mechanics of the production of an artwork, and what elements we’re asked to ignore. In my work now there is a bit of a grapple between the material and conceptual elements, and I think that is not a bad thing necessarily, where there is definitely a kind of back and forth between them.

Installation shot Reflectance, 2019

When I’m installing, I like to set the projector up in such a way that it is a little bit of an obstruction. So you walk in, and you’re sort of confronted by the projector. Whatever I’m trying to draw attention to conceptually in the work, I will try and position the projector so someone has to walk around it and physically encounter the work, almost a phenomenological approach you’re activating the work by having a bodily encounter with it – I’m trying to do that with an object that you would normally not view like that. More like sculpture than like film. I’m not trying to force anybody to sit down, but I want them to be aware of the space and their involvement in the space.

Your other practice is street photography. There is an interesting parallel to the ethics in that and the work you are currently working on.

Yeah, I suppose it’s something I think about, not that I have a clear answer about what is ethical or not in the work. Rather than having a clear position, I’m just happy to bring attention to the ethical considerations. People don’t tend to notice or mind when I take photos of them on the street. But even if they did, just look up – there are so many CCTV cameras already on you at all times in Dublin. We’re happy to give away our data freely, but a photograph can be seen as invasive. Just because it’s not physically present, doesn’t mean it’s not happening all the time anyway. But it’s still a tricky part of the work that I try to remain aware and careful about.

Untitled street photography, (2019)

Modern technology is at the back of my mind. I never really want to explicitly address that in my work, but I like the idea of it being a subtle undertone: Looking at this older technology creating a certain type of image might make you think about other things that are happening in technology currently.

There’s clearly a temporal aspect of the work as well.

Yes, that’s an element of my practice that I find kind of elusive or hard to explain but it finds its way into the work one way or another. There is definitely an element of trying to distil moments or grapple with time as an entity. I suppose sometimes I’m trying to comprehend the time instilled in or associated with an object, or even just trying to make sense of how we experience time. There’s also the timing or duration of a work, which is really the viewer’s time – that’s something I think about a lot as I’m making a work.

The numbers are another element. When you’re thinking about things that are conceptual, it almost becomes quite mathematical, there’s a strange logic in there somewhere. I try and keep it specific to the medium that I’m using at the time. Using The Structure of A Second as an example: This film projects at 24 frames per second. In a way, those frames are like a multiple, each frame being a separate element of that second. I think in this work I’m really trying to make sense of a moment in time, or several moments and how they interrelate. In a sense it also acts a means to show how the work itself has been constructed, or that I’m using time as a material in the same way I would use the slides or projectors or language in this way. I also enjoy the numerical or practical restrictions of a medium, 24 frames per second, 81 slides in a carousel projector. It’s what’s unique to that medium that makes it intriguing. I’m always striving to be true to the material, whatever that may be.

You can find out more about Lucy Tevlins work through her Instagram page, link below

https://www.instagram.com/lucytevlin/

thank you, Anne James for your work editing
You can support Painting in Text through Patreon, link below

https://www.patreon.com/PaintinginText

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Painting

A Lingering Question: Harry Walsh Foreman

Harry Walsh Foreman

From an early age, I have been a huge fan of comic books of all kinds. It might have something to do with the fact that I have dyslexia – and comics, with their illustrations and structured panels, were helpful aids when learning to read. Comics had such an impact on me that when I self-published a book about my dyslexia, I did it in the form of a comic – for me, it was the only way I could explain something intangible like the experience of living with dyslexia. 
The comic medium is such a useful tool for conveying information, and Harry Walsh Foreman is keenly aware of that in his practice. The humour can often belie the intelligence behind his work, and getting to talk to Harry revealed the amount of theory behind his practice. It was an eye-opening (not mention hugely enjoyable) experience sitting down with him to discuss.

Talk us through the construction of your pieces.

My practice always starts with drawing. Since lockdown, I have mostly been drawing from home. During my 2km walks, I would walk to the park and get a coffee, and try to absorb the personalities of the many people that I come across. I like to think of myself as a flâneur or a man about town. I like to wander. I’ll often see somebody with an interesting face or walk, or a hunch or something. I’ll then try to recreate that later from memory.

I draw en masse. When I have an idea of which drawings I want to include in an installation, I stick them together in a very rough zine. That helps me to decipher an order and see how it reads. From there, I take the figures out of the drawings and redo the illustrations, maybe change the background somewhat, and print them on large stickers. 

I used to make and publish a lot of zines. I mostly make them for myself now. I like reading and collecting zines but there is something very insular about that experience, you know? I wanted to make work that people could experience together. That’s why I started to take narrative elements from my zines and expand them into installations. I like that the stories can be interpreted together by a group of people at the same time. 

Daily lockdown scribble notebook 1, (2020), Pen and ink on Bristol board, 29.7 X 21 cm

There is an American comic book artist I’m kind of obsessed with called Scott McCloud. I love this piece he did with [American comics artist] Stephen R. Bissette back in 1990 called a 24-hour Comic. Each of them would create a frame, and that frame would capture an hour in their life. Scott would do a frame, then Steve, back and forth until they had 24 hours of their day captured. Drawing is also like a visual diary for me. I can see a sort of evolution of the people I’ve documented over the years. These are people I come across regularly but because I’m drawing from memory, only snippets of their personality come through.

Your work utilises text quite deftly. Does the image or text come first for you? 

The imagery comes first. The text is gathered separately, and I then incorporate it into the drawings. From there I improvise on the fly, really.

I’m constantly taking notes. If I overhear conversations on the bus and I don’t have a notebook, I try to remember them from memory. And when I get to the studio, I recreate them. I might expand on things, make them more a bit more linear and digestible. Sometimes I edit the text around the drawing. For example, there was one large black and white drawing that I did in the Futures exhibition at the RHA. It featured a conversation I overheard at the coffee shop on Francis St; one woman was giving out about the fact that her daughter who worked at the post office couldn’t afford to go on strike for a day. I had this drawing of an elderly woman and I thought, “You know what? This is perfect.” So, I reworked the text as if it were something she was saying. If I was carrying around a notebook and slavishly drawing these people in real life, I don’t think I would feel as comfortable changing what they are saying or bringing in something I overheard somewhere else. I’d feel like I would have to represent precisely what had happened. 

That Little Madame, (2019), Pen and ink on paper, 35 x 20.9 cm

I don’t like to be too enslaved to reality. I want to draw my own interpretation of reality. I like to include some humour and background into my work, to create an atmosphere. I want to capture a specific temporality, so that you can look at the drawings and think, “Oh yes. That’s really of the now.” 

These characters play an important role in your work, don’t they?

Sometimes I get people saying that one of the figures looks kind of like their aunt. I love that mingling of ambiguity and familiarity. They are familiar figures but the work also leaves a lingering question: is it really who I think it is? Did that guy really trace down my aunt in Tallaght? We all go down the post office and see the stereotypical old man with a walking stick, weighed down with his pension. They are the people I’m obsessed with. I like to play with shared knowledge and provoke questions in the viewer to get them to spend extra time with the work. You know when you’re at an opening with your glass of wine in hand, and you walk past a beautiful painting and think “I’ll come back another day and look at that?” I want to create a situation for people to inhabit together and talk about what they see – to live in that space for a period of time whether it be a moment or a day. 

Futures series 3, Opening installs shot, RHA Gallery, 2019, photo by Harry Walsh Foreman

As an art student, I was always obsessed with portraiture and The New Objectivity movement in Germany (Neue Sachlichkeit). I loved how Otto Dix captured post-war Germany with a paradoxically beautiful kind of gruesomeness inherent to that time. You can tell that he was walking those streets and immersing himself in their social life. Some of his figures are people who had lost their limbs in the war but there is still something beautiful about them. I’ve always been preoccupied with artists like that. Artists who attempt to capture the time they are living in and the foibles of humanity. George Grosz is another direct inspiration for my drawing. Just before World War Two, he published hundreds of very immediate drawings created from memory. This is probably where I got the idea. He drew businessmen and women that you would see just walking around German streets and published them in big tomes. One of them was called Ecce Homo. Other lifelong obsessions of mine are [New York School painter/printmaker] Philip Guston and [Californian-punk-influenced artist] Raymond Pettibon. I love Pettibon’s ongoing drawings of American figureheads, like his mad sketches of Trump, and the zines that he did with [Canadian artist] Marcel Dzama. I enjoy going through those collections and piecing together a sort of narrative.

Narrative is very important to me. I use geography as a narrative in my work. For my masters show, I used a day trip we took to Glasgow as a basis for the exhibition. One of the rooms was Dublin while the other was Glasgow. You walked through Dublin into Glasgow and back again. 

Mortal Engines MFA Install shot, 2018, photo by Steven Maybury

I then pulled that idea into the Futures exhibition and focused on deliveries around my studio at Pallas Projects in Dublin. I was born near there and educated around there, so the area is very familiar to me. The narration followed a route from Francis Street to Thomas Street and further down. I tell my stories through geography, by moving through space.

Your relationship to Dublin is central to the work. Do you think that geographical approach would work in other cities?

I think it would, granted I was in the area for a long period of time and had properly absorbed the people and the space. I’m well acquainted with London for example, from frequent gallery visits or what I call “sketch-cations”. More and more, I find the characters there influencing my work at home. There is a more magnified diversity in London which I find very appealing. I honestly feel I could work anywhere, provided I understand the dialect of the place. I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to Paris for a week and drawing those people but if it were six months, I would feel better. Plus, there is a language barrier! 

That element of familiarity in my work is important. People can then come to it and know that street, and almost recognise that building. They might even think, “Maybe I’m that person?” Still, I want to be able to expand on that and have people question whether they actually know that place.

Let’s return to the Futures exhibition. That was an important exhibition for you.

It was a very important exhibition for me. If time allows, I love to paint the work directly on to the walls. That kind of tactility is great. For my masters show in NCAD, I was able to do that. I was fortunate enough to keep my studio room and the adjacent room for that show; Futures was a different beast entirely. There was a fashion show the weekend before. So, there were only two days for install once the space was ready. With that in mind, I decided to use stickers instead, which worked beautifully. That meant it was just a matter of placing my wooden figures in the space. I was done installing in about a day! 

Futures series 3, Opening installs shot, RHA Gallery, 2019, photo by Harry Walsh Foreman

I wanted to utilise the panel aspect of comics in designing the stickers. Again, Scott McCloud and his theory around the comic narrative was a massive influence. The wall had that sense of narration and movement, and the wooden figures created another dimension for people to move through. Some of my favourite photos from Futures were of people moving around those wooden pieces like they were mingling with the characters. That kind of interaction is important. 

Futures series 3, Opening installs shot, RHA Gallery, 2019, photo by Harry Walsh Foreman

Will you develop that interaction further?

I did come up with an idea recently. In my drawings, I often have things like packets of crisps blowing in the wind. I was thinking of painting them or sticking them down onto the floor, so that the audience can walk over them. There is an immersive quality to the work when drawings are flat on the wall, emerging from the floor and standing up within the space. I could also add more elements to the figures themselves. Like a wooden figure of an old woman with her purse constructed as an interactable part of the sculpture. I had this idea before of a wooden figure of an old woman, and having her purse be an intractable part of the sculpture. The purse could hang from the sculpture, and you could open it up to see the contents – Mentos mints or whatever else I can conjure from the depths of my mind! 

You can find out more about Harry Walsh Foreman work through his Instagram page and website, links below

https://www.instagram.com/harry_walsh_foreman_artist/

http://harrywalshforeman.com/index.php/about/

thank you, Meadhbh McNutt for your work editing
You can support Painting in Text through Patreon, link below

https://www.patreon.com/PaintinginText

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Installation, Interview, Performance

Sound Off: Steve Maher

 

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Steve Maher

I met Steve when studying my masters in Limerick, and his unique way of working meant he was one of the first people I wanted to interview. I’m really excited to share his practice as I have already crowbared his name into many a conversation about art (as many will attest to)

 

Lets start off with Heavy Metal Detector – that’s a really unique project, especially for music fans!

I’m actually not that into metal! I appreciate it, but it is a more an ethnographic interest. I just think that it’s a very special community and a global community. I’ve met a few people from different countries who are involved in it, and it’s huge. They are a very passionate community, and I think that is passion that we all could do with more of in our life.

I found in art, just as in music, people will often stick exclusively to certain types of genres and won’t check out pretty much anything else. There have been a lot of studies on the similarity of the neural mapping of people who are listening to different musical styles, and it is very interesting. But the same areas of the brain are triggered in people who listen to classical music as those who listen to metal, and that makes sense because the two genres are very theatrical. So they kind of speak to people who like that kind of thing in their music. So when I heard that, I wondered how do we broach that chasm separation of musical taste, and what kind of platform do we create?

Whatever rituals that we seem to find ourselves in, people will dictate what kind of type of artwork they will encounter because associations they create with taste. These are the things that separate us from hearing local sounds.

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Heavy Metal Detector – STRP (2017)

 

And how does the project work?

Usually it’s aimed toward some kind of arts festivals, biennales– places where the communities that are predominately participating in the project are going in with an open mind, to experience something different. They are either creative practitioners themselves and they have an idea of what kind of artwork they like, or they’re the general public who are going to see art as it should be. I saw an opportunity in that.

It’s always local bands that are part of the project – I initially started with the local bands in Helsinki, and I’ve done it now in Eindhoven, Amsterdam, twice in the UK. And I’ll be doing it again in September in Bournemouth and I’ve done it in Moscow as well. Anywhere I do it, I reach out to local scenes, and that’s kind of the spirit of the project.  well there is a lot around people every day. People don’t seem to realise just how much is around them – I use the detectors that show us how much metal is in our environment as a kind of analogy to local music.

 

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Heavy Metal Detector – AND (2017)

 

You also have an interesting piece relating to Athlone can you talk a bit about that?

A lot of people don’t know this but Athlone, it was the centre of broadcasting in Ireland, with Raidio na hEireann. So there were two radio transmitters in Ireland prior to the building of the radio transmitter in Athlone in 1927 – there was one in Dublin and one in Cork. But they were low-scale and they didn’t really transmit outside of the cities.

The government at this time, they had two largescale projects that the created at the foundation of the state (before it became a Republic). So they built Ardnacrusha, which is the hydroelectric dam at the end of the Shannon in Clare, and they also built the Moydrun electric transmitter in Athlone. Athlone is in a unique situation in Ireland… it has four generations of broadcasting and that is quite rare in Europe.  It’s particularly rare in Athlone. It’s a big town, and a nice town, but it’s not a major city. It was the terminus for many different things like the rail lines, but now you have to go to Dublin or to Galway to get to Sligo. But even before the rail network, everything else went through Athlone because the Shannon goes through Athlone, and it connected Athlone to other parts of the country. So, it made sense then to use the canal networks to bring a lot of the equipment and rail network to Athlone, and then to Moydrum.

Athlone has an original Marconi transmitter – England doesn’t even have any anymore. I recall Marconi worked throughout much of Ireland forming the transatlantic broadcasting technology. Up and after independence. I think it got too fussy for him…. a lot of his Anglo-Irish patrons upped and jumped ship. They were getting pushed out, the big houses were getting burnt down. To be on the site of Moydrum, it is a big house and it is the cover of U2’s album, The Unforgettable Fire. I’m not a big U2 fan but you can look it up!

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Moydrum transmitter station interior

 

 

So I thought all this history was really interesting, and for the project I wanted to work with that history in mind. So we would build crystal set radios, and the idea was to make a documentary about this history and about this workshop, and then broadcast it through AM radio waves and then listen to it through these crystal set radios. The Luan had an open call which I applied for, and I didn’t get it. I thought: ah crap, well anyway look I did all this research, so I’ll try and pull it off myself. So, I applied for Arts Council funding. And I got enough to produce the project myself, and then I contacted the Luan. And they were like, alright! I guess I explained my case a bit better the second time round. This is how galleries work, you can’t just roll up and expect to get anywhere. Only applying to open calls all the time, no-one will ever know what the hell you’re doing, you must be that bit bolder. They lent me the use of their space downstairs for the exhibition aspect of the project, I did a workshop and I collaborated with the local radio station Athlone Community Radio. It’s part of the Craol networks, which is a kind of community radio network in Ireland, and they have an office near Limerick.

Anyway, I was in touch with this woman called Mary Lennon who was the director of the station, and then through art networks, I was in touch with Owen Francis McCormack who was in the same year as me in college. I also knew his brother Cathal when he would come up to visit Eóin, and Cathal had also done work with the community radio station as well. Anyway, he sorted me out and helped me with the project. We also had participants from the local graphic design course from Athlone Institute of Technology, and we had some participants through open call through the radio station.

When I kind of came up with the idea, I didn’t realise how powerful your transmitter needs to be for crystal set to pick it up. AM radio will amplify a signal, whereas a crystal set has no amplification, because there’s no power going through it except the radio waves, so you could pick up radio on them because that is still being broadcast on AM. But that is about the only thing being broadcast on AM except for on the low wave you get a lot of churches in rural communities that broadcast sermons so that the infirm or the housebound can listen to mass. The cathedral in Athlone. That was the idea to see out this project through this community focused workshop, and that is what we did. And it was a great success – everyone was pretty was happy in terms of participation. It was part of this online exhibition called Project Anywhere which is based out of New School Parsons in New York. Sean …… I had gotten in that year.

And that helped a lot, in terms of funding and getting people to take the project more seriously. In that way external accreditation is very useful – the crowd in New York don’t know me from Adam, but the crowd at home are ‘this guy, we should know about him if he is working in New York and abroad’! It’s a way to communicate that you can produce what you claim to be capable of. You must show these signifiers. That’s the aim of the game I wouldn’t knock anyone for it. People won’t know unless you tell them. Don’t assume that people will know that you are this really talented fella, because at the end of the day, they are people with jobs. They would love to be reading e-mails from everyone, but they have to talk to some superior who is in charge of their funding or whatever depending on how the model of their institute works.

 

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Calling Athlone (2016)

 

Your work seems to have a DIY aesthetic that shows through, and not only in your efforts to get projects going. Is it intentional?

I’m not so concerned with aesthetics. Aesthetics are just going to happen. I’m not saying that I’m anti-aesthetic, that’s a ridiculous position to put yourself in – there’s aesthetic in everything, you can kind of choose to author it I suppose – but I’m not trying not to be aware of the traditional aesthetic authorship that is in fine art for the most part. Because I feel that it is very contrived, and a lot of people are doing things and they don’t really know why they have made things look a certain way. The appearance is just something that is going to happen. I’m more interested in the mechanics of how participatory art works. I kind of do have some aesthetic acknowledgements, I have cultural references within the work, but they’re more kind of like easter eggs to broader ideas. Because ideally those ideas are kind of written in how the ideas are integrated. I suppose because I stop at a certain point where other people might make it look finished, you know? And not really focusing on the core of what it is that is the work.

If I was to say there’s anything that truly ties my work together, it would be that I’m interested in cultural coding. I’m interested in language too. For me, the focus on music and language is one and the same and it is also to do with technology. There is a way of figuring out our environment through these mediums.

Saying that, socially engaged art often has detractors why do you think that is?

Yeah, that kind of cynicism, it comes about for a reason. That is because a lot of stuff that says it’s socially engaged really isn’t what it says it is, and it’s given a lot of social practice a bad name as a result. I think there is just a culture that has evolved from the idea of social practice, collaborative art, whatever you want to call it.  That form of art making has wound up filling a gap in local councils’ budgets as a replacement in some cases to social workers, because these projects are cheaper. I think it’s a mistake to conflate the two.

Saying that, I don’t think the majority of people are worn out by actual socially engaged practice. I just think a lot of people are protective of their discipline in a dogmatic way, in the same sense that people are protective of their religion, but I think that there are two sides to it… it has kind of gotten a bad name for itself, but there is an irrational side to that scepticism.

I would like to touch on something that is important to me, and get your thoughts on it: dyslexia. We have both been diagnosed with it, and we both have gone through the educational system.

Dyslexia is a nebulous thing, I think a lot of things get lumped in together with – it’s because it is hard to pin it down as any one thing. There are probably hundreds of different reading disabilities, and I wasn’t severely dyslexic. After having a period in my life where everyone else could read and I couldn’t read, I learned to read a lot quicker than my peers. After fourth class, once I did learn to read, I kind of went very quickly from there. But I think the main thing was that it affected me creatively, and I think a lot of dyslexics have had a similar experience. When many of us were in school and tried to pretend that we were doing work, and also during time when people were reading, we had to invert into our own minds and our imaginations. And meanwhile the schools weren’t identifying that we were having trouble reading. I think they are a lot better now today. I think a lot of dyslexics wound up in art college because they were doodling in their books the whole time. None of the scribbly stuff made any sense to them! That period in my life formed me as a person, but I wouldn’t say I’m a dyslexic, because I don’t think it’s fair on people who actually struggle with language problems for me to say that I am still a dyslexic, because it doesn’t affect my day to day life. I make mistakes when I’m spelling, but I get by with spellcheck.

Let’s talk a bit about your influences.

I’m a bit of an artistic misanthrope – I don’t get really fanboy-ish about other artists. I can appreciate good work but I don’t get into someone’s practice so much. There are a few people that I kind of generally like what they do, like Mark Manders the sculptor – I used to be really into him while I was in college. I do feel if you say that if you say you like an artist, people look for their influence in what you do. saying that I really like my peers. In Helsinki in particular, there is like a ton of amazing artists that I’ve met. Looking back, the majority of the reasons why I make things is because the so much of mainstream art really annoys me. I think the stuff that gets attention is put on a pedestal, and there is far more interesting stuff being made by marginalised artists. Artists who don’t have a whole press office behind them putting their name forward. And when people ask you, what artist are you into? I don’t know. Not to sound like a big hipster,I really don’t care for it. it’s just how I feel. I really don’t like the overhyping of certain work. I don’t want to look at it. I don’t want anyone telling me what is good – I want to decide for myself.

When it comes to painting, I understand there is a history there, and I like a lot of painting… you have to ask what you’re doing when you are physically participating with an art form that has existed for five hundred-odd years. When you think of Renaissance period, there are aspects to painting that are so redundant… remnants of tradition.

So, people don’t ask. There are a lot of good painters we have today been a lot of painters are just focused on pigment which I think is just amazing I think it’s interesting. But then the question is what kind of pigment are we talking about? So, we are talking about pigment and we are talking about paint and pigment through painting and painting through painting and that is cool but then what? I kinda get a bit bored cos people are continuing to have the same conversations and they are not getting to any more of a point, and I’m not saying I do is better or something huge gaps between what I do. But that is what makes art good when there is actual huge cognitive dissonance in what we are doing cos it’s not meant to be perfect it’s not a science.

I could talk about writers that I really like?

If I was going to say writers I would have to say Warren Ellis. That was one of the first people who introduced me to a lot. My school of philosophy was all though these comic book writers that would insert philosophy into their work – Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis. There was a point in time where I was buying anything with Warren Ellis name on it. Another one is Paul Chadwick, who wrote Concrete which used to be under the Dark Horse imprint. Even aspects of comics I like Thargs editorial in 2000AD.

A good book that I got recently is Sonic Warfare by Steve Goodman. He is a DJ and academic. he is more famous for being a DJ than being an academic but it’s a cool book that I’m enjoying reading.

Reading seems to be a big influence and core part of your practice.

I’ll admit, we all bought into this idea of artistic research. I’m as guilty as anyone for doing it. We have to look at the history of artistic research, because in the nineties it came about… it came about because artists wanted to access funding and because institutions expect the scientific model in funding applications. This is why we are all trad disciplinary stuff, or really deep end self-referential art for artists.

I just don’t know how people don’t read a lot about before they go about their practice, you know? You’re making an artwork about something, you are saying you have some sort of authority about the subject, unless you are very airy fairy and all about experiential stuff (and I wouldn’t totally rule that out or detract from that). There are different ways of being creative, but for me, everything creative is: you’re presenting to the public. That indicates you have something to say about a subject, some sort of insight, ergo some sort of authority. I wouldn’t be so brash as to say that I am the utmost authority or that I’m an expert, but I feel that when I say something, I have done what I can to research what I am talking about.

But at the same time… how can you not want to know about things?

You can find out more about Steve’s work through his website link below

http://www.stevemaher.net/

 thank you Adrian Mc Hugh for your work editing

 

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