Jacob Holdt

Posted: January 30th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: portfolios | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Jacob Holdt hitchhiked 118 000 miles and stayed in over 400 homes in 48 states. When he arrived in the US, he had only $40. He confessed having sold his blood plasma twice a week to earn the money he needed for film.
He took 15 000 pictures with a pocket size $30 Canon Dial. Photography as art was not his point.
During his journey across the USA, he experienced violence on different occasions:
– four times he was attacked by robbers with pistols
– two times he managed to avoid cuts from men with knives
– two times frightened police drew guns on him
– one time he was surrounded by 10-15 blacks in a dark alley and almost killed
– one time he was ambushed by the Ku Klux Klan
– several times he had bullets flying around him in shoutouts
– two times he was arrested by the FBI and four times by the Secret Service
– he lived with three murderers and countless criminals…


Jeremy Deller

Posted: January 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: interviews | Tags: , | No Comments »

Jeremy Deller has come a long way since his first projects, which mostly consisted of public art: T-shirts with various inscriptions or his own name, bumper stickers or posters: many ways to show his work in a quick and efficient fashion.
Deller’s significance as an artist stems from his possession of the following attributes:
1. a sharp and meticulous sense of observation
2. a tendency to shake things up slightly (meaning he is an agitator but not a provocative artist, which is far more subtle I think).
In 2004 he was awarded the Turner Prize for his film Memory Bucket. The Turner Prize, undoubtedly the most famous art prize in England, is an annual prize presented to a British artist under the age of 50.
Jeremy’s work is well known and respected by a large number of people – not only within the art world. Most of the time people try to define him: is he an historian? a sociologist? an anthropologist?
Deller’s work deals with varying subjects; thusly, he collaborates with people from many different backgrounds: for example, he worked with a traditional brass band from Manchester (Williams Fairey Brass Band) for Acid Brass. It is the first project with no material existence, as the brass band plays acid house tunes. Jeremy Deller tried to link two musical expressions of popular culture that have nothing in common at first glance, but both of whom are deeply rooted in the British post-industrial world.
I called him in order to find out what Jeremy’s latest plans looked like. When I reached him, he was at home, waiting for the delivery of a computer. We discussed things such as his role as a trustee at the huge Tate gallery, his first show (displayed at his parents home while they were away), and his very last project: a film about the life of the glam wrestler Adrian Street.

Hi Jeremy, how are you? What are you doing at the moment?
Jeremy Deller: Well I am doing this interview! More seriously, I am currently waiting for the delivery of a computer, that is the most urgent thing actually.
I was in Brasil recently, I showed a film at the Sao Paulo Biennal, along with an installation. It’s a film about the wrestler Adrian Street, titled So Many Ways To Hurt You. He was born in 1940 in South Wales, into a coal mining family, he became a wrestler at an early age and now he is living in Florida. The way people probably know him is the photograph of him posing with his father in front of the mine he used to work at. He went back to the mine in 1973, wearing his wrestler outfit, showing to his father and the people he used to work with what he has made with his life. How far he has come from that life in the mine, from this small town which he hated. He wanted to live in a city and make a name for himself. Coming back dressed in his wrestling outfit with his championship belt was a way of showing them how he changed, how he transformed himself.

The pro wrestler Adrian Street and his father, a coalminer, in 1973. By Dennis Hutchinson

This image seems to symbolize this connection between the Industrial Revolution and the birth of British rock music.
Exactly. It is the perfect illustration of how Britain was changing at the time or has changed. From an industrial making things towards other ways of making things, such as entertainment. And that photograph is an illustration of it.

How did you get interested in Adrian Street in the first place?
From the photograph. I did not really know who he was and then I did some research. He is an interesting character as you can imagine. Just from the photograph you realise that there is something going on. He is a self-made person in a number of ways. He basically invented himself through his  willpower and his personality. He made himself new. So it is quite an act of defiance really.

Maciek Pozoga (Vice France) pointed out that there is some parallel between Adrian Street and Arthur Cravan somehow. Cravan (1887-circa 1918) was a pugilist, a poet, a larger-than-life character, and an idol of the Dada and Surrealism movements. Both were inspirational.
I see. Cravan is the guy who managed to become France’s heavyweight champion but without fighting a single match, right? The world of wrestling is, in a way, almost part of the circus tradition. It attracts people who maybe do not fit in to traditional society, and have very active imagination like an artist .

Today Adrian Street is 70. He is still close to this hyper-camp character he created for himself?
He is physically in a very good shape. He has this incredible physique which he works all the time. He has never done drugs, such as steroids or hormones. Because if you do, in a short time you have a great effect, but on a long term it just destroys your body. He keeps himself very fit. He is not gay, that was just part of his act but he is a gay icon especially from his body building days. He realised though that he could make money from his persona so he pushed it and pushed it .

T-Rex frontman Marc Bolan said he got inspiration for his costumes and make-up after he saw Adrian Street on TV.
Yes Adrian was influential on the music business at that time, he was a glam rock wrestler.

Where can we see the film?
That is a very good question! (laughs). I have not even put it online yet. I am not sure where to put it actually. There will be an extract on my website soon, taken from the last part of the film. Adrian is reciting the lyrics to one of his songs (he had a music career for a time).

His flamboyant surface emerged in the early 1960s. So I was thinking that maybe there is some warholian dimension with Adrian Street: ‘anyone can become a star’.
Definitely. If you have enough guts and determination and are very single minded you can do what you want. Which is what most famous people are, they are very single minded. But it’s not like ‘anyone can become a star’, you have to work very hard. But he is quite warholian in a way and I am sure Warhol would have loved him in the 1960s and 1970s especially. The way Adrian dressed up, and also the cross-gender thing which interested, if not obsessed Warhol. The film shows someone who managed to reinvent themselves and created their own destiny. That is very Hollywood what he has done.

In your work you explore serious themes with a slice of humour.
A lot of the time, but that is just the kind of person I am I think. I think that humour is important in life and in art.

You are often depicted as a catalyst. In your work you make connections between things by leaving the situation open. Acid Brass being probably one of the best examples and The History of the World diagram shows that.
I think I am interested in making connections between things and also I tend to stand back a lot. I am not a control freak, and a little bit lazy. But sometimes you just want the people do their own thing. They can react as they wish. So the situations are open. And I am quite interested in what people would bring into an artwork… That is why I really like working outside a gallery because I always expect things to happen. That interests me.

Do you consider yourself as a conceptual artist?
Yes absolutely. Whatever that means. I would say I am. What do you think?

Well I usually do not label artists but since I asked the question. If conceptual art focuses on the artist’s intention, then yes, you are a conceptual artist. Not in the way Joseph Kosuth is a conceptual artist obviously.
Some of your work has a documentary approach: Memory Bucket or Our Hobby is Depeche Mode. Is it a good way to speak to people do you think?

Well it is a good way for me to work. I like those kinds of films, for me it is a very straightforward way to work. If you want to tell someone something, a film is a very understandable medium for this.
In Britain there is a way of working which is probably a little bit more obscure in terms of making films by artists. Mine are pretty conventional obviously, pretty straightforward.

Your first show Open Bedroom took place at your parents house in 1993. What did you display?
I displayed some paintings I’ve made – the first and last paintings I’ve made – about the life of Keith Moon, the drummer of The Who. And I also displayed a number of other things: some photographs, pieces of paper, graffitis, t-shirts, small things basically, that were cheap and easy to make. That was how I was working at the time. There wasn’t much money around anywhere and I was unemployed. And my parents were on holiday so I really did take over the house, it was an act of opportunism.

Did you already want to become an artist at the time?
At the time I was not really sure what I wanted to do. But I was really happy doing that kind of thing. I was trying to find my way. I was living at home. That was fine. But yes, at that point I knew I could not make an income in a traditional way. So I tried to make the best of my talent. A bit like Adrian in that respect.

What is a typical day of work for you?
I get up early, I check emails and sometimes I spend the day just staying in front of the computer waiting for emails to be sent to me!. And some days I am meeting people outside so it really depends. It could be half day at home in front of the computer and half day cycling across London, meeting people. Sounds a bit boring but it isn’t .

I heard you were appointed trustee at the Tate. What form does it take?
A lot of meetings. There are probably like twenty days of work a year, maybe more, twenty five. Committees, meetings about everything to do with governance and the running of the Tate. You get to learn a lot, working in an organisation like that, about managing the collection, budgeting, relationship with the Government, with artists, everything.

You are not the ‘studio’ type artist as you produce large scale projects. And at the same time, you are represented through three art dealers (Art: Concept, Gavin Brown’s enterprise and The Modern Institute). What kind of relationship do you have with the art market?
Well I do sell work, not tons but that is a very important part because if I had to live just through work in the museums I would starve to death. Solo shows at commercial art galleries are my weakest point in my opinion. So I do a little work through art dealers and that really helps. I sell all sorts of things: objects, prints, photographs. It is quite amazing how you can survive doing that. I do not sell that much, but enough to survive to be honest.

You recently protested along with fellow artist Mark Wallinger against arts cuts. Could you tell us more?
We had this new government and they want to cut funding for everything. So artists were asked to make some posters to protest at the proposed cuts to funding across the arts.
Basically you do not want to go down the road like in the US, where art is really just for the wealthy. That would be the worst thing. If art is funded by the wealthy or primarily funded by the wealthy, that would be just a terrible thing. So that was one reason. And especially because I did not support these people in the first place.

What about your upcoming projects?
It’s all a big secret.

This is the Vice art issue. Any advice for art students who dream to become artists some day?
Do not take art colleges too seriously. Only take advice from people you really trust . Do not look at art magazines too much, it just depresses you, it still does me. Be helpful to other artists because you may need their help.