Text by Rebecca Senior
‘but, I don’t like the idea you go to art school and come back this important artist’
An unreadable transcript of conversation makes up the centre fold of Interim’s hand out. It is unreadable because the text is verging on microscopic, and this quote is from it. Hidden in the dense text, it cleverly suggests how the art school is only one of the innumerable traces of experience which makes for an interesting artist. Fragments of contact and their impact are often what matter more than the entirety of the art schools agenda of constructing artistic identity. This is the seventh annual Interim show (the last three as part of blip blip blip) which invites submissions from penultimate year BA Fine Art students who have previously completed their foundation course at Leeds College of Art. Leeds is what connects the artists – not genre, style or thematic constraints, but the shared experiences of a given place, a once intimate connection, now distanced by the undertaking of cross country degrees.
The works on show have been selected, not curated. Their selection firstly by the artist and then Nick Thurston and Nigel Walsh is what warrants their inclusion- their ability to construct a distinct identity as well as a collective one is a consequence of the show itself. From installing to invigilating students are involved in the running of the programme, which results in an organic reinterpretation of the student exhibition and refreshing insight into the output/identity of art students across the country. The works are diverse. Sam Shackleton’s pair of videos Why’s everything got to be so mushy? and Domestic (product) violence play procedural human robots, stuck on repeating daily routines of a normal life to violent and dramatic ends. The left displays a black and white shirted pant-less duo, sad and shaking in teary-eyed clown make-up. They shovel mushy peas into their mouths, until the green gunge pours onto their clothes and back onto the plate for a second ingestion. The right screen shows a man covering himself in all manner of domestic soap products. Shampoo, shaving foam and fairy liquid are rubbed into his dry face and body until finger induced wrenching completes his transformation into a monster of sensation. This self inflicted violence of the domestic habit tests the resilience of the viewer, who feels the pain of the participant and the pleasure of the flinch. Robotic domesticity is also presented by Elinor Wadman’s Sponge and Patent. Can you take one of the several hundred patents which are photocopied and piled on the floor? Or is the robotic brillo sponge destined to remain in the gallery space, isolated from the home and any potential ‘use’ function? Facing Shakleton’s pair of videos is Liv Preston’s Transparent Burial; a fascinating un-burial ground, which features the ashes of her childhood dog sandwiched between two perspex rectangles. The ashes, usually confined to the darkness of an urn or scattered/buried in a single act, are exposed, scientifically magnified even, in a very in-organic perspex grave. Transparent Burial exhibits a dichotomous interpretation of the ‘self’ or individual. A childhood pet which is transported to every exhibition, whose photograph makes the front cover of the exhibition hand out, and, an art work, partly appreciated for its aesthetic value and transformative ability as it becomes physically reduced with each showing.
The work’s shadows of intimacy and distance are resonant of the art school student, who is at once connected to and remote from their education. It is important for exhibitions to engage with this conversation between contemporary art and the art school – the two of which should, but sometimes struggle to be linked. The Interim shows at blip blip blip chart how the artist’s identity is constantly in flux and construction, and promote the idea that there is no prescribed path, and they never really need to ‘become’.
Rebecca Senior is a writer based in Leeds, and a Phd candidate in History of Art at The University of York.