Artist of the Month: September 2018
1. How long have you been at Phoenix?
I've been here now for just over 14 years I'm amazed to say, and in that time a lot about my career has changed, in terms of the way I make and present work and how it is received.
2. What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a number of different projects all linked by the fact that they have either virtual reality or computer gaming technology at their core. I am completing two art games as part of a commission, working on a pilot for a documentary based VR game, in pre-production for a full length story based computer game and completing a VR installation for an exhibition at Gazelli Art House in Mayfair in September. My work also involves a fair amount of education and talks and right now I'm most of the way through a research project helping learning disabled artists develop their practice in VR and gaming, I'm developing a training course in immersive technologies for theatre makers and preparing a talk called 'Why VR is punk' which will go out to House of Vans in London, Hamburg International Film Festival and Adelaide Film Festival.
3. Which media do you like to use?
If you look me up on Wikipedia you'll see that I'm described as a transmedia artist which is honestly a horrible term but reflects the fact that my work is rarely comprised of one media. About ten years ago I looked at my career and felt that I had changed myself and the work I was making to fit with what I thought funders wanted to see. The problem with that was that whilst I was getting bits of funding here and there I wasn't really satisfied and the demographic and size of audiences I was reaching was very small. So I let loose a bit and now I make work which sprawls across the internet and the real world simultaneously whilst incorporating electronic music, gaming, immersive technologies, live performance and a whole lot of other stuff as a single entity. The idea is to engage audience members for a protracted period of time and to reconfigure the artist audience relationship so that it becomes more of conversation. This change in approach didn't necessarily make my work any more fundable but the impact with audiences has changed dramatically with my most recent collection of works have enjoyed a 25 nation world tour across six continents since 2015.
4. Which other artists do you admire?
In all honesty I find most art only mildly interesting. In many ways I don't really fit at all in this line of work and still, ironically enough, feel like a gallery is no place for a person like me. If I look back over the past 30 years of being aware that culture is even a thing then the kinds of artists I have truly loved are mainly indie film makers, musicians and more recently games developers. So if I were to make a brief list of some of the names who immediately come to mind it would look something like this; Harmony Korine, Peder Mannerfelt, Babes in Toyland, David Lynch, Campo Santo, The Chinese Room, Black Sky White, Shellac and others like them.
5. What would you recommend to go see?
It is hardly controversial to say that gaming is now the most important cultural medium on the planet in terms of audience sizes and reach. As an industry it is something like four times bigger than cinema and that shift over the past few years has meant that an extremely interesting space has emerged at the fringes of the scene and what's happening in that space is radically different to what people traditionally consider gaming. So if I was going to advise anyone to go see something right now I would actually be telling them to install Steam on their computer, get a PS4 and try out the following titles; Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, Firewatch, What Remains of Edith Finch. If you want to get out of the house then I advise anyone who is interested in what is happening in post-escapist gaming and the way in which gamers are developing their own art scene to attend the AMAZE Festival of playful media in Berlin where you'll find games based work which covers performance, installation, journalism, documentary and a whole bunch of other bizarre and wonderfully stuff.
6. What work are you most proud of?
Oh I don't know... there are a few which I love. Whilst The Rest Were Sleeping is a giant beast of experimental immersive work telling one story across 17 VR installations, an online universe of something like 15 websites, an Augmented Reality app and a live electronic music performance with cinematic projections. It took me three years to make and audiences who got into it did so to an extreme extent with some of the sites being hacked several times. I don't think anything like it has been done before. It's only played once in the UK unfortunately but has taken me to some really interesting places overseas across Latin America, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Middle East, North America, Australasia and Europe. For that reason alone I love that show; I have made many new friends and had great adventures whilst touring it.