An interview between
Alice Channer, Ryan Gander & Rebecca May Marston, 6th June 2007.
RG: Ryan and Alice and Rebecca, it’s the 6th of June, Hoxton Street.
RMM: Ok, when was the last time you were in your studio and what were
AC: This morning. I was finishing off one of the works for the show, the
Moorfields eye piece. I was making the faces of it. It’s two flat
surfaces, the fronts of the eye, which have been pushed apart. I was drawing
them then I ran out of green pencils so I had to go to the art shop.
RG: I’ve never asked you about this because I had a suspicion that
it was a lady thing that I shouldn’t talk about: why did you have
a monobrow and now you’ve got two?
AC: A lot of my works consist of two different parts. For example in the
Associates show the Moorfields eye, half is on the eye hospital and the
other half is in the space, but then there are also two in the space.
Then the screenprint of me and Rebecca standing in the space is a pair
of screenprints put together. Growing my eyebrow came out of that as well
because I had my interim show at college and I made a dot and a [points
finger in the air] and I thought I could make my two eyebrows into one
eyebrow, then make a drawing of that to go with the dot and the [points
finger in the air]. It’s also a way of folding myself into the work
and bringing myself back out. I always set up these borders and try and
go over them and back again.
RMM: You know how you have spots then dots and then [points finger in
the air] getting smaller, we’ll have to say what that smallest is
otherwise they’re not going to know.
AC: We can use one of them.
RMM: What? A full stop.
RG: Do you think your practice is a bit like the Bauhaus? In terms of
design for life, or the way things you make slip into everyday living.
It’s really utilitarian in that it’s about what people wear,
what surrounds people, the way people sit, the cushions.
AC: That’s a massive question because you’re basically asking
me what’s the relationship between my work and the whole idea of
RG: No, I’m asking you whether you could make a teacup. And whether
you’re conscious that you’re doing that because it feels like
you are. There’s some sort of you monopolising every little corner
AC: I don’t think that I have the same aspirations as the Bauhaus
in that I’m not attempting to make things that will become part
of life because I’m also interested in hermetic practice and withdrawing
anything that I make that could be useful back into the space of my work.
But then at the same time I’m interested in the possibility that
that thing could exist and be useful, so for example in my interim show
there were cushions…
RG: Well there were people in hats sitting on cushions playing a game.
AC: And those people were actors. I was also interested in them being
themselves in the work. I didn’t ask them to wear particular clothes,
the one thing I did ask them to wear was part of someone else’s
work. So it was about trying to set up movements into my work and then
back out again. It’s hard to explain sometimes because it’s
as if for every movement in one direction I need to set up one in another
direction. So there isn’t an idea of progress and a complete utopian
design for life, because that is a kind of flawed movement in one direction
and what I’m trying to do is less decided than that and maybe more
RMM: I was going to ask you about using actresses, because before it has
always been you and your body in the work and I wondered how it was giving
it up to someone else?
AC: I was really conscious of how I was trying not to direct them and
that was difficult because I didn’t want their actions to be expressive.
Something really interesting happened there, but I’m still working
it out. You know when you do something that goes a bit beyond what you
RMM: And as well as being the first time you’d used other bodies
it was the first time you did a performance wasn’t it?
AC: Yeah, and there’s something… I think a lot about what
excites me about pattern in the work is trying to make it embodied. In
a way all of the work is an attempt to make a pattern that only exists
when someone else enters the space and tries to put it back together again.
So that performance was a demonstration of that by asking people to come
into the space and be part of the work and bring something of themselves
RMM: And the way you use Noel’s hats and Erdem’s dresses,
and you set up your Goldsmith’s degree show where Lucy Parker made
a blind for your window, as a way of collaborating… well it seems
more like choreographing infiltrations. Do you always collaborate in that
AC: It’s never felt like collaboration, it is more choreography
or setting up movement in and out of something, and I was really conscious
of how in that show I’d asked Lucy to make me a blind because I
thought that in order to get shadows from the spots I’d need to
cover the window. So it was a movement from her work into my work and
then from my work back into her work. It’s sort of not that good-hearted
RMM: It’s quite a flattering gesture to collaborate via invitation.
AC: Maybe, in the way that her work is still allowed to be her work and
my work is allowed to be my work. It just rehearses where the border between
the two exists and whenever I tell the story of my show I have to tell
the story of her show.
RG: Would you say you have a signature aesthetic? Because I think I could
spot your work a mile off.
AC: Yeah. I think I do, because with the Moorfields eye I knew I could
use that object because it fitted in my work and that gave me licence
to pick it, but I feel like I do try and do things to upset that aesthetic.
I’m not quite sure how successful they are.
RG: It’s not successful at all but that’s the nature of making
AC: But what if some of the characteristics of that aesthetic are quite
generic, like a spot or a stripe, you can’t claim those things as
original. It comes back to that thing again of being really conscious
of what the practice is as a whole and trying to use a signature aesthetic
to set up something that appears to cohere and appears to be whole and
then to set up these movements to disrupt that.
RG: But that’s why I see in your practice this mode for living because
it’s like attaching an aesthetic to every area. Like using a domino,
it has spots and stripes on every one and then that moves to the playing
and that moves to the cushions and the bias binding on the edges of the
cushions has stripes on it as well and that’s why I think a good
word is monopolisation, because I can imagine it spreading…
AC: If that was the case maybe that’s the point at which I lose
control of it because there are a lot of things in the world that are
made up of those two basic elements.
RMM: I think what I wanted to ask was about style, which I think is different
to an aesthetic. I think of style as being a language you’ve developed
and play with, rather than a signature aesthetic…
AC: I don’t know, I think there’s two things there. One is
to do with style and what style is and my interest in fashion, the difference
between fashion and art, and trying to include works from fashion, which
have a completely different velocity, different relationship to time and
meaning. Then the other thing which is a question about formalism, practice
and what happens when you start to try to develop your own language and
that’s really interesting because it feels like quite a vulnerable
way of working. It’s not trying to appeal to some kind of content
or subject matter outside the work, it’s trying to use the work
itself to develop things that might gain meaning within the space of a
practice I suppose. There’s two works that are going to be in the
show using these long columns of pleated fabric and they feel like they
could be the beginning of developing a sculptural language.
RMM: When you first talked about them you said that they were very ‘RCA
sculpture’. What did you mean by that?
AC: I think it comes back to that thing of saying if we accept that there
might be a way of working that’s genre specific and it’s to
do with an idea of sculpture, that is quite inward-looking, a hermetic
way of working.
RMM: Why does it feel like a vulnerable way of working?
AC: I think because it’s a type of formalism and these works don’t
appeal to things outside themselves for a right to exist.
RMM: And is it something that has been borne out of your time at Royal
College on the sculpture course?
AC: I think so yeah. And part of that is being able to be sensitive to
material and the way in which the objects in my work might be made. For
example in the white on white screen print where you don’t recognise
it as an image, to begin with you recognise it as material and that happens
in a moment of perception, before recognition kicks in. There’s
also something about the way in which material is the thing that allows
an object to exist separately from your intention for it. Like the Perspex
Graveyard show we’re doing at Dicksmith – the material of
those objects is the thing that is completely disobedient, because their
makers had this intention and the material goes on to completely pervert
RMM: Oh yeah, Gabo and those artists using Perspex as this amazing new
material but decades on the Perspex is dying… Erm… got to
round up so how did your experience of the RCA differ to Goldsmiths?
AC: They’re separate poles. I think my practice suits both of them…
RG: Can an art school just be a warm room?
AC: I think art school is really important and I think it should be a
place where you’re encouraged to ask loads of questions but at the
same time given space to find out what happens when you make stuff. The
other thing is the people who are there. At the end of Goldsmiths I felt
the most important thing was the people I’d met.
RMM: What was the last show you saw?
AC: Elizabeth Price’s film ‘At the House of Mr X’ at
the Stanley Picker Gallery in Kingston.
RG: She’s good, isn’t she? She was my tutor on foundation.
AC: She was my tutor too but that’s not why I think it was good…
Oh, and I wanted to ask you something… can I print a story on the
back of the invites and the interviews? It’s the story about the
RMM: Sure… Why do you like the Mary Quant book so much? I saw in
your bag you kept bringing it to the false starts for this interview.
AC: I thought that there might be a moment I could get it out and talk
about it and that there would be a point in the interview when we were
talking about an object that wasn’t there and when you were reading
the interview there would be words where we were looking at something
you couldn’t see. To indicate where the edges of the interview were.
RMM: Now it’s a fiction because the book isn’t here…
So why do you like it so much?
AC: It’s one whole book but because of the way you can read it by
opening out both halves of the cover and then the pages on the inside
there are always four pages open in front of you so it appears to exist
as a whole book and then many different books in one and that’s
the kind of structure I’m interested in for my work.
RMM: It’s a great book and they do proper Mondrian’s on faces.
AC: It’s that moment again when a graphic language that came out
of the Russian avant-garde in the 1920s ended up in make-up.
RG: So say something about Associates. Do you think it’s good it
ends after a year?
AC: Yeah. I think it’ll be sad but I think it’s a really good
thing that it’s ending. Things stay good because they finish.
RG: Do you think the artists we’ve showed have shared anything?
AC: I’m not sure… I definitely think there’s something
in the space, the size of it and its particularities like the step and
ledge and vanishing point, which mean it is conducive to showing types
of work, groups of objects that are set up to relate to each other like
a constellation in the space.
RG: Constellation is a nice word. Last question: do you think that in
the future there will be shinier objects and more silver things?
AC: Why are you asking me that?
RG: Rikrit Tiravanija said the future is chrome…
AC: The best science fiction, like Blade Runner and everything William
Gibson has written, materially those things interpret the future not as
shiny and high tech but as a combination of those and as more vulnerable
materials like paper and fabric and ceramic, things which don’t
try so hard to look futuristic. Shinyness reminds me of the past, the
70s. Is that too serious a response to your stupid question?
RG: It was a brilliant question. I’m sure there’s something
Alice Channer was born
in Oxford in 1977. She gained her BA Fine Art from Goldsmiths College
in 2006. Since then she has completed the first year of her MA Sculpture
at the Royal College of Art and had a group show at Galleri Specta, Copenhagen.
She has an upcoming group show at Dicksmith, London (2008).
For more information
contact Rebecca May Marston at firstname.lastname@example.org or +44
(0) 207 729 8173 or see www.associatesgallery.co.uk