An interview between Lucy Clout & Rebecca May Marston,
23rd November, 2006.
RMM: Firstly, when was the last time you were in your studio? What were
LC: This morning, if that counts. Mainly I was just sat there…
RMM: I think you might have to talk up a bit.
LC: OK. I’ll enunciate. I was doing a little writing but mainly
a lot of sitting.
RMM: Writing about your work or for something?
LC: Um, writing as a way of working out my work.
RMM: Before we talk more about your studio/space, with your work do you
only make performance?
LC: No, recently I’ve mainly shown performance work. It’s
been the stuff that’s easier to show because my CV has performance
on it so I’ve got those ‘gigs’ again.
RMM: Especially in your performance, you factor into it the embarrassment
of the audience. I was going to ask you a question about that, err…
LC: Well I like to acknowledge the actuality of seeing art and particularly
seeing performance, within the performance. Often it’s an awful,
weird, semi-humiliating experience for the audience, of not quite knowing
how to act. It relies on the audience’s manners and generosity.
As an audience member you’re often forced to perform yourself watching.
RMM: Do you think embarrassment and the generosity of the audience in
that way are unique to art performance?
LC: Yeah, maybe. Also there’s something about performance and the
pretence to being ‘high art’. People take performance funnily,
they are more comfortable disliking theatre etc. where you tend to have
an understanding of the boundaries more.
RMM: By saying ‘pretence to high art’ do you think it’s
low down on the scale then?
LC: No, I’m interested in how this uncomfortable experience has
cultural capital and I think that some of the unpleasant things in performance
that I’m talking about validate the status of it in a funny way.
There’s something about negative things having a status above positive
things. Where pleasure (like in theatre) is less worthy than an intellectualized
enjoyment that one might expect performance art to give.
RMM: So you’re allying theatre with positive because it’s
traditionally a social form of popular entertainment, and art as negative
because it’s associated with elitism?
LC: Yeah, I’ve always been interested in performed pleasure and
liking things not being linked to intellectual ideas, as well as the opposite;
discomfort or hating things as an intellectual standpoint.
RMM: I was going to ask you as well if the form of your work is more important
than content, because I remember you referring to that when you sent us
LC: Generally true of my work, but I think the form is the content really.
RMM: So, what are the bits of content you’ve been using, because
you’ve been working with hair follicles recently, no? Where did
those things come from?
LC: I’m interested in a certain level of interaction with the world.
I feel like an awful lot of your time in the world is taken with looking
at, and engaging with, very uninteresting things. I think that the hair
follicles were just me looking at split ends. All the performances are
really about little examinations of the world. There’s no depth
to the interaction I’m talking about, but it’s actually what
makes up a real majority of your mental time. Little questions which have
little answers which satisfy your imagined need for knowledge. But essentially
this little bit of knowledge doesn’t get you any further. It’s
about a little trick of the brain rather than any real scholarly interest
in the world.
RMM: Do you agree that you send yourself up and use humour in your work?
I mean do you use self-deprecation as a tool within the work?
LC: Yeah, I do.
RMM: This is stupid to say but that’s a classic British humour isn’t
LC: I suppose it is. But I fear it’s a woman’s trick of humour
and I’d really hate it if that were true. It’s a character
trait I really deplore. I’m trying to move into working with someone
else as the performer because I think that it’ll be easier to read
the actions and uncomfortableness in my performances as deliberate rather
than just as someone who doesn’t understand performance, if it’s
been directed than if it’s me performing.
RMM: In a directorial or collaborative way with someone else?
LC: Directorial. But I feel ridiculous about that as there’s an
arrogance that increasingly annoys me, which is when people say ‘well
I’m an artist now, but of course I could be a theatre director or
whatever’. But, y’know, see how it goes. It might not be hard…
RMM: I did want to talk a bit about your studio and your house. You’re
lucky enough to live in this huge house and you have art plans for the
LC: Yeah. We’ve got a space in the house that I think me and Oliver
Reece are going to use as a kind of project space. Because we have this
real lucky situation it allows us to facilitate something good happen
(if that’s not too stupid a thing to say?). I don’t think
we’re going to use it straightforwardly as a gallery. I think…
what I want to get out of it is to do some kind of thing where the shows
that we do had an attempt at a discussion event around them…
RMM: You mean in terms of you organising projects it’s more about
discussion than you showing artists’ work?
LC: Er, yeah, well… Oliver’s a lot more interested in theoretical
or pragmatic ideas of curating, but I would be more interested in being
able to actually talk to people about their work and… I’m
interested more generally in how people talk about work and ideas. I’m
not sure quite how, but I would like to get that in.
RMM: And is it friends who you know who you plan to work with or are you
planning on using it as a research exercise?
LC: Well we’re not totally sure about this…. I think we would
start with existing contacts because we know enough people who we believe
are genuinely good and that could do interesting things. At least while
we’re working out how to do things there’d be no need to look
any further in a way.
RMM: It seems, at least to me, that in Scotland there are a lot more artists
doing things out of their flats and such like. Do you think it’s
especially so in London, where it’s so hard to find the space?
LC: No, I think it’s probably easier in London. I think about it
a lot, because I’m originally from Leeds, and in a way there are
so few things happening there that if you do anything it becomes quite
important. So I wonder whether it’s better to do something that
seems quite important to the six people who are interested in art in Leeds,
or whether… It’s just that I genuinely don’t see the
point of doing stuff which no-one sees. In London there are so many spaces
that they are sometimes diluted. When people graduate they do a lot of
weird group shows because it’s a way of getting things onto your
CV, which is understandable, but they’re to a large extent pointless;
no-one comes to them except friends and I hope that our space would be
able to act as an alternative to that kind of thing, for people at that
RMM: But it’s not something where you will ever accept submissions.
It will be something where you actively curate it?
LC: I don’t know. In the future that could happen. I mean you could
in fact do some kind of residency thing there, because there is so much
RMM: So you might work with people outside of London?
LC: Well it’s all conjecture, but yeah…
RMM: Um, ok, last questions. What was the last show that you saw?
LC: It was a Vilma Gold one. Aida Ruida. I really enjoyed it but then,
actually I always really like stuff in Vilma Gold. There are spaces that
you always like the work in and others that don’t allow you to be
RMM: OK. And where did you go to art school? Did you enjoy it?
LC: I went to Goldsmiths. In retrospect yes, but at the time probably
not so much.
RMM: Anything else you want to say? I know… I forgot to ask you
about your use of narrative in your work, how it non-linearly loops back
on itself. Do always use narrative in this way?
LC: Not always, but often. It goes back to this thing of how I like to
talk about the everyday, the brick and mortar experiences… that
thing of how a lot of experience is made up of those insignificant question
and answer loops. That non-linear looping narrative attempts to follow
RMM: Ok let’s stop now. Ace, thanks.