Tuesday 16th – Lucy Clout – An Exhibition

For ‘An Exhibition’ an audio guide introduces the audience to 5 objects and offers techniques to help memorize the information that is contained within them. Varying between gallery, gift-shop and hobby-craft aesthetics, the facts and faces of the objects are not always convincing. This work is an expansion of Lucy Clout’s interest in processes of generosity, authority and mimicry played out in instructional performance.

Lucy Clout born in Leeds 1980, and is based in London. She gained a BA (Hons) from Goldsmiths College in 2004. Since graduation she completed a residency at Cove Park, Scotland (2004), and a commission for the Beacon, Lincolnshire (2006).


Click here for images of the Lucy Clout show


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 you doing?
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… why?
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 your proposal?
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 it?
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 space?
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 stage.
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 space.
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 so generous.
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 those patterns.
RMM: Ok let’s stop now. Ace, thanks.