I Stood Up And I Said Yeah

Bob and Alice have interviewed each other for Jean McEwan’s new zine for New Work Yorkshire: I Stood Up And I Said Yeah Issue 1: DIY which launched yesterday, Friday 6th May at the Compass Live Art event at Bloc Projects, Sheffield.

I Stood Up And I Said Yeah Issue 1 is a multi-format loose leaf zine with accompanying CD, presenting an eclectic variety of reflective, critical, satirical, oblique, irreverent  and personal responses to the theme of DIY, including interviews, performative writing video documentation, reviews, audio, photography, personal reflection and drawing from:

Alice Bradshaw and Bob Milner
Rachel Lois Clapham
Brian Gilson
Tim Ineaux
Sohail Khan
Nick Kilby
Dave Lynch
Milk Two Sugars
Christopher Mollon
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Jez Riley Smith
Sarah Spanton
Douglas Thompson
Nathan Walker

It’s published in a limited edition of 100 and viwebale online here: http://issuu.com/istoodupandisaidyeah/docs/istoodup

Bob interviews Alice

BM: Does ‘art’ matter?

AB: Yes. And it shouldn’t be a luxury for the privileged, it should be for everyone.

BM: People like labels and especially in the ‘art world’, for example, nonsense such as ‘emerging artist’. I was once called a ‘DIY’ artist and I winced. I can’t seem to find the right label for you, can you suggest what it would be and what wider context you see your work in?

AB:The labeling and classification thing is really problematic. “Artist” is often not specific enough and artist/curator is another set of problems. “Artist” can cover such a wide range of disciplines, so I tend towards describing what I do in processes, and that I work with everyday objects and materials. I sometimes say I have an object-based practice, although it’s probably more encompassing to say my work deals with the everyday or the commonplace. In describing my practice to other people, they’ve sometimes said I’m a cross-disciplinary artist, which is probably true enough, but I tend to think most artists are, and that label is no more helpful than “artist.”

BM: All embracing terms like ‘DIY’ can be useful, so what does it mean to you?

AB: Wikipedia’s definition of DIY (generic) is interesting; “people creating things for themselves without the aid of paid professionals.” There’s a whole essay in that definition applied to art, or perhaps two! I think it’s an attitude towards making things happen with an immediacy and autonomy whether that’s individual or collective autonomy.

BM: Collaboration with other artists and curators on projects appears to be a crucial part of your practice. How did this develop and does it raise any issues that are particular to collaboration?

AB: I’ve found that I always curate collaboratively and it’s a conversational process. I’m co-founding member of Contents May Vary which was formed by Manchester Metropolitan University Fine Art Sculpture students who had some common ideas about art. Working collaboratively on exhibitions started there and further on I’ve met other artists with similar ideas to me and we’ve collaborated on shows. Collaborating with different people becomes different processes and results and I’m interested in exploring ideas through these processes. There’s also problems inherent in collaboration such as ownership and ego. At best it’s when people’s ideas converge and the whole becomes something greater than the sum of it’s parts.

BM: I know one artist who will only ever show a piece of work three times. Do you have any self-imposed tricks or rules that keep the creative cogs whirring?

AB: For me, it’s about making time for thinking and making, so not keeping too busy with the rest of the stuff surrounding practice like emails and applications and meetings and websites, and even research which is an important part of practice but is not making things. Going to exhibitions, conferences and lectures and reading is important to me and keeps cogs whirring, so it’s not all about productivity. The studio is often the best place for productivity but I also really like train journeys for that fixed time and space for doing nothing but thinking, reading, writing or drawing.

BM: If you had to select one image or one piece of work to feature on the cover of a book of your work, a DIY production or otherwise, what would it be?

AB: Some Blah Blah Blah work filling the cover.

Alice interviews Bob

AB: DIY in art practice means different things to different people. How do you define the term?

BM: It is a label and I instinctively dislike labels. I think for some people it is a genuine calling, a real belief that making art on your own terms is good, that selling it or even having it seen by a lot of people really doesn’t matter. Doing it is the important thing. In that sense it is closely tied to another label ‘Outsider Art’. But, a lot of young designers and illustrators seem to jump on the ‘DIY’ bandwagon, adopt a ‘rough’ style or fabricate the look of work in order to have some of that supposed ‘kudos’ that goes with being poor or from outside of the mainstream art education system. I hate that. They’re the first to sell it to a tee-shirt company. They think they’re poor because they can barely keep up with their credit card repayments for weighty arty purchases. They take all the honesty out of true DIY art.

AB: How do you distinguish between your roles as artist and curator?

BM: When I’m an artist, another label I dislike, I’m making work. Or having an idea for some work. Curating is arranging stuff from other people in a space, hoping that it shows their work in the best way and doesn’t expose you as a cock. I see both as very immediate and visual but backed up with a solid amount of knowledge and thought. Being involved in curation doesn’t leave you with a good opinion of other artists. I don’t think it is a case of two different roles; when I’m curating I’m working for someone else, often people I’ve never met.

AB: What was your first art collaboration?

BM: I’m not sure when I became an ‘artist’ and that makes it hard to pinpoint my first collaboration. I think I’ve always had the art thing going on but never had to attach a label or any significance to it until I entered the art education system. So, that would make it my foundation course, back in 1990; I started the ‘Museum Dedicated to the Enhancement of Green and Red’ and invited other students to contribute work that was red or green or red and green. I have a book of photographs of the best contributions.

AB: What do you think the main advantages and pitfalls of DIY practice can be?

BM: There is no pitfall to following your desire to make work. Ego is the biggest problem. The only advantage is if people believe your bullshit and start paying you to be a ‘bit of rough’.

AB: Artists’ opinions of public arts funding can often be complex and seemingly contradictory. What’s your stance on the subject?

BM: It is more of an unfortunate gait. Erm, fund the big things that benefit lots of people, especially those who are not ‘artists’, like galleries and museums but do not give money to individual artists. If you can’t afford your project, don’t do it. Don’t ask for money. Work within your means. Sell stuff. Get a proper job. If it needs £5000 to realise your ‘vision’ it is probably a short-sighted one. Go to Specsavers. Either that or make ‘being an artist’ a state funded occupation.

AB: We both live in West Yorkshire and are prolific in the region as well as working nationally and internationally. Do you think West Yorkshire is home to any particular approach, commonalities and/or abundance of DIY practice?

BM: Nah, not really. We’re Northern, so better that most people. And funnier. And sexier.

AB: And finally, the obligatory plugs. What else are you currently working on?

BM: https://aliceandbobcurate.wordpress.com/ And, I am trying to bring contemporary art to Knaresborough. And I am hoping that I will be making some decent paintings in the next six months.

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