Nowhere (inc works by Ray Bull, Peter Eide, Gino Saccone & Ian Swanson)

Savingy Hotel / Frankfurt, Germany

12 Feb - 15 May 2016

Peter Eide
Peter Eide
Ray Bull
Ray Bull
Gino Saccone
Ian Swanson
Gino Saccone
Ian Swanson

Interview by Celena Ohmer

Galleries and Hotels are both high end commercial spaces. What is the main difference to other exhibitions you have realized in the past?

Previously in my installations I've co-opted mass market commercial spaces into the gallery such as like the IKEA show room set up I constructed in my exhibition hubcaP sMiley last year at Evelyn Yard and the visual merchandising display of mannequins modeling the clothing I co designed with my fashion designer sister Joanna Pybus at Johannes Vogt in NYC. This exhibition at the Savingy Hotel is a continuation of this line of exploration but instead of me going into a plain 'neutral' space and converting it into something else I am presented with a fully realized functioning public space which I in someway have to acknowledge and integrate into. It's a really exciting new challenge and context to play with.

The Hotel setting is a new context to present your artworks. Some might say its unreasonable to put a show up in such a setting, since the works could possibly be seen as part of the design concept. However your room-spanning installation looks more like a willful embracement of the interior.

Yeah some may say that but I'm not concerned in having strict boundaries between high and low. I enjoy playing in a blurrier space, they provide me with fertile ground to create in.
With this project at the Hotel Savingy I consciously wanted to embrace the environment. I loved the idea of installing the work as if it was in a sense part of the interior design of the space so visitors may even mistake my intervention of works as part of the original interior decoration of the space. I took this even further by commandeering the framed prints that are hung throughout the corridors and using them to curate a mini exhibition within my installation of paintings, re-framing them with work by Ray Bull, Peter Eide, Gino Saccone and Ian Swanson.

Can the Yoshi painting with its monochrome black background and white lines for example be seen as reference to the carpet in the lobby?

Totally, that was me taking cues from the space rather than working against it. I found the carpet striking with it's black background and white text so wanted to do a black and white painting with text to gave a little wink to the hotels interior. I also hung the Amy Blue paintings in a way so they 'faced' the already existing paintings of Goethe which were hung on the wall. Subtle interactions like this were an important part of my process, working in dialogue with the space.

The title of the exhibition Nowhere takes it's name from the 1997 film of the same title written and directed by Gregg Araki. Paintings pop imagery such as Roger Rabbit, Yoshi and Pokemon find themselves rendered alongside movie stars and characters such as Rose McGowan in her first leading role playing Amy Blue in The Doom Generation. What kind of connection exists between the icons and the characters?

The connection primarily is found in me – they are all characters, images etc that I am drawn to in one way or another which I am able to use to explore my own concerns and desires through. I like the fact they are mass market / Pop cultural so they have a collective consciousness attached to them which most of us can relate to in one way or another. Then I like to corrupt and de-contextualise them into my world to create new readings and narratives.

I remember you planed to create (or did?) your own fragrance for a show. You are obsessed with global brands like IKEA and created in a collaboration with your sister, the fashion designer Joanna Pybus, a ready-to-wear collection. Can you try to explain why consumer goods are such an integral part of your work? Which role does materiality and surface play in that context?

Ah yeah that was 'IMAGINE FOREVER' my 100% Officially Unofficial fragrance collaboration with Robert Pattinson for a project in conjunction with Gloria Maria Gallery in 2014. There isn't a person on Earth whose life isn't intrinsically connected to consumer goods. Whether you're making, selling, buying them or a mix of all three. Our planet is completely sculpted by our ever increasing 'need' for more goods and the industries that source, produce, transport and merchandise them. I find it too big a subject to ignore creatively. In the 20th Century, particularly in the West we transformed from groups of people with practical needs to individuals with never ending wants and demands. Facilitated and encouraged through hyper sophisticated advertising campaigns. Our subconscious fears and desires have been manipulated to placate us, creating a population of 'good' consumers. It's an amazing feat of human engineering, one that I'm not even totally opposed to. I love the consumer world we live in and the products and services it offers, but there's a dark side to it for sure. Environmental devastation, forced human labour, a burgeoning greed and emptiness that grows inside from constantly being told your life isn't good enough, you aren't good enough. As consumer goods and advertising have been used as one the primary modes of exploring and exploiting human behavior I find it natural to use the icons and products of this system to express myself with.

You use brands. Do you also try to operate like a brand? Where do you see the difference between you and a conventional one?

The idea of a brand has changed a lot, in the past it referred to a company, a product say Colgate or Ford. With the advent of social media I feel this term has expanded in directions we really never could have envisioned. Now it can apply to someone that has nothing to say or sell?! I don't consciously operate as a brand but am very aware my practice cuts into that world and as an artist I have a personal brand – which ironically stems from my sampling and use of global brands, like IKEA and Pokemon. Often I'm sent/tagged/posted online by others stories and images relating the to the brands I've used, which is great – when someone sees IKEA and thinks 'Michael Pybus' that means my work is doing it's job!

The reflection of Mass media and mass culture, the mechanisms of distributions and the exploration of the self - image in the digital age are an integral part of your work. You once said that "capitalism has made the best images ever" and "the images look more real than our reality" Is this the reason why you aim to force a breakdown of hierarchies by the use of fast image? To spotlight this issue/ circumstance?

Maybe not spotlight it but reflect upon it, which upon doing so I aim to open up a wider dialogue about how we are moving forward (or backward?!) as a culture.

You often combine imagery with text. This time you decided to integrate quotes of a philosopher Guy Debord and author Don DeLillo, into your paintings, who predicted and explored the world we are living in. Why did you use the - malfunctioning - google translation service to translate the English quotes into German?

Basically it's immediacy and ease of use. When you read the German translated from the English quotes you explained to me how they made no sense. The translations speak of and freeze a moment in time technologically. If I use the translate tool in a year or two it will most probably improve. The 'bad' translation in the painting operates as a hidden date and time stamp.

Your approach involves a wide range of artistic forms and (both) analogue and digital techniques whereby the contemporary icons end up in / as huge Assemblages and room-spanning Installations. The source material receives through the remix a new connotation. It feels like you are sampling the world – like some post-internet artists. You stated in a previous discussion that you aren't interested in defining your work in categories. And still a practice like yours can fall into the term post internet, don't you agree?!

I get the Post Internet label but for me I find the term too reductive when I think about my own practice – and that comment isn't me throwing any shade at the 'Post Internet' artists btw. That term often seems to be used to describe work that doesn't physically exist or is pre-fabricated and exploring a very specific corporate aesthetic and agenda whereas I feel my work whilst sampling and incorporating much of the consumer landscape is still a very 'analogue' practice. Maybe that's to do with my age, I spent most of my teens without internet and then at 17 I got dial up internet so I transitioned to this virtual world we now live in opposed to being a native to it. I am at a place now where my practice just takes for granted we live in an always online world with infinite access to information and options and I make my pieces out of both traditional and modern materials/techniques which I guess could be Post Internet ? Post Internet 2.0? I dunno I'm not good with labels :-s

You live quite isolated in a space in Hackney Wick, your whole life revolves around - Art - your work. Are you restaging and celebrating the obsolete image of the artist of the 20's Century? Or is it rather a description of our time? People are connected more and more via Phone and Messages and Art can be experienced via Instagram. Is it unnecessary to see and experience exhibitions in real life? It was a lot more isolated when I first moved here in 2008! When I arrived it was like a little industrial ghost town, now there are cafes charging 4 quid for a coffee, designer furniture shops and even a hot tub restaurant (my idea of Hell – why would anyone mix food and communal bathing?!). There's no conscious effort on my part to play any particular role, naturally I see no boundary between my day to day living and my practice so it makes sense for me to live in a live/work unit. I picked Hackney Wick because an opportunity arose as I was graduating and it was one of the few affordable places to live in a warehouse in London. I'm really social but I love my own company so it works perfectly for me here, I can easily work any time day or night and people come over to visit I have the balance right for me with this set up.

Besides the similarity to Michel Majerus, who also made use of unconventional spots like Supermarkets to display his art, one might see analogies to his approach in general. A critic once called him an "Image - Processing / Editing-Machine" who preserves visual impressions of the everyday culture and adverts in connection with reference to the history of art. How important is the dialogue to other artist? Is your work filled with references to other artists?

Super important! I've re-painted and paid homage to many artists works including Majerus. One of my favorite things about art is that these amazing minds have left all this rich material for us to work with that spans all the way back to cave paintings. Even after death the ideas and energy go forward. As culture progresses these images and ideas can evolve, they can be re-sampled and built upon to create new narratives both in conversation with the past and looking out to the future. For me it makes my position as an artist a very exciting place to be.