Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Interview with Samantha Sweeting

(Above: His Fleece Was As White As Snow. For more info:

1) Do you find it hard to put a price on your work? How do you decide on how much to charge for a piece of your work?
Pricing is variable depending on what it is, cost of production, edition size, the importance of the item in relation to the rest of my work, and so on. I don’t actually have many pieces that I am willing to part with at the moment. The objects I make tend to be very personal and irreplaceable, bound with emotional attachments. I’ve been concentrating more on screening and exhibiting than selling, though I am tentatively trying to change that.

2) Are you happy in London, which places do you miss and where would you like to visit?
I only just moved back to London last year. I escaped once already, to rural England and then an isolated farmhouse in a forest in the French Pyrennes. It was a wild and beautiful place and part of my heart remains there. But I am happy to be back amongst the particular chaos that London offers. I miss the tastes and smells I had growing up in the tropics. I would like to re-visit New York.

3) Did you enjoy art college, was it worth the money it cost?
I was more productive than I have ever been on my art foundation at Camberwell, which I loved. I developed my installation work at LCC and am still returning to themes I began working with back then. I also met some lovely and talented people who I remain in contact with. Moving to Devon for my MA brought about a distinctive break in the direction of my work, which was my intention. I was very lucky to be awarded AHRC funding to cover my tuition fees and living costs.  

4) Are you at your happiest when you're making work or do you find that you give in to morbid introspection if you're left alone too long?
I don’t look to my work for happiness. It’s more about compulsion and partly a way of processing morbid thoughts. There are highs and lows.

5) Can you name 5 good performance artists alive today?
I’m restricting this list to people that I’ve actually seen perform.
La Ribot – funny, visual, domestic, articulate. The first performance art I ever saw was by her, at the South London Gallery when I was 18. 
Ron Athey – intensely challenging and moving work. He is someone whose performances must be seen live.
Joan Jonas – She creates wonderful juxtapositions of animals, objects, actions, body and video.
Lisa Newman and Llewyn Máirie from Gyrl Grip – They make highly personal work around gender, intimacy and love. They are not afraid of romance.
Deniz Unal – A close friend and talented artist. Her work has an off-centre approach toward sexuality and autobiography, kind of pathetic and erotic at the same time. I adore her.

6) Do your family rate what you do?
Yes, they’re all very supportive. My parents brought me up to follow my heart, which I imagine must be difficult for them at times considering the nature of my work.

7) Adam Ant once observed, "Ridicule is nothing to be scared of" Are you quite thick skinned? Would you be devastated to overhear two people sneering at your work?
At The Future Can Wait, I overheard some people watching my video, His Fleece Was White As Snow, saying “Eugh. That’s not art, that’s animal abuse. Gross.” I found that funny. It’s such a ridiculous statement. An animal following his instincts of his own accord is hardly abuse. I think a lot of my work sits on the borders of acceptability, so I expect opinions to be mixed. 

8) Which do you prefer Motown music from the 60s (e.g. Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes) or, New York post punk bands like Blondie, Television, Talking Heads, The Ramones, Richard Hell etc?
How can you choose between Marvin Gaye and Debbie Harry? I like mixing it all up.

9) What do you think about The Future Can Wait show? Were you happy to be asked and happy with how it went? Which artists in that show do you like the most?
It’s an interesting project and the Shoreditch Town Hall is a great venue. Always happy to be asked. Apart from the video, I made a performance installation piece, though I’m still processing my feelings about that one. Hectic openings are a difficult context for showing intimate work.
Tessa Farmer is really good, I’ve seen her work in a couple other shows and always enjoy it.

10) Do you believe in God and life after death?
That would be nice. Most of my work is about fear of death.

11) Do you see a link between being an artist and being a priest or being a Stand Up comedian? Is art ultimately about communication?
I don’t relate to either of those with my practice. Though I’d say that Lenny Bruce was an artist. His stand up was dark, intelligent, provocative and daring – qualities that most artists would want their work to aspire to. Art is definitely about communication.

12) Your film in The Future Can Wait features a lamb called Oscar. What's happened to Oscar since? Are you still in touch?
I made that video a couple of years ago when Oscar was a week old. He’d been rejected by his mother, so my boyfriend and I adopted him, bringing him up with a bottle. They both still live in the Pyrenees and I went to visit a couple months ago. Oscar’s an enormous ram now – or sheep technically speaking as he’s castrated. We all went for a walk together in the forest.

13) How did you come across Pablo Neruda and what do you like about his poems?
I was browsing the poetry section in a train station bookshop and found Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. I like the combination of passion and sorrow in his poetry.

14) Who do you hold in higher regard - Yoko Ono or Sarah Lucas? Are either of them a better artist than you?
That’s a strange choice. I would have to say Yoko Ono. Her works have been incredibly influential. Cut Piece is still such a strong and relevant work, 45 years on.
Of course she’s a better artist than me.

15) What are your ambitions?
To make art and feel love. And vice versa.

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