Elly Clarke

October 2020

“…as a white, middle class, educated cis-gendered person my privilege has undoubtedly paved many paths for me over my life, some of which I see and am aware of, others not. Learning how to live with and see and acknowledge and manage and use my privilege for the good is a constant dialogue I have.”

Elly Clarke is a performer, photographer, and educator living between London and Berlin. She is interested in the impact of the digital on the physical and how it influences our relationship with ourselves and other people. Her multi-bodied identity #Sergina explores these ideas further, performing songs virtually and IRL about love and loneliness. Clarke’s practice often involves collaboration or participation, and many projects have a strong community focus with an emphasis on collecting and sharing stories via the mediums of video, audio and photography. She is also interested in finding alternative ways to sell art.

Clarke is a CHASE DTP funded PhD candidate at Goldsmiths College. She has exhibited her photographic and audio work in the UK and internationally at venues that include The Lowry, Salford; Galerie Wedding, Berlin; ONCA, Brighton; and Soho20 Gallery, NYC, with upcoming projects in Canada and Denmark. She has lectured at many institutions including University of Reading; Academy of Media Arts Cologne; Victoria College of the Arts, Melbourne; Central School of Speech and Drama, London; and for a year was Senior Lecturer in Photography at Coventry University. 

Image courtesy of the artist
A Class(y) Lecture, 2018
Galerie Wedding, Berlin, DE

Photo: Andrzej Raszyk

ARTIST STATEMENT

I’m interested in the role, performance, value and burden (‘the drag’) of the physical body in an increasingly digitally-mediated world. I explore this through video, analogue and digital photography, music, writing and participatory/community-based projects – and #Sergina, a border-straddling, multi-bodied drag queen who, across one body and several, sings and performs songs online and offline about love, lust and loneliness in the mesh of hyper-dis/connection. In this format, #Sergina (plural) has performed in art, club, theatre and university spaces in the UK, Germany, Serbia, Australia, and the USA – and this month, is in residence (via plural bodies spanning different time zones) at Knot Project Space in Ottawa, Canada. Some of #Sergina’s songs make it onto records released by Berlin-based label Wicked Hag. Many performances are participatory. I am also a photographer who still uses film, and considers framing in many contexts, beyond the edges of a photograph.

IN DISCUSSION

Tash Kahn / I like the fact your work is accessible to all, generous in its ideas and socially engaging. Your Broadway House Photo Project (2002-2003) was born out of an idea to get to know your neighbours. By asking tenants to photograph views from their apartment windows you used the medium of photography to encourage them to be creative, and an exhibition at the end brought everyone together. Projects like this can effect change locally. Do you think it did at Broadway House? Have you revisited? Do you think you have changed lives through this project? Is that something you sought to do at the outset?

Elly Clarke / I love that you ask about this project. It was the very first project I did ‘as an artist’ rather than a curator, which was the professional hat I’d worn until then. I hadn’t studied art practice since GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) and then found myself on the MA at Central Saint Martins, which I was admitted onto by course leader Joanna Greenhill (who sadly died earlier this year). She liked the curating in strange places I’d been doing, along with my photography portfolio – particularly a series of self portraits I’d taken during the time my dad was diagnosed with (and soon after died of) cancer. Photography has always been a really important way of helping me to see the world.

The Broadway House Photo Project took place in 2002-03, in a time before camera phones, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Instagram or any of these photo-based platforms. Having worked for several dot com start-ups in New York City and London, my obsession with how the internet and personal communication technologies affect our sense of self and our perception of the world on a personal and political level was already set. I was thinking in particular about how this connects people across space, but also how little we know our neighbours. Broadway House is a local authority building in Hackney where I’d lived at that point for three years and, outside of the Tenants and Residents Association, knew hardly any of the other people who lived there. So I wrote a letter to all 60 homes in the block inviting them to take three photos with a disposable camera, from and inside their homes – one looking north, another south, and a third of anything they wanted, and to give their pictures titles. With funding from the Tenants and Residents Association I was able to get hand prints made and put on an exhibition at Seven Seven Gallery on Broadway Market for two weeks. At the private view, my neighbours saw their pictures for the first time, and met each other – often for the first time despite many having lived in Broadway House for more than ten years. During the exhibition participants took turns to look after the space and show visitors round, revealing some really interesting stories and histories and interpersonal narratives that might not otherwise have been told or revealed. So, yes, in answer to your question I do think it had an impact. When I went back a year ago, I bumped into Ola (whose photo of his sitting room we used for the exhibition invite) and we had an amazing chat in which he mentioned the project. I also received postcards over the next six years from Titus (the most elderly resident who participated) and I remember one person saying: “I didn’t understand what you were doing at the time, but I trusted you and now I see and it’s great.” So I do think it brought the community together. It was also at a time just before Broadway Market became very suddenly all upmarket, a development that didn’t benefit most people living in Broadway House, so I think the timing was good as well. When the show closed I gave the prints to the people who had taken them, which hopefully they still have. Whether it actually changed their lives – I think that would be pushing it a bit! But I do believe it gave a boost to the community, which lasted even after I’d moved away. And I often go back, and even sometimes stay there, as I’m still very close to Joy Kahumbu, who I got to know through this project and who was very encouraging of it at the time. 

The Broadway House Photo Project, 2002-03
Weekend Blues, by Donna
The Broadway House Photo Project, 2002-03
It’s Ugly, by Donna
The Broadway House Photo Project, 2002-03
Messy Kids’ Room, by Donna

TK / The project was made in the era before screens, at a time when there was nothing else to do but get down and dirty with face-to-face conversation and letter-writing in order to facilitate something. Stripping back things to a base level where interesting stories and interpersonal narratives are revealed. This whole ethos seems to have come to a head during lockdown, with many people in isolation having to rely on their neighbours/local communities more. The digital world is also omnipresent (as ever), connecting people across space. Analogue vs digital, with both spaces holding their own. Your work seems to sit at the axis between the two. Which one do you prefer working in? Also you mention that photography is a really important way of helping you to see the world, can you extrapolate? Is that because you are behind the lens? What does the lens show you that your eyes don’t?

EC / Yes, it’s really interesting looking at that and remembering what life was like then, with a connection to the internet demanding a wired connection as well as time to connect (with that classic dialup sound), which also cut off the landline from being used. Mobility of information was nothing like it is today. And neither was photography anywhere such a big part of life. The camera phone was only just coming into being and most people still didn’t have mobiles at all. It was landlines and letters, as you say. And lots of face-to-face conversations. 

But yes, my work always has I suppose sat somewhere between the two, observing the oscillation between freedoms and restrictions afforded both by being online and without it. As for which of the two I prefer to work in, I wouldn’t say I separate them really as many of my works make use of both – from a project I did on Ebay in 2005 to raise money to participate in a conference that was taking place on the Trans Siberian Train, to my online/offline #Sergina performances today. Although of course performing live with real bodies that I can see and smell (as can the audience mine!) is very different to performing online. I like smell, I like eye contact, I like reading the room and adapting my performance accordingly. Finding and gaining energy from the people who are really into it and trying to bring those who aren’t yet so sure into the space. Online this is really hard. People can so easily leave, or just be looking at something else. (Is truly undivided attention even possible online?) Also, of course, at the end of a physical performance (in pre-COVID times) you would have a drink, laugh, be silly, swap ideas, dance. Now the end is marked and set by a set of corporate phrases like, ‘end meeting for all’, or, in the case of Google Hangout, ‘it looks like you’re the only one left on here’. Loneliness caresses her icy finger across my collarbone as I drink a beer and text my friends to see how they thought it was, as my bad-angle image keeps unforgiving company… 

As for the question about the camera – it was the quality of the Leica lens, which I have on my analogue Leica M6 that I continue to use still today, that helped me see things I hadn’t noticed with my own eyes. The sheen on the meniscus of a puddle; the dust in the air; the light on skin. But I think the way we see things always is aided (and abetted) by the technologies we use.

Elly Clarke: current studio/sitting room, March 2020
Performing: HOW ARE YOU? #Sergina’s Digital Participatory Soap Opera
about Wrestling with Wellbeing in the Digital Age. VIEW PERFORMANCE
Photo: Roux Malherbe

TK / ‘Loneliness caresses her icy finger across my collarbone’ is such a beautifully poetic line. I can imagine the drag identity #Sergina saying it, your multi-bodied incarnation that sings about sex and mobile phones. Her many identities mean you involve a lot of people in your practice – your projects are very generous in that way. With #Sergina it means she can do a lot more than you could do alone. What do you most enjoy about collaboration? How do you think you’d get on with the Elly version of #Sergina if you met her in real life? Is she political at all? What would the analogue #Sergina look like?

EC / The icy finger thing is indeed something #Sergina might say, though more crassly! And you’re right, collaboration is a really key part of what I do and #Sergina is testimony of this. She is constructed out of traces of all the people who have embodied her to date. She is what I refer to as the plural singular. Always ‘I’, though this ‘I’ (like the one we all use) is variable. My ‘I’ (eye) is different from your ‘I’. As for if I met #Sergina – I don’t think #Sergina would be a particular likeable person to be around. She is always on her phone and constantly distracted. She is also not very interested in people, only in herself. I met up with Paul Soileau (of Christeene) in New York last November and he said if someone asks Christeene what she thinks of Paul she seems to vaguely know who he is, but not care much about him. I think it would be the same with #Sergina, except that #Sergina might be even a bit more dismissive of Elly – possibly annoyed even by her. Which is the point really, as well as the politics – though #Sergina herself probably wouldn’t see herself as political. And that’s where I see the politics as happening with this character. She acts as a kind of mirror. Most of us are or have been that person at some point or other. Therefore I think people can sympathise with her, whilst also seeing what is wrong with that way of being, which is both tragic and (as some see it) comical. But because she is an act, her actions are performances rather than inter-actions so you don’t really need to figure out whether she’d be a good friend or not, as she’s never going to leave that stage – or screen. Which brings us to the final question about the analogue #Sergina – I don’t think she exists. The screen, the media, the audience, the likes, the views and the shares are her lifeblood, her motive and her construction. The analogue #Sergina is no longer (/not yet) #Sergina. She would be unrecognisable, as are all the bodies who play #Sergina. This was part of the design as well. As I (as Elly) never wanted to be recognisable. #Sergina can be this, but only when it suits me. And then I can retreat back to peaceful unknownness after the makeup is taken off…

The transferable identity was also conceived in part so that I wouldn’t need to burn fossil fuels by flying across the world to perform as #Sergina. Instead I’d simply train someone up, which I did last year for a conference about embodied cognition that took place in Melbourne in June 2019, with/via/through/in collaboration with two Melbourne-based artists – Bon Mott, who I had met back in 2012, and Sean Miles, who I hadn’t. I participated as the person on the screen from my 4am Brighton flat… 

“Collaboration is a really key part of what I do and #Sergina is testimony of this. She is constructed out of traces of all the people who have embodied her to date. She is what I refer to as the plural singular.”

Elly Clarke (in-progress): Still from (Zoom) music video shoot Turn It Off And Turn Me On, 2020 (premieres 22 October 2020 as part of #Sergina’s Knot Project Space residency)
Image courtesy of the artist

TK / You can put #Sergina on and then later shed her, distractions and all. Yet when assuming her identity you have talked about being granted male privilege for the night which you both enjoy and are simultaneously angered by. (Clarke has spoken of people moving out of #Sergina’s way, passing her free drinks and being served first at the bar.) Anger because you don’t receive the same treatment as Elly? You discuss the notion of privilege further in your Class(y) Lecture (2018), a live performance in which you navigate your way through the British Class system via your own personal experience of belonging and not belonging. How do you reconcile your privilege with your life now? Have you ever used it to your advantage? Or do you wear it like a ball and chain around your ankle?

The system of primogeniture (in which the first-born son inherits a family’s estate) means that as the eldest daughter the only thing you stand to inherit is the Derby China. In your wonderful song, ‘I Was Born Into A Posh Family’, you sing about your queerness acting as a blockade in your family tree. With no daughter to leave it to – what will you do with the Derby China?

EC / I like that anger/enjoyment conflict you refer to. It is indeed both that I experience/d. 

As for privilege, yes of course, as a white, middle class, educated cis-gendered person my privilege has undoubtedly paved many paths for me over my life, some of which I see and am aware of, others not. Learning how to live with and see and acknowledge and manage and use my privilege for the good is a constant dialogue I have. I became aware of class differences very early on. I went to local state school, but through friends of my family had access to what I used to call ‘the boarding school set’, who had a completely different perspective on life from me or my school friends. Different outlooks, different material realities and different futures mapped out. And for the George Richmond Portrait Project, upon which A Class(y) Lecture was based, my knowledge of (how to embody and enact) the codes and choreography of upper-class life definitely endorsed me as I moved from house to house. But the thing that opened the most doors of all were two dead relatives who went to Eton: my Dad, who is descended from George Richmond, and my maternal great great great grandfather, Edmund Warre, who was the Headmaster and Provost of the school at the time Richmond was working. His portrait, by Richmond, hangs in the Headmaster’s Dining Room. Although Dad left Eton before finishing his A Levels, this double whammy of my ancestry made me and my project interesting enough to make it into The Old Etonian magazine – a quarterly mag sent out to every person who ever attended the school (which includes much of the current Tory cabinet and historically has educated 29 (out of a total of 55) British Prime Ministers. The text I sent the editors was changed subtly but significantly, to look like I was a girl doing a project about her clever ancestor. And it worked. Expecting about 6 people to respond, I had more than 60 people contact me. And suddenly I had this enormous database of Lords, Ladies, Viscounts and Barons living in big houses across England, Scotland, the Channel Islands and beyond – but no funding to get to any of them! I was also actually with no permanent address at the time, which was also interesting – to be between homes whilst visiting places families who tell me ‘we’ve been here for 600 years’, – so I put in a Grants for the Arts application and was awarded funds to travel to all who were willing to meet me, which I did with two assistants to help with the driving, photographing and holding the reflector, over a period of 6 months. The project was a challenge because it took me to a world I both belonged to and didn’t. It was a world I always felt queer in – though not in the way I feel queer today!! 

As for the Derby China – I don’t know yet! That’ll be another project I expect. Though I hope it’s still a while before it makes its way to me. 

TK / I’ve followed your journey through the George Richmond Portrait Project with interest. It feels like you started out on the periphery then as the project wore on you were forced to step closer in, moving more into the picture as it were. I loved the fact that one of your interviewees turned out to be your cousin, another presented you with your family tree, and during one visit you saw a picture of your dad in someone’s downstairs loo. Have you come to terms with that queer feeling yet? Do you feel more of a sense of belonging now you know more? It was great to listen to the stories that you unearthed along the way. Little snippets of life way back when that would otherwise be lost to history had you not archived them. What are the stories that stand out most for you?

Also, you initially got funding from the Arts Council for the first research and development phase of the project. To mark the end of that you established Wrapping Up Richmond (2014) – a sale of single edition prints to raise money for the next stage. You are very resourceful when it comes to raising money and regularly turn projects into money-making schemes and vice versa. Can you talk a little more about that?


Elly Clarke (in-progress): Turn It Off And Turn Me On, 2020
#Sergina
Image courtesy of the artist

“The stories were also difficult to hear sometimes. Some were steeped in colonial thinking – and it was these that stood out, for the way they were narrated, un-updated. Stories handed down along with the portraits, as they are.”

EC / It’s true that the George Richmond project did end up enclosing me in its story. And I suppose it shouldn’t have been such a surprise, since it was due to (the privilege of) my heritage/ancestry that I was able to do this project in the first place: it gave me a motive and a reason that others could understand as to why I should be interested in these portraits. I think at the beginning, however, I was trying to be an outsider, taking some impossible stance of the objective observer or portraitist, which was why, I think, in early iterations/exhibitions of the project, when it was shown as just photos and audio, some people described it as ‘ethnographic’ work of a group of people who are not usually portrayed in this way. It was when I was invited to do A Class(y) Lecture at Galerie Wedding in Berlin that I realised I had to bring this story back to me, which I did by focusing on those moments in between – such as, as you say, when I found my Dad in a photo in the downstairs loo of a couple I had just photographed (they had gone to school together), as well as comments like, “She’s rather bohemian darling, isn’t she?”, said at a supper I hadn’t planned to stay for. Or, in another case, shocked that I had gone to state school, “Wasn’t it terribly scary?” And both these perspectives – of myself by myself, and of myself by others made me feel queer in various ways. The stories were also difficult to hear sometimes. Some were steeped in colonial thinking – and it was these that stood out, for the way they were narrated, un-updated. Stories handed down along with the portraits, as they are. Stories of two sons George Richmond portrayed who went to Australia and lost a load of money that their descendants were paying back for two or three generations, but who also somehow managed to name a mountain after their mother, and a lake… and how these names stick; how deep and long-lasting the marks and scars of colonialism are. On the other hand, one of the very lovely things that came out of this project, was getting close to a third cousin of mine, Christopher, who was gay, (somehow I’d never clocked it!) and he told me about all the queers in our family. He died sadly quite soon after the shoot, and he left me a sketch by George Richmond of a naked young man, which I included in my lecture… 

As for finding alternative ways to fund projects, it’s true that that’s been part of my thinking for a long time. The Broadway House Project, for example, had the chance to raise money for the Tenants and Residents Association via the sale of limited editions of the photos participants had taken. In 2005, to raise money to participate in a conference I was invited to attend that was taking place on the Trans Siberian train, I sold photos not yet taken on the Trans Siberian train via eBay. And when I had my Leica M6 camera stolen out of my bag in my local gay bar in Berlin, I did pen drawings of photos I had taken with it, to raise cash to buy another one. (Three months later, after doing about 60 drawings, the camera miraculously found its way back to me, after being recovered by the police at the second-hand camera shop I had reported the theft to – but that’s another story!) 

Performance-Anxiety, 2020
Video still
Image courtesy of the artist

TK / Many of your other projects are also built around stories and memories, and I’ve really enjoyed listening to the conversations you’ve collected over the years. Projects such as Half Crowns in their Petticoats (2013), New Map/Old Memories (2017), Queer Encounters King’s Cross (2017-18) and of course, The George Richmond Portrait Project, all have oral histories at their core. There’s a meditative quality to the recorded voices, and put together it’s a fascinating insight into times past. For your Leica Replacement Project you created a physical, drawn memory of the sold photo – thus converting your archive of photos into drawings. Memories of photographs and objects, people’s memories and stories that have travelled down through generations are all there. I loved New Map/Old Memories where you collated memories ‘stuck’ to the places in which they were created. London is littered with my own ‘sticky memories’, what are yours? What is it about memory that keeps you coming back to the subject time and time again? What makes other people’s memories so intriguing to you?

EC / Yes, other people’s lives, stories and perspectives do fascinate me. Since I was a child I’ve tried to imagine what it would be like to live here, wear these dungarees, these shoes, have this moustache, have this woman as my mum (!), have this view from my bedroom window, not have running water and so on… This month I have been doing another community engaged project for Wandsworth Borough Council, which involved having a series of conversations with people from different community groups – from a youth boxing club, to a support group for elderly people; from an LGBTQI Forum, to a choir. In this case I’ve been asking people the question: ‘What role does art play in your life today?’ and have got some incredible responses. One of the kids at the boxing club asked me “why are you an artist?” and without thinking I said, “because it gives me an excuse to have conversations I might not otherwise have”. Which I guess can be the answer to this question too!!! I think we can learn so much by talking to each other, which is partly I suppose why I’m interested in technology too, for the way it affects conversation. It puts us more in touch but it also takes up time from face-to-face interaction. As we have seen and felt through this lockdown situation, the screen is not a supplement for everything. And what we say, and how we say it, is affected by the mediums we use. 

As for sticky memories, I am really interested in place. And I feel that places have their vibe, and that energy can live on after an event has long since happened, or after someone dies. You could call it haunting I suppose. But I see it more as energy that is absorbed by the material stuff around it, which hangs around afterwards and can affect things moving forwards. I think this is partly why places have their ‘feel’ which remains, somehow, over generations or even centuries. And at a site of trauma there can be a sentient trace of it – as can sites of joy also somehow rub off.

TK / Yes I agree, and we can learn so much by talking to each other too – but it’s not so easy to do with strangers unless we have a proper reason. Being an artist is definitely a good reason! What is it about participatory projects that keeps you coming back to them?

You mentioned to me that you see all your projects as being quite integrated – can you elaborate? Which one has left the biggest mark on your practice do you think?

EC / It’s probably the #Sergina project that has had the biggest impact on me as well as my work – and life even. What began as a kind of experiment and not as part of my art practice but just fun, alongside being in a band with my mates, has become super central in a way I never could have predicted. #Sergina is now (clashing and collaborating) in my PhD; brought me to a record label; and provided the excuse and motivation to form long-term collaborative relationships with a huge number of incredible people in many different corners of the world. These things feed me – as a person, as an artist, and as a performer. Through collaboration I can also travel and try to understand the world through their eyes, and this project is flexible enough to incorporate some of this. 

It is also, however, snippets of stories I have gathered that come back to me as I physically wander around cities I have lived and worked in. In Birmingham, the project I did for Birmingham Municipal Bank ended up being about so much more than simply a place of work. It was about how money is handled, it was about trust, it was about how it was to work in a world that was less restricted or tracked and traced as we are now, it was how a workplace was also a social life – one that nurtured as well as financially supported people. The image of one of the former employees sliding down the bannisters and meeting her boss at the bottom is something that comes back to me every now and then. Whenever I see a staircase that looks like it would be good to slide down (!) or of course whenever I am in Birmingham and see the building. In King’s Cross it is the traces of the stories from my Queer Encounters project that provide a kind of borrowed augmented-reality vista on my vision. But I also see traces from one project to another; they cross over and cross pollinate. They become part of my mesh of experiences, real and imagined, fact and fiction, that accompany and inspire me as I move forwards through life.

Is My Body Out of Date?, 2019
The Drag of Physicality in the Digital Age performance with Bon Mott and Sean Miles Body of Knowledge Conference

Melbourne, AU VIEW PERFORMANCE
Image courtesy of the artist
Sergina’s Stimulatingly Sexy Simultaneous Simulation of Herself, 2016
with Vladimir Bjelicic in Belgrade, RS and Elly Clarke (on the Google Hangout screen) in Brighton, UK
Photo: Vesna Lalic

TK / I now have a vision of #Sergina bursting out from the inside of you like that scene from the movie Alien! As if consuming you from the inside out. It’s lovely that past projects have somehow imprinted themselves on your DNA so the line between work and life is infinitely blurred. Your practice is your life and vice versa and that’s normal for a lot of artists I think. But if the lines are blurry how do you not get confused? I always compare myself to that old 80’s TV character, Worzel Gummidge, because I wear lots of different heads and sometimes they get mixed up. What if #Sergina were to visit the owners of a country estate for the George Richmond Portrait Project, or take a participatory workshop? I wonder what bearing that would have on the work and what the reaction would be. Do you ever get the identities mixed up? Does #Sergina ever appear at inopportune times? What have you understood about the world through their eyes? How different is it to Elly’s world?

EC / I love that you compare yourself to Worzel Gummidge!! I forgot he had lots of different heads. My childhood inspiration was Mr Ben – who became totally different people (with different lives) in different clothes; which was prescient somehow! 

As for #Sergina bursting forth – so far she hasn’t arrived at a scene totally uninvited, though as I think I said, I do call on her (or #Serguey) inwardly for backup sometimes, especially where I feel that my ‘female programming’ is getting in the way of what I want to do or see happen. On the other hand, I have sometimes summoned #Sergina to contexts that have not been too friendly for her, putting all my faith that she and her character and her nuances are strong enough to withstand any situation. It turns out that that is not always the case and a lot of what is necessary for creating the right context comes from the people in control of the space.

I do, however, think that #Sergina could run a workshop. In fact she is devising one now, for a show in Canada later this month, about Relationship Advice. So watch this space…

Queer Encounters, 2019
Jane Moloney
Design: Frances Yeung
Image courtesy of the artist

“I like smell, I like eye contact, I like reading the room and adapting my performance accordingly. Finding and gaining energy from the people who are really into it and trying to bring those who aren’t yet so sure into the space.”


THE SIX…

Six questions asked of all our guests.

What are you currently reading?
Afropean: Notes from Black Europe by Johny Pitts, a compilation of essays on Translation edited by Sophie J Williamson, and too much news… 

What are you currently watching?
I watch films on Mubi more than telly, and recently enjoyed Brazilian film The Heiress, which has a cast of only women. During lockdown though I did watch Grayson Perry’s Art Club – which was both entertaining and actually quite moving. Grayson Perry is really quite brilliant.

What was the last meal you made?
Full English (vegetarian) breakfast in a caravan in Devon.

Can you share a recipe?
I really love grated carrot salad with ginger, apple, raisins and lemon. Great to ward off colds in the winter. Grate the carrot. Grate the ginger. Cube the apple. Sprinkle a handful of raisins. Squeeze the lemon. Add a bit of honey or maple syrup if necessary. Adjust quantities to taste. It can be super ginger spicy or less so. 

Whose studio have you visited recently that really excited you?
Well in these COVID times I haven’t been to anyone’s studio in months. I am even locked out of my own!!! But my friend (and fellow PhD art researcher at Goldsmiths) Dominique Baron Bonjaree has made some performances over lockdown that have been quite lovely, which address (in part) the concept and practice of the speed/pace of life… both human and non human. Her artist’s statement that she just shared with me for feedback is also a work of art in itself. Mostly I am influenced by the work and thoughts of those who are close to me.

What have you seen recently (either art; performance; film, music; stage; etc.) that had a significant impact on you and your work?
This weekend I saw two really interesting talks about how the AIDS crisis affected sex and intimacy, and how dis_similar this is to our situation with COVID. One was part of the Performing Borders series, short film Fuglen, der (The Bird, There) by Lasse Lau; the other was a panel discussion centred around The Papi Project, a photo/(auto) archival project by Oli Rodriguez about being raised in the midst of AIDS. I have been thinking a lot about intimacy and touch and what it is and means for us to be so afraid of physical contact, where breath can be deathly, and simply being in the same room as someone else can now be classed as ‘unsafe’ – but it was coincidental that these two lectures I saw this weekend crossed over so much. And in Berlin recently I saw (in person!) Porous Cities which I really enjoyed. 


A sincere thanks to Tash Kahn and Elly Clarke from john ros and studioELL — thank you for your generosity in sharing this discussion with us.

Tash Kahn’s practice is multi-faceted. She works with a variety of different mediums that all bleed into each other through a process of recycling and remaking. Each piece spawns countless others, negating the art object as a whole. Using sculpture, Polaroids, installation, film and collage, she documents the history of everyday life by recording the debris of the present. Kahn seeks out other people’s rubbish and collects objects she is drawn to, ready to be archived or recycled into something else. She is interested in how people engage with art, the conversations it generates and how it makes them feel.

This interview was conducted over a series of emails which started with an initial question that led to a responsive conversation. The text has been edited slightly for this publication.