Using just her body and one prop, artist Georgia Lucas-Going contorts herself around a chair, exploring every possible position until all imaginative scenarios run dry. Equal parts funny and difficult to watch, the work was first performed as ‘POUR IT OUT‘ (2016) through video documentation in her living room with her grandmother watching from the background. The second iteration titled ‘DAD’ is performed outside in the courtyard of London’s Vitrine Gallery and is part of their exhibition Docile Bodies, which opened July 6 and will be closing on September 22.
Described by curator Helena Whittingham as highlighting “the performativity of panopticism, watching and being watched, [the] performance was demanding and commanded attention from the viewers.” The curatorial aim of the project brought work together that responded to this theory of the Panoptic (seeing and being seen), as well as the architecture of Vitrine which only allows the work to be viewed from behind glass, 24/7. The exhibition is described as ‘six solo presentations existing aside each other’ and also features work by Benjamin Edwin Slinger, Hardeep Pandhal, Jesse Darling, Liv Preston and Sam Blackwood.
Alongside the live element, the London/Luton-based artist also presented two metal etchings hung inside the space; one is the sketch of a head, the other reads, ‘I’ve given you everything up until now.’ Titled ‘HIM’ (2017) and ‘GREIF POWER PLAY’ (2017), Lucas-Going often uses titles to give hints and reveal the personal narratives driving each piece. In a conversation that enters this space fully, the artist talks to us about processing grief through humour, the hierarchy of art’s language designed to keep people out and the complexities of performing (in front of an all white audience).
** A few of your works are called ‘DAD’ – can you talk about this title, its reoccurrence and repetition? Does each piece carry on from the last?
Georgia Lucas-Going: I view them as continuations and also conversational. Showing the various stages of grief I guess I went through. I haven’t really sat and processed about the work I made in the last two years. He passed away during my MFA, so for me to carry on studying, I physically had to incorporate it, it wasn’t even necessarily a choice. It was about survival. It was difficult to even make work this vulnerable, let alone think about their titles. So they all got the same. I figured I had given enough.
** You often bring in family or friends, setting up a scenario where they are responding to you or vice versa, like with your grandmother watching you contort yourself in and around a chair in ‘pour it out’ – there’s a nice way you navigate humour that doesn’t laugh at or point at the ‘outsider’ but rather highlights some sort of disconnect between those involved in art’s discourse and those not. How does it change the work when you perform in front of an art audience?
GLG: Working with friends and family again throughout this period of grief (which I am just coming out of/or just trying to find a way of being comfortable with death) was a comfort. Also having other bodies that looked like mine, reminding me of my hometown, Luton, an excuse even to be with people I loved. Monetary reasons even, my mum and family would perform with me whether I was able to pay them or not. It opened up my whole healing experience. Sometimes blips in the system can make you feel more alive and present. And being in an art institution without them wasn’t a possibility. The most radical responses I have received are from the ‘non art’ world, they shock me back to a healthier way of processing grief in art with humour. Its a defence mechanism but a way to include everyone and that’s what I’m into. You don’t need art jargon, or an art degree to feel things and to speak up. Hierarchies are designed to keep certain bodies in their place.
Performing in front of an audience in general makes me want to vomit, in a way I feel like I did it certainly throughout the first year after my father passed as a punishment even. I was desperate to feel something, I knew if I did something that made me physically convulse that I maybe would be able to process emotion again and simply be able to function normally and feel happy once more. Performing in front of an all white art audience can be exceptionally trying if I don’t feel good, I’ve tried to control that a couple of times. I’ve performed for a majority POC audience only twice but I distinctly remember those times. And I will tell you why, some cried and they actually asked how I was after and thanked me. That never usually happens.
** In your performances, your body always seems to be under some form of pressure (or release), but its very digestible for an audience because it can be quite funny – could you talk about this use of clowning and using humour as a material for subversion?
GLG: I love funny art. I love funny people and I like to think I’m funny too, but I don’t often feel good. So those moments when I do, I want to relish it and hold onto the fucking feeling for as long as I can. It’s also a way of trying to dismantle this very problematic way of thinking that funny art shouldn’t be taken as seriously as others. Your use of the word clowning is also interesting for me, I’ve started using costumes as a way of protection, another way that people have to work a bit harder than to just see mine and my black families body and its consumption. I do think about the power of the lens and protecting them but I come from a family of performers. It’s what we’ve done for centuries but I’m aware of the black/brown performers throughout history and often used for entertainment. I also think we can take ourselves so seriously as artists, I feel once you’ve gone through a traumatic event/events you realise those stuffy people who see you at a private view (then ignore you or don’t laugh at your jokes that are clearly funny) are not important.
** The title of your metal etching alludes to the power dynamics of care – is this a personal narrative you feel comfortable making public? How do you navigate making work from such a place of wound?
GLG: The etchings at the vitrine, ‘IVE GIVEN YOU EVERYTHING UP UNTIL NOW’ was a response to holding back the one thing at ‘arguably’ the most important time through your art school education; the degree show. In hindsight I was suffering from PTSD, had just received the wrong kind of therapy and had met friends on my MFA that will be with me for life. But after one too many crits of avoidance of race or the first thing that was brought up I was tired. Its strange sometimes, I purposely made work about something so traumatic and wanted to be open about it. Yet I felt I needed to claw it back at the last minute, sometimes you don’t realise the strength in holding something back. Thats why I consider it a process, its unpredictable and you’re allowed to change your mind.
** What inspiring/occupying the most of your time at the minute?
GLG: So at the moment I am inspired by the idea and concept of REST. On my days/moments off I watch sci fi and fantasy films. So I want to try and combine these moments when I feel my most relaxed into my practice, and humour as always. Also the Teletubbies, I’m making an art version of that.**