Attilia Fattori Franchini

Material Art Fair 2016 reviewed

25 February 2016

“Material Art Fair es la unica feria de arte contemporaneo en Mexico que se dedica a las practicas emergentes”, reads the homepage of the Material Art Fair website. The third edition, running from February 4 to 7, gathers more than 60 international galleries, project and artist-run spaces together in Mexico City. Settled on the sixth floor of the Expo Reforma –a 60s building caught between its own decay and attempts at some modernization near the historic city center and financial district –the event manifests in a maze where ‘emergent’ art spaces and practices mix and mingle in a kind of general mess. The hip set indeed exchange their natural habitat of alleys and signs for a spatial organization where booths follow one another in a row. The advantage: every way enables a round trip between the air-conditioned restaurant, the bookstore, the reception, the toilets, and almost nothing escapes the viewer.

Darja Bajagić @ Material Art Fair (2016). Installation view. Courtesy New Galerie, New York.
Darja Bajagić @ Material Art Fair (2016). Installation view. Courtesy New Galerie, New York.

At Mexico City-based Lodos‘ booth two large tapestries, vintage and traditional looking, are suspended on both sides in its center, creating a partitioned space.  Forced to sneak behind these compositions by French Mexico City-based artist Yann Gerstberger, these images or landscapes made of tinted floorcloth precede another mixed vision of the world in New Galerie’s installation. At one’s feet, silicone sculptures that look like different colored ox tongues by New York-based Olivia Erlanger prefigure the life-sucking cannibal scenario of movies and images by fellow NYC artist Darja Bajagić. Perched between thriller, pornography and death metal culture, one of her printed CDs hung on a wall reads, “Kill this fucking world”. It appears beside a series of C-print on hand-carved foam board –a blurry image of a goat, a sign that reads “Does that mean they are friendly” –by Vienna-based artists Anna-Sophie Berger’s completing the surgical picture.

Further on, Springsteen, a project established in 2013 by Baltimore duo Amelia Szpiech and Hunter Bradley, presents a series of paintings and found-objects by Erika Ceruzzi, along with a selection of robotic sculptures by Colin Foster including one described in a review on Artspace as “a ‘modified’ bug zapper that now works as a sculptural object while still killing bugs”. At Exo Exo, Brooklyn-based duo Bending Binding and their ‘Kooling Systems’ air conditioning condenser and aerosol paint explore the future stakes of past technologies in an ultra-productive and fast, yet failing and polluted globalized world.

SPF15, San Diego @ Material Art Fair 2016. Installation view. Courtesy the project.
SPF15, San Diego @ Material Art Fair 2016. Installation view. Courtesy the project.

One of the most interesting stories of this third edition of Material Art Fair is San Diego mobile project SPF15. Hidden beside the VIP restaurant, it occupies a space between projection, performance, discussion platform and what looks like a fire escape. “I’m sitting on the beach; it’s not particularly warm”, writes Morgan Mandalay, director and founder of the project in his announcement letter, “Despite the tales, it’s not exactly beach weather year round in San Diego.”  The exhibition series was first initiated under the Sunday Project before changing its name to SPF15 Exhibitions –not just a UVA protection guideline but short for ‘Sunday Project for 15 Exhibitions’: “Again I dive in head first with curiosity and knowing it will be a project of experimentation; a lab”.

More specifically, SPF15 is physically a three-by-three meter pop-up canopy on the beach. While it operates as a gallery, it is also conceived as a kind of social sculpture in which each exhibition is also a collaboration with a changing tent. For the fair, the canopy is an overall installation with works by Michael Assiff, Chelsea Culp, Tim Mann, Josh Reames and Kim Schreiber. Always creating a fiction or a scenario connected with this context and being able to settle everywhere, the display this time pays tribute to the body. Culp’s large sculpture ‘Party Panties’ (2015) is a drunk, disenchanted and failed one. “The beach as a space ignites the mutual feelings of titillation and shame for that titillation”, writes Morgan in an email addressing the choice of tent-as-installation-area. “The beach to me has always operated as a space to explore dualities: Land and sea, leisure and labor, the sexuality of the body and its banality.” Everything is about borders –physical, political, poetical.

“- How it works? – Clay”, says the text by Schreiber presented on a tablet at the SPF15 tent entrance. Inside is a ceremony, a kind of initiation rite, exposed but intimate; mobile, fictive, hidden. It’s a transitive space, a place of passage, learning, much like Korakrit Arunanondchai‘s ‘Painting with History in a Room Filled With People With Funny Names 3’ (2015) film, this time showing as Lodos’ gallery space in Mexico City’s San Rafael and presenting a spiritual, social and almost technological portrait of the artist.

It’s a portrait that Yves Scherer extends well beyond himself, interring it into a beautiful, abandoned building in Mexico’s Juárez district with his Snow White and the Huntsman exhibition. Organized by joségarcia, mx and Attilia Fattori Franchini, it takes gossip and fan fiction as a starting point, reconstituting these stories into a physical context of immersive environments. Photos of actress Kristen Stewart and references to her public love scandal with Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders appear alongside drawings and photos of Scherer himself to recreate the ‘rumor’ in his own image. Iconic representations of 19th century icons, pictures from Hollywood movies and tabloids, as well as personal pictures of the artist are arranged, framed and under glass as compositions or collages that put all these narratives on equal footing. What is real? What is invented? What is media?

An interweaving or imbrication of fictions, one within the other, is at work here. As with the Material Art Fair booths following one after the other, the VIP restaurant containing the SPF15 project containing the story of San Diego’s beach, and Arunandonchai’s film telling the story of an artist becoming an artist, there’s something ambiguous at play here; something ungraspable yet contained between the being, wanting, acting and telling of art and existence. **

Event photos, top right.

Material Art Fair was on at Mexico City’s Expo Reforma, running February 4 to 7, 2016.

Header image: Yves Scherer, ‘Jeep Cherokee, 2016’ (2016). Installation view. Courtesy the artists + joségarcía, Mexico City.

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Bold Tendencies Opening, May 27

26 May 2015

London’s Bold Tendencies opens its doors with the help of AirBnB Pavilion, Metahaven and Richard Wentworth on May 27.

The non-profit organisation, which has taken over an abandoned multi-storey car park in Peckham, launches its summer 2015 programme with a big opening on May 27. It includes events involving visual art, architecture, music, theatre, film, and literature, will continue on until September 27, with curator Attilia Fattori Franchini ensuring a number of names through the course of the summer including those already mentioned, as well as Robin SteegmanLeo Liccini, and Xavier Dolan.

See the Bold Tendencies website for details. **


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Sorbus Video Week @ Sorbus-galleria, May 20 – 24

18 May 2015

Sorbus Gallery will be hosting a five-day video and film screening series called Sorbus Video Week at their Helsinki space from May 20 to May 24.

The program is compiled by curator Attilia Fattori Franchini, artist Jaakko Pallasvuo and the Sorbus working group, and is divided into five evenings of screenings, many of which will have their Finnish premiere.

The line-up brings  video and film work by around 20 different artists and artist groups, including Pallasvuo, who has programmed the opening night on May 20, with ‘Self-Accusation’ (2015) and Keren Cytter with ‘The Victim’ (2006), both screening on May 20, as well as Ben Russell with ‘Atlantis’ (2014) on May 22, and Dominic Watson with ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ (2014), Jala Wahid with ‘I’ve got a burning desire (come on, tell me boy)’ (2014) and Johann Arens with ‘Marte e Venere – A Hand Held Monument’ (2013) on May 23.

See the Sorbus Video Week page for details. **

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Olivia Erlanger + Morphing Overnight @ Seventeen, Feb 26 – Apr 18

26 February 2015

Seventeen Gallery will be hosting two concurrent exhibitions – a solo show by Olivia Erlanger and a group show titled Morphing Overnight – at their London space, both running from February 26 to April 18.

Erlanger’s solo show, titled Meat Eater, begins with a transcript between a TL and an MH. “How should it begin?” asks TL. “It should begin with ‘do you remember’,” answers MH. From there, the two characters meander through what could be an art space, discussing symbolism and subjectivity, the “architecture for a history”, ending full circle with “I don’t remember.”

The Morphing Overnight group show – which invites six artists, comprised of Julieta ArandaDora Budor, Debora Delmar Corp.Yuri Pattison, Josh Harris and AIRBNB Pavilion with Emanuel Röhss – is curated by Attilia Fattori Franchini.

The opening on February 26 will be followed by an afterparty by AIRBNB Pavilion and  Life Gallery and hosted by [ space ] called Poppers in Dalston.

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Alternative Equinox: Das Hund mini-EP mix

25 November 2014

Multi-disciplinary artists and collaborators Samuel Levack & Jennifer Lewandowski will be launching a moving image and architectural installation in Bethnal Green, running November 25 to 30,  upstairs in their storefront gallery French Riviera. As a shared space that also doubles as a studio and once even tripled as the artists’ residence, it’s an all-too-familiar emblem of the resourcefulness required to keep afloat in a city as expensive as London. In responding to the tightening noose of property development and corporate crawl, Alternative Equinox pays tribute to the artist’s former home while exploring their contemporary socio-political context through personal experience as artists living in the global city.

To mark the occassion, Levack & Lewandowski produced a taster mix of tracks from an as-yet-untitled and unfinished EP due for release somewhere in the near future through their musical project Das Hund & The Pilgrim Shells. The three songs lumber along guitar, keys and effects pedals to produce a drum-machine driven ambience that follows Levack’s talk-sung lyrics over a trundling ‘Japanese Poem’, while Lewandowski joins in with an echo of a harmony in ‘Normal Love, Pilgrim’ Remix. In closer ‘London, Blissed Out’, a persistent sense of woozy transience and motion sickness trails the Country Western strum of the New Frontier as Levack’s offtune moan reveals, “she said nothing since London”.

It’s telling that the literary inspiration for the exhibition and EP, Alternative London by late-activist Nicholas Saunders, should appear on the book depositories of retailers like Waterstones and, 40 years since it was first self-published. Because as squats, spirituality and even the term ‘alternative’ are overrun by a culture of commodity where no-one and nothing is safe from the reach of capital interests, Levack & Lewandowski’s site-specific immersive installation explores the point where Paradise ends and the nightmare begins. An equinox is the two times of the year where day and night is of equal duration across both hemispheres. This Alternative Equinox, celebrated about a month after the last one’s September 22 date, reveals the New Imbalance of an increasingly stratified economic context.

The selection of video, painting, sculpture, textiles and scents recognises art’s fight against, and complicity in generating this very context by presenting “dystopian and utopian visions as poetic cityscapes” filmed during the actual spring and autumn equinoxes and evoking “a nostalgic vision of utopian living”. But as nostalgia implies a valorised perception of an always imperfect past, the implication isn’t so much that inequality is necessarily a new occurence but one that the artist is beginning to notice.

Featuring a specially commissioned text by writer and curator Francesca Gavin, as well as a 2015 performance program to begin in January, co-curated with Attilia Fattori Franchini, Alternative Equinox responds to a time where a turn away from the mainstream is a fashion statement driven by a cultural producer that’s produced itself out of a livelihood. **

Jennifer Lewandowski and Samuel Levack’s Alternative Equinox installation is on at London’s French Riviera, running from November 25 to 30, 2014.

Header image: Samuel Levack and Jennifer Lewandowski,  ‘Alternative Equinox’ (2014). Digital video still. Courtesy the artists.

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‘Grand Magasin’ @ French Riviera, Nov 30

28 November 2013

Bethnal Green’s French Riviera is presenting an informal group exhibition about making things, Grand Magasin, developed in conversation between the London gallery and artist/curator Nat Breitenstein, opening November 30 and running till December 15.

Attilia Fattori Franchini, Harry Burden, Fabienne Hess and Leslie Kulesh are among the 40+ contributors invited to transform the space into a store over the next two weeks, as per the original storefront space’s initial intention. Featuring objects for sale by fine artists, designers and other “makers”, Grand Magasin explores notions of “craft, transference of skills, definition and profitability”, as a study not of “difference but rather of divergence”.

See French Riviera website for more details. **

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Harry Meadley @ Paradise Row reviewed

12 November 2013

“The titles are super, super important”, Harry Meadley says as an instruction to viewing his work, “without the titles, (the exhibits) are just objects –it’s the title that makes them artworks”. So far, so-so; any seasoned visitor to a contemporary (or, indeed, any) art gallery can pretty much take this as a given. But here, in the Basement of London’s Paradise Row where Meadley’s LEVEL 1 exhibition has recently opened, the statement starts to make sense in a way that is both intellectually watertight and embarrassingly funny. Take ‘Still Stuck on Stage 2… (Not so clever now, are you Harry!) No, that’s the problem, I’m still being too clever’ as an example. The work is a large, red comic book arrow, mounted on the wall pointing down at the floor. It’s a typically deadpan riff on the disparity between form and implied meaning, the title serving as an almost Dadaist running commentary on the actual worth of such bourgeois-bohème theoretical investigations.

If there is a theme to Level 1, then this is the key to interpreting it. One minute the visitor can be tricked into believing that Meadley has become a victim of his own mercurial intellect, drunk on navel-gazing artspeak. The next, they find themselves staring at a framed questionnaire onto which randomly-selected members of the public have been invited to rant about what one such disgruntled candidate describes as the art world’s championing of “speculative associations without facts”. A contemporary artist willing to directly question the ‘point’ of contemporary art –can this be for real? If you can hear a rumbling in the distance, it’s the sound of the Chapman Brothers quaking in their boots.

Harry Meadley, 'LEVEL 1' (2013). Image courtesy of Paradise Row.
Harry Meadley, ‘LEVEL 1’ (2013). Image courtesy of Paradise Row.

The laughs continue with a photograph of Rihanna wearing a beanie on which the letters ‘LWC’ are written backwards. An identical bonnet is half pulled over the frame leaving one wondering, ‘what form of post-Warholian comment on mass production (etc etc) will it turn out to be?’ None, as it turns out. The title explains the hat is a symbol of something called the ‘Leeds Weirdo Club’. Parochial? Perhaps. But so what?

The lists of materials break from conformity with a lot of panache, too. The likelihood of seeing any other young artist (Meadley graduated from Leeds School of Art in 2009) listing, amongst other things a “JD Wetherspoon tombola ticket”, a “copy of the Metro” and the “DVD case for series 1 of Case Histories”, as he does in ‘Bad Day #1: Letter Rack with Self-Portrait’, is somewhat unlikely.

This very valid –and, it’s fair to state, rather brave –line of interrogation is not all there is to it. Meadley has developed a captivating and extremely distinctive visual lexicon, a mise-en-scène that neatly covers his tracks as he gleefully runs rings around art-world pomposity. The title work is a huge vinyl print of the walls of the 1992 first-person shooter videogame, Wolfenstein 3D, that covers the entirety of the exhibition space, providing an immediately unusual and arresting backdrop. It’s a fascinating vortex of illusion; Wolfenstein’s walls -immediately recognisable to any viewer past a certain age –are an impression of a 3D structure meant to be seen through a 2D screen. Except here they’ve been brought into a three-dimensional environment (which is a rather po-faced way of saying ‘the physical, tangible, real world’) and are printed flat –that is to say, two-dimensionally.

Triangles, squares and circles in bold primary colours are another recurring theme of Level 1– this is the iconography of early computer games stripped bare, wrenched away from its implied and accepted symbolism. Meadley could have titled the exhibition ‘Keep it Real’ without losing any of its intellectually startling but genuinely hilarious élan. He wants it all, and to this reviewer’s mind, he’s made an absolutely excellent fist of getting it. **

Harry Meadley’s LEVEL 1 solo exhibition is running at London’s Paradise Row from November 1 to December 6, 2013.

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An interview with Attilia Fattori Franchini

9 July 2013

For many people involved in its niche critical discourse, “the internet” can be a very dark place. But for co-founder Attilia Franchini Fattori, that doesn’t have to be the case. Fully aware of the issues but more inclined to focus on the positives, the London-based art curator specialises in working with young and emerging talent, while devoting much of her time to’s digital space as “container, artist and gallery”.

It makes sense then, that Franchini and collaborators, Rhys Coren and Paul Flannery, should be involved with artist Hannah Perry’s Have a Nice Day. A two-month collaborative process, culminating in a performance at the Barbican on Saturday, July 13, HAND is a multigenerational project featuring a select group of creative practitioners and roughly fifteen South London teens. Along with youth-oriented multimedia workshop Click-Click Pose!, the venture functions within a complex network of intersecting disciplines and platforms, resulting in a live performance, a film and a curated takeover of commissioning body Create London’s website by bubblebyte –their specialty.

Featuring dance and movement, film and video, sound and music, while crossing into the online realm with bubblebyte’s SUCCESSONE ‘integrated soundboard’, the event will no doubt be a dynamic one. “There are still lots of things that, suddenly, when you change setting and you change space, are different,” Franchini says in a strong Italian accent, five years in London doing little to soften the strong melodic lilt and anomalously voweled word-endings of an Adriatic upbringing, “and you need to really adapt everything but this velocity-in-the-making is a beautiful feature of it”. Always open to the unexpected and thrilled by what she calls the “lightness” of the web, hers is a sentiment of playfulness and proactivity in a context of perpetual flux.

Young voices are obviously important for art to progress and it seems like, and other projects working within a similar schematic, function on a consciously naïve approach.

Attilia Franchini Fattori: Totally. I find that approach interesting because there’s less structure. I’m very open to what you don’t expect. I think too much expectation, generally in art but, as well, in life is wrong because you stop looking at surprises. You stop looking at what comes to you, understanding what comes to you and your surroundings. If you just have a prefix set of expectations, sometimes it cuts out new developments, in a sense. I think that, this project particularly, has been a challenge, from every point of view, because none of the people involved have ever worked in this capacity. That was highly difficult because, where there are 10 or 15 people involved, it’s not that easy. But on the other side, it’s been extraordinarily rewarding and everyone has improved their life skills, artistic skills and just collaborating with excellent musicians. It’s still very exciting and not often you get that capacity of collaborating with people. You need to sometimes be forced in a situation.

Do you think that’s what attracts you to the online side of your work with bubblebyte, because when you don’t fully understand the technology, interesting things can happen?

AFF: Clearly the Internet is a very playful place already. More, if you want to do art and you want to organise art exhibitions. When you have the possibility of working online, you have the lightness of not having a physical space and the lightness of not having a gallery context; and not dealing with the art system itself, not dealing with the market, not dealing with collector, not dealing with framing, additions etcetera, etcetera. The lightness it definitely a very good drive towards creativity and, actually, we always felt that bubblebyte was very serious, but very playful on the same level and we did want it because of that.

We do it because we love it. We don’t do it because we’re making a living out of it. We just want to do things that interest us and, thank god, we’re playful; we’re not just very academic, very serious and Deleuzian and that’s quite important. Sometimes there’s too much seriousness. Not that there are not very serious issues to talk about, but you can also approach things differently and sometimes you discover different points of view.

I’m not a web designer and I don’t know anything about web design, so I would say that, for me, that playfulness comes, as well, from the fact that I don’t understand that technology from deep inside, from a ‘making’ point of view. But I understand it very well as a strength of possibilities. I enjoy using it very much and I enjoy people that engage with it. I guess, in the history of art, everyone has been relating to their peers, wanting to engage with their peers, and it happens that our peers use the Internet a lot [laughs]. That is, from their rooms because they’ve got less space to produce, less space to exhibit, less money to make it happen. So the Internet becomes a necessity, on top of the possibility.

Nicolas Sasson, The Sunday Painters website takeover.
Nicolas Sasson, The Sunday Painters website takeover.

A reason why I’m interested online art is because so much of it is really aesthetically pleasing, while still being political. Somewhere at the turn of the millennium, it felt like art became ugly, and so abstracted that it was almost pointless. Now it seems like there’s an actual dynamic to it.

AFF: I totally agree with that. For a while, political art has been very post-colonial, in the sense that it was mainly reflecting outside of Western cultural situations, highlighting political events, or unhappiness, in places more far away. But now, it is really looking at Western culture with a really critical eye, being political, much more than just addressing the political. I find the usage of tools, and the so-called ‘meta-materialism’, very beautiful. This clinical and technologically driven aesthetic, as well as the choice of presentation, is very aware and very thoughtful.

That’s something that emerges a lot when you translate the Internet to the gallery system, and vice versa. There’s still a sort of duality and, even if this duality has been reducing itself over and over again. For the work of some artists that are producing work for the Internet and then suddenly being called to be inside the gallery system, how they translate to the gallery system has always been very problematic because something that exists on the Internet still has a certain context that is different from the gallery context.

Putting a gif on a monitor doesn’t look like a gif on the Internet. The gif has its own life and its own movement, and its point is sharing and being used by other users. So, objectifying this type of work is problematic and there are artists that are incorporating this problematic side very bravely into their work. They’re translating it so it’s not something for the Internet, it’s for the gallery and there’s something in between that is the work.

You mentioned before that the integration of randomness into a fine art, or gallery context appears to be a response to those conventions of linear streams introduced by contemporary social networks, like Facebook and Twitter.

AFF: I’m someone that has been always working with young emerging artists because I find that’s when you can have a discourse, you can have an exchange and you can talk about things that are not settled yet. It’s a communal development and communal journey. Whereas, when you look at linearity and retrospective, and when you approach things on a linear level, it’s a totally different curatorial act. It’s something that looks at narrative or an historical perception but it’s also understanding history as a linear flux.

I find it quite problematic because still, as Foucault was saying, there’s a lot of history and it’s just a question of who is writing these histories, which way it’s being presented. Because history is never a cause-and-effect type of reality. It’s much more a series of [laughs] rhizomatic elements.

It also seems to me that, in the face of a growing consumer culture focussed on selling individuality, artists are seeking a deceptively homogenous aesthetic in response. Do you think there’s something reactionary about that?

AFF: It’s very ‘Internet-looking’ from my personal point of view and I think that contemporary artists, not all of them but a lot, are incorporating the internet into their thinking about the world but slowly, slowly. It’s impossible to not look at it. I know that they’re still informed about the Internet.

Even the most classical fine artist will, now and then, invite people to their exhibition. You still use your Facebook and your email account. It’s a slow process but, more and more, there’s less division between practices. It’s like when, in the 60s, the first portable video camera was produced by Sony and was used by someone like Nam June Paik. Suddenly, all New York was making film and a lot of that aesthetic got incorporated into totally different practices that were not video. I think modes of production influence each other a lot, even if the material use and the reflection you’re doing is totally different. There’s still this exchange and the Internet is driving a lot of this change and exchange.


I suppose that’s what you’re doing with Have a Nice Day, in terms of exploring all these different modes of production.

AFF: Yeah. It’s also looking at how you form and inform an artwork; including other people, sharing your skills and knowing that you’re good at something and someone else is good at something else. Using two people sometimes is better than just doing it by yourself. I find it, as well, it has been surprising in that sense that lot of people were not aware that they were good at music, the participants in particular, or being good at performance or dancing or video-making, they thought they wanted to be photographers.

At the beginning they were saying, ‘no we don’t want to perform. We don’t want to be on stage,’ but by the time of the public rehearsal, they were in the middle of the stage, looking at the camera and making their moves. That’s quite beautiful. Sometimes just getting involved in things gives you courage and maybe that can expose you to different interests. At that age, in particular, which is what Hannah looks at, it can even maybe change what you want to do.

Having worked with these kids, probably born and raised on the Internet, do you think they have the same awareness about it as you do?

AFF: I think, for them, it’s still another tool and they don’t think about it too much. They’re not internet obsessed, they don’t all have an email and a few of them use Twitter much more than they use Facebook but it’s a totally different criticality towards it. I’m really curious to see, in 10 years, or maybe 15, which is unfortunately our age, what type of criticality they will have towards the world.

This discourse that we’re having now is a very niche discourse. Not many people, unfortunately, are that critical, or not that many people are that aware of the power of this tool and how to relate it on an economic and political level, how it can be very powerful. I’m curious to see what’s going to happen in 10 years, when these pure digital natives will be producing works and will be, most probably, confronting themselves with the gallery system and the art system. I really want to see that process and how it’s going to change.

For some, there is this apprehension of that lack of criticality toward the Internet and its potential as a mode of manipulation. If that generation isn’t thinking about that, it could have dangerous consequences.

AFF: But, at the same time, when I think about who I was when I was 15, clearly, criticality is something that came through knowledge, though experience and through understanding the world and it didn’t come before age 25, 26. I wasn’t that switched on [laughs]. **

The final performance of Have a Nice Day is on at the Barbican, London, on Saturday, July 13, will be launching their new website that same day.

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