The London-based artist and hairdresser opened the Peckham-area space in 2014 as another means to not only getting a haircut but also interacting with art. In an effort to make art accessible to all, DKUK presents an opportunity for viewing new works in the familiar space of a salon by a Toni & Guy-trained stylist and artist.
“It’s my art practice, it’s my business, it’s my life”, says Kelly, who here talks about the beginning of DKUK, alternative business models for independent spaces and encouraging non-arts audiences to engage with artists and their work.
Watch the video below and see the DKUK websitefor details.**
Header image: DKUK Gallery: ‘An interview with Daniel Kelly’ (2016). Video Still. Courtesy Video in Common, London.
The fourth edition of Art Licks Weekendis on across London, running September 30 to October 2.
Happening at various locations around London and free to all, the three day art and culture festival will be host to a number of artist-run projects, young galleries and curatorial collectives that are at an early stage of their career. Bringing together contributions from emerging artists, the festival aims to celebrate the “grassroots projects [that contribute] to the cultural life of London.”
Six artists get their direction from ‘mamelon’, the breast-like rock formation that takes shape as a volcano erupts through a narrow vent in the bedrock in …and the soft ground in the garden was also a constellation …, an exhibition curated by Angels Miralda.
The group show, which ran at London’s Lychee One during Art Licks Weekend in 2015, locates its premise in the prolific grounds of the volcano, “one of the most fertile environments for plant growth as well as for the human imagination”. The artists each explore and anthropomorphise the literal state and figurative idea of ‘mamelon’ through varying mediums, with Alexandre Singh taking the metaphor directly to milk and Israel in ‘The Miracle (Manna)’ and Salvatore Arancio taking a more literal approach, juxtaposing natural rock formations against underwater animal species in his ceramic pieces.
Another contributing artist, Mark Essen, takes the volcano back in time with piles of limbs, as if he had just stumbled upon Pompeii again, while Katrin Hanusch “monumentalises fossils of decay” in iron and bronze. Leonor Serrano Rivas delivers an installation of tools against the backdrop of nature, and Nicholas Johnson populates the gallery with dense flowers, and an encyclopedia of terms. **
Joey Holder used to be a diving instructor, and has spent a correspondingly long time under the water. In retrospect, scuba diving is the scariest thing I’ve done. At the time it was great; a zero-gravity experience in a wholly foreign environment, with a 360 degree field of vision above and below. Plus the colours, and the warmth of the water (it was in the Caribbean, naturally), and the otherness of the fauna, and even strange things like the invasive but also comforting breathing apparatus. The trailing plumes of visible exhalation following each diver were all very powerful and evocative and at the time totally intoxicating.
But then: fear. The weight of the sea above, the alien-ness of the environment may be actually unwelcoming, the little technical dangers that only occur to anxious people. The technical integrity of the breathing apparatus, the bends.
Having spent some time under the water, it’s kind of hard not to let the knowledge of Holder’s previous career colour readings of her art; a preoccupation with the synthesis of nature and technology, an aesthetic palette and visual language of fluidity, digitally realised amorphous shapes, an indifference to the conventions of stasis manifesting in a thorough and ongoing exploration of digital space and the weightlessness it affords. Her practice is simultaneously broad and refined; broad in the sense that it spans group and solo exhibitions (she’s prolific), a legion of regularly-updated Tumblr pages (her email signature lists 11 separate links) and various residencies (she’s this year completed one at Wysing, and has work in their upcoming group show The Uncanny Valley).
Holder’s work’s refinement lies in its clear agenda. Her exhibitions support an expansive network of investigation, the Tumblr pages functioning as mood-boards, sketchbooks and image banks, useful to her but also to her audience for whom they provide a visual dictionary of context. Through them Holder archives images that shed light on both her aesthetic and conceptual preoccupations: bio-technologies, improbable creatures and environments, the uneasy proximity of the realization of science fiction into usable technology.
At the core of Holder’s practice lies a fascination with the natural world, and humanity’s interface with it. Her imagery is slick with bio-mucus and circuit-board coolant. The uncanny bleeds into the outright unsettling as she brings to light the alien in the terrestrial.
In an unusually anonymous pub in London’s Soho, we met up to discuss her work and upcoming exhibitions. This autumn she’s in three group shows –the aforementioned The Uncanny Valley, Exta atDeptford’s Res. gallery (running during Art Licks Weekend, October 2 to 4) and a joint exhibition with Viktor Timofeev called Lament of Ur at Karst.
Our conversation is illuminating and hallucinatory, the setting and her enthusiasm lightens Holder’s visions of Ballardian techno-human interfaces, aquatic molecular life that calmly and dispassionately adapts to the spoiled seas, and biologically engineered organisms with their inbuilt killswitches. I am left with visions of opaque jellyfish, floating through the seas of a de-populated earth. Through her online presence, as well as exhibiting, Joey Holder highlights the interlinked networks of organisms that exist in the world, with the digital analogous to the weightlessness of the deep sea.
Can you tell me a little bit about your upcoming exhibitions?
Joey Holder: The show at Res. is a show called Exta. It’s quite an abstract and theory-heavy… it’s kind of like slime-aesthetics, alien sort of stuff. But it sounds quite clever. It’s about slime, and weird shit; for this one they want me to do something with Dark Creatures, which is one of my Tumblrs, so I won’t be under my actual name, I’ll just be called that. I’m making a sort of trailer for the show; they’re doing a bigger show next spring, and I guess I see it as some sort of film-trailer or something for this bigger project.
Then I’m in a group show that’s happening at Wysing, called The Uncanny Valley. I’m basically doing a big floor piece for that.
I do a lot of shows, and I feel like my work is this continual process and output. I don’t think of my works as finished pieces, like static works within a gallery or something, so it’s quite nice to be invited to do lots of things. To somehow compartmentalize, or conceptualise or sort of seal off certain parts of my thinking, somehow.
I find the ‘Uncanny Valley’ as a concept so arresting, through it’s almost recursive description of a kind of human-engineered state where the proximity to flawless human-ness is what actually inspires negative feelings in humans…
JH:It’s really relevant. What’s happening now, with AI and robotics and stuff, how it starts to simulate life, I guess, becomes really fucking weird.
That’s something that I always think about in my own work, how we used to always separate humans from nature, or what we do from nature, when it’s actually part of the same thing.
I saw a quote in an interview with Dazed, “what we produce as humans is actually part of nature’s whole”. It sounded quite new-agey
JH: It is a bit like Gaia theory or something! But it is ultimately true, we are part of a bigger system. I’m not saying that it’s happy and balanced, but whatever happens in the world has a knock on effect. And we take resources from the earth, and are connected to other animals or something – not in a hippy-ish way at all, but like, I guess it’s like in a Timothy Morton sense as well.
I kind of always think about how everything we have as our technology ultimately comes from nature, although it’s not separate from us if that makes sense. You could think of any example, it comes from something that exists in nature. With what I’m interested in these days it becomes even weirder, because with stuff like synthetic biology we can ultimately not just take the wings of a bird and then replicate that, create an aeroplane wing or something, but actually take pieces of genetic code, and life, and essentially put that together -programme that into a new form of life. It’s actually using the stuff, using nature, for want of a better word, itself. It gets really fucking weird then.
Your engagement with these ideas goes beyond the superficial: it doesn’t seem like you just like these ideas, it seems like you understand them. Like you’ve researched them, you know how they work, and you can talk fluently about them.
JH: I wouldn’t say I can talk like a scientist about them in any respect, but some of my projects involve collaborations with scientists, and I have a lot of conversations with them. I did a big solo show called Hydrozoan, which came off a research residency I did. They paired me up with a couple of scientists from Nottingham university, they were plant scientists. I was researching aquaponics which is where you grow food from fish-waste, so you create a system where the fish are kind of providing the nutrients, the nitrates then gets kind of fed into the plants roots and then they grow. So I kind of simulated an aquaponics system within this show.
So yeah, it’s not just, I guess, appropriating the aesthetics of science. I guess I do do that, I don’t actually use, like I’m not a bio-artist as in, using scientific techniques within my work, I’m not actually doing stuff with live-tissues or anything like that, but…
I’m trying to understand why you would use the kind of imprecise tool of visual art to engage with the rational objectivity of science.
JH: I think that’s where the interest lies, really, because science is supposed to be this logical truth. And then scientists kind of build up to that. And I think that with science, or with any kind of system that we take up as a culture that then gets believed and then written down, that stuff is always subject to change, right? And so the next thing we find out, I mean it might not overthrow the whole thing, but there’ve been times when it has.
I guess maybe it’s like critiquing that static structure of that logic, or of language or something, and saying that it is quite malleable. Hopefully art can open something out within science, or question or critique it, in a way that gives people a different way of looking at it, whether it’s through this kind of Sci-Fi aesthetic, or anything else.
I’m kind of interested in very specialist research as well, and how that almost becomes its own system of logic. Maybe like contemporary art does; it starts referencing itself, and then you kind of have to be ‘in the know’ to be able to get into it or something.
You maintain a huge number of different Tumblrs accounts; how do they fit in to your practice?
JH: I was doing this job, I won’t tell you what but it was office-work stuff. I could get the job done really quickly, it was just a couple of hours in the day; it’s probably when I started to make more screen-based stuff. I’d got into net art, I guess, when I was just seriously bored at work, and wanted to find some way of breaking the screen. Breaking the monotony of the screen. That was when I really started to get into net art. Not post-internet art, but net art. I just started to make all these Tumblrs. I see them as mood boards, image collections that I can gain access to very quickly, and get ideas from or a feeling about something, or a project about something that’s a lot easier to access than putting stuff in folders.
I think when people started to become interested in my work was when I started sharing lots of images, and using these Tumblrs and stuff as a research tool. I think when people could see where I was coming from through this stream of research and through this process, that’s when they started to understand more about what the work was about. I guess I always kind of had a problem with the finished art object in the gallery. I always wanted to show that thing in motion or something. Show its progress. It’s just a moment in time of a continual process or way of working. The Tumblrs are more the sum, or the constellation of all these things and all these kind of strings, rather than this finished piece of work, if that makes sense.
Before I turned the Dictaphone on you mentioned that you used to be a scuba instructor; I find diving terrifying, I’d never do it again.
JH: I was really interested in why people were so scared, and I think there’s two main things. One is the equipment –it feels really alien and claustrophobic. And second, the main thing, is people’s fear of the –it’s the fear of the unknown. It’s not knowing what the fuck is down there. Because nine times out of ten, if you could get people calmed down to go down, and get them to look around, and show them a fish, or an octopus or something, then they’d be away. Suddenly because the world had opened up and they could see around them. It’s the fact that they have this idea that there’s this pitch black or something below them, or the abyss, something like that, where there are all these things that they don’t understand. Which is what, like within my work as well, I guess I’m drawn to; really odd things that are kind of beyond our comprehension. As humans we think of them as these alien things, ‘so outside of us, or things that look like they’re made of some other alien material or something; something that we just can’t comprehend.
What do you find compelling about this idea of the incomprehensible other?
JH: My interest in strange life-forms is about the limitations of our understanding, or language; that is about something that’s outside of the human system of reference, that we can’t get to grips with. I was talking about synthetic biology earlier; I’m also really interested in things that transcend out understanding of how nature operates.
I guess because we think as humans, which we are, we’re destroying thousands of habitats, and we’re killing millions of species, but then I’m interested in the other side of that as well, in quite an optimistic way what will happen when humans become extinct, something will take over. For example, we always thought about plastic as being this inert material that can’t biodegrade or rot; it doesn’t go back into the earth and become part of the cycle again. But now they’ve found that these microbes exist in the sea that are eating plastic. You know, so that kind of transcends our whole understanding. And these creatures might have come into being because of our direct action. Jellyfish are another example; jellyfish thrive in polluted waters, water dirtied by us. It’s kind of like this alien thing that we’ve got no idea about, but actually our actions are kind of creating these fucking odd lifeforms as well.
Do you think spending all that time underwater has influenced your practice?
JH: I’ve thought about that a lot. When you get used to scuba diving it’s like you’re weightless; with your buoyancy, you don’t go up and you don’t go down. So it’s a completely different space that you’re dealing with. You’re not walking on land, on gravity. I guess in terms of thinking about a gallery space though, I think it’s really helped me in terms of not… I mean going back to that thing about fixed objects in a gallery? The boring thing about post-internet art is a lot of it got taken off the internet and then put into this really clean, white gallery space and really cleaned up.
I kind of think that with the digital realm you can think about scuba diving as something that anything could happen within this space, or within a digital space. With the digital there is so much possibility for what can happen in there; you can be in a gaming environment, where it’s like you’re moving around a completely alien, different space, and I guess I think about that a lot in terms of creating this kind of liquid space, a space where things aren’t set by gravity.
Then between diving and the internet there’s a metaphor for the world, or something, as well. There’s all this crazy shit out there, these strange networks of creatures, all their communication, the way that they exist. It’s all here. We don’t have to go to outer space to find that, all of that stuff is here on earth. **
I like Eva Papamargariti’s re-tweets. One is by artist Sara Ludy and it says: “wonder whose art objects will float when the world ends in a big flood”. Another is by Petra Cortright who writes: “Every time I’m asked for a high res image of a low res work an angel loses its wings”. The London-based artist and I meet very briefly at the opening of Assembly Point’s group exhibition, Faith Dollars, Tax Free Imagination and Uptown Bliss–also running as part of Art Licks Weekend October 2 to 4 –in which she has two new pieces, before she becomes too busy rendering and editing work for several upcoming shows and production gigs to speak again in person.
The amount of production as well as the content produced within Papamargariti’s practice is staggering. It makes you wonder what it must be like psychologically to spend so much time contributing objects and landscapes to computer generated scenes, or “scenarios”, as she describes them. Computer generated metallic spheres, bleak landscapes, and a pair of tongues; Caravaggio’s horses, white linen bedrooms, and people turned into musical instruments playing themselves. These are just a small (non-)example of the things that make up Eva’s image making. They’re non-examples because, as one finds during a Skype chat with Papamargariti, there’s not much use in calling upon a speakable narrative of materiality or any content-based themes.
I ask Papamargariti, who’s also making work for new DAM Gallery show, Porn to Pizza: Domestic Clichés during our brief encounter whether or not she finds the feeling of infinity overwhelming. “No”, she says, “it soothes me”. It makes one think about vast panes of smooth glass. She sends images by 60s Architecture groups, Superstudio and Haus-Rucker-Co who pulled into question the tacit dominant optimism and surplus that ran throughout Modernist Architecture and its surrounding Design by stretching and multiplying perspectives in their images. It recalls a sketch on Papamargariti’s Animal New York profile, where Kanye West is pictured dissing an interior of a Modernist Le Corbusier house that has the largest pane of glass ever made in it. Glass is breakable, and when it’s that large a pane, you can hardly carry it anywhere, it can’t move. In her own videos, Papamargariti’s vast surfaces and images are also endless, but eerily floaty, proposed, uncomfortable, stretched and strangely real –or perhaps that feeling is pessimism. When considering the artist’s aforementioned re-tweet of Sara Ludy’s “big flood” comment, there’s an echo of Superstudio’s proposed flood of the Italian city of Florence.
A 2014 video work, ‘New Nosthetics’ presents shiny balls moving around and becoming attracted to each other in a sparse desert-scape, an automated voice mutters out loud over the video, its corresponding actions being undertaken in a 3D modelling programme. Papamargariti tells me she likes to “inform the viewer of the characteristics of the file [she is] rendering”. Some of the visuals in this work, too, occasionally, intentionally break down and you see what could be an X-ray view of the work. You can see everything. The outcome is an art practice that feels like being in a dream. You can see everything unfold in front of you, not only because you are inside it, but also because you’re the one doing the dreaming.
Eva Papamargariti, ‘Someday I will Buy an Ikea Chair with Bitcoins’ (2015). Courtesy the artist.
Eva Papamargariti: I always dream of rooms, buildings.
Are you always inside the buildings?
EP: Ninety-percent [of the time], yeah. Today I saw a weird dream. I was in a huge building. At some points it appeared in my dream like an old asylum. Then suddenly, inside my dream, I saw myself sleeping inside one of these rooms. I woke up (in the dream) and when I got out of my bed all the furniture in the room disappeared. Then I ran outside and suddenly the building appeared more luxurious and there were screens that were playing art and old movies.
Watching your work makes me focus on my eyes and how I am looking. Is there an attraction to being able to see everything?
EP: My previous studies were in architecture, so an important part of my work has to do with trying to create compositions that can all be viewed as individual frames.
Maybe then better wording would be, ‘to see everything at once’…
EP: Well, at the beginning of the videos you always have an eye that supervises everything, like a Panopticon approach. I got very affected by thinking about things through a bird’s eye view. But then I also want to consider what happens to that view and also the knowledge gained by it when you tip [it] horizontally. So that you see the same sense of everything but on a human scale.
Can you clarify that?
EP: Yeah… I’m thinking of a silent [Samuel] Beckett film called ‘Film’, which is about (and of) a person who is trying to escape being filmed. Watching, you sense that he senses the camera and the viewer behind him, following him. There is always something that has to maintain this contact with the real element. That is one of my intentions.
You mean to keep the scenario unfolding close to the viewer’s eye? With your work there are hardly any people depicted inside. It’s like the filmmaker is the viewer and also the person being followed. ‘Trainroom3.0‘ is interesting in this respect.
EP: Yes, and to keep the virtual object coming so close that you (the viewer) can touch it and kind of make it act. But then there occurs, for example, a violent camera movement that interrupts the video’s normal pace.
What you wrote there really reminds me of your cat / IKEA piece that you made alongside the film, ‘Someday I will Buy an Ikea Chair with Bitcoins’ for the Faith Dollars… show.
EP: Yes, totally. I saw a post on Reddit that was asking: “does anyone have a VITTSJO and a cat?” And I thought that was strange, so I Googled it and it appears cats and IKEA are more connected than I thought. I suppose it has to do with the increasing domesticity and intertwining of consumerism into domestic lives. Like how IKEA also sells things for cats, and I thought, ‘I don’t have a cat’. So I wanted to print the words onto the fabric on top of the outline of a cat that says: ‘I didn’t buy my cat anything from IKEA because I don’t have a cat’. I felt like it inverts this whole system of representation by bringing on this fabric surface all at once (including: cat/ IKEA/ image of non-specific cat/ buying something). It obviously also has a humorous aspect to it, which also somehow subverts the meaning from IKEA adverts. You know, they always try to say something serious but in a cute way.
So are you talking about a productive kind of over-representation?
EP: Yes, but also how easily things can be symbolised now, and how they can produce meanings that are building one inside another. I hope I’m becoming clearer. One of my favourite things to do on Instagram or Twitter is to put hashtags that are completely irrelevant to the actual post I am doing. It feels like a game of defining but also deviating from a dominant statement sometimes.
I’m interested in the pessimism of this. I was thinking about the process of rendering and the idea that maybe you are rendering nothing into everything, and also somehow everything into nothing, especially in relation to objects/ things. Is this what you’re calling ‘Nosthetics’?
EP: Yeh, so the title, ‘Nosthetics’ is No + aesthetics. On art sites, on tumblr, on magazines, on fashion editorials, everything was full of digitally rendered objects, very abstract, blobs, geometrical fragments. And they all had a similar atmosphere, shiny and polished and hyperreal (I must say I also make objects like that a lot) but I don’t know at this point… It feels like there is a factory, that creates massive quantities of these digital objects and disseminates them on the net. They are so distant from reality. Maybe this is why they are so appealing to the eye. Everything becomes a bit flattened.
Like your horizontal perspective that you’ve ‘dragged down’ from the bird’s eye view?
EP: Yeah, and when your eye gets used to something it starts to lose its magic. **
With Sky Line as with the larger project, Lek uses video-made virtual worlds to interrogate the notion and construction of a utopian fiction, and with each chapter – Sky Line being the sixth – he attempts to reconcile a new conflict.
Wavering “between systems of control and forces of change, between reality and its representation, between the individual and collective”, these conflicts are rendered visible to the viewer as video tours and playable games, and Sky Line takes on the scanty infrastructure for London’s independent art spaces, modelling a floating version of the Circle Line with a vision of the city as not just made of financial skyscrapers but of “infinite access”.
The installation’s opening night kicks off with a live audio-visual performance by Patchfinder at 8:30pm, and will feature a critical discussion with Lek and White Building curator Rachel Falconer on Saturday at 3pm.
The ongoing, process-based installation, titled The Mycological Twist, will become a permanent fixture in Jupiter Woods’ garden space, changing and growing with the new gallery as it finds its solid ground. The cumulative, dynamic nature of the installation mirrors that of the gallery’s inaugural summer show, Thank You, a deconstructive and deconstructed group exhibition that danced around various media, which in turn danced around itself.
This particular installation comes after the discovery of the gallery garden’s proximity to toxic waste, and the “consequent interest in the cleansing and healing ability of certain types of mushrooms”. The resulting installation shows the growth of nine varieties of the fungus, and will be accompanied by various events throughout the weekend, including a “Shroom Music & Myco_educational_VJ-set” on Thursday, a video premier on Friday, a mushroom brunch and video series presentation on Saturday, and an already booked-out mushroom dinner on Sunday.
With over sixty galleries and artist-run spaces participating, the Art Licks Weekend is one of the most consistently interesting features of London’s art calendar. By dint of its disparate nature and vast geographical stretch, though, it suffers from a problem of identity. With venues pock-marking the map of East and South London, it’s difficult to impose a unifying character on it- and there remains a question of just how far a festival that celebrates independence can go towards suppressing its constituent parts into a homogenous whole.
For sculptor LawrenceLek, the challenge was to find an imaginative solution to these dilemmas. Working in collaboration with Valentina Berardi, CliffordSage and AndiSchmied, his response was as thrillingly progressive as it was ambitious: if the galleries can’t be brought together geographically or thematically, why not unite them virtually? Working from his studio in Hackney Wick’s TheWhiteBuilding, Lek and his team sought to put the idea into practice.
Bonus Levels, a first-person computer game that brings twenty of the space’s participating in the Art Licks Weekend, is the stunning result of this brainwave. Three laptops rest on perches under a crosshatched wooden structure with images from the screens projected onto the walls of the space around it. On the screens themselves, the visitor finds themselves in a hilly landscape, rendered into the stylised visual argot of 90s Nintendo games. In the middle of a digitally undulating lake stands an enormous, angular tower, of which each floor painstakingly recreates the floor plans and layout of the galleries involved.
The tower’s appearance- accurate digital facsimiles of existing galleries piled high, one atop the other- is, as Lek explains, no accident. Its jagged, unwieldy lurch is reminiscent of some of London’s more blustering new skyscrapers- apt, given that the colossally expensive Olympic development towers are a hop and a skip to the east. Jumping from floor to floor, the player can take in a view of the idyllic virtual panorama, and, if they so wish, plummet twenty storeys to the ground. The point-of-view combined with large-scale projections make for a gloriously cinematic experience. If nothing else, it must be the only computer game ever to feature a blueprint for the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre.
The participatory aspect of the work is as refreshing as it is conceptually satisfying. Lek encourages the player to become a “digital sculptor”, pushing around gallery walls and rearranging materials. Inspired by the theories of the Metabolists, who combined architectural principles with ideas of organic biological structures, his vision is to keep the game running online in perpetuity, adding new floors and maintaining it as a ‘living’ project.
Bonus Levels’ romantic landscape- a violent contrast with the post-industrial drabness of Hackney Wick- is by no means incidental to the work either. While it may be overstating the case to call ita ‘political’ work, it functions as an intriguing comment on the plight of London’s independent galleries and artists; priced out of areas once synonymous with creative endeavour, they find themselves relegated ever further towards the city’s margins- might means one day relocate them from bricks and mortar to pixels and graphics? Brevity precludes an essay on late-stage Capitalism, but Lek articulates these worries with effortless dexterity.
bubblebyte.org‘s Il Bardo di Timperley is a collaborative exhibition and online moving image collage featuring 16 artists from around the world, including Angelo Plessas, Constant Dullart, Rhys Coren and more.
Running for over a month, from September 9 to October 20, moving image art works will be added to the bubblebyte.org site every few days, slowly building on and revealing a larger collaborative work in the form of a collage. The finished piece will be unveiled at this year’s Art Licks Weekend, a three day initiative presenting emerging creative talent in London (running October 4 to 6), with bubblebyte.org representing digital arts.