WHAT DOES YOUR SCREEN SMELL LIKE?
INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST MATT GEE
We managed to catch Matt at a rare moment when he wasn’t lugging luminous plinths or great swathes of velvet across London on public transport.
Can you describe your practice please.
I’m interested in the dichotomy between nature and the man-made, synthetic materials juxtaposed with natural materials, and natural materials that look like fake materials. That transition between crafting something natural out of something natural or crafting something artificial out of something natural. Or just presenting something natural that looks artificial. My practice has something to do with capitalism – and I know that’s a big word – but in terms of desire and what society wants rather than what it actually needs, and taking natural resources but not really appreciating where it comes from, just seeing it in the shop window.
Have you shown your work in a space like this before? What other unconventional spaces have you shown work in before?
Yeah, in fact last month I was in this exhibition called On Fire in Vauxhall’s old fire station. That was kind of similar. It had been cleaned up, but it was an extremely vast space and on the private view there were quite a lot of people but it still felt quite empty because it was such a huge space. But the garage is kind of more grimy in a different way, and harder to work with, but that presents new opportunities I think.
How do you think your work fits into the wider cultural scene now, like from Youtube to television to… everything.
Well my work refers to this materialistic world, this kind of popular culture world, but it doesn’t come out in a visually explicit way in my work. If it was a spider diagram it would be two arrows rather than a direct arrow, you know… It’s very art object based, not really like ‘commercial-world-in-a-gallery-context’, it’s more like ‘commercial-world-to-art-object-to-gallery-space’.
Do you think your work looks better in photographs or real life?
It’s funny because a lot of people have said that, but most of them haven’t actually seen my work in a gallery context. I think it does, but I think a lot of sculptors are like that. I like work like Tim Head’s, cropping the viewer’s gaze into a photo format so they can’t be distracted by the things around them.
How much of your time is taken up by checking emails, facebook, twitter etc. compared to actually making work?
A lot, recently, because I’ve had quite a few shows on. I’d say about fifty percent of it is actually admin, fifty percent is procrastination. Like the fact that the internet is so vast, there’s so much on the internet, you can’t help but get distracted. I waste a lot of time online. It can give an artist the upper hand if they just submit themselves to the online sphere, using social networking and so on, but there’s so much it becomes a bit superficially spread out. But it’s important not to neglect. (Matt’s phone makes buzzes.) Because I mean even like fifteen years ago artists didn’t have that advantage.
But does that make it harder because you’re not the only one with that advantage? Everyone uses it, if you don’t you get left behind.
Yeah it’s true. It’s a shift in who the audience is because everyone’s a participant… (Distractedly looks at phone).
That’s fine, you can check your message.
Ha yeah, I’m actually texting about some images I’m getting printed. Yeah, if you don’t jump on the bandwagon you’re going to get left behind. I still think the most important way of promoting yourself is physically showing, as you can’t get the same message across digitally. Like this problem I’m having at the moment with DPI, getting the image big enough – the problem that I’m having today never really crossed my mind before. Digital hitches and glitches like that, where you’ve got this image online and you want to print it A0, but you can’t without losing the quality of image.
So what’s the future for art?
I don’t think it’s like online because I think that online exhibitions are not very substantial or meaty…
Or good either.
Yeah they’re not very good, but I think in the future there’s going to be a kind of flip side. Everyone’s a bit negative at the moment but I think in ten years time we’ll look back and see that we had something in 2012 that’s not there any more. A certain kind of freedom. Especially in an academic context, as tuition fees change and art education becomes more elitist, financially. I think there’s definitely something good going on at the moment. We just don’t know what it is because we’re so submerged in it.
And finally, what does your screen smell like?
I prefer to feel things rather than smell things. It’s a nice kind of velvet stone. I just want to stroke it.
I read that they are developing a touch screen that senses when your finger is on it and sends little impulses, like a little poke, so you can feel different textures.
Yeah but as with all these things, it will probably just be used for practical jokes. Like: ‘here, have a go on my new app’ - spike through your thumb.
(Laughs loud) Yeah I liked the idea of smellovision, but touchovision would be great.