all
Tim: [00:00:00] I'm Tim Panton,
Vim: [00:00:05] And I'm Vimla Appadoo
Tim: [00:00:06] and this is the distributed future podcast. This episode somewhat delayed, is an interview with Debbie Davis, who's a.
Fine. Artists, we have an amusing conversation about what fine art actually means, but, um, cause she makes huge things. And I always found that like slightly, um, uh, or definition of fine art, but that she's very strong. That it is definitely fine art. So there we go. Um, but about like how do you do, how do you do art when there are new art galleries?
None of the venues that that are. And are normally consumers of this, none of the people who fund this, right? None of that is working. And how does that, how do you carry on being an artist in those situations, in that situation? So it's kind of a fascinating discussion. Um, so yeah, it's kind of tricky.
Vim: [00:01:00] Yeah. I think I've, I've spoken to a couple of artists as well who, because of that kind of to a main goal for being an artist is to share it.
And so they found it really difficult to find their muse and to be creative because they, they don't know how to share and they don't know how it's going to get out into the public and soluble almost just stopped. Then it's, yes. I don't know how you kind of bridge that gap. At all
Tim: [00:01:27] right. We can discuss, I mean need to listen to get the full joy of it, but kind of discuss a couple of ways.
One of which is obviously remote, which I think a lot of people are doing, or the theaters and everyone like that it's doing and, and that works kind of fascinating thing, which we did. I didn't talk to Debbie about because I hadn't heard about it when we did the interview. You've seen the Rembrandt Nightwatch thing that the Reichsmuseum done.
Amazing. So there, they've basically, they've digitized this enormous canvas. It's like you've got a magnifying glass and you're right up against it, so you can look in it. I mean, you can zoom out and see the normal thing on your screen, but they've digitized in a way that you can zoom in, zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom, until you can actually inspect the guy's fingernails and seeing the detail of the brush work.
It's a really, I mean, it's, it's a new piece of work, right? It's. It's a different way of consuming cause I mean, I'm the guy who was talking about saying that even he, who's a well known art historian never gets that close to it. Like he's not allowed there with a magnifying glass. Um, to stand there and inspect it in that detail for hours, whereas now online, everyone can do that.
Um, that's amazing. It's interesting. I mean,
Vim: [00:02:48] I that as well, if that will open up the gates up to fake art, I don't know, this is me just speculating that I don't know you enough about the art world, but. The kind of stuff that's in museums and galleries. If you can have that kind of inspection open up to the world, whether people start questioning, whether it be, it was actually the artist that did it, or if it's a print or if it's a fight just to fake.
Tim: [00:03:18] Right. Um, wow. I don't know. I mean, I think that there's something, I think if you talk to a, a curator of an art gallery, they would say that. A lot of the value of a gallery is in like the gaps between the paintings, how you organize them and you light the thing. And none of those things are translate well onto your laptop screen.
So, so I think there's, there's like, I mean, I will still be going back to galleries once I'm allowed to. Um, but, but I think you're right. I think there's a different set of. You know, um, a different set of criteria. Although again, like I have this picture on my wall, um, they've got big poster on the wall and it's a reproduction of an art piece.
So my brother took one look at it and he said, "the colors are wrong". Wrong. It's true. The shade of the goldfish is very slightly wrong. Right. But for him, that's a different painting. It's a different work of art because it's not the right color. Whereas for me, you know, the sense of it is there and I like having on the wall.
So I guess it depends on how you interpret this stuff.
Vim: [00:04:35] Huh. That's really interesting.
Tim: [00:04:38] So, so that, that, that was one sort of thread of it, like remote. Um, but then the other thing that'd Debbie was saying , which, which I assume we haven't crossed my line, is that she is, uh, interested in local. So she's thinking about putting a sculpture up on the drive so that people are looking past with the dog, get to see whatever it is that she's built.
Um, and, and placing stuff in the community. So it's about local artwork rather than global outreach. I think it's interesting. Yeah. I mean, you see, I said to her, you sort of started to see that the kids are already doing that with like the windows and the NHS rainbows and that sort of thing. So you're already starting to see this sort of local art.
But in a very, kind of a limited form when she's just like taking that out another notch and building. I mean, knowing her, it be a 20 foot sculpture, you know? So, yeah, it's really interesting. Local. Yeah. Yeah,
Vim: [00:05:44] I really liked that. I was speaking to someone who, um, the name, it was on the, it was on the bed for the ve-day celebrations, and then they, uh, um, just festivals and events that vary too.
They fit doors that, that's what they're known for. So what their job is, and he spent a whole day in his garden working on a door, but cutting it out to be a soldier. And like, sanding it and creating it and painting it and like making this really, really beautiful soldier that they could put in their front garden.
And I was like, you, there is something here about, um, giving people the time to do that creativity that they might have lost, um, because of work and because of their day job and that I really liked that. They really liked that aspect of kind of what art will become.
Tim: [00:06:38] Right? I'm bringing in back the. Gallery and into the locality, I think is interesting.
Vim: [00:06:47] It's an interesting thought to think we could all have the gallery.
Tim: [00:06:51] Yeah. You then, I mean, you know, the rich always have, like, they've always had this sculptures in the park, you know, um, had had gargoyles on the, um, on the drain pipes and that kind of thing. So it's not. It's not in the new year, it's just sort of more democratic.
The other conversation we had actually, which sort of relates to that is like, where do you draw the line between arts and crafts and where square is? When does well, in fatuously, when's the door not a door, you know, when's it and artwork. Um, so I, I think that's also interesting.
Vim: [00:07:29] Yeah. But that's also at the moment, like the coven in my mind, the current system for what's defined as art and what's not particularly more than art and surrealism and abstract art that's defined by the curator.
So it just takes such Sachi and Sachi. She'd say, Oh yeah, that tumbled over. Chair is worth a million pounds for. Then it took for it to be art. I think now we might be able to, like you say, um, democratize art and an hour. Your everyday viewer to kind of say, Oh yeah, that is, that's, to me, you'll write some craft is an art piece.
Like you've done something there that speaks to me or touches me, or I find beauty in, and I really like that.
Tim: [00:08:10] Yeah. Um, Oh gosh. I'm trying to remember because, uh, Georgia a few weeks ago were saying that she kind of, she sees a difference in, in the intention. I can't quote it, which is annoying. I have to go back and listen to what she said, but we were just funny that actually we were under that, like, you know, one, one week we've got, um, we've got a craft person and the other arts person, and they both talk about that distinction to some extent.
Um, so yeah, it might be worth kind of listening to that, but I'm not going to do either as a justice by trying to, but by quoting.
But yeah, so, so I think it's, it, it was kind of encouraging that like, you know, she's sort of seeing a way through that, although I don't get the sense that she felt that the funding was as obvious and a lot of the kind of collaborative work is, is now much more difficult. Um, you know, building a three meter sculpture, you kind of need a couple of people.
And can you do that while still social distancing.
Vim: [00:09:20] Yeah. Yeah. I think that's so much less extent. Um, even the creative process as a designer, I find really difficult. Right? Because design so collaborative and like the ideation and problem solving aspects of it to do remotely without being in the same space.
It's really hard.
It makes it a little bit harder to even get that creativity out as well,
and you're able to say, Oh yeah, it's definitely that idea that I did it on an online space. You just haven't got that yet.
Tim: [00:09:55] Yeah.

DD: [00:09:55] Okay. So my name is D D I am an artist, um, work mainly in sculpture. Um, I didn't used to be an artist. I worked in television production for the main part of my career.
Um, although my first degree when I was in my late teens, early twenties, was in photography. Um, so I did my first degree in photography. Uh, and then I went and worked in television for years, and then probably around 2012, um, I decided that, um. I wanted to pursue being an artist. And that's what I've been doing since 2012 with varying degrees of success.
So between that and now, um, I completed an MBA in fine art at the university for creative arts in Farnham. And, uh, I have managed to pick, pick up some, uh, a small amount of teaching, uh, at that university. So that's how I spend my time now.
Tim: [00:10:54] But I mean, I always find it interesting, the contrast between fine art, which one thinks of us like, you know, miniatures or kind of delicate painting on eggshells and, and actually the kind of art you do, which is.
Four meters tall and very brightly glowing in the dark or, or you know, um, so say it as a, as a, as a, um, non artistic person. I was always amused by the kind of fine art designation of massive sculpture.
DD: [00:11:29] Well. T terminologies, um, terminologies have trapped people, trip them up and inform people, um, in equal measures.
Um, I think fine art addresses my art more because, um, historically fine art it does include sculpture. Um, but I, I conceptual perhaps, um, uh, conceptual contemporary art. Um. I think when I say fine art, I think I am distinguishing myself from, well, uh, I don't, I don't do Craft, although there is an element of craft in my work.
Um, but if we went down the conversation of Craft versus fine art or fine art versus Craft, then we will get ourselves into a real model. Cause that's never a conversation that's ever been resolved.
Tim: [00:12:16] No, no, I think that's, and I'm, I'm spectacularly ignorant in that, so I'm not sure you'd find a ton of that, um, me contributing usefully to that.
But, but I mean, now I suppose I, what I'm really trying to say, so I wanted to give people the sense that kind of a lot of your work, not all of it, but a lot of your work is quite large. Um, how did that come about?
DD: [00:12:42] I think, well, it came about because, um, I managed to surround myself by people who were crazy enough to say, Oh great, if we made this 10 times bigger than you wanted to, and I was stupid enough or mad enough or crazy enough or inspired enough to go. Could we? And it's like, yeah, yeah, we'll be fine. So, um, a huge amount of my success is down to other people having, holding the ambition for me and supporting me.
Um, you know, I'm five foot two and I'm not as strong as a five foot two guy would be. So I do need a lot of help building a lot of my work. I think my biggest influence. No. Okay. So I was influenced massively by, uh, sculpture artists like Claes Oldenburg who, uh, for those of you who don't know, American artist, who, um, made huge everyday objects that he sat in landscapes.
Um, and I'm sure if you saw his work. You'd recognize it. Um, and I was always impressed by huge sculpture. Um, but it wasn't until I went to burning man in 2012, uh, that I realized that I could do it. So what I really loved about burning man, that was the first year I'd ever been, was that. There were clearly people who had bought art out on out onto the plier, which is something the plier is, this is the, uh, the central area where all the art gets positioned.
Um, there was clearly all there by people who were very established, quite a lot of the architects I remember had, um, built stuff. But then you would also come across little gems. And when I say little, anywhere between like a meter to 15 meters, um, made by communities of people that didn't really consider themselves artists.
They were just a group of people that had gotten together with an idea and it made something. And that whole, just that whole ethos of. Uh, well, just do it. Just get on with it. You know, you don't need permission. I'm sure if you got together with a load of people, you can make it happen. And I was so inspired by that attitude that when I came back to London after burning man, I just thought, I'm taking art to burning man.
And I did the following year. Um, I was also at a point in my life where I was surrounded by a lot of very capable practitioners. I was, um, helping run. A center called the center for creative collaboration in London King's cross, which was, um, ended up being a faculty of university of London where, uh, greatly inspired by the, uh, incubators.
Uh. In America, um, where you would offer support and physical premises to companies, um, and then get them to go from sort of zero to a product in a very short space of time. Um, and they was just a very interesting collection of people that were in that building from architects to fine artists to.
Technical people, software engineers, hardware engineers. So there was a huge body of people that I could draw on to try and get them excited about taking a big art project out to burning man. So again, it was, it was the ambition skill of other people that kind of made me stop thinking in small scale.
And what was able to, uh. Scale it up basically.
Tim: [00:16:15] I mean, I guess given the sort of word picture of burning man as an artistic venue, one of the things is that it is, it's a hugely blank canvas. I mean, you know, those kind of basically flat sand or dust, depending on what the weather has been like, um, you know, with, with hugely flat sight lines.
And then in the, in the. Greater distance. There are mountains, but it's like, it's not, um, it's not like kind of a garden or a, or a gallery where there's other stuff going on, like immediately around your object. Um, so, so kind of, it does. And you can come to these things from quite a distance. So size is, is quite, uh, quite necessary in order for people to find things.
Um, so yeah, I mean, I, I get the sort of the challenge there. Um, and, and maybe that's sort of. I know. I also think the permission thing is fascinating because it's like, you know, that is sort of part of the ethos there is that, well, you couldn't, you know, once it radical self reliance who you like, it's down to you to build it or not.
It's kind of up to you, which is interesting.
DD: [00:17:23] And radical self expression as well.
Tim: [00:17:25] Right. And I think that, I think what, what also for me is fascinating is, is, and part of kind of what, um, what you were saying about CC, uh, the, um, uh, before. Uh, it was the thing about, about that being a somewhat of a crossover from the tech world.
So like some of the ideas of the, of the tech world being kind of leveraged into art and, and back again. Is it like, am I misunderstood that or was that part of the thesis there?
DD: [00:17:51] No, you haven't misunderstood that at all. Um, I, to be honest with you, I don't think we really knew watery. How it was going to, it was a, it was a practical experiments.
Actually. It was actually off the back of, there was a group of, um, business consultants called complexity partners and, uh, they were business consultants to further and higher education and they completed that. This is, this is how I remember the story. Anyway, they completed a research paper into the future of the workforce for university of London's, um, vice chancellor at the time.
Sir Graham Davis and. In short, their report basically said that the future of the workforce, um, had to be had to be comprised of people that were, um, able to collaborate with others effectively, um, that it's not, it's not sufficient enough for the workforce just to only have an understanding of their particular profession.
They have to have. Language and communication to be able to communicate with other people from a different discipline if you are going to innovate in the future.
Tim: [00:18:59] So there are no like narrow innovations really. Innovations are spread out over the way. The thing looks, the way it behaves, the way that its people, um, receive it the way that you use it, how they feel about it, like that whole spectrum you don't have to cover otherwise it doesn't work.
DD: [00:19:15] Exactly. And. Like she'd imagined that they was further investigation that at some point in the project quite early on, you are, you are actually all going to have to work together on it. So there's no point. So, and that played itself out and see for C4CC as well. So I can remember. Projects where an artist would, uh, collaborate with, um, a hardware engineer.
And obviously that involved some software as well. And they would say, um, well, uh, this is what I want to do. I've got this sculpture. I quite like it to move when somebody stands in front of it. And, um. This is just, this is just a brief, for example, um, for example, purposes. And so the engineer would say, fine, and.
Got a few more parameters and then, uh, would come back four weeks later and plug everything in. And then the artists would look at it and they'd go, what's that great big silver cable coming out the back of it plugged into the wall? And he did us the engineers stand there and go, what? He does what you asked it to do, doesn't it?
I'm of course that the engineer would be really disgruntled because you know, he didn't have to spend these weekends working on your sculpture and the artists to be horrified thinking, cool. Can you not see it looks absolutely terrible. And we, we learned very quickly that. There. There has to be an appreciation for where the positioning of the other person within that collaboration.
And you will only, you'll only get there if you were interested enough to find out about the other person. Um, or just. Both parties have to ask more questions really.
Tim: [00:21:10] Yeah. And know the sorts of questions to ask. Go. Now I'm thinking of this. This is a very specific example of that, which I remember. It took me a while to work out.
So it's actually on the project in your first burning man project. Um, we, um. We cut all the cables cause it's like, it's actually quite hard to work out at burning man. We cut all the cables to the right length
DD: [00:21:30] for the,
Tim: [00:21:33] Oh well, okay. By implication, I did some of that, like some of the, some minor and minor part of the project.
But we cut all the cables to the right lenghts where somebody cut all the cables to the right lengths for the sculpture before it went out to burning man. And then, um, for reasons I don't completely remember. Oh, yes, I do. Because it was different. A different lumber. So it's actually different wood. Um, but in, in, in this, in the States.
But it turned out that the thing was, um, was a few feet longer and the States than it had been in London. As a result, none of the cables fitted. But we were, I remember sitting on the bottom of this with these two cables that I was trying to plug together, and they were about 18 inches apart. And I was looking at this and thinking, what the hell happened?
This worked in London. We deliberately put all this together in London and it fitted, and now it doesn't. And the answer was, yeah, well, the tail is about a foot longer. So, um, that was it. And, and that was exactly the sort of like, we hadn't, like, nobody had. We hadn't thought neither sunlight had thought through ask of the other side, like, does this matter?
Will this hurt happen? And then, you know, as it turned out, it wasn't a disaster. We went and borrowed another longer cable and plugged it altogether and it all worked. But you know, it's just that sort of crossover of, of how do you do that do to informally or do you do formerly that collaborate collaboration?
How does that, how does that collaboration gets seeded into a. Into a group to make sure that those things are, are communicated in a way that matters. And I mean, that's a, that's a really interesting practice. How do you, like, how does that work for you?
DD: [00:23:14] How does it work for me? Well, okay, so there's two answers.
So I actually have facilitated workshops whereby. I have been brought in to work with people that aren't, are about to have to collaborate on a project together, and how do they effectively do that? Um, so the, there's one approach that you can get somebody like me to help your workforce do it. Um, but how I do it is if I'm going to collaborate with anybody.
The absolute minimum I will do is watch two YouTube videos about what their profession is and what it entails. That's the absolute minimum amount of research that I do. And that's what I tell students to do. You know, if you've got an illustration student and they want to do a collaboration with a textile students, I actually get them to go and speak to the textile students.
Say, did you have any idea of what we might do? And they might say, Oh, I'm thinking of doing a technique called Devore . Could you write that name down for me, please? And then I expect you, I expect the student who's the illustration student to go away. And actually. Find out what that technique means, because I think what that does is that shows that you've got interest in what your collaborator is bringing to the project.
But it also means that if you've got a bit of a language and you've got a bit of understanding of the process, you can actually. Push your ideas a little bit more, or you can solve problems together more effectively. Um, so I would like to think now that I have enough of an understanding of hardware engineering to be able to make suggestions where.
People aren't going to look at me and go, "you know why that won't worked, but don't you? It's something called physics"
and and also as well, I mean, there's been a couple of times where people have said, Oh no, that can't be done because of this. And I've looked at them and just said, well, that's not true, is it? And I've caught them out. I'm thinking that I am absolutely clueless and don't know what, I'm talking about.
Tim: [00:25:30] Yeah. I mean, a lot of us get kind of shut into two ways of thinking.
So just kind of what part of the fun of work, working on the sorts of projects that you do is, is, is that it kind of forces you to think about stuff that isn't in the main kind of drag of one's, uh, working life. I mean, I certainly, one of the things that totally unrelated to what. The art necessarily was doing were not totally, but largely unrelated to the art, but I actually spent quite a lot of time understanding more about, uh, solar power than I had anticipated on working on your project.
So I actually know now know more about what works and what doesn't then than I did. And it's actually been really interesting. I mean, not practically. That useful outside that context, but really interesting and, and kind of broadened my mind about, you know, just how many acres of solar you need in order to power your laptop or that sort of thing.
And it's actually quite, some of the numbers there are quite interesting and surprising, but also the thing that really staggered me out of all of that was how efficient LEDs are as a light source. That that was. Okay. Kind of a little bright led you can see from miles away, and it's maybe kind of a quarter of a watt or something.
Um,
DD: [00:26:54] so you don't have to worry about things catching fire,
Tim: [00:26:58] but not,
DD: [00:26:58] not from that end of it. I think the, uh, the thing that I find most satisfying about working with people like you was, um, RFID. Tags and that they've all got, you know, understanding that they've all got their own unique identification code and that you can either code so that sequentially, um, well, each time somebody presents a different.
Um, identification code, it does something different. Or you can actually make that particular identification code do something quite fantastic just by writing different software. Um, that's that. I think if I think about all the things that I learned, that was probably my favorite outside of my scope of being an artist.
Tim: [00:27:47] No, that's interesting. So it's kind of the, the malleability or the of of it, like kind of cause that stance actually, effectively you're interpreting that number differently depending on like what the rules
DD: [00:28:00] are. But I think it's also, I think it was the first time I actually realized that coding was an art form, that there was lots of different ways you could make things happen.
And it was down to the expertise of the coder to go, Oh, well there's four or five different ways I can code for that.
Tim: [00:28:26] Hmm. Right. Interesting. Yeah, so I suppose that's right, that people tend to assume there's only one answer, and as you get older, more experienced, you come to realize that there are more and more answers, and.
Choosing the right one is, is it's either an engineering judgment or it's an artistic judgment, and often it's a bit of both, which is kind of fun actually.
DD: [00:28:49] Yeah. And then you teach me about persistence of vision. Well,
Tim: [00:28:54] that was an absolute nightmare. Right. You know, I still haven't managed it. I realized this, we want to, one of the things we worked on together as this giant star that has a lot of LEDs in it, and it looks lovely.
For humans, but I have never yet seen it look good on video.
DD: [00:29:13] No,
Tim: [00:29:14] for exactly that reason. Hmm. Like I, I actually, we should like do another version of it that looks good on video.
DD: [00:29:27] So yeah. So working in collaboration with other people, I mean, that is my favorite and my. My collaboration extends even well in a different direction as well because not only do I collaborate with other people to make my art, but the people who consume my art, the people who come and view it actually change position from viewer into participants.
Their role changes because now they don't come and consume it. They actually interact with it. So they become, they become a sort of material that I work with as much as a piece of timber is. I
Tim: [00:30:07] always found that completely terrifying. So, so as an example, one of the things that the, again, this star that the.
Backstory of this was that you were allowed to make a wish on this star. And what terrified me was how seriously people took this wishing process. I, you know, I knew that this was just random numbers. And you know, a little bit of code that I'd written that decided, which star to light up, but people took it very seriously.
And, and, and this still actually slightly bothers me, that people were out there, were making. Life changing decisions, but decisions based on a piece of code that I had written and, and they were taking it seriously because the whole star was big and beautiful. And, and this word, it still does slightly,
DD: [00:31:01] actually, but, but people, but people believe tealeaves.
I mean, I, I think that, I think the difference between, the reason that I like making the sculptures that I make is because. You can look at a cup of tea leaves and make a prediction about your life. Um, but the sculptures that I make, they give us the feedback. So there's, I like that feedback loop. I like the fact that you touch an RFID tag on a console, or you press a button and something happens.
You know, the star because it changes color. Uh, and people understand each change of state to be connected with the action that they made, which is true. That is what happens. Um, and it's kind of like, it's kind of like the star is interacting with them as well. So there is, there is a feedback going on and although that's completely contrived and under the hood, the experience that you have as a person is that you were responded to.
Tim: [00:32:12] Yeah. Yeah. No, I, I, um, and I think that's, I mean, that's been true quite a few things you've done, although not less so for, for, um, the huge thing was it is, it things fall apart
DD: [00:32:25] and things come apart
Tim: [00:32:26] and fix that. So that's, that is not interactive in the traditional way, but that it is, it sort of interacts with the space it's in rather than the people who view it.
Is that fair?
DD: [00:32:38] Um, yes, but I don't think that has been, I have, I've definitely displayed that sculpture, um, successfully. Um, so just so people know, um, very, yeah. So, um, it was a match kit. Of the statue of Liberty and for reasons around my dad's fascination with America. I too am quite fascinated with America and American culture.
Um, and I, I grew up, I grew up in a family where, um, if we could have had Fox news piped in through the walls, we would have done 11, not sure. Fox news was around when I was younger. Um. My dad, my dad took a lot of inspiration from America. We had a house called the American house because we had lots of stuff shipped over from the States, like double freezers and microwaves.
And my dad was really into Motown and, uh, and he had a, he had a, he did a lot of business in the States. And, um, so I sort of grew up with American culture going on in the background. Um, and. I've always been quite fascinated about the States, especially because of my involvement with burning man over the years as well, and spending large amounts of time out there.
Um, this whole idea of, um, public art, public sculptures, statue of Liberty, and the fact that I didn't particularly feel that, um, the America was really welcoming, welcoming its immigrants, and I did lots of research into the such with Liberty and found out that I haven't got all my notes brought to me, but there's something like 20.
Two statues of liberties around the world in public spaces, um, replicas and stylized versions of, and, um, I got a matchstick kit. Um, that was, um, if you could imagine you can't really have curves with match stick, so everything, the only way that they could get the curves on it was to make lots of panels and put them together.
So if you made eight panels and put them together in a circle, you'd have, um. Is it an octagon? Is that
Tim: [00:34:46] right?
DD: [00:34:47] Yeah. Um, so that would sort of, it wouldn't completely be a circle, but it would be as near a circle as you could get. So this match stick kit, um, basically I just took the design files and I traced over them and I actually cut them on a laser cutter.
So if you had a panel that comprised of 15 matchsticks in a lattice shape, uh, which I did try to stick together and it took me ages. Um, it was just easier to cut that panel and laser cutter on really thin plywood. And then I made the structure and then spoke to some people who were quite good at structural engineering.
And. We thought, well, we'll replace the matchsticks with two by two construction timber. So
Tim: [00:35:28] like a factor of 20 bigger,
DD: [00:35:31] it was 18, actually 18 sizes bigger. Um, so this sculpture went from probably being 50 centimeters. The matchstick kit. To a total height of 8.4 meters
tall
and they ended up being so tall. I actually have to hire in two scaffold towers. To be able to construct the thing. And you know, there is, there's something to be, Oh, and I did lots and lots of research around the history of match stick kits, and they were matchstick art that came out of the prisons because it was very, very cheap material.
Um, and then I was thinking along the lines of. You know, prisoners and lack of Liberty, and the fact that the statue of Liberty was a present from the French to the, um, to the Americans because, um. The, uh, the
Tim: [00:36:35] person they were fresh to, what's the word, revolutionary brothers or whatever
DD: [00:36:42] they were. They were trying to get American politics over to France.
And, um, and of course I've forgotten everybody's names who were involved. And there was just, it was so rich full of history. So it was actually my final project for my, uh, my masters. Um, in fine art. So that was my, yeah. Final project. And, um, what I want to do, getting back to the collaboration bit, is, um, because it's all panelized, I have this vision of taking the panels off one by one as a sort of performance art piece and turning them into a wall.
Tim: [00:37:22] So one of the things that amused me or I thought it was fascinating about, about that piece is that when you exhibit it, it's different every time because you have to fit it into, I mean, just think it has to fit into a space. It's sort of like hanging a painting slightly differently in a different gallery, but like this is the extreme thing because the actual geometrical placing of some of the wood is different in each case because you use the space as.
Seems fit, which is fascinating. Like, you know, sort of, that's what I meant about it. Interacting with the space it's in, rather than like, a lot of your work interacts with the humans who visit it, whereas this is actually interacting with the space it's in. So I think it's fascinating.
DD: [00:38:13] So, but an added dimension would be I've, I had this idea that people could come up to me and tell me a story of why America isn't, you know, enlightened.
And then I could take one of the panels off and say, okay, fine. All the opposite. You know, what I love about America is this. And then, okay, that's your panel. Bring it over here and we'll build it back up again. But then there was another time that I exhibited it in a gallery space and I had all the panels like falling out from the sides of the walls.
It sort of into like this massive heap on the floor, and I kept the head together and the torch arm as. As some indication that it was a statue of Liberty and a woman came into the gallery and she just said, I know exactly what this piece is about. It's about not being able to pay your mortgage and the house falling in on you.
Oh my goodness. Meets so cost for it. It's exactly how I feel at the moment about my life. And I thought, fine. Well that's, you know, once I've made the art it is down to you as to how you want to interpret it.
Tim: [00:39:21] Right. And so moving towards the kind of space we're in now, I kind of locked down or relative locked down or,
DD: [00:39:32] Oh, yeah.
Well, that's interesting because I've got a big driveway and with discussing this morning about actually building it again on my driveway.
Tim: [00:39:43] Excellent. Yes. Yeah. So right. Uh, I,
DD: [00:39:48] yes, very large garden ornament,
Tim: [00:39:51] but, but what I was kind of thinking about as you were saying that is like a lot of that interpretation is much more difficult with, with what one might call virtual art.
So, so like kind of online art is less available for that. Interpretation or, or that, um, interaction that we've been talking about, like how do you, how do you feel about that space?
DD: [00:40:17] Yeah. So it's, yeah, it's funny you say that. So of course I have a community of friends who are artists and you know, my artist friends are making art, you know, just because there is a pandemic doesn't mean to say that
you don't make things and everybody's, well, not everybody, but a lot of people are working in materials that they wouldn't normally work in. So I have a studio in my garden here, and I have one particular area that has got my latest work. And lately I've been working in bronze and I've been working in glass.
Well. In order to work in bronze, I need to be in a bronze Foundry and they don't have access to that and I don't have an access to a glass kiln. So, um, all that work, but put to the side yesterday, and I have now embraced the materials that are in abundance around me, that are easy to use, where I don't need specialist equipment.
And it's been incredibly difficult to make work because. I didn't, I don't think I quite realized. I mean, of course, of course I'm aware that I want to make work so it can get seen, but it is incredibly difficult to motivate yourself sometimes if you can't envision where it might get exhibited. And there are lots and lots of outlets, of course, within the art community now where you can apply to have your work shown online.
Um, the selection process is, is, is, is as tough as it would have been if it was going to be in a physical gallery. So I don't think there's any sort of dumbing down in that respect in terms of, it still has to be judged and goes through a selection process. Um, but I'm really wrestling with the idea of.
Well, first of all, find who's going to find it, but that that could be argued about any gallery that you put work in. So I know that I've had sort of passing trade, I've had people come in off the street and look at, look at my work.
And in some ways they're the, they're, they're the more interesting viewer of your work because some of them just come in because it's cold outside or they're a bit curious or. They're a bit scared of art perhaps. And they come in tentatively, and if you're really nice to them and encouraging, then they'll talk to you.
Um, and I'm wondering whether if you put your work upon digital platforms, whether the only people that get to see it or people that kind of know it's there because they're in the art world themselves. And equally, you don't get an idea of scale. Um, although the people who are asking you to submit work with the house in mind.
So, um. Art, art, art within your bathroom or your living room or your kitchen, I think is probably going to be a bit more interesting because you would have an idea of scale then because you'll, everybody knows roughly how big a kitchen cabinet is or whatever there is in the shot. So I think something interesting will come from that.
Um, so, but then if you work in three D. Um, which I do. Why would I present my work in TD? I mean, why would anybody ever go and see, art, I mean, why would you, why would I ever go into an art gallery if I could just. Say to somebody, or could you grab me a brochure while you're there and bring it a catalog and bring it back?
Tim: [00:44:03] Or the colors are always wrong.
DD: [00:44:06] Yeah, the colors are wrong and you're not, you're not. I mean,
Tim: [00:44:12] I mean, I think that was where I was sort of half where I was heading with, with, with this thing about the virtual, like, I think it's not only that, but even more. I think that the. The ability to, for people to interact and self interpret.
A thing is, is part of it is about kind of walking around the thing and looking at it from the angle that suits you. And the more like online it gets, the less those options are available to the viewer. And so you're there, their interaction with it is prescribed to like the camera angle and the focal length or whatever.
DD: [00:44:57] But then, but then I'm thinking, well, you know what's, what's the alternative? The, the, the ideal would be that you see it in an art gallery, but we don't have that option anymore. I mean, I'm sure there's lots of people. Employers at the moment that just saying, well, you know, we can't run our business online because face to face meetings work more effectively.
I mean, that's probably true, but in this current situation, we don't have much of a choice, but I can't say it's completely motivated me to want to submit work to those platforms. And also that's. There's a lot of noise out there. Now I'm not, I'm not saying, art is noise, but it's quite competitive. I mean, that is, that is the only form of, that's the only point of distribution and it's the only point of consumption.
So. Who am I up against? You know, is there any chance that anybody will actually get to enjoy it or see it? Which is, which is why, I mean, I've got a performance piece that I want to do. And now that the, the lockdown has been, you know, eased off a little bit. Um, I mean, my job is an artist. You know, if I do my performance piece in the street, as far as I'm concerned, I'm working.
I'm going to work,
Tim: [00:46:21] assuming that you managed to find an audience in the street, or does that not matter?
DD: [00:46:27] Well, I don't think that matters. I think, um, I'm certainly not going to collect an audience around me and then come out at a prescribed time and then put on a show my performance piece actually, um. Is if you happen to be walking past me, then that's, that's the art, if that makes sense.
That is the piece.
Tim: [00:46:48] So, but that's very, very much around local. So your, your, your focus is, is, is ma now much less burning man, the U S art galleries and those sorts of, kind of. And much more about like your driveway and your locality in your garden and closer local thing. Interesting. That's a, that's a totally unexpected outcome of, I suppose it shouldn't be unexpected.
Maybe I just didn't think about it, but, um,
DD: [00:47:19] yeah. But you know, I've, I've, I mean, unfortunately for me, I have actually been really ill, so I feel like I'm sort of four or five weeks behind everybody else because I spent three weeks locked down in bed. Well, just before lockdown, actually, I got really, really sick.
Then I got well, and then I got sick again. So. I kind of feel that I'm a little bit on the back foot at the minute. Um, and I think I've only just finding my way into producing work again, I think because, and I did myself a really hard time because for the last four years, I have not made art work where I did.
I have a studio in my garden, which has been very much like a storage unit, really, where I've just grabbed what I needed, and I've done a few hours work in there over the last four years, but nothing substantial. Um, and I, you know, the majority of my work has been done out of studio space in a university setting, in an, in an arts university.
And now I'm in lock down with somebody who isn't an artist, but who appreciates art, who I can have an informed conversation with, which is fine, but, and I can have conversations with people over the phone, but. When you're in an arts environment, you can pick things up, show people. What do you think of this?
What's the color? Do you think? Oh God, you know, there's a library that I can go to. There's loads of resource resources or materials that I can use, or there's huge amounts of expertise that I can draw on. The technicians are incredible at what they do. Um, and now I'm sort of, I'm in a house environment.
Um. And although my studio is outside of my house, I still have to come in to eat and use the loo and, and then I see something that needs cleaning, tidying, putting away, you know. The cat needs feeding.
Tim: [00:49:31] Uh, this is, this is the, the, the artist's version of working from home dilemma, isn't it? It's just like interesting that you're kind of going through a lot of the same challenges that the rest of us who work from home have had.
And, and, but, so here's the thing, which is that this seems to me to be another phase in a bit, which is that once you sort of settled into how, how you can get something done in lockdown after a while, it becomes unsatisfying that whilst you can get a few things done, they're not the full like possibilities.
It's, it's sort of somehow, it's almost like kind of, um. You know that thing about writing limericks that that the form is, makes it more satisfying because you've managed to fit within it. But after a point, you actually want to start writing essays again or, or freeform poems or whatever, because there are some things that just don't fit in Limerick format.
Any of that makes sense. I don't know where it came from, but anyway,
DD: [00:50:29] I didn't know. Are you referring to the fact that I keep. I'm limited in the work that I can make in my house.
Tim: [00:50:38] So the materials and whatever, like once you find a way to work with what you've got, then that sort of satisfy. And what I think I'm saying is that after a while the limitation stopped being.
Uh, initially their annoyance and then they're like a, a discipline and, and, and somewhat welcome. And then after a while, they become an annoyance again. And I, I'm kind of warning you that you're going to be back into the annoyance space at some point.
DD: [00:51:05] But to be honest with you, Tim, the project that I was working on at the university was driving me nuts.
I mean, I was working in glass and I was sort of making the same thing over and over again and sticking it in the kiln. And I couldn't wait for it to be over so that I could run back to my little studio in my garden and actually get on with something different because I was boring myself to death. Um, and actually, you know, I think, I think as an artist, I think.
For me anyway, and for a lot of people that I know that are into lots of different disciplines, which I am, is having too many choices can be such a burden. If you're an artist, you really have to sort of put in, you know, some days I get so overwhelmed, I basically have to say green, wavy.
Tim: [00:51:56] Oh right. To to, to narrow that is that is the sort of Limerick thing that like you impose an arbitrary discipline on, on the thing, and that allows you to be creative within it.
DD: [00:52:09] Okay. Yes, exactly. It's like you put some scaffolding up and then you can swing around like a monkey on the monkey bars. That's. Well with the vision I have in my head.
Tim: [00:52:20] Okay, so, so here's a question. I feel free not to answer it. And like we always used to say to people on this podcast where we, we tried to kind of find out what they thought the future was going to look like in five years time.
And I'm
DD: [00:52:35] going to die. We're all gonna die.
Tim: [00:52:38] It doesn't, that doesn't really make for a good podcast listening. So, uh, and I also realized that it was totally an unfair to ask people that, but I think the kind of equivalent is, is what is it that you are, you're going to do. When this eases up, what's the thing that you're going to kind of be able to do that you can't do now?
Maybe that's an unfair question and not relevant, but like
DD: [00:53:06] I tend to, well, I think the immediate future is going to be for art, we're going to see more public artwork out and about on your walks. We will see more people just spawn you, you'll soon be going for a walk and you will go. What's that statue to doing next to that lamppost or why somebody put that painting up in that shop window or I'm trying to put something in the letterbox and somebody left me a painting or.
Tim: [00:53:33] That's fascinating. I'm already starting to see that. I mean, there's a lot of other kind of rainbows and Teddy bears in windows and really interesting. So you and I heard there was a guy in Berlin who's done a, he's like basically put a printer in the window of his shop and you can, you can control it through your mobile phone and get it to print out a message to everyone else who passes by.
DD: [00:53:57] I would very much like to put some artwork in my car and park my car on the drive, but I quite like, I'm trying to see if I can run any of my black lights. From batteries in my car so that I can like the car on the inside with UV
Tim: [00:54:18] and
DD: [00:54:19] the input and, you know, decorate, decorate my car as, as a work of art.
But, and I've got loads of El wire. I mean, it would be perfect for night time. Um, I, I do worry a little bit about putting work out in public spaces only because, um. It can get vandalized. So I was thinking that today that I probably wouldn't feel brave enough to put something out in public that was made from any materials that were expensive or anything that I'd spent a huge amount of time making.
Um, I. I have been great inspired by something that I've been watching on Amazon prime called tales from the loop.
Tim: [00:55:07] Oh, you've watched that? Yes, yes.
DD: [00:55:09] Um, and that's, you know, that was an artist who drew sort of robotic, uh, sculpture, sculptural shapes, sculptural things. Next to. Um, houses
Tim: [00:55:23] and flat farmland

DD: [00:55:26] yeah. And I love, I mean, for me it's like visiting an art gallery. I mean, I, I, I'm interested in the storyline, but I'm far more interested in that juxtaposition of these, this technology and these robot like figures that sort of. Seem to sit really well in that landscape.
I know he was just, I've just been thinking, Oh my, well, I'd love to live in a world where I walked down the road and I saw that. And I think, and I think it's the sculptural quality of it, that. Appeals to me. So yeah.
Tim: [00:56:07] So you can make that happen, Debbie.
DD: [00:56:09] Exactly. So I've got these, had so many Amazon deliveries.
I mean, God knows I've got enough boxes I can make something out of.
I think the future for visual artists and consumers of the arts is that you're going to see lots more art on the streets. Um, public art interventions. Um, and I would encourage people to enjoy it. Don't steal it unless you're invited to and don't vandalize it. Cause that's happened to me before when I've done public art.
So, um, that is my prediction for the future.
Tim: [00:56:47] Cool. Well, thank you for that. I wasn't expecting a future prediction. Yes. No, I wasn't expecting one, so I do do appreciate that. That's great. Cool. Listen, thank you so much