Saturday, 3 October 2009

Four Legs good interview with Tim Robottom

Four legs good, two legs better

Tim Robottom

Pitt Studio, Worcester

Tim Robottom is an artist who defines his practice in terms of edges, lines and cliffs. Rather than interpreting these within the realms of sanity he explores art themes and theories, thoughts and titles. What if a conceptual artist power slid over a modernist line and ended up in a surrealist puddle? Robottom plays with these cross-overs and combinations of titles, he plays with our perceptions of the known and unknown, presenting a world that is topsy-turvy; confusing what we once knew and understood as basic art history.

Charlie Levine: Tim, you have recently completed your MA, now you are out of education and the restrictions that come along with that how do you feel your work will and has progressed for this exhibition and beyond?

Tim Robottom: My work is and always has been in a state of continual flux and development. During my time on the Masters programme I began to reintroduce a performative element to my practice, something that initially started with ‘Oranges Can Dance’, my first solo show that you curated in autumn of 2008. I am interested in engaging the audience by using fragments of the past, subtly blended with elements from the present, but it’s difficult to pin down. The work for Four legs good, two legs better will be temporary, like a performance, so all of the work will no longer be available in this form once the show is over - unless I remake it somewhere else of course. This temporality has gradually become central to my practice and is now a key element that I intend to explore further in the future.

CL: Tell me more about this exhibition, you describe it in a way that covers every cultural base - Surrealism, Pop, Conceptualism, history and contemporary culture, film, modern literature, current affairs, consumerism and site specificity. How do all of these themes translate into a cohesive solo exhibition? And how would you describe your practice without the use of these very descriptive and specific phrases? Would you be able to? How representative are they of your practice?

TR: It is extremely difficult to describe anything without some point of reference. Life and culture is what the work is about; bringing together the melting pot of influences and ideas that make up society, all of the works are loaded with cultural references and comments on everyday life. This body of work has taken on an aesthetic I can only describe as Dada, it is not avant-garde or particularly radical, but I think the work has surreal qualities. It is not nonsensical, there is meaning in there, you simply have to look. The pieces are like a series of cryptic visual puzzles, if you know your current affairs, history, theory, and politics and so on then you should be able to decipher something from the work. I am very careful to try and get all of the potential meanings to fit together so that what you end up with is a kind of sculptural mind map or spider diagram. Take ‘Prize Winner’ for example, a ceramic Shire horse placed directly onto a light-box. This piece not only relates to the other works in the show, the previous history of the space as a slaughterhouse and the history of the Worcestershire potteries, but is also a comment on art competitions like the Turner prize. It could also be seen as a representation of the struggle and migration necessary to find work, from the early industrial revolution to the present day. The light-box also sits upon two plinths, a satirical nod to conceptualism, or a metaphor for life as a play upon a stage, upon a stage, upon a stage.

CL: You very obviously have a lot of humour and irony within your work, there is often nods to political views you hold or have discrepancies with, is this because of your nature and your appreciation of a laugh? Or are you commenting on a bigger picture? What is the viewer laughing at? Are we laughing with you or at something?

TR: We are in times of global crisis; personally I think that now is just the right time for some surrealist humour to take the edge off things, while still encouraging the viewer to think about life at the same time. For me the best art is art that makes you think about the bigger picture. Art has to provoke some kind of reaction, make you smile, frown, laugh, shout or perhaps even cry and run away. Aesthetically the work is amusing and the possible meanings are often politically-charged, cynical and satirical, but it always seems to return to the same question of mortality and temporality. Life is too short, so we must enjoy what little time we have, but more so now than ever we must also take responsibility for our actions.

CL: Finally, how do you see art evolving in these modern times of technology, knowledge, power and opportunities? How does your work fit into this current art time of celebrity curators and artists taking more control for themselves? What is the future for art? And how do you see yourself within this future?

TR: I think the future for art is global. The west used to be the centre of the art world, but this is now changing. The internet has opened up all kinds of networking possibilities for artists, writers, curators and collectors, making it much easier for negotiations to take place across vast distances. I am not really interested in being a celebrity, but I intend to attempt to retain as much control over my work and my creative freedom as possible. For me both art and life are the same thing and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Interview between curator Charlie Levine and artist Tim Robottom (September 2009) for his solo exhibition at Pitt Studio, October 2009

Charlie and Tim have previously worked together on Oranges Can Dance, August 2008, a single evening exhibition and performance at the Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham

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