In The Studio: Mark Leckey, artist
'Art today it is not about making things but about editing information'
Friday 31 May 2013
Mark Leckey has not been in his current office/studio in Clerkenwell for long. Previously he worked at home, but the birth of his daughter with his partner, Lizzie Carey-Thomas, a curator at Tate, and the consequent sleepless nights drove him to seek a place with fewer distractions.
There are certainly none here. It is as impersonal as it can get, with unused picture hooks on the walls, and only a large screen leaning against a faux leather chair indicating that an artist might be in residence. Leckey himself, however, does not disappoint, with a mien that would not be out of place in a Velázquez portrait, aided by a single pearl-drop earring.
Leckey has had a slow road to success. Born in 1964 in Birkenhead near Liverpool, he was a "woolly back", the derogatory scouse term for Cheshire folk: "Yes, it is a pejorative term, I wanted to belong." After graduating from art college in Newcastle, he ended up in America – NYC via San Francisco and Las Vegas. He proclaims that he was saved by meeting the gallerist Gavin Brown, with whom he still works: "I was full of need and I wanted something, but I didn't know what I wanted."
Brown allowed him to hang out at the New York gallery and gave him the tools and confidence to make his first video, the medium for which Leckey is now best known. "It took two years to create, but it was made of 30 years of repressed desire."
Back in the UK he continued to make videos and won the Turner Prize in 2008. His victory, over an otherwise all-female shortlist, raised mixed reactions from the press and art world.
Leckey is one of a generation of artists who admit that their work could not be made without Google. The internet is a place, he says, where "everything is present at the same time". Much work today is "not about making things but about editing information". It is in that spirit that he assembled the various objects in his current exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary, The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things.
Felix the Cat, an emblem that Leckey has adopted, takes pride of place in the show's various venues. "I liked that it was a two-dimensional cartoon cat that was transformed into a three-dimensional moving image." As the first image to be seen on North American Television, "Felix was the astronaut of television," he says.
The show also includes a cornucopia of disparate objects that Leckey found online that were obtained by a team of assistants, from a singing gargoyle and a Louise Bourgeois totem to a spacesuit worn by cosmonaut canines. At the Venice Biennale, which opens today, he is showing a video piece composed of manipulated three-dimensional scans of the objects in his Nottingham show. The scans transform the objects from their own identity into tools and building blocks, the possessions of the artist.
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