Marvin Gaye Chetwynd interview: The performance artist on Isaac Hayes' smoke machine, and wanting to be a glamour model

The performance was born Alalia Chetwynd, but changed her name to Marvin Gaye because she 'was so taken by his life'

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The Independent Online

As an artist, I've always seen the world through a child's eye And I am still, at the age of 41, very near to being a child. I can think of few things I'd rather do than slide around with my two-and-a-half-year-old in a soft-play area.

It's hilarious being close to celebrities; funny things happen all the time My mum [the Oscar-winning film production designer Luciana Arrighi] has been nominated for Oscars and Baftas, and I went with her to the Oscars in 2000, when she was nominated for Anna and The King, starring Jodie Foster. I remember Isaac Hayes performing on stage. The smoke machine broke and kept pumping out so much smoke you couldn't see him. Brilliant!

Home schooling can educate in different ways Because we travelled so much with my parents' work [her father was a former soldier and aid worker], they sort of taught me at home, and ingrained in me a lot of important things. I was good at map-reading from a young age, for example. But they never got round to teaching me the alphabet. I remember, aged 10, looking at these abstract shapes on the page and thinking: what are they?

I have always loved to learn I went to boarding school at 11, and I was ready for it, really hungry and excited to learn. The teachers were so inspiring. One used to walk into the classroom upside-down on his hands. And I'd quite happily sit down to lunch with the history teacher.

I wanted to be a topless model when I was seven I was desperate! I would make my mum take photographs of me. She had brought me up looking at Helmut Newton pictures, and both she and my grandmother had been models. I was quite taken with the whole idea of glamour, I suppose.

I was a libertine, a feminist and a real go-getter from a young age The way I was brought up made me feel like I could do anything. Everything just felt extremely positive; the sky was the limit.

I didn't know what normality was While being that go-getter, at the same time I felt very insecure as a child. I had no template for what normal was. It took me a long time to feel calm and settled. I do now.

The art world is like a field of mushrooms springing up from the ground Underground, it's full of sensitive, interesting people and there are all these sprouts connecting and networking. It makes me excited just to think of it.

My response to feeling demoralised, or not knowing what to do with life, is to be celebratory About what? About everything!

Award nominations matter After being nominated for the Turner Prize in 2012, I became more robust. My work had been really intimate and informal beforehand, but now I was communicating to a wider audience. It took a while to adjust. At first I thought the media circus was repulsive. But who can complain about getting attention?

I wasn't born 'Marvin Gaye' I was born Alalia Chetwynd, but I became Spartacus in 2006 because I was a real fan of the story of Spartacus, and I felt I needed a nom de plume. I'm Marvin Gaye now because I was so taken by his life. His dad was this disciplinarian preacher but also a cross-dresser who ended up killing his son. Naming myself after him is a private reminder to myself to protect all the good I have in my life: my family.

Marvin Gaye Chetwynd has just completed 'The Idol', a sculpture and permanent soft-play centre commissioned by Create in partnership with Barking and Dagenham Council

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