November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Murray Gaylard/Artist Interview

Space Creator

Gaylard, in his studio working on Space Creator project

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Letting Out the Inner Dialogue

By Miklós Horváth

In February 2012; I had the good fortune to conduct an interview with Murray Gaylard, a contemporary artist and a performer. Gaylard has received his education from the University of Cape Town, in South Africa where he studied social sciences, and from the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main where he studied art. His studies gave him a precocious genius towards political and social matters. Last year, he was engaged in exhibitions, both in the Netherlands and in Germany. Gaylard’s artworks introduce questions of societal development, social changes, and the roles human beings play in them. The discussion between Gaylard and I will address some of these issues, such as the purpose of artworks, the influences that they can have on communities and Gaylard’s personal contributions to the understanding of human emotions and desires within his performances.

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M: Thank you so much for accepting my invitation to this interview. First of all, I would like to ask you about your recent exhibition at Witte de With in Rotterdam where you have implemented an audio-visual installation. This installation consists of a street lamp and a loud-speaker. In the evening, pedestrians passing by this installation can experience a-one-minute-of-fame. When they approach the street lamp, very bright LED lights begin to flicker and shine down on them, and they can hear your voice providing an ironic message: “Even in this most unflattering light, you are beautiful”. In which sense do you think that this installation can provoke the passer-by and is there a need to provoke the public at all?   

Gaylard: I don’t feel that the work provokes the public at all. For me, the word “provoke” implies something negative or shocking. Of course “provoke” could also be understood as engaging the public in a dialogue.  I mean it definitely confronts and even initiates a response in the observer, albeit very subtle, and this is something that I think is very important, particularly with regards to art in public space.

M: I see. But what did you want to create then? What do you think that the public can experience by visiting your artwork?

Gaylard: What I wanted to create, was an experience that would interject into the every-day lives of the people passing by and that would stimulate the public into a space of self-reflection – a quality that underlies most of my work, especially my work in public space. I specifically chose a location along the river that was away from the hustle and bustle of the pedestrian traffic, as it was important for me that the person experienced the installation in a somewhat cocooned and intimate way. I had these wonderful visions of people going home from work in a bad mood and being spoken to by my street lamp, or of someone who was going through a difficult time, or feeling somehow unworthy, specifically choosing to visit the piece because it would make them smile.

M: So, you would like to ease people of their burdens by making them smile…

Gaylard: I don’t know about easing people of their burdens, but I just think there’s so much about the human condition to celebrate and often art ignores that.  Art in public space should never take life too seriously. Public space is our playground and it should be enjoyed. I mean the street lamp piece is a total feel-good piece, and this was my intention right from the start – to make a piece that would gently reach out to someone passing by and make them smile. I know how naïve this must sound, and initially I struggled with the fact that everything I make, although often very socially-critical and tragic, is somehow always coupled with a hint of humor. But I mean really, the power to make someone feel better – what greater goal could an art piece have than that?

M: When I think of the most overwhelming performances of the 20th century, I often recall the works of artists like Tibor Hajas or Marina Ambrović, who tried to explore their own mental and physical limits by making life-threatening actions. In the ’70s, Ambrović, for example, took some pills which were undoubtedly destructive to her nervous system. Do you think that the most powerful performances require personal physical risks from or to the artist? Can these performances be more effective?

Gaylard: Effective in what way? I mean I think it depends on the point the artist is trying to make.  Obviously if you are interested in the performing body, then it would seem appropriate to use your own body as a kind of test instrument in your work. I suppose it’s the same in all fields of life. The public will view those performances that they cannot imagine doing themselves as “more effective”, or may I rather say more impressive. I did a performance where I hitchhiked in a home-made Mickey Mouse costume from Frankfurt am Main to Disneyland Paris in an attempt to go home, and so many people remember this piece. I didn’t have to inflict any kind of physical pain. I just had to do something that the general audience probably wouldn’t.

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M: By effective, I meant that where the health of an artist’s body is threatened or of concern during his or her performances, this can truly incite the discovery and reflection of the audience’s own boundaries. Regarding boundaries, I would be happy if you could offer your thoughts of where a person’s private sphere starts and ends. In your artworks, for example: Space creator (2006, 2010) and Being alone has its advantages (2011), you give your own definition of private and public.

Gaylard: The drawing you speak of, “Being alone has its advantages,” is more about loneliness and having a social network or not. Most of my drawings deal with social behaviour to a certain extent, but I generally prefer to not speak about them.  They embody something very different to the rest of my work and I don’t think that they like to be laden with theory and explanation. That would just make them heavy.  The whole point of working on paper is that there is a lightness and freshness to the end product.  It’s just so liberating to work on paper because it’s so cheap. This allows you to approach the paper far more playfully than any other material because you aren’t so scared of fucking it up.

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Above photos from series,
“There’s no place like home,” 2009

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M: Finally, I would like to ask you to give me your take on the future of art in Western Europe, and the impact of artworks and performances on our society.

Gaylard: The future of art in Western Europe? All I can say is that I hope it’s a future with less of that have-to-read-an-instruction-manual-before-you-can-understand-it art than we were forced to live with in recent years. You know what I mean? I mean the misled belief that concept art means making something and then layering it with so much philosophical material that only someone with a master’s degree can understand it. There was so much of that. 

I don’t want to mock it, though. There is truly a place for all forms of artistic expression, and just because I don’t get it, doesn’t mean it’s trash.  I do, however, think that art will become more “human”, and more accessible to the general public and will probably be more prepared to meet the public in the public, whether real or virtual. Our relationship to public space is changing dramatically. I think that we have moved into a “post fear of terror” era where those war against terror images that kept us indoors for so long are slowly starting to fade from our memories, or maybe we are just tired of living in a state of waiting for something bad to happen. Whatever the reason, the public is far more empowered and fearless now than before. The relationship we have to our streets has changed drastically, but you shouldn’t get me started.  I could really go on about that for hours. 

M: How do you think artworks could be more accessible to the public?

Gaylard: I guess a lot more will be taking place outside. Outside is where we want to be because it is the arena of surprise and assists in the unfolding of identities. Just look at the occupancy movement. I hope that art will stop taking itself so seriously in the future and that it will speak a more understandable language, and that it will be found increasingly more in “untypical” spaces. I mean the timing is perfect for it. We have YouTube, facebook, and an array of social media to help in the circulation of it. Maybe the future of art is an iPhone application that you can buy over iTunes.

 

For more information about Murray Gaylard, his work and performance art, please visit http://www.murraygaylard.com.

About the interviewer:

Miklós Horváth is a contributing editor to Ragazine. You can read more about him in “About Us“.