Last Lockdown Interviews pART 6 – Oliver Malin




The date was 13th June, When I first started writing this installment in this potentially infinite series, but everything I wrote felt stale. As it stands, Churchill is still standing, hoarding uncovered for a state visit from Macron. He experienced an Andy Warholian 15 min moment, thanks to The far right’s work experience programme leaving their caves for the afternoon and defending the statue. However that feels like it happened light years ago since then a 20-year old Manchester United Striker called Marcus Rashford had shown more leadership in a single act than our Poundland, podgy Marcel Marceau impersonator has at any stage of his tenure as Prime Muddler. 

Now that we know where we stand. Let’s get to the main course before the next weird thing happens, while Mercury is in retrograde. Continuing An emerging trend of navigating into further reaches of the professional art universe, I’ve managed to land my Tesla space pod wind chime on the roof of director of Bloomberg New Contemporaries, Kirsty Ogg. 

They recanted her answers through the letterbox to maintain the 6 feet of distance and separation between us. Standing next to her with a film camera not far from her grasp is Lily Bertrand Webb, West London’s most glowing photographer of the joys of life, people, experience and generally extremely good vibes, my heart goes out to this particular butterfly not allowed to flutter around West London freely like a songbird of former days. Films not dead is one of her favourite hashtags, So expert her thoughts and dreams to be celluloid too. To not get a caution for not including a Turps addict in the starting line up, I slip in a digital artist, who isn’t a turps addict, Tom Faber, so that I don’t get the burns. He is currently one of the warriors on the front line fighting for the honour of a new online platform doing something arts-related called Kovet, not COVID, weirdly, but close, but is pretty neat.

Nearly Last by not least, but actually quite significantly east, residing in Berlin via an Edmonton vicinity upbringing, is Steve Glashier, a music video colonel having been taking no prisoners for 20 years and thus amassed an arsenal of wonderful examples of unrestrained creativity and contributions to the cultural canon. To see us off into the end of the interview sunset, is Gallery Girl, an art blogger, so as a make-shift art journalist myself, I am charged with trying to incubate these precious species before they all become extinct like the Dodos or Kevin Spacey. Without criticism, opinion, colour, human experience and debate, we are finished and now I am. 

Bloomberg New Contemporaries

Bloomberg New Contemporaries

 

1) Now that the unforeseen has morphed into the new norm, how has your practice been affected & how have you chosen to respond creatively 

We closed the New Contemporaries office about a week before the official lockdown was introduced back in March. Our scale and the way that we work meant that we were able to adapt quite quickly and well to working remotely. We are quite a tight-knit team, so not having the office bantz is something that I am personally missing. 

In terms of supporting the community of artists that we work with, our amazing selectors Alexandre da Cunha, Anthea Hamilton and Linder have selected the 36 artists that will form the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2020 cohort and we are starting to work with them. We are also currently developing other plans for new digital opportunities for artists. For example, after the lockdown, we launched two funded digital one-month residencies in response to the fact that so many of the artists have been badly affected financially by the pandemic through work being cancelled and the loss of income from sales etc.. It’s a precarious sector at the best of times and the effects of C-19 have compounded this especially for those at the start of their careers. They don’t have the resilience or capacity to deal with C-19’s immediate and short-term effects meaning that many showing promise will need targeted support to continue practising. It felt vital that we stepped in to do what we can to support artists at an emergent and early career stage. 

2) How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive 

Gosh, mainly positive but to be honest it’s been a bit up and down over the last couple of weeks. It’s a challenging situation for everyone to be in and the lack of leadership from the current Government in England hasn’t helped. Sometimes you just have to turn off the news before you explode with rage at how – at a governmental level – the pandemic is being dealt with is reinforcing the existing inequalities in society. 

Saying that working on this year’s Bloomberg New Contemporaries helps to focus the mind, and I have a fantastic team at New Contemporaries. We are supporting each other: talking to each other regularly and not just about work helps! 

I’m also enjoying that now that lockdown is relaxing that there is an opportunity to see people from outside of our immediate family bubble. It’s quite ridiculous how excited you feel about the prospect of standing on your doorstep having a coffee and a chat with someone that isn’t a family member! 

3) How has your relationship to time changed, or has it remained the same? 

Time definitely went much slower at the beginning of the lockdown; it no longer felt like my enemy! Over the last couple of weeks, it seems to have speeded up again, which I’m not enjoying so much, but I am still managing to take an hour for lunch with my son and husband, which always seems like a novelty and a treat! 

4) What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners? 

I think it is quite easy to feel very isolated at the moment, especially if you are in a leadership role. We are all facing steep challenges, uncertain futures and change are happening at an accelerated rate; all that is difficult to deal with on your own. I think it is essential 

that you have a trusted network of people that you can share ideas with, talk through problems or just vent. 

5) What have you been listening to on Spotify, watching or baking?

I’ve been watching quite a few of the National Theatre productions, which have been great. We’ve been listening to a lot of jazz to try and stay sane John and Alice Coltrane, Lloyd McNeill, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and The Lightmen Plus One. We love some of the International Anthem Recording Co. releases like Jaimie branch and Angel Bat Dawid. And all on vinyl, not Spotify! 

Lilly Brandt Webb

Lilly Bertrand-Webb

Lily Bertrand- Webb

How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively

I’m a photographer. Commercial jobs are my bread and butter. As soon as it became clear that Covid:19 was going to affect the UK, jobs were drying up, with most of them being cancelled or postponed. My boyfriend and I decided to escape to Ireland. 

The first thing I packed was my five favourite cameras. We left on Friday 13th March and I’ve been taking a photo a day since we’ve been here. I usually take portraits and since we’ve been here, we’ve been self-isolating for 14 days. After the self-isolation, we’ve been going on walks with the dogs and my boyfriend’s family, but still standing 6ft apart. We’ve been productive and keeping busy. We got eight chickens and have just finished building the chicken coop. We’re planning on getting a Rooster and expanding the family. We’ve also been creating fruit and veg patches. 

In a way, we’ve transferred our creative skills and minds into building things that will be beneficial to us long term. We’re in the middle of the country and wanted to use this opportunity to create and grow things organically.

How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive

The chickens and the fruit & veg projects have been keeping us very busy. It’s also a good distraction and has stopped us from going online to watch the news as much. There’s only so much depressing and negative news that our rational minds can help us. The projects have been giving us a routine, making way for our’ new normal’. 

How has your relationship to time changed?

I don’t feel as in control over it and how to spend it most effectively has been called in questions

With all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything ne 

With all this free time’, we have used it to build and create life. It’s very exciting to watch it grow, knowing that we will eventually be eating them! It’s refreshing. The positive thing is its spring, so it’s a perfect time to start this! I think our next project is beehives! I’m also trying to persuade The Boyfriend to get Llamas because apparently they’re really good defenders and can protect our chick family!

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners?

Keep creating. Time may have felt like it stopped, it hasn’t, it just takes a little time out and this is the perfect time to make, create and reflect!

I’ve been inspired by my favourite photographer, Lee Miller, who moved to the country after WWII and created what sounded like the perfect country living ‘The Farleys Cottage’ She was always continually cooking and gardening as well as entertaining her guests. The only thing I’m missing now are my friends and families. I’ve been using ZOOM in the meantime, talking to my best girlfriends who are currently isolating in Peru, Ibiza and London! We’ve been having Friday Night girlie Zoom meetings. Each is exchanging what we’ve all been doing in our homes. It’s fascinating. We’re living in history.

What have you been listening to on Spotify/baking? 

I’ve been listening to my best friend Henri Bergmann’s playlist that she has created ‘Self Isolation’ She’s 7 months pregnant and a DJ, so she’s been creating these fantastic party and chill out playlists that I’ve been listening to whilst cooking and baking banana bread!

Steve Glashier (Top Photo)

How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively

I live in Berlin, so we were fast to lockdown, and we had warning, so I shot two videos back to back before the lockdown.

2 How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive

Mental health was ok; I had a photography project that I hadn’t had time to finish as it was a lot of editing and I’m not a fan of sitting in front of the computer, so I had something to chip away at and didn’t feel too lost. 

How has your relationship to time changed?

At first, I think I exploited that I didn’t need to get up at a time, then I forever myself to get back to normal as the weather got better. 

4 What are you going to do/ learn anything new?

Find a way to work, as artists, it’s a muscle and needs to be exercised. I write every day and actually sneaked out and met dancers during the lockdown to make a music video

5 What have you been listening to on Spotify/baking

Everything and I’ve never baked cake in my life mate, why would I start now

Gallery Girl

Gallery Girl

Tom Faber –  Gallery Girl

1) Now that the unforeseen has morphed into the new norm, how has your practice been affected & how have you chosen to respond creatively

I am predominantly an art writer, so the lack of physical exhibitions and art fairs has meant that I can’t review shows in the way I used to before. I’ve also noticed that some of the outlets I write for are no longer accepting pitches because their advertisers are dropping out. I am continuing to write content – predominantly for TheArtGorgeous.com – that uplifts people during these difficult times. My personal platform – Gallery Girl – was pretty much wholly review based, and as much as I commend the art world for embracing the digital realm, reviews of online shows just didn’t appeal to me. So, adapting to the new situation, I started a podcast as a way to keep interacting with artists and their practice.

2) How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive

My mental health is a bit up and down. I struggled with anorexia a lot as a teenager and in my early twenties, and I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t have a wobble at the beginning of all this. For me, it’s really difficult not to be busy, so I’ve found ways to keep myself occupied most of the time. I’ve danced on and off my whole life, but working in art in London means that attending a regular class is all but impossible. The lockdown has allowed me to take online ballet classes daily, so maybe I might just fulfil my childhood dreams of being a ballerina at the end of this.

3) How has your relationship to time changed, or has it remained the same?

Pre-lockdown I was always rushing to finish everything, but I’m learning to slow down a little. I also didn’t have a routine, and now I do have one, so in a way that has been very beneficial to me. I do find that there is currently no distinction between weekday and weekend though…

4) What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners?

Check-in on your colleagues and see how you can adapt to your new situation. You will definitely not be the only one struggling right now, and a two-line email to see how someone is doing can brighten up their day. They will remember this kindly when this whole thing is over.

5) What have you been listening to on Spotify, watching or baking?

I’ve been watching a lot of films online. I mainly focus on art from the Middle East and North Africa, and there are a lot of initiatives that are releasing rolling cycles of free films to watch online, like AFACAflamuna and Palestinian Film Institue. And, while I haven’t been baking, I was due to be in Amman during this period and was missing Middle Eastern food (the stuff in British supermarkets doesn’t cut it). My mother is from Lebanon, so I’ve been perfecting the art of making falafel and hummus.

Words/Photos: Oliver Malin and Various –  Words © Artlyst 2020

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