Susie Green interviewed by Lauren Elliott on the day before Fluid Medium, a performance workshop as part of EXHIBITION.
LE: To begin, could you introduce yourself and tell me a bit about your practice?
SG: My name is Susie Green. S-U-S-I-E-G-R-E-E-N. My practice is quite broad; my background is in sculpture, fine art. A lot of the work I make is quite often very material-based, so I’m interested in surfaces and textures and those kind of properties but I do a lot of things which are performance, drawing, painting, I’m in two bands, Silver Fox and Charm Offensive…music… So basically I’ll have an idea and then I make it in whatever material suits it.
LE: Tomorrow, you have an event, Fluid Medium at Workplace Gallery in Gateshead, which is part of EXHIBITION. Could you tell me a bit about that event?
SG: The idea started because I work occasionally as a life model. Basically, whilst I’m life modelling, I usually get quite a lot of ideas. Different thoughts will pop in and out of my head, and I was quite interested in that I was just a still body, and that nobody knew what was going on inside my head. Suddenly it struck me that it was quiet interesting that I could be thinking about the most sexually explicit thing and nobody would have a clue. Or I was noticing that I would quite often set myself little tasks to stop myself from being bored, and sometimes those tasks would relate to the space around me, so outside of my body; the architecture of the building or the people in the class or sometimes there will be an internal thing where I’m thinking about things. So that was where the idea initially came from and through talking to Dawn Bothwell, of CIRCA Projects, about this idea, she then suggested that it linked in to EXHIBITION and if I’d like to do it. I said yes and then, through thinking about this event I started thinking about how it was going to work and the themes within it.
LE: For the participants of Fluid Medium, what do you hope they will gain from it? How does it differ from a standard life-drawing class for them?
SG: Whilst life modelling, I do question what it is that’s a benefit for people who participate in life drawing classes. I don’t think that it’s practiced in art colleges beyond Foundation courses now, so it’s seen as quite an outmoded practice, and the people who come to the class I work at, they are artists, but not the type of artist I might identify with. So, tomorrow in the class, the idea is not on precision drawing at all – it is to do with people drawing loosley and experimenting with it. I’m the teacher as well as the model so have devised a series of quite playful drawing exercises with the idea that we’ll use the gallery walls of Workplace Gallery (with their permission), rather than paper; there’s no easels, no drawing boards, so basically, we’ll be creating an environment within the gallery.
LE: Music has long been quite an integral part of your practice – could you tell me a bit about the relationship you have with music and will sound be incorporated into Fluid Medium?
SG: Yes, it will. There’s going to be an element of me speaking to the participants. It’s intended to be an informal atmosphere where people can talk to me and I’ll talk to people. I’m interested in exploring the idea that when somebody is on stage, there’s this invisible, sort of strange thing that happens where there’s this sort of weird reverence for someone performing, which is understandable, but I sometimes find that frustrating. Especially when I go to a gig and there’s this invisible semi-circle that appears at the front. I find that problematic because I want to create an experience that’s connecting with people and for them to have some kind of response. So, the question being sound, tomorrow there’ll be me speaking, audience speaking and there will also be recorded music in some sections. I think it’s this idea of creating an atmosphere that’s slightly removed from the outside world. But we shall see – it’s an experiment.
LE: There will also be objects and props – you seem quite interested in everyday objects.
SG: Originally, the idea was that I was going to include artworks that I made. I guess I like the name Fluid Medium because it refers to a number of things. It could be a watery substance like a paint, but I also think about it in the terms of it being a medium – someone who has psychic powers, so something coming out of your fingertips. So I’d thought that inititially I would include things that I’d made as a set, but then I came to realise that I want there to be something for people to make! So people who would come to the class would essentially be the ones who are making the environment, through thoughts I have had. We’ll see if that works.
LE: Ownership is interesting in relation to an event like this – the event is billed as Susie Green – Fluid Medium, and it’s also billed as a performance piece. How do you see it? Do you see it as a class, or as a performance, or both? And who has ownership of the works that people produce?
SG: Yeah, I don’t know. I think that initially I thought of it as a performance, but now I just think of it as, well, I’ve just been calling it a performative drawing workshop because it’s asking people who are participants to be active as well. I think, in terms of ownership of what’s on the walls, it seems funny, because I suddenly realised that I’m being lazy in a way, like I’m saying that I’m not making the images, but people who are coming to the class are making the images, Which I like. I’m pretty tired at the minute. I hope that people will enjoy what they’re doing, and maybe that’s something that I’ll think about in the future, in terms of who I say the work is made by, because it’s not totally made by me! [laughs]
LE: Could you tell us about Fluid Medium’s involvement in EXHIBITION?
SG: My understanding of the concept of EXHIBITION is that it is playing with the boundaries of what is either seen or not seen in a curatorial context, art space or art practice. So with Josephine Flynn’s work, it addresses the idea of making a showreel – it’s showing the making of something rather than the final work, so it’s a kind of reveal of the behind-the-scenes effort that goes into things. Also, I liked this idea of pathos and I strive to make things which are a comfortable experience. Often as a audience member of a performance I’ll feel uncomfortable, or when watching video in galleries – I just want to sit down, but there might be no chairs. I’m interested in how these devices work or don’t work and how as an audience member, you might feel involved or isolated. So, yes, pathos, revealing the making of the work – those are the main things that I can think of.
LE: That’s great. And finally, you have a piece in EXHIBITION, which is an aluminium curtain entitled OOOOOOOO. Could you tell us a bit about that it’s place within the exhibition?
SG: Initially, there was a discussion about whether I wanted to make a curtain for the space in relation to problem solving a space needed for a forthcoming exhibition at Workplace Gallery. I’ve made a number of limited edition silk scarves to be worn, so we started thinking that perhaps I could make a decorative curtain. Then I started thinking about what it is that a curtain does, again in terms of this revealing or hiding of something. So the curtain I ended up making is actually an aluminium fly curtain. I like the fact that it’s sort of designed to keep out pests and it goes into the slightly more private space towards the back of Workplace Gallery. So, I guess in that way it’s slightly cheeky – that’s a crap word! It’s acknowledging that it’s a semi-private space. The feeling of going through it with your hands – I really like that, I think it’s a very tactile piece of work. I like the way it’s lit; there’s a suggestion of some kind of theatre in the lighting of it. And along the bottom of the curtain I attached various bits of rubbish like coffee lids, condom wrappers… Various bits, some things which were found around the gallery and some things which I added, which again were alluding to this idea of what gallerists might have, in a sort of stereotypical way, if there were 2 international playboys running a gallery in Gateshead, what they might have floating around their gallery. I asked the permission of Miles and Paul of course! It was also this idea that an imagined gust of wind had blown in. It’s this thing again of two different spaces and using a curtain as a metaphor. Going through into another realm, another space. A threshold.
Top – Susie Green, Fluid Diagram, Pen on Paper, 2015.
Bottom: Susie Green, OOOOOOOO, Install view Workplace Gallery, Mixed Media, 2015.