Interview with Scarlett Bowman, Hyperion Frieze New York 2016

Interview with Scarlett Bowman, Hyperion Frieze New York 2016

Hyperion took place during Frieze New York 2016 in central Manhattan, in a vast building by Union Square. Aiming to react against the white-walls and shop-front art fair displays with an innovative curation lead by a core of #MTArt artists, the exhibition encompassed multiple artistic voices of our generation: including 3D printing, installations and immersive projects. We catch up with Scarlett Bowman, one of the multimedia artists involved.

A: Your works are process-based, often using multi-disciplinary media in creation. Could you talk about the thoughts behind your processes?
SB: It always starts with sourcing and acquiring the materials as these essentially dictate the form of the work. In contrast to using ready-made material I like to employ traditional craft based processes to explore the physical experience of handling these materials, such as assemblage, collage, casting, and stitch. The medium then directs which process I will use, some materials can’t be stitched, and some can’t be cast so it’s a case of trial and error. I like the approach to be playful and there is a sense of humour in the way that materials that are designed for high absorbency or extreme weight are totally stripped of their primary function once you remove the selected material from its natural habitat, thus enabling the audience to view it purely as a material.

A:Does the process become the art itself for you or are they two different things?
SB: Totally the former. Combining ready-made materials with handmade processes has always been interesting to me. I guess also as I am utterly dependent on the materials I use and thus these chains of production. I could never make them from scratch myself so there is this other strand surrounding notions of dependency. I am actually doing a residency early next year in Senegal where the process of making the work formed the basis of the project, along with the obvious removal of the sources I so greatly depend on such as the next day amazon delivery service and the local pound shop!

A: Using objects from everyday life seems to give the artworks meaning before they have even been produced; how do you think that these semantics inform the works and speak on different levels?
SB: Yes indeed. I have always used ready-made utilitarian (often recycled) materials designed for use such as sponges, cellulose cloths, microfiber cloths, stainless steel scourers, ratchet straps, removal blankets etc as a way of exploring our material culture. I like to juxtapose the old with the new so for example the recycled ratchet straps which are almost black with dirt stitched together with a brand new neon pink microfiber cloth reeks not only of commercialism, excess and production but also a sense of nostalgia and history. A material that has already had its journey vs a material that is about to embark on its own. By re-purposing the selected material from its natural habitat I want to address our dependence on everyday materials and the various modes of production we rely so heavily upon. From online material acquisition to the final work, our daily environment is conditioned and shaped by the efficiency of industrial processes that are hidden from the consumer.

A: By reassessing the function of objects, you have brought them into another plane of existence. How far do you think that your work responds to issues about ownership, or authorship?
: In our consumer culture, all objects have a branding (within this context, the branding can be perceived as authorship or ownership), I decided to entirely remove this authorship by extracting all mediums and processes that make each object and creating a whole new semantics of mediums. It’s pushing the theory of semantics by Roland Barthes further than Duchamp did: not only removing the object from its context to challenge its authorship but, based on the properties of the object itself, recreating a whole new conversation.

A: Are there any artists in particular from which you draw reference to?
Each one of us from the MTArt crew has such a different practice and approach that we all inspire each other in some way. Each project we do as a group has such a collaborative element, which is often very insightful as provides us the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other’s work.

A: Can you talk about any significant exhibitions you’ve recently taken part in?
Our New York exhibition, Hyperion, during Frieze New York was a group show including works from six London based artists, each with a distinctly different practice but coming together under the artistic movement of Formationism. Each of the works are in conversation with each other but are also to be appreciated as isolated projects. The exhibition was curated to question notions of individuality; how we are made and the objects that make us.

I exhibited a collection of mixed-media pieces that formed a continuation of my investigation into “Material Culture and Modern Craft”, which expose the physical properties of materials attached to commodity culture and intend to introduce a perspective within material culture that is challenged by mass production.

Hyperion ran during Frieze Week in New York, 6-10 May 2016.

1. Scarlett Bowman installation works. Courtesy of Marine Tanguy Artists. Photography by MTArt.