Linder: interview

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Time Out asks Linder about porn, punk and being taught yoga by Peter Hook's mum – all part of the cultural collagist's 30-year career

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    TV sinners: an untitled photomontage from 1978 by Linder

    A main player in Manchester's punk and post-punk underground scene, the artist, performer and feminist Linder (surname Sterling) is best known for her collages mixing porn and domestic appliances – as well as for being one of Morrissey's best mates. To celebrate a show of photo-montages from the 1970s to the present day, we provide our own collage of themes from Linder's work, in her own words.

    Porn, Punk and Woman's Own

    'The late '70s were pre-style press, so the images of food, washing machines or record players came from mail order catalogues and mainstream women's magazines such as Woman's Own. In the British pornography I used – Fiesta, Men Only – the bodies weren't toned or airbrushed and pubic hair wasn't shaved, so there's a real physicality to them. Now we're fairly at ease with that kind of imagery, but back then women wouldn't have been expected to know about porn, let alone look at it or make work with it. I can date the end of punk to my mother's copy of Women's Own from May 1977 when they ran a feature called "DIY Punk for your Daughter” and I remember thinking: Oh, that's the full stop, something brief and exhilarating is over. We have to praise Woman's Own, in a way, for signposting that.'


    Shaking Quakers, Clint Eastwood and The Electric Circus

    'In 2000 I began looking at Shakerism and the birth in Manchester of Mother Ann Lee, one of the movement's leaders. We still associate Shakerism with beautifully designed furniture but reports of Shaker meetings in 1877 could have been reports from Manchester's punk venue, The Electric Circus, in 1977 when bands like the Buzzcocks, The Fall and Joy Division played. People were horrified by Shakerism because its followers would literally shake (the name comes from the term "shaking Quakers”). For me, that resonated with those concerts in 1976-'77. Ann Lee had this absolute certainty that her destiny was to lead her people to a new land so she was seen as a second Christ. And because she is totally unmarked in her city of birth, she became the woman with no name. I made a link with Sergio Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars” in which Clint Eastwood is the man with no name. He's this solitary Christ figure entering town on a donkey. My performance as Clint in 'The Working Class Goes to Paradise' [in last year's Tate Triennial] brought all those aspects together.'

    Bodybuilding, ballet and blooms

    'The early female bodybuilders were judged on a blurring of bodybuilding and beauty queen criteria, so they had to smile and say a few words to the judges. It wasn't until '79 World Champion Lisa Lyons kicked off her heels and began hitting all the male bodybuilder poses that women stepped forward from that. It fascinated me what you could do with your body, it was an organic form of montage that changes your shape. So I trained in Manchester's Moss Side gym with the West Indians who had come to Britain with the dream of being boxers. Changing from the inside out created a profound sense of strength that, as a woman at that time, you often didn't feel. Now we have liposuction or Botox which is passive and paid for, but I was interested in that gradual, hidden work. I was also doing yoga to keep supple. In fact Peter Hook's [New Order's bassist] mother was my yoga teacher.'In the last year I've been returning to childhood dreams and ambitions and looking at girls' annuals from the 1950s which were all about ballet and horseriding. I've been collaging ballet images with photographs from The Rose Annual of the same period. The rose is such a highly charged romantic symbol – it's both cultured and artificial. There's a similarity with dancers' bodies which are trained into shape and yet have to appear both natural and beautiful.'

    On cityside, seaside and the balance of opposites

    'I spent a long time in the harsh geographical landscape of Manchester but now live and work in the tiny seaside village of Heysham. In a way that's also life as montage – putting those two opposing factors together and creating the third that's better than the sum of its parts. It's like being a tightrope walker, you have to maintain that balance between opposites because that's where the really interesting stuff happens.'

    Linder shows until Dec 21 at Modern Art.

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