Meet the artist: James Franco

Ahead of his first UK show, the renaissance man talks about art, acting and why he loves collaboration

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  • © James Franco, courtesy Pace Gallery London

  • © James Franco, courtesy Pace Gallery London

  • © James Franco, courtesy Pace Gallery London

  • © James Franco, courtesy Pace Gallery London

  • © James Franco, courtesy Pace Gallery London

  • © James Franco, courtesy Pace Gallery London

  • © James Franco, courtesy Pace Gallery London

© James Franco, courtesy Pace Gallery London

He acts, directs, writes and makes art. Is there anything James Franco can’t do? Time Out London caught up with Franco on the eve of his first UK exhibition, 'Psycho Nacirema'.


Your exhibition is presented by Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon. What was his involvement?
‘We had previously collaborated on a project and we liked the idea that he would help curate and produce this show. I discussed all the pieces with Douglas as I made them. You could say that the subject was partially inspired by one of Douglas’s most famous pieces "24-hour Psycho".’

The exhibition’s title is a play on words, can you explain it?
‘Basically it’s "Psycho American", but American is spelt backwards. The title comes from many places. I like to incorporate the work of other people who inspire me. So in that way I’m the American, and "Psycho" comes from Douglas, comes from Hitchcock, comes from even Gus van Sant’s ‘Psycho’. Later I was told there is some sort of anthropological study of Americans called "Nacirema".’

Previous work has also dealt with iconic films, why did you choose ‘Psycho’ as the basis for an art installation?
‘There are so many themes and approaches in the film. There’s role playing; the power of imagination – in the sense that Norman Bates keeps his mother alive through his imagination, he’s able to do things when he puts on the garb of his mother that he’s not normally able to do in his own persona. These multiple levels are inherent to acting, to filmmaking and that really interests me.’

This is your first UK exhibition, what does it mean to show in London?
‘I really love showing this kind of work in Europe. It seems the filter people look through to see my work in the States is much thicker, that my career as an actor overshadows it.’

Do you think we understand you better in Europe?
‘I don’t know, there’s just less prejudice, I guess.’

You’ve also co-curated the current show at Victoria Miro Gallery…
‘I’m a big lover of collaboration. It's great when I do a project where I’m primarily curating other people’s work. I’m always looking for ways I can be pulled out of myself, so I teach, I do these other projects where I collaborate with artists like Douglas and, then, curating a show at Victoria Miro is also a way of pushing focus away from myself.’


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