Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard: Interview

Collaborative duo Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard‘s work explores re-enactment and the live experience within popular culture, particularly through music and art. Past projects include a move-for-move restaging of David Bowie‘s farewell performance as Ziggy Stardust and a reworking of a 1973 video by performance artist Vito Acconci. Their exhibition at Jerwood includes a new work, based on a 1968 video by Bruce Nauman, in which the artist constructed and walked along a narrow corridor with a hip-swinging walk that mimicked the contrapposto pose often seen in figures in classical art.How are you modifying the Nauman performance?

  • The piece is a kind of sister project to the Acconci video. For Acconci we worked with rap musician Plan B because the way the camera was used and the directness of the performance in Acconci’s original work suggested an urban music video. For ‘Walk With Nauman (Reperformance corridor)’ we’re collaborating with a professional female dancer who has worked on a lot of music videos and she’s going to improvise a dance down the corridor. She won’t be copying Nauman’s walk exactly but again there will be references because R&B dance throws similar poses and shapes.

    Why the interest in re-enactments?

    We first started working with ideas of re-enactment when we made ‘The World Won’t Listen’ in 1996 using a Smiths tribute band. It was about the idea of taking a ready-made performance into a gallery. Coming out of Goldsmiths College in 1995 we’d seen a lot of big, quite empty work and felt a sense of frustration that our artwork and the work around us just wasn’t making enough of a connection on an emotional level. We really wanted to make live work and create a live experience.

    What is it about the live experience that you try to recreate?

    It’s not about nostalgia or unpicking something to understand the past. Our interest is more on a psychological level; not what happens but what happens in your head and your feelings. We’ve never seen Bowie play live but we were really emotional at the Bowie event. What we’ve realised is that there’s something about presenting the familiar that frees up space for participation much more than if you’re going through a completely new experience.

    What future projects are you working on?

    We’re building a Silent Sound machine which will allow us to subliminally embed spoken word into instrumental music. The technology exists and apparently it works.

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