Paul Kindersley: “I’m not interested in the suspension of disbelief” — Yvette Greslé

I met up with Paul Kindersley at the opening of MIND OUT — Manufactured Space and Constructed Transformations, at the A.P.T. Gallery in Deptford. This group show is part of APT Shots, which is an annual event at the gallery. This year it is curated by Dexter Dymoke, Rachel Russell and Véronique Chance. MIND OUT explores the question of how art might illuminate or expand our conception  of space, whether architectural, imaginative, constructed or performative. The artists are Neil Ayling, Luke Burton, Marcus Cope, Minae Kim, Cornett/Kindersley, Lee Marshall, Helen Roussseau and Amba Sayal-Bennett. The exhibition closes on 21 February.

LOTUSLAND, Cambridge Changing Spaces 2015 .. 2.jpgLotusland, Cambridge, 2015.

Yvette Greslé: I first got to know your work because of the way you use social media both to produce and circulate it — YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and now Instagram. One of the most distinctive things about how you work is your connection with audiences through these platforms. When we last spoke about your practice, in 2013, you were posting the Makeup Tutorials and monologues on YouTube and circulating a lot of drawings on Twitter and Facebook. There was a sense of prolific production. You reference and mix-up so many different kinds of images from visual culture: from the history of art and film; book illustration; Biblical and mythological imagery; celebrity culture; fandom and the news media. The way your work slips across media and genres also feels dreamlike as though it’s pouring out from your unconscious and you don’t self-censor or inhibit yourself.  One of the things I most enjoy about the YouTube performances is how they appear to be entirely unscripted and improvised. You ramble on in this deadpan manner, completely off-the-cuff, and riff off whatever you happen to be thinking of. I like the embrace of awkwardness and how it isn’t about a perfect, finished piece with all the apparent failures edited out. 

Paul Kindersley: People don’t know what my art is a lot of the time. But everything is my art, posting things on Twitter, and Facebook, getting everyone involved in the ongoing dialogue of images. I’m also not overly precious about my work being bad quality or getting re-used by other people. I think it would be a shame to start limiting media and through my work I’m grabbing everything from everywhere. I love stories half-remembered from what I was brought up with, fairy tales, or bible stories, or things people tell you. I don’t like to go back and research things. There are no hierarchies and I don’t like to edit too much out because it’s nice to see the mistakes or things you don’t at first realise.

When I did the Makeup Tutorials I was able to do them without being self- referential. When they got more popular and I did more I suddenly felt that I had exhausted that avenue. I then started making YouTube videos that were really horrible to watch for a while — loud and messy. Then, in Suffolk, I made two “selfie cinema” films, which were full length films, an hour and a half long. They’re a bit harrowing but also quite funny films based around myth and legend and personal history. I made another one in Suffolk this year with Richard Dodwell called Exploitation. When I make these long films it’s not to test people’s duration. I don’t see this work like video art pieces that you watch from beginning to end unless you want to. It’s more about viewers finding their own narratives within what is presented rather than searching for what they think they are meant to see or meant to think.

fashion LOTUSLAND IV with Tom Tyldesley and Richard Dodwell.pngLotusland IV, A.P.T. Gallery, 2016.

YG: The work on show at the A.P.T Gallery is a collaboration with the artist Philip Cornett. It’s the fourth incarnation of an ongoing project called Lotusland inspired by the American experimental filmmaker Jack Smith (1932-1989) who is a major figure for histories of queer cinema and performance art. 

PK: It’s been great to work with Philip and also Richard Dodwell. Phil and I bonded over how amazing Jack Smith was, and his approach to artmaking. He was all about performance and becoming characters, becoming things that were interesting, borrowing from everywhere and trying to evolve a queer space. When we did Lotusland for the first time we had film screenings of Jack Smith’s work. We invited different people. We did meals. We built this structure that allowed people to perform on it and around it. That was in Cambridge, which was very interesting. It was a very different audience. Phil also rebuilt Lotusland as part of his MA show at the Cambridge School of Art. Lotusland is a different way of working for me. Everything I did before was really insular. I think of the YouTube videos as documentation of private performances. I was building very basic spaces in my bedroom/living room using colour and shape. I did everything myself including the editing. The new work is collaborative and each version of Lotusland has been very different. We’ve asked other performers to get involved. We’ve built sets. Phil took it to an exhibition in Belgium, with just him, and it became a really different type of sculpture. It changes every time.

LOTUSLAND, Cambridge Changing Spaces 2015 Film Night .JPGLotusland, Cambridge, 2015.

LOTUSLAND, Cambridge Changing Spaces 2015 .. 3Lotusland, Cambridge, 2015.

YG: Lotusland is very spatial and there’s also a strong sense of performance and film, which you think of in a very sculptural way. There’s a sense of slipping across different kinds of spaces, and across time. There is the space-time of the film screen, the theatre stage, the film set and the mobile phone. There is also the world as we are encountering it right now in relation to objects and to others. The work makes me very conscious of how space operates whether architecturally, socially, politically, imaginatively, virtually and in relation to inner worlds, our emotional and psychic life. It’s a very sensory work and there’s a lot going on with how sonic and visual worlds are operating. I like the way you’ve built spaces that I imagine as sets for experimental theatre or film: you use found objects, colour and multiple screens (including old TVs and smartphones).

PK: I think of Lotusland as absolutely everything. It’s a stage or a film set. It’s a painting. It’s a performance. It’s a sculpture. It’s a film. Its expanded cinema. It’s where theatre turns into film. We’re brought up now in relation to different kinds of screens. The most interesting space for me is the space in-between film and viewer. It’s a very physical space for me. The screen itself is a room, a space to occupy and in the work it’s referencing itself all the time. We started building spaces for action where anything can happen. We don’t brief any of the performers. We have ideas of what might happen but the performances aren’t scripted or pre-planned. The films, documenting the unscripted performances, are made during the building of the set. Before I would film everything myself — like a “selfie cinema”. This time there’s more cameras. There’s great bits where Phil is filming and you can actually hear his breathing and his walking. I’m not interested in the suspension of disbelief. There are mirrors, and you see him, details like his shoes.

After we finished performing and filming we transcribed the script. So the script came second and not first. We’ve printed it out and you can read it here at Lotusland at the A.P.T. gallery — some of it reads like a manifesto. The entire process of the performance, which is filmed is awkward, unscripted and unplanned minute to minute. It’s the ability to bring any idea into the space and talk about it. The work is less about focusing on the artwork as a finished product and more about the actual process. The film we’ve made is like a very bad school play. There are also references to things like science fiction. The subject matter is sex, extremism, being forced into things, and being forced to conform to ways of thinking. We build our own land, a sort of Utopia. But through the process of the performance our Utopia also became like a kind of fascist state. When we were doing the performances, I thought a lot of it was quite harrowing and uncomfortable.

RECRUITMENT, LOTUSLAND IV 2016.jpgLotusland, A.P.T. Gallery, 2016.

YG: There is also film footage where you get this sense of repetition and doubling or multiplication of the same figures. In this instance, there is editing. The mirrors you use also add to this device of repetition. 

PK: The one we’re looking at now has a lot of post-editing. Lots of it is filmed on things like the iPhone so you get different shapes. We use different editing programs. There are bits where we’re filming together. There are times when if Phil is filming someone with one camera I pick up another and film someone else. We did the performance and filming at the A.P.T. gallery space trying out and building stuff and then we had the day with the performers. There are so many references that come out of watching the film — Liza Minnelli, Clockwork Orange or references to some sort of slightly pornographic film.

LOTUSLANDIVf.jpgLotusland, A.P.T. Gallery, 2016.

YG: You build Lotusland from all kinds of different materials and objects, which I think of as props for performance. There’s a strong sense of colour in the work — black and red.

PK: The film is really colourful but actually the set is mainly bare wood. The black and red is to do with an idea of a fascist state. There is this thing where people want to belong to specific groups, a winning team or weird group. The whole storyline of this film (if there is one) is to do with these two characters who think of themselves as a sort of a God and want to recruit somebody for their army. There’s a lot of bullying and coercing. But a lot of the time it all breaks down because we don’t know what we’re doing and we end up laughing together. That’s where there’s this weird community spirit of us trying to be fascist dictators.

Most of the things we’ve used to build Lotusland were found in skips. Most of the screens come from the British Heart Foundation. We used Phil’s old iPhones. I think this is a really exciting way to make films and sets as well. It comes back to that thing of not wanting to have the final piece in mind. It ruins the process.

LOTUSLANDIVc.jpgLotusland, A.P.T. Gallery, 2016.

YG: How do you think of humour? I experience a lot of your work as quite funny. You work with ridiculous and over-the-top scenarios.

PK: I think of comedic recreation as dealing with difficult things in personal life or on a bigger scale. It’s about working through things in this way, and realising that things are funny. We find ourselves in situations that are ridiculous and extreme. Bits of the film taken on their own are quite boring. There are bits where I’m being suffocated under plastic. A lot of the characters are horrible, blasé characters, and hideous.

YG: What does queer space mean to you in the construction of Lotusland at the A.P.T. Gallery?

PK: There is so much discourse around the word and what it means. For me, it’s the ability to bring any idea into a space. It’s about not having rigid structures — the traditional square white walls that we started with in the gallery. It’s about remembering that the rules don’t really matter and it’s about the idea that there is a free space.

LOTUSLANDIVa.jpgLotusland, A.P.T. Gallery, 2016.

Paul Kindersley is an artist, makeup enthusiast and video broadcaster based in London. He graduated from Chelsea College of Art in 2009. @PaulKindersley

Philip Cornett works across sound, video, installation and performance. He recently completed an MA at the Cambridge School of Art and also has an MA in Sound Arts from the University of the Arts London (2010). @philipcornett

Yvette Greslé is a writer and independent art historian based in London. @yvettegresle

A.P.T. Gallery, Harold Wharf, 6 Creekside, Deptford, London SE8 4SA