Artist of the Week: Robyn Woolston

HABITUS 8

Words by Sinead Nunes, Editor

Liverpool Art Prize winner Robyn Woolston will be taking part in Threshold 2014, displaying her incredible installations around the Baltic Triangle. But before the her art takes centre stage, she took time out to speak to Art in Liverpool about her work, and the redo-futurism that has inspired this year’s festival.

You’ve been part of Threshold festival for a few years now – how did you get involved?
 
I had a large quantity of plastic bags, over 45,000 to be precise, all boxed up and unopened. They’d been discarded by a chain store, post bankruptcy, and I was looking for a substantial space and the opportunity to experiment. What followed next was a meeting with Kaya, one of the organisers of the festival, and a friendship based on a commitment to contribute to something innovative, spectacular and original within the Liverpool Art and music scene. 
Tell me about this year’s installation and the idea behind it.
 
I don’t want to give away anything too specific at this stage but let us just say over 1000 cassette tapes are involved. 

MEDIUM STRANGERS
‘Strangers in a Strange Land’ (2013) – Walker Gallery, Liverpool

What do you think about the theme of this year’s festival?  

It actually ties-in with a TEDx talk I gave back in 2012. That event’s theme was: ‘The New Futurism’ so Thresholds 2014 theme: ‘FUTURE | VISIONS’ is particularly pertinent to the zeitgeist of our time. To elaborate, the Futurist vision of the early 20th century originated in Italy and was imbued with glorified visions of technological advancement, speed and the manifestations of ‘change’. Namely automation, industrialisation, youth and the triumph of humanity over nature. Retro-futurism acts as a response to this position and is a movement associated with the 1950’s and 60’s. This is, it seems, where Threshold is pitching it’s stall, with a theme that questions the duality of technological deification in terms of empowerment and alienation, utopia and dystopia. A position that is pertinently apposite given the fiscal and ecological pressures at play within many current visions of humanities ‘progress’. 
 
Placed within this context my work for the festival concerns a thoroughly analogue medium, that being a library of discarded tape cassettes that act as an aide-mémoire to the built-in obsolescence of progress. 
 
What are you most excited for in this year’s festival? 
 
Seeing the festival continue to grow, nurture emerging talent and foster sustainable relationships.
 
What about the other visual artists involved? 
 
It’s an incredibly diverse and eclectic set of practitioners set against the backdrop of some gritty and stimulating architecture….I’m sure the dynamic of this relationship won’t disappoint. 
 

WATCHTREE
‘Watchtree’ (2013) – Ullswater, Cumbria

What else have you been doing since winning the Art Prize in 2012?

 
The award came with the offer of a solo show at the Walker Gallery during 2013 (http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/exhibitions/woolston/) and an experience that literally changed the way in which I respond to site-specific installation (not to forget working with 3.6 tonnes of plastic waste). This in turn lead to a year long project in Cumbria working with Eden Arts, the National Trust and the Lake District National Park (http://edenartscanopy.tumblr.com). As well as a reproduction Las Vegas sign at Edge Hill University, Lancashire (https://www.edgehill.ac.uk/news/story/habitus-art-installation-unveiled/). So all in all, it’s been a busy and productive couple of years.
What’s next for Robyn Woolston?

I’ve just returned from a research trip to Nantes, France, courtesy of the British Council and a committed an innovative cultural producer named Polly Moseley. The experience has provided an enlightening and informative insight into alternative funding mechanisms and exhibition structures. And the future, well, it’s likely to be focused on Hull and Capital of Culture 2017…. The times they are a-changing.  

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