Conversations with Independents Biennial artists: Danielle Waine

Interview by Joanie Magill, Independents Biennial Writer-in-Residence
Images, Danielle Waine

Danielle Waine graduated at the beginning of summer. As her degree show was opening, she was also getting ready for her first solo show as the first artist to exhibit in Liverpool’s newest contemporary art space, Output Gallery.

For the Independents Biennial, Danielle is showing two assemblages on the top floor of George Henry Lees. They form part of her ongoing practice where found objects are reused within a cyclical system of dormancy and activity. The objects exist in a space, revealing themselves to the artist over time before being activated as an assemblage, performance or sound scape.

I talked to Danielle about her artistic process, listening to objects within the space and trusting her intuition as an artist.

Can you talk a bit about your work on display for the Independents Biennial?

I suppose it’s just part of my ongoing practice. None of them are artworks in their own right, so I call them assemblages. It’s sort of having this big collection of ‘junk’ and now and again, I’ll get it together and be in a space and think of where things could slot in – mirroring shapes in the room and certain tensions between the objects based on how I am feeling when I am making it. I just put them together basically when I feel like it.

(There is) a lot of dormancy in it. They are never usually up for this long. They have been up for a long time and that’s because I’ve not been in a space to change it, and also partly because I feel guilty leaving the space empty.

Did you make them in this space or elsewhere and put them in the space?

They will almost always happen in the space they are erected in. When I say periods of dormancy, that’s when it (the object) is usually against a wall. In this period, I’ll be doing other stuff, like organising events. For example, we’ve got a workshop next Saturday, a zine making workshop.

When I’m not actually making the work, I’ll sort of sit around the stuff, which sounds a bit weird. I actually learn these weird little characteristics about the objects when I’m sat around in my studio space. An example of that is I’ve got this wardrobe which I found when we were doing the practice degree show in the Gostins building. It was left in the space and I had it in my studio space and there’s a spring which I found in Manchester. I had the wardrobe next to my table and the spring was on the table. I was doing my dissertation at the time. I had come in to write and I just moved the spring to put my laptop down and shoved the spring against the wardrobe. As I was typing I could hear this ringing noise and thought what is that? After a while I realised it was the spring and the wardrobe. The wardrobe, because it was a wooden box, worked in the same way a guitar would where they resonate the sound. So, the tiny ring that came off the spring when it hit the floor and went against the wardrobe reverberated all the way through it and it was ringing for so long. It was this really subtle, beautiful sound. So I find out weird little things like that about stuff and like use them in an assemblage or in a performance.

Would you say your process is intuitive?

Definitely more intuitive that anything else, yeah. Sometimes the space itself will help. Even if I’m not feeling a space, like I can’t make work in it. The practice degree show in Gostins, I could not make work in that space at all. That’s why I ended up with this wardrobe because it was the only thing I had this feeling like ‘that’s exciting I want to do something with that’ which is what I usually get when you go to see a space to put work in. I didn’t get it for any of the space (in Gostins). I work so last minute and so instantly that when I am given a period of time to make work in it really bothers me. I can’t do it.

How do you manage that process?

I know if I make something straightway, by the end of it I’m not going to want it to be shown anymore. It’s going to change a lot and that’s ok. I could keep making and keep changing and I do that sometimes. For my degree show, instead of having a piece of work and a space, I had a space where I was holding a workshop anyway, but while the workshop wasn’t on I had work in there. Then I came back a couple of days later and I took it down or added some different objects and played about with it and changed it around. That’s how I dealt with having the two-week period of degree show. But even that felt a bit strange because I knew I was going to be doing it, so it still felt forced – this weird tension between it happening naturally and me knowing that I have got to make something.

How do you manage that tension?

I suppose when it works, I know. I just look at it and I’m like, yeah, that’s it, that’s the one and I can step back from it and leave it for a bit. I suppose it does all happen on feeling and especially how I am feeling that day. I am quite an up and down person. I like the hard surfaces, the rust, the dirt the red light, all the like grogginess and all of that. I don’t know if that’s why I’m drawn to those textures, because they’re awful and beautiful in the same way.

What draws you to particular objects?

I don’t know. It’s just if I see something unusual in them. A lot of the time it used to be me collecting stuff for the sake of thinking ‘oh I’m going to make something with that’, but that was before I really understood what I was doing. I was aimlessly collecting junk, but now I think that I’ve been working with the same objects for quite a while I can see different ways that they balance off one another – how you can place them in certain ways that will make them work in another way. I have this weird sort of vision now where I’ll see something, and I will be like I know how that will work, whether it will balance a certain way or would look really good with like a red light behind it.

Is that part of your evolving practice as an artist?

Yes, because it used to be me just having things and having no idea what I can do with them. It started when I had these banisters. There used to be three and I got them out of a skip at uni. I thought they would be great but had no idea of what to do with them. I think I had them for six months. Eventually I was in a tutorial and my tutor said you are clearly frustrated that you can’t use these so don’t think about it, just do it. I did, and it worked really well. I started doing it more and getting obsessed with it and then that’s sort of how it evolved.

Then I started learning about certain little things that I would do a lot, like I’d have different little motifs, like the red light. It’s only recently that I’ve realised why I’m having them. It’s like an ongoing learning process in that way.

With the red light, I didn’t really know why I was using them, I was obsessed by them. They appeared everywhere. One day I saw that when you turn a telly off you get the standby light. All of a sudden I was just like, ‘that’s what it is, it’s a standby light, I understand now’, and it just sort of clicked.

I have been thinking and talking a lot about the in-between of states which is a tension that I am trying to build on in a lot of different ways. Even at the time when I was using the red lights, I was in an in-between place myself mentally and I was really clinging on to them and then I realised why.

It’s the physical manifestation in your work of something subliminal?

It always happens that way. It used to really frustrate me and I used to get really upset about it, like I never know what I’m doing. Then I started relaxing into it and trust it. Since I’ve started to be relaxed about it, it doesn’t really matter what it is, you can find other ways to talk about it.

When I start to think about how assemblage works, the feelings and theories that are attached to it from me personally, and then there are the theories that talk about otherness and the in between thing and tensions and how objects work in space, I could write and talk about that a lot and that’s a different side of it. That would have to happen in a period of dormancy because it’s about reflection. You need space to do it and when you come back to it and you start to make work again and you start to reapply all of this and it changes again so it’s quite nice, the staircase of that constant change.

Is that reflection process important?

Yes, because this is making me think about how I used to be and thinking I’m not like that anymore, that’s why I did that at that time. I never used to be able to name work and I don’t really like naming work because I’m quite against concluding it.

I suppose you can argue what conclusion is, but in terms of me saying this is an artwork, this is what it is called, I really hate that. I feel like naming a piece of work is like turning it into a sculpture or one single thing, whereas it’s not something that happens and stays because that would be sculpture.

It’s a lot more temporary and it’s a lot more of a system, so concluding things, naming things, I’m not really happy with that.