Do Ideas Live and Die Through Us? A Story of An Artist
Written by Shazeen (UK), Interviewing Frederick Hubble (UK)
What is your passion?
My practice surrounds ideas of human nature. When I’m making things or constructing a situation, it’s a way for me to think philosophically about individual ideas and the relationship between them. Romantically or poetically contemplative ideas fill me with the desire to sit quietly to ponder on them.
What language do you seek in objects, people, and events when you create art?
For myself I like to take a poetic approach to how objects come together or have ideas manifested in themselves. I like my pieces to remain contemplative, and there’s no intent to shock. It’s simply a manner of thinking or feeling for me. It’s important that ideas remain open. How we experience things interests me, so what I perform lives and dies with the viewer.
Humility and a sense of being genuine is interesting to me, coming from a romantic perspective, where the individual was championed as an ideal. I feel that I can test these ideas through deconstructing the ideal, and doing away with the aloofness that art can have attached to it. I want to talk to people on an honest human level.
Could you describe the performance I watched, which is in this photo? What was the message behind it?
The piece is called La Mer and it started with a fascination with the sea, and the beauty and danger of it. The newspaper articles are all collected from my daily commute; they come from stories I found particularly poignant and interrelated. It was a hopeless resignation running through the melancholy of the piece that captivates me every time. I’m sitting and staring vacantly. Sometimes I raise my voice to read the newspaper article in my hands to play with the emotional distance between the viewer and the performance.
There wasn’t a message per-se that I wished to communicate. What happened in my performance, as you can see in my photo, is both reported fact and romanticism. I had been equally selective with the news articles I chose to show, as I have been exposed to chance by reading them in the first place. The absence within the work is equally as important as what is presented for me. All of these things are other people’s recollections or retelling of events. My hope was to arrange them so a kind of easy-going narrative that’s free from force occurred in the performance.
Why did you choose newspaper articles, a fan, lamp and a modern television in your performance?
The choices came, as I said, a lot by chance. The newspaper articles display events, which move from a macro-cosmic perspective to a microcosmic perspective, or more importantly an astronomic perspective to a purely human, individual perspective. The first article, is written about the comet Ison, which was long heralded by amateur astronomers and scientists as an astronomical event that would be quite something to perceive. However, the comet reached it’s end before they could observe it. There is a poignant sadness, which lies in this idea that one can wait for something for so long only to be disappointed. But, for me the more interesting idea is that of the hope of the astronomers, sitting, waiting, just to catch a glimpse of some fleeting moment. The second article is when we move along to a natural sea-arch being demolished by a storm. In the art world sea-arches were a favored subject for the impressionists and romantic painters alike. Here they report that one has collapsed into the sea, and it’s life as a subject to be painted and observed comes to an end. The third and fourth articles move to focus more on the group, and the human experience. They talk about groups of people who have been drowned by the sea, in going to watch waves on a pier. And finally, the last article tells the story of a boy, who is alone, swept out to sea by a wave. The whole piece is a kind of condensed melancholy, at humanity’s fascination with nature, the stars, the sea, and suffering in the face of it.
The articles are blown up and down as a wave; this is achieved by using an oscillating fan, they mimic the waves on the sea. There is a single blue line drawn with a chalk line, which is revealed and concealed by the moving papers, just as the sea enacts the same process. The fan also becomes a device to show the ephemerality of news. Once one has read a news article, it is quickly replaced by the next one you encounter. Word of mouth, archiving or making the choice to remember the news you have read is all one can do to preserve a story. So these stories in particular are remembered through the piece.
The whole piece is heightened by Django Reinhardt’s musical rendition of La Mer. It’s purely instrumental, and the melancholy piece of music is amplified through a conch shell. I sought to play with the idea of using this object from the sea to acoustically alter the sound in the work. You are of course told as a child that if you put your ear to a conch you may hear the sound of the sea, when in reality it is the sounds of your inner ear you can hear resonating when the sound is amplified by the conch. It is the flow of the self rather than the sea. The conch is also a famous motif within Lord of The Flies, which is another reference I find interesting when considering human relationships.
The other piece is titled; On The Horizon that came from the experience of playing games. There is always an objective or achievement to be made in the activity of playing. However, this was something I wanted to explore, a conceptual artist playing a game, or a romantic playing a game. I went about it with the intention of playing Grand Theft Auto V, the franchise itself is infamous for your abilities to steal cars, blow up helicopters and run down pedestrians. I thought to myself what is the most placid, innocent thing you could do in the game, but also test it’s parameters through.
Getting a boat and finding the edge of the map seemed like a wonderfully romantic idea to me. Games often feature invisible walls or barriers to stop you from travelling any further through their limits. However, Grand Theft Auto V is a different monster altogether, when sailing out on the journey to discover the edge of the finite game world your boat sinks into the sea. You are faced with two choices. You either turn and swim back to the shore or you let yourself drown. In this decision I took the melancholy approach to drown myself, having reached as far as I could go. This decision is a philosophical one, a matter of will, which has fascinated philosophers and artists alike for time in memorial. It is also reflected in our relationship to the sea in reality. There was of course a time where monsters took up the edges of maps, no one knew what lay beyond them, and the same is true here. The limitations of reality are surrendered to the imagination. All there is left is the decision to swim back or drown in the pixelated sea.
Why was it an important piece to read for the audience?
The decision to read again comes from the idea of news, or reporting. I was reading as a kind of shipping forecast or news story. I compiled a list from various sources, which detailed incidents concerning ships sinking in the ocean. There are archives of lists dating all the way back to the 1400s of details of ships sinking and disappearing at sea. The delivery of the performance is a nod to Bas Jan Ader, a conceptual artist practicing in the 1960’s whose work became shrouded in his own myth after his disappearance at sea, he often confronted similar ideas concerning the romantic individual, and a sense of tragedy. I decided to take up the role of some forgotten soul lost at sea, the tattered fisherman’s jumper and battered boat shoes. I, too, was an element taken from or embodying these stories
The sheer number of ships and human loss at sea is so unimaginable that in its delivery it quickly becomes banal, as the viewer cannot accept the amount of information that is being given to them. It too operates like reading a newspaper; the older information is quickly replaced by the new.
What can the audience take from this?
The audience can take whatever they choose to take because that is the main concept of the work. It becomes about what they choose to remember, whether it is the articles, the lists of disasters at sea, the missing ships, the pure auratic sound from the conch, the moving wave of articles, or the horizon line revealed by the wave of the paper, or even if it’s just the overwhelming sadness that inhabits the compositions in their entirety.
Was there a different context or era in time that you wanted to relay to your audience when you designed your performance? Or was it intended for our contemporary times?
I try to talk to people on a human level, in that way you can remain humble. I do not wish to put myself in the romantic cannon as a narcissistic artist. For me it is to remain true. I think if you talk about things, which are human or eternal, then the context of time in the work is not overly important. However, I acknowledge that the news articles are of course tied down to specific periods and dates. But the essences of the stories are eternal, or they convey truths, which have the ability to transcend time.
What can you tell me about the power of newspapers and media over our perceptions as humans? How do they affect us emotionally and intellectually?
All I can say of newspapers is that they are other people’s reported experiences, which one can of course choose to read, or not to read. The only power they have over people is when one chooses to read them. One can be informed on news by any number of sources in contemporary society, whether it’s television, on the Internet, or being fed through social media, or the newspaper, which all have their own aims of influence.
A news article can stir a person, as equally as they can find it dull, or abrasive. Some people purely read the back sports pages first, or indulge in a crossword. News has always been a description of human events and activity, it can be used and manipulated by people to inform, move, or scare. It does have immense influence over a lot of people’s opinions. How they can keep informed on what is transpiring in the wider world. For myself it is not a primary concern. I find the idea of the ephemeral nature of news interesting, and when articles are put together they can construct narratives and even ideas.
What do you hope to do in the future with your designs and performances?
For myself it is not important to have a niche in my practice, because operating mainly conceptually I feel liberated in the sense that I can make art about ideas that interest me, and hopefully embody those ideas in order to share them with a wider context of people. It becomes a means of communication between others and myself. Whether they experience it emotionally in all of the forms emotion can take, whether they find it intellectually interesting, or if it prompts introspection on their part, I am just happy to be making things and exploring concepts and ideas with a nervous smile.
Thank you for speaking with The People’s Playground, Fredrick, and sharing your narrative with the world. I look forward to watching your space for more of your creativity and narratives in your area of work.
If you enjoyed Fred’s ideas and would like to see more of what he does, please visit:
Fred Hubble’s Website