TEXT BY 撰文 x Anna McNay 安娜·麥克內
TRANSLATED BY 翻譯 x Bowen Li 李博文
IMAGE COURTESY BY 圖片提供 x the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery, London 邁克爾·蘭迪及托馬斯·戴恩倫敦畫廊
Michael Landy (born 1963, London) studied at Goldsmiths and is one of the so-called YBA (Young British Artists) generation, who took part in the first great artist-led warehouse exhibition, Freeze, alongside Damien Hirst, in 1988. He really made his name, however, in February 2001, when he systematically catalogued and destroyed all 7,227 of his personal belongings during a two-week long “performance” in a disused department store on Oxford Street, called Break Down. More recently, Acts of Kindness on the London Underground documented, as its titles suggests, kindly interactions between commuters and users of the transport system. Nowadays, Landy is, as he puts it, albeit very tongue in cheek, “all grown up”, having been elected not only as a Royal Academician, but also made Professor of Drawing at the Academy Schools. “Actually,” he laughs, “I’m just trying to find a way I can get thrown out of there, really. That’s what I’m thinking about at the moment.”
英國YBA當代藝術運動的重要成員邁克爾·蘭迪（Michael Landy）1963年生於倫敦，曾就讀於倫敦大學金史密斯學院。他也在1988年與達明安·赫斯特（Damien Hirst）等人一同參加了有里程碑意義的展覽《冰凍（Freeze）》。然而，他最為人稱道的作品是他在2001年2月完成的行為作品《崩潰（Break Down）》：在兩週時間內，蘭迪在牛津街一家空置的百貨商場內有系統地紀錄並銷毀了他所有7,227件個人物品。蘭迪近期的作品包括《善舉（Acts of Kindness）》，一個對倫敦地鐵系統內乘客之間友好互動的紀錄。蘭迪在最近被選為皇家美術學會院士，也成為了皇家美術學院的繪畫系教授。他半開玩笑地說，他“現在終於長大了”。“事實上，”他幽默地說，“我現在想的是要怎麼脫離這個體系。”
In October 2013, Landy moved in to a new studio in trendy Shoreditch. Just around the corner from Spitalfields fruit and vegetable market, the building is one of a whole line that used to be used as warehouse storage space. “You could actually walk between all of the buildings,” Landy explains, “but, at some point, someone decided to turn them into homes.” When he and his partner, fellow artist Gillian Wearing, bought the space, they had it gutted and built on a new top floor in which they now live. Landy describes it as a “live-work space”, although the studio remains very much just that, and is separate from their private quarters.
For an artist, who, in his student years used to squat in vacated buildings in South East London, having such a pristine studio space, as well as a second studio, which he mainly uses from drawing, in arts hub Vyner Street, Bethnal Green, must be quite a new experience. “When I left art college in the 1980s, the art world was a very different place from how it is today,” Landy says. “I went to college in South East London. You could find vacated buildings there, you could squat, you could find subsidised housing very cheaply. We used to literally bring the electricity in off the street. We’d get a kango and rig it up ourselves. That’s how we began – it was much more of a cooperative. It’s much more difficult now for young people, in a different way from how it was with us. For us, we had to deal with the British indifference towards the visual arts. But obviously now that’s all changed. I’d like to think that it was because of us.”
Indeed, the YBAs are responsible for a seismic shift in art consumption – and, as a knock on effect, no doubt, art production. “I remember, when we were at college, we were actually very naïve,” Landy continues. “We didn’t know how to promote ourselves. But then you see the generations that come after you become more and more knowledgeable. We just kind of made it up as we went along. There was no master plan or anything. Nowadays it’s all about the commodification of art. Galleries are getting bigger spaces and then artists have to fill those spaces, so obviously the whole production thing has to get to a whole new level as well.”
Talking of filling spaces, Landy’s studio is starkly empty, apart from a bookshelf, a desk, and a couple of tables with scale models of the museum in Mexico where his exhibition, Saints Alive, which was the culmination of his residency at London’s National Gallery last year, is soon to be restaged. Landy is extremely apologetic, almost ashamedly so, for the lack of typical artist’s mess. “I am an artist though!” he hastens to add, as if a messy studio were somehow a compulsory identifier.
Landy likes to visit other artists’ studios, in fact. “Seeing other artists’ studios interests me because it’s an insight into the way they work, and some of it is quite intuitive and spontaneous. They’re really messy, though,” he adds, quite matter of factly. Take, for example, Ian Davenport. “We went to college together and we used to live together. He’s a painter, so he used to have paint on him everywhere. He’d come in from the studio and he’d have got it in the car somehow and so it would transfer into the flat.” Then there’s Gary Hume, another YBA, who has his studio just up the road. “He’s another painter, so it’s much more hands on, making things, which obviously intrigues me, but I don’t do that myself. I’m sure they get some kind of satisfaction out of it, though. Maybe I should try!”
事實上，蘭迪非常喜歡去拜訪其他藝術家的工作室。“我對別人的工作室很感興趣，因為我能通過這些了解他們的工作方式，並意識到有時候藝術家們以非常隨意的方式工作。然而他們的工作室真的很亂。我與伊恩·達文波特（Ian Davenport）是同學，也曾經住在一起。他是一名畫家，那時他滿身都是油彩。他從工作室出來，把這些油彩帶到車裡，再帶到公寓里來。”另一位YBA運動成員加里·休姆（Gary Hume）也是如此，蘭迪補充道：“他也是一名畫家，所以他在創作時經常需要親自動手。這非常吸引我，雖然我並不會這樣做。我想，他們在創作的時候一定非常有滿足感。我或許也應該試試！”
For Landy, the emptiness in his studio is, he suggests, symbolic of the emptiness in his head. At the moment, at least. “One minute it’s full of stuff and the next minute I’m wandering around thinking ‘What am I going to do next?’ And this is the moment you’ve found me in, the moment where I’m not sure what I’m doing. Hence the emptiness. It’s not fun being me at the moment, but if I think about it a lot, I panic.” His work goes through cycles. Currently he is looking back on old pieces he might rekindle. As well as Saints Alive in Mexico, he is also recreating Art Bin for the Yokohama Triennale and is hoping to stage an Acts of Kindness project in Athens.
“I always start with an empty space,” he explains. “I like that. It partly dates back to when I destroyed all of my worldly belongings. Once you do that, you become very aware of what you have in a space and what you don’t. Before, when I had studios, I just had junk and all sorts of stuff in there and I didn’t really think about it too much. But once I got rid of all of that, ever since, it’s always been like this, where I don’t really like having lots of things around me.”
Not that he objects to clutter, per se. “I love clutter, just somebody else’s clutter, not my own. I like to think that I have to reimagine myself – not being too pretentious about it – and ask myself what else I want to do. I was reading about Marina Abramović always trying to distil everything down and I think that’s what I’m trying to get to. I am a hermit. I don’t go to the Syrian desert, but I do have to detach myself from the world to a certain extent. I’m not spiritual though. When I destroyed all of my worldly belongings, people obviously said that you could read a spiritual element into it, but I’m not spiritual.”
Landy’s studio is a very private space. He doesn’t have assistants either. “I once interviewed someone to be my assistant and then I thought ‘What am I going to do with them?’ Do you know what I mean? If they were here now, I’d be thinking ‘Oh my god’ and I think I’d actually end up working for them. I’d become their slaves.”
Even as a child, Landy, who got nicknamed “Blandy” at art college because of his reticence to speak, didn’t like collaborating. “If people used to paint on my area, I’d say ‘No, you can’t do that!’” In the meantime, obviously, he has had to learn to collaborate with people on specific projects and even to take on assistants now and again, but, generally, he prefers to be alone. “Having someone here, at moments like this, it’d be horrible. And also they rely on you to make a living, so no, it’s too much responsibility. I don’t even really want to be responsible for myself, to be honest.”
Landy does try to visit his studio daily, largely enabled by living upstairs, but this is, admittedly, “only unless I can find something else to do!” He has no specific routine to speak of. “That’s the terrible thing, in a way, because then I have to create my own routine, I have to create myself, basically. Every day, when I come here, I have to think about what I’m going to do. And the worst bit, actually, is just sitting down and forcing myself to do it, because I get really distracted. But that’s it, isn’t it? It’s just me and it in the end and no one else cares. It’s always been a struggle. This is very typical for me. I go through cycles of being very productive and then not being very productive. That’s how it’s always been. And this is the worst bit, when you don’t quite know what you’re doing.
There once was a gallery that said they couldn’t make any financial sense out of me. If it were left up to me, if I were left to my own devices, the whole art world would be over by now. There’d be empty art fairs and empty galleries everywhere. I’m not playing the game very well. I’m not a very productive artist, basically. But that’s the way I want it. I’m happy being like that.”
Where does Landy draw his inspiration from, faced, quite literally, with a blank canvas? “I refer to some books, I read, and then my mind starts to wander. Most artists have postcards on the wall, or stuff to inspire them, but I can’t be bothered with that. I don’t have those kind of references, I usually chuck them out. I do have sketchbooks, though, and I write ideas in books.”
When Landy did his residency at the National Gallery, he had to derive his work from the collection, as that was his remit. “I wanted to engage the public, physically, very differently from when you look at a painting. Saints have such fabulous stories. There’s a lot of flagellation in Renaissance art. I was brought up Irish Catholic, so I could really relate to this. Irish Catholicism is all about beating yourself up. I’ve always had a slightly destructive bent to my art too.”
Landy’s studio space really is more of an office space, a drawing board space, a space for birthing ideas. “It’s probably a place to go. I wouldn’t want to go to a coffee shop,” he admits. “I’m often sat there scribbling away about ideas, reading a bit, and writing things down.” Landy’s actual works are generally produced off site by artisans whom he commissions for their specific skills. “I don’t make things by hand, on the whole. My drawings I do, but not my sculptures. I normally have the idea first and then think about it a lot and find people to go and execute it. I’m quite happy on a kitchen table, most of the time. I don’t need a lot of space. I just have space, but I don’t actually need it. I think the studio is a millstone around my neck, really. It is a paradox.”
Given his destructive bent, and his lack of studio requirements, I wonder why Landy has never considered destroying his studio. “I never got as far as to destroy the studio itself,” he says, “because I never owned the studio.” Well, he does own it now, so who knows what might happen? It seems as though there’s no need to anticipate further destruction, however. “I always say to Gillian that we should rent it out.” I remind him that he has two spaces. Will he maybe let one go? “No, no. I’ll keep both. I like buying empty spaces. That’s what people are complaining about in London, aren’t they? That lots of foreigners are coming over and buying flats and just leaving them empty. And I’m just doing the same.” Not quite, Michael, not quite. Your studio spaces may be physically empty, but, like your head, they are, I am sure, full of ideas; ideas which we look forward to seeing come to fruition.