Interview by Chris Bayley
Originally published in the second issue of the isthisit? magazine in August 2017
Kate Cooper (b.1984, Liverpool, UK) lives and works in London and Amsterdam. She is the Director and co-founder of the London based, artist-led organisation Auto Italia. Cooper was the recipient of the BEN Prize for Emerging Talent, B3 Biennial of the Moving Images, Frankfurt (2015) and the Schering Stiftung Art Award, Berlin (2014). She recently had a solo exhibition ‘Ways to Scale’ at VITRINE London, which ran from 28 April 2017 - 18 June 2017.
In this exclusive interview artist Kate Cooper talks to curator Chris Bayley about her 2017 solo exhibition at VITRINE London, gentrification, CGI models and co-founding the artist run space Auto Italia.
Chris Bayley: Politics of display and visual merchandising play a fundamental role within your work, how has the position of VITRINE’s space informed your ideas for this exhibition?
Kate Cooper: I was interested in the window space at Vitrine as a space for transgression. I like the idea that these very public spaces don’t read as art – these slippages are exciting for me. I was also thinking a lot of the early years of MOMA and the experimental phases of the museum where new languages within the exhibition format where being developed to present design, and so called ‘primitive’ art where finding new forms of display became intrinsically linked to presenting new forms art to a mainstream public. I was thinking about my love of exhibitions being mixed up with early ideas of experiencing concept stores and visual merchandising. I was also interested in the direct address and this space at VITRINE has this quality.
As we previously talked about when we were conceiving the exhibition – VITRINE is in a space that is has been part of the huge waves of gentrification in London, next door to private housing, a cinema and supermarket. I like how the work is read alongside these things, with the same vernacular language but also slightly off. For me with the work I make as with the GCI animation I work there is an element of hijacking of this visual language with the work. I like that the work could be an advert in the supermarket or a movie poster.
I was also concerned with this idea of the whole space being a wall –and thinking about these displays as walls very physical and completely transparent but almost impossible to enter. Also, how we read walls culturally and how they are employed, I was in particular thinking of this climbing wall that was presented in this now infamous concept store in Liverpool. The climbing wall was a way to almost inhabit this space of the sportswear/hiker – like a form of drag where you become this persona. I was also thinking for these very striking modernist walls that surrounded lots of the high-rise buildings in the city. Almost like images I had forgot about but very physical. This idea of the wall and a space that you want to scale, find a way to overcome. The scaling of images at the same time a way to overcome the this wall. I guess it makes sense with how I work with the work.
C: The women within your work appear faultless, uncannily lifelike and fully-fleshed: visible pores, wet gums, freckles, glassy eyes, hair follicles and facial lines. Can you tell us more about the process of working with computer generated images?
K: The process is one where I don’t have a predetermined idea. I started to work with this material to thinking through a way of making and producing images that was free from a subjective self-reflexive relationship. I was interested in what new forms of positions could be constructed. I work through a mixture of storyboarding images ideas and but also reworking the models, how they move, the bodily functions and what they are connecting with.
I work with CGI models and elements that are animated, sometimes I start by creating images other times images move through an editing process to produce a piece of moving images. Normally I then bring the models into a longer piece, and start working with a friend to make sound. In previous pieces, I have made scripts sometimes by myself sometimes with friends that are added with a voice over. Within this piece is was important that is was a physical visual image as opposed to a moving image. I wanted to piece to have impact.
Kate Cooper, Ways to Scale, 2017
Courtesy of the artist and VITRINE
C: As one of the founders of the project space Auto Italia, can you tell us how this collaborative approach to working informs your own practice?
K: Auto Italia Is a project that I’m incredibly proud of and feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with so many interesting and talented artist, designers and activists over the years. The project really is two things 1) a projects space run for artists by artists and 2) and collaborative studio. The studio side I always feel is never given enough time, that is normally to do with our time, resources and constraints also that the groups of artists involved.
I also think with Auto Italia I was able to develop lots of interests in ideas and collaborate with other artists around collective thinking – which is needed now more than ever. Projects surrounding gender, new forms of labour and self-organising have all completely come into my work along with how images are produced, performed and distributed.
In terms of my practice there was always so much freedom in working as part of a collaboration for me it is like working in a different medium. Sometimes I work collaboratively and other times I work as a solo artist. I think because my background coming from filmmaking as an artist and later assisting it was always the way I thought of making work with other people.
C: I'm interested in how your work takes forms of purchasing, animating, framed, rendered and then returned to. Can you talk more about this process?
K: I think to add a little to what I’ve already said, the work is really a process of thinking through positions through the act of working in this way – editing, rendering. I was thinking about what Donna Haraway said in the opening to this new film in which she is being interviewed, about the history of orthodontics and I was thinking of one of the videos made in an older work called Rigged – which is of GCI women with braces which in the nature of the video is almost an instructional. Both Haraway and her father had braces, her father was interested in this obsession in the US with perfect teeth – but more importantly where was the idea perfect smile, where it came from. In the end, she found out that the ‘model’ for these perfect teeth was based on Greek statues – the Jawline came from a fiction created by someone else. I love this idea and that we are constantly interesting these factious forms as a way to renegotiate our own subjectivity. I also always loved the approach of someone like Paul Preciado in his work and writing of this idea of hacking the body. There is also a history of how artists produced video but also a sabotage and healthy disrespect for the forms we are presented with. What do they do and how do they operate?
Within this new work for VITRINE, I was interested in the connections between the objects, the bodies, but pointing at a human form but also a sickness a half dead which I’m interested in – the zombie, the sick body as a way of refusing the prescribed function of such images and objects.
Kate Cooper, Ways to Scale, 2017
Courtesy of the artist and VITRINE
Chris Bayley is a curator based in London and is an exhibitions assistant at The Barbican Centre and associate curator at VITRINE.