I am interviewing Nick Thomas. Hi Nick. He is going to do a solo show at the Normalville contemporary art center. So, tell me Nick, the show you are goning to do, is this your first show? Did you make any before? It's not my first show, no. It's probably my biggest show, to be involved in a show in an institution like this. The shows i have been doing before have been smaller, in artist run space, community spaces, things organised by friends. So this is really feels like a step upwards that's really exciting.
So you would say this is a special opportunity for you? Its nice to be given the amount of space, a production budget. This gives you a degree of freedom that you maybe otherwise don't get with smaller shows.
Could you tell me something about the three works you are going to show here in the Normalville contemporary art centre? I wanted to work with a specific point in the history of Normalville, specifically 1986, when there was a series of student actions at the art school in response to funding cuts. This was happing around the country as well, but the ones in Normalville were particularly striking, because of the way that it brought other people into the art school as well. At the same time as the students were doing their actions they were joined by local oil workers. The local women institute also joined in. There was also a team of marine biologists tat got involved, which was quite historically unique. This confluence of people in an art school is something that i not found any evidence of elsewhere. And it produced a really specific situation. They were collaborating on performance works. From the archival material it seems like a lot of the discussion was incredibly interesting. Just having marine biologists and oil workers together talking about ecological issues seems like it was an amazing thing. Tere's a number of documents in the archive; video, photographs. For the work, I was interested in reanimating the archive. So the first work in the space is going to be a performance work which recreates some of the conversations and movements that happened in this historical moment. I have invited students an local people, and anyone who wants to be involved really, to be part of the work. They are being paid to do these durational performances that will happen throughout the show. What i didn't want to do was just represent the archival material, because that felt too static for me. This was my attempt to make it more dynamic; imagining what a similar situation can be in the present.
When is the performance going to be on? When can people join in on that? The performance will be on at all times. So it's quite expensive. We have to pay a lot of people.
And you have been already in contact with the students and the local people? How is this contact been for you? I have had some contact with the tutors, and through the tutors i got the now the students . We had various informal meetings. One of the others works for the show is going to be a meal in the university with current students. It was important for me to do something in the university, as an of site project, to have conversation there as well, particularly in the light of current funding cuts. I will be having conversations and then the conversations will also become part of the work, as it goes on.
So we have the ongoing performance going on. Then there is the conversations and the meal you will be having. Can you tell me something about your third piece?
The third piece is an older work. It doesn't directly relate to the context of Normalville, but i thought it made sense with some of the themes that were going on with the other works, The third piece is a video about motion capture workers, which is kind of an emerging industry, people performing actions which can then be used as motion capture for video games, pornography, or whatever. It is almost like this symbolic example of immaterial labour for me. But also thinking about contemporary forms of labour and that interaction between bodies and immaterial labour and notions of performance, which relate to the first work.
So this is an existing piece. When did you make it? Yes that's correct. I made it 2 years ago.
Where did you study? In Big town. I have graduated five years ago, from my bachelor.
And you did some projects in the meantime as well right? Can you tell me something about them? I have worked at some artist run spaces. I have worked for an artist film distributing company. I have done my own projects. I have helped set up a festival for people showing works in their flats in Big town. I have organised my own shows. Had some more institutional shows. Organising is very important to what i do as an artist. it is not always clear where that fits into the art work exactly. I think with the show at the Normalville contemporary art centre it is quite clear, because there's the organising of the performance and the meal as well. But sometimes it is not explicitly in the art either. I feel it's more like this: you organise in the communities that you exist in that doesn't always have to be sort of solidified as a art work.
There is a text from Claire Bishop that a friend shared with me, that deals with these notion of performance. I think there is a conflict here between giving something to the viewer in terms of the work always being there and allowing the viewer to be passive in that and enter and leave when they want and the performer always having to be performing.
Claire Bishop has interesting things to say about that type of ongoing performance that foreground the work of the performer. There is a lot of labour that goes into these kinds of things that is made explicit in these types of performance. <Nick pulls a quote up from the text and reads it to me> “ .. while it is true to say that all performers are objectified on stage, there is a particular harshness to this objectification in the gallery or public space, where audience has not necessarily have paid to see the performance and can walk away any moment.” <Nick continues> I think this is particularly difficult with this work. Without idealising that historical moment too much as well in 1986, i think what they were doing was incredibly exciting because there was this occupation of the university, this common space, and what they decided to do, this strange mixture of people, was to produce performances . For me that's really exciting about the possibilities of an art work. If it can exist in that kind of space then i think that's ideal. And then putting that in a gallery is always going to be a compromise, and i would acknowledge that and i would acknowledge these problematics, those are definitely something to consider.