Matthew Darbyshire


Written by Natasha Hoare
31 Tuesday 31st August 2010

Featuring in the Saatchi Gallery's Newspeak exhibition, currently on, and recently in Nicolas Bourriaud's landmark Altermodern: Tate Triennial, Matthew Darbyshire has been touted by the best of the art world as an artist to watch. His witty installations feature objects, furniture and architectural elements endemic to commercial and private spaces across the postmodern world. From luminous bongs, colour saturated trainers, plastic chairs and Buddhas to the actual structures we now inhabit, Matt presents the viewer with his or her own modern day-glo urges. What we, the consumer, purchase to set us apart from others, or as an expression of individuality, is revealed to be part of a morass of products featured everywhere from trendy cafes to newly renovated McDonalds. Our lifestyle choices are blind alley's leading us to a universal homogeneity – gulp! Having said that the man himself is surprisingly upbeat...

Having consciously sent up contemporary consumer culture do you guiltily allow yourself purchases such as iPods, Day-Glo trainers or snow domes?
Blimey, I never meant it to come to this! iPods, I’m not deluded enough to dismiss them outright and quite envy people who get so much pleasure out of them. For what it’s worth, no, I don’t have one. I can’t really get into that interpassive thing and am far too preoccupied watching what’s going on. I don’t think I’m happy, contented or relaxed enough to be that detached and I don’t want to risk missing out on anything. Day-Glo trainers in fact, yes, I had a phase a few years ago when I was trying to get that sort of Bill Gates recreational look with boxy chinos and an oatmeal jumper offset against a really elaborate pair of neon go-getters. It never really worked. Snow domes, they’re just shit aren’t they. Believe it or not I’m not into kitsch, not on a personal or critical level. At home it would be naff and targeted within the work would be a cheap shot.
Does your work reflect worries about sustainability?
No, not in an eco sense. I’d rather leave it up to Gormley to do a Bono on that one!
There's a certain complicity in your work to the objects you deconstruct – do you find yourself taking a certain joy in their colour, texture and juxtaposition?
No. There’s a sense of relief in terms of confirmation or validation when I see things that correspond with what I’m doing but I’d say fear and claustrophobia rather than joy. I don’t know if it’s because I’m so immersed in a couple of projects at the moment and my radar’s on overdrive or if its because we’re actually nearing the end? The gloopy merging together, predictability and
preservation of the same old shit everywhere is making it quite difficult to breathe.
Would the fullest iteration of your work be to construct a building?
My last show Elis at Herald Street was essentially that. I wouldn’t want to physically construct a building, my thoughts are too transitory and there’s really no need.
What's your favourite piece of architecture in London?
I’m a bit out of the loop the last few months beavering away in my studio in Kent. I’m quite enjoying the lexicon of architectural faux pas I see on my commute in through Stratford’s Olympic Park though. It’s an amazing example of today’s tendency to preserve all that is shit (see the sterile 80s style corporate glass and steel non-place railway station) and pull the arse out of all that is good (see Westfield Shopping Centre’s blatant rip off of Curaso St John’s fantastic Nottingham Contemporary styles). I guess it’s like the nine-week catwalk to high street model, everything just gets hoovered up overnight and recklessly chucked in to the mix ‘til every box is ticked and apparently everybody’s happy!
What kind of aesthetic do you propose as an antidote to the ills of post-modern culture?
Not possible. Post-modern is even a romantic term now isn’t it and independent or alternative are just yet more styles within the mainstream. Fuck knows, maybe the problem lies exactly in this obsession we have with the aesthetic? I don’t know and if I did I’d probably be a fool to share it.
Does theory get in the way of making art?
No. It can contrive or constipate if you do things the wrong way round but provided they’re conducted in tandem it can be constructive.
They sort of keep each other in check don’t they? How do you conflate creating a critique of consumerism which can itself be bought?
The stuff I make isn’t as preoccupied with the act of consumption or the evils of money as you imply. Maybe it’s the Steinbach 80s commodity critique aesthetic that misleads you? I’m essentially into the design and look of our times and am far more interested in the unthinking, bland, consensual directives we see shaping our culture today. I’m not nicking other people's styles, trying to deceive, persuade or second-guess what people want in order to flog it to them. I make what I make and if people occasionally buy it then I can keep on making it with less financial distraction and anxiety then before. I was doing that I do now 15 years before I sold anything. Nothing’s changed. This probably sounds like a classic case of capitalist disavowal (i.e. as Mark Fisher puts it, I can fetishise all the money in the world in my actions so long as I maintain an ironic distance in my mind) but come on, I’m not some staunch lefty that’s going to start self-righteously acting on outmoded principle. It’s critical engagement and thoughtful contemplation I’m into, not self-flagellating and unnecessary financial misery.
Are you a radical? Would you tear society down and start again or would you work with what we've got?
The latter of course.

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  • Guest: dschap75
    Wed 01 - Sep - 2010, 20:18
    The work is quite forgettable