“I suppose I’m a performance artist, but I fucking hate that word”, says Jeremy Hutchinson grinning. He looks stubbly and slightly cheeky as he sips his tea.
“It’s the connotations of performance artist, like noone wants to be a performance artist because…” he pauses thoughtfully.
“They all sound like nobs.”
Jeremy is a Slade graduate with a CV that runs on for several pages and includes a stint working for Coca Cola’s advertising department.
I first heard of him when he had a show in Manchester’s Chinese Arts Centre called “Err”- a display of “incorrect” products that can’t be used for their intended purpose.( A comb with no teeth, high heels that cannot physically be worn, a skateboard with misaligned wheels).
This could easily have been pretentious if it weren’t for the fact that Jeremy has a real sense of humor, shown by the inclusion of his priceless correspondence with the factories.
“Dear Mr. Jeremy Hutchinson,
This is Kween, having seen your inquiry on Alibba.com on 8th Mar. 2011
Thank you very much for your kindly inquiry!
L have read your message carefully for many times, but I really don’t know what is your meanning?
Are you joking, sir?
We do can product many kinds of shoes, but we have never met customers with this requirements, so curious for me.
Thank you very much.”
Jeremy’s list of accomplishments include organizing a flash mob in Westfields shopping centre, and getting a friend to film him masquerading as an idiotic English tourist sneaking a pint of Palestinian milk into an Israeli supermarket and attempting to buy it (The Oslo Accord outlawed the sale of Palestinian goods in Israel).
He even locked himself in a pitch black office for a full working week just to see what would happen.
“Confusion’s the most productive state of mind”, he says, when I ask about this one.
“I wanted to spend a week in the dark to see if I was actually scared. It was more like research, 9-5 for a week.”
Did he ever find the experience unnerving?
There was a really bizarre moment when I was looking at my hand, though I couldn’t really see anything, and there was a pinprick of light. I had this hour long spinout generated by not understanding my bodily confines.”
How did he pass the time when he wasn’t panicking?
“I spent a lot of time thinking about what light means in the western world. When you look at the earth from space, you see how energy consumption is so confined to economic hubs, and how so much of our relationship to light is economically driven. I also drew lots of geometric things. Usually the guy who ran the building would knock on the door at 5pm and tell me to go home”. He smiles when I ask if he ever got bored.
“I’m not someone who really gets bored! I really enjoyed it, I’d probably recommend it!” he laughs at my skeptical expression.
We spend much of the interview talking about how advertising is often misunderstood.
“Advertisers aren’t evil. There’s no psychological dark place where they’re trying to work out how to rewire your brain. It’s a bit like working in the back office of a really well run religion. They’re just doing what we’re all doing, which is trying to talk to each other in a way that people will understand and enjoy. We’re all sort of advertisers.”
Does he see similarities with artists and advertisers?
“I think there’s a hell of a lot in common between the two. In terms of myth, when a collector buys a piece of art from a celebrated contemporary artist, often they’re not buying the art, they’re buying a fragment of the myth of that person, and the larger his myth the more expensive.”
I ask about advertising titan and gallery owner Charles Saatchi, who in some ways gave Jeremy his big break as an art student.
“Look, I’m really grateful for opportunities. It’s really nice if people want to show your work, especially during Frieze Week.”
I ask if he thinks that Saatchi has been responsible for an increase in sensationalist, trashy work. His response to my leading question is diplomatic.
“He’s definitely shifted the conversation, in the sense that what you do now as a contemporary artist can reach the Sun readers…”
I try to tempt him into bitching about Damien Hirst, but he’s having none of it.
“It’s not the sort of art I’m inspired by, but him as a character is a really interesting phenomenon. I’m not a member of the Hirst bashing club because I think half of that is jealousy. His auction the night before Lehman Brother collapsed is a really interesting phenomenon. This great carnival of commerciality makes these things valuable. He investigates that.”
As our interview draws to an end, I ask Jeremy what motivates him.
“I guess I was just a really really obedient child, so possibly I’m playing out a latent mischief that was quite well subdued when I was younger. We’re all creatures and we all do what we can get away with.”
More at www.jeremyhutchison.com
words Oli Rahman