On January 29th I attended the launch of a new contemporary art journal, Drawing Room Confessions. The journal is structured around a version of a parlour game once played, apparently, by Marcel Proust. Each edition of the journal focuses on just one artist and consists of series of interviews between them and various people from widely differing disciplinary and/or professional backgrounds. Each relates to the artists in a different way – one, called ‘The Egoist’ is invited by the artist him or herself. Another, called ‘Tango’ (as in ‘it takes two to…’) is invited by the journal and is expected to be a bit more challenging. A third, ‘The Blind Man’, has to conduct the interview anonymously, via email. The journal’s website explains this structure in much greater detail.
For the first issue, I was invited to act as ‘Tango’ in an interview with contemporary artist Charles Avery about his ongoing multi-media project The Islanders. This open-ended exploration of an imaginary island, populated by strange creatures, peculiar gods and hordes of rubber-necking tourists is depicted in a series of enormous ink and wash drawings, installations, sculptures, stuffed animals (usually with extra bits) and paintings and evolves as new elements of a complex society are created and/or ‘discovered’.
We met in his studio in August 2010 and talked about islands, philosophy, geagraphy, art, states and prisons for a solid two hours, taping the whole thing for transcription into the journal. It was a very stimulating and, for both parties, inspiring conversation: me getting more and more interested in islands, and Avery starting to think about prisons. The immediate result for me was the paper presented to the Hydrarchy Conference.
After a long and, I gather, painful process of transcription, the interview was annotated with footnotes explaining all the random stuff we mention in the course of the conversation and the result makes (I hope) an interesting read – especially in the context of the other interviews alongside it.
Unusually for an art journal, Drawing Room Confessions contains no reproductions of the artists’ work, in fact no images at all other than the front cover. The result is an interestingly uncluttered meditation on the artist as a person rather than on their product (insofar as these things can be separated, that is). The first two issues, on Charles Avery and Jason Dodge respectively, are available through the journal website and through specialist arts bookshops.