For our first submission of the week for this year’s Converse/Dazed Emerging Artist Award, Calvin Laing talks us through his work and ideas.
Hailing from Edinburgh College of Art, Laing has exhibited at Collective in Edinburgh and Tramway in Glasgow and been a resident artist at Studio Voltaire in London. His works include Calvin & Samuel where he performed with a bottle of water as a prop an improvised monologue describing his journey to the gallery that day and Calvin & Drylaw, in which he converses with a lollypop lady, then taking her by surprise by running toward a roundabout whilst traffic flows around him. His preoccupation with everyday performances that we repetitively enact spurs on his playful acts of intervention and embellishment.
Dazed Digital: What do you draw on as inspiration?
Calvin Laing: Many places - from my peers to generally mundane things like sitting on the bus, waiting on the train, waiting in queue at the bank, eating an apple, drinking pineapple juice, sipping a hot black coffee, or a refreshing bottle of cold Borjomi, doing boring things is quite a good source of inspiration for me.
DD: Why use performance and explore the boundaries between the disciplines?
Calvin Laing: The immediacy, realness and playfulness. I think because I studied sculpture which concentrated on form, process and techniques - I found it time consuming and don't have the patience for it. There is a lot more freedom in the interdisciplinary, so it's a bit harder to pigeon-hole you as an artist.
DD: What is it about engaging with a public audience that you enjoy?
Calvin Laing: The element of control, and the small risk factor. I know it’s not much control on my part, but to a small extent I can control these small performances in the sense of initiating them, being aware of the performance happening and letting the work be manipulated and driven by people interacting with the piece at their choice. The work is developed through engaging with the public and the public being involved with the performance reacting as they would normally react in a situation rather than being self conscious for example if it was a performance in a art gallery (which I also do). I think of these performances in the same way you would use a ready-made, myself as something that is already available and the readiness of the public, for example the people on the bus.
DD: What's the weirdest response you've had?
Calvin Laing: 'No thanks, I'm actually allergic to the skin on the grapes.' or 'OH MY GOD, IS HE ALRIGHT?! Did he mean tae dae that?' (in a really Scottish accent in Drylaw, aka the Lollypop Lady).
DD: What living artist do you most admire?
Calvin Laing: Bruce McLean
DD: What is it about being an artist that drives you?
Calvin Laing: The hope of freedom - doing you want to do - hanging out with a bunch of dreamers means that there is a possibility we can come up with a solution or form a little a commune…and the thought that just maybe one day I won't have to work a day job!