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Mark Titchner: Be True To Your Oblivion

As part of Birmingham's arty 'Home of Metal' season, the former Turner Prize nominee last week opened an expo dedicated to the local heavy metal scene

Mark Titchner opened his solo show at New Gallery Walsall last night as a part of Birmingham's 'Home of Metal', a season that celebrates the themes of Heavy Metal and a scene which grew roots in the Black Country and went on to become a global phenomenon. 'Be True to Your Oblivion' includes pre-existing works dating back to 2009 not previously exhibited in the UK, and four new commissions shown over four rooms in the impressive Walsall space.

Mirrored neologisms appearing as sigils on breezeblocks, grossly oversized windchimes, an open mic system on staging made from Titchner's old band T-shirts and a number of the text works that he is most known for, provided context for the launch event where Nicholas Bullen played a set in front of a giant silent projection of his mouth. The artist spoke with Dazed about the show, and the influence metal has had on him and his practice…

Dazed Digital: How did you get involved with 'Home of Metal'?
Mark Titchner:
Through Lisa and Jenny who run Capsule in Birmingham - they put on a festival there called Supersonic and work with a lot of metal bands, but also experimental music across all forms though mainly electronic. I met them years ago when they did a symposium about the influence of Metal in different areas of life which I think was one of the germs for what then became Home of Metal

DD: So what's new?
Mark Titchner:
There's a large window banner that’s there already and is more typical of my digital works and has a text on there which says 'ill choose my fate' which is part of a lyric from a Judas Priest song -  a local metal band that obviously conquered the world. Then there's a film work which is a kind of portrait of guy called Nick Bullen who is a musician. He's worked in all kinds of areas of music, famously he was one of the founder members of from Napalm Death from Birmingham. So it's a portrait of Nick or more specifically his mouth.  I wrote something for him which he then performed and I slowed the film down 10 times to show the complexity of movement and the range of stuff that happens when he's performing.  Because he's well known for doing stuff at extremely  high speeds and Grindcore as a genre is famous for 5 second long songs I wanted to stretch the thing out for as long as possible. 

There's also a piece which is a rethinking of an older work I made for ArtNow at Tate in 2003 called 'Be Angry but Don't Stop Breathing'.  It's is an installation work that has quite a lot of components but the bottom line with it is that it's an open mic.  In a way it offers people the opportunity to have a forum but also to comment on what's happening in the space. The film of Nick is silent - there's this great effort happening as he performs this stuff but no sound comes out - so idea is that this work will provide a soundtrack for the show.

DD: Where did you start when they said you had the show?
Mark Titchner:
We started with works I'd already made that seemed relevant - there's a couple of key works they were really keen on - one piece called Ergo Ergot that I made for the Turner Prize show in 2006 which has got these big wood carved discs that I made from the Vertigo sign (Vertigo records was the label Black Sabbath were first put out on) and they were very keen that was included, and this piece 'Be Angry But Don't Stop Breathing'. I felt that aesthetically I'd moved on since but proposed to remake it keeping with the performative aspect that I liked.

DD: Were you always into metal?
Mark Titchner: Yeah, but I think I liked music generally, but metal was the first kind of alternative music I came across, probably the poppy kind like Iron Maiden-ey 80s metal, but before that I was probably into whatever was in the charts or on the radio and stuff.  The weird kids always listened to metal music and I was always intrigued by the older ones with denim jackets and long hair.

DD: Were you in any tribes at school?
Mark Titchner: I mean it definitely felt like we were the metal kids - we went to the metal pub.  Now there's different tribes of metal like Emo and all that but then it was just all metal.  It was kind of ridiculous as you'd have these guys that would literally be in drag - big backcombed Motley Crew hair - and then these other guys who only wore black with straight black hair and a centre parting standing next to these guys with hot pink handkerchiefs tied to their knees - and spandex.

DD: Does it make you nervous that you'll have so many metal fans making a pilgrimage to Birmingham and coming to your show?
Mark Titchner: It did make me nervous but the works are infected by other things as well - so I'm kind of trying to do the best show rather than the best metal related show so it has to stand up on its own.

DD: Do you play music yourself?
Mark Titchner: I do but not in any serious way anymore.  I play the ukulele for my sun so I've reached the end of the musical road!  I played at Supersonic last year in God's White Noise which was the first time I played publicly for a while and was really good fun but its nice to just like music rather than do it for work - just enjoy it.

 Mark Titchner's 'Be True to Your Oblivion' is on between 8 July - 10 September, 2011, at the New Art Gallery Walsall