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Mike Ballard: I Pity Inanimate Objects

The artist deploys his kleptomaniac tendencies to create performance art in a new group exhibition

Mike Ballard is infamous in the art world for a bout of kleptomania. Arriving in London, only to have his coat nicked, he sought revenge by stealing random people’s coats, only to return them as part of an exhibition, where he attempted to hand back 200 to their rightful owners. Contemporary sculpture, in Duchampian fashion.

For his latest group exhibition the Hip-Hop inspired artist takes a legal route. The inanimate objects he chose to use include an amplifier, metronome and Super 8 film; re-invented with lighting to produce a feeling of space travel. We caught up with Ballard to learn a bit more about the demise of graffiti, animated sound and Duchamp as a godfather of sampling.

Dazed Digital: What did the title of the show ‘I Pity Inanimate Objects – New Solidity’ conjure for you?
Mike Ballard:
The title of the show made me think it was a bit of a contradiction because as humans we desire objects, in a way to try and improve our own existence. But I like the title a lot, it's makes me think what it must be like to be a bit of plastic or a plate, pretty boring.

DD: What’s the narrative behind ‘A Poet’s Work is Never Done?’
Mike Ballard:
I made this from painting on a piece of Super 8mm film with acrylic and then projected the film. I was interested in the way that the paint had set on the film and to see the shapes and forms that arose from basically splashing paint onto the Super 8.  Scaled up the images looked explosive and this particular still from the painted film, looks like part of the universe. 

I think that poetry and visual arts are very closely linked in as much as to show what we knew but never saw before.  With the kinetic radar light underneath the print, it made me think of satellites scanning the universe looking for answers, the light continually moving, always looking, and always trying to understand. So I felt the title was right for this piece.

DD: The type of objects you’ve chosen relate to the production of sound. Do you see sound as an inanimate force?
Mike Ballard:
This particular piece doesn't create sound, but a lot of my other recent work does, and all of my work is inspired and influenced by music and sound.  I think sound is very animated, it has the power to move people and its very nature it is moving the air, creating waves, and of course is the result of moving parts.

DD: You’ve said ready-mades are equivalent to sampling in Hip-Hop. Is Duchamp one of the godfathers of Hip-Hop then?
Mike Ballard:
 [laughs] Yeah, Grand master Duchamp and MC urinal, on the bicycle wheels of steel... I think hip hop is definitely an extension of what Duchamp was doing, and the role of the artist is more like a DJ/ remixer, collating objects, imagery, sound and creating new contexts for existing things. Duchamp is still a major influence in contemporary art and changed things forever, and I think Hip-Hop changed music for ever. It’s completely acceptable now that new music is made from existing music, and sampling is the norm.

DD: There’s a spray can converted into a lamp, which points to your association with graffiti. Do you make a distinction between street art and graffiti?
Mike Ballard:
Graffiti was definitely my gateway into art, it is my foundation, and I do reference it in my work at times. But there is big big difference between street art and graffiti. Graffiti used to give me goose bumps, street art makes my eyes bleed with boredom. It's so played out, and so is graffiti in a way. It's just so socially acceptable now; it's lost its edge

Mike Ballard: I Pity Inaimate Objects – New Solidity, Sept 1st -Sat 17th Sept, Goldsteins at Goodhood, 20 Coronet Street, London, N1 6HD