Rebecca Ackroyd, Biennale de Lyon, 2019.
Courtesy of the artist
Your installation Singed Lids at the Lyon Biennale presents a crash site of a resincast aircraft cabin, dismembered body parts fusing with armchairs and objects – such as coffee cups and suitcases – in an uncanny yet quite harmonious way. Let’s begin by talking about how this body of work came about in that context as it echoes Temple Magazine’s focus on the notion of ‘‘crash’’. I feel that although the work alludes to the idea of ‘‘post-mortality ’’ and ‘‘post-apocalyps’e’ in an obvious way, it should not be considered solely through the prism of a dystopian prediction. Could you speak about what the concept of ‘‘crash’’ means to you and what that crash stands for in that context?
Well I never think of anything like ‘‘apocalypse ’’ when I’m making work. I don’t think that these are ideas that I’m necessarily conscious of, things that I set out. I suppose that it’s something that draws me in and is probably reflective of how I feel.
As for the idea of a crash, it’s something I think about as a violent interruption in our lives, rather than a literal crash, like a sudden change in the political climate or life circumstances. For the works in Lyon, I wanted to make an installation that was not so much a crash, but a site of remains, as if the parts of the plane had been excavated from another time. I started making the works after I went to see the space [the Fagor factory]. The expanse of emptiness in those rooms made me think about the loss in the production that happened there and the loss of purpose.
I suppose that made me think about making these ghostly forms that felt like they were from another time but also rooted in the present.
The general tone of this crafted installation echoes an ongoing question in your practice about the physical connection to absence, loss and trauma, as well as – more recently maybe? – sadness and melancholia. Could you expand on these notions in relation to Singed Lids.
The installation I presented in Lyon was a response to the emptiness and uselessness of a space when it’s not fulfilling its purpose anymore. I was thinking of the general detritus that we accumulate and disposability more generally, which is why I wanted the figurative elements in the installation to be holding/wearing items associated with a sense of fast living and fast throwing away. They’re fragmented like relics from another time, one that is/was unsustainable – i.e. this kind of cheap flight travel – that seems to have an expiration date.
I also wanted to create a reminiscence of a journey or something that happened. I’m looking at the moment before something happens or the moment right after. I use wax a lot in my works, as it has a transformative element that signifies a shifting state, like something transitory and impermanent. I wanted the works in Lyon to feel hot and create that feeling of something that is radiating, melting or being absorbed into another state. I wanted to capture it in a moment before it melts or disappears. The translucency and the colours of the works is also very important. I wanted the works to operate like echoes of reality rather than a direct representation of it. The title is meant to invoke the effect of looking into the sun or a bright light and the trace of an image that is mapped on your retina, an afterimage or retinal burn.
This is what attracts me to your work, i.e. how the narrative of timelessness in your practice sits with the temporary and the precarious, especially when confronted with some of the material you use. Your work has often been described as frozen or fixed in time but at the same time you are interested in working around the idea of something that is very transitory.
I am thinking a lot about these temporary between spaces where you kind of are at home but you’re not at home. I feel that planes in particular are spaces that people treat like their homes. It’s also a space where you lose sense of your own responsibility because you’re being looked after. I am interested in this idea of an ‘‘off’’ space where you’re not really in the real world, and in the idea of ‘‘time off’’ as well.
For me, this between space is a comforting space. But at the same time it’s quite precarious and dangerous. I don’t know, I guess these are the reasons why I started using bits of planes, as I was thinking of the strangeness of a between space, that is also very temporary.