Stroom Invest interviews / curator #1 James Edgar
James Edgar (1978) is part of the collaborative artist duo Edgar—Walker, who are based in London. The two met on the MA Fine Art course at Camberwell College of Arts, where they graduated in 2013. Edgar–Walker’s sculptures, installations and printed matter utilise a palette of found and overlooked materials from everyday contexts. Their varied output registers as both formal and playful, seeking to delineate the boundaries between material, image, form and function. In addition to their art practice, they co-founded Assembly Point in 2013. The contemporary arts space encompassing a gallery and studios in South London opened in 2015.
What do you consider your daily work?
Teaching, looking, thinking, making.
What is your idea of perfect art?
Something that invokes a psychological intangible experience.
What art do your fear?
Art that blatantly plagiarizes whilst pretending to be unique, surely there is some form of appropriation in all art whether consciously or not?
Do you think originality in art is overrated? Or is it the pretention of uniqueness that bothers you most?
I think it is very difficult or almost impossible to label a contemporary artwork unique, surely all art is informed by the art that came before it, unless we are discussing cave paintings? I do think originality in art is overrated, I’m not saying that artists should go and blatantly copy other artists or cultures in a Picassoesque way. There simply needs to be a realisation that whether consciously or subconsciously our visual inventories are informed by things that we have experienced. A superfluous value is placed on the uniqueness of art that is often driven by art markets and traditional art educational structures.
What is your greatest extravagance in art?
Spending extended periods of time making useless stuff and things.
What is your current state of mind?
Pretty relaxed as travelling around Australia.
How about the current state of mind in your art practice?
I am very excited about the future projects we are developing for the programme at Assembly Point and currently this is the main strand of my art practice. Edgar—Walker have just finished showing a piece of work in a group show ‘on my island none of this would be true’ at Arebyte in London. We currently only make or show work if invited to exhibit. There is a constant underlying tension between making/developing art as an artist and prioritising being a director of Assembly Point.
What do you consider the most overrated quality in art?
Saleability of an artwork or the amount of sales an artist’ brand attracts.
On what occasions do you lie?
Normally during interviews like this.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Words: contemporary, basically, apparently, please, dude
Phrases: I think that…, Have you thought about…, What do you think of…
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Having three healthy, happy and sensible children who appreciate creativity.
Does that mean an art practice is ‘nothing’ compared to fatherhood? What achievement in art comes closest to having and raising your kids?
Yes, family is more important than art and having children changes your whole world and the priorities in it. Starting and running an arts organisation and an education, publishing, events, research and design studio come closest.
Why do you work as an artist duo?
I am lucky to work with someone who has become a good friend and having a reciprocal relationship with collaborators is the most important aspect of working together. Working as a duo in a partnership allows us to discuss ideas and formulate ideas through an active discourse rather than an internal questioning one.
How are you different in your role as an artist or as a curator?
As an artist the work is self conscious but also playful and enjoyable. As a curator there is an educational aspect, I am fascinated to learn about artist’s work and the concepts that lead to the production of art. It is illuminating to make links conceptually and visually to both art objects and art projects.
What is your most treasured possession?
What is the best dialogue on art that you have experienced?
A tutorial with David Cross whilst studying on the MA Fine Art course at Chelsea College of Art and Design. The discussion was at a pivotal point in the art course, a time when I was deciding whether or not to make my degree show singular or collaborative. It ended up being an entirely collaborative project. The conversation reinforced the notion that discarding ones singular persona is a difficult prospect in visual arts and relatively uncommon as there are far more artists working (seemingly) by themselves than collaboratively. There are many examples in art history of artists taking singular credit for bodies of work that have been made and conceptualised by others. The intense discussion was based around the subjects of boundaries, barriers, delineation, collaboration, control, authorship and everything in between.
What do you hope to experience during your visit in The Hague?
I am very much looking forward to experiencing the stimulating art climate and being introduced to the art and artists from The Hague. I have heard lots of great things!