Tell us about your most recent project, what have you been working on?
I am trying to write more; I have been collecting thoughts or carrying out small processes just so I can write about them and consider them in detail. Making physical or ‘final’ work hasn’t seemed so important to me lately and instead I have found satisfaction in an idea remaining as subtle and intangible as possible. This week, as a kind of conceptual exercise, I removed the word ‘space’ from a book I bought in a charity shop, and sent it to some friends in Los Angeles. With no accompanying explanation, I like how the word could indicate the minute space somewhere in a book in England, or indeed the vast space across which it travelled overseas. The thought of something so very small and trivial making this huge odyssey just makes me smile.
Even with this more subtle approach to your practice there is an interest in location, previously you've worked site specifically, do you consider this work as site specific also?
I suppose from my point of view it is; I sent the work to a house in LA where I recently stayed for two weeks. On the plane back to London I was picturing the house in my mind, the garden falling dark when the sun drops, and I watched the flight map as it tracked me moving further away from that place. I have a recurring feeling whenever I walk or drive somewhere open and look back, perhaps to a hill or headland, to where I have just been; it is an acute, jarring awareness of self, in time and my movement through space. In a way the work is that same thought objectified, this one small word weaving its way back through time zones to exist in a place where I once was. For me it wouldn’t make sense anywhere else, but for the recipient this doesn’t really factor. I wanted the word and where it came from to be ambiguous so that it had the potential to be imagined anywhere.
The concept is beautiful, a sort of immediate nostalgia Do you have any other work planned along these lines?
I like that, I’ve never identified it as nostalgia before but that’s exactly what it is. I have a few ideas for more experiments using the word ‘space’ and also using the post or second-hand book shops to circulate words/objects. I’ve bought a load of non-fiction books from charity shops and I want to remove a word from each and donate them back - who knows where they’ll get to.
Do you find that the changes in your method of working come as a result of leaving the university environment/ how do you think this has affected your practice?
Definitely. There is no pressure to produce an outcome now. At university I would have been worried that this kind of thing was not ‘enough’. Even if only subconsciously, I think I always had the assessments in mind when making work. At the moment, as I am not even anticipating a ‘viewer’, I feel no expectation to work in a particular way or to justify what I’m doing.
What shows/work have you seen recently that you would recommend?
When I was in New York I saw the Pipilotti Rist retrospective at the New Museum, which was probably the most memorable exhibition I saw in America: incredibly immersive and really interestingly curated to lead the viewer through the changes in her work over time. More recently, I really loved one of the pieces at this year's Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the ICA: a video and 3D printed model of a cloud by Janina Lange, which I found very poetic. The 'Looking at one thing and thinking of something else' series at Carroll/Fletcher Gallery (London), is also one I'd recommend seeing. They always have really interesting shows there, particularly for works using new technology.
Russell’s work can be found via a link on our website page