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Waterfront Festival

Hug A Human

8 April 05 words: Amanda Young
"I sent a lot of letters with a press releases and stickers to local MPs, the Prime Minister, Sheriff of Nottingham, Richard and Judy, Des and Mel"

David Garrett - Hug a HumanBeginning the day by seeing a horse drawn cart of balloons I walk the city streets to the tea shop at the Methodist Church, Lower Parliament Street. It is here I met up with artist David Garratt to discuss his recent activities including the Hug a Human campaign.
Greeted with a smile David hands me a package containing notes and a nifty orange Hug A Human badge. His artwork is concerned with the community. He looks out with the idea that every city’s made of same things; a church, entertainers, clowns, a football ground, a local pub and a local MP.

What have you been doing recently?
“Everyday I have been smiling at 10 strangers. Up to today 4 out of 10 have returned that smile to me. Today, St Patrick’s day, I have had 6 shared smiles. It seems to be that celebrations increase peoples smile ratio to strangers.
"I feel that at the moment society is pulling apart and it’s nice to knit people together with community events. Recently in my artwork I was meeting and following priests. This resulted in having school dinners with kids and cycling around on bicycles. I have been working on my Hug A Human campaign making and giving out badges. There is a bit of a church ethos of improving yourself through a certain message but not actually asking for anything in return. I guess the badges are me acting as a bit of a preacher from The Church of Hug A Human”

Are you religious then?
“I define myself as agnostic. My mother calls for God’s help at footie matches but my dad is a scientist. I’m more of a karma believer; to be nice to people and you’ll get it back. I don’t actually believe in God, but understand that the principals and morals are well placed. I see religion is there to help you out and guide u along.”

Hug A HumanAre you pleased with the Hug A Human campaign? What are your next steps for its development?
"Yes. I sent a lot of letters with a press release and free stickers to local MPs, the Prime Minister, Sheriff of Nottingham, Lord Mayor of Nottingham, the Richard and Judy show, Des and Mel. I watched for 2 weeks but neither Des nor Mel have worn a sticker. I’ve stuck a sticker on a tree and left some on trains. I’m getting T-shirts printed and planning a team of volunteers to give them away.”

As part of your work you wrote to many MP’s around the country asking for their best joke. Which one was the best reply?

"Oooh… I had this one from the Tory MP John Baron:
When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon he got out the little space thing and said that’s for Mr Gorsky, and for years, years and years back on earth all the people in the interview room asked the question “Who was Mr Gorsky?” People started to think it was a national security thing, something very high profile. It was revealed years and years later when Neil Armstrong was a young boy he was really obsessed with space. Everyone down the street new he wanted to go into space. It was one day he heard an argument next door between a man and his wife. The argument had ended when the woman said “the next time you can have sex is when the boy next door walks on the moon!
"I also had one from Tony Blair. The letter said Thanks very much for your letter Mr Blair is currently very busy with other matters, but I can tell you that his favourite joke is ‘A man walks into the pub with a lump of tarmac over his shoulder and says to the bar man I’ll have a pint of beer please and one for the road! Hope you enjoy this joke, yours sincerely, signed by one of his P.A.s. After the next election I am sending out some more letters keeping to the same jist. I like to see the MPs being perceived in different ways as people can be very negative towards politics."

Letter from Tony Blair

Where is the inspiration for your artwork?
“Everywhere! Today I am inspired by a man I saw dressed up in red on stilts making balloons for children. I find the power of one person unbelievable! The stilts man made some kids happy, making their family happy, making the neighbours happy…. It’s like a Domino effect of happiness.”

What’s your opinion of the art scene at the minute?
"I read Brian O’Docherty’s book “Inside the white cube space” and realised that I am not a believer in the white cube space. It is completely absurd to take inspiration form society and withdraw yourself form it into a studio to make a piece of work. The work I do is giving things out or writing a letters to people. The idea that one painting can be owned only by one person horrible.
"I can make 5000 badges for same money, give them out to 5000 people, who can then show it off to 10 people each so that’s 50,000 people. If those 10 people each talk about it to another one of their friends then that’s half a million people to experience a piece of my art. See, that’s nicer. If I write a letter to Tony Blair, it’s him or his P.A. who are the only people to see my exhibition because they are actually involved in it. It’s like a performative thing or interventionist thing like artist Jeremy Deller’s ideas. Maybe not be a piece of art. Maybe just a way I experience life. I wouldn’t like to think of it out of an art context as there’s a concern that I think I might be mad!”
“It’s 3.35 we are closed!” At this point we were thrown out of the tea shop by a white-haired lady and so headed for the city library to continue the interview.

If you could change anything what would it be?
I could be selfish and get Chesterfield FC in the premiership but I think it would be good to change everyone’s outlook on life. If people were more optimistic everything would sort out. It would stop terrorism as people would think “what’s the point, lets be nice to each other.”

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
"Hmm… I will be 27 then. By that age you’re in your prime in football! Is that the same for artists? Well the Turner prize nominees are aged 30-35. But, my ultimate aim in 5 years is to do the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Every year I go the Peesley Village fair near Chatsworth House Estate. The fair has amazing tables of trash, tom-bolas and cakes. I want to take the village fair, a picture of Englishness, to the middle of Italy. I’ld like to pay for all the good citizens to have a holiday and do one weeks work at the village fair in Venice."

David Garratt is an amazing contemporary artist. He warmed my heart. Let us hope he continues making a quirky comment on our society.

Other articles by Amanda on LeftLion

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