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Nottingham Castle

Anthony Peskine Interview

25 May 09 words: Frances Ashton
Who Do You Think You Are? "According to psychologists, everybody is worried, and gay and looking for their mother" says Anthony Peskine.
Poisson, Anthony Peskine

I have never considered what my weight in potato crisps would look like but this is just what Anthony Peskine has done in his recent exhibition at the Wasp Room. It’s an intriguing concept and an interesting artwork as over 50 full bags of crisps adorn the floor in a carefully calculated installation.

This is an exhibition that explores, even celebrates, the absurdities which life presents us through the media, advertising and ‘artificial’ society. Peskine’s work confronts us with the issue of questioning and examines the visual languages self-referentiality. As heavy and theory-laden as this sounds, he does it in a humorous and satirical way, producing photograpy, film and text which are a delight to look upon.

‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ is the first exhibition of the Parisian Artist in the UK at The Wasp Room Gallery, which aims to introduce new artists to Nottingham by exhibiting local, national and international contemporary artwork.

How did you come up with the title of the show?
The reason the show is called ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ is because when I wanted to put this show up for Tether I thought I would have to do something big because it was my first solo show abroad. And when someone makes something big, people will ask him ‘who do you think you are?’ Like, what the fuck do you think you’re doing? Being an artist you have many occasions of getting this question.

Another reason is that most of the works I show here deal with my identity as a consumer, or my identity as a non-believer, or my identity in general. So this show deals with what I think I am, especially because it shows my weight in potato crisps, and so showing that big amount representing me might ask this question, who do you think you are?

Your artwork made from packets of potato chips appears to be offering some kind of truth in connecting with the viewer.
It could be honesty, on the viewers side anyway. It means that I’m not trying to hurt them. I’m trying to be understandable, reachable. I don’t know if it’s honesty but it’s maybe being myself, illusioned at first, then disillusioned with the viewer, because with My Weight in Potato Crisps, that’s just one of those promises you get in mass consumption, like if you participate, you’ll win your weight in – which is in general chocolate or things like that. I just used something that British people ate a lot – crisps. Knowing that it would be an enormous amount in a pile, not that much like a treasure, it’s more like a big pile of something dead. It’s an accumilation of things that at a certain point it makes it tasteless.

Entrepreneurs, Nazheli Perrot and Anthony Peskine

There seems to be a sense of desperation, anxiety and worry in your work. Is it purposeful?
According to psychologists, everybody is worried, and gay and looking for their mother. The fact there is so much disappointment in the work is that it’s based on promises, the promises in adverts, and in religion and pretty much everywhere. The promises that surround us, I’m just trying to fulfill them and by making these artworks I realise it’s just not possible. So from the promises comes disillusionment, and then maybe the panic because it might look funny at first site but then you realise when the promise is not fulfilled there is no illusion, promise of happiness or eternal life. I wouldn’t say there's despair, but disillusionment, and we could say cynicism and trying not to be full of shit.

From what you said, the work revolves around a desire and wanting for a way out or something.
I think everytime people start to think about their condition, or at least when I start to think, they start to think about the point of what their doing, and then it comes up to the point of their life, the meaning of their life. Since people don’t have the answer to this, they try to find them in other things, like in consumption – having a paradise on earth might be the solution or religion, which says paradise is something else, that life is not the end to it. This question really interests me because everytime I think of it, I think, why do you do that? I think the same when I think about being an artist, and I ask the same question, ‘why are you a sales accountant, or why are you a taxi driver’, and they will say that it’s helpful to society, and you will say, what’s the meaning of society, and then you’ll think what’s the meaning of life, because actually people live and we don’t know why. I guess there’s possible there is no answer but I’m still looking for one, showing what may not be the answer. I didn’t what that to sound too tragic.

What are your artistic influences? How does your work relates to that of Mark Titchner?
I think we might have the same influences which are advertising, which is good, because I cannot be bothered being influenced only by art or conceptual art because I think that will not speak to the viewer so, I guess this is what we have in common. We want to make the viewer react or see what we’re doing, so we do something that we are used to seeing, like advertising. Also, the fact Mark Titchner is with his big questions asking general questions relating to existence as well.

With style, there’s an element of humour. Do you try to capture it doing the work?
I think you cannot control the way ideas come to you. The works I have are ideas to which I gave form but even though you cannot control ideas, you can select them and I think that I use humour because this is what talks the most. If you want to interest someone you’re going to have to use drama or humour or sex or violence, and most of my work has humour, and maybe some drama and sex and violence, but humour is not an end, it’s just the way to catch attention. There is something behind it and this is where reflections comes in.

Citroen, Anthony Peskine

A print was produced specially for the exhibition showing the characters Thomson and Thompson from the French cartoon The Adventures of Tin Tin. Why did you decide to do that?
I guess this is because I’m French. That piece, I thought it would be funny to make a drawing like that, but then I realised it would not just be funny, it shows this kind of loss of identity every person has. Even the French people when they intend to make a revolution or be revolutionary. For years now people have wanted to make a revolution in France, even though they haven’t really wanted to – they just like to complain and like to inherit it from their revolutionary spirit of 1789 and 1944 and 1968 which actually worked. But now, it seems like it doesn’t make sense. They want to change the world but they don’t know what they want it to change to. These Thompson and Thomson and Thompson and Thomson look like a crowd but a crowd of people who are all the same, inspired by those two characters we know. So a revolution made by people who are all the same and who don’t know where they’re going is actually not a revolution. There is no individuality. And let’s not forget those two characters are originally cops so maybe it’s more of an order than a revolution. It’s about being lost.

It is kind of about going nowhere and wanting to go somewhere even though we aren’t sure where. People want to feel their existence. Revolutions could be a part of it. Revolution now, the way it’s held, is completely pointless, because people want to make revolutions, but they want to make revolutions on facebook and if you want to actually change things, you might not use what makes society what it is. That way I see hippie communities. They’re not changing the world at all. I’m not sure it can change. Maybe humanity is just doomed, but that’s OK. It’s OK if we don’t make history or live forever.

Would you want to live forever?
I know that I’m getting older at the same speed as science advances so according to this proportional growth I would never die!

To the unanswered question of the meaning of life, I might have a hint, and I would say it’s creation. Whatever you create, that might be the meaning of it and so by not finding in all those questions. By not finding an answer here, I may be suggesting there is an answer somewhere else, even though I did not find it here. Even if you’re not an artist or exhibition. When you make chocolate mousse, you’re creating.

Who Do You Think You Are, Anthony Peskine

30th April to 17th May, The Wasp Room Gallery, 17 Huntingdon Street, Nottingham NG1 3JH

Tether Studios

Anthony Peskine


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