warehouse warehouse

PRELUDE (re-edited 2017)

by Andy Holden,  selected and interviewed by Pujan Karambeigi,  available 29.8.-12.9.17
Andy Holden, Prelude, 2017, film still. Courtesy: The artist

Andy Holden’s piece Prelude is both a tribute and a re-assessment of the romantic age and its psycho-somatic engagement in travelling. And while exploring the endless canyons of Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, the landscapes of the cartoon turns into the very environment of romantic speculation – opening the texture of the present through a journey into the past.

Pujan Karambeigi: Right in the middle of Prelude you quote a passage by Wordsworth that seems to me central for your piece:

A Traveller I am,
Whose tale is only of himself.

Could you say something to this travel you engage in both textually (by collaging passages of The Prelude) and visually (by wandering through the landscapes of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner)?

Andy Holden: The piece imagines that the Lake District is now a desert, after an environmental disaster, not that this is clear, but that was the starting image; part-tourist, part-last man fantasy. The coyote lives or lived in the desert, so the cartoon version of me is avoiding the traps he’s set. The cartoon-me is the narrator from Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape, which was not a personal work at all, yet to make it I had to be present all the way through, manifested as a cartoon character, as the piece states that the world is now best understood as a cartoon, and therefor the best way to navigate the landscape is to become a cartoon character. In the cartoon landscape the laws of physics no longer apply, although in Prelude, exploring the cartoon landscape, I’m again bound by Newtonian physics. Wordsworth’s Prelude is a melancholic reflection on his ability to be at one with the landscape as he was as a child, the gap between the landscape and his place in it, mediated by his reflections upon it. That our experience of the world is ours alone is always a melancholic thought. It’s meant to recall Paris Texas too, a bit. It’s a compression of many influences that probably contributed to my visual imagination in many ways, walking through these, bumping into Buzzfeed headlines. This cartoon desert is very primal for me, as I am sure it is for many. The first place we encountered this myth structure, endlessly looping.

PK: How come you went to re-visit Lake District, this region in North West England that is very much associated with launching the Romantic Age?

AH: Romanticism is in my blood. I’ve actually never been to the Lake District.

Andy Holden, Prelude, 2017, film still. Courtesy: The artist

PK: We see your alter ego walking along the same roads that you have meticulously analyzed in your previous work, Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape (2011-16). It was a work based on the idea that our world today works like the world in the cartoons from the 1920s to the 1950s – that the system of representation developed in cartoons has taken over reality. For instance, in cartoons gravity only applies when you are conscious of it. Your alter ego, the same person that appears in Prelude, is the external observer analyzing these laws of motion in cartoons like a physicist.
How would you say has this status of the observer, the very relation between your alter ego and the cartoon landscapes shifted in Prelude?

AH: It was a deliberate shift; in Laws of Motion I inhabit the space of cartoon physics, here I am again bound to Newtonian Laws, reflecting on this, attempting to make up my character’s relation with cartoon physics somewhat equivalent with Romanticism’s relationship with the infinite. The music is by The Caretaker, and should be seen as another inter-textual ingredient – his music explores this space in an acute sonic dimension, summed up by his titles such as “The Sublime is Disappointingly Elusive”, hauntological experiments with warping gramophone records, breaking them down into his soundtrack for a haunted ballroom. There’s a suspension in time, like Last year in Marienbad, but also like Wile Coyote’s never ending attempt to catch Roadrunner. I love his music and was excited that he let me work with this piece. For me it all comes together when confronted by the billboard “10 things you have been doing wrong this whole time”.

Andy Holden, Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape, (2011-2016), film still. Courtesy: The artist

PK: When I watched Prelude for the first time I had to think about James Benning’s On the Road. Despite all kinds of differences between those two works there was one thing I found intriguing: Something like a nostalgia that comes up in relation to these desert-like landscapes, these never-ending roads leading through these dead canyons, these memories of childhood being re-visited. What role does nostalgia play in your practice?

AH: I only discovered James Benning’s work a few years ago after a visit to UCLA to teach there and his name came up. I found this lecture he gave at the Hammer on line and watched it a few times. I then watched 13 Lakes. But I had not connected it to Prelude. Nostalgia is something that structures so much of our experience of the world. It’s something much of my work is about. I often drop back in time in my work, and examine a moment that seems to have enormous personal consequence, I did this with Pyramid Piece and Return of the Pyramid Piece, returning a piece of rock I had stolen from the Great Pyramid of Giza that had been a source of personal guilt but also an encounter with sculpture that had informed my world-view. I also revisited a manifesto I had made as a teenager, called Maximum Irony! Maximum Sincerity, which had been a formative moment for me, bringing it back by casting teenagers to reenact the manifesto in a film. These for me are ways of attempting to examine the very structures through which I view the world, and by looking at the way I view the world, hopefully make visible these structures more generally. Hopefully personal starting points, although hermetic, connect with our peoples similarly hermetic interiors to talk about how these connect with real object in the world. Wordsworth Prelude seemed to me the starting point of all the questions that had been haunting my work from the start, and so it was time to try and inhabit that, perform a version of it, and see what I could learn from temporarily being inside it.

Andy Holden (b. 1982) lives and works in Bedfordshire, UK. He graduated from Goldsmiths (London) in 2005. His multidisciplinary work incorporates a variety of media, including plaster, bronze, ceramics, music, performance, and large-scale sculpture. He has exhibited and performed at Tate Britain, KW Berlin, ICA London and Zabludowicz Collection, among others.