Category Interviews

Interview with mystical IDM artist Doc Deem

Joe LiTrenta, a musician, director and actor based in New Jersey, caught CT’s attention with the music video Escape, which is a track on the Bengalfuel-album Roeblin on Twice Removed Records. After a bit of research, it was clear that Joe’s solo project Doc Deem had even more to offer in terms of sonic exploration. Once the correspondence with Joe had begun, a mystical reality took shape behind the creative explosions. In this interview you can read about Doc Deem’s creative processes, his painful childhood, the haunted house, why he had to drugs and why others shouldn’t, how to get rid of demons and how an angelic presence can clean your spirit.


Had a good day?

Yeah, yeah. I had a weird dream. There was a bug in my house and I squashed it with a water-proof book. There was orange-green-yellowish guts all over it and I cleaned it off with a tissue. You know when you have dreams with bugs? They just disturb me for a while; it has been bothering me all day can’t get it out of my head.

According to Wikipedia, the “cloud rats are a group of arboreal and folivorous nocturnal rodents native to the forests of the Philippines”. Does this have anything to do with the title of the album?

A few years before I finalized the track list, I was having a bad summer, starving. I sent a link in email to everyone I knew asking them to buy it for a few dollars, via PayPal. I called it Scrounge Rat, like a rat scrounging around for food, because I needed some cash. I meant it kind of as a joke. But then I added some new tracks and wanted to change the energy and make it positive. So I thought instead of a rat on the ground, scrounging for food, I’ll call it Cloud Rat, like the rat is high on a cloud now, he’s happy. Later I realized there is actually a cloud rat that is a type of rat in the Philippines. I don’t mind people having whatever interpretation they want to have. None of them are wrong. Once I share my music with the world, it’s their music, it’s ours. If you listen to my song, it’s your song too.

Doc Deem is not yet signed to a label, have you been in contact with any labels at all?

I used to try to get it out there via labels and got taken for a ride by many of the so-called IDM and electronic labels. They would tell me it was brilliant and want to release it but then once they got a few mails from me, they changed their minds. It was like ‘Huh, he’s an actor? He’s only 20? He lives in New Jersey? Fuck this guy, it must not be as good as we thought.’ I put a lot more focus on making movies and took a break giving myself an ulcer trying to figure out how it would keep happening, with every label. Then I decided to say fuck it and make my own videos and give it away free. Bengalfuel is just another project because I have too many ideas. There will be other projects in the future. Things do change as time goes by and at least Bengalfuel is popular.

What other feedback have you received from listeners?

Some people I play Deem for are blown away and tell me it’s the best electronic music they’ve ever heard. Some people just fucking hate me for it. For years I would play it and people didn’t even believe me that I made it. I just try not to let it bother me whether it’s negative or positive, sometimes the negative response is more fun than positive because you know it’s honest and haters make great fans. Same thing with my first movie, Daymaker, I got death threats for that movie because I had a feature in New Jersey’s biggest newspaper and there was buzz about it online. I lost some of my best friends because they hated me for going and doing what I said I would do. I’m not saying it’s a good movie, but it pissed people off.

Now Doc Deem is online and there are positive comments on the Youtube videos and someone can see 10,000 downloads. Some people hate me even more. Doesn’ matter, I have as much passion in my bones as anybody you’re ever gonna meet.


How do you go about your Bengalfuel releases?

No DVD company wanted to do anything with me so I made my own DVDs and with all the people online saying they hoped I would die, I was able to get pre-orders and sell DVDs to people all over the world. I made my money
back. Things work out, if I want to make a Bengalfuel video I’ll have hundreds of actors and models send me their headshot in the first day the casting notice goes up.

I try to meditate and attract the energy. Two hours before you emailed me I was meditating and saying I really need to do an interview with someone who understands what I’m about. I asked my spirit guides for help in attracting that energy. Then I went online and saw you on vimeo, and I was going to mail you but I decided to just wait and eat breakfast first. Then I saw you had mailed me. So maybe my energy is wrong, maybe I don’t allow myself to receive positive energy for Doc Deem. Maybe I hold on to the hate?

I was thinking about your frequent referencing to acid and marijuana in your films. Do you want to encourage your audience to experiment with drugs?

No, I wouldn’t want to encourage anybody. I think that everyone are just doing their own thing. When I was growing up I was around so much violence. There was a lot of violence in my family in general. On either side, my great grandfather was some kind of gangster and my great grandmother would tell me stories of his bullet-proof car and shit like that. A couple of relatives were killers and some had gone to jail for manslaughter. They were Bronx gangsters, men with guns. My father used a lot of drugs when I was a child and was always trying to kill my mother. Seeing the violence really screwed me up and when I was seven years old and saw someone making fun of a girl at school, I would beat the shit out of them. If a kid called a girl ‘bitch’ I would go over and knock them down. When I was twelve my parents finally got divorced and I started to smoke pot, which was probably the only thing that stopped me from killing someone or going out to find my father and kill him. In that sense I think that it was sort of ok for me to do drugs, since it mellowed me out enough not to go to violent extremes. There was such rage towards my father and I didn’t know what to do with it.


One of my first memories on this planet is watching him slam her head against a toolbox in the basement of the house we built when I was 3, and I didn’t understand. He was laughing and trying to get me to laugh with him. So I laughed, I had no idea what I was looking at, I was a fuckin baby. So anything after surviving his bullshit, when we finally escaped, it’s all pretty fuckin breezy. Sometimes I think my shit is all fucked up and I’m having a bad day, but I just need a little perspective. I not only was able to survive and not end up in a dead or in jail after what I learned from him, I actually emerged stronger and able to get my shit together and make art, and share it with the world. So I’m doin pretty fuckin okay when you think of it like that. I had a nervous breakdown when I was 13 and spent my 14th birthday in the psych unit with other kids like me. And I saw these beautiful, intelligent, wise people who knew more about the world’s bullshit than any adult I’ve ever met since.

Unfortunately a lot of them were probably fucked, never had a chance after what they’d been through. Some of them bounced and ended up dead, some of them probably are in prison or still in the hospital. And some of them hopefully got the fuck outta there and turned out okay, like me. I was able to go from that place of paralyzed, totally fucked up kid to doing union plays in front of a full theater and taking questions with the audience, even signing autographs for little kids who came to see us, inspiring them.

Doing LSD when I was around 15 helped me to re-visit some of the trauma and talk about it with others and deal with it better. It was a release. But as far the average person who doesn’t have that sort of background, I would never tell them ‘Oh yeah you need to try this. It is going to expand your mind.’ I think that’s just a lot of bullshit. Marijuana robs people of their drive. People start to doubt themselves and wonder whether they can or should follow their dreams.

Have you seen that in other people?

Yeah, there are people I know that smoke daily that definitely could have been very artistic, but they are very doubtful of themselves and kind of hate themselves. I don’t see how it can give you any drive or focus. But if you are homicidal, then maybe it can keep you chilled-out.

But it didn’t kill your drive, or maybe you don’t smoke? I got the impression that you were really into it from looking at your work.

I don’t smoke and I don’t drink. I haven’t drunk in seven years. It was a really huge problem for me at one point, because I have loads of alcoholics in the family and when I came in contact with alcohol I ended up drinking so much that I almost killed myself.  I woke up in a hospital in a complete white room and when the white dressed doctors came into the room I was convinced that I had died and come to heaven. They asked me if I wanted some water and I thought to myself ‘Oh, this is what happens when you die. They come to you and offer you a glass of water.’ I was out of my mind and that did it for me. I wouldn’t even drink Listerine today. I was doing a play at the time and the director gave me an ultimatum.

You also lived in a seriously haunted house?

Sheesh, yeah, the house I moved from was like a portal to hell. I started wearing rosaries and putting up crucifixes, and I’m not religious in any traditional way, I’m just very spiritual and open. But in this place you could feel the evil and feel hell, there’s no other way to describe it. I heard snarling sounds and shit, and horrible feelings that would get on top of me, like something telling me to kill myself and it would just be on me all night. I thought possibly some of the energy followed me to my new house and was fucking with me just before you initially emailed me, I think that is why the angels are around me all the time. They’re trying to help me through it. About a week ago I had this psychic medium mail me a blessed St. Michael’s medal and I’ve had it around my neck. I’m not Catholic or Christian or anything, but it seems like the only thing that protects me sometimes. So I just go with the flow. Now I feel like I can meditate and I’ll announce beforehand that I’m putting a white ball of light around myself to protect me. But there is still a lot of pain there that I have to let go of, and I can feel my angels helping me.

Joe’s mum and aunt were bunnies at the original Playboy Club in the 70’s

Can you tell me more about the tracks on ‘Cloud Rat’ and the creative process of the album?

The feeling I had with that music was trying to get something like magic into what could otherwise be soulless electronic music. Some spells are from scrolls, some are from crystals, some are incantations from the heart speaking to a machine. For ‘Hug Girl’ I visualized these choruses where every cymbal crash was like a big hug. Translating that into sound was just going in there and being honest, electrically, I felt charged with love. But on ‘New Oyred’ I had just got into an argument with my girlfriend at the time, and I was pissed off because she was right (obviously). They say hit a pillow, I say program a hard beat. The title is meaningless nonsense. Sometimes I am going in with a certain kind of chaos I want to overcome with the track. ‘191’ was during a time where I didn’t listen to anything for months, nothing sounded right. I had the idea of just breaking the fucking program with metallic beats.

I had a dream and this guy actually said, “This is where the beats say they’re sorry” and there was this beat playing that kinda sounded like it was talking, like it would start and stop. I tried to get that into the track when making it. All of the tracks on that release were recorded quickly, most Deem is about just waiting and waiting until a good day and then I sit and knock it out. I’m like a surfer. The tide has to be right, I wait for the waves. Then when it’s good, I get on my board and get as much surfing in and then go home. 191, Hug Girl, etc. were recorded in one sitting, about two hours each. I like it to be spontaneous and explode my guts all over the track, and then just walk away from the wreckage like nothing happened. Feelin real cool about it, like this is it, time to surf. Then when the surfing’s over, it’s over. I rarely go back and work on the track later, I think there’s only one on Cloud Rat like that, I went back and added a little extra. Music is easy or I wouldn’t do it. What’s hard is living a fuckin life. Not a normal life, or an insane one. Just living in general. I wake up and the show starts, I’ve got all this energy and I better put it in the right place, be positive or it’s gonna suck. There’s a lot of peace during the time of those tracks, though. When I recorded ‘Sleepyhead’ I had finished something else and my cat came over and fell asleep on my feet. I didn’t want to disturb him by getting up, so I made a mellow piece of music and let him stay in his kitty slumber.


It sounds like your creativity is pretty much ruling your life?

I live in extremes most of the time., but I can get a lot done very quickly when creating. If you’re talking other Doc Deem releases, I did The Pepper Room and Steenykill in the same night. Christmas Eve. It’s how I remember dates. Thankfully I can justify doing absolutely nothing with a day sometimes because the day before I wrote 40 pages. Or we shot that half hour short film in one day, no rehearsals; we just went in and killed it. So it’s like, ‘Take that, motherfucker’ to my creative demons that don’t let me sleep. But if I have a few too many days without producing something, I fall into chaos. It makes relationships with people difficult because sometimes I can drive them insane, but we can also have some of the most beautiful, happy times. I feel like if I can maintain a healthy balance of plenty of surfing, I would be able to sustain perfect happiness all the time. If only life worked that way, ya got shit that comes up and there’s no waves for a while and then I lose my fucking mind on the people I love. And when there’s no one else around to help soak up some of the damage, that’s when I’m really gone.

Can you tell me more about your relationship to angels?

It started just recently I was really sick, a few too many days without food and I couldn’t get anybody to help out. So I felt utterly no sense of control, I just had to completely surrender. And I started to see triple numbers constantly, like 555 everywhere. I would wake up and grab my phone in the morning and it’d be 5:55, and it was just everywhere. I started reading more, and then I started seeing 111. Or 333. I’ve always been open to spirit guides and have been meditating this year and trying to be more open. So I read about the number stuff and basically a lot of what I was seeing is that angels try to get your attention and you see the numbers when you’ve drawn them to you. I felt like maybe they were around me trying to help me through a tough time. And the 111 is supposed to be like the universe is kinda taking a snapshot of your thoughts, and can manifest things really fast. So I’m thinking well maybe I do have control of something: my thoughts. And I try now when I see 111, and I’ve already seen it a bunch of times today, or 1111. The time on my phone, looking at a video and it’s 1:11 in length, seeing how many views something has, seeing how many likes something has, wherever my eyes go I see 111. I sort of made that wish, in a sense, when I saw it the day I asked for the interview, I had seen 111. And since it only took 2 hours, that would seem to confirm that it manifested quickly. I’m trying to think about what I want, and not be afraid to ask for it.

I’ve had some really positive times and probably was attracting a lot of good things to me. But I wasn’t really aware of the power there, I didn’t know what I was doing with it. I turned 30 in June and I’m here, just living with some cats, I really would have days where I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do with myself. So then along comes this triple number insanity, and it’s helping. It’s like I ask for the thing and then I say thank you to the angels and try to be at peace, and know it’s coming so just relax and receive it. It’s made me think a lot about the space between things. Distance; is it real? I’m only just here in my house, how the hell am I attracting energy with people all over the world? I gotta go deeper, meditate and really try to manifest the things I want. Sometimes it’s so difficult for me, because I hate money and I have guilt about feeling selfish in needing things. But I think the angels are helping me.

So that is the angels. What about the dark forces?

I’m used to hard times, which is probably why I have that fucked up perception about darkness. My childhood was all fucked up, my father beat my mother and we were all terrified for years, she was afraid to leave because he would have killed her.

Finally, we hid in this shelter for victims of domestic abuse. It was in the woods where no one could find us, there were other families there. We were there for months, completely cut off. No TV, and you couldn’t go anywhere. So my brother and sister and I just had to find shit to do, and it really opened up our creativity a lot. We filled notebooks with stories and drawings, basically had our own comic book series. And when we finally left there, I just kept writing and eventually got a video camera. Music came just as a need to have music in the movies. I would take a tape and record one layer of sound, and then play that tape and add another layer next to the speaker, totally primitive but I didn’t give a shit.

I recently started considering the light side, the positive side of it. I think that if you open yourself up too much and talk about demon this and demon that, you can open yourself up to it even if you’re not 100% believing in it. I needed to have angels around me now and that’s something that I am experiencing even today. When I am too open to thinking about ghosts or demons, that kind of dark energy can get in there and I will feel a dark presence around me. Sometimes it is overbearing and very intense and I suddenly feel something intense which is not natural, like a depression or homicidal. I have now called upon my guardian angels to get involved in my life and help me. I thought that if the darker side is real, I have to be open to the lighter side being real as well. Until recently there was a part of my brain that was believing in ghosts and demons, but for some reason I hadn’t even considered the light side,  perhaps because I hadn’t been in contact with it. Now I feel it around me.

Joe’s painting ‘Mom

Did you ever go to a medium?

I talked to a psychic one time who was so accurate about so many things, and she told me I would be very successful to the point where I wouldn’t even be able to walk down the street. She knew details about the movie I was working on, she was for real. So I try to just take it easy and remember what she said. I just do my thing.

Are you making music at the moment?

I’m playing around with some Bengalfuel stuff.

I look forward to the new Doc Deem.

I am feeling a new kind of excitement Doc Deem at the moment and I will express my gratitude for our conversations in a song. I want to make a new album, something really cool for this year.

Do you have any advice to those people who suspect that they live in a haunted place or find that they are followed by demons?

I would think that it would be good to find out about the history of the issue. There are also things you can do, such as the Native American tradition called ‘smudging’, which is to burn sage to get rid of any negative energy. If you feel a hellish energy you can get blessed medals, St Michael’s for example. You can use holy water and do other things to keep the stuff away. It is important to be mindful of what is going on. If you live in a house where there is a lot of fighting going on, I think that can draw negative energy. Arguing, drinking and abuse invite them in. The best thing is to make your house happy! Be happy, be joyful, laugh and express love towards people; that will clean the energy of the house more than anything. You don’t need to have a priest coming in, but if telling them to get the fuck out doesn’t help, feed them with positive energy. The most important thing is to not accept what is going on.

If you are in the library and pick out a couple of books on demons, you are involved in it already, whether you are conscious or not. By pure fascination you are telling them ‘come on in’. You have to feed twice as much energy back if you’re going read that stuff.

Did you ever study cinematography or anything related?

I dropped out of school as soon as possible, I never went to high school for more than a few weeks, I was always out of school because shit was just impossible. I just educated myself, and watched as many movies as I could, listened to music, anything that got my imagination going. I did some theater and met actors and was in a few professional plays, that taught me a lot about writing and seeing directors work with actors, so my scripts got better. I had a pretty good camera eye from doing photography with my grandmother, and watching hundreds of movies. So by 23 I was making my first movie with SAG actors and shit, just doing the shit by myself, every detail. And still just going with it. I feel like it’s just getting started. If there’s a point here it’s don’t give up. Never give up.

Post-interview feedback from Joe

I have good news. I feel awesome. I was laughing all day. Whatever the hell was on me is finally gone. I feel fuckin normal, holy shit, what a relief! I can get back to being funny again and not all caught up in crazy fuckin medals and demons flyin out my ass. I let it go. I feel like it just left me, finally. Feel like I can get back to some of the ridiculous comedy that’s in me, like the silly ice cream video. I’m so glad I shared so much shit with you, and I really want that all in the interview. All the crazy shit about my father beating my mother, to that shelter, to having a nervous breakdown. I want that out there, it took your energy to get me to share that in a public kinda thing, and if anyone reading it can identify with that shit then we’re doing a great thing by sharing it. Somebody might really be inspired who was all fucked up and didn’t think they do creative shit because they had too much trauma. Just make sure to put the ice cream video in there too, so there’s humor with it. Anyway, I just had to mail you and let you know I feel like myself again. It’s really nice. You helped me a lot. Especially you telling your opinion that you didn’t think there needed to be darkness to complete a spectra, that shit has been on my mind and helped me release some of this feeling of hanging on to dark shit or something. Thanks. Truly.



Readers’ favourite:: DJ Food – From ten to tomorrow

Jeffrey Silverthorne Live in London – part 2 – Desire, Struggle and Confusion

6th September 2011

Live interview with Jeffrey Silverthorne at Daniel Blau London
During exhibition Haunting the Chapel – Photography and Dissolution

© Jeffrey Silverthorne, From Boystown, The Perfume of Desire


“The land along the Texas-Mexico border, a borderland, is a place for a psychological or physical passage/transgression.

A Boystown is a group of bars or clubs that gringos and some Mexicans go to for entertainment, and or to have sex with a prostitute, usually a woman, sometimes a female impersonator. I did not see an openly gay or lesbian club, though I saw gays and lesbians. Boystowns are located on the Mexican side of the border, and traditionally are physically and medically much safer than having sex with a prostitute working on the US side.

To understand a Boystown it is necessary to appreciate that in the borderland there are a number of divides; geographic, economic, religious and cultural. In a maquilladoro, a factory on the Mexican side of the border often owned by an international business, a woman might earn eight dollars a day. Working as a prostitute she will earn $40 to $120 for thirty to forty five minutes. The client usually pays $10 to $20 to the club for the rental of the room. Two clients a night seems to be average. For the prostitute there is a performance in doing her job well and conforming to the expectations of the customer. In some clubs if the client does not have an orgasm he can demand his money back for services not successfully rendered. His payment will be refunded.

I began my Boystown work in Nuevo Laredo, and it was there, in various clubs, and in Ciudad Acuna that I made most of these pictures. My motivations for photographing are both specific and vague, honorable and defenseless. On a simplistic and juvenile level, a Boystown is a celebration of life, a candy store of flesh, with any psychological or medical consequences deferred. On an adult level, Boystown is a direct observation of a spiritual poverty and economic failure that both countries and cultures share.

Jeffrey Silverthorne”



Jeffrey Silverthorne Interview Series

Part 2 – Desire, Struggle and Confusion
6th September 2011

Live interview with Jeffrey Silverthorne at Daniel Blau London
During exhibition Haunting the Chapel – Photography and Dissolution

© Jeffrey Silverthorne, From Boystown, The Perfume of Desire

What was your initial attraction towards the Texas-Mexico border?

I started going there with an older student and I didn’t even know that Boystowns existed; it was suggested to us by a taxi-driver. We were new to the territory and started walking around photographing. Later on the government gave me a grant to photograph prostitution in Mexico. Rather than commenting on the degree of humiliation, I was curious about the energy and the social friction. I was also spending time with the border patrol, who were tracking people and hunting for illegals. The Boystown series consists of many photos from the border control, more than the monograph is suggesting. I remember one of the agents saying: ‘These people leave their homes, travel for long distances with no money, risk their life crossing the river, because they can’t swim, to take jobs in places where people in the USA will not work and they send most of the money back home; and we call them lazy?’

The portrait German Man, 1994, is one of my personal favorites; it is a sort of anti-portrait, in the sense that it is portraying the photographer more so than the German Man himself.  This is where you are so unique; a, because you chose to go ahead and take that picture with his piercing eyes looking back at you, where most of us would’ve decided that it was ‘wrong’ to do so and b, because something about you seems to encourage people to be themselves; to not shy away from what they are feeling, despite the intrusive lens of your camera. Did you have many negatives of the German Man?

The photographer Peter Hujar, who made lots of wonderful pictures, used to work as a commercial photographer for the business magazine Fords. One time, I assume that this was in the early eighties, he went out take the portraits of John Cage and Merce Cunningham, and during the break Cage sat down on a chair and fell asleep. I said to Peter ‘Did you photograph him?’ Peter looked at me as if I had said ‘You have just grown three extra penises.’ He said: ‘No, I couldn’t do that. I didn’t know him.’ It is interesting how different photographers respond to a situation. With the German Man I think I shot a roll of 35 and some of his wife. The two of them were standing there as if thinking ‘What am I doing here?’ and he was very keen on presenting himself. It was sort of a question of me being still and waiting to let them settle in to their presentation.

©Jeffrey Silverthorne German Man,1994

To me, with my vivid imagination, it looks like you were passing by and he happened to sit there so you asked him ‘May I take your picture?’ He looks at you as if wondering why on earth you would want to do that and the question resides within the image.

Mmm, but that is not what happened at all. I took the chair out of the kitchen to the backyard and said: ‘Sit here, let’s see how that works.’ But imagination is a wonderful thing. It is like photography, it tells the truth and it doesn’t, because of the information added by the viewer.

The photograph Coney Island, July 4, shot in 1990, is included in your book Directions for Leaving. It was taken on Independence Day and it is striking how unreal this ordinary photograph of an ordinary woman seems in comparison to the rest of the book.

It is accurate what you say. In the book it is one of its kind, but I have made many pictures with a similar flavor. Years ago, when I was an undergraduate somewhere around 1967, I was trying out street photography.  I really enjoyed photographing relaxed people on holiday and Independence Day gives people an extra excuse to go to Coney Island just to enjoy themselves. I realized at an early stage that street photography simply wasn’t one of my strengths. However, Susanna and the Elders expresses a similar kind of stillness.

You have been teaching at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island since 2002, becoming a full Professor in 2011. What methods are you teaching your students to guide them toward, I quote, “to convey the contradictory natures of making things”? (Quote from University website)

It is an interesting place to teach, but teaching photography is both simple and impossible. In the eighties I was teaching at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. At that time I was in frequent contact with the photographer Robert Frank and in one of our phone conversations I told him about one of my students. This young man’s work was sort of mediocre, but he told me about his father who was making weird and kinky films in his garden. I said to him: ‘That sounds great! Why don’t you bring them in and we will show them in class?’ I was discussing with Frank about how the kid brought in this borrowed courage into his own work. I think that people who are starting often need to borrow courage from some place, to be able to understand that they can do that and to start experimenting on their own. What is so great with photography is that on a 35mm roll of film you have 36 opportunities to fail; 36 opportunities to try something that you think you can’t do.

©Jeffrey Silverthorne Susanna and The Elders, 2004

The two Elders, from the Hebrew Bible ‘Book of Daniel’, tried to force young beautiful Susanna into sexual intercourse. In your take on ‘Susanna and the Elders’ in 2004, we see a color photography with you laying down in a sort of tub dressed in drapery and a young woman pouring water over you from a watering can. It would be interesting to know why you have given Susanna the dominating position, since she is originally the one who is struggling against the dominating elders.

Mythology and religion are very potent influences on the culture that I live in. I was interested in getting the literal content matter dealing with the subject matter. I am wondering where some of the behaviors and body language come from and how images are constructed. That is some of the reasons to why I enjoy looking at Giotto and artists both before and after. I don’t think I would begin with Jeff Wall, and neither does Jeff Wall, there is a long range of references. To tap into what some of the positions meant socially, I wanted to take that and use it in these culture stories. I have been interested in working with these motivations or this impetus and putting it into some kind of frame work that momentarily makes sense to me.

In Susanna and the Elders there is a motivation from the Bible story, but I don’t feel that I have to follow it. I use the parts that I am interested in and make up other pieces. With the shutter in my hand, I am giving her permission to do my will. Water is both cleansing, used to ‘get the Devil out of people’, and used as a form of torture and killing. She is pouring it out of a watering-can; I get to be her garden. On a pedestal you have a piece of wood, which has been neatly cut; I am sure it is not a phallic symbol. It is some of this play that I was curious about.

One year later, you created the work ‘Betrayal, Susanna and the Elders’ where we see the betrayed middle-age woman curled up in bed staring into a void, with the man standing by the side of the bed fully dressed and we can only see the male figure from the shoulders down to the knees. With your attraction towards the mundane and how one persons’ Mon-Fri appears extravagant to others; is this your way of suggesting a new sort of every-day mythology with a narrative closer to contemporary household-complications?

©Jeffrey Silverthorne Betrayal, Susanna and The Elders, 2005

There is the idea of the bathing with stones and a sponge, as opposed to water. I responded to Rembrandt’s paintings Bathsheba and Susanna and the Elders much more strongly than others from the same time period. What the Biblical story offered the painters of that time was a justifiable way to paint naked women. What that offered the client was a justifiable way to have a picture of a naked woman in their house. We look at the figures of Rembrandt’s Bathsheba and Susanna today and their physical features correspond to the ideals of that time. So, it’s not just a rendering of a Biblical story, it also ties to the culture of beauty of that time. Susanna and The Elders was motivated as much by Harold Pinter. In one his writings he is talking about the making of a theater play which begins with one character on stage. As the second actor/actress enters the stage, the totality of the energy is shifted and the viewer is no longer feeding off the energy of that one person. There is also this impenetrable distance between the two of them that I was interested in and a lot of my work since the morgue work deals with not getting what you think you want.

In 2006, in the photograph ‘Staircase’ we see you naked touching a naked young woman with curling pins in a staircase. The same year you also shot an image of young ‘Lauren’ in the bathroom fiddling with her curl pins dressed in panties. These photographs are serene, yet problematic. In what way are these images communicating age and desire?

It is like a defeat of sexuality. It comments on what Kafka said, that many of those things you think you were going to do, many of those things you want to do; they are not going to happen. I was interested in that struggle.

Are we likely to find more mythological references in your work in the future?

I am sure there will be, but I am not working on anything directly.

Since you have begun to take part in front of the camera, it has sometimes been with the help of altered mythological stories, scenographic design, facial paint etc. Has it been necessary for you to do this in order to create a distance from yourself or is it unrelated to your participation?

It is to step into the world of an actor and author, and not to disguise who I am. Although it is difficult to interfere, I am willing to do it. I could probably find some old person to photograph, but I don’t think they would have the mental concentration that I am looking for. Certainly the self-portrait of the artist at work is not a new theme. Judith Leyster painted a wonderful portrait in 1609, where she is looking out at the viewer, whilst painting a fiddler. Max Beckmann did a wonderful self-portrait of himself in a tuxedo (Self-Portrait in Tuxedo, 1927), presenting himself as an author and a participant of a community. I find that positioning interesting and sometimes confusing.

©Jeffrey Silverthorne Susan with a light bulb, 2006

Did you ever have an idea that was too controversial to execute?

Honestly, no. I was in Seville last year and I met some wonderful people who took me to a bullfight. I have seen bullfights before, but this time I was there photographing. I made some pictures which I think verge on a kind of ideal, which is the tourist post card and something that goes further into both the visual history and the culture specific to Seville, in my understanding. I am not Spanish, I am not trying to experience the world through Spanish eyes and I don’t understand their need to kill bulls, but they do have that need. In some versions of Peruvian bullfighting, they take an Andean Condor and they cut the back of the bull and they sew the condor into bull, so the bull comes out into the bullring with a bird on it and the bird pecks out the bull’s eyes while the matador fights it. I don’t know what to say other than that it is fucked. At the bullfight I came to think about blood, bodies, Diego Velàzquez, sacrifice, rituals, transgression, transformation and torture, while watching the banderilla men doing their dance. And then, linking all this back to modern life, I was thinking of women’s menstrual cycle and some of the taboos and sacrifices and of the idea of blood as transformation and I thought ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be neat to photograph menstrual cycles?’, but I haven’t gotten too far on that project yet.

Is it actually too controversial?

No, it is just bothersome. There is a crudity, I think, when you go out to make pictures. You take advantage of people. You don’t need to be mean about it, but you definitely impose yourself. None of my models would lie back like that, people don’t do that.

Thank you, Jeffrey. It has been a great pleasure and been an honour meeting you. 



Jeffrey Silverthorne is currently exhibiting at Daniel Blau in London ( and Galerie VU in Paris (


Originally posted on


Click to read Part 1 – “I am speaking through hundreds of tongues”

Readers’ favourite:: Jeffrey Silverthorne Live in London – part 1 – “I am speaking through hundreds of tongues”


Part 1 – “I am speaking through hundreds of tongues”
6th September 2011

Live interview with Jeffrey Silverthorne at Daniel Blau London
During exhibition Haunting the ChapelPhotography and Dissolution

Introduction by Brad Feuerhelm, Gallery Director

Brad Feuerhelm: I’d like to introduce tonight a man who, for me personally, means a lot to have in the room. I came across Jeff’s work when I was investigating in my early days of photography and the image I ran into first was Woman who died in her sleep from The Morgue Series in 1972. For me it was quite immediate when I found this image, because you have arguably got some of the principal interests of surrealism, but I don’t think that was an intention, and the death of the image combined in one in such a powerful manifestation. The only time I have seen something that even hints at this image later on, was a work by a Mexican photographer named Enrique Metinides titled Adela Legeratta Rivas, struck by a Datsun, 1979. It depicts a beautiful blonde who has been hit by a car. Her body was flung towards a lamp post which her upper body ended up resting on and there is a man in the background in the process of covering her with a jacket.

©Jeffrey Silverthorne – Woman who died in her sleep, 1972


When I came across this uncomfortable beauty absorbed in death it was a game-changer for me personally and I started investigating photography. Not morgue photography per se, although there is history of that as well, but the image really stayed with me and I was lucky enough through the more recent years to strike up a correspondence with Jeff. We finally met a couple of years ago and it is hard to not get along with Jeff, he is such a likeable, lovely character. It was so interesting to meet him, because my preconceptions of who he might be and how he might act and behave were really up in the air – Jeff is probably the nicest guy I have met to this day. That is a bit reaching and wonderful, but I am very happy to have him here tonight for a conversational interview with Elin Henriksdotter, who runs a site called, where she covers at length artists and does interviews quite nicely packaged. I definitely think you should all take a look at that.

What physically works for me with these images in the show is this idea of chemical dissolve in these unique prints. You can’t duplicate this chemical burn and it adds an overall feeling in particular which has a sort of double manifest of the idea of dissolve, whether it be of death or materially. What I would like to lead into, is if you (Jeffrey) can enlighten us a bit, quickly, about the process that you used to achieve the physical state of this print and with that initial question I will surrender to Elin.


©Jeffrey Silverthorne, currently on view at Daniel Blau London


Jeffrey Silverthorne: The process sets off with misjudgment or incorrect evaluation of how long the enlarging paper should be exposed, so if it is coming too quickly or not coming up, then I usually take it out of the developer, put it face down on some surface the darkroom could accommodate, like the floor, and I just let it stay there for a couple of months. In that sense, very similar to what Michael Grieve was discussing earlier, you don’t know what you are going to get. It has that element of chance.

So after you have developed the prints you throw them on the ground and the ambient light that travels through your darkroom effects the quality of the print and then you presumably redevelop the print a few months later?

It tends to be from two weeks to a month, or a month and a half.

Elin: I would like to talk about your Morgue Series. I remember reading a very strong comment from a woman, thanking you for the morgue series which had helped her to overcome the death of her husband, who was lost in the Vietnam War. And it is just such an amazing, important and life-changing experience that you led this woman towards. How did this happen?

This happened at a conference in California in a very pleasant environment with ideal California weather. I was walking back to the cabin where I was staying with a friend and this skinny little woman comes up and asks if I am Jeffrey Silverthorne. Usually when I am asked that question there is a problem that is about to come up, and I thought “Oh, shit. What have I done now? But then, I didn’t do it, whatever it was.” But I said “Yes” and she replied “I want to thank you for making the morgue pictures. I saw them at the San Francisco Art Institute and my husband had been reported missing in Vietnam. For many years I was always waiting for him to come back, but after I saw your pictures, I realized he wasn’t coming back. That helped me to bury him.”

How did you feel at that moment?

Well, I am not always that empathetic, so I thought “Oh, good. I didn’t do anything wrong.” I was happy that she had found that, I was much more used to people having an alternative response, such as “Why the hell did you make those pictures and who do you think you are?” It was good for her.

Was there was also an issue of someone wanting to burn down your house?

They didn’t say that, but in 1973, when the pictures were first shown at the Witkin’s gallery in New York City, I was invited to do a talk Amhurst College in Massachusetts, which is liberal, free-thinking and bla bla bla. The photography teacher, who invited me to do the talk, started asking me questions after my presentation, “Who do you think you are to take these pictures and to invade people’s lives?”  I wasn’t ready for it at that point, so that certainly took me by surprise.

Did this result in you being contacted by the government regarding your images?

No, we have 20-30 years in between. It is a strong content matter, it is a strong topic. I think that the culture of most people in the United States like things to be happy. We invented Disneyland, you didn’t – we like these nice things. But life is not a neat package, it is bloody, it is messy, being alive is uncertain and those are certain characteristics that really attract me. It is at those points where things meet and unexpected things happen, where I feel have an energy of uncertainty, a messyness, that birth can happen. I am not trying to be deep or suggest a metaphorical existentialist relationship here, it is just that things need to happen and when you let them happen (if you’re always in control, then what is going to happen?) then you get the smallest part of your imagination. If you want something different to happen you can’t keep applying the same rules.

You are saying you are not very emotional, but when you were there doing the Morgue Series, how did it effect you personally? Was it a difficult thing to do or where you more practical and thought “Ok, this is a dead body and now I am going to take a picture.”?

I think what I said is that I was not very empathetic. It is not that I didn’t care about her, we actually became friends, but the morgue was a very emotional place for me. It would be very difficult to not respond to these things, these entities, which surely before were living and often in good health and died in an accident or suicide and certainly sometimes of old age. But the bodies that had come to the morgue were the ones of people who in essence weren’t supposed to die.

The morgue happened for me when the Vietnam War ended, a war which I saw as an obscenity. We were still watching stuff on television and listening to things like “We got 43 and a half of them and only two and a half of us!” That is weird, to watch dinner while you are watching people being blown away. I was fortunate to get out of the draft. The whole thing didn’t make sense to me and in 1972, when I decided to make the morgue pictures, it was a different world and Rhode Island was a small place. I went up to the Attorney General, who was probably the only honest politician around at the time, and told him about what I was interested in. His office was across the street from where I went to school, which at that point still had a good reputation, and we talked for an hour. Finally he said “I don’t see any problem with what you propose.  We are not the best department, but we don’t have anything to hide.” There was a little bit of delay in terms of formal letters, but then I was given permission over the telephone. His secretary shouted to him “It’s a photographer guy; he wants to know if he can go to the morgue?” And that was it!

You also went to some people’s homes?

Yes, there were pick-ups. Since I had clearance the police let me in.

You mentioned that the Vietnam War was an obscenity to you. We have plenty of wars going on now and I wonder, do ever feel an urge to respond to them through your photography?

It is a natural part of life. I think that I sometimes respond to them, but not in content matter. The response might work out through Susanna and the Elders and The Bullfights or another project. I don’t feel any kind of obligations or an urgency to go to that content matter again. It is more interesting for me at this point to deal with the subject without that specific content.

©Jeffrey Silverthorne

In our previous conversation you were telling me about your productive years between 1971-1974, when you were photographing in the morgue, in massage parlors on 8th Avenue, in the slaughterhouse, female impersonators and portraits of your children. I wasn’t able to find The Slaughter House series on the Internet. Are they not published?

There are some published. There was one in a show recently that I had at Noorderlicht, but there are also quite a few up at VU,  and they took one of the horse pictures in which the horse’s head sort of back, because it’s neck is slit and there is this very nice pool of blood that reflected well with the flash. It was also in a show in Shuttgart in 1995 and in a telephone conversation with the German gallery they suggested that one of my pictures would go on the back of the monograph for the show. I said “Let’s put the horse picture there.” The gallerist, who was British but had lived in Germany for quite a while, stopped talking. There was a pause for about seven seconds and that is a long time in the middle of a conversation.  Finally he said “Oh, no. We can’t do that, the Germans love their horses.” I also did some photography in a pig slaughter house, which was much more controlled.

© Jeffrey Silverthorne – Demented Billy 


From looking at your work, I got the idea that you are the sort of person who goes on spontaneous trips to unknown destinations.

That’s not me. I go to a place and try to open up and not make the same picture I have made before. I try to listen to people, see what they are doing, watch them, pretend to be nice, you know. And if you ask, it is amazing what people will offer. If you don’t ask, most of the time people won’t offer. So it all depends on how you ask and how you present yourself as well. I don’t mean that I con people, but prior to Internet people were in general much more open to talking and engaging in conversations and being photographed.

Are people paranoid?

I don’t think they are paranoid, only much more guarded. It is not that I can make them relax, but I express my sincere desire to work with them and they either respond or don’t.

©Jeffrey Silverthorne – Annunciation, 2006

Your photography is always unconvential; you clearly always go your own way, and in 2004 your work took an abrupt turn. It takes a lot of courage for a photographer in your position to suddenly decide to a, position yourself in front of the camera and b,  move from black and white to color, sometimes with high a high level of saturation and one single light bulb as your source of light.

Where do you get this strength from; what has been your motivation for almost half a century?

I think that curiosity and some sort of wonder is very difficult to maintain and I don’t know, maybe because I took vitamins when I was a kid. Maybe because things don’t make sense to me most of the time, maybe because sometimes when I am really interested in something I want to make it a little more permanent, so that I can flick through a contact sheet and say “Oh, yeah, I remember this and I remember that.” I have recently been looking back at the last 40 years of work, trying to find some images to re-print and I come across pictures that I find much more interesting. I guess I look for things that I find really neat or really weird. Edward Curtis talked about the shadow catchers, and that is kind of what I do, visually. I dump my thoughts into it and then can I forget about it and move on to the next situation maybe a little more fresh.

What are your thoughts regarding the exhibition medium and does the fact that you are represented by commercial galleries have an impact on your work? 

I always make pictures and I don’t consider the viewer, at all. While I am editing I am driven by the question “Was this getting what I want?”  “Was this getting what I am interested in?” Somewhere down the line, hopefully it is distant, I wonder “Gee! Maybe there is a sucker out there that would buy this stuff?” And then I send it off, or don’t. Preferably I let it wait a couple of years and see if it still has resonance. So you make things and you let go of some controls and it really is a kind of addiction of a microsecond. Although, for a while I made long exposures so I got more fulfillment. There is a thrill there.

©Jeffrey Silverthorne – Making an offer, Series Silent Fires, 1982-1984, 2006


In an interview in connection with your exhibition at The BankRI Galleries in 2010 you mentioned the following: “What I am most interested in photographing are things that people feel strongly to do, whether they are socially acceptable or not, almost as if the thing had taken over the person and yet was an integral part of the person.” How does this relate to your own practice?


Most of the time I try to be fairly reasonable about making pictures and there have been some boundaries that have been suggested by people who I care about; they don’t want me to do anything too weird. I believe that I want to explore a wide range of things that I find curious and that I think are genuine and I have a great deal of difficulty with the word and the concept of authenticity, because I think that we are very socially constructed animals and we do these things and they seem genuine, because millions and millions of other people are doing the same thing. I do however believe that there is an authenticity to doing something that you really have to do. You really need to do this and you are putting at risk something. Now, that doesn’t mean you should do it and it certainly doesn’t mean it is going to be good, but I think that when you are doing that, and you are a little more savvy to ways things have been constructed, it might construct a design to ultimately come to a composition. When I do this I am speaking through many tongues, it is not just a fourth tongue. There are hundreds of tongues, and I think that as a maker you try to engage a lot of these tongues so that the image isn’t stuck in one moment, but both in the time and out of the time.

Now, whether this adds to or allows for the thing to last, who the hell knows, at that moment. Did Giotto really think people would still be paying attention to the Scrovegni Chapel after all these years? I don’t know, actually I don’t care, but I am glad that he made things and that people have preserved much of it to be able to look at the hands and how the hand gestures are used, as a part of the social history, as part of the social communication, because then I can steal from it and I can employ some of those devices. I think that there is a realness to the curiosity, to the desire to see something and the desire to make something. Then the work comes to be in a language that I feel uses as much as I can give to it. Whether you respond to it, that is out of my hands.


© 2009 Le photoblog de Renaud Monfourny

Jeffrey Silverthorne is currently exhibiting at Daniel Blau in London ( and Galerie VU in Paris (

Click to read Part 2 – Desire, Struggle and Confusion

Noam Edry – “I Am the Terrorist”

Detail: Painting ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Oil Stain’

Noam Edry’s Graduation Show ‘Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life’ had no ready-made opinions or moral lessons for the viewers to pick up on. Edry’s show was an objective and just mirror of the world as it is; entirely contradictive and bizarre with bombs falling as necks and thighs are being rubbed by educated professionals. She managed to take me somewhere; an experience strongly enforced by the performance where Edry made us, the audience, stand in a ring in the exhibition space and imagine a hole in the middle for one minute. We were focusing on that hole when all of a sudden a woman ran into the room screaming in panic, dressed in a skin colored body suit as if she was naked. The woman ran through our circle, over the hole, and dove into a sculpture on the floor; a hole. She was absolutely screaming in horror; terrifying! As if she had stepped out of the video installation ‘Groovy Little War Mix’ which was screened just next to us.

What do you think Art is capable of communicating?

Do you know why it is an unfashionable life? Because it is so lo-tech. In Israel we don’t have fashion as readily available as you do here; it is so hard to get your hands on anything like that for many reasons. It’s not such a wealthy place to come from; it’s surrounded by enemy states; so it’s unfashionable. Here it is the opposite; Israel is very fashionable in the UK. It seems to be as big as China, because everyone has something to say about Israel. It is a way of not talking about the poverty in Britain, the homeless people here. It is a way of not talking about many internal problems, like the Irish situation. It is easier to make someone else the front line. So, when I called it unfashionable it was also controversial or with a pinch of salt. Everything in the show could be interpreted in many ways. Everyone thought it was a man that had made the show, with all the phallic symbols; the penises.

So in this way art is able to both reveal the viewer’s prejudices and suggest alternative perspectives and ideas.

Painting ‘The Pussycats’

Women got enraged when they saw The Pussycats (painting), thinking that a man had made it. When they met me it all changed, because it was suddenly a feminist statement on the Machoism of society, the Machoism of the media world and the art world; it is a man’s world. You have to be a woman with balls to make it.

Then there was the question ‘Are you Palestinian?’ and the funny thing was that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign at Goldsmithscame on the private view and got really annoyed. I asked them ‘What is annoying you? What are you enraged about? Is it the work?’ They couldn’t understand, they couldn’t say what, because the work showed nothing that was ‘anti’ in the way they had expected it to. They were upset that I was feeling demonized as an Israeli. ‘How dare you feel demonized as an Israeli?’ ‘I do. You are the people who demonize me in your campaigns.’ So again, after that they just didn’t come. They came with the intention to crash the show or to make a protest, but they came and saw they had nothing to crash.

It was all pretty much crashed already, wasn’t it?

Yes. Exactly, it had all undermined itself and you couldn’t tell where the artist was positioned politically. So again and again ‘Are you Palestinian? Are you Israeli?’ All these questions surprised me every time and I got them until the last day. People came to the exhibition when it was closed as well. I couldn’t close the show because people kept coming. They heard about it from all walks of life; there were activists, sociologists, politicians; it ended up being publicized on Facebook by people I didn’t even know. The Israeli advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs even promoted it, even though the Israeli Embassy could not officially associate with my show, because my message was unclear. It had all these amazing effects on people.

There is a video from ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’-series on Youtube, where you approach old ladies on the street and ask them to pose for you as the Queen. It is just an excerpt and in the end one of the ladies agrees to this and invites you to come to her house. Did she pose for you?  

In September 2010 I formed the BSKG British Society of Knitting Grannies. It was formed as the result of my encounter with an old lady. As my alter-ego in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service I was looking for grannies on the street because I needed one to pose for me as the Queen. More accurately: I wanted to cast their ears and hands because I was making a life size effigy of the Queen. I was so used to being turned down that I was almost caught off guard when one of them agreed. This one lady said that she would love to be my model and invited me to her house; so we went there. I was still filming (in my character wanting to meet the Queen), without her really knowing it. I ended up spending an hour listening to her tell me her life story. She has got a broken hip and she has to climb all these stairs to get home; completely neglected because she lives in a rundown house. The old lady asks me why I want to meet with the Queen and I end up telling her my own life story; about leaving Israel and coming back to London where I grew up and wanting to fit in. She keeps asking “Why? And why do you need to know if the Queen loves you? And why do you need a granny; don’t you have a granny of your own?” This is a 20 minute long clip and at the end of it she tells me that she is actually Jewish; which is bizarre, since I picked her because she reminded me of the Queen. All of the grannies I approached that day turned out to be either Jewish or Irish or South African; none of them was actually English. This really shows that nobody is authentic; there is no such thing as ‘The Real Thing’. ‘The Real Thing’ isreality!

Then in one single sentence, the old lady also tells me that she has a nephew or cousin whose son was blown up in a tank in Israel and recently a 20 year old man from the other side of her family just came back in a coffin from Afghanistan.

It just sums it all up for me, because I was beginning to be too much affected by all these images in the British papers of coffins coming back from Afghanistan, with a beautiful Union Jack wrapped around them. It affected me so profoundly; I am used to mourning Israeli soldiers dying and now I am mourning the British soldiers in the exact same way.

Maybe it doesn’t matter which country I come from, maybe all that matters is that they are dying? Maybe all that matters is that I am human? Those were my thoughts when I started working on my MFA Graduation Show. I wanted to bring an army of 50 grannies and involve them in a project where they would knit a giant Union Jack throughout the show, coming and going in shifts. This is when I formed the BSKG British Society of Knitting Grannies. However, it was difficult, because many of them couldn’t leave the house. They weren’t so easy to work with, given that I had a short period of time and somehow it wasn’t close enough to what I needed to express. I still had to tell the story of Israel.

I returned to my painting and again I was bombarded with questions at school; ‘Don’t paint!’ ‘Why are you painting?’ ‘What are you painting?’

Did this harsh critique only come from the other students?

No, no, no. I actually told one of my teachers ‘I have an idea for a painting. I want to paint the British Monarchy fleeing from an angry mob; running from something.’ I wanted to have giant ravens hovering above them, which is the symbolism for when the monarchy will fall. The teacher just laughed and said it was a stupid idea. Two weeks later when I regained my strength, I thought ‘That’s a reason to make it; I am probably on to something now. I should do it.’ My Head of Department, Gerard Hemsworth, came around afterwards and encouraged me to proceed with the painting. Hemsworth also encouraged me to combine the paintings with my other expressions.

I went to Israel and came back after Christmas and just said ‘The hell with it now, I am painting.’ It became more and more about the Israeli landscapes and the unfinished Arabic houses; the mixture of the two, which is so unique to where I come from.

Peek from MFA Graduation Show at Goldsmiths July 2011 ‘Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life’

Simon Bedwell kept saying ‘Your work is so strong; always extreme with sharp-edged politics. You mustn’t cut any branch off the tree’, which really helped me to brush off all the negativity I had around me. It was also like a license to do what I wanted to do. From mid-January I could picture this mad exhibition with a myriad of images and this brown blob, my DATE (please read Interview Part 2 for explanation), in the middle. This giant brown cocoon of a blob was to be placed on the studio floor, with its slit for the eyes and a veil over it to make it look more like a real dried up date. It somehow looks a bit like a burka, it is difficult to identify. The ambiguity of this work is very important because it opens it up for everyone to relate and create their own interpretation. Invited artists and tutors, such as Matthew Cornford from Cornford & Cross and Abigail Reynolds, came into my studio and encouraged me to include the DATE with my other works in the final show.

I have understood from our previous conversation that your painting sort of escalated into quicker work and in the end you were attacking the walls. When did you create your videos ‘Groovy Little War Mix’ and ‘The Fundamentalist’?

I got the space only a week before the Graduation Show. At that point I knew I was going to make all the videos, which also had to have this eclectic thing about them; I used snippets from YouTube videos that had constantly brewed in my mind. I wanted to show them to people, because nobody in my surroundings believed that they existed.

My colleagues would say ‘You are lying, there are no Israeli casualties.’ When I told them of friends of mine who had died and people I had seen being buried after a terrorist attack, funerals I had attended, a friend of mine that was on a bus that exploded; nobody believed me.

And I wanted to show them; Here! It is right here on YouTube! So that happened in the space, it was like working with newspaper cuttings only it was video. I made them that same night, thinking a TV needs to be here and then there was a bucket full of cement and a dead car battery near the dust bin, so I placed the TV on that. I found a wheelbarrow in a skip, which looked like the wheelbarrows on Arab construction sites in Israel. I knew I had to have it in the show and it ended up serving as the other TV-stand. The entire show was ruled by practical purposes, never esthetical and the function became the esthetic. The middle had to remain empty, because I wanted to gather all the visitors once a day for a minute of silence. I can’t bring the hole to you; I can only make you imagine it. It will be far worse in your imagination than anything I could possibly show you. You can imagine because, like me, you see it on TV and you are bombarded with images in the press. You can almost imagine being there.

Then I said, ‘Right, I can now say my message.’ Because when I had that stage for my seminar in front of the students, somebody convinced me not to do it. But now it needs to be said. I went to the Tracey Emin show at the Hayward Gallery and I just thought the best work there was the video where she is interviewed about her abortion. I watched that video twice or three times and found it to be the most artistic work in the show. Just talking about it and taking us to where it happened to her. First I recorded myself with a video camera, but it was only me and it just wasn’t enough. I needed to tell the story to a real person and I needed them to ask me questions. It was a 60 min interview and there were bits when I really choked, like when I spoke about my two brothers in the army. They are there and they are endangered every day, but they have to do it; just like I had to be in the army.

Is it mandatory for both girls and boys to serve the Israeli Army?

Yes. For me, that’s a reality. When I tell people here that I have been to the army they raise an eye-brow and they look at me like ‘Oh, my God. How could you?’ I come from a country with constant threat of war; yes, we need to have an army.

The threat of war is not just from neighboring countries; it’s from within. It is a rocket launcher placed by Hamas on rooftops of civilian homes. London’s population is almost twice the size of the entire state of Israel. If you compare that and you think ‘Right, there is a missile launcher on the rooftop of New Cross; it is trying to fire towards East London.’ Would you do something about it?

I am sure you would. But for people, Israel first of all sounds huge because of all the noise people make about the Middle-East. It sounds huge and invincible; so powerful. But it’s just a tiny country with 7,4 million people, with a 10 km width. You could cross it in a few hours by foot. Nobody knows.

Diptych ‘Yosef’s House, Yusuf’s House’

For 3-4 days, all I had at the show was the diptych Yosef’s House, Yusuf’s House. It was spread out on two separate walls. But then there was nothing else and the room became Minimalist. There was the DATE and the wheelbarrow and a few other paintings that people kept telling me to take down. I was suddenly scared, I became Minimalist again. I don’t know why, but there is an encouragement in Goldsmiths to minimalize your work.

You could really tell by the other exhibitions.

So then I took my canvases off the stretchers because for the whole year that I was painting them it was obvious that they would not be shown as classic paintings, but rather as rushed paintings; nailed onto the wall. I wanted to have rusty metal and the aesthetics had to be inspired by the demolished houses, building sites, bunkers; the stuff I had experienced in Israel, both in the army and afterwards. I wanted to go to scrap yards and get them, but it turned out I didn’t need to. I found them on my way to school and as I was going about my life. I had to incorporate all this in the installation.

As I told you earlier, I gave my father a call, because at this stage I had lost myself entirely. The pressure from outside from some of my fellow artists telling me to take down the work was just too much. After this encouraging phone call I literarily stapled the paintings onto the wall. I started painting straight on the wall. ‘What do they call you here?’ I thought to myself. ‘A Zionist, right’. It resulted in a graffitied wall full of all the accusations I had come across at Goldsmiths; now they were no longer pointed at me.

Originally it had said ‘The bad guys will win’, but I didn’t want them to win and who are the bad guys? I am the bad guy here in London. The Zionists are the bad guys, but I was raised to feel that the bad guys are the terrorists. Here I am the terrorist. But the bad guys are really the apathy I experience here. British apathy is violent.

Graffiti á la Edry

It is the apathy of looking and not just not doing, reacting or intervening; it is letting all these slogans and supposedly peaceful protests, that are not so peaceful, go ahead. It is like joining that crowd of liberalists that are not liberal at all. I think they remind me more of the right wing than anything left. I come from a country where the left is very radical. The left is almost too radical because it doesn’t understand how Israel is perceived from the outside. It doesn’t understand that no matter what these radical messages and thoughts are misconstrued here. In Israel, for us it is given that Israel must exist. It is our only home. At the same time, we believe in the right of the Arab people to exist. Even co-exist with us, as Israelis or have their own state if they don’t wish to be Israeli. There are different Arabs, there are different wishes and here it is not understood like that.

I remember being 14, kind of left radical and I was reading all that propaganda stuff. I boycotted Israeli products for about a week, until I started thinking ‘What the hell does this actually mean? Israeli people are people too; they must have the agricultural right to export their products. There is a difference between a farmer and a terrorist. I can’t choose a side.’ I was vegan and felt a bit sorry for the delicious dates. It is just never that easy, is it?

Yeah, it’s like that. We can’t choose a side. I have never been a political artist; my work has been mainly about gender politics if political at all. It has been about being a woman, but never about the conflict. It wasn’t possible in Israel. Several Arabic artists in my class, who I was quite friendly with, were very dedicated to making political work, because they are the underdogs in Israel. Here I feel like the underdog, so I can feel more comfortable making it, but in Israel there was no room for me to make political work. I always thought it was short lived and it just never interested me.

So, how the hell did I end up making an ultra-political work? The key is to see my video ‘The Fundamentalist’. My teachers know me as the most political artist on the course and they even nicknamed me the ‘Zionist Terrorist’, you know lovingly, as I had been causing so much trouble, in an encouraging way. They like that. Then they watched the video where I say ‘Before I came to Goldsmiths I had never been interested in making political work, it seemed so uncool’. It kind of undermines everything I’ve done, or maybe strengthens it, because it shows how an ordinary person can be pushed into becoming radicalized and extreme. I am not just talking about me; I am talking about politics now. This is what institutions can do to you.

Some of the teachers came after the exam and said ‘Wow, we are not allowed to speak to you now. But we have so many questions. Can we take this?’ and they all wanted to take something with them from the show.

My volunteers gave them a t-shirt. Apparently Gerard Hemsworth, my Head of Department, went home and his daughter asked him ‘Dad, where did you get this mega cool t-shirt from? I want one.’ They were all deeply touched and some of them came back to my exhibition and brought other teachers that hadn’t been to the exam. They even made a point of staying for the 8pm performance, for some of them it was the second time. They told me they couldn’t stop thinking about it. That same day of my exam, which was seven days before the private view, I spoke to my tutor David Mabb on the phone and he said ‘I’ve heard all about what you did in your exam, it has been talked about.’ They thought I was all about ‘funny haha’ and tongue-in-cheek, being enraged; while there I was just saying ‘I was a kid in the army, I was never political. You made me political, by constantly silencing me.’

Just like you allowed your show to be an organic tree by allowing the branches to co-exist and spread; it reflected on the outside world.

I must say that another teacher who really inspired me was Susan Taylor. Susan is a performance and sound artist; a very special woman who was not just a teacher but also a friend. I hadn’t even seen Goldsmiths before I came to study there. I sent my application from Israel about a month after the deadline, thinking I would probably not be considered. About two weeks later I received an offer from them. I felt like it was meant to be. It was Susan who wrote to me and suggested that I could come for a tour of the campus. I never did, I just came the next September to study there.

Susan turned out to be an extraordinary woman; always always encouraging me to be who I am, to be different as I am; telling me thatall people are different. ‘Just be you’ she said. Susan also encouraged me as a woman, because she understood the struggle as a woman to make work in a very male dominated field. I think that the art world is a male dominated field, like all fields are, despite the Feminist Revolution. Even though she has now retired, she saw me this year a few months before my show and I told her what was going on and she said ‘This isn’t like you’. I was being vague because I kept getting told: ‘You’re being too specific. You need to be universal. We don’t want to hear about the Middle-East or about Israel. We want to understand; otherwise we feel alienated’. Susan said ‘Why not be specific? You always have something to say’. Curators that came over the course of the year did not discuss my art, but rather tried to guess my political persuasion. I was tired of it. Susan said ‘No, you are a very strong artist with a strong message. You have to speak up. Where is Noam, where is your voice?’ She also convinced me to duplicate that painting, because I wanted to do it. One of my teachers had said ‘I don’t want you to do it, because politically I disagree with you.’ And I said ‘I never told you where I stand politically; why do you suppose that we are on two different sides of the spectrum? Have you asked what I think?’ All I got was ‘I have had this impression from your work and if you duplicate the painting you will be insinuating that both sides suffer the same.’ And I said ‘A death is a death, suffering is suffering. And why does it matter who is suffering? I can be as upset that an Arab Palestinian child has been killed; I can be just as upset if it is an Arab. Why do you suppose I would be more upset if it is an Israeli?’ Susan is the one who convinced me to do everything I am doing. She came to my show. They all came and both Susan Taylor and Simon Bedwell stayed for the Minute’s Silence. I was very touched.

It has been such an extraordinary struggle.

Yes and it still is a struggle.

I got thinking about Tracey Emin. There was a Study Day at the Southbank Centre on the 13th of June and the discussion panel consisted of six people, but there was so much talk about Tracey as a private person. Her Tent is not about her own sexual experiences; she is communicating something universal – we all have a history of people we have slept with and next to. When we enter the Tent all those memories come back to us. Just like you, she is communicating all that crap we want to ignore and forget with works like her neon sign “People like you need to fuck people like me”, although I find that you are expressing far more complicated issues.

In my seminar, in the first performance of SAVE THE DATE, the work was hardly discussed. It was just about my political persuasion and I was also accused of being a Right Wing Artist – hilarious! Here I am rallying for Freedom of Speech and I am telling you that youare the bigoted ones, if anything. You look at me but you don’t see anything but Israel in my face. I never label people by wings, so why do you have to do it to me?

That’s where “Rehabilitating the Left” fits in. A lot of people in my exhibition said ‘Wow, I really like this. ‘Rehabilitating the Left’, yeah. The Israeli left really does need rehabilitating.’ And I happened to be there and I said, ‘Do you see any Israelis lying on the table?’

Peek from MFA Graduation Show at Goldsmiths July 2011 ‘Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life’

You don’t want to see what the Israeli left is, it is so radical. It is so different to the left in Britain, it deals with different issues; it is a different approach.  You can’t compare them, but why compare them? This constant labeling; I just find it funny. I find it very limiting.

Are you staying in London?

Yes yes. Now I am convinced I have to, because after the way in which this exhibition was received it has to be the start of a new mode of working for me. I want to make more and more of these ambitious shows. By ambitious I don’t mean bigger or more extravagant, I mean more thought-provoking and personal and with more interaction with other people. I am looking for new and exciting projects. At the same time I keep in touch on a very close level with Israel because I believe in that art scene which has some really fresh and punchy voices. I am preparing for two solo shows now. It is going to be an intensive period for me. I have also been approached by dealers and collectors, which is very encouraging.  I am so well connected now with friends and receiving many offers from curators, that it is a matter of figuring out what is worthwhile.


[More on Noam Edry]


Interview Series 2011

Part 1 – A constant battle for the freedom of speech in a web of taboos and envy

Part 2 – From sharp-edged politics to an S&M club and back again

Part 3 – “I Am the Terrorist”

Feature on Childhood

Born a War Painter


Museum of Art, Ein Harod, Israel, 2012

Goldsmiths MFA 2011

Interview with Iconoclastic Artist Neal Fox

Today I met Iconoclastic Artist Neal Fox at Daniel Blau in Hoxton Square, where his ongoing exhibition ‘Beware of the God’ is situated. The exhibition consists of twelve 2,5 meter high Stained Glass Windows; twelve alternative apostles who aimed a firm kick towards Christianity and kicked hard. Next door, at the White Cube, the Chapman Brothers have carved away patches of skin in the face of both Jesus and Mary. The sculptures are numerous and very well made, but I doubt that “Jake or Dinos Chapman” are the sculptors. They are (probably) the messengers, which is fine, but it is more fascinating to see Neal Fox’s work next door because he is the creator – from sketch to final product. To create Stained Glass Windows is an intricate process with a thousand-year history.

Photo from – London / Neal Fox / 2 of 39 — Installation (Daytime) 12

It should have been expected: Neal Fox turned up an hour late for the interview with drowsy but sparkling eyes and invited me to a coffee in an apologetic manner. He fits perfectly into the artist stereotype – always slightly absent as if constructing intricate drawings in his mind as we speak. Neal is gifted with a great sense of humor and a sharp mind, no one else had pointed out to me with a smile on the lips that the recent rioters made sure to leave KFC in an impeccable state. Why would they demolish their favorite restaurant? This is exactly why we love Neal’s art; he looks at the world and goes ‘this is/was going on, whether we like it or not. To me it is comedy, because I want life to be fun.’ Then he adds eight more dimensions to the story to make it even more fun. Many times the world is based on his grandfather’s debauched life story, but there are also more recent characters depicted.

I understand that your grandfather, John Watson, who was a debauched Soho socialite, has had remarkable influence on your life, although he died when you were still very young. Who was Mr. Watson?

My grandfather was a bomber pilot in WW2, a writer, a TV-host and a heavy drinker. I grew up surrounded by my family’s memories of him. After WW2 he was tortured by awful dreams throughout his life, until he eventually died from his heavy whiskey sessions at a fairly early age. We can’t imagine what they all went through, back then there was no therapy for soldiers. The torturing nightmares with dead children and innocent civilians drove him to seek comfort in the bottoms of a thousand empty whiskey bottles. I read his auto-biographical book when I was 21, which is the same age that he was in at that time, up in the air, dropping bombs. It is strange to think about now, when young people are stuck in front of their PlayStation.

My grandfather also wrote American-style detective paperback books and he was the one to publish Burrough’s Naked Lunch in London. I have always been fascinated by his life and he has guided me through an imaginary world of excessive behavior; a world where I imagine them all to meet and there is always room for new characters to enter. Whenever I read a book, watch a movie or drink; it is research! My grandfather used to call it drinking research. It is all feeding my brain and my future drawings.

Who has told you the tales of your grandfather?

My grandmother, who is an amazing old lady, has told me everything about my grandfather. My grandmother is still going strong; always up for a laugh and drinking plenty of whiskey although she is 88 years old. She is in my grandfather’s Stained Glass Window at the exhibition, on the top; they are dancing. Hopefully my grandfather would have been proud to see himself there depicted like an alternative saint.

My father, who is a great painter although he is not commercially focused, has also told me endless stories and introduced me to many great authors. In fact, I am named after Neal Cassady who was Jack Kerouac’s friend and the inspiration for Dean in On the Road.

I can see the resemblance! Did your grandfather meet any of the others in person? 

I don’t know and that has always been a great source of inspiration for me; that question really fuels my imagination. Most of my work has been an investigation of the dark realm of my grandfather’s experiences, or that is at least where it all begins. Soho was very different back then and there are few places that have been left untouched. Most if it is gone now, but no-one can touch my inner world!


Photo from – London / Neal Fox / 4 of 39 — Installation (Daytime) 1

I am sure you could have chosen to create the Stained Glass Windows without using as much color as you eventually did. Have you travelled somewhere recently that infused all those colors in you?

It is more likely to be related to an amazing psychedelic trip at the house of late Paulita Sedgwick, late cousin of Edie Sedgwick; one of Andy Warhol’s superstars. Paulita was a painter and her colorful, intense and magical paintings were all over the place; they came alive and served as windows to a different world. We ended up staying inside for several days, because we were too afraid to go outside. A bumper sticker on her front door said ‘Beware of the God’ and I decided to make it the title for my exhibition at Daniel Blau. Paulita was an extraordinary and generous woman, who suffered from brain cancer and tried to cure herself with magic.

I used to work mainly in black and white, but life has been more colorful since that experience. Also, working with stained glass as a medium sort of required it of me and it is still just a few but strong basic colors.


Jean Genet

Photo from – London / Neal Fox / 29 of 39

Jean Genet, Neal Fox, 2010-11, Leaded stained glass in steel frame


How would you describe the impact these strong personalities have had on your life; did you ever inject bug powder or “sit in your house for days on end staring at the roses in the closet”?

No, not yet. I’ve never stared at the roses in my closet, but maybe I should! I have mainly been inspired by the strong integrity and self-belief in these iconoclasts; they did it their own way, completely untouched by present ideas, restrictions and beliefs. They broke new ground and although there is a small portion of irony in my exhibition of Stained Glass Windows, (a hint towards today’s celebrity culture) I feel that these are the people that deserve praise and honor for the impact they have had on writers, musicians and artists.

In earlier exhibitions you have gone wild with the interiors; covering everything in patterns. I imagine that stepping inside must have been a real trip. The show you are having now at Daniel Blau is pretty straight forward in comparison. Was this your decision or did the gallery limit your expression?

Well, it is when we create shows as the Le Gun Collective that we tend to go outside the frames and all over the place, because we accelerate each other and improvise like musicians. But you are giving me ideas now!

Your big drawings suggest novel sized narratives; do you ever write stories connected to your drawings?

I write when I work on pieces, it is a part of the creative process, but I haven’t included any written narratives in my finished works so far. An image says a thousand words, as they say. The mind-map sort of drawings that I create suggest narratives, it is a crazy trip through my mind with references to pop culture; it is a mind within a mind within a mind! It all makes sense to me, but I’m not sure anyone else gets it. It could perhaps be interesting to write a novel.

That would be a mad, mad adventure. In the interview with Dazed and Confused you mention having strange dreams in the stained glass factory. Please tell me about those dreams!

I was staying in a flat above the stained glass factory, working at night all by myself in this huge space full of medieval Stained Glass Windows depicting angels and saints. I was told that there was a lady ghost haunting the factory, which kind of freaked me out. This one night when I was working on the Aleister Crowley-piece I was haunted by him in my dreams. Crowley was pissed off at me for doing this window and put a curse on me. Earlier that night when I was leaving the studio downstairs I heard a loud crash behind me; I turned back, but nothing had happened. I don’t know what that was all about.

There are many stories woven around Crowley’s persona involving ghosts, demons and curses. Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin used to live in the Boleskine House, Aleister Crowley’s old residence next to Loch Ness, and he said that the house was haunted by a decapitated head. There are also some who believe that the Loch Ness monster was created by demons summoned by Crowley during one of his seances. We don’t know what is real and what has been imagined in people’s heads, but no matter what; Crowley not the kind of person you want to piss off.

He should be proud if anything to be in there with the others, I understand that it was a delicate procedure to create the Stained Glass Windows.

Yes, I like to believe that he sees it as a compliment.

I came across James Unsworth’s Turtle Sex movie at the exhibition Parallel Connections at Wayward Gallery in June, curated by my friend John Angel. It is a truly mind-blowing piece of work and can easily be compared to your work. Have the two of you ever thought of collaborating? It would be an exponential equation.

That might be a good idea actually! We have never collaborated, but I do admire James’ work and he has been one of the contributing artists for Le Gun. We are both inspired by Hieronymus Bosch and communicate similar ideas; he goes all the way.

Since I am half Swedish I am really curious to know what “wishy washy Scandinavian” means?

Oh, sorry! I didn’t mean to insult all Scandinavians, but I just find that a lot of the art being created today is wishy washy, sort of IKEA-style. It is just made to be pretty on the wall; decorative stuff. I can’t stand it.

Can you tell me more about the Le Gun “theme park”-dream mentioned in the video? That would be amazing.

All journalists tend to ask ‘What are you doing next?’ and the Le Gun theme-park is our standard answer to that; a bit of a joke but not really. It is something we have been dreaming about.

(Details have been censored)

Do you think that the spirits of the dead linger around in our world on a different dimension?

I believe that all great personalities who break new ground by taking on the world in an unapologetic manner are a part of our collective memory; they break down frames of thought and extend the horizon.

After a couple of drinks it was time to leave, because of a rumor that the riots were approaching. Gallery Director Brad Feuerhelm was mildly impressed as he was forced to show an interested collector out the door.

Elinros Henriksdotter, 09.08.2011

Noam Edry – From sharp-edged politics to an S&M club and back again

Noam Edry Interview Series 2011 Part 2 – From sharp-edged politics to an S&M club and back again, 23rd July 2011

A big date (the brown fruit from the date palm) could be seen abandoned in the middle of your gallery at Goldsmiths during yourrecent MFA Graduation Show titled ‘Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life’. During the Peeping Event, the one minute’s silence, the performer threw herself into the date, where she lay with her legs spread open while the audience held their breath; shocked by the performance. I have been told that there is a history to this enormous date? 


Originally the date was created for a performance, called SAVE THE DATE. I made this costume which transformed me into a massive date, because I was talking about boycotting; about boycotting food coming from Israel as a symbol of both academic and cultural boycott of Israelis. I was refused admission to The Finnish Academy of Fine Arts because I was Israeli; that’s an academic and cultural boycott. It is a shame because Art is the way forward towards very amazing things, away from violence, prejudice and so forth. My work SAVE THE DATE was about that.

In the performance I spoke in Arabic and Hebrew. I wanted to give them the experience of facing ‘the Big Other’; being confronted with their own stereotypes and prejudices about people coming from the Middle-East, because they know very well that I am half British and speak fluent English with not such a bad accent. There I was talking like an Israeli, who not know how to speak, like dis. And I spoke in Hebrew, eh, in the middle (talking with a heavy accent). I was also asking questions in Arabic, for example “Shu is mick? What is your name?” (Speaking in Arabic) They were terrified. To me it was about showing a foreigner; how a foreigner feels in their country.

The Date came about, because I had a seminar and I had to present something and I wanted to do a performance. I wanted to sit in front of my colleagues and tell them ‘This is where I come from. This is my story’, because I never managed to. They would always start a political argument with me and I would get defensive, because I felt pushed against a wall. With this performance opportunity I would have a stage for half an hour and I wanted to just talk to them; face to face. The wonderful boyfriend that I had at the time said ‘Oh, that sounds like a terrible idea, who wants to hear your story?’ Instead I decided to dress up as a boycotted Israeli Date while telling my story. That became very controversial, because the second time I performed it in front of an audience in Korea over a webcam, and I needed a live London audience for the buzz and the adrenaline. It got boycotted; maybe three students came from both first and second years of the MFA. The rest of the audience were friends I had invited from outside of Goldsmiths.

I had publicized it so heavily and couldn’t understand what I had done wrong. Two weeks later a friend came round, who had seen the first performance, and told me ‘I was down at the pub and they are still talking about your work. They said they all boycotted it, because you are Israeli and they thought it would be some Zionist propaganda. I tried to explain to them that it is about freedom of speech and tolerance, but they didn’t believe me.’ The posters I had designed for this event had a green and red background, mimicking the anti-Israel propaganda posters. What does it mean to be pro-Palestinian? I am pro-Palestinian, I want a Palestinian state; most Israelis are. I am for a two state solution, not for a no-Israel solution. When I see these propaganda posters everywhere that really demonize my country, I don’t believe that these people are pro anything; since they totally trample on an entire country. It was neither pro nor against, but it fell into the pit of the phenomenon it was trying to raise awareness to. That’s the story.

Photo: Noam Edry, All rights reserved

Photo: Noam Edry, All rights reserved

For my end of year show, I felt I couldn’t perform as the Date because I had to orchestrate so many other events around me; I needed someone else to do it. Save the Date became Date Rape when it was performed during my MFA Graduation Show, because it had both a feminist slant, a sexist slant, while still talking about raping someone; basically silencing someone using force. I was talking about a date, but the date was human and it was about a person who was being forced into a situation. Many times I felt like I was pushed against the wall when people accused me or labeled me because I came from Israel. So I had to have a performer and artist Hannah Jones, who performed it eventually, saw me in my first SAVE THE DATE Performance and she was so impressed that she came to speak to me about it. It was a 15 minute performance and she said “How did you keep the audience at the edge of their seats? For 15 minutes you grabbed their attention. I want to know how you did it.” And we became friends.

When I realized that I needed a lady to run around the Baths Building and outside the exhibition every now and then in a screaming fit wearing a brown body suit, I decided to approach her. I had seen her perform her own works and thought she would be perfect for the part. She is a musician and singer who does really bizarre things with her voice. I saw her last performance two weeks ago. She goes into a box with a wig and sings and then leaves the box, leaving the wig inside. She comes out with tights over her hair, in a way she is naked. You see her without her wig on; it is quite horrific to see a woman like that. The voice carries on singing from inside the box; she just sits there with her bathroom robe and her slippers, with stockings on her head listening to her own voice singing. It’s about stage fright and control and separation, a relationship between performer and spectator. I was fascinated by her work and she was given complete freedom. I only explained the frame of mind to her, just like I do with everyone I work with. I simply want them to express themselves.

On the Opening Night of the show Hannah was so convincing that she was chased all the way into my exhibition by two Goldsmiths security guards, who thought that something had happened to one of the spectators. “Date Rape” never had a fixed route or form, as long as she eventually ended up in my space and lay inside the Date. Sometimes she would even fall asleep inside it. On the last day of the show, she lay in there for so long that people thought she was a sculpture, only then she would twitch in her sleep and frighten the visitors.

Photo: Anna Stephens, All rights reserved

You had a very big group of volunteers at your graduation show, which really added to the overwhelming scenery. Personally I had the feeling of them belonging in the space; the Coffee Stand in front of the entrance had the air of somebody’s kitchen and they were all so involved and comfortable in the space. How did you manage to convince all these people to participate in your show?

People around, some of the other artists, could not believe that I had all these volunteers working for me. I said “Of course they are here to volunteer, it’s because they believe in this. It’s about belief and ideology. The ideology I am presenting is about being read as a human being on a universal level; before using countries, labels, nationalities and putting people in a box. Everyone who came here believes in the freedom to be a human being.” They felt it was like a mission for them. My volunteers were walking around the show because I told them to take a break, walk around; see some art. I want you to see where you are actually placed. They were wearing the T-shirts that I had designed for them. Apparently one day a fellow artist exhibiting at Goldsmiths stopped them and asked “How much is she paying you to wear the T-shirt?” I was hurt, because they didn’t come to ask me if I had paid my volunteers, but they just could not believe it. Most of the people involved in my work even came to thank me for the opportunity to express themselves in this platform. Everyone saw it as a privilege, which is very encouraging for me, very rewarding.

In your video installation ‘If You Go Away’ from 2008 based on graceful dance executed by you and a young girl, we witness the battle between young and adult, one dressed in black and one dressed in white; you exchange the colors of your dresses throughout the video. Innocence meets rapture; it is a classic theme. This is a much more successful production than ‘Black Swan’ from 2010, which can easily be compared with your description of your video, I quote, “It is an account of dissociative identity: multiple dream identities or alter-egos are assumed in order to protect the soul while the body undergoes a trauma. Three distinct identities compete for domination, while a fourth inner-voice tries reassembling them back to form a whole.” (excerpt from synopsis) The notion of this sort of separated or multifaceted identity can also be seen in your painting Sheepdog from 2008, which I by the way need to get my hands on if it is not too late. You are the writer, director and producer as well as the dancer and the choreographer. How do you manage?  


Photo: Noam Edry, All rights reserved

This work has never been exhibited. It is a work that nearly killed me. It was like a baby that took years to give birth to.

I was into contemporary dance and I studied ballet. I studied it as a tool, because I don’t want to become a dancer. I want to use dance as a language in my art. So, from funding these dance lessons which I somehow managed with the help of my parents, and doing all these weird jobs just to make sure that I could take my dancing lessons; to designing the costumes and making some of them myself, finding the people to film and finding the little girl, Karin Schneider, who is now a young lady; It almost cost me my health I think. At one point I was managing a set of fourteen people, most of them half volunteers and some of them paid something symbolic just to be there, with a location that was given to us free of charge for about a week. It was a massive theatre with a thousand seats that was placed at our disposal. It was in the North of Israel and I was living in Tel-Aviv at the time and this work was filmed on three different locations. The other two places were an S&M club that gave us complete access because they got so involved in my work and really believed in it and in my old nursery school, the kindergarten on my Kibbutz. We turned it into a Mikveh, which is a sacred Jewish bath.

So there were three locations and fourteen people. I had a make-up artist, but I was doing most of the make-up myself, including the little girl’s, and we changed costumes four times a day, as well as changing the make-up. I choreographed it myself, even though I had worked with several choreographers in the beginning. After that was over, for a few months I was totally shattered.

It took me another year and a half before I started editing it, because my painting took off. I had several exhibitions and commissions as well. As a result of this, I started painting really intensively and couldn’t do the editing and I didn’t know how to edit a piece that was so personal; I was in almost every single shot. I had edited all my stuff until then, and this one I was so emotionally involved with. It was such a raw and personal piece that I had to find an editor and this work was, in the end, all done by women. Most of the people on board were women. The men could not handle it; emotionally it was too complex. They didn’t even understand it because they were dazzled by the sexual aspect and the visual aesthetics. They couldn’t work with me; there was too much tension for them. I ended up firing all of them and bringing women on the scene. It went on for years until I managed to make it into a work and it’s a three screen installation which is supposed to engulf the viewer and on top of that it is a one screen film.



Photo: Reut Kersz, All rights reserved

I basically finished ‘If You Go Away’ one day before I came to London. Instead of packing my flat I was editing and I just took it on a hard-drive here to London and it has been lying on a shelf up to now. Because the moment I came here I had to start my Masters Degree and make a switch in my head. I was dealing in my art with being in Britain, not with this inner dialogue of all those elements within me. It’s like a virgin piece, but already on my website and I feel that it is too exposing. Before I have done anything with it, it’s there. That’s the story of ‘If You Go Away’. Again it was originally about the first interaction between a woman and a man. It’s the junction between the feminine world and the male world and how dramatic it is. But eventually there is no man in it, it’s more about longing, desire, childhood and womanhood and the artist who is isolated, because the main character is always very isolated and it is very staged. It’s about always being staged. The camera, as the spectator, is being very intrusive. One of the characters who is the Dominatrix wants the attention, whereas the other characters suffer from it terribly. It eventually kills them. So I don’t know what it’s about. I can’t even say. Is it about male / female encounter? Is it about love? Loss? Art?

It’s about everything; universal and open for interpretation in accordance with your other works. 

It’s a piece that is totally unresolved for me. It is a sensitive piece for me because I don’t know how I feel about it.

Are you ready to exhibit ‘If You Go Away’ in London?

I think I would need to exhibit it. I think it could be amazing because it also has a series of loops. Every single character has tiny excerpts, sometimes it is a one second image that is being stretched, sometimes it is a five second loop or a thirty second loop, but it is a moment. Every character has about four or five of these moments, resulting in another 20 videos that are supposed to be installed in a gallery space and projected in different ways. The viewer will walk into the world where the dominatrix is swinging eternally. You see a close up of her crotch and a very dark facial feature and then you see her in another place, losing her balance. You see the girl shaking the white figure, forever, the hair moving back and forth and the Catwoman, this weird in-between character, constantly positioning herself in front of the camera; never finding her spot. All these loops, they exist; all engulfing. I feel that the viewer always has to been involved in the work.



Photo: Noam Edry, All rights reserved

Let’s go back to your recent MFA Graduation Show titled ‘Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life’ at Goldsmiths. Did you plan for the paintings, videos and performances to manifest as a whole, or do you work more intuitively and spontaneously? 

I started with painting and it wasn’t that simple. When I started the second year I was still making work about British culture. The entire first year was spent on the project “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, which you got your hands on somehow.

Yes, in December 2010 you released a series of videos on Youtube under the title ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, with the mission to meet with the Queen, eat her scones, smell her and to ask her if she loves you. We see you practicing the Queen’s Received Pronunciation, prompting policemen guarding the Birthday Parade for creative advice etc.; the videos are pretty much unedited and direct in comparison with your earlier video works. These works would probably function well together in a Borat style film. 



I was making work about coming to terms with being half British, half Israeli and never fitting in anywhere. I wanted to fit in, to be not just British but English. My character, which is basically my alter-ego, wants to be a part of this exclusive circle called Englishness. Because she knows that being naturalized is not enough. She still has an Israeli accent which is very identifiable as something foreign. Nobody can put a finger on it, but the first question she is always asked is “Where are you from?” which alienates her. She comes from a little socialist settlement in Israel, where as a child she didn’t even have her own clothes and now she’s in London where real-life princesses live. She wants a part of that as well. She also realizes that she is Jewish, so she could never really be anything but a Jewish princess; she could never be British Royalty. “Why not?” And it is all these questions.

At the same time; the more she tries the more she gets rejected. She also knows that the Queen as a mythological figure is just an ordinary granny at the end of the day and why should she not be accessible? Because in Israel you can meet the President, the Prime minister, greeting the people: “Hi, how are you doing?” It is so informal in this small country where everyone knows where you live and everyone is related or knows each other at least by a fifth degree of separation. We have the Israeli President coming over to our Kibbutz every now and then, because that’s how it works. This whole idea of a celebrity figure that is completely inaccessible is obscene to this alter-ego.

In ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ my alter-ego sets on this journey, but realizes that not only will she never be an English Rose; she mustn’t be an English Rose; because her strength, uniqueness, power and singularity is in the fact that she is Israeli. With a certain set of very deep-rooted values, she is an underdog, like any Londoner is. London is about alienation; about being a foreigner in a capital city. Not belonging. There is no more Englishness, nobody really is English. The Queen is half German, her husband is Greek; what does an English person even look like? This is an island that was conquered by several tribes. Nothing really is authentic. Every culture has been invented. So she should stick to her own roots; because that’s who she is. The character starts clinging to that Israeliness and attempts to bribe a policeman with peace in the Middle-East in return for entering the Birthday Parade, stressing that she is half Israeli half British and she has to come to terms with that dual existence. Anyone can be exclusive; it’s about excluding someone. In her naive way she is highlighting serious issues like class differences and poverty. I have a video where I rehearse for the Royal Tea in my pink slippers, Primark track suit and a Sainsbury’s Basics scone.


For that entire year that I was trying to meet the Queen for a private audience, I also collected doors and windows and furniture from squats and evicted squats and rubbish dumps in South-East London; the poorest areas. With this material I built an entire chair that mimicked the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey, but it was a chair that came from people’s private moments and memories from their homes, from their less than working class homes, and it showed  a different kind of London. So the work came to communicate the underdog, the class system, an absence, a lack; wanting something. What does it mean to want the Queen to love you? Doesn’t everyone want the love of the Monarch? It is about being the little man. The police video Trooping is also about terrorism and this whole age of CCTV and feeling that threat. So it spoke about all these political issues as well, through the naivety of my character. I know that naivety is very questionable, because I sound like I know what I am talking about and people have asked me “Is this real? Are you acting?” It’s a bit Seinfeld, you called it Borat. Yes, this kind of playing it naive; but knowingly.


[More on Noam Edry]


Interview Series 2011

Part 1 – A constant battle for the freedom of speech in a web of taboos and envy

Part 2 – From sharp-edged politics to an S&M club and back again

Part 3 – “I Am the Terrorist”

Feature on Childhood

Born a War Painter


Museum of Art, Ein Harod, Israel, 2012

Goldsmiths MFA 2011

Noam Edry – A constant battle for the freedom of speech in a web of taboos and envy

Noam Edry Interview Series 2011 Part 1 – A constant battle for the freedom of speech in a web of taboos and envy 23rd July 2011


Your recent MFA graduation show titled ‘Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life’ at Goldsmiths was incredible to experience in all its complexity. It was a perfectly organized chaos and a feast of paradoxes, which seems to apply to your work in general, correct me if I am wrong. It was unclear for the visitor where the exhibition actually started, with a coffee stand outside, a security guard at the entrance and all sorts of noise.

We kept the Coffee Stand open every single day. It was supposed to be from 12 to 3, but since I had so many Israeli and Jewish volunteers coming, it was sometimes open from 10 sharp to 7. People just stayed on because they enjoyed it so much and they believed in it. Spectators would come to the show and not realize that the Coffee Stand was a part of my show. It looked so run down, messy and minimalist, with all these people wearing my t-shirts saying ”I come from the most hated place on earth”.

Photo: Noam Edry’s father at the MFA Graduation show at Goldsmiths

People thought it was an official bar. They walked into the show with a little glass of coffee that smelled like some kind of perfume, because it had cardamom in it. Already they were taking part in the work. Then they saw people getting a massage and the massage was real, the therapist was real. I told her “It’s your thing; your platform and you can also promote yourself. You’re a real person and it might do you some good as well.” So, they became a part of the work without realizing it and people asked “What is she going to speak to me about?” And I said, “What would you speak to your therapist about?” Eventually they were having conversations about their life, where they come from, their kids, etc. After five days people were talking about sex, bowel movements, their most intimate problems, aches and pains and they would come back to consult with her. I had people coming back the following day, and the day after; “Can you just check up on my ear, my left shoulder?” It became a proper little clinic. They completely forgot they were in an art show; maybe the noise and art in the background gave them a sense of privacy. Some people sat on the chair and said “At first we were totally overwhelmed by everything, the noise level, the work, the richness of it, we couldn’t pick anything out, but as we were getting a massage we relaxed; we went into a different time zone and we suddenly zoned in on one work and decided selectively to take it in. We realized what you were doing; you brought our guard down. Then we were totally ready for your work.”

It also says something about our culture here, doesn’t it? People are able to listen to bombs exploding; to be in the middle of war scenery and just lay down for a massage.

It is really the only thing you can do, but also it is a result of being bombarded with images on a daily basis in the press. These images have no hierarchy, so it is like in the show where you have cheerleaders or the TrannyGranny (works from the show). I took the images from the morning pages, usually from the Metro and Evening Standard, the free papers that everyone reads when they have nothing else to do on their morning commute, and I manipulated them. Because I travel one hour to school every day, I read these papers and you can see bombings in Gaza or Israel doing this or that, alongside sexual content; on the same page. It is entertainment now and read on a very superficial level. Some people feel more or less about it, but it remains on a superficial level. You don’t really experience it.

I agree, and it is like you say, it has become entertainment.

Not for the people that come from there though. I want to explain that; the gap. It is all about the gap. The image I started with is one of a hole, a crater from an explosion. I found it on Google, because I search for images on the internet a lot to see what would come up on British search engines.

So it started with the image of a gap?

I actually don’t really why I initially became obsessed with these images. I think it was because I went to Israel after the Christmas break and saw it with fresh eyes, in January this year. I had a non-Jewish boyfriend then and I took him to Israel. I was hosting him, so I tried to see Israel from his perspective. I kept thinking “What does he see?” And I also realized how beautiful this unfinished scenery is, because in Israel you have loads of Arabic villages and cities and even just tin houses. There are many different sectors of the society and they all build their houses in different ways. Compared to the Jewish houses, which are all very well built and very regular, quite symmetrical, uniformed and finished, you see unfinished Arabic houses on top of each other with no network or structure. They build them themselves because a lot of them are construction workers, with access to materials and know-how. A lot of them don’t get license to build from the councils, so they just build it. They also live on top of each other; a man never leaves the house. He brings his wife to the house and as the family starts growing it gets very crowded. You see cement, unfinished houses with no roofs and you could say it is very ugly or you could say it is very beautiful. I think it is very beautiful; there is something really interesting in this lack of estheticism. I fell in love with this. It is so different to what I see here in London and I was wondering how I could bring that back. So I started looking for photographs of that. I arrived at these demolitions and I found one image which was controversial; it appeared twice on a Google image search. Once it said ”Palestinian house demolished by Israeli rockets” and on another search it said ”Israeli house hit by Arab rocket” or ”Jewish settlers’ home hit by rocket from Gaza”; something like that. It was the same image and I just thought ”Isn’t it amazing how each side wants to be the victim and each side wants it to be their tragedy?”

I took that image and I made a painting of the big crater which I then duplicated a few months later, when I realized I had to make the other side as well. When duplicated by hand it will be clumsy, it will be very human; it will never be perfect or identical. So you could always say it is not really the same on both sides; or is it?

Photo: Alicja Rogalska, All rights reserved

I was going to paint it highly realistically, but I stopped at a very early stage and people started coming into my studio saying “Oh this is so interesting, I can see this guy falling into the hole and this guy talking on his mobile phone and wow there is a child here…” They could see things in the painting; I didn’t actually need to paint it. They were imagining things that were actually more real to them than anything I could ever paint. So I left it there, unfinished. And I thought that if I’m depicting reality I need to have human presence, someone needs to stand there and stare into a hole, almost like an extension of a painting. But I couldn’t have someone standing in my gallery staring into nowhere for the entire show. It is just not possible. And then the idea of Peeping came, this event, I call it Peeping. Where I bring people for one minute of silence to stare into a hole and it becomes real to them. Some people said that when the woman came screaming, she ran straight through the hole; “It ruined everything for me”. I said that’s the beauty, it shows how amazing your imagination is! I didn’t choreograph her. I wanted it to be real, spontaneous. Also, life in Israel is very hectic. People speak on phones at awkward times; they even answer their phone at funerals. There is no limit to… I can’t describe it. But anything could be an emergency, so people always answer their phone. It is also a part of the Israeli rudeness, the upfrontness. In my exam I answered my phone; I said I would give them the real experience. The volunteers were talking to each other in Hebrew and the examiners thought they were interrupting, but we weren’t acting.

The sound I had at the entrance of the exhibition were real voices from the Israeli markets, people screaming ”Come and get it come and get it” and trying to convince people to buy their vegetables.

From there it went on to somebody’s house being bombed, not far from my house. And the voices were people screaming because of a rocket and this blended into a group of people playing accordion and singing a folk song which is a part of our culture. And all these things are random, they have no real order, they could happen at any time and intercept each other; a real reflection of what life is like there.

You did it so well. I am still not over it. I have been to tons of exhibitions in London and what I have been looking for I really found at your exhibition. It is so entirely out of the box.

I have so many ideas, I feel like this is the beginning of something. I have always done everything. I am a painter since I can remember, but from painting everything else comes. And as I mentioned before, the urgency in an unfinished painting really communicates that there is no time, we could die at any minute. The urgency and vibrancy, the multi-facetted Israeli culture which has everything; laughter, tears, hysteria, relaxation, joy; it is all there. So how do I capture it? I don’t have time, so the paintings became less and less detailed, and more and more sketchy. The charcoal was the quickest way and in the end it went from the canvases onto the walls. So it starts from painting. But around it I have video, I perform, because I am also an actress and I need to use that tool and everything has the same hierarchy for me. It is the first show where I have really managed to combine them all in a very, I think, organic way. It wasn’t forced and there is more where that came from.  I will work more with people, real people not actors. Real people that I have no control over and I tell each one of them “You have to be yourself”. With my volunteers at the Coffee Stand the original idea was to have a conversation over a cup of coffee, because there is never a conversation in politics. It is just from one side to the other, accusations towards one other; a way of silencing people. Here I wanted it to be relaxed, hospitable, and to generate conversations from what is in the coffee to the Politics of the Middle East. My volunteers kept saying “I do not represent the artist, I represent myself. I am not representing the State of Israel, I am representing myself.” It is all about individuals.

Did they get into discussions with the visitors?

Yes, we had many many discussions. Some were very casual, but there were confrontations as well. People that were very anti-Israeli accused the volunteers of lying to them. But many people walked away changed, because they realized that they had never actually spoken to an Israeli; a real one. They’d never actually been to Israel, so they heard facts they had never heard about and it stopped being about labels and slogans, and it came to be about an individual.

Photo: Anna Stephens, All rights reserved

The most exciting incident was when a man started crying after the performance; the event, the hole-incident. I think it was on Saturday or Sunday. This man had been to the exhibition for about 40 minutes, looking at all the videos and all the material as well as filming. He was about to leave when I turned everything off and started the minute’s silence and after the minute’s silence he stayed stuck in his place.

My father approached him and the man had tears in his eyes and he just said “I don’t know what to think, I feel it here, here (pointing at the heart). It feels heavy. I was actually approached by the Israel boycotters to give a donation to Gaza and I thought it would be received by the people of Gaza and then I realized that it wasn’t going to be used for humanitarian reasons, it wasn’t going to bring supplies to people who need them; I was being used. But now that I have seen your daughter’s exhibition”, he said to my father, “I realize maybe I cannot be human 2000 miles away. I can only be human to people standing right in front of me, because you have made me so moved. I see that you are human and you suffer just as much and you have your own side of the story. And now I don’t know which side to pick.” My father looked at him and said “Why pick a side? Why do you have to pick a side? Just be human, cultivate your friendships. Speaking of sides; that’s the problem.” So that was very moving. It made me feel like I’d done something meaningful and worthwhile, because that’s what it’s all about for me. To see people getting affected and moved by what I’ve done.

I have received so much feedback, people even cued up outside the show to say “We thought we were really stupid. We don’t usually understand contemporary art. Then we come to your show and we feel like we understand. We might not understand everything, but we feel like we can grasp onto something. There is a way in for us as an audience. We don’t understand so much about art, but we are affected. This is overwhelming; thank you.” I love that.

In your video Mitzvah Tantz from 2005, we see a Jewish ceremony intersected with video footage of your belly-dance followed by flashes of an Arabic belly dancer towards the end. Mitzvah Tantz means ‘mitzvah dance’ or ‘commandment dance’ and this is the tradition of the men dancing before the bride on the wedding night, after the wedding has taken place.

There is an air of you struggling towards something, your mind appears to be slightly bothered and interfering with the movement of your body as your eyes stare thoughtfully into space, possibly watching the video while you are dancing. You are lightly dressed in a plain white belly dancing outfit that is designed to evoke desire and passion and to allow the body to move freely without restriction. You have merged the wedding dress with a traditional belly dancing outfit.

How did you learn belly dancing, did you teach yourself or did you study?

Well I knew for a long time that I wanted to learn belly dancing and I don’t know what comes first; my art or my life? Because many times I combine my passions in my art and it is like an excuse to learn something or to go through an experience. I tell myself that it is for the art. For a long time I wanted to make work about belly dancing, but it took me years to feel like I was ready. Belly dancing is very provocative and very erotic. You have to be a woman, you cannot be a girl and I just didn’t feel like I was ready. And then in 2005 for my final year of the BA at Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem, I was determined I would do it. I studied in various studios, under several teachers, but I studied mainly in Jerusalem at a Centre for Dance called Arabesque. After I made this piece in 2005 I became a belly dancer dancing professionally. I was even on TV with it and I taught it as well. I have the funniest stories of ending up dancing on bars, almost falling over all the bottles. One night I was dancing in front of my art teachers by mistake, but they didn’t recognize me. I fell off the bar and landed straight near their table saying ‘”Hi!” They couldn’t believe their eyes! I also made my own costumes, because I didn’t have money to buy professional ones.

 Photo: Stills from Mitzvah Tanz, 2005, All rights reserved

When I became a teacher I developed a certain way of teaching combining contemporary dance with belly dancing and Tantra. It is all about freeing your pelvis; your inner woman and your passions. You really have to be freed and I used to be very tight, very in control all the time and I only let myself go when I made art. So it was very hard for me. Eventually, for the video Mitzvah Tantz, I recorded myself learning. What I show in the video is the process of learning; it is not a great amazing sexy dancer. It is a child learning to walk. It is the clumsy awkward movement; it is the body not doing what the mind wants it to do. It is the lack of control and too much control. I would take out the camera from school, position it in front of me in my room and practice, wearing provisory outfits, like a scarf wrapped around me. When I looked back at it, all those moments when my body didn’t do what I wanted it to do; I loved those specifically. I concentrated only on two movements out of the entire dictionary of dance and I repeated them throughout that whole film.

In Mitzvah Tantz, and with my painting at the time, I wanted to show the moment when a woman stops being innocent, when a woman sees that she is being looked at for the first time. The first time a woman realizes that she has a man’s gaze on her and she blushes. The first time a woman exposes herself to a man. I thought “Where is this innocence?” It is kind of lost in Western Society, because in Western Society girls as young as four wear make-up now, so where am I going to find this moment? And I looked for a Moroccan engagement ceremony, because I am also half Moroccan and half European from the other side. Traditionally the brides are young virgins and given away by their fathers to a man that they never really had that much contact with and that night they lose their innocence. However, I wasn’t able to find a recording of that, which lead me to the Hassidic Mitzvah Tantz. That is the moment when the bride is given off by her father or uncle or a male figure in their society to her fiancé. He can’t touch her; he is not even allowed to touch her hands. Only by the use of his belt of the suit is he allowed to physically connect to her. It is a moment when they are meant to contemplate, a few minutes of utter silence and then ecstasy, and they believe that the spirits of the bride’s ancestors descend upon her to bless her for her new life. I looked at it and I saw a woman more naked than me as a belly dancer. I saw a woman covered from head to toe, but more naked than I could ever be, because she is placed in the middle of all these men and it is totally unnatural to her. She comes from a society where she is secluded, where women and men are separated. She doesn’t even look at men and suddenly she has to stand as the center of attention of all these men and all she can do is rock backwards and forwards. She is not allowed to sing or to dance; she has to remain very controlled.

Eventually I thought that at the end of the day, we are very similar. I am a woman who was raised in a Western way, but we’re both Jewish and there is something universal about womanhood where we’re all kind of thrown into it. Nobody really prepares us for the encounter with the opposite sex and how we will be violated in a way, you know, penetrated. We need to expose ourselves. The first time that happens, I read it as traumatic. I wanted to show that. It was like a dialogue between me and her, which is why I placed us parallel to each other. The material that intercepts is autobiographical. A lot of it comes from my sister’s dance troupe, where she danced as a kid. They used to perform Jewish folklore and traditional dance. There are also glimpses my cousin’s religious wedding; it flashes past as she is unveiling herself. It is all about unveiling. There are only girls; there is no man in this video. For me it was about reaching a centre, equilibrium. It’s like the ancient form of ecstasy in tribal dance; the moment of ecstasy, when you reach it, is calm; you reach peace. It is an inner ecstasy. It is about “I understand now, I have had the epiphany.”

Between the years 2003-2004 you studied at Ecole National Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris, as an exchange student in conjunction with your BA Fine Art at Bezalel Academy of Art & Design Jerusalem. ENSB-A is the distinguished National School of Fine Arts in Paris where Degas, Ingres, Monet, Delacroix and many more graduated. The following year, 2005, you produced a dark series of paintings titled ‘Madonnas and She-Devils’ towards your BA graduation. I find that this series echoes what you where expressing in your first year, 2003, but in a refined and intensified manner. And in 2008 you produced some seriously skilled paintings. How did you experience your year as a student in Paris?

I got accepted to do an exchange study program from Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem. They gave me a scholarship and told me I could go wherever I wanted. Originally I wanted to go to Finland, because I have many friends there. But the Academy said that officially they are not going to consider me because I am Israeli.


Yeah. And I was extremely shocked, but thought “OK, it is all for the best. If I can go anywhere I will go to Paris”, because I wanted to study traditional Old Master Painting so badly. I needed the tools and I have always wanted to live in Paris. I studied painting techniques, funnily enough, with an Israeli teacher who had been teaching there for 40 years.

In Paris we have friends, so I ended up living next door to them in one of their flats. I was already speaking French, but in Paris I became really fluent. I worked there part-time as well, as a marketing assistant. It was just amazing to go to a school where I worked with pigments from artists like Louis Pasteur; that he had actually left there. I studied at the same institution where all the great artists had studied and learnt glazing techniques, mixing pigments; how to make everything from scratch; from watercolors to chalks and emulsions. It was just amazing. I learnt how to do glass painting, to make stained glass. And then I came back to Israel with one more year until my end of year exhibition, my BA Graduation Show. I came back with a kind of new set of tools which I wasn’t that proficient with yet and I spent a whole year trying to master these new techniques and to make them invisible; a tool that I could use freely to express myself, but I was constantly interrupted. . To them it was horrendous. Why would a 22 year old girl paint like this? It seemed so easy for me and they were enraged by it. I was painting young virgins, me and my sister, as these young virgins in mid- dance. I was using the folklore dancing of our Kibbutz. It spoke of the agriculture of Israel and the founding of Israeli culture, which was founded on a bit of Arabic culture mixed with European culture; it was a mishmash of everything. To them it also spoke about colonialism and about the Jewish settlement in Palestine and about the occupation. It was political and very sexual. It basically didn’t go down too well.

Were they intimidated by you?

I think so, because there were incredibly strong reactions from tutors and respected artists. I am talking of one of these artists phoning the Head of Department at midnight to scream at him “How can you let this girl do what she wants? This is abhorrent!” Another teacher came into my studio determined “to save me” from artistic suicide. They were elbowing students at my critiques, they were yelling at me and I have recorded it all. It was unbelievable; I was just standing there smiling. One teacher said “But you have painted yourself as a whore! Not as a virgin! Not as a Madonna! Do you realize how erotic these paintings are?”  And I just smiled, you know, I didn’t give all the answers away, but I was too young to deal with this kind of critique from artists who considered themselves the artists of the nation of the day. Suddenly a young girl came and stole everything, by painting so easily and proficiently. You know it wasn’t about the technique, the technique was secondary to what I was doing and it was such an eyesore to them. I had the Head of Department patting me on the back saying “Make it bigger! Make it more in their face!” There I was, caught in the middle and I was really boycotted at the end, just like I found myself being boycotted here. I wanted to study in London, but there was also an option of studying a Masters in Bezalel. They would not accept me. Years later they came to my solo show where I showed the series with the Sheepdog (painting). The same teachers came and said you are phenomenal, you are virtuoso; you are an amazing painter. They gave me warm recommendations, but I had already been accepted to Goldsmiths. Now they were shaking my hand and sending me kisses, but when I was 22 I felt crucified in that school. I was so hurt, because I had made something very exposing, real and authentic. I had put myself out there.


Photo: Noam Edry (The Pigman, 2003), All rights reserved

Before I went to Paris I was making work that was slightly more kind of punchy, funny ‘haha’, even ironic in a way. I knew how to manipulate my audience, it was easy for me. I went to Paris and I had an inner change, I really did. I discovered things about myself; it was kind of a mystical experience for me. And when I came back I couldn’t paint these baroque, grotesque things that I had made before. I couldn’t use gold anymore or talk about decadence. I had to peel the layers and talk about something a lot more simple, inner and pure. And I got Shit for that. So after finishing my BA I couldn’t paint for years. I would try painting and I felt like a four year old child, everything came out like scribbles. I didn’t want to go to any art openings and I didn’t want to see these people. So I studied acting, I turned to dance and I became an actress as well as a dance instructor. I made the film with Yosi Ohayon, an amazing script that I will talk about. One day an artist friend called me and said “I need your help, you are the only one who knows about this pigment stuff and I need to learn how to mix.” I went there, put on an apron and started mixing in his studio and mid-way I said “Yoni, I am so sorry but I really have to go now” and I ran to my studio, which was a tiny balcony in my room, where I had locked everything up.

 Photo: Noam Edry (Sheepdog, 2008), All rights reserved         

That moment I brought it all out. I started painting and I haven’t stopped ever since. It was a really tough time, but it all just poured out of me after that. I no longer had all the voices in my head of my teachers saying “Do this, do that. Don’t do this, don’t do that”.

I think that coming to Goldsmiths I was a lot stronger, I needed that strength. I got the same kind of controversy. I had people coming in to my studio every day commenting about my painting, I got ten people telling me how to finish the paintings and what to paint and what to leave out. My teachers heavily criticized me, especially the painting teachers; they wanted me to universalize my work, to make it less specific, to thin the paint. Even while setting up the show it was hell; although I worked in a secluded area. I kept getting visitors, uninvited colleagues of mine, who had to see what I was doing; telling me “Take down this painting” “Don’t paint like this” ”This one is too much.” I just had to tell them “Please, I need my space. Leave me alone. Good-bye.” At first I rolled up all the paintings and put them away. I phoned my parents in Israel and I said “I have lost myself, I think I am going mad. I don’t know what to do.” My father had to take the phone and literally yell at me “PUT YOUR PAINTINGS BACK ON THE WALL! Do what you planned! Where is Noam? You have had this show in your head for a year now! You know what to do – Do it!” But again it was a question of combating all these people and I asked my friends if they got the same kind of nosing around and they said that nobody came to their studio to interfere. How is it that I attract so much attention before the work is even born?

Because you break conventions and you do your own thing.

Yeah, so it is very hard to always be very strong, but I try to do it, and to have a lot of courage and faith. It is not that I am doing the right thing; I am doing the only thing I can do. There is no other way I can do my work. I cannot think about what will happen and who will see it and what will they think? I can only do what my heart says, because if I lie; I cannot lie. The work will not let me lie. I think it is beyond me, really; beyond me as a person and as an artist.

Photo: Dr Andrew Renton, Head of MA curating at Goldsmiths and Noam Edry, Anna Stephens, All rights reserved


[More on Noam Edry]


Interview Series 2011

Part 1 – A constant battle for the freedom of speech in a web of taboos and envy

Part 2 – From sharp-edged politics to an S&M club and back again

Part 3 – “I Am the Terrorist”

Feature on Childhood

Born a War Painter


Museum of Art, Ein Harod, Israel, 2012

Goldsmiths MFA 2011

Peter Nitsch – When Bangkok holds its breath for a moment

Photo: BANGKOK – Urban Identities, Phra Sumen Fort, Santipachaiprakan Park, © Peter Nitsch 2011

What is your philosophy as a photographer?

As I have a strong interest in Asia I would describe it with the words of Rabindranath Tagore: “The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.” For me and my personal work it is important to see the image before I make it and this “process” takes some time. Digital photography has made it easy for photographers to take thousand of pictures, but within those thousand pictures one can get lost and loose the sense-perception of photography, ‘painting with light’. Photography is a lifetime process of seeing and I‘m still learning.

According to your biography, your work mainly communicates “the conflict between Thai identity and the globalized living conditions”. The Thai installation artist Surasi Kusolwong, who is mainly known for his works about social interaction over economic exchange in modern consumer society, said the following in regards to “the consequences of globalization on the people (in Bangkok) and their cultural tradition.”(1):

“We are good at adapting but sometimes we are too open. However, in general, we are not worried about this kind of globalization, we just flow flexibly and use it in our own way, meaning and understanding…”(2)

How would you describe “Thai identity” and the globalized living conditions?

The Kingdom of Thailand or Kingdom of Siam is the only nation in Southeast Asia which has never been colonized by the westerner. Most of the population is Buddhist of Theravada School. The country has a long tradition of agriculture such as growing rice, vegetable, fruits, gum trees and palm oil. Between 1985 and 1995 Thailand experienced rapid economic growth and became the new industrialized country. With the ongoing westernization and globalization Thai people – mostly the new generation, the youngster – want to take part as well in the economic growth. But I think many people now realize that the consumerist paradigm isn’t sustainable from an ecological and sociological standpoint.

His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej has introduced the philosophy of sufficiency economics‘ 30 years ago to the Thai society. The sufficiency economy theme‘s relevance can be understood at several levels. At individual levels, they provide a sensible approach to economic life and are also helpful at firm and community levels. Nationally, the themes are highly relevant for countries adjusting to rapidly changing global environments. Sufficiency means to have enough to live on. Sufficiency also means to lead a reasonably comfortable life, without excess, or overindulgence in luxury, but enough. Some things may seem to be extravagant, but if it brings happiness, it is permissible as long as it is within the means of the individual, which I think is the only way out.

Photo: BANGKOK – Urban Identities, Siam Square, © Peter Nitsch 2011

I have never been to Thailand myself and my conception of the country relies heavily on photography and media. Your documentary work offers the viewer a delightfully intimate peek into the everyday life on the streets of Bangkok. Since Thailand has gained a reputation as a hub for excessive sexual behavior, which is not at all present in your work, I feel that your work is important in terms of bringing forth a broader understanding of Thai culture. How big is the sex industry in Thailand?

You‘re right. Well, you‘ve mentioned it. Ask someone about Thailand and he will tell you about sex tourism or sandy beaches, ask someone about New York and he will tell you about art, design, creativity and many other positive things. The sex tourism industry in Thailand came with the American G.I.‘s during the Vietnam war. The US used Thailand as a hub to Vietnam and to heal their wounds from the war. This is how Thailand gained international notoriety among travelers from many countries as a sex tourism destination. Prostitution is illegal in Thailand, although in practice it is tolerated and partly regulated. The sex industry isn‘t much bigger than in any other country, it‘s just MADE bigger than it actually is by word-of-mouth. Thailand has a lot more to offer, the people and the country are so creative.

Photo: Shophouses – 4 x 8 m Bangkok, Hair Salon, © Peter Nitsch 2011

You live and work in Munich and Bangkok with design and photography. What brought you to Thailand initially?

My interest in Asia has been there since I was a child. At that time I had a strong interest in Chinese films, which I never lost, and it developed into a strong interest into Bangkok. Speaking about Chinese films at that time, you have to keep in mind that there was no Internet or mobile phones at all and the only hub to the world in our village was the video rental store. I went there nearly every day looking for something new and from that on I grew the interest in Asian films.

Your series “SHOPHOUSES”, which can be enjoyed in your monograph “Shophouses – 4 x 8 m Bangkok”, depicts commercial spaces cluttered with both personal belongings and items that are for sale. The Hair Salon with a big fridge bombarded with colorful stickers, potato peels gathered on a blanket on the floor and a laundry basket suggest that the space is filling many functions! I understand from the description of the series on Wikipedia (“… For many of them the mostly two-storey shop, that on the lower level is open to the street, is workplace and living space in one….”) that these shops are highly personalized because the shop owners reside on the second floor. I imagine whole families living together and children, uncles and aunties walking in and out of the commercial space; is this correct? 

Yes, that‘s true and I like the stickers on the fridge as well. The big one says “Haeng Haeng Haeng” in Thai, which means “Luck, Luck, Luck”. The SHOPHOUSES photographs are arrangements that have developed from the necessities of everyday life and work in one limited space, which is mostly 4 x 8 m. I wanted the observer to be drawn in at eye level. I wanted to take a deep, satisfying look to immerse myself in the rich colors, the confusion of cheap junk and traditional treasures, the clever forms of self-marketing and idiosyncratic living arrangements and simultaneously insist on maintaining a distance in order to preserve everyone’s dignity: Both the observer and the observed.



Talking about the “Hair Salon”, the main image of the series, I wanted to give the viewer a real impression on such a situation with the time-lapse. Whilst the people are getting nice haircuts, the owner of this mamma and papa house is preparing food for her lunch. You can see the potato peelings lying on the floor in the final fine-art photography at time code 02:46 – which is permanently exhibited in the entrance at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bangkok – shown at the end of the time-lapse.

Photo: Shophouses – 4 x 8 m Bangkok, Frame Maker © Peter Nitsch 2011

The photograph “Frame Maker” suggests a very peaceful moment in the life of a frame maker, who is seated in the back room with a bare chest. It looks like he is talking to you; what did he say? 

It looks very peaceful, but just behind me you‘ll have the sky train and a 4-lane street passing this shop house near the Emporium Shopping Mall. He didn‘t talk to me in that situation, although it looks like he does. But we have been talking afterwards.

In great contrast to the personal and intriguing interiors in the “SHOPHOUSES” series, we are shown the sales people in the malls of Bangkok during the moments between customers in “Wait for Service”; some are thoughtful, others are emotional. I am curious to know which series came first, unless you were working on them simultaneously and how you see them working in relation to each other. 

I started the “Wait for Service” series two years ago, some months later than the SHOPHOUSES. It‘s an ongoing urban study. I wanted to show the complete opposite site of Thailand – compared to the warm and peaceful family business in SHOPHOUSES – the glamorous and commercial world that is build upon manpower, manpower and manpower. The buzzing malls and their customers seem to flow in a rhythm that sets the pace, but whilst looking at the salesperson the mall comes to a standstill for a brief moment, they wait for service the customer. I wanted to picture those moments of great authenticity when the salesperson feel unobserved, waiting, lost in thought or deep in conversation, staring at nothing and the mall holds its breath for a moment.

Photo: Wait for Service, Bangkok, © Peter Nitsch 2011

How would you describe your creative process?

For my personal fine-art photography and documentary work, I always start with text sketches writing down my concept. Leave it for some days and then get back to it, correct it and finalize the script. Then when I go out to take the images, I try to forget all about the concept and just try to feel and see the images. The idea is still in my mind, but without thinking too much when shooting. I believe that the translation from concept to final without tracing helps me correct my mistakes as I go.

Do you think that new technology is mainly to the advantage or disadvantage of fine art photography?

I think it‘s an advantage. You can‘t change the process of modernization, so I decided for myself to embrace it. As I learned from Milton Glaser, while he was talking about fear of failure: “You have to embrace the failure … this is the only way out …”

Photo: DANGER – Never Open When Hot, © Peter Nitsch 2011

Photo: DANGER – Never Open When Hot, Mounting © Peter Nitsch 2011

The series “DANGER – Never Open When Hot” gives us a peek into the Thais creative approach to vehicle maintenance. It is both fun and impressive to see the solutions they come up with. In Thailand they are obviously not tied to the strict regulations we have to follow in Europe. Would you be able to describe what’s going on in “Mounting”?

Improvisation in general is a great skill of Thai mentality; I would call the Thai people the true masters of improvisation. The Thai art of improvised tuning demonstrates the Thais’ great level of tolerance, stoicism and, yes, importance of freedom, rising above the dogmatic and narrow-minded bureaucracies in the West. It often looks funny and peculiar, and sometimes mind-boggling, but it works. In “Mounting” we see a simple, but effective way of using a snap hook for placing a typical Thai beverage bag with straw. And it‘s multifunctional at the same time.

Your work is revered in Thailand and can be found in the AAA Archive (Asia Art Archive Collection), BACC – Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre, Thai Art Archives, Bangkok and in the German Embassy, Bangkok. What is the contemporary photography scene like in Thailand?

To speak it respectfully it‘s still growing. Compared to other Southeast Asian cities, like for example Shanghai or Singapore, the contemporary fine-art photography scene is still in a process of finding themselves and the interest in contemporary photography is still in the early stages of development.

I am struck by the vivid colors in your work! Bangkok must be vibrating with this radiance. How does it feel to come back to Munich after a long period in Thailand?

This can really bring you down to earth. One could say worlds are colliding. It‘s not only the light that is different, it‘s also the speed of living. But both countries have their pros and cons.

Photo: BANGKOK – Urban Identities, Soi Thong Lo, © Peter Nitsch 2011

In the series “Urban Identities” you take us on a journey around Bangkok to places like Siam Square, Santipachaiprakan Park and Soi Thong Lo. What do these places have in common in terms of shaping urban identities? 

They all are public spaces taken by the people trying to do their own way of respectful living within the public without disturbing each other. All places in Bangkok seem to look at first sight very chaotic and busy. Siam Square for example doesn‘t look at first sight very tempting, but if you stay at this place you will notice that the scenery is very peaceful and Buddhistic, and Soi Thong Lo looks very chaotic and stressful, but within that chaos you‘ll find your own way of tidiness.

What is your favorite camera?

I love to shoot with the Canon EOS 5D MKII, my iPhone and I would love to have a Digital Hasselblad for larger fine-art prints in 2 x 2 m.

Does your love of the streets, which is present in most of your work, stem from your days on the skateboard?

I haven‘t thought about that yet, but yes, I think you‘re right. Back in the days I was more involved into the action sports scene and co-founded the Skate- & Snowboard magazine called “Playboard”. But after having serious problems with my back I began to look for alternatives without losing contact to the action sport scene in Germany.

I always like it when I‘m on the move and travel light with just one camera.

(1), (2) Surasi Kusolwong in conversation with Gerald Matt in 2005, INTERVIEWS by Gerald Matt 

Click for Peter Nitsch’s website

Sleepwalking Lee Hadwin – An artist who never cared for art

10th September 2011 at ICA London

“I wake up; open my eyes and I just know that I have done something.
My thought process changes a bit and I feel a migraine coming on.”

Lee Hadwin, the World’s Sleep Artist, baffles the world with his night time adventures full of creative output. With wide-open eyes, Lee gets out of bed and sleep walks his way to the nearest pencil or pen and starts drawing at an incredible speed without out a blink. ”It makes him laugh” was the PA’s reply to what Donald Trump thought of his new Lee Hadwin original. Unless there is a piece of paper available, the sleeping artist will draw on floors, walls and furniture. It makes us laugh, because while thousands of artists struggle against artist’s blocks and fight for their life to reach an audience; Lee is not even interested in art.

The last couple of weeks have been hectic with a global media coverage ranging from BBC to Alarabiya News for the Middle East, Americas “Right This Minute” TV show and Latin America and US News NTN24. Curators, collectors and journalists all over the world are amazed by the mystery of the World’s Sleep Artist.


Do you meet a lot of skepticism?

I used to, but not so much now, because I have been to the Edinburgh Sleep Clinic quite a few times and gone through proper examinations. When I first got involved with the press ten years ago, the hardest thing I had to do was to prove that I couldn’t draw when I was awake. When I did the documentary for BBC I also had to go through my old school reports to prove that I have never had an interest in art. In 2008 I was filmed sleeping in my bedroom when I got up and started drawing a fairy. I am just staring, not even blinking. In January 2011 I did a documentary for Japan and they were filming me moving my hands in my sleep. They were also saying that I held the pen differently in my hand when I was awake. At this point even hotels have video footage of me getting up at night and the few people out there who still doubt are welcome to do so.

You were saying that you tend to be more creative when you go to bed really drunk. How is this related to sleep walking?

Yes, alcohol brings it all out. When I went to the Edinburgh Sleep Clinic five years ago with ITV we were told that both alcohol drinking and sleep deprivation brings sleep walking on, which is why you have to stay awake for 40 hours without sleep at Edinburgh Sleep Clinic.

Do you go out drinking to bring on an episode of creative sleep walking?

No, I drink because I like drinking. I might do some tonight. Many people think I do portraits every night, but I might just scribble a little bit one night and then go three weeks without drawing. It is very sporadic.

Ideally I should interview you when you are asleep, because that is when I’d be interviewing the artist, but I understand from the YouTube videos that I have seen of you that it is impossible get any response from you as you are sleep walking and drawing. Is that correct?

Haha, yes, that is true.

“Awakening” by Lee Hadwin, © Lee Hadwin


Have you ever left paints and brushes out for your night-time adventures?

I keep pencils, pens, brushes and acrylic paints in the drawer next to my bed. Even though I have paint brushes available I always choose to paint with my fingers, but that might change in the future because I only started drawing in color in 2009. These days I only bur acrylic paints, because it is too messy with oils.

Most of your works are signed; do you ever sign them in your sleep?

No, I sign them afterwards.

How do you feel when you wake up?

I wake up; open my eyes and I just know that I have done something. My thought process changes a bit and I feel a migraine coming on. I know that I have done something, but not what I have done. Then I have a migraine for 5-6 hours, because of the exhaustion.

This sounds very tiring, do you sleep walk a lot?

No, I might do a drawing once or twice in a week and sometimes five weeks can go by without any drawing.


“Fall of Being” by Lee Hadwin, © Lee Hadwin

The drawing ‘Fall of Being’ depicts a fairy between two falling leaves whose wings and arms are dissolving in the wind, and ‘The Game’ is a drawing of fairies in various positions under the full moon, with elements of what appears to be a tail and legs of a leopard. Also, one of the fairies is falling helplessly from the sky or struggling towards abstract forces. Do you have any level of interest in fairies whilst awake?

The only thing I have a connection to is the 11:11 drawings, because I also see 11:11 when I am awake, although the American flag might have been related to my upcoming trip to the US.

What are your present concerns regarding ’11:11’? I have seen 11:11 on and off for many years as well, sometimes very frequently, in all sorts of situations. 

I had just done the ITV documentary in December 2008 when it started happening. I could switch my mobile on now and it would say 11:11 even though it was 13:20. I went to Barcelona with my partner and it was platform 11, seat 11, time 11:11; really full on. There are millions of people around the world that see 11:11 and there are different theories. Generally it is believed to have a connection to the spiritual world and some people say that it is a way for spirits or angels to contact people on earth, to draw your attention.

If this is a way of contacting you, what happens after you have seen 11:11? What happens when they have you attention?

I don’t know. I get a nice feeling, but it is nothing more than that.

Do you think that you are lead by spirits when you do art in your sleep?

When I was on BBC the doctor was saying that we are all more conscious when we are asleep, meaning that we are using our subconscious more. The doctor also said that it is impossible to create stuff when you are asleep, but I disagree with that, because musicians like Paul McCartney create music in their sleep. I do believe that as human beings we have lost our sixth sense a lot. When we are asleep, we might be more receptive. What confuse the doctors the most is that I can’t draw when I am awake.


“Together” by Lee Hadwin, © Lee Hadwin


Some of your drawings are slightly eerie.  The drawing ‘un-titled’ consists of the three numbers 5, 1 and 8. Have you tried to figure out what it means? ‘Together’ is similar in the sense that it only consists of numbers. It is something a bit scary about it, like something out of a thriller film.

It is the numbers that get me, I think about what they mean. I have done this all my life, so to me there is nothing eerie about it.

Your piece ‘Awakening’ includes words like ‘ARSE’, ‘Fuck’, ‘Love’ and ‘Please’ as well as numbers and signs. It appears to have taken a good couple of hours to create. For how long do your drawing sessions usually last?

I did that when I was 15-16 and it took 25 minutes. Sometimes my hand moves so fast that what make take an artist 3 hours to create, takes me 15 minutes. There is video footage of my hand moving at that speed.



Would you be interested in trying to do clay sculptures or do you feel indifferent towards different artistic expressions?

I have never tried it before, but it might be interesting. A gentleman asked me the same question yesterday and I thought ‘Don’t get me started on creating pottery in my sleep!’ I might do it though, but I’d be going to bed with clay all over me.

It doesn’t have to be messy, you can use oil based clays like PlasticineWhat was your dream profession as a child? I know that you never had any artistic ambitions.

I wanted to become a TV-presenter. I would still love to read the news, but I am not any good at it.

Do you support yourself solely on your art, and if, are you worried that the sleeping artist inside of you will vanish?

Back in North Wales I cared for people with brain injuries and when I moved to London I started working for migration. I never dreamt of an artistic career, but since I have been offered a huge, beautiful space in East London for two months, I am now planning an exhibition with over 200 works.  It is going to be a show to remember, because the space calls for it. I don’t worry about whether the sleep art will stop one day or not; life is too short and there are more important things to worry about in life!

How do you choose the titles?

I only started titling my drawings five years ago. I look at stuff, try to think what it means and find words with the help of a dictionary. A lot of the circle ones I do make me think about the universe and space so I give them names like ‘Vortex’ and ‘The Abyss’.

Would you like to tell the readers about the charity ‘missing people’, which you are supporting?

When I was 14 or 15 years old I ran away to London for four days and it caused my parents a lot of grief. I came in contact with Missing People through a breakfast show on GMTV (ITV Breakfast Limited). In the green room back stage I met Richard Branson and a woman who had lost her sister; she was obviously out of her head with worry. She gave me a ‘Missing People’ card and I contacted them later on. They invited me to their Head Office, where I agreed to give them a percentage on all originals.

Have you ever thought of doing a project where you sleep in an art gallery; a big room with white walls and a bed in the middle and plenty of materials positioned around the room? It would make for an interesting exhibition! 

I would love to do a live installation for a couple of weeks and broadcast it live on the Internet, but the problem is that I can’t guarantee any sleep drawing.