University: The University of Salford
Genre: Conceptual Art
Artist Statement: Show! Me the Money is a body of work that explores the surreal environment of the television game show.
With elaborate, over-the-top set design, to the ritualistic consumption filled orgy of winning prizes, this work calls attention to the culture we live in. Have we all but lost the distinction between representation and reality itself?
Advertising disguised as a celebration of commodity goods; the television game show provides the contestant with a sense of normality and connection. Yet at the same time, the art of winning successfully feeds their inner wants and desires to improve their lifestyle.
Using a mixture of image recording techniques, Show! Me the Money provides a visual cycle of greed, elation and deflation. Hosted by non-spaces of bright colour and aesthetically absurd environments, the work and installation aims to question the possibility that reality and simulation have merged to become one.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? Visiting Paris Photo in my first year. What a great experience, especially as I was still working out what I liked to photograph! The amount of work on show by so many great practitioners was unreal. Also, on the same trip, I went to Offprint, the photobook fair on in the city. It was here I bought a signed copy of one of Rinko Kawauchi’s new books!
These were both standout moments for me, but the main one would have to be graduating. I enrolled on a degree course at the age of 27, after not taking my career seriously for 10 years prior. So to graduate with top marks was my standout moment by far.
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? I would probably place it under conceptual art. I love the research aspect of making new work, so exploring new avenues and responding to findings would always be the basis to how a new body of work is formed.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? The underlining theme that I have been exploring since my first year of university would be consumer culture. I have been obsessed with how we have a need for ‘things’.
Do you think you would be making this style of work if you didn’t study for a degree? Probably not. Im not sure I would even be working in the photographic industry if I hadn’t gone to university. I loved uni; I applied to get onto a degree course with a portfolio of travel themed images. Within the first few weeks my mind had been exposed to a different way of seeing, and I totally embraced it.
Were there any standout visual or theoretical influences that you had when making Show! Me the Money? Theoretically I studied a lot on the ideas of Jean Baudrillard, and how Post Modern society has become a sort of blur between reality and representation. Basically, by initiating ‘reality’ through television and gameshows – we start to lose track of what is real anymore.
Visually I took inspiration from old episodes of Supermarket Sweep, The Generation Game, and photographers such as Elad Lassry & Roe Etheridge. The French anthropologist Marc Auge wrote a book named Non-Places which is where I took ideas about the spaces and sets that host gameshows.
What do you hope for your viewer to take away or learn from your images? In Show! Me the Money I didn’t set out for the viewer to potentially learn anything from my imagery – but to make them aware of an aspect of society that they may never really have thought about in great detail. I set out to show the absurdity of the television gameshow and how greed, self-gratification and personal fulfilment makes up our commodity culture of today.
Where did your interest in this subject arise from? My interest in this subject came from an earlier study of consumerism. I made a body of work that explored the exotic looking plants we decide to decorate our homes with. It was this ‘need’ for things that led me onto greed and eventually gameshows.
Can you tell us about the way in which you presented your work at your degree show? What encouraged you to juxtapose objects with your imagery? This particular body of work was a collection of ideas around the absurdity of a gameshow. (Try and picture what the set would look like minus the contestants). It was also around the greed and desire to win prizes - I played on both of these ideas and created a small installation in response to this.
What did you learn from making this work and researching around your subject? Why do we have such a need for ‘things’? In my opinion, most gameshows, past and present are nothing more than advertising campaigns. Just another way for commodity goods or items we don’t really need to find a way into our part of the brain that tells us that we want something.
I think this culture of desire to have things for pleasure hasn’t just appeared overnight. We have always had the trait within ourselves. I would say that as technology has evolved over the years, the advertising industry has benefited ridiculously - the pair go hand in hand in exaggerating our need for ‘stuff’!
Do you think you approached your degree course differently at the age of 27, than you may have at a younger age? Definitely! I studied photography as an A-level after leaving high school, and at that young age of 17 I didn’t really have a clue what I wanted to do. It took many sh*t jobs and failures before I got to university. Once there I had a sense of purpose; I finally found something I might be okay at - this, along with generally enjoying the subject, was a good matchup for a successful three years!
Pick one favourite photographer and quickly explain why you like their work. Roe Etheridge! Great work by an artist that seems to merge art, commercial, advertising, still life and everyday occurrences into one. Brilliant.
What are your future plans now you’ve finished university? Do you think you’ll ever find yourself back in education? I work full time for a busy studio shooting home interior products/textiles/furnishings etc. I am in the best place to progress with my commercial work so will be sticking with this job indefinitely!
I am currently planning on making some new personal work, I felt like after 3 years at university, I could afford to take a few months to decide on my next subject matter!