Emma Geliot's picture

This Summer, Thomas Goddard represented Wales at Standpoint Futures in London, where he began a series of interviews with himself. Rory Duckhouse caught up with him to find out more.

Thomas Goddard, the former monster hunter, pilgrim, educator, ventriloquist and BBC correspondent, sits in an uncomfortable looking wooden chair in a large studio just off the once trendy Hoxton Square. Becoming a parody of itself, its air is filled with the jangle of loose change, inherited not earned, from those wearing vintage and thrift store inspired fashions, tight-fitting jeans, old-school sneakers, and thick rimmed glasses.

The studio is housed in a large, early twentieth century building. Once inside, there is a white walled gallery space, New York style lift and various studios, all of which open regularly to the public for workshops, exhibitions, events and talks. Those who enter instantly feel the pull of Bohemia through the inhalation of good quality, pure turpentine, evoking memories of pine trees, liquorice and their own childhoods.

Goddard's study is a picture of creative disorder. Scattered across the floor are several newspaper cuttings about a wolf that had run amok in downtown LA and a mass of different sized sticks with one side painted, a Post-It note above them reads 'STICKS WITH MEANING' and below that, in fainter pencil, 'Collect more sticks'. The whirring hard drive on his desk is hidden behind a paper mountain that resembles a scanned photograph from government guidance on fire risks in the home.

Goddard is someone who is dedicated to regular exercise, which he gets strolling to and from the local pub. Despite his excessive indulgences he only has a hint of a gut for now. His clothes are tatty and faded. His hair thinning and cut very short at the back and sides with slightly longer hair on the top of his head. At 34 Goddard could pass for 44, his sullen face grim with an understanding and dislocation with the world, expressing more enmity and hostility than aggravation or bitterness. The interview takes place in the studio, but not before Goddard places two chairs directly opposite one another so, he says, 'we can look each other in the eye'.

We talk for just over two hours, from 12.15 until 2.15, Goddard hovers on his chair as we speak, alive and animated, often possessed with anger. His words are passionate but careful, never pausing, but always considerate of how to extend or push the point he is making. On each half hour he drinks a Scotch.

 

 

 

Thomas Goddard - Brando Facepalm, 2015 Silver Gelatin Photograph, 21cm x 29.7cm jpg 

 

Thomas Goddard - Brando Facepalm, 2015 Silver Gelatin Photograph, 21cm x 29.7cm jpg

 

Interviewer: Firstly, congratulations on your Creative Wales Award. Have you found it to be beneficial to you so far?

Interviewee: Thank you and yes - I've been able to step back from the day-to-day running of the Learning Programme at Glynn Vivian. While there I've been lucky to have the opportunity to support the practice of other artists at just the right time for them. Creative Wales is allowing me to concentrate on my own work rather than fitting it around a full-time job. This is the first time I have been able to do this since studying at University. The freedom, the space to think quietly and reflect; this time has been hugely beneficial to me. There is an anxiety that if you're not working or doing then you're not being productive but space is as important. The space that allows your filter to come in, to edit well. For instance I cut most of this interview. It was over 8,000 words!

Collaborating with other artists and the community is important to me but I am trying to be seen as an artist rather than as an educator. Through my artistic practice I can enrich others. It seems people don't believe that an artist can function in the real world; that being an artist dissolves a sense of responsibility.

Interviewer: [Leaning forward, hands interlinked] Why do you think this is?

 

Interviewee: Any artistic project requires the author to have full command and control of the methods of realisation. My work on educational or curatorial projects (beatenblackblueredgreengold), whether freelance or at Glynn Vivian such as management of the artist in residence or development of strategy, all stems from the notion of the true artist, and by that I mean one that has achieved perfect mastery of his material and trade. It is unfortunate and it can be depressing that people see this artist as someone who does workshops.

Interviewer: But you do do workshops, don't you?

Interviewee: I question the elevation of the lecturer in a regional art scene. The visuals of my work don't look the same and this has proven a stumbling block because there seems to be very little time to fully engage with art now. It's an image on instagram that is liked or not. Maybe I should have made work under different monikers, maybe that would have meant I could cowardly disown the 'bad' work.

Interviewer: But if your work doesn't look the same, regardless whether it is good or bad, then how can someone expect to engage with it? How are they supposed to know where they are? Why would they believe in something that is changing?

 

Thomas Goddard - Baby I Got Your Money, 2015 Archival Inkjet Print, 84.1cm x 118.9cm

 

Interviewee: All of my work has a unifying principle. Take Cerbyd, it was a project that had a collaborative community at its core however for me it was more about an apocalyptic pilgrimage across my country. Brian and I crammed a group of artists onto a bus, hurtled out to camp in Mad Max-esque style, and then met with specialist groups. I mean camping is the final vestige of civilisation. When it's all gone, we'll be camping and cooking for one another or with one another. So Cerbyd has apocalypse as its central idea. While planning Cerbyd, I began making a series of A4 (chosen because of its domestic size) ink drawings based around each year from 1898-1999. The set of 101 drawings, like Room 101, were black and white reflecting the death of newspapers and a memorial to the progress and suffering of the 20th Century while also presenting a way to learn about each year. Prior to that I'd been working in flash and animating Potential Endings, a series of four apocalyptic scenarios based on paintings by John Martin and others. This ran on to my film Mobile Punch and Judy Man which had a full script and took its cue from a favourite dystopian novel of mine, Riddley Walker. Biographically this coincided with when my Parents split up after 51 years of marriage. It became a sombre, unnerving film rather than the magnus opus I had first dreamt of. Mobile Punch and Judy Man is about being the last one left. How we don't have any choice who that will be and it could be a murderous Punch and Judy professor. Each of these works has a detailed research archive behind it - I mean we all have that - then the archive becomes the project.

In the Beast of Bala, I create an archive to a way of seeing. Yes, there is myth there, but it's about how we really see things and what we choose to believe. Brando actually surfaced first in my Beast of Bala project, appearing to me in a dream while I was camping at the lake.

During the making of Bulletin, created during a residency at the BBC, it felt like a film about the cold war. Watching and shooting hours of footage and news each day made me feel pretty low. I wondered whether if all this was happening in the world then maybe it would be better just to get back in the sea.

Interviewer: And so.. in answer to my questions...?

Interviewee: [exasperated] Isn't it obvious? The work is about all our journeys through life; the potential fragility, the potential pointlessness, the potential significance of it all. We can all engage with a sense of searching and a sense of seeking, creating and destroying identity. And it's always changing. All of it is always changing. So if we don't have a belief in something that is changing we can't believe in anything, not even in life or living.

 

Thomas Goddard - Comment is free, 2015, Publication in an edition of 20 numbered copies, 9cm x 14cm 

 

Thomas Goddard - Comment is free, 2015, Publication in an edition of 20 numbered copies, 9cm x 14cm  

Interviewer: Your work sits across different contexts and mediums, for example in film but then in installation. Are these parallel realities? Or are they different contexts of production?

Interviewee: What's wrong with popping up in different contexts?

Interviewer: [gulps] The process of making A Sort of Wallpaper for the Unit(e) programme at g39 was quite different. You chose to explore your archives and 'unashamedly go back to image making'.

Interviewee: Like many artists I wrestle with image making. I have concerns about losing the physicality of the objects in reproductions especially when they may lose their quality of touch or equally are removed from their political or historical significance in relation to the projects they were involved in. The things in these archive boxes have in some way become obsolete. They are the detritus left over from a larger project. Similar to a photo album, they bare biographical significance that relates to a moment in time for me. When working on a project by project basis I think I struggled to know where the work was and where it isn't perhaps. The series is ongoing as I feel there is something useful about having to retrace your steps from the beginning - putting together images layered from archive box after archive box was a neat way to do this. I'm activating the old work, wiping the dust off so it is more useful to me.

Interviewer: How did you find your Standpoint Futures Residency? As you were representing Wales, did you feel under pressure through a sense of expectation?

Interviewee: There can be an enormous and unrealistic pressure on any residency. The idea of getting 100% creativity out of every second, starting from day one. As artists we put that on ourselves primarily and of course I do that and I did that and I still do that. Luckily the warehouse where I was staying burned to the ground so it gave me a good excuse to stop the intense working and deep self loathing to take a couple of days off.

Interviewer: Hold on you were in a fire?!

Interviewee: Yeah, look. [Shows interviewer video footage of a flaming warehouse building being doused with water by London Fire Fighters]

Interviewer: Did this affect the residency?

Interviewee: I don't think so apart from having a couple of days out of the studio. I recommend Standpoint Futures. Fiona and Carla at Standpoint are great. It's well set up and is outward facing so you have the choice of inviting curators, writers anyone you feel will make a connection or help your development to come and see you. For me I had an outpouring of work that needed to come out. Due to working on a project by project basis, once I got there it was like taking off a mucus cap of creativity. I was grateful to push out works that had sat on my rolodex for years. What was encouraging was that they were just as relevant as when I had first written them down.

Interviewer: At Standpoint you said Fuck the idea of genius against the idea of the messiah. Against the idea of eulogising the artist and turning them into Jesus. Against the idea of David Bowie , but then, for your MOSTYN exhibition Be More Brando, you go on to describe Brando as a misinterpreted and misunderstood god, isn t this possibly contradictory?

 

 

 

Thomas Goddard - Be More Brando, 2015 Limited Edition Giclee and Letterpress Print, 42cm x 59.4cm

 

Interviewee: Be More Brando isn't about presenting him as a genius. I acknowledge that Marlon Brando was seen as a genius and is considered to be one of the great actors. However, in the large wall piece, for example, Brando becomes a cypher. As the collapse of maleness, I wanted to capture the inability to cope with the reality of the world in a single frame. A lone wolf mumbling into the darkness. A man who is sorry for his mistakes.

Of course, I'm playing with and encouraging the assumptions of the male stereotype. Those assumptions that I personally encountered from friends and some of those were supposedly open minded art types (Goddard was divorced this year). It seems stereotypes run deep but it doesn't worry me as I feel misunderstanding is important to creativity. Brando was famously a womaniser, married several times - just because I am divorced doesn't mean I resemble Brando and as a male don't condone any of his actions. I think of this as my 'break up' work. The break up album has a rich history from the stripped down misery of The Boatman's Call to Get Lonely. It's like that Bill Hicks skit, You Can't Get Bitter, I am driven now. Which all relates directly to my seeming 'control' over this interview, my wider practice and my interviewing myself to get to a deeper truth that only I can uncover.

Interviewer: So post break-up album, what's next?

Interviewee: I'll be starting a residency at Parc le Breos where I'll be channeling Neolithic man. It's a burial chamber in the Gower Heritage Park. I'll be transforming my series of interviews into performances as part of Experimentica in Chapter. I'd like to start my own political party. I want to give a speech in the Senydd, just once. I'd like to go into theatre. Opera or a ballet. I love ballet. I am thinking big about failing spectacularly. As Schlingensief said 'Hunting two tigers'. I want to make a film about an auction house, create a cake in the shape of Vladimir Putin dressed in a thong and have a pair of Ukrainian lesbians jump out, release a K-Pop single, make pub signs with a community in Plymouth, film a live circumcision and make a film with a group of chronic confabulators.

Or I could just do a text in neon. Do you know anyone who might be interested?

Interviewer: Are those things all from your rolodex?

Interviewee: Some are and some I just type in my phone. It's a modern world, y'all.

 

 

This interview is based on a conversation between Rory Duckhouse and Thomas Goddard that took place on Wednesday 17 June. Transcript produced by Thomas Goddard

 

Thomas Goddard Be More Brando is at Mostyn, Llandudno until 08 November 2015

mostyn.org