Artist, Simeon Barclay and curator Adam Carr discuss the exhibition 'Simeon Barclay: Bus2Move' at Workplace Foundation, and the wider themes of Simeon Barclay's work. Recorded on 7 Nov 2019.
Miles Thurlow Good evening, everyone. Welcome to Workplace Foundation. I want to introduce tonight Simeon Barclay, who is an artist based in Leeds. And Adam Carr, who is a curator. I'm going to say a bit more about Adam, because you obviously have got your press release here and you can read about Simeon. Adam Carr currently holds a number of guest curatorial positions. He is preparing 'Post-It Columbia' at an exhibition opening in Bogota, Colombia in September, coinciding with Arte Bo, a solo exhibition of the work of Ryan Gander opening in 2020 in PORTO, an exhibition with Collecteurs New York together with Jens Hoffmann and Adriano Martinez. He has founded Espacio Mango, a new gallery space and exhibition program in Bogota, Colombia, which opened in September, 2019. In addition, in a newly formed position as artistic director, he is developing an exhibition program for ERL at Liverpool John Moores University scheduled to open in July 2020. So without further ado... Converse! I'll just shut that door then sit down.
Simeon Barclay Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Simeon Barclay I get worried about drafts.
Adam Carr So thanks, Miles, for the kind introduction and thank you all for being here this evening. Thanks to you as well for the invite. It's great to get together and have a conversation in front of other people, and help kind of collect a lot of those things that we've been discussing over the years.
Adam Carr What I wanted to start with is how we kind of bonded on that kind of joint admiration for Jungle and Drum and Bass music, and early rave music and underground club culture. And I'm, particularly in the early 90s, I'm a little bit younger than you so I wasn't able to go to those events - sorry Simeon! But you were so, you know, hearing those stories is fantastic, but I know that this has kind of built the foundation upon which your work is, is made.
Adam Carr And, you know, you seem very attracted to the kind of like, visual tropes that went with that kind of era of time, you know, particularly in this exhibition, which has at its centre this idea of dance.
Adam Carr But also, cleverly, you seem to point to a contradiction that's also in the work. But I know that we spoke about this previously, that although, you know, that kind of early-ground music was maybe associated with an era of freedom or emancipation of one's self. Freeing from kind of larger structures and that kind of controlled society. Yet there seems, well you've pointed out, there seems to be within those contexts, kind of their own governance. You speak about, the idea of masculinity being encoded in these environments. So i just, I know it's a quite a long question actually but, I don't know if you could start there, or unpack it.
Simeon Barclay Yeah.
Adam Carr You know a lot of it's tied to your own biography, your own lived experience isn't it?
Simeon Barclay Yeah.
Simeon Barclay I suppose arriving in the Artist sphere. This world, this art world. Anything up to that point, any thing up to, sort of, education for me...
Simeon Barclay ...In a way, I'm a sort of a... I'm a consumer. I'm a consumer.
Simeon Barclay And it's not until I sort of...
Simeon Barclay I'm a mute consumer. I'm a mute consumer. I consume, but I have no voice for sort of articulating what it is that all this is. It's not until I find the tools to articulate that within Art education, that I'm able to sort of speak or try and sort of understand what all this stuff has been, what all this experience has come to, and really understand if it has any sort of value outside of, you know, my understanding of it.
Simeon Barclay Yeah, I think...I was thinking about this on the way up, and I was thinking about 'the archive' and understanding...you know, people sort of you know, they sort of dismiss the archive. They can be quite dismissive about the archive. And I and I feel it's got more more potency than that. In the end, the archive that I'm sort of sifting through as well as my own....for a fact, for one it's.... It lays beyond, under, the periphery of being sort of documented. It's very hard to find sort of elements of it out there and sort of see your experience. You know, given sort of importance. So a lot of it is memory and a lot of it that is out there is mediated in a way that, yes, it is somebodies archive. It is, you know, it's been brought to... It's been made present as information that you can sort of communicate with. But yet... It's somebodies larger archive it's somebodies, you know, maybe an institutions. You know, the BBC has hundreds and hundreds of archives, hundreds, thousands. You know. And it's brought into existence in a way that's mediated through the sort of larger sort of institutional scape. So that's an archive in itself. But what I want to do is sort of break down the archive and sort of maybe allow it to talk from a very specific sensibility. So removing it and sort of reconfiguring it and sort of understanding it in a different way. I think. Yeah. These things are they generally happen because they generally arrive because, you know. Yeah. Either for want of for all the choices made for you, you are outside the mainstream. So therefore, you know, there's a sort of rejection, an alienation, without those words because I didn't know 'alienation' or... You know I didn't know that. I know sometimes it was like walking under a dark cloud or something, in a cartoon-scape.
Adam Carr Yeah.
Simeon Barclay But I couldn't you know, I wouldn't sort of put 'ah yeah, I'm alienated!' and you know, I didn't...
Adam Carr This is only in retrospect.
Simeon Barclay Yes. Yeah. Yeah. I didn't have the language. You know, most people of my ilk didn't have the language to converse that.
Adam Carr But thinking about things that exist outside of language, you spoke quite a lot previously about being arrested by things, being seduced by things like I remember a visit to your studio and seeing all the Face magazines and I.D magazines...
Simeon Barclay Yeah.
Adam Carr ..and they're used as not only for the visual properties, but the kind of conceptual conceits, as well of being seduced by something that kind of probably relate to, you know, larger structures of capitalism, consumerism.
Simeon Barclay Yes.
Adam Carr Can you speak a little bit about that, as well as about this kind of 'being seduced'.
Simeon Barclay Well, I think in the same, in the... In the same sense, if you can't find value within the mainstream, you have to make up your own... you have to make up your own value systems. And, you know, these are...well, they were then probably...yeah.. probably still is the case, they were inexorably linked to, to capitalism. You know. And it's again, no articulation of that, but if something looked good, something was defined, refined to its most finite point and it looked good. Then, yeah, you know, we had, you know, there was no scruples about wanting to obtain and wanting to re-live. I mean, it was quite a present in... When I think about my TV, which sort of, you know, sort of formed my education while I was growing up. If you... It's embedded within... It's embedded within class. If we take somebody like...
Simeon Barclay If we take somebody... Well, I don't know, it might be a bit young for, too old though maybe for some people, but I'm thinking about Arthur Daly from 'Minder'. Middle class, well, upward middle class. But he's.. there's always an air of a scam... A con. In order... and it's generally about money... but there's aspiration. And his relationship with, I think it's Terry, is one of bringing him on board and trying to educate him and trying to show him the ways. But in a way, it's sort of a... He's on the precipice of... Of falling flat on his face, and the whole thing is sort of... Yeah, there's a fine line between sort of making that deal and falling flat on his face. But there's a lot of bluff. There's always a lot of bluff. There's always a sense of living beyond his means. And I think that's generally, you know, there was many characters like that within the time that I was growing up. Many characters that, Del Boy's another one. Always, always on the scam. Always trying to reach for higher things.
Adam Carr Yeah, I mean we've spoken about this a lot previously about... It enters the work of.. This idea of aspiration as well. You know, the process of upward mobiling. The idea of, for example, just wearing La Coste gear. Stone Island gear and living beyond one's means.
Simeon Barclay Its a bluff. It's a good... Because you're invariably you're within a group in which... Yeah, it matters. And then there's that one upmanship as well. There's that one upmanship within the group. Who's got the best clobber or who's managed to find that clobber in the, in the most, you know...
Adam Carr Rarest of places.
Simeon Barclay Yeah. Rarest of places. That's it. And that again is a reflection of society as a whole. You know, British society, specifically class, America, capitalism, so on... This, 'Dallas' this idea of... I refer to TV programs because, you know, up to that point, I didn't have my own TV so I had to watch what my parents watched.
Adam Carr Yeah.
Simeon Barclay And... Yeah. It was there. It was...It was writ large within all those programs. You know, people, especially programmers, British TV programs of that ilk, that the class aspiration is a large factor. And it makes itself relevant within those magazines that we saw, we all, you know. If you're from a small town in the middle of nowhere and something like that drops, it can. It's kinda, its like a bomb.
Adam Carr It's kind of by no accident that you attract to those because your dad was a tailor.
Simeon Barclay Mmm.
Adam Carr Kind of knowing that the work kind of finds pertinence, that element of your background I think, you know, in terms of collage.
Simeon Barclay Yeah.
Adam Carr The idea of a strong attention paid to formal qualities of things.
Simeon Barclay I think. Yeah, it was. Again, I had to sort of understand.. Sort of... Retrospectively look back. But I.. you know, I remember it specifically. Probably one of my first, if I looked back, one of my first sort of sculptural moments: being young and my dad sort of, you know he worked long shifts, but in the times in between in which he had time to... To make stuff, I didn't really know... I didn't really know what he was doing, but... Yeah, he used to... So when you think about the front room, the sofa's usually in a set place, TV's usually in a set place and... You would... You know, if somebody bet you as a young child, you just... you just believe that that sofa would never move. You know, it's an immovable object. It's sort of like it's rooted to the carpet, to the floor. But yeah, what you used to do was he used to, you know, he pushed it away. Yeah. Yeah, he pushed it away. Pushed it to one side and then he'd unfurl this sort of green baise table. Sort of like a decorators table. I don't know if he put the green baise on it, but yeah, it just folded out, bam. And then he'd get all this textile and just 'phhhhu' and unfurl it. So it was rolling off the table and onto the floor and... Yeah. You know you just thought 'Den', you know.
Simeon Barclay But then he'd start to draw on the material... Cut into it, and ..and then, you know, at the end of it, it'd be a 3D form. A 3D form that we were then asked to parade, and we'd sort of parade up and down this living room. And when I think back to that situation, the uniqueness of that, that situation. The idea that a room could be moved and transformed and didn't have to you know, it could be a work space as well. You know, that was really interesting. But also, the idea that you then put on these clothes and you paraded and it was interesting how... You know, they'd be... If my aunties were around and be a little congregation, and they'd 'whoop' you as you walked up and down 'Woooo!' [laughter] And you felt like, you know, you felt like a little man, you know, like, you know, a 'little man'. And that's what they'd call you.
Simeon Barclay And, but straightaway I knew... Well, not straightaway, but in... In time I realized 'Ah right. OK'. So the clothes are like a sort of armour, a sort of... There was a transformation taking place. I was I was a 'scrote' one minute and then I put these clothes on and people are starting to 'woop' and, and so I knew then, I mean. Well, I didn't know that.. Well. Yeah. I knew... Obviously, I had some sense of excitement, you know, God, you know, I'm you know, they're perceiving me in a different way. And I feel that, you know, as far as fashion is a bug, you know, it probably, you know, I did want to... I had an investment in maybe what clothes could do.
Adam Carr Yeah.
Simeon Barclay How they reacted and how it set the... How it could set the stage. You know, for your own perception of self. But you know how people perceived you in the outside world. And I thought that was quite, you know...
Adam Carr Just as it kind of can recharacterize someone's identity in the form of expression, its similar to dance as well that transformative state. So can you tell us a little bit about the research behind this exhibition with the Phoenix Dance Theatre?
Simeon Barclay Yeah. I'd come out of a period of exhibitions. I'd come out of a period of exhibitions, I think i'd maybe..
Adam Carr Done too many!
Simeon Barclay I was back in Leeds, I think. Yeah, I was back in Leeds. And yeah, it's sort of I mean. Yeah. Going to art school gave me a real... Gave me a real thirst for research, especially... down at Goldsmiths. It gave me a real thirst for research and I actually enjoyed it. You know sometimes it's kind of a you get... Yeah... I really did enjoy it. So I had some time on my hands and I thought, right, okay. This is stuff that I'm reading about. I was using the archives at Leeds University. This was stuff I was doing anyway, just for... just for interest. But I mean, yeah. Dance had always been sort of an integral thing again in much the same way as those moments trying on clothes, I think dance as a form of expression that existed within maybe family parties, that sort of thing, where you'd you know, again you'd be shoved on to the... and sort of...
Adam Carr Paraded
Simeon Barclay Paraded, and perform. And if you did well then you know [claps] you got... you got some recognition. and I think again, and I don't remember it now, but I think.. Yeah! I don't know what I was doing, but... It was a form of expression that I quite... I enjoyed. Because, I mean, when I started doing the research at university, I started coming across notations and I realized, oh, shit. This, you know, this is heavily choreographed. You know, this is, you know, within a... Within a millimetre of its life, you know? But back then, I was a young guy. I feel like, yeah, dance was... It was a pure form of expression, a sort of.... Which wasn't governed by any, at that time, wasn't governed by any rules or a particular way. And then I guess probably again TV... Saturday matinees.
Simeon Barclay Yes. It would be Saturday and there'd be musicals on. 'West Side Story' and stuff featuring Fred Astaire.
Simeon Barclay So, yeah, I enjoyed watching. I enjoyed watching that and I enjoyed watching those performances. I enjoyed that sort of... I felt. I mean, I sort of harboured... It sort of was integral to the movie, those movements were integral to the movie. It's what moved the movie on from scene to scene. But there was a sense that there was no shame in it, that these... these male performers were dancing and they were still, you know, they were still 'heroic' just to say. So there was no detriment to that. The detriment that comes maybe as you arrive at your teens and.
Adam Carr You start getting conscious.
Simeon Barclay You start getting conscious. But even then... You had too many...You had too many references. I mean... You had too many references. Breakdancing was hitting off back then. Michael Jackson was big. So dance was you know, you've a sommit to, again, aspire to, to be good at, to, to find some sort of esteem within that.
Simeon Barclay So, yeah... When it came to actually, sort of, clubbing and nightclubs and everything that came beyond that then, you know. Yeah. It still made sense. It's still you know, you still wanted to...
Adam Carr And then the relationship with the Phoenix?
Simeon Barclay Oh Phoenix, yes, I suppose...Yeah. So the research was, you know, sort of progressing, and I approached Phoenix and said, I've got this research, you know. I'd really appreciate, sort of, getting behind the scenes. Because another aspect was as a child, I'd probably... I'd been taken to the theatre... a rare opportunity. I don't remember what I saw, but I remember how I felt. How I felt enclosed. There was the action happening and it was lit, and it was a sort of rich experience that really... And I'd... I just recently then started... because again, in some respects things just fade in and out. You know, although that experience was...that experience at the theatre was, looking back, an integral... Integral to sort of thinking about stuff. Space and atmosphere and and so on. I hadn't really sort of said 'ah right. I can actually go and see some more of that'. It's sort of been, you know, I can...You know...and that's part, again, of you know... Yeah. It's sort of existing in a space....and not feeling I could grasp that again.
Adam Carr Yeah.
Simeon Barclay So, yeah, we... They invited me along. I was able to work within sound design and props, prop making, lighting and sort of get an experience of all those different elements that come together to sort of make a show. I could see then that, you know, these two things weren't too far, especially within the art world where I was placed, there wasn't.
Adam Carr Much separation.
Simeon Barclay Much separation between...
Adam Carr I mean that's definitely translates in the exhibition. They're the kind of things that you'd... Might just simply learn about, you know the idea of choreography, lighting, staging, set design, the idea of putting things in certain positions in which you're..
Simeon Barclay Having to navigate.
Adam Carr Navigating the viewers...and there's moments in the show where they kind of demarcate something that you're not allowed to get into and, in a similar way, the cubes as well. I know that you spoke about them as being... Physical, hermetic, things but the idea of them drawing a parallel between your kind of lived experience of being enclosed within sectors.
Simeon Barclay Yeah
Adam Carr But they also as well speak about... You came late in life to Art and you had a previous career working in industrial design.
Simeon Barclay Well...
Adam Carr But that's something that... It's still, it's integral to the work, particularly the production of the work as well.
Simeon Barclay Yeah. Yeah. I suppose when I went to art school. Yeah, the idea of me..sort of, you know, I was grasping, I was hungry. I was. And just felt like time was running away, and I just needed to sort of, you know, get to grips with it. I suppose my own sort of insecurity, you know, not having gone the usual way, not having sort of gone the usual route. So I was, I was keen to... As much as I could experiment. I was keen. Well, I just couldn't start painting.
Adam Carr Yeah.
Simeon Barclay Yeah. I couldn't just, you know. Probably because of my own sort of rarefied idea of painting and at the time and what it takes. But I just, yeah, It was probably that.
Adam Carr Was there like a particular moment where you thought 'I'm going to give up my job and go to art school' was there.. a reason?.
Simeon Barclay Well yeah. I mean I suppose in a way I'd sort of been living a duality I think. And in one sense half of my life was work, and in the other, It was just... All out larceny. It was just...So. So, yeah, I lived. I lived. Yeah. So there was this sense of clocking on...
Adam Carr Yeah.
Simeon Barclay Being a number... and doing that, and not doing it very well, I must say, as well because if you do larceny for the rest of the, you know, your living hours... It's gonna catch up and, yeah, I'm always going down, down the other. So there was a duality and when I was going out I was. Yeah. Generally being somebody else, I could reinvent myself.
Adam Carr Yeah.
Simeon Barclay That was the beauty of... It was the beauty of clubbing. You could sort of...
Adam Carr Be someone else.
Simeon Barclay You could be the leading man. You could go out and lead. Yeah. You could transform. But there's a problem. There becomes a point where it becomes fictitious because... You know, that person, that you're wanting to be, you can't live that person all your life and you can't exist in that space. And, yeah, I wanted something that sort of... I'd talk about... I talk about Bjork. Yeah. The Bjork moment. The sense that if you met Bjork. If you were a postman and you had to deliver an Amazon parcel to Bjork in the morning. It's going to pretty much be Bjork as much as she is.
Adam Carr On the television.
Simeon Barclay Yeah. Or, in a club or something.
Adam Carr Yeah
Simeon Barclay I felt like I was living a double life. And I... So, yeah. Yeah. I suppose I wanted that aspiration and I wanted that aspiration. And I wanted to do it on my own terms. So, and I wanted to sort of, you know, live it to - to its fullest point. So it meant, yeah. It meant a lot of sacrifice. But once I went to night school and once I started reading. And once I realized, bloody hell, you know, I have a sort of context for where, for my experience in this world.
Adam Carr It was kind of a vehicle through which you could make sense of a lot of...
Simeon Barclay Yes. Yeah.
Adam Carr ...your experiences.
Simeon Barclay Yeah. Definitely. And why, you know, throughout my life... I'd always sort of tried to rally against any sort of perception or any sort of fixity. And exist in different spaces.
Adam Carr Yeah
Simeon Barclay Exist in different spaces at the same time. I don't even like this art space. [laughter]
Adam Carr Even though there's like a duality between, you know, your work life and, you going out... socialising and clubbing. It still appears fused together because I know just practically speaking that you make a lot of you know the lightbox pieces for example. They couldn't be possible without the knowledge you acquired from working in industry.
Simeon Barclay I mean again, as I spoke, I touched on earlier about that sort of anxiety. So I wasn't going to paint. But this idea of utilizing knowledge learnt, experiences and applications. Yeah. And also, for some reason ...I came in at a point where I was attracted by sort of, Minimalism and I was attracted by that... I was attracted by that reduction of content. The reality is of the object. Because in a sense, from one extreme to the other, from wanting to sort of escape. I'm now, within this sort of middle class milieu. You know, I'm going to school and, you know. And in a sense at that point I sort of jettisoned everything that sort of came before, I sort of whitewashed my experience. For fear that it would sort of sully. Sully what it was an artist was. I had some sort of defined idea of what this... what an artist was and maybe the sort of things that you could sort of look at.
Adam Carr So you feel like initially you were playing some kind of role.
Simeon Barclay Yeah. Again. And I guess, I guess it took... It took a long while and then some sort of soul searching, wasn't easy. But in a way to have value for that sort for that stuff, because I was sort of as you do, you go through the ropes, you trying to find a way to make a mark in this long history, you know, long history of art making.
Adam Carr So that became a point where you realized that instead of defining like... well, making a separation between studying at art school and your previous positions, you realize that two could be amalgamated.
Simeon Barclay Yeah. In a sense. I talked... I touched on earlier the idea of a reduction of content. In a sense. It's trying to bring this content in, trying to, trying to have tried to, to have some specificness, a sense of specificness. Something that, you know, I'm still in the process of doing but yeah, trying to sort of find a way that there was no sort of separation.
Adam Carr Yeah
Simeon Barclay You know, however, I articulated myself. Would be formed within the materials, would be formed within the experience and use all those elements to sort of play back and forth with those different ideas.
Adam Carr I know you've used the analogy about Blutac before, like you're kind of moulding and re moulding a sense of self... But do you find it, you know, I was speaking quite a lot about the light box pieces, because I think they're formally and conceptually brilliant, but do you find it important to make them yourself or...?
Simeon Barclay No. When I was at school I did. Yeah. Initially I started off making them. But what happened? Yeah. So two important things. Two important things. in as far as defining, what gave me, what sort of gave me space to sort of have value in my own experience. But I suppose in a way and they all sort of happened at school was this sense of, being around a certain milieu at school and people are working in a certain way. My stuff tends to be quite formalized, quite pared back. But initially, and I still, you know, I still have a love for messy collage and stuff. But initially, that was maybe within a certain sort of group at school. That was the style.
Adam Carr I mean, in terms of kind of paring things back the Perspex sculptures, for example, you know, you could go off and think about Donald Judd and Sol Lewitt or, you know, the pared back to finite simplicity and yet that's subverted in a sense of Terence Trent D'Arby, this kind of like two seemingly, well, disparate kind of histories. Maybe you could expand on that because he was a tragic...
Simeon Barclay Yes. Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I mean, I'm sort of... As a male, you were attracted to him. He was quite, you know very, attractive for women but, you know, just as attractive as a male. You know, he was the sort of guy within a group, he would be the, oh god, what did you used to call...
Adam Carr Peacock
Simeon Barclay Yeah! Or...Oh I forget the term. But. Yeah, there'd be a name for that one. Yeah, he's the one who always got the girls. [laughter].
Simeon Barclay But yeah, he's quite strange because for me he has a European sensibility, within his music, within his language he uses British colloquialisms. He's American by birth, and has lived a long experience in America. And I think he serves in the army, comes over to Europe. And yeah, his experience for me personally is like... In the same sense, he's probably too... He's not black enough for America. In the same sense as Jimi Hendrix. Both of them had to come to the UK and then go back to the US.
Adam Carr To gain a level of acceptance.
Simeon Barclay That's right, yeah. But it wasn't until they arrived in the UK and there was a certain, I suppose a certain openness, a certain openness that allowed him to sort of excel. But yeah, I mean, as well as being beautiful, he was.... He was very... He was a Peacock. He's very confident, very cocky, very out there, you know. He claimed that, you know, the Beatles had nothing on him. [laughter] So, you know, to sort of go in there at that sort of level and just be sort of, you know that's that's quite attractive to young guys. That sort of 'Peacockery'. And yeah, he has it, you know by all accounts, a sort of massive first album. But then I, I was sort of ... I was interested in his downfall. And the downfall came, the second album wasn't as great and.... I'm always interested in how you sort of... As males how do you, sort of deal with that. Well, it's an experience that I've witnessed, you know, throughout my sort of life, to think back to the 'Cock of the school', that period and then, you know, he meets the person that it's a no bout, but, you know, that defeat comes, and I'm interested in how you sort of regain yourself. What you lose, what you gain. How you sort of deal with that crushing sort of defeat. It's sort of the, you know, boxing, sports generally you know, it's the premise is all sort of... It's there. You know, it's that 'Goliath'.
Adam Carr A lot of this ties back in with this idea of aspiration and upward mobiling. The idea of trying to define one's identity, even though one might have been ascribed to them. So this exhibition is also, it's been at a previous iteration in Leeds as well, so what I was, something I was interested in is... The kind of particularities, the differences between the two venues. Because you know, you think about, like, choreography, which I know has been an important part of the work even before you get the Phoenix Dance Company.
Simeon Barclay Yeah.
Adam Carr That allows you to choreograph the same work which I think, you know, conceptually is interesting. Interesting opportunity to have.
Simeon Barclay Yeah. Choreography as a form of installation making. I love, yeah. I used to do a bit. Well, I mean, early on I did a bit of curating and I love that aspect, too. I love, I love to take myself out of the... and sort of work with other people's work. And it's an aspect that I love within my own work. You know, and I like architecture. I like space. I like how it makes you feel. And I like, you know, the power, the effect it can have on you. It can sort of... a certain space can lift you up. In the same breath, you know, you go into another space and it can sort of really weigh heavy on you and really affect your mood. So I love the aspects of working with space, the challenge of sort of configuring. Configuring space and allowing my work to sort of live and breathe within that space. Yeah. I mean, initially it was at the Tetley...
Adam Carr Yeah.
Simeon Barclay A very different space, was formerly the Tetley brewery headquarters. So yeah, it's probably a male space. A very male space. Very oppressive, has a sense of.... Yeah. Wood panels and stuff. For me, that's kind of oppressive. Especially wood panels that... You know, probably, I don't know when it was built, but it was put in late. It wasn't you know, it wasn't... Yeah, I sort of had to work with that. Which brought me to the idea. It's fairly segmented... the space is fairly segmented. Maybe 12 rooms in total. Yeah, I was lucky that I was a resident of Leeds...
Adam Carr Yeah, so your familiar with the context..
Simeon Barclay I'd seen many exhibitions. You don't get the... It's very often not the case that as an artist you, you come to sort of live and breathe in a space in that extent. But... I wanted to make it oppressive. I wanted to close down spaces. I wanted the spaces that you couldn't access...
Adam Carr And that's what you've done here as well.
Simeon Barclay Yeah. I wanted to.... yeah..
Adam Carr There's similarities. You know, you've definitely achieved something that's quite specific in space as well. Addressed its like architectural particularities, you know just simply by.. creating blockades and...
Simeon Barclay I was very keen, very keen to, I was very keen to... to sort of work with those experiences. I've been into spaces where, well, sometimes you're not allowed access into spaces. Sometimes you know, you can't...you have to look from afar, you're...
Adam Carr Because you were recently a resident of... was it Cambridge?
Simeon Barclay Yeah. University of Cambridge. Yes.
Adam Carr So, you're resident of Cambridge, and you were allowed access to a lot of their archives, weren't you?
Simeon Barclay Yeah.
Adam Carr So has that culminated in any, any work yet or is it still being processed and sort of digested?
Simeon Barclay I made, I made um... I focussed on photography. I suppose in a sense, I was invited in... as an outsider. I mean up to that point um... any sort of.. Well I'd never been to Cambridge... So it was a, it was a unique experience, um....and basically, I was just, you know, any sort of idea of Cambridge had emanated from the media, you know, 'Fawlty Towers'.... not 'Fawlty Towers' um... the other one...um.. Damn. But yeah, class again.
Adam Carr Yeah.
Simeon Barclay You know. Yeah. Yeah. 'Fawlty Towers'... John Cleese he probably weren't there so, yeah. And then John Cleese was in...um.. The thing that I'm trying to remember but I can't.
Miles Thurlow 'Monty Python'!
Simeon Barclay That's it! Yeah. So the Cambridge Brigade. Yeah. Cambridge Lights... All that sort of existence. So um.... and I never really liked that kind of comedy. I never... it was never really my sensibility.
Adam Carr You never...
Simeon Barclay Pardon?
Adam Carr You never got on with it?
Simeon Barclay Yeah, I never got on with it. The comedy I liked was more physical. It's not til later. You need a... Well, for me, I found out you needed a certain... You needed a... you needed a degree, basically. You needed to have that sort of education, sort of to...to you know, at some level to grasp it because it is, in a sense, much like the world of fashion that I was really interested in much of, much like the world of art...
Adam Carr Yeah.
Simeon Barclay You know, they require specific language in order to sort of push, push into. But yeah. I was invited in there and basically I was an eye, I was an eye for a year...I observed. You know, some of the craziest British, you know. Well, you know, bar the Queen, you know, Oxford and Cambridge, you know, they're as brands, British brands that overseas are... Yeah they just you know, they're massive. So it was... It was great to get in there as an imposter and sort of understand it.
Adam Carr Yeah.
Simeon Barclay Understand it in a way. And in the same sense...there was that duality. I was living that duality again. I was in there and they referred to me as a 'fellow'. I got to wear a gown, nice meals, what's more to... you know. But, when they referred to me, I still couldn't you know, I was still..
Adam Carr Accept it.
Simeon Barclay Yeah. I was kind of caught back, caught aback, by that. So there was this sense of. Mmmm. Yes. This is quite um...some of this is you know... Some of this is what maybe I might have aspired for. Many, you know, some of this, you know, this this sense of this privilege, you know. But then there's the alienating fact that you know, it's only a small percent of the country is able to access that... em. Which just makes you, you know, you're like. Yeah. This is fucking... this is messed up... It's really messed up....
Adam Carr So before we open it up for questions. I was speaking to one of our mutual friends today, Ryan Gander,.
Simeon Barclay OK
Adam Carr And I got him to ask...
Simeon Barclay Oh god. [laughter]
...a question. So... "What is your relationship to nostaglia? And if you were born 20 years later, how would that inform your idea of retrospective vision?"
Simeon Barclay What is my relationship to the soldier? Fucking hell...
Adam Carr [laughter] ...and if you were born 20 years later, how would that inform your idea of retrospective vision?
Simeon Barclay Um...I ah... the first one...
Adam Carr Maybe just deal with the first one.
Simeon Barclay Yeah, the first one... I can sort of understand... Well, no, I can't understand it. But i'll, you know, I feel like... whenever... Like a good politician, if you're thrown a question you just swerve it to your own devices. So, yeah, the soldier is an integral, it's an integral part of growing up... It's like...um...It's... It's this um...I think it's the heroic. It's the heroic idea of the soldier and the, you know, militancy of the soldier. A lot of what is it? You know, it's no idea that um... I mean, it's no... If you think about reggae culture...
Adam Carr Yeah.
Simeon Barclay ...In the UK. If you think about early reggae culture in the UK, you know, it was fatigues. It's a war. It's a war out there. Generally, you know, it's no... If you think about why Grime artists wear all black... it's about... it's about a uniform. It's all about.... So the soldier can reflect in the uniform an idea that you belong to a group...a family.
Adam Carr He actually asked 'nostalgia'.
Simeon Barclay I'm working the questions here [laughter] I've got I've got a swerve though because I couldnt have answered him in that sense..but it is...about. It's about all those things. It's about family. It's about being accepted. It's about rules. It's about... and you know, every part of the subcultures that I was involved in had that, had that element. You know, a soldier might not sort of translate as you know, not everybody sees a soldier as, a soldier is, it's it's a militant idea. It's a you know, having belief. And sometimes you have to stand outside to be..to stand outside the mainstream, you have to be quite militant. So as an idea, it's quite, you know. Growing up as a youth, yeah, the SAS. I mean, if you think about the SAS...all black, they look cool. They're you know, they they you know, they formed as a partnership. Very hard to get into. This is you know, this is some of the sub-cultures that I'm talking about. And this is, you know, certain cliques that you couldn't get into because you couldn't you know, you didn't have the right gear or weren't attired correctly or... You know, so certain... So the idea of a soldier was, yeah, a very recurrent sort of theme. Nobody could articulate it, but I articulate it now. I see, I see what it is. But as for the nostalgic? Well, I think that is its nostalgic. Well, nostalgic.... No, I don't do, I don't do nostalgia. I always feel like... I guess to talk about this, this archive is... It's got context. It's got too much context, it's got too much um... which can't be you know, it's not just for the fun of it. This is... The things that we're living through now at this present time is very relevant to, you know, the...
Adam Carr Yesteryear
Simeon Barclay Yeah. It's very you know, we're talking about, you know, dare I say it, the B-R...
Adam Carr ..E-X-I-T
Simeon Barclay Yeah. Yeah, Yeah. And we're talking about those sort of values, what are we, you know...what are certain people wanting?
Adam Carr Yeah. What values are we aspiring to...?
Simeon Barclay That's right.
Adam Carr What we're trying to achieve?
Simeon Barclay Yeah.
Adam Carr Are we moving forwards or simply backwards..?
Simeon Barclay So.. Yeah. So you know contextually, you know, this this, you know, it's drawing at those values. It's pulling at those things. It hasn't...it can't be. Yeah, can't be nostalgia. It definitely, you know, I'm what? um, yeah. Means, means something yeah....
Adam Carr Right. Any questions? Miles has got one.
Simeon Barclay Oh god! Bloody hell...
Miles Thurlow I'm sort of formulating several different questions at once...[laughter].
Simeon Barclay OK
Miles Thurlow I'm very interested in the journey of you as a, as an individual, as a human being, going from working class background in Leeds, through working in industry in a factory. Having worked in a factory, for a, for a little bit, I have a little bit of an understanding of that experience, um.... I know you spoke a little bit about that, but I'm...I'm particularly interested in something you talk about, which is this idea of masculinity, 'performing masculinity' and how that comes with you through your sort of practice as an artist and in an art world that's very...um...you know... In a post-feminist art world. I'm particulary interested in that idea, and especially as a, as a working class, black artist, you know, in the North. Um... could you just... [laughter] I know without going over the whole thing again...
Simeon Barclay Let me think, now. Um, yeah. Um...Yeah. It's a... It's a very specific reality. Um.. It's not. I suppose it's not um... Yeah, it's got rough edges. It's got rough....
Miles Thurlow For example, when you came up to do the, to hang the exhibtion we had a conversation about your use of um... 'Vogue' Magazine.. And and the experience of sitting in the demountable hut in the, the industrial workplace where there's a kind of pressure, and expectations are really, you know 'The Sunday Sport', 'News of the World', 'The Sun'. And then through time you started bringing 'Vogue Magazine' and 'The Face' and there's a... And I, and I, I remember that experience... I kind of... I remember that experience myself, having been in that environment, and I'm just...
Adam Carr How you negotiate..
Miles Thurlow It says something to shift out of it.
Simeon Barclay Yeah. Yeah, I suppose....
Adam Carr It's like a collation isn't it. That happens also in the work...
Simeon Barclay Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well yeah. um... It's a very masculine environment um.... In a way, everything is... Everything has a sort of physicality around it, you know um... the way a person drinks, you know, a cup of tea, the way they hold the cup, um... The way they spit. The way they um.... you know, the way they fart, just, you know, everything has got a specific... And it's upheld by the group mentality. Um.. To be polite is probably, you know, is not...is not the done thing. Um... And I think um... you soon realize as a young boy, you know, you're coming in to this environment um...for a start, the... You're going into a factory...this place is, you know, it's the biggest place you've ever seen in your life, you know. Um..you don't know anybody, um...you're a young... you've just come out of school, and there's big hulking men holding themselves and sort of, you know bamboozling you and ah...Yeah. In a sense, it's a different masculinity than what I was used to outside, but it was it was the same, but just um, probably...probably propelled and propelled. And so, yeah, generally I think initially you're just hanging on for dear life. You're just trying to, you're finding your way, trying to be as strong as they are, trying to be as rude or as crass as they are. And um you have to get tough. You know, you're the, you're um... you're party to a volly of, sort of, abuse because you're too young, you're too weak. You're, too...what is it? And it's the crack, it's the crack.
Adam Carr Yeah.
Simeon Barclay And you have to get sort of, you have to get.... You have to get with it quite, quite quickly. Um..Otherwise it can crush you. And it's meant to crush you. They want to [bangs chair] you know, they want to sort of, you know, instead of you being the butt of everything for a year or two years, you want to sort of reduce that to maybe four or five months and sort of, and hope that somebody else comes and replaces you. And then haaaaa... you can breathe a sigh of relief. But it's um.... Yeah, it was quite a... I wouldn't say it was..I wouldn't say it was vicious, but it was just it's very testing. And I knew this through just hanging out with my mates. I knew it was a.... It was always a testing time. You couldn'y quite relax because there'd somebody sort of testing you. And if you, you know, if you did something wrong and everybody'd sort of come down on you. So it was very, it was a very male sort of um..chauvinistic. Very.. what is it? Um...And those worlds still, you know
Adam Carr Exist
Simeon Barclay Yes they still exist. You know, I've moved into this milieu, but you know, I go down the pub and, you know, I go in certain pubs and it's there. It's rife. It's, you know, it's large. Living it large, and living with bluster, living quick of wit, you know. [clicks fingers] You know, being quick witted and um... Nimble with your wittedness. You know, there was such a prize for that sort of skill.
Adam Carr It's like a currency isn't it?
Simeon Barclay Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And that was work life. That was um... But yeah. I don't know how. I just tested the... Once i'd sort of, once I'd...Yeah. I think I've just sort of come to that point now where um... Yeah. Well you, you gain currency I suppose. You know if it's um... sleeping around or, or you're a good footballer or whatever, you gain currency as a sort of, you know. And um in time I was just able at.. You gain currency, but then you've, you've, you've found yourself in an existence that, you know, is quite trapping. It's kind of you know, it sort of goes round and round and round. And I don't know, if I um.. my sense... I don't know if my sensibility is such that I just um... I get tired very easily. But I guess I got tired of sort of living this duality again. So I started to sort of be brave and um...
Adam Carr Fight back?
Simeon Barclay Yeah. And introduce my own sort of reading and music and sort of push their ideas of what I could....
Adam Carr Of acceptance I guess.
Simeon Barclay Yeah. Of what I could be into.... Of what I could um.... I remember I had this um...this Irish guy from, from um... from Ireland, really thick accent. And you know, we weren't really, you know, we worked alongside each other but we didn't really get on on. And yeah. Yeah, it was kinda, you know, he kept himself to himself very, you know... Focussed. And I was sort of playing the arse, and um... I was listening to a lot of jazz and through some sort of windy road um, I ended up coming into contact with Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks". And yeah, this thing was blowing my mind at the time, and we just happened to have a conversation and... Bam!
Simeon Barclay But, you know, there was no expectation of me sort of listening to it. And it sort of changed his perceptions because he couldn't read me, as you know, he had to think again, "What's he doing listening to that?" You know? And I think that's what it was. I was confounding...
Adam Carr Expectations.
Simeon Barclay Yeah, expectations. Whether it was the sort of stuff that I was... Oh God. I mean meeting on nights out was sort of... Yeah. You know you did have to take some stick but I mean, you wore anything and it was just.. Ha ha.. Fuck. Yeah it was really... But you know... I just kept on going and you know, they sort of accepted it. And when you when you've laughed and given back enough, they sort of leave you. You know, they want to see defeat. If they see defeat, if they see any sign of...that sign of weakness I think. It was really brutal. Not everybody was like that. You know, you talk about working class, you know, in a, in a, you know, it... One of the things was it revealed to me that, yeah. We're not all, you know, we weren't all unified. We weren't some unified whole.
Simeon Barclay You know, there was some that fought down, some that were Methodist. Or just had, you know, some that maybe had bought their own house under Thatcher and were, you know, aspiring places. And then there were, you know, there was some that just, you know, their money just came in and it went out on drinks and fags, and, you know, it was within the workspace you could find a space where you could talk to, you know, you could get these sort of differing...and that was opening...
Adam Carr Groups of people i suppose and the way in which they live their lives.
Simeon Barclay Yeah groups and different values and ideologies within that group, you know?
Simeon Barclay So, yeah.
Simeon Barclay And then it was, yeah, I suppose going to night school and um, you know, that sort of... You know, I remember um... What you used to do is you used to have your 'Ovvies' and you used to...'Overalls' and you'd shove your paper, you know, your 'Star' or your 'Mirror' or your... Or if you were really um... you'd have quite a few, you'd go in there. Yes. So you'd stuff them down your trousers and then you go to the toilet and you'd sort of spend your time running through them, you know. Um...And yeah, you'd be in the next cubicle and somebody would be there rustling the paper and you'd be rustling your paper. And then I remember... I'd started reading broadsheets.
Adam Carr Oh yeah?
Simeon Barclay And they were kind of really difficult to sort of, get...[spreads arms wide miming opening a broadsheet in a confined space]...you know. Yeah.
Simeon Barclay No, they weren't mobile.
Simeon Barclay But ...In my spare time when I did read them and they'd come in, they'd sort of like... "Who's reading that?" They're like, you know, knocking it down and stuff. But I remember em... Yeah. As soon as night school arrived ...and nobody had sort of told me that... you sort of... This is before I'd gone to University. Nobody's told me that you'd sort of.. when you research stuff, you sort of, you know, you get a book, you look at the... You know, you you, you look for it for the things you want to cite and, you know, you make your marker and stuff. But nobody had told me that. So, you know, I'd sort of...
Simeon Barclay I'd started reading about Marx, and it really, you know, "Das Capital" and I read the book from start to finish. Like it's like a massive tome, but nobody had sort of given me an understanding of how you sort of educate yourself, I thought you just had to read it in the same way as... other books.
Simeon Barclay But I suppose it was reading that and reading about what he was talking about... And understanding "labour" and understanding my own, sort of...
Adam Carr Position within it...
Simeon Barclay Position within the structure of "work". That it just sort of, yeah, I thought "Oh shit.." you know. I'd realized that I could keep it going.
Adam Carr That was an awakening.
Simeon Barclay Yeah, I could keep it going if I didn't know that. But now I know...
Adam Carr [laughter] Everything changes.
Simeon Barclay Yeah. You know, I didn't, I.. Yeah, I didn't. I felt uncomfortable with that.
Simeon Barclay I needed money. And, you know, I was I was you know, I was lucky. You know, I was lucky with my wife. Giving me support, you know, because I'd sort of married up. So... [laughter] So I was lucky. And there was that support and, yeah. It sort of made... and I was hungry. I was... It made it, you know,.
Adam Carr It made things possible for you.
Simeon Barclay Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. When you're... When you're hungry and, you know, you've only had a crack at it in how many years.
Adam Carr Any further questions? Yeah?
Audience Member I can relate to a lot of what you've... Your experiences, I left school with no qualifications, went to night school, working class background, got in to art school, actually hated art school for various reasons.
Simeon Barclay Yeah
Audience Member Still went down and more of a theoretical art route, and now I work with lots of arts and cultural organisations across the region, and Scotland and with young people and a lot of young people I work with, who are working class in those social backgrounds. They had very few people, actually, to aspire to because the sector is very white. Very middle class, quite elitist.
Simeon Barclay Yeah.
Audience Member [inaudible] What would you, what would I say...What would you say to me that I could take back to some of the young people?
Adam Carr Its a great question.
Audience Member In fact, I've got a group coming here in two weeks
Simeon Barclay They're coming here?
Audience Member A careers event. Yeah, they're coming to a few galleries and whatever, yeah they're coming here as well. So what would you say to them.
Simeon Barclay Yeah... Jeez. Um, yeah, I think...Takes a lot. I mean, my journey was, you know. It's quite an elongated, sort of, you know, it's that close to not even having a voice, not... Not being able to to do this, I could of well have probably... Yeah, I could've still been there now. I suppose, yeah. They have... I suppose it's somehow getting them to value their experience. Somehow getting them to value what their lived experience and I'm not saying it will come, you know, I think. Yeah. ...Oh...It's... Yes. It's a really hard one. But I feel like... Everybody has a story, everybody has something to say...and..you know. Yes. It's about... Intrinsically, everybody has something to say. Everybody has value. Everybody has something to bring to the pie. But, I do worry about what happens next and how you sort of give it, give it voice because like you say, you know... Rare. Rare. Something has to change. Whether it's within dance, theatre, the arts generally, you know, people are you know, it's it's not diverse enough. It's not, it's not rich enough. There's a real um, dearth of stories, other stories.
Adam Carr I mean, just thinking about, you know...
Simeon Barclay It's hard.
Adam Carr ...UK's relationship to culture, it'll probably be our finest export and yet, on the whole, it's mostly frowned upon, which... It's kind of always bemused me totally.
Simeon Barclay Yeah. Yeah. They don't..There's... I mean... It doesn't equate socially and in everything else. Equate, you know, we know what it gives to culture. You know how it enables people but... Brass tacks. On the brass tacks level...
Audience Member Its nearly 1.2 Billion pounds.
Simeon Barclay Yeah.
Audience Member Yeah. Predicted to grow more than any other sector and its 82% less automation than any other sector. [inaudible] never mind the rest of it. Yet it's still like you say, its still in not valued yet.
Simeon Barclay Yeah. I mean going back to that, I think it's you know. I think the arts is, you know, the industry for those sort of stories, that sort of expression, not just for the fact that we're adding voice, but we're adding a voice. But, you know, there's a sort of autonomy, a sense of autonomy that you wrestle within... within cultural production, that is...you know, it's vital, I feel. And I feel like... Yeah, I don't think I could have... I think to myself, when I think of that. I think God... you know. Maybe I would have struggled to do anything else. In a sense, because what it, what it has allowed me is to wrestle from start to finish. What it is that, you know, I'm invested in and sort of, and I feel like it's that value and that self worth... and knowing that 'Yes' you know. Hopefully there's somebody in the pipeline that will allow that to sort of flourish. And then you'll have that, you know, then maybe you're given that autonomy to make that happen and, you know, I feel yeah I definitely feel it's your right or whatever. You know, you're definitely on top of what it is. Not saying it's easy, but...and it's not for everybody. It's not for everybody. You've got to have a certain temperament. But. Yeah. You.. I mean, at school if you. I mean, yeah, I think most... You know. Most of the teachers that I remember, there was only one or two, but they were enablers. And it didn't make sense then, that's the thing. I think, you know, you can't write it off at that moment in time. But if I think back to, you know, my English teacher, Mr Walker, and what he was introducing us to. And he was talking about the working class experience. And, you know, it took many years, for that to sort of...but I think it's got to be, it's got to be, they've got to be inocculated in that. They've got to be... They've got to understand the vision then. Or somebody's got to be revealing, revealing the crux. He was basically telling us this is the school you need to you need to rally against this. This is, you know, he was giving us the mechanics, and some, you know, we were pissing about in his class because he wasn't you know, he wasn't. It wasn't...
Adam Carr Registering with you.
Simeon Barclay It wasn't registering, and we were thinking, you know "What's he on about?" and then, you know, that stuff sort of..
Adam Carr But it stayed with you.
Simeon Barclay Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So it's vital for people to be saying that. It's sort of revealing what this is. And this, you know, this Brexit. You know, I mean... Whose country? You know? I mean, yeah ...oh God...
Adam Carr We said we weren't going to say that word.
Simeon Barclay Oh, shit! I didn't say it.
Adam Carr Any more questions? Thoughts, comments?
Audience Member This is an observation for me. The other thing that, well, I thought when I was looking around, and then when you were talking about the work about fashion and about, you know, how you progessed through stages. When I think of, you know like, the classic gangster films this... This reminds me of that, and obviously dress was such a huge, you know, a signifier of those films.
Simeon Barclay Yeah.
Audience Member So when I was looking around, that's what sprung to mind, and obviously at that time, you know the tapdance scene as well... So when you started talking about dress..
Simeon Barclay Yeah, again... Gang. Soldier. Soldiers, Gang. Aspiration. By any means necessary. Yeah. That's, that's, that's the, you know, that's what we love about the gangster, we like that rogue element. That 'Chancer'. Would not want to take... One who takes a chance. Changes destiny. Yeah. Yeah.
Adam Carr OK. Thank you very much, Simeon.
Simeon Barclay Thank you, thank you.