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Interview: 'A Place Called Home' artist Luke Rodilosso talks to Samantha Sweeting

This Thursday evening (26 April 2012), artist collective Rented By The Hour, will be staging a one night only exhibition in a short-term let apartment in Kensington. The exhibition - A Place Called Home – is the latest in a series of site-specific events produced by the group of Royal College of Arts graduates and will include work by Olivia Hicks, Beatrice Haines, Laura Clarke, Luke Rodilosso and James Winter.

In the run up to the show, I have been discussing sex, violence, television and tailoring with artist Luke Rodilosso.

SKS: To begin, could you please give me a brief introduction to the works you will be presenting in Apartment 20?
There will be three pieces of work: a sculpture, a video and a performance.

The sculpture is a platonic copper form emerging from a button hole hand-stitched by Savile Row tailors. It's title is The Lament Configuration, the name of the puzzle box in Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, a fictional artefact that transforms the everyday world into a nightmare of sex and death drives.

The video piece, Monsters Through The Balustrades, is a kaleidoscope of images that chronicle a child’s experiences of potent violence and sexuality in the home, glimpsed through a magnifying lens.

The performance is a companion to Monsters and functions like a detail of a painting. It focuses on the Japanese finger weaving exercises Kuji Kiri that I learnt as a child from late night ninja movies. I would perform these exercises to calm my nerves, often whilst hiding in a wardrobe.

SKS: Transformation and a desire for otherness seem to be recurrent elements in your work. Can you tell me more about this?
In otherness I find an alien allure, the solace of something clean and cold. Many times, I have looked at the sky at night and thought that our model for luxury products and jewellery must come from its jet black, glittering vastness. In this, the other is linked to luxury and sex, and the freedom of being absorbed into it, a kind of cold orgiastic luxury beyond time.

I consider transformation the vehicle by which otherness emerges. It appeals to me to have elements in transition; cuts and tears become curtain calls, heralding the arrival of the other. In The Lament Configuration, the button hole is presented as a banal orifice suddenly transformed by the birthing of an alien artefact.  

In Monsters Through The Balustrades, the domestic environment is transformed into a realm of gods and monsters, where a child must achieve spiritual perfection to survive.

SKS: Across the body of your work, there's a pronounced obsession with gaps and orifices that both conceal and reveal. On the one hand, they are the site for penetration and birth, a doorway to the mysteries beyond. But on the other, they are there to obscure vision, as though an intermediary device is necessary to diffuse the starkness of reality. As far as I'm aware, Monsters is made up almost entirely of video imagery filmed through a magnifying peep hole lens - a motif that repeats itself in your cupboard performance. The hiding child watching through the cupboard door or the gaps between the balustrades, draws reference with that scene in Taxi Driver where Robert DeNiro's character sits alone in a porn cinema watching the film through his fingers.
In Taxi Driver, Travis attempts to create intimacy by placing flesh between himself and the screen. It is as if glimpsing the hardcore sex through the mesh of his hands could create tenderness.  

Reducing the visual aperture to a button hole or an opening between the fingers, is for me to place the viewer on the inside looking out. It is a baroque gesture, that suggests to the viewer that they are within a monad. Deleuze, in The Fold, explains that
"The monad is a cell. It resembles a sacristy more than an atom: a room with neither doors nor windows, where all activity takes place on the inside."

In this, there is a desire for safety, an urge to pay witness to the world from a secure and timeless vantage.

SKS: I want to pick up on this use of the hands to make the hardcore tender. You grew up in a household overwhelmed by domestic violence. Hands represented brutality. In response, you developed an interest in martial arts and Japanese finger weaving, and in so doing, found an alternative way of touching, replacing the boxer's punch with discipline and philosophy.
As a child raised in a home intolerant of effete sentiments, martial arts enabled my femininity to exist by stealth within a violent structure.

This tactic is repeated in my practice; tenderness is smuggled into the work encased within harsh lines, whilst brutal sentiments are redeemed through a certain play of light or delightful contrast of colours.

SKS: You spent much of your childhood watching television and looking to films for role models. Fiction became reality and vice versa. In Monsters, you have spliced together original and appropriated video footage. Your parents are represented by cinema actors and your autobiography is played back on a hotel television. Can you tell me more about your relationship with cinema – what it is you are looking for?
Cinema took the place of the family and its actors my parents; it seems pertinent to have them represented by pixilated glimpses of people I have never met.
Formally speaking I am in love with the lens and the way its shadowy orifice frames the world and protects the voyeur. I am exploring both static photography and appropriated footage with my lens, focusing on the point at which the image disintegrates into the material it is constructed of. In Monsters the trauma of the sex and violence explodes upon inspection into the glistening pixels of the screen.  

SKS: In the accompanying text to Monsters Through the Balustrades you write:
"There was no solace in home. That was where the monsters lived. Only the hotel’s shrink wrapped palimpsest of a thousand brief lives could provide me safety."

The hotel is symbolic of repression, where ugly or potentially shameful aspects of life are cleaned away and hidden from view. In much of your work to date, you have privileged aesthetic over story. You are now choosing to make explicit your narrative, reinserting the personal into the shrink-wrapped safe space. It is a brave decision.

LR: I have always favoured the self-evident language of strong aesthetics over the unravelling that takes place through narrative. I would still say that I am preoccupied by strong images that convey the total atmosphere of the idea at a glance. I find myself now able to invest vulnerability into a practice that was once aspirationally stark. The yuppie noir of my previous works is now tempered by a confession of melancholy and hope.

A Place Called Home will take place on Thursday 26th April, from 6.30pm until late, at:
Apt no. 20
Clearlake Hotel Ltd
18-20 Prince of Wales Terrace
London W8 5PQ

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