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She's at Art Social '14, she makes sustainable swimwear, she's made WET, she's irreverent, creative and gets on with it - hot artist Margot Bowman talks to Francesca Goodwin


If you think that bringing together one of London’s most exciting artist come creative directors and the city’s hippest Soho hangout with a charitable mission – in order to create a socially progressive festival of multi-disciplinary performances, debate and installations– sounds like a match made in curatorial heaven, you’d be wrong. It’s happening here on earth too.

Between 31st July- 4th August The House of St Barnabas– a not-for-profit members club that supports London’s homeless back into work– will open its doors for Art Social ’14. The festival, programmed in collaboration with Daydreaming projects, aims to channel the club’s ethos to bring people closer together and cross social and cultural gaps, by showcasing an innovative programme of talks, interactive workshops and live music performances throughout the stunning Georgian Grade 1 listed building.

Both acclaimed and emerging artists have been commissioned to produce visual and sonic installations around which the rest of the festival– featuring a talk with Gavin Turk and club night curated by Tony Nwachukwu amongst the packed programme- will revolve.

In the lead up to the opening, Run Riot caught up with the exceptionally talented, creative whirlwind Margot Bowman. She, along with her collaborators in the music and digital industries, has created a new three part, interactive installation ‘WET’ for the festival and will also be discussing the relevance of the digital in the cultural industries at a talk hosted by Protein.

We chatted to her about her involvement with The House of St Barnabas, her incredible energy and, how we all need a little bit of irreverence and creative openness to keep moving forwards.

Run Riot: Hi Margot. First of all thank you for taking the time to answer our questions- one of the things that makes your work so eye-catching is the relentless energy and bold statements that infuses everything you do…

One of the many strings to your bow is your position as creative director of the sustainable swimwear brand ‘Auria’ and, you have also collaborated with Kiehl’s for Earth Month. The House of St Barnabas is also working towards a sustainable model of consumption. What is it about their ethos that most resonates you?

Margot: That it’s always good to be around people with fresh approaches to ideas!
RR: Your contribution to the Art Social ’14 festival, like your life, blurs the boundaries between artist and producer. Do you see the two as being interchangeable and, how has it influenced your approach to this project?

M: People are social, and I think my work is too. I love working with people who are amazing at what they do - it's incredible when another expert brings their whole human / cultural / creative perspective to something.

RR: The title WET for your Art Social 14 installation suggests something in progress, something living and quite visceral. What are you hoping to achieve with the exhibit and where did the inspiration come from? Did it have any roots in projects such as ‘Painted Truths’?

M: I guess the two projects both involved contributions from other people but their specifics and medium are quite different. You're right though– those are the qualities I always want my projects to have, so they can viewed in a less preconceived way. When you don’t have a direct reference for something it has to be evaluated in a new way.

RR: Do you think this notion of incompleteness is something that reflects the general function of creativity now?

M: I think we live in a much more iterative society, which is a big spill over from online culture. People are used to networks and co-creation as ideas that are applied to IRL instances too.

RR: You’ve also worked as a DJ and, for this project, you have collaborated with electronic musicians and producers Actress and Giganta. What is it that attracts you to this type of collaboration and what role do you think music plays in society?

M: Music is amazing, it's a way of communication that I can only be in awe of. It’s great to work with people who have skills that you don’t but with whom you are on the same wave length (excuse the pun...)

RR: Some parts of Art Social ‘14, including access to the exhibits, are free. Do you think that this accessibility is something that should be more widely reflected in events such as The Summer Exhibition and/or, do you think the way forward lies in more exclusively public art initiatives?

M: I think it will always be a mix of both, someone somewhere is paying for everything. So you have to look at the situation and think about how it affects programming, scale, quality, political bias when it’s yourself, the Government or Deutsche Bank

RR: You are a born and raised Londoner and I noticed that The Architecture and the City event explore London's acoustics and the sound of its streets. Do you think that a notion of the city and collective experience is something, which flows through our DNA?

M: Totally. The city is a constantly shifting mix of isolation and mass community.

RR: Although, for young artists making work outside of the city, it can feel like a daunting and expensive place to live. So… on the flip side of the coin, do you think that the creative industry is too London-centric?

M: I think if you're good, you can live anywhere. The city brings people and experiences together in unusual ways, but you don’t have to be here if you don’t want to. You just have to make really good work and get it out in the world.
RR: This brings us to your participation in the Digital Democracy: Art Online discussion at the festival. How does technology influence you, both creatively and practically– in terms of being able to operate your tough schedule?

M: Its a massive part of my life and everyone else’s. It’s like this big city we all live in - and of course you are affected by your habitat. Technology is essentially neutral; I think for every ‘negative’ there’s a positive thing that it’s enabled.

What’s really interesting is seeing what happens when tech gets out of the hands of experts and into those of people who really play with it.

RR: Your distinctly eclectic, 21st century installation will be juxtaposed with the setting of the Grade One listed Georgian Town House. Do you think that an awareness of our cultural and social history is important and how do you think it balances with a progressive vision?

M: I think that's a very London way to working - lots of contrasts, new and old, colour and grey, everything all mixed up. Contrast is great because it keep things fresh and unusual and that’s what I’m always trying to do– bring things together in unexpected ways to get fresh perspectives.

RR: The festival is also about bringing together emerging and established artists on the production front. It’s been noted in introductions to your work that, with your dazzling array of projects, you could be mistaken for someone who has been in the professional industry for years (that’s a compliment!) who are you most looking forward to working with/ learning from at the festival and why?

M: I’m really happy got to collaborate with WERKHAUS on the project. I really admire them and their varied output. We’ve worked together in a much looser sense as part of the 15Folds exhibition but it was really great to bring together their skill set and mine. I love working with experts, people who have the ability to take ideas into their space with their skills.

RR: The House of St Barnabas aims to empower the homeless and impoverished to re-enter the workplace through the ethos that cultural progression and social progression are synonymous. What was the best piece of creative advice that you’ve been given and how did it affect your professional career?

M: I think at the moment there are two things in my head a lot. Firstly, it's ok to make mistakes, and if you are ever going to make them make them while you are young. Secondly something that Ai WeiWei says about how we’re all just here filling time until we die. I think both really allow me to be more irreverent with making work, do projects, try things - not get weighted down in fear and anxiety but just keep moving forward and seeing what happens.

Art Social '14
at The House of St. Barnabas
1 Greek Street,
Soho Square,
London W1 4NQ

10:00-17:00 Thursday 31 July - Saturday 2nd August
and Saturday 9th, 16th, 23rd August


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