York Art Scene, Autumn 2010. Performance Art At Artwork. Jack Cook.

Location

York’s art scene continues to stretch its wings with Jack Cook’s second solo show of the season, this time at media agency The Beautiful Meme, the site for ArtWork’s riff of recent signings from York St John graduates. Declared a triumph by the 70+ attendees and the show’s curators Greg McGee, Tom Sharp and History of Art student Rachael Cole, the evening simultaneously secured ArtWork’s position as one of the ‘must attend’ events on York’s monthly art calendars as well as consolidating Jack Cook’s ascent as one of the hottest young artists in Yorkshire.
ArtWork has come a long way since its visual art based inception, focusing now much more on ‘the event’ of the opening night with the de rigueur excitement of contemporary art’s performance and installation. This evening engendered a queasy mixture of paranoia, voyeurism and righteous indignation at the encroachment on our privacy as the all conquering cctv camera is given the Jack Cook treatment. Stylish photographs of very Northern landscapes and cityscapes adorned the Stone Soup walls. Intriguingly, the opening night’s socialising was also subjected to hidden cameras: every handshake, every quaff of wine, every business card swapped was caught and played out on a massive projector screen, inserting a very Cookian note of discomfort.
The night ended on a high note with a garrulous speech from According to McGee man and co-curator Greg McGee. Guests went out into York’s Friday evening happy, satisfied after having been to that rare event– an art happening which sees the onlooker simultaneously entertained, wined and schmoozed, challenged and – via the increasingly mischievous Jack Cook – mildly disturbed.
Q & A with Jack Cook, winner of the ArtSpace prize.
How did winning the Artspace prize help you as an artist?
Winning the Artspace prize has helped my development as an artist through the transitional period between practicing art at university to working in a professional manner. With the prospect of my first solo exhibition I was given an extra incentive and drive to push my practice forward. Receiving mentoring and support from Gregg McGee and Roddy Hunter has been invaluable to my practice, their support and input was insightful particularly when considering the curatorial decisions involved with putting on an exhibition. Overall the opportunity has given me a great experience of working professionally, granted me fantastic exposure in the city and offered me substantial support and guidance from both Roddy and Gregg.
How did you find the whole experience of having a solo show, not once, but twice now?
I found the experience both daunting and exciting, yet the challenge urged me to really push myself. Whilst studying at university you are just one of many artist’s showcasing your work, having a solo show gives you a level of control and responsibility that pushes you to do your best. The attention and exposure you receive from having a solo show is very rewarding, gauging reactions and listening to peoples feedback really enlightens you to your own practice and gives you alternative perspectives of how the work is received.
What is the message you are trying to convey through your latest work with CCTV?
The work was essentially an awareness campaign intended to draw attention to the heavy surveillance coverage within our town and city centres. Posters were positioned strategically in advertising spaces, catching the attention of passersby and revealing the location of nearby CCTV cameras which are often unnoticed. By documenting this poster campaign using photography and displaying it alongside both live and pre-recorded CCTV footage fro the Stonesoup space i wanted to reinstate how venerable we are to surveillance systems and how limited our privacy is.
You adapt your work to an environment or pre-existing space, do you feel this restricts you as an artist or do you enjoy the challenge?
I think it is important to almost harmonise the artwork and the space. The space within which the work is situated creates a context that can alter the implications of the viewer so it is essential to consider this. Rather then placing a picture on the wall of an office i wanted to blur the lines between what is the office space and what is the artwork. Using the space in this way consolidates the work and its surroundings and makes the two previously separate factors function together. This creates an experience which encompasses the viewer within an environment rather than a binary relationship between the art and the viewer. I enjoy the challenge of adapting my work to the environment, previously i have only really worked within white walled gallery spaces however at Stonesoup i felt i had the opportunity to really work with the unique office environment.
What have you learned about your own work through public reception?
more than anything I have learnt that my work evokes more questions than it answers. The feedback i have received predominantly begins with questions which cant necessarily be answered by me. For me this is a great sign, art is about evoking questions and making people think on a level which isn’t often achieved. I want my work to offer a departure point from which more questions, thoughts and feelings are surfaced rather then a platform which provides conclusive answers.
Does this reception matter to you?
The reception of my work is always important to me, however whether positive or negative a reaction is a reaction. I would rather have someone despise a piece of work than dismiss it without engaging with it. At both solo shows i received lots of feedback and i always cherish it because it gives a real insight into your own work and offers a totally impartial perspective from which you can learn a lot. One of the great things about displaying art beyond the university context is the input you get from so many different people.
What is next for Jack Cook?
The two shows in quick succession have set a benchmark for the pace that i want to work at and the energy i wish to dedicate to my practice, I am already planning for my next show and have began the preparation for it. I want to continue with a project that i began a few years ago, true to form this work will again show that my practice is very diverse as it involves traditional analogue photography. I wish to expand on a series of black and white photographs and hope to exhibit them in the near future. With the experience gained from the ArtSpace and Stone Soup exhibitions and the energy and hunger they have given me I want to continue developing my practice professionally showing my work as often as possible.

By Viv on June 22, 2011


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