Mark Pimlott: It’s not about ‘art’ or ‘design’. It’s about space and a place (2012)

R. J. Preece
artdesigncafé - art | 6 December 2013. This text was previously published on the International Sculpture Center blog in December 2012.

Mark Pimlott has worked across art and design over the past twenty-five years, and it hasn’t been easy due to the continued divisions of the two disciplines that used to be unified up until the twentieth century. In fact, I’ve written about Pimlott for both art and design magazines, and the remits and issues always pop up, having to angle his practice in one way or the other to fit either the art or design category.

However, as the ISC blog is a space for experimentation, and inspired as I was by Ana Finel Honigman’s recent fashion-and-sculpture presentations, it was agreed to give Pimlott the opportunity to speak directly how he sees his spaces and places.

(For photos of the art and designs mentioned below, click here.)

Robert Preece: Okay Mr. P., letting you take the lead on this. How do you see these two works?

Mark Pimlott: These two pieces are effectively mirrors.

I use mirrors a lot in my work, not so much as devices to reflect viewers, but as means to involve them in other spaces that resemble the world they occupy, in which they can see themselves. In these instances, the mirrors are difficult to read: one is presented on a gallery wall among other ‘openings’, and the other is a [stairwell] room lined in mirrors between the upper and lower rooms of a restaurant. The former is made of silver leaf, and offers a glimpse into a glittering, but uncertain world; the latter, myriad reflections and reflections upon reflections of a film (called Elsewheres), and others, and yourself.

I want people to be aware of where they are, which is part of a larger world. We are all elsewhere.

Robert Preece: Your preoccupation with other places seems to occur throughout your work— you make art works for places, after all. Could you say something about the way you look at places, and then go about making them?

Mark Pimlott: I regard places, whether they are conscious of being places or not, as made from desires of how to be in the world. These can be manifest in the paths that cross a wasteland or in the appearance or arrangement of buildings.

I see in the making of these a deeply embedded feeling that often involves evocations of other places, other times; and certain repeated motifs, such as the making of places to look out onto the world. This feeling can be found in my photographs, which show clearings in which one can imagine places being imagined and made. In this photograph, an apartment complex looks onto a half-made terrace that suggests formal French gardens; the blocks are called “Manhattan”. We are in Poland, but the imagery of the place suggests other places, and this is very common.

The concrete piece was made for a three-sided plaza at the University of Wales, in Aberystwyth, and the setting is a complex of 1960s concrete buildings of quasi-civic character. The idea of the place was that it should be like an Italian piazza, and I simply enhanced this quality, and completed it, in a sense, using the stair [which people can sit on], which I called “La scala”, to help look out to the town, and its heroic setting between hills and the sea.

Robert Preece: I sense that this theme of being somewhere else is a kind of fantasy which leads to disappointment…

Mark Pimlott: I think the fantasy, as you call it, is both natural and a necessity. To make, one has to imagine; and to live fully, one has to be fully conscious.

So the idea of all places and all times being present does not lead to disappointment or disillusionment, but fulfilment. This little piece is a sculpture and simply a carpet set on a gallery floor. A grid pattern woven into it suggests that it is a little clearing, a territory set apart from the world, and in it, too. In this case, the gallery is the setting, and one is invited to sit on the carpet and look at the gallery and listen to it describing itself, and what, as a white room, it wanted to be and how it had got to be that way, white and pure. And the carpet presents it as both a fantasy and a kind of entertainment.

With World, a public square around BBC’s Broadcasting House in London, I wanted to make a place where one could think of many other places simultaneously: walking across the surface, one reads the names of places, which are situated in associative juxtapositions; sounds from other places rise from the surface; and at night, little lights suggest a world viewed from above, and walking on the surface is likened to flying on a magic carpet. It is simply a physical version of what one does daily on the internet or while watching television or listening to the radio: one is where one is and elsewhere, all at once.

Here, one is conscious of that, that being “of the world” and “in the world”.

Robert Preece: You work with other people frequently, as you did in the case of the Puck restaurant, in order to do ‘real’ things. As you include these projects in your portfolio consistently, I wondered if, in fact, these were diversions from your work?

Mark Pimlott: They might seem like that, but what I am interested in is making real things that people live with every day. I am interested in how they are part of people’s lives, and other people’s lives, how they may be seen and felt over time.

I am not really interested at all in my presence here, or my ego.

In the Red House project, I wanted to make the house and its deep ideas–– those sublimated in its architectural ideas–– more palpable to the people who lived there. I did this through subtle alterations to elements just out of the normal view: ceilings, for example, which I aligned with idealisations of shelter. My work with Tony Fretton goes back some twenty-five years, and the Red House was a unique collaboration, in which we composed the same piece both apart from and with each other.

This call-and-response way of working was elaborated–– monumentalized–– in our installation at the Venice Biennale in 2010. Just a few artefacts that represented pieces of our work not made in collaboration were engaged with each other. They created a little world, in which images of the city and various interiors were provoked, and associations with other places that one knew were able to unfold and change as one walked around them.

Standing still, walking through or looking back, one was always there, yet always somewhere else.