Anthea Hamilton: ‘As a Five-Year-Old, I Had a Crush on a Peppermill’

Ahead of the opening of her Tate Britain Duveen Galleries commission The Squash, the Turner Prize nominee answers our Questionnaire

What images keep you company in the space where you work?
Unless they’re specifically for a project in mind, I mostly keep images out of sight. They’re too distracting. Nicholas Nixon’s photograph Boston Common (1978) has come up as a reference point for the rehearsals for my Duveen Galleries commission at Tate Britain: an exercise in hanging out. Another is Roger Phillips’s Marram Grass (1980): asking Roger to reprint some of his photography from one of his 50-odd books for my show at Hepworth Wakefield in 2016 was an excuse to meet him.

What was the first piece of art that really mattered to you?
Rather than art, I think it was something I saw on TV. A ballet – or maybe a pantomime – screened on BBC2. It was my first palpable encounter with the shadowy sensation of culture. Where you see this strange entity open and available to you but have to reach out across a void with your whole self to meet it so that it can become concrete. I had a crush on one of the performers dressed as a peppermill. As a five-year-old watching him on TV, I knew it would never work out.

If you could live with only one piece of art what would it be?
I don’t live with any as it is. I’m not sure I believe the possession of artworks is necessary.

What is your favourite title of an artwork?
As a rule I don’t have favourites, but I can say I’m quite keen on Bruce Nauman’s Run from Fear, Fun from Rear (1972) because the title’s also the text that constitutes the work – which means it’s a complete description as well as a title as well as an artwork, and then also a description or suggestion of two simultaneous physical acts too. It’s all laid out, there’s nothing cryptic or left enigmatic and as a neon it is decadent whilst being efficient. It’s also an anagram and it rhymes, so it’s easy to recall.

What do you wish you knew?
How to think more than one step ahead.

What should change?
Everything’s always changing either for good and bad. It’s the rate of change which needs consideration.

What should stay the same?
Fingers crossed for The Rookery on Streatham Common, Bonnington Square [in Vauxhall, southwest London] and a free and accessible NHS (too late already?).

What could you imagine doing if you didn't do what you do?
Realistically or according to my wildest imagination?

What music are you listing to?
Flip-flopping between Janet Kay, ‘Silly Games’ (1979) and Tyga, ‘Ready to Fuck’ (2012).

What are you reading?
E-mails, transcripts of conversations at Secession in Vienna, children’s books, Vogue runway reports, Cafe Astrology for daily horoscopes, right-wing tweets and varied bits and pieces as research for future projects.

What do you like the look of?
My kid.

Anthea Hamilton's Tate Britain commission The Squash, is on view at the Duveen Galleries, Tate Britain, London from 22 March – 7 October 2018.

Main image: Anthea Hamilton, The Squash, 2018, Tate Britain Commission 2018, installation view, Duveen Galleries, Tate Britain, London. Courtesy: © Tate; photograph: Seraphina Neville

Anthea Hamilton is an artist who lives and works in London. Recent solo exhibitions and performances include ‘Anthea Hamiton Re-imagines Kettle’s Yard’, Hepworth Wakefield, UK (2016); ‘LOVE IV: COLD SHOWER’ (with Nicholas Byrne), Schinkel Pavilion, Berlin, Germany (2016); and ‘Lichen! Libido! Chastity!’ SculptureCenter, New York, USA (2015). She has participated in numerous group exhibitions including ‘British Art Show 8’, Hayward Touring (2015–17); ‘Chance Encounters’, LOEWE Foundation, Miami, USA (2015–16); ‘La Vie Moderne’, 13th Biennale de Lyon, Lyon, France (2016). She was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2016. 

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