Hi Stewart and congratulations on being one of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Awards recipients. Your artistic career has a constant revolutionary element in it. The way you express it has changed over the years from pamphlets through performances to books. How do you think that people will protest in 10 years?
Protest is both a response to and an attempt to go beyond the conditions that capital imposes upon us, so protest in ten years time will reflect the increasing corporatisation of the world, something that has been going on for some time. One thing that people in the activist movement are talking about now that hasn’t really happened yet is going deep undercover in the corporate world and deploying the same tactics that undercover cops have been using against protesters. The difficulty most activists have with this is that the average CEO is so sexually unattractive that no one in the protest movement would want to sleep with any of them. But in about ten years time I think there will be plenty in the activist movement who will have got over that….
You were very active in the punk movement. Is punk dead? Did postmodernism kill it?
Punk killed itself. Real punks knew punk rock sucked and preferred disco. I gave up on punk at the end of the 1970s. The punk scene in London as far as it still exists seems to be made up mainly of people who’ve come here from places like Italy and Spain. Punk obviously makes more sense in somewhere like the Basque Country than in London. I don’t think there is an opposition between the punk scene in London in the late-seventies and postmodernism, London punk of that era was a post-modern bricolage of previous youth cultures.
Has austerity affected your living conditions and by extension your work?
I’ve been living under self-imposed austerity since the late-seventies by doing what I wanted to do rather than getting a regular job… so while I notice huge social differences between pre and post-crash times, it doesn’t particularly affect me. However my one luxury is my membership of the local authority gym and the local council changed the charity providing this service in order to save money. So I do notice that the new company refitted what had been a perfectly good gym with low-end machines and a really poor selection of free weights. So I have to improvise quite a lot to make up for the loss of the better equipment – like summit trainers – available to me before.
This does potentially effect my live art routines since they require me to be fit enough to stand on my head and do various other physical ‘jerks’*. If I can figure out a way to reorganise my flat to fit them in, then a couple of item I’ll buy with the award money are a decent barbell, to go with the adjustable dumbbell and kettlebell I have at home, and a TRX suspension system. And if I can’t reorganise my flat to fit in a barbell and TRX (and it will be tricky) then I’ll just have to use some of the award money to pay for membership of a swanky private gym and work out alongside the suits rather than my working class neighbours!
In an interview with Oleksiy Kuzmenko from two years ago you claimed that “The secret of not doing other jobs if you want to write or make films is to expect to make very little money and learn to live on a really low income. That way when you do make decent money from time to time you can really have fun with it.” So what kind of fun – apart from the barbell and TRX – are you going to have with your £50K?
What I find the most fun and gives me the most pleasure is surprising people. So now I’ve got the dosh to buy some time, I’m very seriously thinking about devoting a lot of it to painting! I don’t think anyone will be expecting me to exhibit huge abstract canvases!
Thanks and good luck pulling rabbits out of hats!
* here’s a link to a video of a performance that Stewart did in Glasgow a few weeks ago, which clearly demonstrates why he needs a decent gym and why the austerity effect on local council amenities negatively effects his artistic output.
Stewart Home (radically inauthentic since 1962) is an author of, a.o. 69 Things to Do with a Dead Princess, Down and Out in Shoreditch and Hoxton and the recent Mandy, Charlie & Mary-Jane: A Novel (Success and Failure) that uses pulp and avant-garde tropes to parody conventional literature. Follow him through his blog Stewart Home Society or on Twitter.