Artists Robert Rush and Rose de Borman
on collecting, collaborating, curating
and how it all begins and ends with mud
Mud Museum, feels like a spiritually-possessed house museum - with a shrine in the larder, smiley faced tableware and mud souvenirs. Artists Robert Rush (RR) and Rose de Borman (RdeB) have set up shop for a week in a derelict house in Kings Cross with a collection of objects they describe as things to eat from, pray to, illuminate and create rituals around. Hole & Corner ventured down the Caledonian Road for a visit.
How would you each describe (your working) self?
RdeB: We are mongrels...we make, collect, teach, curate, display and sell... and I don't think that's particularly unusual these days.
RR: The show consists of objects we have curated and objects we have made, some with a view to exhibit and some to sell. We approach all of this with a certain flexibility. There is a propositional nature to the project and it spans a few different areas, curation , installation and retail and our roles reflect that.
How did you meet?
RdeB: Over vodka slushies at the bowling alley in Elephant and Castle shopping centre.
How does the collaboration process between you?
RdeB: We started by working on pieces together, passing them between each other at different stages but we found that rarely worked well as we became too precious. The only time it really worked was when something wasn’t going well and we would relinquish control and ask the other to try to work with it. Some of our favourite pieces have come about this way. However the majority have come about when we have worked separately on the forms. Sometimes one would present an idea and the other would make it. Sometimes we would work on things separately but towards the common idea. Mostly one will make pieces and leave them for the other to respond to. We tend to do all the glazing together as we mixed glazes ourselves and had quite specific ideas about them so most pieces are glazed by both of us, which brings a uniformity to the body of work.
RR: We sign everything as Mud Museum and all works are joint works. It has been an interesting exercise in ownership and letting go. Often one of us will end up signing work that the other has made. It is a very conversational way of working, Rose can make something today and I can make something tomorrow that riffs on that and so on...sanctioned plagiarism.
RdeB: We both feel that in being generous with ideas and letting each other make work in response to the others leads to a more productive outcome. It is quite freeing to let go of that protection one often has about one's ideas and techniques and to actually invite someone else to take it, to build on it in ways you might not have thought of.
Do you both have different approaches to clay?
RR: We are both drawn to forms that pitch between the prosaic and poetic. We both try and stay open to the possibilities the medium provides. Also if something makes us laugh that’s quite a good sign.
RdeB: We are both quite instinctive workers, open to chance. We realised we both had that thing where we would be making one object and then find the pieces left on the table that had been sliced off almost more interesting and dynamic in form or texture, so would quickly take those pieces to another table and try to make them into something that retains that energy. Maybe because of this approach we are both very messy. We seem to always be working on about 10 pieces at a time.
Where did the idea of the Mud Museum come from?
RdeB: We both recognised a shared love of a certain kind of object or artefact. We enjoyed the idea of creating a display of the things we appreciate, most of which one would probably classify as 'low, 'populist' or 'folk' art, by largely unknown makers. We recognised the impetus and inspiration in our own practices they provided.
RR: We had both been asked to make pieces for Neal Jones' show at Southard Reid and it seemed to work well. The initial idea was to make work directly in relation to some of the items in our collections but for this first show it ended up growing into a much larger display of our own work in ceramics as we made more and more work in response to each others ideas.
RdeB: It’s a word we realised we both loved. It seems to represent so much of what we are attracted to, Earth, clay, nature, growth, base, soil, where we began, where we end…the all and the everything..the dirt and the muddle. One of my favourite objects in a museum is a tin glazed plate in the Museum of London with the inscription 'you and I are Earth 1661' written in cobalt.
What do you get from exhibiting in a house/shop rather than an exhibition space?
RR: What appealed to us was the flexibility of the space and its overt retail nature. Most galleries are shops and most artists would like to sell their work...who they sell it to and how it is sold is often a heavily mediated process. We wanted to provide a exhibit that acknowledged the commercial nature of art practice and offered a broad range of products available at both ends of the economic spectrum. Often the people who love the work can't afford it and those who can afford it are somewhat distanced from the artist and his practice.
In this instance we want to act as our own shopkeepers...not as a besmirchment of the gallery system but to at least endeavour to provide other modalities of production and artistic dissemination. Not to say that our model is so radical but it does to some extent go against a current of perceived rightness within the contemporary art model where gallery endorsement carries great weight and the self-published author (artist) is always open to ridicule.
The Geddes Gallery, 26 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DT
Until 21st February (12 - 7pm)