Street artist Clive can not access this website from his home in Shanghai. He relocated to China from the US almost five years ago and uses a VPN (virtual private network) to access blocked websites like Acid Midget.
With VPNs, Clive has maintained contact with the creative community from which he would otherwise be severed. I blogged some of his wheatpastes in August and last month he held an exhibition of canvas works in Shanghai.
Popular Western artists get plenty of web publicity. I asked Clive what it's like being an expat and how he creates art away from his former home. The frames below are from his latest triple triptych that combine to make one artwork.
So Clive, you're based in Shanghai? How long have you been there?
I've been in Shanghai for four years, starting year five in February.
I am from the Ohio River Valley, in West (by God) Virginia.
Recently, I have been sticking with painting and mixed media, but almost everything starts its life as a collage of some sort. In the past, I made sculptures, but due to space limitations haven't been doing any really in China. As far as the streets are concerned I do primarily wheatpasting.
What appeals to you about working on the streets of Shanghai?
Shanghai is a city with a lot of hustle going on all the time, probably more than any Western city I've visited or lived in. Other than this, the stark contrast of wealth and poverty. For instance, you can be in an area with multimillion dollar villas and down the street will be tenement housing. These contrasts extend in many other areas of life as well. Imagine the consumer society on LSD and meth, this is Shanghai's modus operandi, while at the same time trying to remain homogenized. Aside from this, there is surprisingly little work being put up outside of the two free walls in the city. This lack of work is what made me want to put some of my work up outside of a gallery. I had pretty much stopped putting work up on the street a year or two before coming to China. So, I guess you could say Shanghai re-inspired me to get up.
Did you do any street work before settling over there?
Yeah of course, when I was younger I used to throw up some bombs, stencils, stickers and some wheatpasting; I'm sure if you looked in the right spots in places I lived you'd still find them.
I understand you're quite passionate about Duchamp. What is it about him you identify with?
Duchamp is pretty much the big enchilada. He redefined the whole game. The subversive nature of his work is what I admire most, and the destruction of boundaries and reference points is unparallelled by anyone so far. Though causing as much of a ruckus as he did is nearly impossible these days. In my own work I try to blur, skew, or eliminate reference points, but I don't think I am anywhere as successful as Duchamp was in this area.
If Duchamp was around today I believe he would have some involvement in it, however, he would likely be light years ahead of what we are seeing now. He existed on his own level during his lifetime, and I think he would be on his own level if you put him in any part of time, and I feel that he is far too dynamic to be pigeonholed into one category or movement, just as the case during his lifetime, I think would be the case if he was around today.
Tell me about your recent exhibition. Is there another one in the works?
Yeah I recently had a little event. It had some live music provided by myself and a bunch of pedals and some guys playing electric cellos. It was kind of an excuse for me to switch out all my old work with new pieces and let Plastic Urban Female (the cello guys) have their first performance. There was a pretty good turn out and we managed to pull together some money for a local charity, so it was a pretty win-win situation. I am definitely going to try to have another event here in Shanghai and a friend of mine is going to curate an exhibition in Huntington that I'll be a part of. The event in Huntington is a retrospective of stuff that came out of that city in past years, so they will have to hunt down some work that I managed to part with while I was still living there. It will be in March at the Blank Gallery.
What are your plans for 2012?
Well my 2012 plans are to avoid Niburu or any other celestial disaster, the events I mentioned before, and hopefully some events I haven't planned yet. Aside from this, I will be going around Southeast Asia at the beginning of the year, and after that definitely trying to put out some more quality work.