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Installation view
ROY CLAIRE POTTER
18/07/19 - 28/07/19
This July, we’re happy to welcome Roy Claire Potter to OUTPUT gallery. Influenced by linguistics and performance theory, the artist works across many forms including performance, publication, installation and film to think about what it means to articulate.

For this exhibition, Roy Claire Potter presents two works. ‘Cast Metal Nut’ (38 minutes HD single channel film) sees the artist dressed in a navy blue Lacoste tracksuit inhabiting static frames of woodland scenes. Through acts of resting, waiting, wandering, and cleaning trainers, something close to a filmic character is put forward, but one for whom no defining narrative action ever takes place. 9 page document ‘Lads of Aran’ takes references from multiple commercial, vernacular, and academic sources to draw together ideas of allegory, masculinity, and adolescence to articulate the lad as ‘a figure rather than a character’ one that is constituted by forces and desires external to any particular body that might be enacting it.
Installation view
What do you want the audience to think about when they visit your exhibition?

I want visitors to think about ‘the lad’ as a contemporary figure, and how ‘the lad’ is a performance of a certain kind of masculinity. I hope the work makes clear that because ‘the lad’ is a performance as such — a combination of props, costume, gestures, expressions, and a sort of ancient script about appropriate behaviours and emotions — that any body regardless of their gender can enact this figure. The question under the surface of this argument is why anyone does perform ‘the lad’. To understand that I think you’ve got to study the contexts in which this performance emerges. It’s my contention in the work that a performance of this lad figure generates some immediate social power where there might be a deficit of social power — you only act hard when you feel you have to —  and the immediate power generated is tied to the threat of violence, or probably more to the point, the theatre of violence. I am interested in ‘the lad’ in that way — not as male privilege, or a niche psychology, and certainly not as a particular person but as a figure made ready, and mobilised by greater forces.

Who do you want to visit this show? Who is it for?

While the two exhibited works originated in the same period of research, they weren’t made to be shown together. The film Cast Metal Nut was made for this type of gallery setting, but the other work is for publication, so individually these works were made for different types of audience — different sets of eyes that look and read things differently according to separate sets of criteria. In fact, a version of Lads of Aran was also submitted as my MFA thesis before it was published in an essay collection, so it was made for a very particular kind of reading that is not interchangeable with the kind of reading or surveying that happens in a gallery context. I hope that bringing those two things together in this exhibition is a generative exercise in reading across forms for an audience of other artists, writers, performers, but I’m also keen that the work is seen by ex-scals, secret-scals, wannbe-scals, and mad-scals of any gender and orientation to collectively assess what narratives we are carrying and enacting with our bodies that we mightn’t necessarily be the authors of.

How do you find it working as an artist from Merseyside?

I was born in Whiston and brought up in St. Helens. I left the region in 2005 and didn’t come back until I started teaching here a few years ago. My mum’s side are from Liverpool and then Ireland, and my dad’s side have been in St. Helens for generations. There’s a regional accent issue here that many people reading this will be familiar with or sick of hearing about: the scouse-wool divide. Scousers are from Liverpool and woolly-backs are from not-Liverpool, basically. Being between these two linguistic identities was a pain in the arse growing up and was also the foundation of my interest in the social politics of language. I’d be asked by older cousins in St. Helens to say things like ‘toast’ to prove god knows what, but I would also hear the richest, frankest, most plainly brutal Lancashire dialect phrases my dad and great-granddad used to use like ‘bang um in th’oon’ and ‘he’s gone and fell off’perch’. In my personal sensibilities and also in terms of what influences my work, I’d more readily point to Lancashire as where I’m coming from—St. Helens was, at one time, south Lancashire after all. Working as an artist across the UK and also outside the country, you come to realise that nobody finds the implications of regional identity that interesting or important, besides yourself and maybe a few other artists you know with a shared upbringing. Unless of course your identity (and not only regional identity) falls in with the remit of a social exploitation project in an ‘impoverished’ area. Maybe this is something to do with the practical non-identity of the category ‘white middle class’ that makes up of large sections of the arts, but it’s also got to do with the on-going and acted-out characterisation of regional identities, which is something people claim for themselves for all sorts of valid, various, and possibly temporary reasons, but it also to do with governance: greater powers — both richer, more privileged people and also the ideas they uphold — benefit from the containment of categories.
Installation view
Installation view
Installation view