Loose Canons: Stephen Bain
Loose Canons is a series where we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Meet the rest of our Loose Canons here.
Stephen Bain has been making theatre since 1990, and his installation performances take the audience onto the street or into unconventional spaces. He works alongside Nisha Madhan as FutureHotel, making participatory performances and shows. Their new show, FREE HAPPINESS, plays at Basement Theatre in the first week of August and is all about money.
In the Miro museum in Barcelona, they have a bunch of pictures drawn by the artist when he was 12. They're mostly sketches of his holiday home and the neighbouring beach with boats and swimmers. What’s amazing is that you recognise these pictures as Miro straight away, because he uses the exact same colours he used for the rest of his life in all those paintings and drawings.
I grew up in Masterton and sometimes we went to Castlepoint on the East Coast in our family caravan. I remember the smell of the place. I remember the sand dunes that threatened to swallow the fossil reef, but the sea always fought back.
How did Miro know which pencils to choose?
THE ORDER OF THINGS
Robert Anton Wilson has a great exercise where he asks you to take twelve objects from the room you’re sitting in (this works best if you actually do it). Now lay them on the table in front of you and order them into two piles – things made of plastic on the left and things not made of plastic on the right. Now re-order them into things that come from organic materials and things that are mostly mineral. Now re-order the objects into colour groups, things that are mostly yellow on the right and things that aren’t mostly yellow on the left.
Next he advises you to take some form of mind-altering substance. It could be drugs or alcohol or maybe a cigarette or a lot of sugar – whatever you enjoy taking. Now do this exercise again and see how it changes.
I went to a big art exhibition in Paris once. It was a retrospective of Gilbert & George. I was pleased with myself for being at such a beautiful exhibition in such a beautiful city. The galleries were tall and austere. The light was remarkable, and made everyone appear incredibly good-looking in a Paris film-set sort of way.
In one room stood four-metre-high paintings, and opposite there stood a breathtakingly handsome older couple standing and looking at the paintings. They were the picture of elegance. I turned to face the picture they were looking at. It was a painting of a poo. A gigantic poo. A four-metre high poo, presumably Gilbert or George’s poo.
The handsome couple stood in solidarity and wonder, admiring the poo.
I looked at the poo again. It was brown.
I was in Paris. And I looked fabulous.
Nobody made this city. It mostly made itself. People got together to make roads, houses and multi-storey buildings with electricity that came on at the flick of a switch. Somehow, sewerage systems and rubbish disposal and recycling were developed. People found a way to build concert halls and places to walk your dog or to learn languages and how to cook great tasting food.
People seem worried about AI taking over, but I think the robots have already been here for some time – we’re just learning how to get along with each other. I worry about the way people treat machines. We bring out the worst in ourselves when we think of other things as something else.
I read a great piece about the artificial intelligence of finance and how it operates entirely without human intervention now. We live with money. It follows it’s own logic.
I was a student in a workshop when I was a young man, and the guy running it was an impressive tall man with eyes that could fill a dancehall and the reputation of a lion. I plucked up enough courage to ask for advice on the performance I wanted to work on. “My problem,” I admitted with diligence, “is that I don’t know how to make it accessible to everyone.” He looked at me confused. “Why do you want to please everyone?” he said. “Just a few will do me.”
Free Happiness runs at the
2nd August // Economically Irresponsible Night
3rd August // Arts Administrators and Accountants Night
4th August // Changemakers and Trail Blazers Night
5th August // Student Debt and Mortgagees Night
6th August // Non-Comformists Night