©Susan Stockwell 2012

©Susan Stockwell 2012

Hyperlink at Tate Modern is a free festival of art, music and fashion taking place in the Turbine Hall and the Tanks. One of the participants is Susan Stockwell, whose Sail Away involves an audience participation in creating a huge sculptural installation in the Turbine Hall, which will grow in scale during the Hyperlink launch weekend with people adding their own boats to the flotilla.  This installation will introduce interactive, collaborative elements which will connect all the participants. Sail Away will include hundreds of small boats made from paper money, tickets and maps. The project is the artist’s installation based on ideas of connections through travel, trade and trade routes, mapping and colonial/personal histories.

Volt Café: Where were you born, and what was your dream as a child?
Susan Stockwell: I was born in Manchester in the North of England. My dream was to be able to daydream, to ride horses and to be free, which is probably why I became an artist.

VC: What is the longest period of time you have ever been away from home?
SS: About one year at a time, in China and Taiwan and another time in the USA.

Susan Stockwell

Susan Stockwell

VC: Maps, tickets and money are all things that support you going from one place to another in many different ways. Where would you like to sail off to in this instant?
SS: The Brazilian Rainforest, more specifically to the small tributaries of the Amazon where you can find the most amazing wildlife, such as jaguars, and are woken up at 4am by the deafening sound of birdsong.

VC: Where do you go to look for your materials? Are they by any chance from your own traveling experiences?
SS: Yes sometimes, travel has been a big influence, for example when I was in Taiwan I began to use recycled computer components because they were the essence of modern Taiwan to me. It is a country with an economy built on the electronics and computer industries. An interest in working with paper currency began when I was in Taiwan where money is burnt as offerings to the spirits, as a Buddhist ritual. On mainland China I collected beautiful old currency, which fascinated me as it presented an old regime, picturing ethnic groups wearing traditional costume. Back in London I decided to use this currency to make a quilt, adding newer notes. Money seemed the perfect material to make a quilt from, it’s a recycled, readymade, patterned material, imbued with a history and easy to piece together. I made a map of the world from the old traditional currency stitched on to thousands of new notes, with Mao’s head on them. The resulting quilt, A Chinese Dream, which was shown in the V&A’s exhibition Quilts from 1700 to 2010 and then purchased by them, comments on the fast moving, burgeoning Chinese economy and the shift in global wealth from the West to the East.

VC: What makes it important that people get involved in your installation and what excites you the most about participating in this festival?
SS: Hyperlink is for young people, it’s non-hierarchical and about the idea of ‘six degrees of separation’ and making connections. The installation Sail Away invites people to make and add a boat to the flotilla, therefore connecting all the participants. The fact that the money used has already passed through, possibly thousands of people’s hands adds another layer of connection. The mass participation means the work will become bigger than the sum of its parts, more than I could do alone. I cannot predict or control how it will evolve and I’ll learn from that, which is exciting. By taking part in an installation people remember it more powerfully.

©Susan Stockwell 2013

©Susan Stockwell 2013

VC: What is the recurrent message of your work?
SS: I’m not interested in messages, but I am interested in questions and I hope the work asks questions. My concerns are rooted in ecology, trade, history, geo-politics and beauty.

VC: Which of these element appeals the most to you: Water/The sea. Earth/the forest. Fire/the Mountain. Air/the Unknown?
SS: All have interest for different reasons.

VC: If you could be any animal for the day….which animal would you choose to be and why?
SS: A dog, my dog Toto, who was a street dog in Taiwan that I rescued and brought back to London. He now has the life of Riley and I would like to be him for a day so I could see the world through his eyes and understand what it’s like to be him, a travelling dog that’s experienced a big life change.

Hyperlink
Susan Stockwell | Sail Away
27th April noon – 9PM
28th April noon – 5PM
Tate Modern
The Turbine Hall
Bankside
London SE1 9TG

Words by Sanne Steijger

©Susan Stockwell 2013

©Susan Stockwell 2013

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