Giorgio Sadotti’s Vanity Affairs

Vanity Affairs

Sunday 15 February 2009, 11am – 7pm

Giorgio Sadotti’s so-called ‘Vanity Affairs’ are (almost) annual events hosted by Sadotti at his minimalist home in East London. Initiated in 2002 the events – for small, familiar audiences – have most often been instigated by Sadotti with a sampled sound or audio work given to the invited artist to respond to.

2002 ‘AND’ with 4 musicians unknown to each other
2003 ‘Perpetual Euphoria’ with Paul Noble
2004 ‘Love’ with Liam Gillick and a reading by Michael Conroy-Harris
2006 ‘CF GS’ with Ceal Floyer
2008 ‘To My Left’ with Jemima Stehli
2009 (forthcoming) with Alexandra Stähli, Sarina Scheidegger and Fiona Banner

Sadotti’s often endearingly personal video documentation of many of the events will be projected alongside displays of the ephemera generated throughout the history of this small slice of ‘grassroots’ art activity in London.

GIORGIO SADOTTI (B. 20th Century, Manchester, based in London) gained his MFA at University of Syracuse, New York (1981); MA Sculpture, Manchester University (1979); and his BA Fine Art at Trent Polytechnic (1978). Sadotti has exhibited internationally in solo and group exhibitions for over twenty years.

This event is kindly sponsored by The Elephant Trust.

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An interview between Giorgio Sadotti and Rebecca May Marston, February 2009

RMM Why does your partner call the series of annual(ish) events at your home, Elektra House, your Vanity Affairs?
GS She isn’t really into self-promotion of any sort and thinks that inviting people around is a type of showing off ... an ego trip for me. (She may be right.)
RMM How did you come to work with the artists you have in the Vanity Affairs: Liam Gillick, Paul Noble, Ceal Floyer and Jemima Stehli so far.
GS They are all old mates, whom I trust, respect and am in easy contact with.
RMM Each event began with sound, mostly with you giving the artist an audio work or sampled sound piece to respond to. Why was this?
GS I like the idea of artist’s working to a brief, being given a subject to work with. I am also interested in question and answer relationships and how a thing or image works with a non-visual thing like sound. It is also a good medium for a live social gathering (sound, that is).
RMM How would you characterise the events?
GS They are lazy Sunday afternoon events, a bit like going down the pub with friends and their children – neither gallery, nor home, but somewhere between.
RMM Who are the audience?
GS Mainly my friends and the other artist’s friends.
RMM What do you think are some of the criticisms that might be levied against the events as a series and in their conception?
GS Perhaps that they are not open to the general public? They are conservative in the aspect of overly familiar artists? I am literally in my comfort zone – my castle – my control zone? They are totally incestuous affairs? Of course, all of these potential criticisms I view as positives but I am trying to see the negative aspects.
RMM What are the effects of the events being private and not publicly advertised or accessible?
GS I think it makes for a more relaxed atmosphere where the large majority of people know each other as friends, have the experience that comes from repeat visits and I can trust that our home will more than likely not be trashed!
RMM Why do you do them?
GS Vanity! I also do them for many other diverse reasons but the main one being that I think these one-off time-based events occupy a very complex and interesting position between gallery / home / theatre. Also, because I can ... our home architecturally lends itself to such social gatherings.
RMM Perhaps you could say what that architecture is? If I’m asked I tell people it’s minimalist – which means that one Christmas your children got to ride round the bare living room on their Christmas present scooters. Is that a fair description?
GS Unfair! There was at the time of it’s unveiling a lot of correspondence in major architectural magazines about how children could possibly be brought up in a house with no windows – scandalous, cruel and disgraceful! Minimalism is too easy to knock; I think it can really work in architecture, avoiding the clutter of things sounds like a positive to me, especially if it really confuses all those outraged reactionaries. In reality our home is actually liberating, like living inside out; in that it is brighter inside when you open the front door, it has no distracting views and our shared open-plan living space is like a piazza or town square where we meet and discuss! No windows gives more wall space; more wall space gives more art!
RMM What are some of the differences between making work in that context to other events in galleries or institutions?
GS I suppose the main difference is that the site is a private home, which I share with my partner and our two children (the events are always child-friendly and strictly enforced from 3 – 6pm).
RMM Yes, but are they really the only differences? Is it the same pressure or same sense of achievement? Do you put as much thought and effort in? You know ... those kinds of comparisons.
GS Of course there are many, many other differences but I think you can get hung up on doing things properly, professionally, methodically, coldly, looking to illustrate an academic paper. I like the warmth of humanity and friction that inviting others to lean on your mantelpiece allows. For me that intimate potential communication opens up possibilities that institutions could probably never achieve and that is what excites me about staying home.
RMM The Vanity Affairs are ‘grassroots’ activities, which are stereotypically associated with young artists starting out. I don’t know what my question is but can you speculate about this?
GS I want to cling to the grass! I think it’s the best place to be ... I may not be numerically young, but I am in my head. Also I think wherever you lay your art is the gallery so ... I am surprised that more people don’t show work in their own homes. Galleries are often treated with far too much respect and deemed to be way more important than they are, so if I can loosen this notion I think it a good thing.
RMM Do you see the invites you’ve made for each of the Vanity Affairs as works or invites / ephemera?
GS Not sure. I see each one I do differently, some have been unique one-off prints and others not. I don’t really want to categorize them myself.
RMM Do you see yourself as a curator or artist within the events?
GS Both, as I have done before. As I implied earlier, I love muddy water.
RMM Who would you like to do one with next?
GS I am going to do one in April this year with, amongst others, two young Swiss artists who I recently met called Alexandra Stähli and Sarina Scheidegger and also Fiona Banner.
RMM Can I invite an artist on your behalf one day who you have to do it with even if you don’t want to, please? Or is it just your ‘gang’?
GS It’s just my gang, sorry.
RMM Do you feel like you’re creating your own context to make work in doing the events?
GS To an extent I am creating an atmosphere, which is a context, yes.
RMM Which out of the artists so far put it on their CVs do you think (or know)? Is there any implication in the answer to this question?
GS No idea. What are you implying?
RMM I am conservative and embarrass easily and I am implying that it might not be viewed as ‘validated’ enough to put on a CV or something. Or rather because I like artist CVs and think they are historical documents, but they are subjective, which seems at odds with the fact that they are fact. Plus the issue that your CV is really long and we argue about the editing of it. I’m contradicting myself – I think you personally shouldn’t put them on your CV, but I think the events are a little niche of London art activity that is interesting.
GS I am not such a fan of the resume and think they are over-rated relatively ugly things. Mine’s on a diet.
RMM Which do you think worked most successfully from your point of view?
GS From my point of view, because of the complementary merging of sound with object, the event that worked best up to now was probably ‘Perpetual Euphoria’ Paul Noble’s sculptural mobile which very literally translated the music / lyric into a beautiful thing.
RMM Ok. So perhaps we can say what it was? My attempt: You made a canonized, overlapping sound sample of The Jackson Five’s ‘ABC’, to which Paul Noble responded with two mobiles, installed on your ceiling with his 3-dimensional typeface, one with ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ and one with ‘1’, ‘2’ and ‘3’ – like the lyrics in the song. That, as you know, is my favourite because of the documentation you took of it in which your two young daughters stand in front of the video camera mainly grinning and fighting a bit, dressed in novelty dinosaur towel dressing gowns. The mobiles are over their heads and the track is played in the background. I just think it’s the most endearing, lovely thing in the world (and I don’t care how craply sentimental that is), which also is befitting of the context in your home.

GS I agree.