The lord of misrule
Claire Mitchell talks to Peter Liversidge about scuffed trainers, Squirrel Nutkins and his ersatz paper Rolex
‘It’s kind of like when you are a child, and you really want a certain toy, but can’t have it, so you make your own version instead,’ says London-based artist Peter Liversidge of his own homemade versions of everyday and perhaps not-so-everyday things, from cardboard Canon cameras, to ‘fake’ paper Rolex watches and maladroit watercolour renderings of the usually sharp logos of luxury automobiles. There really is a very childlike quality to Liversidge’s idiosyncratic counterfeits, a number of which make up part of his upcoming show, For They Know Not What They Do, at Edinburgh’s Ingleby Gallery. ‘By taking away the mass produced element, you kind of make it your own. Like when you scuff a brand new pair of trainers, they lose that brand new untainted quality and become uniquely yours. It’s a strange mix of elation and disappointment all at once.’
Liversidge has worked in a variety of media, from drawing and painting to sculpture, installation and even performance, all tinged with his own unique sense of seemingly innocent charm that cleverly pushes you in the direction of finding answers to fundamental questions without you even really noticing.
This lulling sense of merriment in Liversidge’s work led to him being christened ‘Lord of Misrule at The Feast of Fools’ during last year’s Festival. This after all is a man that impinged on the gravitas of the stoically Georgian Ingleby Gallery by releasing a host of London spiders in the gallery. He also used his charming demeanour to persuade the gallery staff to dress up as woodland creatures for a day. Talk about shocking the so-called bourgeoisie out of their complacency.
While Squirrel Nutkins unfortunately won’t be making an appearance this time round, there will be a very distinct representation of wildlife in this show. Taxidermy in the form of a Harris hawk and a little stuffed robin will be perched in the gallery. ‘I wanted to play with people’s perceptions of wild animals. It’s something we think we have a grasp on. We rarely experience nature for what it really is, but rather our own tenuous interpretation of it.’
A series of small watercolours of the Montana Plains also point to our need to condense nature into much more manageable forms. ‘I lived in Montana for a while, but never visited the Plains, so these are completely imagined landscapes but in a tradition and medium that people find easy to internalise.’
Another aspect of the show will be an ongoing artwork, a daily documentation of the performances Liversidge will be creating in Switzerland during Art Basel - including a trawling of the rubbishy depths of the Rhine, and an invitation to have any statement translated into one of 11 European languages by a conference interpreter. As soon as these happen, they will almost simultaneously appear in Edinburgh through the magic of email.
It might seem as if this show is a mish-mash of cheeky pranks, amateurish draughtsmanship and crestfallen taxidermy, but actually Liversidge is astutely nudging us towards paying a little more attention to the way in which we try to shrink the world around us into more docile bite sized pieces.
For They Know Not What They Do, Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh. Sat 12 May - Sat 23 Jun.