Jimmie Durham - Glasgow International
Sculptor Jimmie Durham’s work is informed by politics and an immersion in his surroundings. Liz Shannon talks to him about his practice
The renowned American sculptor Jimmie Durham has not shied away from using local materials in the creation of his installation at Glasgow Sculpture Studios. ‘The first thing I made was out of a piece of PVC drainpipe and an old tank that used to contain helium for little balloons. I just found them out in the back, in the garbage.’ The fruit of a three-month residency, the piece also hints at his work as a writer and poet. ‘It’s not exactly sculpture – it’s sculpture with things that hang on the wall. There’s a lot of texts and strange little images and such.’
Political activism is intertwined with Durham’s art. He was a high-profile activist for the American Indian Movement, while his partner, the artist Maria Thereza Alves, co-founded Brazil’s Green Party. ‘It’s a matter of intellectual activity – for me that means political activity. We are political people whether we want to be or not.’
While Durham downplays his personal identity (‘I never worry much about my own identity: I think I’ve been miswritten about regarding that’), he’s found some common ground with Scottish culture during his residency at GSS, which may be reflected in the work. ‘It will look a bit like I’m thinking about my identity because Cherokees, Choctaws and Creek Indians were kind of internally colonised by Scots immigrants – that became part of us. Many Cherokees have Scottish names, Scottish looks – that’s been going on for more than 200 years.’
Currently based in Berlin and Rome, Durham soaks up influences from his surroundings, and this participation is a significant part of his creative process. ‘I don’t like to be in one place, but when I’m in a place I like to participate. It’s the way I like to work. If you’re walking around, as I like to do, you find things that are specifically of the place. You don’t always find them in the garbage. I bought five golf clubs – I couldn’t resist them.’ Three of these clubs have found their way into the work. ‘I can let you have two second hand ones pretty cheap,’ he laughs.
Jimmie Durham, Glasgow Sculpture Studios, Fri 16 Apr–Sat 31 Jul.