My practice usually begins with a found object of some sort—something I find in the street or I happen upon on the internet. I grew up in Birmingham, UK, which is a metal industry city, and I used to find scrap industrial materials around when I was growing up and the industry was dying out. Today, I find things and keep them in my studio for ages before I do anything with them.
Recently I’ve been inspired by current events. For example, I’m working on these forklift path pieces that have to do with “what if” thinking—“What if that had gone differently? What if it had been like this, instead of like that?”—and making that idea manifest itself. When that cop shot a young black kid in the head in the States, I thought, “What if he’d missed?” I also read a lot of sci fi, which has an equally speculative way of looking at the world.
I’ve been reading about artificial intelligence in the past few months, like the Machine Intelligence Research Institute website, so I’m a bit flummoxed about what might happen in 15 years; I’m becoming a bit of a doom-thinker. Up until this point, my work has been based on physical experience—even the videos, or pieces that are more immaterial, are based around a phenomenological experience. Some of the AI research presents a theory that one is only able to learn through the interaction with the physical world.
It takes me a while to get into a piece of work when I’ve made it; I rarely have an instant rush. A piece I made in 2011, Versions of Events, which is a series of plastic bags and shoes, is one of the only times where I was excited right away. I had the idea in the morning and made the piece in the afternoon. It was one of the first “what if” pieces—“What if you scramble causality so that events are in a different order than they usually are, and what are the physical repercussions of that?” That week, I had stepped in paint, so I had put my trainer in a plastic bag, and noticed I could see the paint through the bag. I was thinking about these different permutations of how things could go, if causality didn’t hold.