Top: Jennie at work! (photo: Bryony Dawkes); above: installation shot of the sound piece A Walk from A–Z, which you can listen to here.
Jennie Savage is a conceptual artist who creates site-specific installations, public events, interventions and audio or video pieces that explore the place between public spaces, town planning, constructed landscapes and the personal narratives connected to those sites. Often employing a process that uses archiving and intervention. she seeks to map the other life of a place or community in order to reveal a complex situation, a micro- structure or simply an unheard voice. She has published two books: Depending on Time in 2009 and STAR: A Psycho topography of Place in 2006, and has had major exhibitions in the UK, Mexico, Australia, Morroco and Canada.
What are you currently working on?
I have just finished making an animated film in collaboration with James Tyson and am now preparing for an exhibition which opens in February 2011. The show is called 'Fables From A New World' and through it I am trying to explore the narratives that we have inherited from the birth of modernism and deconstruct how these narratives frame our world. I am particularly interested in the way that science over wrote religion but in many ways we imbue it with the same power.... this is what is says in the press release: 'to explore the undercurrents and issues beneath the surface of Victorian Britain during a time when we were becoming modern: science as a belief system, the museum as an institution, the decline of oral culture, the industrial revolution, the beginnings of rationalisation, the birth of consumerism - all in the shadow of Darwin, uncertainty and anxiety. Through object, text, audio and moving image we are invited to question our perception and understanding of the world and the stories we have inherited.'
I am making this project as part of the Art Share scheme at the National Museum Wales and Oriel Davis, a lovely gallery in Newtown Powys. The premise of the collaboration is to use the museums collection and so the exhibition is based on the work of artist and collector TH Thomas.
What attracted you to becoming an artist?
I don't know really. I have always been quite a passionate person and care deeply about certain issues. I think I found being an artist the most freeing way to persue my interests and work across disciplines, collaborating with other people and making things happen that I care about and feel that I can maybe shed a different light on. Many of my projects are socially proactive and I am primarily working site-specifically. I am exploring the root causes of who we are today and how we have become who we are in relation to the actual realities of our day-to-day lives.
What has been your career path?
After I finished my MA I had various part-time jobs and carried on making work. Gradually the projects built up until I was able to go full-time as an artist – although I still teach at a few art colleges, which I really enjoy.
What has been your proudest moment?
The whole STAR Radio project was absolutely amazing from a personal point of view and I still look back and wonder how it all happened. I was really proud of the energy that the project created and the number of people who took ownership over it and got involved – I think be the end we had had about 500 people through the doors doing something.
What or who has been your biggest influence? What or who inspires you?
I am most inspired by litrature, novels, books and always have something on the go. Although I enjoy seeing art it almost feels to close to be inspiring. Whereas a good book, whether it is a novel, theory or more specific interest I always feel excited to feel that I am learning more.
What's the best advice someone has ever given you?
If a jobs worth doing its worth doing well. (my mum)
What advice would you give someone who is just starting out as an artist?
Be ambitious and proactive and don't wait to be chosen. I think being an artist can be really dis-empowering in some respects as you are always waiting for somebody to notice what you are doing. Don't. Do your own thing, work with friends and make your own thing happen.....If you have a huge idea, try to realise it...it might take years but at least you will feel empowered. Do stuff for free to a point... but also when you have a bit of experience, expect to be paid. If you are contributing something to the 'cultural economy' why should you work for free? Value what you do!
The exhibition Fables from a New World: The Life and Times of TH Thomas as Imagined by Jennie Savage will run from 5 February to 6 April 2011 at Oriel Davies, Newton Powys.