Interview: Elliot Cooper

Today we’re joined by Elliot Cooper.  Elliot is an incredibly talented writer who is currently studying contemporary performance at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  He’s studying filmic, photographic, and textual art through the medium of performative technology.  Judging from his enthusiasm, Elliot has an amazing future ahead of him.  My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

This is a big question- but I’ll give it a shot.

My background is theatre mostly, I have been in various community arts plays and movement pieces. However, that is not my current praxis.

Since I got involved with contemporary art I have gone on to study Contemporary Performance Practise, which is nothing at all to do with traditional theatre. Although people write, and perform – we do not write plays, there is no narrative per se – there is just the hope that through our work we can communicate an experience to the audience in an accessible manner. But you know, what does that actually entail? Well, for me it means a lot of textual work as well as visual work through photography or technological interaction. A performance I am in the midst of planning currently takes place entirely in a PC based game played by the audience, with the communication being the fact that the experiences the character has gone through are experiences that I myself have gone through. Previous performances of mine have involved installing myself in a space, and repetitively performing an action for durational – or site specific work such as movement pieces that interact with a nearby stone circle in sight hill, Glasgow.

What inspires you?

My inspiration is basically the drive to communicate, as an autistic individual I find it very difficult to communicate exactly what I want to say to people IRL. So, my practise very deliberately divorces me from that interaction and allows me to create photographs, spaces, or interactive games or exhibits that communicate in ways that are not just talking. Or when they are talking, the communication is not the subject of the text, the communication becomes something that is more of the feeling that the audience get off the speech as opposed to the actual speech itself.

The text is also apparently quite funny, so there is a fair bit of use of humour to communicate darker principles or more complex ideas. Beyond my own personal communication I also want to communicate things about science or coding or philosophy – these are much more systemic concepts that are not anything to do with the creative industries. I can see connections between them – both art and science examine life, they just use differing linguistics to do so. I fail to see why these can’t be married up, and you can have art that talks about science or science that is seen as beautiful/emotionally affecting. I have a massive love for logic, and I have read theorems that have given me shivers down my spine, or physics theories that feel like looking into the Grand Canyon. I would love if I could communicate that with others.

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What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

Joseph Bueys (an aktion artist) says that every human being is an artist. I would maintain this to be true, especially with the fact we live in the Information Age. Previous to this, sure we were in charge of our own aesthetic – but that stretched to clothes and speech. Now, our aesthetic is clothes, speech, text, video, photos, what we like and dislike and a thousand other packets of data that we put out into the world. Your blog is an artistic practise, as is mine – even when you don’t care and reblog that picture of that cat you really like – well that is still a statement. It is a statement concerning you particular aesthetic of cat, and your wider adherence to the cultural norms of the Internet.

I always wanted to be a scientist, and I am a scientist (at least I will be formally when I get my other degree). I draw no difference between scientist and artist except language, so – the actual ‘I want to be an artist’ never arose with me. Because I will always be an artist, as will everyone else.

The reason I ended up in the creative industries though – in this particular weird part of the creative industries- was actually, if I trace it back, from therapy. I was placed in theatre as a form of social therapy, to teach me how to react, how to look someone in the eyes (how to pretend to do that) how to present as a normative human being etc. And, well – it kind of failed. I did not learn to be normal, hence could not progress in traditional theatre. So I looked to contemporary art, which holds politics far to the left of the traditional establishment. So I though I would go get qualified in it, so I turned up to my current place of study (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) and auditioned (with a song about plumbing and social isolation) and got in.

I have spent the last year immersed in contemporary art specifically – and I have come out knowing I am a contemporary artist (as well as science).

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in our work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I think my signature is just general awkwardness.

But if you would prefer the artist answer – my signature is monologues that sound like ‘Steve Jobs channelling Bill Nye on crack’ – and the ability to rephrase things about the world that were previously taken as something else. Another artist I work alongside says my signature is being short and sarcastic,

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Do stuff. Even if you think it is crap, just do stuff. Go make public art, go perform on the street or build a sculpture in your back garden. Perform a monologue on the train, go busk, do whatever. Go out into the world and show them your chosen art form – someone will like it, even if you don’t like it yourself.

And remember the product at the end is the not the most important thing, the most important thing is the process you as artist go on – if you can express that in your work- if you can learn from it and create with that knowledge – then your work will be awesome.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Asexual, sex indifferent. I have a sexual partner, this has kind of very much drilled it home to me that I do not do sexual attraction and I am not all that into sex.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

A lot of the work coming from contemporary artists of my generation is incredibly sexual, so yes I find prejudice. People assume that the lack of sexuality in my work means I am a closeted gay guy, or that I am not comfortable with myself, or I do not want to be vulnerable in the space.

In all honesty, it is not in my head to make work exploring sex – so why would I?

I handle it by just being really open about my orientation, and asserting it when needs call for it.

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What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

That guys can’t be asexual, and if you are then you are autistic or abused.

As an autistic abuse survivor I just tend to argue about the ideas of choice, and why exactly autistic abused individuals exist who are not ace and why exactly I happen to be one and be totally functional considering that they are implying a sexuality is only present with dysfunction (doubtful NTs are viewing autism or abused as functional.)

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Research. Read up – and continue to do so when you feel bad. It is what helps me.

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Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

My blog – coopahlawkz.tumblr.com

As for actually coming to see some work, well you’d have to be in Scotland at this moment in my career. Or engage with a few online performances I am thinking of setting up. ‘

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Thank you so much, Elliot for participating in this interview and this project.  It’s very much appreciated.

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