British Artist William Farr thinks it’s time to question capitalism.
By Naomi Barling.
Name: William Farr
The shift in perspective ignited by the coronavirus has colossally impacted the artistic industries. Via our ‘‘Artists in Quarantine” series, we attempt to reflect this by conducting interviews and capturing digital portraits that document creatives’ isolation experiences and thoughts on the changing world. This week, we introduce you to William Farr.
Who is William Farr?
I am a multi-disciplinary artist who primarily makes temporary installations from waste and found materials from the streets of London. I’ve also directed videos and work as a photographer.
I grew up in Yorkshire and my work is definitely influenced by the post-industrial industry, the decay of all these buildings, and derelict spaces that I grew up around, that now sit alongside so much nature.
I’m from an alternative family. Growing up without many materialistic possessions meant we were forced to be imaginative, we would find all of our stuff in skips or charity shops, make go-carts with old pram wheels, tree houses, anything, and everything. For years I didn’t know what a lot of things were or that they even existed. I grew up in a bubble and never fully understood how much others had because I never felt like I was going without. I was left to be free and encouraged to make things. My parents made everything, so creativity was something I was always around. It never came into my life or was something that I discovered it was always there. The smell of masking tape takes me back to making lantern sculptures with tissue paper when I was a kid. I have so many memories like that.
When I came to London my eyes were opened. For example, I didn’t know what a hotel was until the age of 16, honestly, it didn’t even cross my mind. I came from a very different viewpoint. I see my work and myself as being hands-on, practical and I am always consciously making sure I am not detached from my surroundings because I had the privilege of growing up and being very involved in the world around me.
How do you perceive creativity?
Creativity is very personal. I try not to look around to see what others are doing. You should never be influenced by what looks like ‘the right thing to do’. It’s important for me to stay in my own lane and try not to be everything and everyone.
Fundamentally the themes of my work have always been the same, my process was something I developed as a child and has not changed much since then. I was always collecting objects and trying to alter how an inanimate object is seen by others.
Instagram has created an echo chamber that can be tricky to navigate as a creative. The way creative education is taught is often about the end aesthetic and less about your journey through the work.
My work is about conveying a message, saying something I believe in. It could be something small or it could have multiple levels of meaning but making people think and adding to the conversation is what I strive for. It’s a tough industry and can be a hard space to stay authentic.
What is the overarching feeling you currently have?
Reflective and positive. Luckily, I live a very domestic life and work from home, so for me, it has not been a massive change. I live in the city and it’s been beautiful to be able to look out the window and see a clear sky and feel the clear air. I am feeling thankful for simple things like that.
I feel compassion for people who are struggling: people who suffer from mental health issues or live with domestic abuse. For them, this must feel like they are trapped. Because of these stark and drastically different realities, I am feeling a lot of gratitude for the life I have built and the friends who support me.
What has fed your soul in quarantine?
I’ve been watching a lot of Derek Jarman and interviews with different artists. I’ve been reading and doing things enjoy. I am still making sculptures and shooting images at home. If anything, I’ve been doing more as I have no distractions. I have also been looking after my plants, they have been so fussed over, I am sure they are getting pissed off with me.
What things had you forgotten you loved?
If I’m honest, nothing. When I started out as an artist, I spent a few years chasing my tail before realizing I could calculate, “OK, I’ve done X amount of jobs this year and only Y amount meant anything.” It hit me that I needed to stop wasting so much time and I changed the way I worked after that. Now, I don’t live a very busy life, I have constructed a life that fits around me. Clients don’t buy my time they buy my work. I am lucky in that respect.
How do you think your industry will change post quarantine?
I hope it will kill a lot of the noise and make people wonder if they are doing things for the right reasons. I feel strongly that if you just need money, go and get any job. Don’t bring commerce into a space that is essentially sacred. Art is a type of magic, a language passed down like storytelling. It’s the way humans learned to pass information before written language. This is being challenged by the medium of technology. In one respect it is a (new) Enlightenment, super speed access to information, a way to visualize feelings, and what is almost unknowable. It’s valid, but can be dysphoric.
I don’t want to waste anyone’s time I think everyone’s voice deserves a space. I read something that said, “if you’re living for your next paycheque, what sort of life is that?” This is a real issue in society so maybe this is the time to re-address that notion. There is no reason to not provide a universal basic income, it’s time to move away from notions that developed in the industrial revolution. As artists we have value and if companies want us to work for them then they need to pay us accordingly. I hope more people learn to say no because they see the value in what they’re doing.
What will be your biggest take away from this moment in time?
Enjoy the little things, make sure I continue to take time to reflect on what I want for the future. Focus on what’s in front of me. Focus on the people I’m engaging with and be vocal about what I love.
What’s your mission?
I will continue to extend my body of work, concentrating on different projects, outputs, and mediums. I’m developing some new areas of work at the moment which is exciting. I’m always looking to develop and broaden my skill set. My mission is to be able to continue building a life that allows me to do that.
The monotony of domesticity.
Portraits by Daniel Archer.