DACS Meets: Oreet Ashery and Florence Peake in conversation

    Welcome to DACS Meets, an ongoing series of insights from artists on their life and practice. 

    Ahead of their online event with DACS later this month, multi-disciplinary artists Oreet Ashery and Florence Peake discuss their expansive practices, which unfold and converge through their exploration of the human form and a penchant for performance-based works.

    Hi Oreet, hi Florence. We are so looking forward to our event later this month. How long have you know each other? And how have you collaborated in the past? 

    OA: I honestly don’t remember, but it has been a very long time. I vaguely remember something to do with my local gym and you visiting my flat like100 years ago Florence? I took part in a brilliant workshop that Florence was running with Eve Stainton during summer 2019. It was around queer community and embodiment. 

    I remember feeling held, touched, touching clay, and roaring with laughter at my awkward attempts in displaying cruising body language, every time I tried, I just bent over laughing, clearly I am not the cliché queer I’d like to think I am!

    FP: I remember the first time I ever saw you was on a platform at Kings Cross. We were doing a project with Josuha Sofer, LADA and Yorkshire Sculpture Park and you were anxious because you had been responsible for all our train tickets. This instantly put me at ease as I was in a highly neurotic state and nervous about meeting such a formidable bunch of performance artists. This was ages ago! 

    Then the sauna at the gym and I came to some of your workshops on the freedom party and being naked with everyone, you always made me feel so comfortable. I remember doing the knitting action with fabric while trying to perform a cruising scenario and just couldn’t stop cracking up laughing.

    Revisiting Genesis, web series, video still, 2016 © Oreet Ashery, courtesy of the artist

    You cite the importance of friendship, community and kinship to your practice, how has your work been affected by the past 18 months with the move online for so much creative practice? 

    OA: I am just starting to come to terms with how much has changed and how much I have been affected by the lockdowns in terms of sociability, both private and in my practice. It is early days to reflect but I feel like I am emerging from a social trauma, like one of those disaster movies that I love watching late at night with some massive snow avalanche that covers a small town and wipes the residents’ memories, apart from one who still remembers the Beatles, you get my drift… with climate change, colonialism, extraction, and automation these films feel closer than ever.   

    FP: It’s a funny sensation to feel de-skilled from the last 18 months, like things I held precious in terms of practices with bodies and community have been robbed, a kind of stealing. I am re-finding, claiming back, tentatively seeing what touch-based practices feel like again- so scary and unsure…. 

    The disaster movie is such a good reference but they always end when things have been resolved and the aftermath is not portrayed. How do we survive this bit? I am finding it hard, some of the manic return to openings, club nights. I want it, I don’t want it. I miss being in the studio with lots of people moving together – but I get overwhelmed by it too.

    CRUDE CARE, 2021. © Florence Peake. British Art Show 9, 2021-22, Aberdeen Art Gallery. A Hayward Gallery Touring exhibition organised in collaboration with galleries across the cities of Aberdeen, Wolverhampton, Manchester and Plymouth. Photo: Rachel Thibbotumunuwe.

    What role does the audience play in your practice, and how does the inter-connectivity between artist / performer / audience play out? 

    OA: I see audiences as people and people as audiences, my practice is a life practice. I interact and connect with strangers and friends/peers/collaborators  in equal measure and in multiple ways. I live through evaluating the distance and proximity I share with my environment.  

    FP: I like to play with layers of intimacy and distance – the desire and the resistance to people. It depends on the ideas and the work. Audience is not a flat surface for work to be acted out upon. There is interaction , empathy, exchange, complexity of power…. 

    What are you currently working on? What is in the pipeline?

    OA: I have started contemplating a film commission for KW [Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin]. 

    FP: I have a performance at National Gallery coming up on the 10th of December, and a short solo show of mainly painting that relate to performances at the Richard Saltoun Gallery on the 17th of November.

    DACS Meets: Oreet Ashery & Florence Peake in conversation, takes place on 27th October at 5pm. Book your tickets here

    Main image: Left; Oreet Ashery; right; Florence Peake, photo by Christa Holka



    Posted on by Bel New