Claire Barrow

In The Middle of It All 

Claire Barrow’s work balances in between worlds of pop culture, politics and ethereal creatures. With a combination of the media she consumes and the topics she’s passionate about, the result is an unexpected display of these themes colliding into different disciplines. Whether it’s paintings, sculptures or illustrations she has dreamed up and then translated onto clothing, her art is boundless and unpredictable.

Born in Yarm, a town in Northern England, Barrow grew up watching Disney films on repeat and listening to bands like Slayer and Sonic Youth. Daydreams of moving out of her small town and a career in fashion didn’t seem so far-fetched when she moved to London in 2008. She studied fashion design and it was not long after, her career in fashion started to bloom. Catching the eyes of industry leaders Barrow describes her move out of the traditional fashion calendar to be more freeing and expressive. 

“I’m grateful to come from a fashion background, there’s been so many benefits and collaborations that have evolved from my history within that but I’m also grateful I can pick and choose when to enter back into that world, it’s not about money for me,” 

Barrow tells me over Zoom, behind her lies a stack of boxes and canvases ready to be moved after almost 10 years of living in the same house and studio space.

There are many passions and interests Barrow weaves into her work– her theater upbringing, fashion and makeup seamlessly appear through her work. Her most recent show, Victim of Cosmetics, presented in an office space was inspired by the wasteful nature of the beauty industry. Currently, Barrow is in the midst of expanding her studio space, where she’s excited to create more sculpture work.

In this very exclusive interview we catch up about inspiration, creating in a climate crisis and pop culture.

Jessica Canje: The venues you pick to showcase these shows are often unique like the Piccadilly Tube station or a reformed office space, how do the venues you pick intersect with that specific show?

Claire Barrow: I love to build worlds that resemble the spaces you visit in dreams, trapped places, and half-remembered theme parks from childhood, the big supermarket where your mom dragged you around that felt like an eternity. Recurring places and scenarios stick with you and get filed in your brain’s office cabinet. The feng shui is off.

The tube station (Piccadilly Circus) was thanks to Soft Opening for inviting me (thanks 👍), but otherwise, the office, the field in Hackney where I did a show, and my website reflect this kind of experience. Being big into games and theme parks as a kid, and then in my teens and 20s, creating fashion presentations and experimenting with the use of space to showcase my collections. It’s something that has stuck with me as I’ve transitioned into making art my primary practice, and I would love to explore it further going forward.

Jessica Canje: I love your current website, do you often think about how people will interact with your work virtually if they don’t get to experience it physically? What was the thought going into making your website the way it is? Can you describe it for those that may not have seen it or may never get to?

Claire Barrow: Glad you like ! So, it was created in collaboration with Rifke Sandler of DXR Zone, who formatted and coded it. The site is heavily inspired by early, now-defunct net platforms such as Active Worlds and Geocities and it functions as a hybrid of an 3D online museum, an underground bunker, and a frozen metaverse of my current art and archive, complete with a gift shop! It is designed so that you can navigate it with clicks, clicking on different areas to move around the site. When you first enter, you find yourself in a field with earth in the sky above you. Going into the pink Wendy house with the blue roof in the garden leads you underground into the foyer, where you can choose a door and explore different galleries. The galleries feature 3D renders of my art, sometimes flat to the wall, and sometimes arranged in themed rooms, secret passageways, with soundtracks and GIFs. There is the option to view it all in 2D instead, if you’re that way inclined, or too confused.

Essentially, this platform serves as a way of inviting people to view a gallery showing of my work, outside of the traditional gallery system or Instagram, irrespective of their location. So, when I’m exhibiting work physically in a specific location, I think it’s nice for people who can’t attend in person still have a way to engage with it through this platform. I understand 3D viewing rooms at Art Fairs are becoming super popular, so I’m leaning into the trend in my own way.  

Jessica Canje: Your last show was partly inspired by the wasteful nature of the cosmetic industry–how do you feel about the impending doom of climate change and waste? How does it translate into your work?
A name from your recent show Victim of Cosmetics came from a quote by Khloe Kardashian, Bury Me In Lip Kits and Eyeshadows, 2023
Is your work intuition led or is it through thought and research and much deliberation?

Claire Barrow: I got the title from this lady, Maria Gunning, Countess of Coventry, who died 1760 from the lead poisoning caused by her makeup. She was a superstar beauty icon, like the Angelina of her day, and named the “Victim of Cosmetics” in the papers.

This body of work was heavily research-based, more than most of my others, which have been led by absorbing my reference points into something initiative. But still I used intuitive techniques; like, I was often creating wet canvas then applying paint, allowing it to dry then informing the structure of the painting. Before the invention of the world in the 1640s cosmetics were referred to in general terms as ‘paint’, so I used paint, and dyed concrete powder.

My algorithm selected this project for me, it’s just something I felt I had to make due to the images and research I was receiving. Then it further developed into a response to beauty capitalism and pressure to work hard in the beauty and cosmetic production industry. The sculptures resemble inside-out makeup bags, keeping things hidden inside them, but flipped out.

I re-watched the Kardashians, from top, everyday while making the show. Which was such a slog and depressing, honestly.

But I was to try and pinpoint a time when the world changed and yassified itself, like they did, valuing beauty and perfection above all else. It was around season 12, a few years after Kylie’s Lipkit success.

Jessica Canje: You’ve been based in London for quite some time now, how is the creative atmosphere in the city at the moment?

Claire Barrow: A claustrophobic feeling of coexisting but it’s exciting and scary and fun, and being a bit shit, but that’s ok.

 Jessica Canje: It’s always exciting seeing you release new work as you’re often reinventing your output, what can we expect to see more of in the future?

Claire Barrow: I’ve just just moved my studio to Camden, the punk graveyard, I think it will have an impact shortly. I hope to give back more, to be strange and brave… and make up some dances.

Jessica Canje: Have you seen Barbie?

Claire Barrow: Yeah I liked it. It didn’t talk about anything to do with plastic, I thought it was quite interesting, you know? In the midst of a climate crisis. It’s a crazy waste of plastic, all these toys with non recycled plastic.

Jessica Canje: Do you like sci fi?

Claire Barrow: I love Sci Fi and horror and tacky action films I’ve been really into. I love John Wu films. 


  1. THE BOTTOM, 2022
  2. ETERNITY BITCH, 2023. Installation View
  3. PIPE, Dinner Party Gallery, 2021
  5. VICTIM OF COSMETICS, 2023. Installation View. Fieldworks, 2023

    All artworks courtesy of the artist

Vanessa Beecroft

Rules of Non-Engagement

Vanessa Beecroft (b.1969) discusses how her work serves as a form of therapy, exploring personal conflicts and universal issues within a group. Her exploration of body image and gender politics has influenced her perception of herself and society. 

Her performances are known for their powerful portrayal of vulnerability and invulnerability, creating a unique interaction between the audience and the performers.The intentional discomfort provoked in her performances pushes boundaries and stimulates thought-provoking reactions.

This interview offers profound insights into Vanessa Beecroft’s artistic journey, delving into her personal investigation and its transformative impact on her life and art.

Alexandre-Camille Removille: Vanessa, throughout your career, your work has been deeply personal and introspective. Could you tell us about a specific work where personal investigation was particularly critical to its development?

Vanessa Beecroft: The way I work is to live my life like an artwork in all aspects. The hard part is life. Once that is addressed, work comes as a consequence. 

A particularly challenging experience has been the project in South Sudan, which started as a personal venture and became an intricately tangled dilemma that compromised the stability of my own family. I traveled to South Sudan immediately after the war in 2005 in the attempt to shoot a documentary film on the presence of the Church and was invited by the bishop to the local orphanage where three newborns were unable to latch onto plastic bottles. I nursed them for two weeks and continued to return to South Sudan several times while in New York I was nursing my son Virgil. I developed a bond with the twin boys and wanted to adopt them, but in the end I was persuaded by my ex-husband that it wasn’t the best option for the children. I photographed myself breastfeeding the twins in an image that suggested a white Madonna with two baby black Jesus’s which became controversial. I was commenting on the new form of neocolonialism espoused by the Church, using myself as a symbol of white righteousness. The image was purposefully ambivalent—loving, maternal and confrontational. 

Alexandre-Camille Removille:You often use performance art to express complex emotions and concepts. How do you prepare for these performances mentally and emotionally? 

Vanessa Beecroft: I don’t prepare for the performance. I prepare by living a certain life, abstaining as much as possible from the mainstream, living my own version of a contemporary romantic life and always being alert. Many times, I am not prepared for a performance. I just hope that nothing tragic happens. Artistically, regardless of whether the audience is happy or not, I am never satisfied.

 The models are given “Rules of Non-Engagement,” simple instructions to follow during the performance: do not talk, do not smile, do not move too fast, do not move too slow, wait until the end of the performance, you’re like a picture, your action reflects on the others… etc.

Alexandre-Camille Removille: What role does vulnerability play in your artistic process, and how does personal investigation tie into the therapeutic aspect of your work?

Vanessa Beecroft:Vulnerability is in dialectic with invulnerability. Two parties, the audience and the performers, are confronting each other in real time, for the duration of a few hours, without a rational awareness of what is going on or the nature of the confrontation. They are both vulnerable from different positions. The audience is vulnerable in the face of their taboos and the women are vulnerable to the audience’s gaze.

I think the models in my performances express personal issues and these personal issues become universalised by being multiplied by the many women in the groups. What was a particular instance becomes universal by extension to a larger group. I handle my personal conflicts and investigations by projecting them into a larger group of individuals more or less similar to me (at least at the beginning of the work, in the 90’s).

Alexandre-Camille Removille:Given that your work often revolves around body image and gender politics, how has your personal investigation of these themes affected your perception of yourself and society? 

Vanessa Beecroft: I wasn’t fully aware of the themes of my work. I tried to approach my performances as a portrait of a large group of women, similar to how we painted the model in art school. While portraying this woman in the performance, many other traits emerged, mostly not formal, but emotional, social and political. That is when I started to push in that direction, regardless of how that would impact myself socially. Sometimes I went really far and got in trouble.

Alexandre-Camille Removille:In your experience, how has the art world responded to the type of personal investigation you portray in your work? Has there been any resistance or particularly impactful support? 

Vanessa Beecroft: I felt as if art world abandoned me after the initial success. The other worlds embraced me, but I didn’t want to be embraced by them so I tried to use those platforms to further the themes that I couldn’t otherwise investigate. The art world may come back. I became desensitised to these ephemeral worlds that are fundamentally false. I believe in addressing the art world in a historical sense. I had fun pushing my visions, while being financially depleted by these facts.

Alexandre-Camille Removille: In many of your performances, you seem to be exploring issues related to identity and body politics. How have these performances been a means of exploring your own identity?

Vanessa Beecroft: They have been means of exploring my own identity by studying other cases and relativizing mine. Externalizing these issues through my performances perhaps avoids a true healing of the self, which recalls the acts of a saint martyr, which is a hero of mine since a young age (Joan d’Arc, Santa Lucia, Santa Barbara etc.)

Alexandre-Camille Removille:Your work is often characterized by a strong female presence. Can you talk about your intentions behind this focus? 

Vanessa Beecroft: It is self-representation. A portrait. I couldn’t accurately depict anything other than a woman. By being a woman, I can push the subject further. Experimenting on myself first and the group second.

Alexandre-Camille Removille:There have been debates about your work from a feminist perspective, with some critics arguing that it reinforces harmful stereotypes of women. How do you respond to these critiques? 

Vanessa Beecroft: By presenting a group of women naked in front of an audience I am not objectifying the women, I am showing the audience a group of naked women, which triggers them—their beliefs, self-perception, anger, prejudice, and more. The women are placed there for this reason and until they cease to provoke this reaction will continue to be exhibited. The fact that they’re exhibited as art makes them “intellectually safe,” like being on diplomatic ground.

 Alexandre-Camille Removille:You’ve spent a significant part of your career in the United States. How do you navigate your dual sense of belonging to both Italian and American cultures in your work? 

Vanessa Beecroft: I never felt as though I belonged somewhere since I was a child. I relocated to Italy when I had already learned English in London and from that point on, I felt displaced. So what I do is to assimilate the elements to which I feel closer in every culture. Italian language and artistic heritage, music, architecture, landscape. American contemporary spirit, ethnic diversity, power, politics. I absorb culture from other countries too. My work is where all of these elements converge.

Alexandre-Camille Removille: Have you ever felt any tension between your Italian roots and the global, often American-centric, art world? If so, how have you navigated this? 

Vanessa Beecroft: I am probably considered an immigrant. I will never completely adapt to the new country as I don’t need to, and I like to be alien in all countries. The proliferation of my work is probably compromised by this, but I am not running a business. As long as the work itself is not compromised I am happy with the discrepancies. 

Alexandre-Camille Removille: What learnings or insights have you gained from projects that didn’t materialise as planned?

Vanessa Beecroft: Many projects didn’t materialise as I’d hoped. The learning is that certain topics are untouchable politically and that the wider world is one. And it is all connected and self-sustaining.

Alexandre-Camille Removille:How do you decide whether to persevere with a difficult project or to let it go? Are there specific factors or considerations that guide this decision?

Vanessa Beecroft: If I decide that a project is worth pursuing, I will continue until it is completed. Unfortunately the project sometimes gets artistically weakened by complications and adversities. 

Alexandre-Camille Removille: What role does your family play in your creative process? Do they influence your work in any direct or indirect ways? 

Vanessa Beecroft: As they participate in my life, they influence the work too. They humanize me and therefore indirectly affect my perception of the world, of other human beings and my life experience. My son Dean, for example, helps me in the creation of music and photography, I photographed my daughter and in general I created a large photo album of them which isn’t public.

Alexandre-Camille Removille: Many of your performances are known to provoke discomfort in the viewer. How intentional is this in your work? What do you hope the audience gains or learns from this discomfort? 

Vanessa Beecroft: Initially I sought to apply the Brechtian idea of staging the drama, giving clues to the audience from which they might come to their own ideal conclusion or synthesis. As the audience resisted, I started pushing harder. Developing concepts to provoke a reaction. Making them graphic. I could only present the problems with paint or mise-en-scène. I thought the audience to be educated and righteous. I didn’t think the art audience needed to learn anything, but they did. I want the audience to go home touched and to think about what they saw as if it was real.

Alexandre-Camille Removille: Vanessa, looking back over your career so far, what impact do you hope your work has had?  

Vanessa Beecroft: It is almost like a dream. Today I see the world I was dreaming of as a child, visualised. Many ideas and images I had in my mind are now current. Aesthetics mostly, but also fashion and images of women, colors, patterns. Many times they appear differently to how I envisaged them, but now they exist so that I can move forwards towards new dreams.

Amanda Ba

Titanomachia, 2022. Courtesy of PM/AM

Post-humanism, Otherness and diasporic memory

Amanda Ba is a Chinese artist based in New York City. Born in Columbus, Ohio, she spent the first five years of her life with her grandparents in Hefei, China before moving to New York and graduating from Columbia University in 2020 with a BA in Visual Arts and Art History. 

Ba’s work is influenced by critical race and queer theory. By utilising these frameworks, she aims to explore more nuanced understandings of identity and examine themes such as post-humanism, Otherness and diasporic memory. Through her art, Ba challenges traditional notions of identity and representation, and creates works that are thought-provoking and impactful. The feeling of attachment and nostalgia and a desire to reconnect to China are influential in Ba’s work. Her goal is not to flatten identity, but to challenge the notion of what it looks like and formulate a more complex way of understanding identity, which creates a tension in her work. Her scenes astray from a larger hypothetical world visualised through her personal narrative imbued of a specific colour code intertwining between red and green. Ba’s use of various mediums, including sculpture and installation, allows her to experiment with different forms of expression.

You were born in Ohio, United States but raised by your grandparents in Hefei, Anhui Province, China, until the age of 5. After that, you settled back in Columbus, Ohio. What are your earliest memories being in Hefei? Are there any elements from that time that you like to draw back into your practice?

How did you immerse yourself into the arts, especially within figurative painting?

I have this specific memory of my grandmother dropping me off at preschool for the first time —back then, preschool was just a small, two-room building within the apartment complex where my grandparents lived. When she left and closed the door behind her, I thought that it meant I would never see her again, and dread washed over me. I think I cried all day, until she picked me up and explained that she would always come back to get me. 

I also have a lot of memories of food, going to the local science museum, and picking small snails off of garden walls along the sidewalk. Mostly when I think back to that time, I remember a feeling of strong, inseverable attachment to my grandparents. That feeling of attachment, of nostalgia, and wanting to reconnect and re-understand China always factors into my work. I feel lucky that I was able to experience growing up in China, so that I always have an entry point back in. 

Drawing was an early hobby of mine that developed when I was in China. My grandfather was an industrial drafter during the Cultural Revolution, so he always had lots of nice paper and pens, and would teach me how to render things in the third dimension. I latched onto the human body pretty early — it has always been a central focus of mine.

You graduated in 2020 with a B.A. in Visual Arts and Art History from Columbia University in New York. What has your major taught you?

Art History taught me how to be intentionally referential with my work, and that there’s always room to rework and redefine the canon. Studying the canon made me realise that perhaps I would rather dwell in the under-commons. It also taught me not only to hone in on the artist’s life, but to contextualise the way they were working within certain political and geographical conditions. 

How is the landscape of New York influencing your work? What is your interaction like with the City?

New York is challenging, but it’s a playground. It’s a hard city to live in — even daily tasks are ridden with obstacles — but the challenge keeps me energised. The challenge is fun. 

In an interview for Columbia Daily Spectator, you’ve quoted a saying that goes ‘the more words are written about an art piece, the less people see it’. That being said, is there an element within your paintings you would want people to absolutely perceive?

That’s a quote I actually regret saying. Well, maybe not regret, but I did say that in my freshman year, as an 18 year old who didn’t really know what their own work was about. I think because I couldn’t properly verbalise it, I came up with an excuse that left it all up to audience interpretation. Now I write and talk extensively about my work, and I wouldn’t be caught dead saying that. I think that art writing is actually crucial, and good art writing expands on the meaning of the work, rather than telling the audience what to think. Good art writing poses new questions and contextualises the work in a way that makes the audience curious for more, not satisfied with a conclusion. 

One thing that I hope people get from my work is that I’m working from a place of tension between representing identity and rendering it unintelligible. I hope that it’s clear that my goal is not to flatten identity by making paintings that are simply about ‘being Asian’ or ‘being an Asian woman,’ but rather challenging the notion of what ‘being Asian’ looks like in the first place. In this sense, one could even say that the paintings are more about ‘being American’ than ‘being Asian.’ Ultimately, I’m trying to formulate a more complicated and uncomfortable way of understanding identity. 

In your paintings you depict surreal scenes involving bodies and animals, more specifically women and American bullies characterised by their seemingly equal relationship.

Significant otherness, which was coined by Donna Haraway in her book The Companion Species Manifesto in 2003, is that precise bond between the lives of dogs and people. Dogs are here to live with, not here just to think with. What made you want to explore that thematic?

The series draws from the book Animacies by Mel Chen, and from The Companionship Species Manifesto by Donna Haraway. Animacy in linguistics is the quality of sentience/liveliness/human-ness that a noun has, which then has grammatical and syntactic consequences. Mel Chen tugs the concept of animacy away from linguistics to argue that animacy is just as applicable in queer and race relations, one example being how ‘dehumanising insults hinge on the salient invocation of the nonhuman animal.’ The Chinese title of this painting ‘狗女人放狗屁’ translates literally to ‘dog woman releasing dog fart’, but it is actually a combination of two common insults, the first half meaning ‘bitch’ and the latter half meaning ‘bullshit.’ To tack on ‘dog’ in front of an animate ‘woman’ transforms it into an insult, just as tacking on ‘dog’ in front of an inanimate ‘fart’ also transforms it into an insult. In these cases, a very notion of a dog is dehumanising and degrading, revealing a human-centric metric of worthiness and value. In the painting, the woman and the dog take on the same stance (known in Western yoga practices as ‘downward dog’), but our desire to project a human understanding of gesture prescribes sexuality unto the former and playfulness unto the latter.

Bitch and Bull, 2021. Courtesy of the artist

In The Companionship Species Manifesto, Haraway makes a case for reevaluating our relationship with all our worldly co-habitants, dogs being a significant example of the intimacy and historical co-evolution that humans are capable of. However, the value of dogs’ lives do not and should not depend on their obedience to or intimacy with us, (i.e. if they are loved/accepted by us or if they make us feel loved). Marginalised communities have long been put down by being compared to animals (dogs, monkeys, general pre-homosapien ‘savages’), and thinking of ourselves as truly no better than dogs is the first step in working towards a non-anthropocentric post-human future.

You employ a specific use of colours in your artworks with a very appealing dramatic red and an unnatural neon green. Could you delve into your colour code and the connections it holds with your background?

Would there be another colour you would want to introduce more frequently? What would be the symbolism?

That series started because I wanted to practice using the colours red, and the colour green is the complementary colour on the colour wheel. But, because red and green often look festive and Christmas-y, I wanted to use the neon green to avoid that effect and create a more psychological atmosphere — if you put two complementary colours that have the same value right up against each other, the eye will create this vibrational effect that I find very effective. 

Right now I’m trying to work in more drab colours — restraining your use of colour can be just as hard as amplifying it. I’d love to make a series of black paintings one day, like Goya. 

The nude women you paint present such strength about them. There’s a mix of grotesque but also realistic elements. What is your idea of beauty?

My idea of beauty is self-assuredness, and that finding the thing that works for you is sexy. 

American Western, 2022. Courtesy of Gagosian

Would you say your artworks are self-portraits?

Yes and no. Painters always say that any painting of a person that is not of a specific other likeness (as in, a figure you make up vs. an image of a celebrity) is in some ways a self-portrait. Even a portrait of someone else can be a self-portrait in the sense that it portrays the artist’s relation to the sitter. But I don’t think of my paintings as self-portraits unless specified otherwise — I use my own face and body for reference, but I distort them to my liking. Maybe these characters are more like my kin. 

What’s the process behind an artwork like usually? Do you sketch it before hand or do you just directly, sort of intuitively, paint? How is your research process like? How long does one painting take you and do you ever work on different paintings simultaneously?  Do you prefer focus on one canvas?

At this point in my career, I’m mostly working towards shows, so first I think about what the overall theme of the upcoming show is, and how I want all the paintings to interact with one another and comment upon the theme. Then I read, watch films, go to galleries/museums and browse through images until I know what the content of the painting should be. Then I make several sketches until I’m satisfied with the composition and then I take my reference images. Once I’ve collected everything I need, that’s when I begin the painting. I usually focus on one image at once, but sometimes I start the under-paintings of two or three and leave the paintings that are harder to figure out to marinate at this stage, before going back to them months later.

The figures you paint almost seem like sculptures in their shapes and their volumes. Would that be a medium you would want to explore too? There is also a certain cinematography that envelops your paintings, almost stills from scenes. Would you explore film making too?

Yes, I have every intention of exploring sculpture/installation and film. I think it would be refreshing and surprising to gain literacy in a new medium — painting is so familiar and legible to me. That’s actually happening very soon, so stay tuned…

I watched an interview of yours published 4 years ago, in which you showed your paintings and shared how the atmosphere of those was similar to your dreams. I noticed a shift in composition and technique in comparison to now. Of course artists evolve constantly but I was curious to know if there was anything specific that had happened that instigated this new direction, almost allegorical?

I think what you’re picking up on is that my research process changed a lot, and that’s really affected the kinds of images I come up with. Perhaps before they relied more on personal experience, and now I’m trying to move things beyond just how I feel. The theory that I read helps me to connect what I’m feeling to larger events, and opens up avenues for research. For example, I’m currently working on a show that is Ohio-themed. Maybe 4 years ago, I would have just thought about experiences I had while in Ohio, but now, I’m thinking of my time growing up there as a gateway into Middle American life: white culture, the ideological and political consequences of a swing state and late-capitalist revival of post-industrial cities. 

Dinnertime, 2020. Courtesy of the artist

You used to sell one-of-a-kind handmade and hand painted items and clothing before, and had gained quite a following on your Depop account. We have seen artists before collaborating with brands, for instance, American photographer and artist Andres Serrano with Supreme in 2017, Ghanaian painter Amoako Boafo with Kim Jones for Dior Spring Summer 2021 and Spanish artist Santiago Sierra for Balenciaga Spring Summer 2023. Would you ever envisage collaborating with a fashion brand? If so, which one and why?

I’d totally do that, but I wouldn’t want it to be like something I painted printed on a t-shirt. I’d love to go technical and make a bag or shoe collab, something structural and sculptural that takes a little more thought and work to design. I also thought the Prada x Elmgreen and Dragset collab was cool — that set of a Prada store out in the middle of nowhere, along a highway. That one defied the typical art x fashion collab (less like wearable art and more like an outdoor installation about fashion). I think the context of the collab really matters too, so it’s hard to pick a fashion brand without knowing the intended audience or the campaign. But maybe Margiela — Galliano’s own eponymous brand was already fusing art and fashion from the very beginning. Other than that, maybe something more democratic, like Uniqlo. I love Uniqlo. 

Your first solo exhibition Homecoming was actually in Hefei, China at the Lai Shaoqi Art Museum. What was that homecoming like for you?

Homecoming was an exhibition, but it was also something of a performance. It became a literal homecoming — I was swarmed with local press, who were interested not so much in my artwork but in my backstory, which could easily be framed into something along the lines of ‘Chinese girl born in the USA loves her family and her homeland so dearly that she has returned to her homeland order to introduce her Western-educated art to her hometown!’ As I was making the works and news of the show began to spread, I could feel the increasing pressure and expectation of this sentiment. In the end, it was the desire to grasp what is likely the only opportunity for my grandparents to see an exhibition of mine that overrode the many forms of quiet tension I felt while producing this body of work.

You had your second solo show, The Incorrigible Giantess, last year at the PM/AM Gallery in London. Do you have any plans of showcasing your work this year, and if so, where?

I have a show in Columbus, Ohio coming up in September that I’m prepping for. Maybe that will be another homecoming of sorts. 


Artworks · Courtesy of the artist, Gagosian, Gladstone and PM/AM


Blackhaine’ poetic yet brutal investigation of reality with unique soundscapes, choreography and cinematographic visuals.

Tom Heyes, also known by his artistic moniker Blackhaine is a rapper, poet and choreographer from Lancashire, UK. Known by many for his projects with Kanye West (Donda 1 and 2) and more, the multidisciplinary artist has forged for himself a solid path, establishing his own unique artistry. Chicago drill, industrial, ambient, experimental hip hop are some of the genres combined within Heyes’ unique soundscapes. With producer Rainy Miller, Heyes worked on delivering visceral releases first Armour, then And Salford Falls Apart. Released in June 2022, Armour II follows the trail of the two earlier bleak releases, perhaps an ending, nonetheless part of the bigger journey the audience embarks on when listening to Heyes. With tracks featuring the likes of Blood Orange, Iceboy Violet, Moseley, Richie Culver and Space Africa, Heyes is also giving space for other artists to enter his universe. Re-contextualising his anger, Heyes delivers poetic yet brutal narratives which juxtaposed with cinematographic visuals, immerse the viewer into Heyes’ inner world. Choreography plays a pivotal part in his practice as he continues to investigate reality. 

Here photographed in London by Berlin-based photographer Joseph Kadow, we witness an artist in his element, creating as he breathes, once again narrating a story of his own. Heyes talks through his genesis, the process and inspirations behind his body of work, spanning across choreography, music, spatial design. 

When and how did you start? 

I’ve been interested in film since I was young, from there I started to learn about sound and movement.

I held an interest in art and between jobs managed to make some decent pieces and work on other’s people’s visions for quick cash. 

During the pandemic I started creating my own film and sound pieces, releasing my first track Moors – and some film projects I created + a project named Armour made in collaboration with Rainy. 

Blackhaine is a node to the French cult classic La Haine on violence and inequality in the suburbs of Paris. You come from Lancashire, UK. How has the landscape of living on the margins and of social and regional inequality, influenced your practice? 

I’ve always felt detached from the current sound, I think being in isolated yet restricted places; Blackpool, Blackburn ect you have no expectations of being accepted by a mainstream crowd. This gives room for experimentation. 

I read Passing Time by Michel Butor recently and was inspired by the detail he created in his idealised Manchester, taking monuments/icons of the city and glitching them. It’s what I had been doing to Lancashire. 

Darker versions of locations feature in my work such as the M6 or the Moors, Rawtape and I used scans of Blackburn high street and Blackpool tower to create a world in Hotel. In my writing I talked about experiences here in tracks like Saddleworth or Stained Materials. 

“Using ultra realistic scenes that verge on boredom and taping a bleak-psychedelic lens to the camera was a huge influence in building the Blackhaine world.”

How is Manchester’s cultural environment and how is it influencing your writing? 

The environment is too self contained, and concerned with itself and it’s history when what we should be doing is looking outwards and ahead. There’s not much interesting happening here at the moment because there’s too many people left over from the 10s. 

The city hasn’t impacted my writing aside from being influenced by Joy Division. 

Drill, experimental hip-hop, ambient, industrial and electronic are genres part of your soundscapes. Are you more influenced by Chicago Drill or Brooklyn Drill? What are some of your musical influences? 

I’ve been into Chicago Drill since the start, however it was UK Drill that got me into writing.
I would say the industrial sound was an influence but the earlier post-punk side, not as much what’s happening there now.
At the moment I’ve been listening to Carti, Zone 2 and some more experimental stuff whilst I
work on my album. 

First Armour, then And Salford Falls Apart. How does Armour II succeed to these? 

There’s the obvious narrative link.

“Sonically I used a softer palette and wrote about a contracted hate that became inverted by gradual unease and paranoia.”

I put more focus on working with melody and traditional songwriting before my album. 

Armour II is death of Blackhaine before a burial. 

How do you usually work with producer and composer Rainy Miller? 

I write alone and with the ideas Rainy sent, before we sent parts back and forth online but with Armour II we started renting a studio together with Space Afrika so we could spend time in there. 

You showcase a unique choreography rooting itself from an extreme creative process. Could you talk more about this? Who are some of your favourite choreographers or a contemporary dance piece that moves you? 

My choreographic style is rooted in perversion and deconstruction of traditional technique, not an anti-technical statement but a separatist practice. I utilise improvisation and sculptural design in the process instead of overt unison structure, and when the work features this form of choreography it’s effect is exhaustion and depletion to the body/mind of the performer, allowing accessibility into new realms.

Choreography a subliminal art, the same modes I work in with writing and sound. The narrative structure of Armour II leading from my previous work is a context for myself and the listener however it is no anchor, this is world building with intent to suture between and deconstruct inside of reality, whilst considering base reality and boredom, hence the exhaustive features within my work. I was initially more interested in examples of choreography I could find in day to day life, the way the bodies on top deck moved whilst the bus turned a corner, a drunk body or the result of excessive strain on specific muscle in the arm.
Pre-tense is naturally prevalent in choreography.

“I think embodiment kills honest movement to a degree and my service as an artist is to
investigate reality within abstract art.”

My favourite choreographer is Tatsumi Hijikata, I developed my practice whilst watching Butoh videos and abusing drugs in my room and hotel apartments, around the time of the Manchester spice epidemic.
I’m watching a lot Gisèle Vienne, Louise Vanneste, studying Sun Ra’s relationship with dance and sound. I would say Philippe Grandrieux’s use of movement in his work as well as Steve McQueen’s in Shame has impacted my choreography also. 

How do you envision the live shows and how do you feel about finally being able to perform gigs in front of physical crowds? Visceral stage performances, atmospheric, intimate and raw sets are some of the comments from people who have already been to your live shows. How do you want the listening experience to be? How do you approach the spatial design situation too?

It’s great, during the first tour I worked intensively with spatial and atmospheric design.

“I want every show to be different, switching between shows of an exhaustive release for the audience and myself and shows that focus more on subtleties with performance and design.”

I work with heat and scent a lot, as well disorientation from lighting source. Playing drill between harsh noise/drone, these are elements that I work with impulsively, so I live edit the lighting, track list and other utilities whilst on stage with my team.

I don’t believe that playing all the hits equals satisfaction for the audience I want to create a journey for people to follow, experiencing the themes within my work physically and mentally having to endure moments discomfort before being allowed to feel gratification by silence or melody.

The feedback I have had has been great, everyone I have spoke too has had a different experience I’m grateful for everyone who comes to a Blackhaine show to experience. Thank you.

How did your collaboration with Blood Orange and Icebox Violet for ‘Prayer’ unfold?

I had the ideas of the track for a while, I was sent a rough loop from Rainy that triggered something in me. I kept revisiting the narrative and developing this film scene I had in mind, even down to the shots I wanted in the film that was made.

In And Salford Falls Apart and previous releases I didn’t work with other voices. A design focus of Armour II was to curate outside artists and let them inhabit my narrative, even to allow this to influence and lead me at times. I wrote to Iceboy Violet and Blood Orange to ask them to feature on the track and they delivered these beautiful verses back.

The theme of this issue is IN OUR WORLD, in your mind, what does England mean to you?


Now that Armour II is out for everyone to experience, what is next for you? 

I am building an infrastructure named Hain. This will act as a container for future work/curation and ideas beyond Blackhaine and an investment in culture.


Talent · Tom Heyes (Blackhaine)
Photography · Joseph Kadow
Creative Direction · Jade Removille
Fashion · Azazel
Grooming · Linus Johansson
Photography Assistant · Masamba Ceesay
Fashion Assistant · Olivia Abadian

Patrick Bienert

East End of Europe


Photographs · Courtesy of Patrick Bienert

Mohamed Bourouissa

Documenting the experiences of disenfranchised groups and different pockets of inequality in contemporary society

Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art presents Mohamed Bourouissa’s first public UK solo show ‘HARa!!!!!!hAaaRAAAAA!!!!!hHAaA!!!’, comprised of a selection of photography, videos, sounds and installations from 2003 onwards, with a particular focus on the legacy of colonialism.  

Through a combination of mixed media, the Algerian-born artist explores a vast range of complex socioeconomic issues and teases out tensions between different social contexts. In travelling to different places and engaging with groups of locals, Bourouissa’s in-depth locational research addresses notions of collective histories, identity and social space, and allows him to share the stories of marginalised communities from imbedding himself within them. 

Bourouissa documents the experiences of disenfranchised groups and different pockets of inequality in contemporary society, with a particular emphasis on the destructive remains of colonialism and the current realities of racial and socioeconomic inequality – something that is interesting to observe through the lens of a gallery context. 

‘HARa!!!!!!hAaaRAAAAA!!!!!hHAaA!!!’ delves into Bourouissa’s different photographic and filmic techniques. With irreverence and intensity, Bourouissa depicts how the individuals in his work use the tools at their disposal to navigate their situation. From grainy smartphone images and street photography to canonical art historical framings of Parisian street life, the exhibition showcases Bourouissa’s ability to articulate insightful statements on contemporary image culture and circumstantial truths. 

Mohamed Bourouissa currently lives and works in Paris, France and has exhibited at institutions and biennials including the Paris Museum of Modern Art, The Centre Pompidou, the Barnes Foundation, the Stedelijk Museum, Haus der Kunst, the Berlin Biennale, the Milan Triennial and more.

The exhibition runs until 1st August at Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art. 

Discover more on GCCA

James Barnor

Exploring the nuances and societal transitions in the 1950s and 1960s, as London was blossoming into a multicultural capital

London’s Serpentine Gallery presents an overview of the career of British-Ghanaian photographer James Barnor. Working over two continents and over six decades as a studio portraitist, photojournalist and Black lifestyle photographer, Barnor’s career covers a multitude of photographic genres and offers a wider social commentary, documenting major socio-political changes in London and Accra.

On the cusp of Ghana’s Independence in the early 1950s, Barnor set up his famous Ever Young studio in Accra. Arriving in London towards the end of the decade, he began working with the South African magazine Drum, capturing the experiences of the African diaspora and the style and creative spirit of the period. Barnor returned to Ghana in the 1970s, where he continued his work with portraiture, established himself in the music scene and created the country’s first colour processing lab.

Barnor’s street photography explores the nuances and societal transitions in the 1950s and 1960s, as London was blossoming into a multicultural capital. Returning to the city 1994, Barnor’s work focussed on documenting the Black communities that had settled in London – something that had previously been documented by mostly white, European photographers. His portraits of the African diaspora in London focus on the members of the Black Power Movement, while also capturing different fashion trends present in Britain’s Black community during the 1960s.

Barnor’s body of work spans six decades and possesses a clarity of vision and a sense of community and sensitivity that he both extends towards and brings out in his subjects. The Serpentine’s exhibition displays Barnor’s work from 1950-80 and draws from his archive of around 32,000 images, all mapping the flourishing cultures of two cities and reflecting Barnor’s ceaseless uplifting and creative energy.

‘James Barnor: Accra/London’ runs until 22nd October at the Serpentine North Gallery.

Bobby Buddy

Youth is a State of Mind


Photography · BOBBY BUDDY
Casting Director · REMI FELIPE


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Juan Brenner

Juan Brenner - NR 12

Nueva Estetica

JB 048

GUATEMALA CITY — After I finished shooting Tonatiuh, I needed to go back to the highlands and reach deeper into a new aesthetic developing up in the mountains, those densely populated towns are a vast source of images, images that document how the new generation understands their origins and are shifting to new trends, specially for their attire, their way of absorbing globalization and the genesis of a new “bourgeoise”. Gold is still very important, or at least the idea of it, my research is in progress and I’m fascinated with the extent these individuals would go to look opulent, to play the part.

The Guatemalan highlands define our identity in so many ways, I am fascinated by the beauty of the region but more than anything by its complex reality. Money sent from USA, Agriculture and Religion are probably the 3 most important pillars of the economy, it’s known that drug money is being laundered in many ways, and definitely thru those pillars, so I’m very carefully investigating and trying to understand how much of this boom is tied to illicit Cartel money.

This new body of work focuses on a new aesthetic, economics, globalization and the inevitable abandonment of very old practices that once defined us as a nation; as a territory.

Photographer and independent art director, Juan Brenner lives and works in Guatemala City.

Between 1998 and 2008 works in New York as a fashion photographer, his images have been published in international magazines such as Nylon, People, Oyster, L’Uomo Vogue and Anthem among others.

He is a founding member of Proyectos Ultravioleta. In the middle of 2017 his project MACÚ (in collaboration with Byron Marmol) is curated in the book CLAP, 15 years of the best books of Latin American photography published by 10X10 Books in New York. His work is part of collections in Belgium, Japan, Australia, Italy, the United States, Colombia and Sweden, and his photographic publications (MACÚ 1, MACÚ 2 and Tetano) are part of the permanent library of the MOMA and the TATE collection.


Victor Bensusi



Víctor Bensusi currently lives in Madrid working as a freelance photographer and director.

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