What has a bionic hand got in common with a 13th century reliquary? Plenty, Birkenhead-born Turner Prize winner Mark Leckey tells Laura Davis
IT’S lunchtime at The Bluecoat. Mark Leckey is standing in front of a Cyberman’s head while eating a yoghurt and explaining his latest exhibition. Wooden boxes surround us – some of them already unpacked to reveal a sandstone gargoyle, bionic hand and what appears to be a robot cat.
Moments earlier, I passed the gallery’s in-house curator in the corridor. “It’s been really exciting,” she told me. “Every time we open up another box we uncover another weird piece from Mark’s mind.”
Unusually, given that the 2008 Turner Prize winner has not yet had a major show of his own work in Liverpool, The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things is not a Mark Leckey exhibition but rather an exhibition Leckey has curated at the invitation of Hayward Touring, part of London’s Hayward Gallery.
It will travel to Nottingham Contemporary and De La Warr Pavilion, in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, after its Liverpool premiere.
“I didn’t want to make a show that just reflected my good taste,” says the Birkenhead-born artist.“There are loads of things I like. I could have just got them together and that would have been nice, but I didn’t think it would be that interesting.
“It seems a weird way of showing off somehow.”
Instead, he decided to develop an idea he had been musing over for some time – that as the world gets more technological it is also becoming increasingly supernatural.
While technology and the supernatural seem to be opposites, Leckey has a point.
Our reliance on objects, our trust and belief in them, is surely greater now than ever in recent history. The calendars on our mobile phones remind us what we’re supposed to be doing when; we connect with our friends and loved ones through websites such as Facebook; and, in many cases on Twitter, the people with whom we regularly communicate are strangers. We have never met them. They are pixels on a screen.
Our distant ancestors also placed their faith in objects – the ancient Egyptians’ cult of the cat, the ancient Britons’ practice of carrying an acorn to ward off old age, the medieval worship of religious relics.
Today’s relationship with gadgets may appear more rational than that of history, but there are definite similarities.
“I’d been aware of how my perception of objects in the world is changing,” says Leckey.
“I get continuously spooked by the things technology allows me to do. It seems I can just wish something up that I want. Say it’s a book– I go on Amazon and the next day it appears.
“I find that very disquieting – the sense that our means of organising the world is becoming supernatural and more magical.”