Do you think of your work as being funny?
I think of it as being funny, but that’s followed by a sort of melancholy. I sometimes think about a line, about trying to push something and then pulling it back in terms of how funny it is. I feel like I’ve built a whole way of working that is funny but it’s not like I’m setting out with that in mind. With the fish, I was thinking: What do I want to see in an art gallery? I’m always trying to get things that I’m interested in outside of art and finding ways of bringing them in, and I wondered how I could bring fishing in. I’d been looking at the Metro [newspaper] and people putting hats and glasses on things.
“Like a lot of people, I don’t particularly enjoy the art world but I probably try to pretend I’m more outside of it than I am”
I really enjoyed seeing the work and knowing that it’s born of an interest that you have anyway.
I like fishing, earnestly. So it means I can do that. But it is funny in itself: going fishing is quite a weird thing to do, especially when you’re putting the fish back. You’re catching it and not even eating it, you’re just having a look. People are quite precious about the fish, which is ironic because you’ve just towed it in with a hook in its mouth.
Did you see the more absurd elements of it when you started?
I guess it’s the gap between the countryside and the city really; growing up somewhere that is suburban, rural, and then coming to art school, where it’s almost the antithesis, and then trying to marry those two things together. Trying to make it look stylish but also a bit odd, which is funny.
A lot of artists work with irony, but often in a way that only people with a particular understanding of art language might pick up on. It feels like your work has a very human aspect.
I think you can see it like putting a pair of sunglasses on your dog, which is fine, and you can also see it in the wider context of art. It’s my approach to irony and coolness as well. Like a lot of people, I don’t particularly enjoy the art world but I probably try to pretend I’m more outside of it than I am.
How did you go about making the works that were shown in Plop Shop?
I had taken some images on the surface previously and then I whittled it down and thought I’d get four final pictures. It was so hard to catch these fish! I wrote a schedule and decided I had two months to get the pictures. I joined a fishing club and soon realized it was in one of the hardest places to go fishing. They didn’t know I was doing it so I had to go undercover. So I was in the hardest place to fish in one of the crappest spots because I had to be hidden… I ended up going back to where my mum lives as I knew that would be easier. I was on my own for two weeks, it was so cold that the line kept on freezing. I finally started catching these massive chubs and doing well fishing but then I couldn’t get the picture. I would catch a fish, put a hat on it, put it in the water and hold the camera… I got loads of pictures of tails. Then Sophie [Munks’s partner] came up with me, eventually, and we spent a week taking lots of photos. I finally got a picture which was the one in the red hat. For the show, I used another picture from the River Roding to take away a bit of that, to stop it from being too funny and give it a bit of a scene, a wider context.
“People want to anthropomorphize everything, especially their pets. I guess we have a weird relationship to animals in terms of meat”
Animals have taken on a comedy life online. Why do you think we see—or have created—this side to them?
People want to anthropomorphize everything, especially their pets. I guess we have a weird relationship to animals in terms of meat, we’re very removed from nature and the actualities of that. But there’s something funny in a very basic way. Sophie and I made a video called Planet Polecat which is about our ferrets. We made a kind of eco sci-fi planet—it was a bit like Tales of the Riverbank—and the ferrets run around to some music.
Do you feel something being funny makes it more accessible in the end?
If you look at a lot of Britart, then yes.
Do you think your work appeals to quite a British sense of humour?
I think it’s definitely a Northern European thing. There’s something mass about it. It doesn’t dumb it down but it makes conceptual art more accessible. I actually don’t want to make British work—German work is quite similar, I love the Dutch sense of humour, some American work even has that sense of humour.
All images courtesy the artist