Biography and C.V

james-s-lee-2019-art-c-v

jamesstewartlee01@googlemail.com

Artist Statement:

I take ubiquitous commodities or the detritus of consumer capitalism and subject these products to processes designed to break them down only to reform them afterwards. These processes result in a practice not confined to a singular medium: my work covers audio, film, painting and sculpture.

I ‘insert’ myself into these autonomously unfolding processes based on the breakdown of these items and guide the subsequent reformations as they happen. I attempt to produce works which rely on the results of chemical reactions or algorithmic coding; a tactic of distancing the hand from every decision in the making process, but meaning I can still retain an overall guiding role in these unfolding processes as they happen, aiming to produce an aesthetic end.

I am interested generally in autonomous processes and how these have a creative force that often goes unrecognized or happens on a glacial or slowly moving scale.

I hope my work also stands as act of political resistance; selecting common commodities to reveal their inner monstrosity, a concealed core, something which is hidden within the logic of late Capitalist re-production.

The Long Story (reading optional):

For many years – coincidentally or not beginning in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis – I was engaged in a practice that broke down various politically charged items, focusing on, and framing these works, as acts of resistance. For example, I took the U.K Conservative Party Manifesto and pulped it, breaking down the product and reforming it as a ‘new’ book. I collected credit card and mortgage application forms from branches of Royal Bank of Scotland over many, many weeks and pulped these to create new blank sheets of paper.

My work took an ‘A-political‘ turn mimicking developments in Philosophy (the turn to Object Orientated Ontologies and New Realism) in the following years (perhaps where I was making political work it was in absence of political alternatives and movements to counter dominant modes of Neo-Liberalism). There is now a vibrant and resurgent socialist left and feel my now ‘activist art’ is perhaps not needed so much here, especially in the U.K, as proper politics seems a more effective tool rather than political art to initiate change. Basically, at the moment, my opinion is that politics proper is the best venue to focus on to deliver positive social or economic change.

However, this ‘ghost’ of politics and ‘art as resistance’ haunts the works, acting in the background informing my general approach ( how I operate industrially; an actor in the art industry) but also in my works themselves; my embedded Anti-Capitalist sympathies are the spectre that haunts my attempts to break free of political sentiment in my works.

This line of thinking – of resistance as a creative force- is partly inspired by philosophers such as Gilles Deleuze and contemporary thinker Manuel de Landa’s attempt to understand creativity outside of the human. In one example, DeLanda likens the relationship between the two to the meeting of tectonic plates in the geological formation of fold mountains – a process of buckling, folding, breaking, riding over and pushing upwards. A similar relation to the breaking down and reformation of matter occurs in body-building, where the muscle fibres are stressed so they reconstitute themselves in stronger shapes in another example he gives.

The works I make often attempt to explore this relationship between resistance and creation, using processes of resistance, to break down materials, and processes of re-creation, to render these materials in new forms. I attempt to push these ideas to their limits and see what the practical limits of viewing creativity and resistance this way are.

I am writing on this subject and hope to update these writings to my blog over the coming years to interrogate this relationship too.

Press & People Saying Nice Things:

Scotsman
The Magdalen
Scotland On Sunday
Dundee University Review of The Arts

Quotes by people to use in press releases for exhibitions featuring me:

‘Hard-working‘- Holly Keasey

‘Contemptible left-deviationism entirely out of step with the ongoing movement towards a greater prosperity and stability.’ – Resolution of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China

My God. I think here we encounter ideology in its purest form, no? By proclaiming fidelity to this very Deleuzian notion of ‘resistance’, does he not simply describe the dominant order of today? Resistance to Capitalism is inscribed into the very heart of capitalist dynamics today, I claim. Sniff.’ – Philosopher Slavoj Zizek

I will be amazed if you get into art school’– high school art teacher

You have clearly exceeded your potential’– high school art teacher

‘Contemptible self-serving, aloof prick‘- Letter to editor, Art Forum International