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Getting off at Edge Hill

Vincent Lawrenson-Woods caught up with artists Al and Al, back from China, and putting the kettle on at everyone's favourite historic railway station

Published on July 11th 2008.

Getting off at Edge Hill

THEY are Manchester-born and yet met Al Holmes and Al Taylor first met at the late filmmaker Derek Jarman’s garden in Dungeness, Kent. Don't ask how or why.

At the time Taylor was studying film and Holmes was starting an art degree. They both graduated in 2001 from Central Saint Martins School of Art before moving to a studio together in London.

Edge Hill station is the template for the modern world; it’s about using fossil fuels to travel and the movement of people

VLW: How was China?

A&A: It was great. China’s the new empire. There’s an atmosphere wanting to work, happiness that change is happening.

We were there for five days just to install the exhibition (Eternal Youth which played at FACT earlier in the summer) at the biggest media exhibition in the world, which was held at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing. We were worried that the language in the films would be problem but Eternal Youth’s Oriental angle helped it translate.

VLW: So where did the Al and Al tag come from?

A&A: We both share the same three first names, Alan James Edwards, and Al (Holmes) used his second name James. When we were at a party at Rachel Weiszs’ house (yes the film star). Rachel had just finished performing in the theatre and tended to stay in character for a while afterwards. In her characters voice she jokingly started saying Alan and Alan over and over to us, which sounded like Al and Al. Since then the name Al and Al has stuck.

VLW: What brought you to Liverpool?

A&A: We were approached by FACT who asked us to come to Liverpool to put together a show, but we didn’t want to come to Liverpool for just a couple of weeks, like some of the artists do for the Biennial. You can’t get to know a city in two weeks. We wanted to move up. On the day we came to look for a studio we met Ian and Colette from METAL (the national arts organisation) who work at Edge Hill Station. All we knew was we wanted to live in the first passenger railway station in the world. It’s like moving into NASA 150 years from now.

VLW: How important has METAL been?

A&A: Well we wouldn’t be here without them. Jude Kelly (the founder and chair of METAL) has been a powerful inspiration. She describes METAL as a seepage of enthusiasms.

VLW: Tell me about your art?

A&A: We see the blue cinescreen like a writer’s blank page or a painter’s blank canvas, ready to be filled.

Blue is important in our work for many reasons. Jarman’s last film was called Blue. The colour blue we use is from the rock lapis lazuli and has been a symbol of power. Used in small quantities in Predynastic Egypt, Rome then made a statement when they covered the Sistine Chapel in it. Now the USA use the blue screen in Hollywood in the latest statement of power. Each empire creates art and it changes and art makes us. Each empire has controlled people using art.

VLW: Tell me more about Eternal Youth?

A&A: When we started on our commission it was going to be all about the station, the technological journey. Edge Hill station is the template for the modern world; it’s about using fossil fuels to travel and the movement of people.

We were mapping out when The Williamson Tunnels one day when everything was stolen from our studio apart from a copy of John Lennon’s Working Class Hero. We could have responded in many ways including giving up. After that The Beatles took over and it made sense; All You Need is Love was the first song to be transmitted live across the world.

We were interested America’s role in Liverpool. John Lennon wanted to be Elvis. We also wanted explore John Lennon’s darker side. If you listen to the lyrics of Working Class hero, it’s not what many people expect.

“And you think you're so clever and classless and free,But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see.”

We were broken into a second time and became very security conscious. We started to notice people in Liverpool liked fences and locks and this also fed this into our work.

VLW: What keeps you going?

A&A: We are privileged we do what we want to do. It’s not necessarily enjoyable. It’s hard work, seven days a week. You’ve got to.

We could be making a lot of money with our skills doing adverts or films, but a word not heard much today is vocation. It’s a vocation. There’s something majestic about making art about our lives and our family, which is for the working class not the bourgeois.

VLW: So is art is more accessible?

A&A: Access to art has improved and is the new travel tourism. The speed of the modern world has increased peoples image consumption.

People are more articulate and have the skills to see things quicker. The gallery is dying; art in a contemplative way is finished.

VLW: What’s next?

A&A: We have started work on our first feature film, the contents of which have to remain a secret at the moment.

We will also be taking Eternal Youth on an international film festival tour during the autumn of 2008. In December we will be showing our work in the Miami art fair.

In Spring 2009 we are making a new installation for an exhibition we are curating with Edwin Carels in Mechelen, Belgium called 'All that is Solid Melts into Air'. The exhibition is being organised by MuHKA (Antwerp Museum of Contemporary Art).

In between all of this we will continue to work on Edge Hill station, curating some exhibitions of local and international based artists and over seeing a paradise garden project on platform 1 and 2.

There you have our diary!

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KopyrightJuly 10th 2008.

You should charge people for robbing your titles like this, you know.

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