First published in The Other Muswell Hill Stuckist newspaper, December 2012.
Charles Thomson (Stuckism co-founder) and Edgeworth Johnstone (of The Other Muswell Hill Stuckists) discuss Remodernism & Stuckism.
CT: Stuckism started, obviously, and it had a certain agenda. Quite specific. It was based around figurative painting, and it also had kind of an attitude problem, because we were making loud noises and protesting against things. We found there were various people that were very interested and liked the underlying ideas of Stuckism, the kind of ethos in terms of spiritual values, you could say. But they didn’t like some of the ways it was manifested, or they weren’t painters. They were saying, well, ‘We want to do photography like this.’ Or shouldn’t these values be there in business, for example. You know, it’s got an application there. Or in architecture or whatever. And it seemed that we should extend that, not just to a group, but to an epoch, to an era. As an alternative to Post-Modernism. We were putting ourselves forward as an alternative to Post-Modernism. So I thought we should call ourselves something else. Well, we’re drawing a lot from Modernism, but wanting to re-cast it, to re-interpret it. So I thought we should call ourselves Remodernists. I thought ‘What a wonderful idea.’. The the next day I got cold feet, and thought ‘What a crap idea’. And I thought ‘Well, I’ll run it past Billy’, and I said ‘You know I did think of this. I did think it was a good idea, but actually I’m not so sure about it now. So I just thought I’d run it past you anyway. You know, Remodernism.’ He said ‘Yes!, great! great!, we must do Remodernism.’ I said ‘Oh, alright. If you think it’s ok then we’ll go with Remodernism. And then we wrote the Remodernist manifesto, which is towards a renaissance of spiritual values in art, culture and society. So the idea is that it has this big umbrella, and Stuckism is the first Remodernist art group.But there’s been various other Remodernist initiatives. Various things on the web. Various artists for example, that have not liked demos against the Turner Prize, or strong criticism of conceptual art, who like other aspects of Stuckism which they can find in Remodernism, without necessarily having any link with Stuckism. Does that make sense?
EJ: Yeah, I’m thinking of a couple of names. I mean, would Jesse Richards, the film-maker be one?
CT: Yes, because he was a Stuckist, and then he left, and he’s now terming himself a Remodernist film-maker. So that’ s a very good example.
EJ: And I guess Billy Childish is still happy to be called a Remodernist.
CT: Yes, I would guess so.
EJ: He’s still got those overalls when he paints, with ‘Remodernist’ on the back, when he’s painting. Or at least recently.
CT: Well, again, it’s distancing him from Stuckism. It doesn’t have to be Stuckism. It’s not Stuckism. It’s Remodernism. Remodernism is the big umbrella. Stuckism is one of the things that falls under that umbrella. Weren’t you involved in a Remodernist group or art show?
EJ: Yeah, The Institute of Collective Remodernism. It’s a long-winded name, we called it the ICR. It was Joe Machine, Bill Lewis, Philip Absolon, myself, Mary Von Stockhausen in Germany and some other people, I can’t remember everyone. Joe wrote a couple of manifestos for it, I think there were things about the Remodernist manifesto that Joe Machine wanted to change. And we all went off on a train down to Germany to Mary Von Stockhausen’s house and stayed there for a week, and had a very good time. Sort of talking through our perspective of Remodernism. Particularly Bill and Joe had quite a lot to say about what they thought about Remodernism. And Shelley and myself went and hooked up with Mary and her family. And I think, again, Mary Von Stockhausen she might be one who, might be more happy with Remodernism than Stuckism specifically. The feeling that you can go back from Stuckism to something that’s more general, I think fits what she wanted. So it was good. It’s good not to lose people on little niggly things when there’s so much in common. And that’s one thing I think Remodernism’s really good for.
CT: I think one of the things a number of people feel uncomfortable with is the aspect of Stuckism which is quite vehement in its criticism of things, like conceptual art, Damien Hirst, Brit Artists, Tracey Emin, whatever. Some people don’t like that. They don’t want to be associated with that. But they just want the positive aspects. They want something to kind of replace it, but don’t want to be involved in being hostile to it.
EJ: I think also, that the emphasis on figurative painting for Stuckism, might not make sense for everyone, who don’t think their own work is so dominated by figurative painting. Like Mary von Stockhausen does some quite abstract looking collage work. So she would like something that’s just more wider viewed I think. Then there’s people like myself who are quite happy to be in both. I obviously do drawing and music as well, but I’m still very happy to be in the Stuckists, as well as Remodernism in general.
CT: It’s to do, to a certain extent with image. Stuckism has a particular image. I mean, there are Stuckist photographers, and we do Stuckist poetry readings, but you’re one of the people that attacks and knocks things, which is why you’re a Stuckist presumably. Rather than one of the more gentle Remodernists, that would rather get on with making the positive thing, and not actually dealing with the nasty things.
EJ: Well, I don’t think there’s any harm in saying what you think. And I think Stuckism, when it does get a reputation for being nasty and knocking, I think it’s a bit unfair because we all want a positive outcome for art. We want a positive outcome for everyone. I think Stuckism’s within its rights to have a go at the establishment, because the establishment are really trying to monopolise things one way. Against the tide of what a lot of artists are actually doing. So I think it’s a good fight to fight. I don’t think it’s a nasty,vindictive or bitter fight that the Stuckists have.
EJ: So that’s why I’m happy to be in the Stuckists as well as Remodernism.