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Curator Questions

Ladies of the Press* by Elly Clarke

Charlie: I first saw your work at Sluice__2011 and it had such an energy and curious approach to zine making, can you explain how this way of working developed?

LofP*: Ladies of the Press* was born by accident. We initially teamed up to create the catalogue for an onsite exhibition while we were studying at the Slade, but nobody was organised enough to send us images of their work before the show opened. So we thought, oh well, we’ll just take the press to the gallery and we made and printed booklets in public, and as it happened, the ‘Live Press' became the social hub for both the artists and the audience at the show; the zines we made were so popular that we sold out! Ana had to run down to the university photocopiers to make extra copies mid-performance. Mind, at this point Renée had only just figured out what a master page was in InDesign and we had a painfully slow inkjet printer - we’re a bit more efficient now. In essence, our work is something that came out by chance that we embraced and developed into an art form, which is apt because we are all about chance encounters and improvisation.

Funny you mention Sluice 2011 because that was a special performance for us in terms of breaking into unexplored territories of how theatrical ‘printing’ can be. It was the first time we gave an overarching concept to the specific Live Press and expanded that notion into our costume and setup, not just the resulting zine. We had envisioned our ‘press’ to be the editorial desk for a travel magazine inside this hypothetical spaceship that landed at the fair. We wore matching catsuits, wigs and cardboard hats. Until then we just coordinated what dresses we had that looked kind of similar, but we found that the effect we had on the audience was so much more powerful when we looked like two incarnations of the same persona, rather than two different people. People were much more keen to interact with us - probably because we looked hilarious.

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Ladies of the Press* in action at Camden50 launch

Charlie: You explain your process of zine making as democratic, how does this manifest?

LotP*: Our work is democratic in both its physicality and participation. It is physically democratic because it disregards the physical presence of an object through printed media - say, on the same A5 page a life sized sculpture can coexist and occupy the same size and same weight as a delicate line drawing found on the corner of someone’s sketchbook. This is an exciting space for us, artistically speaking, as we can really play with the ‘weight’ of a particular artwork with a few clicks. The participatory aspect of the work is democratic in the sense that it is literally open to all. We tend to be commissioned to be the documenter of projects and events, and while of course we like speaking to organisers and fellow participants to create some unexpected and engaging content in print, we really like opening up the press to the audience, inviting people to participate by way of impromptu drawing, writing, photography and performance. We never know what the result of our work will look like, and we find that really challenging and fun because even we don’t know what to expect.

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Ana and Renée performing at Wirksworth Festival, September 2014
Ana and Renée performing at the Tate Tanks, 2012

Charlie: You have characters for each project and for Camden 50 you’re a brand new duo, can you explain why, the look and how that impacts upon audiences experiences?

LotP*: Ladies of the Press* in itself isn’t a character, actually - more an amplified version of ourselves. We do have distinct ‘characters’ we have created for specific performances, like the Marina and Mariko personnae, which is another duo: A grumpy Serbian journalist with birds in her hair and a deadpan Japanese news anchorwoman in a full trouser suit. They’re caricatures spawned from our respective native countries (and have an accent to suit); they appear when we perform to camera for our broadcast pieces. We do, however, embody a different aesthetic for every performance that we do, and it partly has to do with the idea that we are what we print.

For Camden50, we don’t have characters per se but we have a specific visual identity that will carry the aesthetic of what we will be producing, on and off the page. Since we are going to be out and about with our mobile press desk, cycling and printing on the go, we thought: What is the most celebratory and eye-catching look you can get with cycling gear? We figured you can’t be much more amplified than wearing head-to-toe holographic catsuits and rainbow wigs! Costumes play an important role in breaking the ice with the audience, since it’s an immediate signifier that this is a performative space, and it’s also a good conversation starter - people tend to feel less inhibited because hey, you can’t really look much more ridiculous than we do.

And we’re both fans of glitter, in general: cheap and cheerful, readily available, omnipresent and oh so sparkly.

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Ladies of the Press* on the Camden Magazine front cover

Charlie: Ladies of the Press* is a unique way for audiences to engage, what is your ideal impact upon participants and what would you like the legacy of this Camden 50 project to be?

LotP*: Ultimately we want our work to be empowering for the audience. One of our favourite comments we ever had at a performance came from a retired primary school teacher, telling us that what we are doing resonated with what she wanted to achieve when she taught children - inspiring their own creativity. Our work is all about encouraging people to do, to make and to speak out whether you are a cleaner, a 12 year old kid, a drag queen, a receptionist or a train driver - we want to inspire people to make their own megaphone out of newsprint and glue, and find their own voice. By electing to physically attend specific sites in the age of the hashtag and speak with people we find interesting face to face, we create a space for conversation and an exchange of ideas in person. This is powerful.

We hope that the zines we produce will provide a glimpse of the amazing grassroots work that is going on in Camden at the moment, but really, what we would love to see is our work to help ignite more small projects, more art, more activism, more communities and communication in the borough. Because actually, these are a few little things we believe will help make a better society.

#Camden50 #DemoPress

Ladies of the Press* by Elly Clarke