William Jackson Harper’s art on skateboarding: My project’s a way to get past the self

Written by By Youkee Lee, CNN William Jackson Harper is a British artist known for the art installations and live performance performances that he creates using various materials, such as skateboards, boxes, tins and…

William Jackson Harper's art on skateboarding: My project's a way to get past the self

Written by By Youkee Lee, CNN

William Jackson Harper is a British artist known for the art installations and live performance performances that he creates using various materials, such as skateboards, boxes, tins and logs.

Lately, the New York-based artist has taken up skateboarding as an unorthodox medium to show his work. His quirky installation, “Love Life,” features 33 pairs of skates paired with 3,000 neoprene-covered cardboard tubes in a small studio in London’s Brick Lane.

A lot of the work has been constructed over the last couple of years, but a certain piece is new to us, (the installation) ‘Untitled,’ which he’s had up for about a month now.

The work represents this conflict within people’s minds — the fear of intimacy and the desire to spend more time with others in that same physical space. That’s where that tension comes from. I feel like that conflict, and the respect and respectability about it, comes out of skateboarding.

He says the installation tries to “reframe” issues of intimacy and sexuality, which he says often makes people uncomfortable.

Harper’s name also seems to be a construction of gender and culture, referencing in part the letters sometimes recited during boyhood games.

It has always been something I wanted to bring into the public — in this case, with my artwork. I think that’s a really rare impulse to make something that has an emotional or social or cultural subtext and be truthful and honest with that. It’s just different for everybody.

His installation “Untitled” pushes intimacy even further by keeping the participants entirely locked in, with only their skates as a starting point. He says the show also utilizes objects from everyday life to create a new language of self.

This is basically a whole whole new language of language you just don’t find anywhere else in the world, in this country. There’s a lot of autonomy when you get the skateboard and open yourself up to yourself, to your particular version of this world. I think there’s a level of vulnerability that you have to come to grips with as a part of that language.

William Jackson Harper’s show “Love Life” was named PNY Arts Prize’s artist of the year. Created for the 2018 season of “Exit Art London,” it ran from June 16 to July 15.

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