P. Staff: On pain lapsing into pleasure and back again

Whilst in Basel, we had a chat with British artist P. Staff about the show In Ekstase at Kunsthalle Basel, which incorporates all new works in video, sculpture and installation.
by Lara Morrell
Lara Morrell
P. Staff

LM Violence and tension permeates through the exhibition, can you tell me about the concerns that underpin the works on show? 

P. S The show is concerned with gravity, grace, light and volatility, where the distinction between human and animal — that is to say, that which is sovereign — collapses; how violence might reorganise our bodies, our guts, how the sun might be the saddest, scariest thing in our world. Some friends said it provokes end-of-the-world feelings, I guess i’m trying to feel my way through some sort of simultaneous destruction and blooming.

LM Tell me about the choice of title ‘In Ekstase’, – and the primacy of written word in your work?

P. S In Ekstase is a title that is lifted from an old punk record, I was doing yoga the day I saw the spine of the record on my shelf. I always cry when I do yoga. It seemed to sum up the feeling of the show – coming up on drugs and not knowing if your body can handle it; bursting out laughing when confronted with something horrific; pain lapsing into pleasure and back again.
I write a lot in my work— it’s diaristic, but also formalist, compulsive. This show flits between English, French and German. It takes medical forms and restructures them; it turns poetry into a kind of phantasmagoria via hologram. Language is rhythm, and I am always hyperfixating on the rhythm and tempo of a show, the way everything has a sense of speed.

LM Let’s go back to your genesis as an artist…

P. S As a child my mum had a lot of prints by Egon Schiele around the house. I was mercilessly bullied by the kids from school when they would see them. Later on, there was a time that Rodin’s kiss was touring England, we drove for hours to go see it, and I couldn’t figure out why, but we did. Both these examples instilled in me, from a young age, the way that art could reorganise things, scare people, compel them to travel for hours, to cry or yawn or argue. It was all so mysterious and beautiful and ugly to me.

LM You are from the UK but now live in LA, what drew you to live and work there?

P. S I fell in love, so I threw my things  in a suitcase and moved there, it wasn’t so premeditated but I had been obsessed with the city for a while— it felt like the furthest thing I could imagine from Europe. Its topography made no sense to me, house plants grew to the size of trees, the desert looked like Mars. I met a lot of amazing artists there, it’s a really special, deranged place. It’s also very queer, very trans.

LM How has Basel been treating you? Any recommendations? 

P. S I actually love being in Basel, I have been staying in Klein Basel. I got my nails done by Anna Parisi (parisinailedit), eat at Chanthaburi, buy wine at Enoteka. I love the farmers market near my apartment. Everyone should go see the Doris Salcedo and Andrea Buttner shows, and of course Tiona Nekkia Mclodden at Kunsthalle.

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