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Meet The Artists: The Connor Brothers
Editorial / Artists

Meet The Artists: The Connor Brothers

31 Oct 2015

Hang Up are extremely excited to launch our new space with your solo show ‘So It Goes…” in 2 weeks time. What is the theme behind the title of the exhibition?

The quote is from Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. I guess what it means to us is that we cannot prevent terrible things happening to us, but we can choose how we incorporate those events into the narrative of our lives. We are interested in story telling, in particular how the stories we tell about the world form our understanding of it. It's not news that two different people can derive two completely different meanings from the same experience. Both think they know 'the truth'. But really, there is no such thing as a definitive truth when it comes to human experience, only a variety of interpretations. Understanding this gives us a special kind of power. It gives us the freedom to transform the way we view the world and our own lives by choosing a different way of perceiving it. The other option is to fall into a kind of dogmatic thinking. There is a lot to be said for thinking we know the capital T truth, it's comforting to feel that we understand the world, but it also limits possibilities and a wider kind of understanding. In particular it limits our ability to understand those who differ from or disagree with us. The writer David Foster Wallace describes that way of thinking as a prison so complete we don't even realise we are in it. So if there is a theme, it's exploring how we turn experience into meaning.

The blurring between reality and fiction is a prominent theme in your work. Tell us a little story, and we can be the judge of which side of the blurred truth it falls….

James and I, by coincidence and not design, spent time in the same mental hospital 15 years apart. He escaped. I left of my own volition.

There will be a great selection of your original books on show, what is the process when combining the imagery with the text? Which comes first?

It's kind of a chicken or egg situation. Sometimes it's the chicken and other times...

What’s been the most bizarre situation you’ve found yourselves in, that’s lead to one of your greatest artistic ideas?

It's impossible to choose one. Every day is fucking bizarre.

The space will also host an installation documenting the work that you have done for the Refugees at Calais. When did your involvement with the cause begin?

We were reading the news back when Cameron said there was 'a swarm' of migrants and Phil Hammond referred to 'Hordes' of migrants 'Marauding' across Europe. The media was really negative back then but the language they used didn't fit with the images of desperate people trying to jump on trains and stow away in lorries. We wanted to go and see for ourselves what was really going on.

You have sold out two charity prints already with a third ‘Whatever You Will Do Will Be Insignificant’ to be released on the opening night. The proceeds have seen shelters built that will greatly improve conditions for the Refugees during the winter. Can you explain in more detail some of the conditions you witnessed when visiting ‘The Jungle’?

It's difficult to describe The Jungle because it's so alien to our expectations of Europe. It's not some well resourced UN or Red Cross refugee camp. People there live in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Kids are playing amongst human shit. Rubbish is piled high everywhere. Thousands of people live in desperately bleak surroundings. Refugees live in tents or make shift shelters and survive as best they can. In winter the already appalling conditions are only going to get worse.

The first hand experience you have witnessed of the crisis must have been extremely thought provoking. You have since began the process of starting your own NGO, Can you tell us a bit about this and what it’s creation will further achieve?

Before we went to The Jungle we imagined a refugee camp like the ones we'd seen on television. Huge UN tents, organised food distribution etc. But The Jungle, alongside other European Refugee Camps, is not like that at all. Because they are tolerated (barely) and not officially sanctioned there is no major NGO or aid organisation in charge. The aid offered to refugees is from grass roots organisations and volunteers who do an incredible job in a place with overwhelming need. We saw the need to help to fill that gap in resources and felt it was something we needed to commit more time and effort to and hence decided to apply to the Charity Commission to set up an NGO.

You have worked closely with Pussy Riot in the past, most recently at Dismaland. How did you first come to collaborate with the group?

My eight year old daughter wanted to meet them, but we couldn't get in to the sold out talk they were giving in Cambridge. We bumped into them as we were leaving and ended up hanging out for the evening. Nadya and my daughter stayed in touch and when they came to the UK for their Glastonbury talk we met up for dinner and helped them out with a couple of things. After that we started to collaborate on some projects including their performance at Dismaland and our work at The Jungle refugee camp.

As the Connor Brothers duo you have done some pretty amazing things. What’s been your most defining moment as artists?

The Hanbury Collection. It was an entirely fictional museum and took almost a year to make. There were so many fake stories layered into one another that we couldn't remember which bits were real.

When was the exact moment that you first conjured up the mysterious 'brotherhood’?

This one time my phone rang at 7am and it was my Mum. She told me my Grandmother had died. An hour later James called and when I asked how he was he said 'Not great. I had some bad news, my Mum just called to tell me my Grandmother has died.' They were both called Peggy. So I guess it might have been the day our Grandmother's died.

Brothers can sometimes fight - are you really brothers in arms or is this an ideal fiction?

The Connor Brothers are on perfect terms, we however, have our occasional disagreements.

I’ve heard from a secret source that you and your team have Connor Brothers

The body parts we have them on you wouldn't want to see a photo of.

Can you leave us with a little taster of what to expect from you in 2016? Another Hang-Up collaboration perhaps?

We would love to do another project with Hang-Up, maybe an interactive fictional installation of some kind. Aside from that we want to spend a bit more time working with refugees.

And lastly, lets finish off with an insight into your individual fictional realities - what text in your new works do you most swear by?

'This is a lie' is favourite. It's a thousand year old philosophical problem called The Liar Paradox. It it's true, and it is a lie, then it's false and it's not a lie, and if it's false and it is not a lie, then it's true and it is a lie...and so on forever and ever amen. It' a major pain in the ass for logicians. 'Her heart bumped like shoes in a dryer' because it's a lovely description. Lastly the charity print release 'Whatever you do will be insignificant but it's very important that you do it.' It's Gandhi and who doesn't like a bit of Gandhi.

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