Alex Chinneck: “The public wants to be immersed and share live creative experiences”

British sculptor Alex Chinneck came to Romania with the exhibition “Unzip your mind”, exclusively for Qreator by IQOS. The symbolism of the zipper represents the distinctive characteristic of the project, as an object through which the artist highlights the surrealist cracks through which light enters, flooding the space and inviting the visitor to take part in an immersive and unexpected experience. More about how he sees the art today and its challenges in the interview below.

an interview by Romanita Oprea


Are brands more interested in collaborating with artists and entering the art world?

Yes. Not necessarily entering the art world, more remaining in the real world. Because that is the place where they exist. I think that brands increasingly seek ways of reaching more people and creating unique experiences, messages and distinguishing themselves from others. And, in many ways, I think this is art in a nutshell. An artist’s responsibility is to create new things, in new ways, and show people things they haven’t seen before. And I think that neatly aligns with how brands want to operate today. We live in a very digital, fast-paced world, in an incredibly visual world. It’s about immediate impact and esthetics and I think an artist can offer that.

There are huge benefits for brands, and for artists too. It’s easy for very successful, celebrated artists to be critical of brand partnerships, but that is because they don’t need them, they have more opportunities that they can ever manage. The reality is that there are far more artists, far more creative practitioners that there are opportunities and platforms. So, I think that that these ever-increasing brand partnerships really allow and encourage artists to create work that otherwise wouldn’t exist, and represent very exciting and ambitious extensions to their portfolio and body of work. Providing that it is not a compromise, something forced. And it is the brand’s responsibility not to force them in that direction. I think it’s a win-win.

Despite the fact that we are living in an increasingly digitalized world, I think that the public’s appetite for physical experiences is actually growing. People want to go and see galleries, they want to be immersed and share live creative experiences. Which is actually contradicting to the virtual, screen world, in which we live. It transcends the experience for the artist and the public.

Do you believe that nowadays people aren’t open minded enough or do you believe that they need a little bit of a push to see beyond the surface?

I think that sculptural practice in the public art does encourage people to turn off their screens and put their shoes on, in a way, to immerse themselves and interact with the world. I don’t think that people need their mind opening, I think that, in many ways, there is a saturation of outstanding experiences. Basically, the evolution of the Internet has just created tons of visual experiences every day and it kind of become very desensitized to it. We see a million pictures a day and a thousand incredible things every day. Minds are blown, minds are opened up. What we do with them is interesting right now, I suppose.

Increasingly people are kind of numb in seeing these special things and what we try to do is create physical experiences that people can see, touch, stand underneath and interact with them. And I think that is more important than ever. What we tried to do as well in Milan in one of the pieces was to be able to walk around it, but also go inside it. And I think that is a very important thing to hold on to. And we see a real growth in that.

As retail becomes more and more online, I think that there will be a rise in the demand for experiences that actually get us out of the house. Therefore, public art will become increasingly immersive. That is the way to a person’s mind and heart: not in a screen, but in person. And the tangible-physical experience.

How would you describe yourself as an artist and your work in 2-3 lines?

We take complex parts to simple moments. And in doing so we try to curate work that is physically outstanding, but also conceptually accessible. A work as many as possible people would enjoy. The objective is to make the everyday world more assuming. And in doing so we bring magic to the world, making it uplifting.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Rarely in art. I am kind of energized by a place or the architecture of a place. Creating these projects can take a lot of time, they can be extremely consuming of energy, involve lots of people and their completion represents a very rewarding thing.  The sharing of them with the crowds brings a lot of positive energy. That kind of energy of how they receive it and the joy charges you to continue and do the next one.

I also have a lot of ideas and I can create a lot of work and I am very determined to do that. I want to do as many impactful and powerful sculptures as possible. And outside of that I am charged by moments of creative ambition.

What was the hardest project you worked on and how did you surpass the hard times?

In Milan was hard. We created three sculptures of enormous sides, in 10 weeks. 100 people, considerable undertaking. It was hard, but the earlier projects were harder because even every project is different and every location is unique, you bring a familiarity to the process and you get better at recognizing and addressing the problems. And you build a team around you, which is very helpful. The first projects lacked that familiarity. Moreover, the reality is that the early projects didn’t come with the kind of assistance, the support, the facility, the finance that the projects come now with. They were self-supported and facilitated. We used to look for the property, look for finance and borrow from anyone who would support the project –ask for materials, ask for favors. It was almost hard to get to a position where you could build your project rather than actually building it. Sometimes I was completely out of my depth.

That is why we believe that there are far more artists than opportunities and it’s critical that young artists have the energy and the appetite to self-facilitate, create their own opportunities.

I think is really important for an artist to be out of his /her depth, always a little bit outside the comfort zone. If it gets too comfortable it’s not challenging enough and not ambitious enough. I was really trying to learn how to achieve things, but diving into the deep end helped me.

More about him

Born in Bedford, and living and working in the UK, Alex Chinneck graduated from the Chelsea College of Art and is a member of the Royal Society of Sculptors Council. In his creative process, the international artist has as a starting point real-life experiences. He transforms materials and perceptions of them, seeking to change the world around us and test people’s perception of apparently familiar objects and materials. His early works include Telling the Truth Through False Teeth (2012), where the artist used 1,248 pieces of glass to create 312 identically smashed windows across the derelict facade of a factory in Hackney, From the Knees of my Nose to the Belly of my Toes (2013) in Margate where Chinneck created the illusion that the entire facade of house had slid into the garden, and Under the Weather but Over the Moon (2013), a commercial property situated on Blackfriars Road created to look as if it had become completely inverted. His more recent works include Take my Lightning but Don’t Steal my Thunder (2014), a building located in Covent Garden designed to appear as if it floated in the air, and A Pound of Flesh for 50p (2014), a house on Southwark Street made from 7,500 paraffin wax bricks which slowly melted. The installation, Pick Yourself Up and Pull Yourself Together (2015) saw a Vauxhall Corsa suspended upside down in Southbank Centre car park.