Wreckage International (from Mutoid Waste to Burning Man) (Interview)
As well as being one of the Creative Directors of London’s Paralympics Closing ceremony, in 2012, Alex Wreckage remains one of the main protagonists of Mutoid Waste, the alternative performance arts group renowned for building giant Mad Max style sculptures from cars and abandoned military machines.
Driven out of London in 1989 by a series of anti-acid house police raids on their Kings Cross warehouse, the crew settled in Berlin’s then semi-derelict Gorlitzer Park, going on to construct an infamous Bird Of Peace sculpture that overlooked the Berlin Wall (amongst scores of equally idiosyncratic gigantic pieces).
Embodying the DIY philosophy central to both the Mutoids and the acid house/ rave scene of both London and Berlin, he continues to live off his wits and creative output, most recently working on in art installation he’s running a Kickstarter campaign for to present at America’s upcoming Burning Man, as well as regularly creating giant sculptures for Glastonbury.
So given that both Burning Man and Glastonbury are nowadays heavily over-subscribed and inundated with people outside the counter-culture who are keen to attend/ take part, how has that changed the soul of each event.
“This is a tricky question,” he pauses.
“I think the motivation by my culture of alternative festival types is to do it primarily for themselves and, if I’m honest, the outsiders fund it,” he admits.
“But we are not exclusive,” he stresses.
. We still want to show the world there are alternatives. So it would be a little churlish of us to say ‘Wait a minute that’s enough. You’re not invited’.
We have to be pragmatic and one of the best ways is to move on and start another thing on our own terms and let the world come to us again.
Keeps things moving and fresh. Scenes can stagnate. Who wants to sit in dirty water?”
Skrufff: Why did you decide to launch a crowd-funding campaign (http://kck.st/1mXUDO9 : mightn’t it have been easier to sell some pictures or pieces of art?
Alex Wreckage: “Well, although my artwork features heavily in the rewards, that wasn’t the starting point. It seems Burning Man never fully funds any art scheme so we knew we’d have to find the rest of the budget elsewhere. Crowd funding seemed the obvious choice because it’s community spirited. I think sponsorship and advertising seem a little crass when used for artistic endeavours.
As the Kickstarter campaign idea developed we went through loads of ideas, but I wanted people to get their money’s worth, I didn’t want to do teapot key-chains and I have done Mutoid Waste T-shirts for years so I’m a bit tired of that. My artwork seemed like the best most abundant resource I have. Sorry if you don’t like it!”
Skrufff: What inspired the tea pot vision: a eureka moment ?
Alex Wreckage: “I couldn’t get beyond drawing rows of camels. Rows of them in various shapes. There’s a little trick that designers sometimes use to get ideas- draw lots of quick little thumbnail sketches, simple black silhouettes, some neat ideas can come from it. As I was doing this when my buddy Ralph said they looked like teapots. So that was that.”
Skrufff: According to the Kickstarter text, you’re a ‘band of Neo-Babylonian Truth Seekers’: what key truths have you learned since teaming up with Mutoid Waste?
Alex Wreckage: “That I didn’t need to join the rat race. I could be just as unhappy as the people who work 9-5 on my own. I could also say I’ve learned to follow my dreams. Sounds kinda’ corny, but I do pretty much what I want and people then ask me for what comes of that. It sure beats being told what to do.”
Skrufff: Burning Man; an American enterprise; how different in spirit/ structure from European counter-culture scenes?
Alex Wreckage: “It’s really hard for Brits and I suspect the rest of the world to differentiate between the fantasy we have grown up with on TV and Hollywood, from real life. I’ll go into a store and interact with the locals and I sometimes expect a director to jump out and say “Cut! Cut! Let’s go again, from the top, and. Action!” So yeah can feel pretty unreal to me.
I haven’t really seen much of the dark side here. Everyone seems really nice and open. Brits have a sarcastic humour and an oblique way of communicating. You just don’t get that in the US. I love Glastonbury. But when I’m at the Burn I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with pissed up Brits pissing on my tent and trying to kick over my sculptures.”
Skrufff: How do you balance commercial considerations with making all these (I’d imagine very expensive to produce) pieces of art: how do you get commissions, How do you price them and how do you decide who you’d work for (is there anyone you specifically wouldn’t).
Alex Wreckage: “One of the most difficult aspects is having the time to think up the work I can spend there times as long developing ideas for paintings as it does to put brush to board and finish it. Commissions have always been word of mouth. And now I guess word of Internet. I price them by how much time they take and sometimes with a particular piece if I want to hang on to it I’ll put the price up, so I can be with it a little longer. Doesn’t seem to work though.
I suppose there are people I wouldn’t work with. Never thought about that. I work with people I like and respect. Over the years I’ve built some great friendships. I’m part of a great community, something I’m very grateful and increasingly adware of.”
Skrufff: How much did you set out to change the world through your art/ joining Mutoid Waste? How much have you succeeded?
Alex Wreckage: “Well that’s interesting, I view each new piece as a little peak into an alternative reality whether it’s sculpture or painting. My intentions – well one if them – is to captivate the viewer. Kickstart their imagination. I hear this a lot and it’s true of my own experience- the very first time I walked into a Mutoid waste gig I thought “My God! WTF! It was like somebody had opened a door to another reality. It was a reality that I was struggling to bring together on my own threw comic art and murals at the time.
So many people just get it instantly. Artwork is so personal, you can only hope and in fact I only visualise it happening one person at a time. As I work on a piece I kind of fantasise about the one person that will hopefully be blown away by it.”
Mutate Britain http://www.mutatebritain.com/