Neil Cooper, 'On the move' (The List, 674, 06/01/2011)
You get the impression Sophie Macpherson likes to keep moving, both creatively and personally. This certainly seems to be the motivation behind the Aylesbury-born GSA-trained artist’s forthcoming solo show of texts, posters, a video and a 16-mm film at Sorcha Dallas. Macpherson’s background may be in sculpture, but as a previous video, ‘Deep Dancing’, and a film, ‘American Dance’, illustrate, as well as other studies inspired by bowler-hatted Cabaret icon Sally Bowles illustrate, they are far from still lives.
‘This work came out of a sense of frustration with the stillness of sculpture,’ Macpherson says while, appropriately enough, in transit. ‘The films are still very sculptural but I’ve choreographed them in such a way that uses the sort of physicality film provides. It’s something I’ve been moving towards for a couple of years. People are always saying my work is theatrical anyway, and I’m really interested in the performance of garments and clothes, so this is moving more into that world.’
Macpherson’s sense of theatre developed out of a fascination with the libertine hedonism of Weimar-era Berlin. In terms of her practice, Macpherson’s exploration of the live arena dates back to her time co-curating Flourish Nights, a Sunday night art/performance happening run with Lucy Mackenzie. More recently, Macpherson has worked with dancer/choreographer turned filmmaker Marisa Zanotti, while she has made her own steps into the spotlight as a member of Muscles of Joy, the musical collective made up of artistic fellow travellers including Katy Dove and Victoria Morton. For a recent GI performance Macpherson built a series of platforms for the audience to stand on, subverting the performer/audience relationship as she went.
Macpherson’s new show relates heavily to previous Sorcha Dallas shows by female artists including Linder and Babette Mangolte, both of whom addressed various aspects of dance, performance and film. It’s significant too that all three artists took part in Re/Make Re/Model, a group show at the same gallery.
While not ruling out a move into formal theatre by way of set-designing if approached, the next stage for Macpherson is to perform outside of her role in Muscles of Joy.
‘Tramway have asked me to do a live thing next year,’ Macpherson reveals. ‘Part of the excitement of live work is to be doing it outwith a gallery space, but I don’t know what my strategy will be yet. It may end up taking ideas from my films and video, inviting friends to do different movements and actions in different parts of the space. It could be an event or not an event, but we’ll see.’
Beyond performance itself, however, Macpherson is also interested in more everyday ways of being in terms of how one carries oneself.
‘It’s a new thing I’ve been thinking about,’ she says. ‘This whole idea of behavioural codes and the clothes we wear and how we read each other. That’s a completely different world to performance related work, and is more to do with aspects of identity and the language of that. It looks at the differences between one’s identity of oneself and how we present ourselves to the world. It’s the struggle between the two that’s exciting.’