Q&A with Mark Leckey: art, the internet and North London dadness

Selfie provided by the artist himself

We got one of the UK’s most celebrated (and coolest) contemporary artists on the phone to chat about all sorts in our latest issue of THE FACE. Note: stay ’til the end for a pub-worthy joke.

Taken from the new print issue of THE FACE. Get your copy here.

Ever since his seminal film Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore charted more than two decades of UK music scenes in 1999, the Turner Prize winner has been a much-loved, much-bearded figure of Great British art. Even grumpy teenagers think he’s good.

Now, at 57, Mark Leckey’s comfy with a stiff cup of tea. Is he a trendy dad? I repulse myself in trendy North London dadness”.

Hello Mark. How’s it going?
It’s going alright! Sorry, I’ve just put an extra-strong mint in my mouth. It wasn’t good timing.

It’s been two years since your immersive exhibition, O’ Magic Power of Bleakness, in which you built a life-size replica of a motorway bridge at the Tate. What was it actually about?
It was an allegorical, autobiographical tale of aspirational class interests.

A lot of big words in there.

In past interviews you’ve spoken about how you believe you saw a fairy when you were eight years old. Do you get bored of talking about it?
No, I don’t get tired of being asked, I just haven’t really got an answer for it. I don’t know how to frame it in any other way.

Not suggesting the fairy was a dream, but have you had any weird dreams recently, Mark?
I had to escape a building quickly and the only way out was down a builder’s chute. As I was about to go down it, I asked, How far is it?” And the guy behind me said, It’s going to take you half an hour.” As this guy told me this, I was suddenly outside the building, relaying the story to someone, telling them that I was still in the builder’s pipe. That make sense?

A little bit, yeah. Did you Google what it meant?
No, I should have. I’ve never had a dream like that before, where I’m split.

You’ve often spoken about the potential for magic in technology. Does the rate at which technology is moving ever blow your mind?
Oh yeah, my mind is definitely blown. It happened the other day, I wouldn’t call it an epiphany, but there was an awareness that we are already in some kind of other consciousness or intelligence. The internet is so vast and complex now, and that complexity can only lead to an emergent intelligence or consciousness. It’s already here. We’re already coexisting in two different states, you know?

Are we doomed?
Not because of the internet. But it’s not looking good this year, though, is it? Anyway, I thought we were going to have a laugh?

Right, sorry. Are you still living on Caledonian Road?
No, we’ve moved to Haringey.

Leafy area, that. Do you think of yourself as a trendy dad?
I’m a very trendy North London dad, but I repulse myself in trendy North London dadness. I’ve got long hair and a beard. I stand in queues with several lookalikes, you know what I mean? It’s beyond me now. I turned 57 this year, I’ve given up.

So now you’re 57, do you wave your stick and moan at teenagers?
I have shouted at people on the street and it got me into trouble.

Go on.
Well, it was teenagers on scooters riding into my kids. So I had a go and one said, Wait here, I’m going to get my crew, we’re going to merk ya.” So don’t shout at people, that’s what I’ve realised.

You were a casual” in the 80s, into fancy clobber and hooliganism, but I reckon you would’ve made a cool New Romantic.
I was a New Romantic for a week. I wore a neckerchief and some eyeliner, that was my nod to New Romantic. I got so much stick I ended up being called Spandau for a while.

Are you organised?
I’ve lost a bit of my organisational skills in lockdown, I’ve made some blunders in the last year.

Get yourself to Ryman’s.
Oh, I love Ryman’s. I have a stationery fetish. I use a very particular notebook and a pen or else I can’t do anything.

Do you have any fears, Mark?
I’d say the majority of my adult life has been trying to escape from the idea that I’m Ian Beale. I think a lot of white men of my age worry they’re Ian Beale.

Go on, leave us with a joke.
Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Banana who?
Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Banana who?
Knock knock.

Bloody hell. Who’s there?
Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?

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