David, you will soon be creating a new sculptural installation ‘Incoming’ for the Griffin Gallery in west London using about 30 tonnes of newspapers! It will open in May but there are three weeks of installation where the public are invited to watch. Obviously you pre-plan but how much, and is the work likely to evolve and change as you progress? Can you tell us what visitors should expect?
I can’t plan works like this too much. If you do they become a fight with the material, trying to make the installation look like something in your head. I prefer dealing with the space, the material you’re bringing in, how all that sits in there, the people who work there and what they do… there’s a kind of people/space/object/action fen shui going on, so yeah, a lot of evolving and changes going on.
An enormous amount of work will go in this Griffin Gallery installation, but it will eventually be destroyed. Would you prefer that is was somehow permanent or is the fact that it is ephemeral an essential part of the whole?
They don’t feel ephemeral to me, quite the opposite really and they are certainly built to last so if you chose you could have this installation stay where it is forever. I prefer like almost all of the most important things in life that it moves you, makes you feel, makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, stimulates you intellectually, tugs at your heartstrings… that it will be something that stays with you even when it’s physically gone.
How will you feel when it is time for it to be dismantled?
Not much. I’ll have moved on.
You are often called either a sculptor or installation artist, but you have also been called a performance artist and political artist. Do these categories matter and how do you see yourself?
All of these things really. Recently or in the last few years at least Music, poetry and writing have taken me over too. I seem to suffer from overstimulation, the problem being, I suppose, that you want to express yourself in all of these areas.
One of your political statements was the 1983 sculpture of a Polaris submarine made from used car tyres and placed in front of the Hayward Gallery. Do you enjoy being provocative and is this an important aspect of your work?
That wasn’t necessarily a political statement by me although it was certainly perceived as that by a lot of people. I suppose I don’t think of myself as provocative but probably am. I want to entertain, I want exaggerate and I want to be extravagant… there must be a bit of provocation in there somewhere.
You often use large amounts of recycled or mass produced materials. In the past these have included such diverse things as tyres, driftwood, magazines, teddy bears, matches and coat hangers. Aside from the obvious reflection on consumerism and our throwaway society, what other messages would you like gallery visitors to take away after visiting a David Mach exhibition?
As I say, I want to entertain, I want you to laugh, I want you to think, I want you to get emotional, even if you hate what I do… the last thing I want is for you to be bored and of course it’s all very well to say all of this. I make things with stuff, objects, inanimate objects, In making sculpture and asking you to get intimate with that. That’s not an easy thing to achieve when you’ve just been watching films made with huge teams of people made with millions of dollars and listening to music performed by amazing bands and orchestras. My work is just stuff, sitting there.
Are there some objects you would like to make one of your flowing sculptures from, but which ultimately are perhaps to expensive or hard to source?
Always… there’s not much in the way of objects that I wouldn’t want to use….half a dozen Rolls Royces, a fleet of planes, a flotilla of boats… millions of the little Scotty dog from the board game Monopoly…
You also create collages, write novels, poetry and short stories and even play in a band. How do you manage to allocate time and energy to all of your creative projects?
I work a lot and my brain never seems to stop and there’s a serious degree of multi-tasking going on. I just make the time. Writing is easier… I can do that on trains and planes although funnily enough I find I get a lot of ideas when I’m running and walking so I’m constantly stopping to note things down in my phone. The band – 27 ZEROS – that’s evenings after working in sculpture and collage during the day. That’s hard work but incredibly enjoyable so that even when you’re knackered after a day of sculpture and collage music and the guys in the band will drive you on.
If you had not been an artist what do you think you would like to have done?
I would probably have got involved in art somehow… maybe advertising… maybe making a filmstrip… a cartoonist… that would be something to be… I chat about this a lot with pals and we reckon if we were 16th/17th century guys we would be working for some warlord making seriously hard contraptions for defence and for war.
What can we expect from David Mach in the future?
I’m hoping to start publishing. My writing and poetry are developing fast, I’d like to hotly pursue that and I’d like to be Scotlands poet Laureate. I’d also like to develop the live performance of my poems. The band are just on the cusp of producing an album – I’m looking for that to be successful and also encourage live performances and I’m making the best sculpture I’ve ever made right now with dozens of ideas that will develop into a lot more. I need to work hard on that and in the next year I’m planning for a school, hotel, restaurant, bar and printmakers workshop… all by the sea!