Artist Poppy Jackson turned heads earlier this month in Hackney with her latest performance art piece Site which involved her perching on a rooftop, nude, for 10 hours. EastLondonLines sat down with Jackson to learn more about her artistic endeavours, and her motivations for naked performance art.
ELL: Do you think that performance art has the power to effect change?
Jackson: I believe in the power of art to help people to think about things. You hear a lot of people say ‘art can’t change the world’ but it’s not like you do something and then automatically it changes your opinion. It’s more about making somebody who hasn’t thought about a thing previously suddenly start thinking about or questioning it. I definitely think it has the power to change things.
ELL: What change do you hope to provoke with your work?
Jackson: I hope that my work affects the way people perceive the female body, how women are treated in society and how we, as women, feel about our own bodies. I also hope that it makes people question taboos that surround the female body.
ELL: Your primary means of expression is your body, why is that?
Jackson: My work was always about the body. My paintings gradually got bigger and I started using my body in them. The body is also a really powerful medium to deliver a message. Performance art is about exploring the raw material of the body.
ELL: Site was an endurance performance, one where you were testing yourself both physically and mentally, was there any training in the lead up?
Jackson: I worked with Heather Cassils as a mentor in the lead up to the piece. Cassils recommended that I go rock climbing to deal with my fear of heights. The other way I trained was by meditating, which helped me get used to being very still and very calm. However, I think you can’t truly prepare. You don’t really know till you do it what techniques are going to help you but that’s part of it, to feel extra present and in tune with your body in the moment.
ELL: How do you think the media reaction has impacted your piece?
Jackson: The media’s take on it has made it a different piece. I didn’t even know about it because I was still on the building and it began spiralling through all of these news outlets.
ELL: There were some awful misogynistic comments and reactionary pieces, how did you confront that type coverage?
Jackson: I didn’t read many. It was my body and it would have been pointless to absorb that negativity. Although, that negativity added to the piece as it exists because of that kind of behaviour towards the female body. In that way it proved why the work was important in the first place.
ELL: What are you plans for the future?
Jackson: I’m doing a study, which will hopefully lead up to an exhibition, which in turn will hopefully lead to a big performance and installation. This is following on from the Constellation piece I did where I put a call out for women’s menstrual blood. That was a really humbling experience as women I didn’t even know gave me such an intimate and powerful material.
I felt that was something that should be turned into a larger piece. I’m originally a painter and because menstrual blood is this painterly fluid I want to link it into my 2D work.
Follow Naomi Joseph on Twitter @Njos3ph