DURO : a performance by Eddie Peake. Interview with the artist by Jerry Stafford.
J.S : When and where did you first start playing football?
E.P : Many of the boys in my primary school, and in the community I was brought up in (Finsbury Park) played football. I just got sucked into it as a result of it going on around me on a daily basis I must point out though that I am not very good! I just like playing, and always have done. I’ve never taken it beyond a playground level and amateur leagues, which is the level I still play at. I have always followed Arsenal though, the closest professional club to where I was brought up- so close in fact that the sound of the crowd cheering after a goal was scored could be heard from my parents’ house.
J.S : How and why has football become such a important element both in your pictorial or sculptural works and your performance pieces?
E.P : I tend to be interested in bringing things from my life that don’t necessarily or obviously belong in the gallery, or in any kind of art context, into my work. At an intuitive level it just feels so satisfying to me, which I suppose is primarily because it’s likely to be something I enjoy anyway, before I’ve even thought about what it’s doing as art. As far as football specifically, I like its incongruity within the art gallery: that it’s the ‘wrong’ thing to be taking place in that setting. It also results in something that is totally unremarkable and quotidian becoming remarkable, weird or absurd. The other thing I like about using football in performances is that it doesn’t require any choreography, and yet it has a compelling and watchable quality nonetheless. Or it doesn’t, depending on whether the game is any good or not! But that simplicity - the fact of just finding the right number of participants and simply asking them to play football - contributes to the power of the work for me: it is real drama, not enacted drama.
J.S : How did you experience the DURO performance at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Did you encounter any personal or socio-cultural differences between the way the performance was perceived and 'played' in France and else where ?
E.P : I suppose the most glaringly noticeable thing about doing it in Paris was the particular moment, which was quite soon after the attacks in November 2015. There was still a subdued, mournful atmosphere, and I had even been asked to consider not doing it at all, as a safety precaution. In presenting the work though, the people who saw it seemed to be touched by the work, even in addition to the euphoric feeling that I think is induced by seeing ten strapping young men playing together in the nude. There is an inherently joyous and exuberant quality to the piece, but then in the context of a recent atrocity, the work took on another kind of significance whereby it symbolises something about freedom of expression. I loved that, and I loved that the Parisian audience at the Palais de Tokyo embraced it in that way.