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I interviewed Tom Pope for Where You Are Not

Maddie Rose Hills: Where does an idea for a photograph or performance typically come from and how do you develop it until it is ready to be 'made'?


Tom Pope: Since my Ba I have been interested in how photography’s ability and inability to record performance. This led me to embracing performance within my photographic practice and transforming the act of creating a photograph into a performative event. The resulting photographs are not documents of the performance events but rather a creative record. The utilizing of performative strategies within my photography sees the photographic record of an event and the event itself form a creative dialogue. 

Many of the ideas for photographs and performances are spontaneously created while on a Psychogeographical drift and then performed. Ideas for playable games are often generated while researching or experimenting/playing about in the studio. I generally try not to develop any idea too much, but rather perform or play them as soon as possible. The resulting works could be the final prints, or when the game is next played adjustments may be implicated. 

MRH: You work across a number of disciplines. What do you think links these together?


TP: Play and the recording of performance. Play as a creative act is at the core of my practice. Play in the broadest possible sense, from sports and play in defined areas to noncompetitive play is explored. More recently photographic processes have been re-established as performative games where people are invited to become players in the absurd games created. Participation plays a large role in the works I conceive; the situations orchestrated leave space for improvisation and spontaneity. 


The results of play are important, from notions of success and failure, to the aesthetics of chance brought to light by the unskilled actions of human play. 


MRH: Your work has been described as 'investigations of time', has your art always been concerned with the concept of time? 


TP: My work has always been concerned with repetition, since my Ba I have embraced and played on the repetitive characteristics of the photographic medium. The notion of repetition in my practice was researched more thoroughly during my time at the RCA, to the point of it becoming the topic of my dissertation. This led to me working with time and measured time, as it’s the most prolific construct of repetition in the world. With almost all people having a relationship to time it becomes a appropriate vehicle to making works that are accessible by not only the art educated elite but all people. 


Time is still prevalent in my practice, but repetition plays a more central role. 

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