Andrew Bruce Interview
by Sharon Boothroyd
I saw Andrew’s work in Arles this summer in a beautifully restored gallery which looked more like an aristocratic home than a white cube. His work is certainly eye-catching. Whether it retains your gaze depends upon your demeanor towards dead things and your level of squeamishness. Faced with looking away in disgust or being drawn in with perverse fascination, I chose the latter. It was such a nice addition to find that he has a thoughtful approach to his practice and career considering his young age of 22. Andrew completed his BA at The University of Creative Arts, Farnham and is now doing his MA at the RCA and teaching at CCCU alongside.
We barely notice the ‘thud’ when we literally come into contact with animals. My work takes that ‘thud’ as it’s starting point.
I started to see roadkill as a potent symbol of humanity’s clash with nature, both literally and figuratively. Of course people are going to avert their eyes from roadkill; it’s horrendous. Seeing a dead body, be that of a man or a beast, is understandably a traumatic experience. One minute we are a person, with relationships and a personality, and the next minute we could just be an object; our bodies are so delicate. So when it comes to that point of contact – metal against flesh and bone – whether you’re man or beast, you’re powerless. It doesn’t take much to turn a body into something unrecognisable, something repulsive even. I find this the most horrendous thought; it pierces through me, and it’s my worst nightmare.
SB: What did you learn at Uni that you couldn’t have learnt in the real world?
AB: Doing my BA was really great, it was time to escape from the real world – and to immerse myself in a wholly new world. The tutors, the other students, the technical facilities that are available to you – that’s all important too, but for me, most importantly, it was the time. I don’t think there are any real shortcuts in photography.
I really love and believe in art-school education, it is such an exciting institution, and also I see it as a chance to make photography a better medium, better for the viewers, the makers; everyone. Having said that, I don’t feel like I’m seeing these kind of positive changes coming out of many art schools right now, and in fact in some cases it’s quite the opposite.
What have you learnt from the real world that you didn’t learn at uni?
It’s hard after graduating, suddenly the safety-net that being a student gives to you disappears, and you are thrust into situations that feel far too big and important to deal with – I’m still so young, and to go from worrying about your marks at Uni one day to pricing prints the next, it’s scary, but it is very exciting!
After graduating I did a lot of assisting, and that opened up a whole new world of amazing experiences and opportunities, and it helped a lot to cushion the transition from finishing my BA.
Do you feel in control of your career path? If so, how? If not, how?
I do yes. But a large part of that confidence is just the knowledge that it will all take a long time. It’s a compelling time to be a photographer, with the economy as it is, the face of photography in a years time could be unrecognisable from how we see it now. If there are no jobs, then we will make the jobs.
What has surprised you most about your art so far?
The fact that I still really don’t know why I’m making the work that I am.
How do you measure success?
I hear a lot of artists saying that they make work for themselves.. I really can’t identify with this. I make photographs for everyone else, and they can take from them what they wish.
Like I said above I find it hard myself to define why and what it is I’m doing, so success for me is any genuine positive feedback from… anyone. I have goals, I have certain routes that I would like to see my career taking, but I’m sure these will change over time – if I end up living in a cave, developing my film with rainwater, then I would see this as a great success!
How do you balance the tension of enjoying your accomplishments whilst striving for more?
There are always accomplishments and there are set-backs. It can be the most intense emotional journey – but I would be worried if it didn’t feel intense and if it didn’t hurt.
I worry about balancing these elements, I don’t know if I do balance them very well, but that’s life… or photography… the same thing…