Earlier this year, Paul Yore returned to Melbourne with a solo show at Neon Parc (Solo exhibition, 22 April - 18 June 2016). Previously, Yore had recoiled from the limelight after a public court case in 2014. With his return, Yore triumphantly demonstrated a whole suite of technical skills borrowed from the tradition of the handicraft, as well as an increased fervour for the over-the-top aesthetic that his work had years earlier become synonymous with. In December, Yore’s work will be exhibited at NADA Miami Beach (1–4 December, 2016). The presentation will showcase some of the large scale works seen in this year’s solo offering, as well as a number of new pieces that continue to encompass Yore’s new aesthetic brand that combines tapestry with representations of penises, lewd sexual acts, pop-cultural figures and world political leaders (amongst many other things).
Quiet and extremely polite in the flesh, Yore’s work is strikingly at odds with his outward personality. Without fetishising Yore’s youth too much (he was born just three years shy of the nineties), one can’t help but observe his practice and be impressed by the breadth of his cultural and political knowledge, as well as his capacity to translate the climate of late capitalism to the gallery space. I spoke with Yore to try and tease out some of the ideas coming through in this new phase of his work.
The pieces being presented as part of NADA Miami Beach appear to critique neoliberalism. The most pertinent example of this critique is the use of Donald Trump’s face as the scrotum of Osama Bin Laden in Spectacular Spectacular (2016). Can you comment on this reading?
My point with this unfortunate anatomical collision of Trump and Bin Laden is that the real insidious spectre haunting the world is not a few imbeciles who pervert the name of Islam to justify barbarism, but actually the far more dangerous ideologically-motivated violence of capitalism that has led to a total scourge on the planet; a decimation of the ecological systems that support life on earth, and the societies that depend on them. Terrorism and civil unrest globally can easily be understood as merely symptomatic of this broader ecological upheaval caused directly by rapacious capitalism, as with the plethora of diseases and dysfunctions afflicting populations in the affluent West.
Paul Yore, Spectacular Spectacular, 2016. Mixed media tapestry, fairy lights, 241 x 183 cm. Image courtesy Neon Parc, Melbourne.
To what ends do you use sexuality in your work? Do you use it as a metaphor?
The sexuality in my work always takes on some metaphoric or hyperbolic dimension because I work in a way that is so detached from any literal, objective mode of representation. I have always understood the representation of the body in my work in relation to classical Greek ideals concerning youthful male beauty, which the work both upholds and calls into question. The unrestrained, ejaculatory and blatantly homoerotic or pederastic forms suggested in the work are in part a response to what I see as a dangerously repressive social milieu. The clampdown on desire and the deferral of real pleasure has led to a neurotic cultural environment in which capitalism has so readily taken root, preying on people’s innermost anxieties. If people weren’t so filled with shame about their bodies (which children are taught at an early age) and angst about sex, the predatory advertising industry would simply collapse.
Paul Yore, Hit Me Baby One More Time, 2016. Mixed media tapestry, 202 x 202 cm (irreg). Image courtesy Neon Parc, Melbourne.
The handicraft tradition in your work appears to conflict with the contemporary imagery you depict. Can you comment upon your choice of tapestry as your medium?
Tapestry belongs to the decorative arts tradition, which has generally been understood as distinct from fine arts like painting and sculpture. Although this distinction has been broken down in the contemporary art context, conceptually, the association needlecraft has with domesticity and utility or with ornamentation has informed my usage of quilting, needlepoint and embroidery. I do see making things by hand, using these laborious traditional methodologies, as a reaction against mass media and cyber culture in which images and forms are seemingly infinitely reproducible. And yet I feel something about the layers of embellishments—sequins, frilling and beading in the work—mimics the glitzy superficiality of the commercial mass media environment, where everything seemingly sits on the surface.
Paul Yore, Nothing Comes From Nothing, 2016. Mixed media tapestry, 171 x 198 cm (irreg). Image courtesy Neon Parc, Melbourne.
To me the affecting nature of your work is just as important as the imagery. I’m thinking back to your installation at Neon Parc earlier this year and how overwhelming and somewhat nauseating the clashing colours and array of artificial materials were. Can you comment on this general mood which you try to create in your work?
Yes, this is a deliberate ploy in the work; my intention is to ensnare the viewer by drawing them into the work with its bright giddy colours, flashing lights and bells. But then after a time, the work worms its way into the deeper recesses of the brain and maybe begins to grind. In this way, the work mimics the atmosphere of a funfair or shopping centre. I am trying to allude to the absurdity of the consumerism of the 21st century information age: a swirling, rainbow-coloured deluge of nauseating trash; we are immersed in the collective nightmare.
Paul Yore, The Darkest Secret of Your Heart, 2016 (detail). Mixed media tapestry, 214 x 328 cm. Image courtesy Neon Parc, Melbourne.
Even though you depict a lot of ‘Americana’ in your work, there is a certain remove which I think is kind of typical of the Australian relationship to America’s cultural hegemony. With your work travelling to the USA, do you think that an Australian context is necessary for the reading of your work?
Part of the intention of my work has been to describe colonial Australia as a cultural backwater, a sort of ‘nowhere’ space that has been particularly vulnerable to infection by American cultural products. In that non-indigenous Australia has predominantly refused to acknowledge or feel any affinity with the actual cultural heritage of the continent, we have opted instead for some bastardised post-invasion amalgam of English and American culture, which is largely superficial. Even though the work is spawned from this tumultuous Antipodean context, I do not see the work as parochial, or I hope at least that it may have some more universal comprehension outside of our shithole colony—but that may be asking a lot. —[O]