James Joyce in Shangri-La
James Joyce appeared at Glastonbury this year, or at least his billboard posters did, adorning the Shangri-La area, and its theme of environment, resistance and truth. In the post-Glasto comedown, we caught up with James to ask him about the experience.
Did you make it to Glastonbury in person, and have you been before?
Yes, I think this was my fifth or sixth time. I first went in 1995. We jumped the fence, and it was a great time to go, as there was a lot happening in the indie and dance scene then, the whole Brit Pop explosion, and bands like Pulp, Oasis, Radiohead, The Verve, Massive Attack, The Prodigy, Orbital and Chemical Brothers were all playing that year. I really enjoyed this year but it’s different these days. I mean, why on earth is Ed Sheeran headlining?
What was the brief for your Shangri-La work?
It was pretty open, but the underlying message was one of activism around environmental, economic and political issues. When you’re making work for something called the Truth stage there’s already a clear concept there to work with, especially given the current political climate.
What inspired the ideas for your posters?
Current events that are happening in world politics at the moment. Some of the work nods to the ‘Fake News’ narrative that’s prevalent in the media right now, and also environmental and economic issues. I suppose it’s using the language and medium of advertising to create a message about the current state of affairs. But really it’s pretty loose. I mean, they aren’t hard-hitting or anything. I was trying not to make it too depressing. It’s a massive party.
Do you enjoy creating more politicised pieces?
I do, yes. Over the years I’ve made images for many of the major newspapers and journals around the world – The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde etc. It’s interesting, especially when you’re dealing with big world events. It’s a challenge to communicate a concise but balanced viewpoint of these things through visual means.
Making a political image has an inherent weight about it. I recently did a magazine cover for Le Magazine du Monde a week after Donald Trump beat Hilary Clinton in the US election. By doing that cover about Trump at that point in time you’re kind of part of the historical narrative, it’s a record of the time.
Have you done work with a musical context before?
I’ve done record sleeves and visuals over the years. I used to run a club night once a month with a few friends in Shoreditch years ago, and I designed all the flyers and animated visuals which were projected in the space on the night. Those few years doing that is kind of where I found my visual style. I was able to experiment and have an audience.
Are we likely to see you or your work at future Glastonburys?
If they invite me back I’ll happily take part. If you’re going to make art at a festival, then Glastonbury is the one to do.
What do you have lined up in the near future?
Well, right now I’m preparing for the Art Car Boot Fair in Vauxhall this weekend. I’ve been making new work that is exclusive to the fair as well as selling other artworks, prints and objects. Beyond that I’m working on some new art projects, one of which will be for a project called Imago Mundi, which is a huge art collection founded by Luciano Benetton that aims to create a global art collection from every country in the world. I’m one of 140 artists invited to contribute art to the British collection.