Art Interview: Modern Panic’s James Elphick

Annabel de Vetten-Peterson - Swan

A unique collection of today’s foremost surreal, controversial & provocative international artists and live art’s practitioners comes to London for Modern Panic. Something You Said’s 25ThC caught up with  James Elphick, the curator of the fourth instalment of the acclaimed exhibition:

You are the creative director of Guerrilla Zoo, which is a revolving collective army of artists, musicians and performers. How did you first get involved with the company and can you tell us about the type of events you produce?
I had a bunch of talented friends who were artists, musicians, performers, writers, DJs, makers, dancers and actors and I wanted to bring them all together and create an event for them to showcase themselves. That’s how the Guerrilla Zoo event’s started almost a decade ago. We crammed as much arts culture into each event as you would get at a festival and presented it for a tiny admission fee, to make it as accessible and inclusive as possible. From there we evolved the parties into immersive events, theatre shows, live concerts, art exhibitions, to vast seasons of shows. I’ve collaborated and worked with literally hundreds of brilliantly creative people over the years and made some truly eye opening and profound productions.

CELIA ARIAS - LOWRES3Modern Panic is now in its fourth year and gaining significant attention. You have again curated the exhibition so can you tell us about what it represents and seeks to promote?
The art exhibited is by artists whose work is a powerful cocktail of surreal, controversial, beautiful, and disturbing. The exhibition is designed to be a shock to the system of the viewer, I want people to love or hate the show, to create a reaction in them that stains their mind and leaves the gallery with them, stays in their thoughts for hours, days, weeks, months later. The work touches upon many social, political, moral, surreal, sexual, provocative subjects and subtext but it’s all about you the viewer and what do you find acceptable, what defines you as a person, how you respond to the art and where your moral compass points.

This year’s collection features over 70 of today’s foremost surreal, controversial and provocative international artists. As the curator how do you go about selecting which artists to exhibit and was there a particular theme or message you had in mind when putting the exhibition together this year?
I invite a number of respected artists to participate and also run an open international call for artists. This year we had an overwhelming number of submissions and selecting the finalists was a tough decision. The work I select has to fit with the ethos of the show, and its roots with the 1960’s Panic Movement. Modern Panic is about the state of things at play in these interesting modern times we are living.

Which of the artists are you especially proud to be exhibiting and why?
I’m very excited about premièring many artists’ work in London such as Paul Toupet with exclusive new sculpture work and Erik Ravelo with his controversial Los Intocables series, alongside Annabel De Vettern strange edible art, Celia Arias brilliant new collaborative mechanical creation, Lucy Sparrow satirical felt, Yuri Zupanic microchip masterpieces and Alejandro Jodorowsky rare comic art! Amongst an array of fantastic artists from around the world.

Lucy Sparrow - 'Cameron's Bullshit Soup'How long has it taken you to put everything together for the exhibition, how do you go about organising so many people and what have you learnt along the way?
The first call went out in May this year and it’s been a steady flow of work. From the early Guerrilla Zoo events I learnt how to manage and deal with large numbers of artists, performers and crew, but it’s not an easy task! I am particularly zen most of the time which helps me deal with stressful situations and work through them effectively. I’ve learnt that you need a good reliable crew behind you and collaboration is the key to success.

The exhibition is at Apiary Studios in Hackney. Why did you choose this venue and what are its benefits for the event?
It seems like the London art scene’s spiritual home is East, and Apiary Studios is slap bang in the middle between Shoreditch and Hackney. It’s an exciting an innovative gallery space which is a perfect pairing for Modern Panic. We have 3 gallery spaces and a live art room mfor our performance programme. They are very supportive of the show and it’s always a pleasure to work with them.

The exhibition starts with a private view on Friday the 8th November with a special ‘Panic Ephemeral’ live art show along with other live art performances during the exhibition. What can we expect from these live performances? Do you get to view the performances in advance of the show or do you experience them first hand along with the audience on the night?
Live art is an important part of the art world and one that’s having a bit of a renaissance in recent years. To celebrate this expanding and developing scene I’ve put together around 30 live arts practitioners who will be performing over the duration of the show. Our live arts programme starts with Panic Sermons open to the public on Sat 9th November and again to close the show on 17th. We also have a few free performance workshops Magic Tarot Theatre and Sunday Salons. Don’t miss out, come and catch the show while it’s on!!

Modern Panic runs from Saturday 9th November – Sunday 17th November at Hackney’s Apiary Studios, London. The full psyche-exploding line up is here.



Interview by 25ThC