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INTERVIEW W BENJIE CLUNESS ON THE OCCASION OF NANNY CAM
how are you? what has your day been like wuu2?
Am in Rome! On holiday for the weeknd. Today I went and saw Mussolini's naked olympians at the Stadio dei Marmi (gross but amazing), ate pizza, went church, ate pizza and watched the sun set from the Giardino degli Aranci.*
*Full disclosure: I answered this wee guy at the weekend, whilst in rome. Now back in glasgow, doing my boring everyday shit, it's sunny here but.
Can you tell us about the film you submitted to Nanny Cam?
Tamagotchi Made Me Hardcore is a film that I made for my friend Luca George. We were discussing having a show together, but weren’t sure what direction to take. He suggested we make a 5 minute youtube self-portrait for each other to get the ball rolling.
I never intended to exhibit the film, the only intended audience was LG. It’s a silly film, almost flippant, and totally (to me) entwined in my relationship with Luca. I now feel that this is where it’s poignancy lies (if it has any poignancy). My work prior to TMMH was quite heavy with reference to philosophy and critical theory in what I now consider to be a very blatant way. Throughout art school I felt insecure about how I was perceived by my peers, particularly those involved in ‘fine’ art. I always felt the need to illustrate that I knew as much as them or was as well-read, so every reference or area of research needed to be explicit. ‘I AM SMART, LOOK AT HOW SMART I AM!’. I never felt this insecurity with Luca and making TMMH was a welcome respite from this feeling, all I had to consider was what would make him laugh or get him welling up.
After we had shared our films, I showed mine to a few other folk who responded well to it. I like that there is no intention or overarching message to it, it’s ostensibly a self portrait but is pretty relatable to anyone of a similar age and background to me. It exists simply as an artefact from this friendship, which I think makes it quite honest. It’s also about nostalgia, weaponised - a powerful tool in part because it is so direct and simple. Using nostalgia gets criticised, but it can be really dramatic rather than just a sappy indulgence.
Tamagotchi Made Me Hardcore is my T2 Trainspotting (I hated T2 Trainspotting).
As soon as I hear Only One - Kanye i start to get a bit sad, and it’s almost like the funniest part of the video. this literally isn’t a question, I just love North West.
I don’t really get emotionally attached to songs but Only One gets me every time. It’s such a sad song, and the video is so tender. It’s also pure mad. You know he thinks it was written by Donda, like that he channeled her spirit when writing/singing it. And he made a video game called Only One, where ur his dead mam flying up to heaven’s gate or something. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Mf4NsyOUVg)
i just watched all 13 seasons of keeping up with the kardashians because i was tired of not knowing which one was which. now im watching The Simple Life. do you like TV and if so what do u watch?
I love telly, but don’t watch so much now. Growing up my brother and I would get in from school and just watch anything and everything, even home shopping channels bcos we found them funny. I definitely use it as more of a comfort thing now, like I’ll know I’m sad or low if I catch myself watching a lot of telly. I was trying to stream The Simple Life recently (definitely a sign that things were not O.K) but couldn’t get it to work cos the internet in my flat is so shite, so I lost my cool and bought a 9-disc box set off eBay. I’ve been enjoying dipping in and out. They’re my only DVDs except for a Fassbinder box set that I found on the street.
I see that u like Grand Designs from ur insta stories.. When I go home to Shetland I lie for days and obsessively watch it at my mam and dad’s. Mam says I should have been an architect.
if you could build a grand designs house what would it be like/ no limits dream big
I'm a virgo and therefore anal af. 'A place for everything and everything in its place'. ppl are always surprised when they see my room as it's always dead tidy while my life is a mess. for my grand design i would have some big modernist building with a lot of light and very little of anything else in it. And it would need to be near the sea. I miss the sea everyday. im also pretty needy and demanding of my friends so i'd need lots of bedrooms. I like to be surrounded by ppl most of the time, but don't really want to engage with them... just share air.
What’s your favourite film?
My favourite film is The Matrix.
What is your CV like?
I’ve done a bit of art stuff since graduating, and regularly do freelance design work. I hate working, but I’ve nearly always had a job since I was a kid. I hate hospitality and like manual labour.
the bit in Tamagotchi Made Me Hardcore where the guys leg gets trapped in the concrete. That is so stressful. I don’t know whether we should tell people beforehand that its coming up (what do you think?) (bc it is shocking).
I’m in two minds about warning ppl, because the shock is such a part of it, but then I wouldn’t wanna cause any trauma. Mibbe they’ll read this and be forewarned.
My earliest memories of youtube are all of watching videos like this. A crowd of wee bams, taking too many drugs, in someone’s house crowded around a computer watching videos of wee bams hurting themselves and taking too many drugs. it makes me feel kind of queasy and embarrassed thinking about it now, but its what we did and I loved it back then.
There’s this one video Easy Lionel, of this poor fella totally mwi in Glasgow city centre that I wanted to include, but couldn’t make work. It’s prolly perfect as is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gP9C3V5w8NE
What did you study? how was it?
I studied graphic design at the glasgow school of art. I was blessed bcos I had a tutor - the G.O.A.T, neil mcguire - who i got along really well with and who taught, thought and spoke about design in a way that was really fresh and exciting to me. I regretted studying design fairly early on bcos my interest was always more fine art based, I tried to switch at the end of my second year but it was a hassle so I took a year out instead. Neil was one of my tutors for third and fourth year, I don't think I would have stuck it out if it wasn't for him. I was always pretty good at winging it through crits and making it appear like I'd done more work than I had, or I would try and retro-actively intellectualise an aesthetic decision that i'd made, but more often than not he would catch me out.
I don't think I could have done graphic design at another uni, like if you were to see my portfolio on leaving gsa there was so little of what you'd call graphic design in it. When i see degree shows for other schools the graphic design stuff is always like pure neat branding exercises and that, the gsa show is wonderfully diverse in comparison (tho, those kids prolly leave uni and get jobs in design, a lot of gsa grads don't seem to).
how does graphic design shape its students
The best thing I took from the course was working to deadlines. Doing design meant you were turning work over in an extremely limited amount of time, but the work had to be realised to a pretty full extent. I think that if i had switched to fine art I would have probably squandered my time, leaving everything to the last minute. i'm a sub and need to be bossed around and made to work (this interview is case in point, like I physically couldn't do it until I got someone else to make me).
and finally what difference do u feel between that and fine art?
There's this funny relationship between practitioners of fine art and design. Like there's a pure snobbishness that goes both ways - in my experience at least. For ages it cut me deep as I was more interested in fine art, but used to have folk make jokes about the fact that I hadn't studied it. tbh now i kind of have tepid feelings toward both and i'm more interested in fashion atm, but this waxes and wanes like the moon and i'm fickle.
u can find Benjie's website here ~ http://www.deschool.me