A Conversation with Anna Best
Peckham, 8th of January 1999.


Me in Ladbrokes


Nina: Right then - tell me about your bingo project then, tell me how you got into it first ...

Anna: This woman called Maurine Finn who used to work at Camden Arts Center conceived of this project, I guess, for Camden - using A4E, and it's called the North London Line Link project, or something like that ... and she put me ... well I guess she had to get some artists together to make the proposal, and it's kind of gone on from there really. Lots of the original people aren't doing in any more, but the Buchler sisters...? They're doing one - two German sisters who seem really interesting and some people from Brazil and Adam Chodzko's doing something as well ...

Nina: Oh yes ...

Anna: Anyway she set it up and the money was waited for and it came through, but she left Camden and so now someone else has taken it on, but it's been on the cards for about a year and a half ... and anyway they've, what they've done is locate different places on the North London Line near Camden, and this Bingo hall is on Kilburn High Road quite near Kilburn North London Line station. They have sort of put me together with it really, I mean it's a bit like your garden thing - someone else had the idea that I would work there - which is fine and it's fantastic. It's a 1937 cinema turned .. well it's sort of um .. retro Baroque! It's weird, I don't know what it is really, all black marble columns and huge .... fanciful .... beautiful really. There's a kind of conference room there with paneling, it's great really ... a great space.

Nina: ... and the people who run the bingo hall are up for it?

Anna: The people who run the bingo hall are Rank who used to own the cinema - Mecca (Mecca is owned by Rank) which is quite interesting I didn't know that. They're up for it and I've ... basically, Camden have made the first contact, they wanted to do it that way round, although I wasn't necessarily interested in that ... but, it's quite tight gambling - there's all this law surrounding it ... which you probably know more about than me?

Nina: (laughs) Well I didn't realise that ... well it's really obvious when you think about it, but I didn't realise that bookies aren't allowed to advertise anywhere ...

Anna: Neither is Bingo!

Nina: ... even though the lottery is!

Anna: ... and fruit machines have to be behind dark glass, have you heard that one? (both laugh) You're not allowed to seduce people into gambling that's what the law is isn't it?

Nina: Yeah.

Anna: ... and you're not allowed to film ... well, my first question was what's the situation with filming in here ... and you're not allowed to film gambling to be shown to the public because it will seduce people to start gambling - not to mention the fact that a lot of people playing Bingo are there a bit like they're going up the pub on the quiet, type of atmosphere ... and they want to remain anonymous. There's a huge stigma attached to it I suppose - like Gamblers Anonymous and all that.

Nina: Is it mainly women in the Bingo Halls?

Anna: Yep, mainly not totally ...

Nina: That's quite interesting because it's quite a straight split between men in betting shops and women in Bingo - which is quite nice ...

Anna: Yep

Nina: I hadn't thought about that actually ...

Anna: Have you been going into betting shops?

Nina: Yeah ...

Anna: (laughing) They're extraordinary spaces ...

Nina: Mm... because when I was asked to submit an idea for this competition, I thought about loads of things, I knew I wanted to do some kind of more public event than just a straight gallery piece ... from doing the garden and stuff ... and initially I started to think about running some kind of parallel competition within the actual competition, if you see what I mean ... or running an amateur art competition for digital artists or something like ...

Anna: Yes, that's interesting.

Nina: Then I hooked onto this idea of going to look at the bookies round there ... I don't really know why, I suppose because the Turner Prize was on and everything and I was thinking about that and stuff. So, I just spent a day walking round all the bookies in Hoxton and I just got really excited about the idea of doing it. Partly because Hoxton has become so 'New Media, New Cafe' ... new everything and of course when you go into the bookies it's exactly as it was - which is quite nice - even though interestingly, now the bookies themselves are really trying to update their own image.

Anna: What in general or in Hoxton?

Nina: In general ... it hasn't really touched Hoxton so much ... the major chains like Ladbrokes and William Hill have really tried to update their look, but the smaller ones - like some of the one off ones in Hoxton, they are still really ... you know ... fag ash on the floor, smoky, grotty, dingy.

Anna: They have very weird interior design ... I remember from when I did the Pony Race I went in to find out about hooking up for putting bets on ...

Nina: Oh right, yes!

Anna: I went to a local one and it had this sort of weird green plastic and green carpet all over the walls ... and weird plastic things for you to lean on while you watched the screens ... yes, it was extraordinary ...

Nina: ...yeah, and it's all focused on watching the tellys or looking at the racing post which is pinned up in there ... and in the old ones they have the boards where they write up the odds and stuff, whereas now it's all much more put onto the TV's and stuff ... but the other weird thing is that, well like with the garden project I was kind of interested in the parallels with broadcasting and looking at the way that new media impacts on those worlds so ... well basically gambling has kind of pushed forward interactive technology because they want people to be able to gamble at home via their TV without having to use the phone and stuff, and so Ladbrokes is one of the top sponsors for interactive TV experiments ... and I kind of knew this in the back of my mind and thought that it was quite interesting ...

Anna: Oh really, yeah that is interesting ...

Nina: And then when you go into the bookies, no matter which one or who it's run by, the pictures are exactly the same, they are all produced by one company which is quite weird ...

Anna: What filming?

Nina: Yes, SIS the company is called ... so any horse race ... any sport is filmed by this one company ...

Anna: Is it? What about the BBC and so on?

Nina: To go into a bookies...

Anna: Oh I see ...

Nina: .... and so the pictures go out to the bookies and then they each put their own gloss over it - and so they will each have their own commentators and stuff but the actual pictures are exactly the same ...

Anna: Ah, really ...

Nina: Yes, and the company that produces them, their office is right behind LEA gallery ...

Anna: Handy, that is a wild coincidence ...

Nina: Yes, so it was one of those things which when you hear it you just think - well this is perfect.

Anna: 'I've got to do this' ... Definitely.

Nina: Yes, so I was really interested in that and so to start with I thought it would be really nice to do something that actually went out into the bookies, but I've had to sort of come back from that point ...

Anna: Why ... oh, have you actually talked to Ladbrokes?

Nina: Yes ...

Anna: You've actually had a chat!

Nina: Yes ... I met the man last night ...

Anna: Mr. Big of Ladrokes! What was he like?

Nina: Really nice actually, he's the kind of head of PR for them and what's really interesting is the first thing you always end up asking them is how they kind of get into the gambling world, and they've all got some kind of weird story and it's mainly because of horses. There's such a diverse group of people involved in it ...

Anna: In the horse world?

Nina: Yeah

Anna: People love horses, it's kind of this common denominator or something ...

Nina: Yes, so he said I've wanted the job I do now since, I was nine years old ...

Anna: To do PR for Ladbrokes?

Nina: Yep, "because I'm obsessed with horse racing and I get to go to the races all the time, I meet all the jockeys and stuff ... and I also like writing" ...

Anna: He likes writing?

Nina: Yeah ... and he was telling me that as a child he produced his own betting magazine which he would distribute to his family ...

Anna: Wow ...

Nina: ... and I was like PLEASE tell me you kept those, and he did! So I was saying bring them in ... bring them in! They sound fantastic (both screeching!) ... with made up names he gave himself to write under and all this kind of stuff ...

Anna: How fantastic ...

Nina: So, it was great actually ...

Anna: That's really, really good.

Nina: We'd missed meeting about three times and so it was getting a bit tense, basically my approach to these things is I'm just totally straight about what I'm trying to do and I don't try and describe it any differently ...

Anna: You say I'm an artist I'm doing this Ulay commission etc. yes ...

Nina: Yes, and he was up for it, so ...

Anna: Yes, I think that's really important actually... It's interesting that you say that because I've thought at the bingo ... I've always been very straight up - I'm an artist and I want to do this thing ... and I've been asked to do this sort of thing you know ... and with the bingo I was kind of wondering about doing that, I'm not sure I'm still wondering about it. I almost feel like I'd quite like to not mention the word 'art' at all, and see if there's a really different response. I don't know ...

Nina: Yeah ...

Anna: I don't know ... it's interesting because I think in a way people feel safe with 'art', or they feel safe with film and video, maybe safer than they do with art ...

Nina: The reason I would ... well for the Ulay thing I have to do it really because it's kind of a pivotal thing that I'm actually one of the nominated artists BUT I'm organizing the gambling, but in other projects I think ... well I don't know I guess it's just when you make work like that in a way it's your intention as an artist that separates it off from some other kind of activity ...

Anna: ... from just being something else, yes ...

Nina: I don't know it's something I find very ... well because I'm trying so hard for it not to be a documentary what I do, in any way ...

Anna: What are you going to do? Do you know yet?

Nina: For the Ulay thing?

Anna: Yeah.

Nina: Well, part of it has been just organizing getting a book opened on it, so Ladbrokes are going to do that ...

Anna: Ace.

Nina: Then they work out the odds and stuff, which will be quite interesting!

Anna: Do you understand all that - the odds and everything?

Nina: Well I'm getting there ...

Anna: I haven't got a clue.

Nina: So, basically, like when they do the Booker Prize (he told me about that because they do it) they'll get in an 'expert' who knows a lot about the writers and all that, and then they'll look at all that ... so for example, the year that there was a bus driver up for it and it was his first novel - so he was the sort of outside chance but popular vote and all these kind of things come into it ...

Anna: Yeah, yeah so what will the criteria be, and who will the expert be? Will you choose one?

Nina: The guy from Ladbrokes will probably consult someone and he wants to know who the selection panel will be - who will pick the winner, and then he might bring in an art critic or somebody to advise him how to lay out the odds ...

Anna: Fascinating...

Nina: So, basically what I've asked him to agree to do is that, we do the PR together and that it becomes part of my piece. So it's not just a general press release, it's something that we've written or made together - so that's one part of it ...

Anna: ... and who does that go out to?

Nina: Well we're hoping that it will go out to the normal kind of Ladbrokes publicity all the papers and stuff but then also the thing that I really want to do is to get Ulay and Ladbrokes to kind of join together somehow - so that the PR works across the two, so that the Ladbrokes PR goes out to all the women's magazines and stuff and that we ... well I'm literally going to write on it 'this is part of an art work' kind of thing and that by betting you're becoming implicated in this ... and I think he did take that on - that was the deal, by entering into it with me we were going to collaborate in some way.

Anna: That's really good.

Nina: So, that's one side of it and I want to print betting slips that'll be distributed quite widely, just for this thing ...

Anna: Widely to art people, betting shops?

Nina: Yep

Anna: Just betting shops?

Nina: Betting shops, the art world ...

Anna: How much will you involve the art world?

Nina: Well I think my cut off point will be that I want to 'control' the PR in some way associated with the actual gambling but that then I'll let it go into free fall when it comes to the way that the art world looks at it maybe...

Anna: ... and Ulay are going to publicise it to the art world, presumably?

Nina: Yep.

Anna: ... and you won't have any input into that?

Nina: I don't think I want to, no. I want that to almost be some kind of comparison.

Anna: That's interesting that's something about where the frame begins and ends isn't it?

Nina: Yes, and then in the actual gallery I'm going to make a video piece that will look a bit like the footage you see when you go into a bookies ...

Anna: Of the artists galloping up and down! (laughing)

Nina: Of the artists making work! I don't know how it's going to look but I want to make some kind of parallel between the very long time line of making a piece of work and the ten minutes it takes to run a horse race ... and I think I'm going to use a commentator to do the voice over ... from racing but that I'll write the commentary, and I'm hoping that just the way I edit it together I can make the connection between what you see in the bookies and this ... They do lots of things like picture in a window and all that kind of stuff. But it might be really mundane footage of us typing or just using a camera or something.

Anna: Just getting on the phone or whatever ...

Nina: Exactly.

Anna: Sounds really interesting.

Nina: I mean I'm interested in doing the video but it's, well I'm quite scared about it as well, because it's not ... well it's going to hang on how it's edited together basically.

Anna: Where will you do it?

Nina: Well maybe at LEA, but I sort of, well it would be OK if they really take it on and support me through it ...

Anna: ... and say we'll finish it we'll make sure we finish it ...

Nina: ... exactly but I'm a bit nervous that it's just going to be too expensive to do that and have an editor there with me all the time, so I'll probably have to get someone I know to help me edit it I suspect, maybe at LEA ...

Anna: Yes.

Nina: It might be better to do it on laser disc ... because I'm going to have to have synchronized things ... because you know it's emulating a live feed so it's really important that the different monitors are synched up exactly so it looks like it's feeding into you ... do you see what I mean?

Anna: Yeah I do, but that's not that complicated is it? That's just the edit?

Nina: Well it won't be the same tape running on each monitor I don't think - there will be things changing over I think. I might even do something using the fact there's five of us so that we are each on a monitor or... I don't know, they basically have a big monitor in the middle and then smaller ones around.

Anna: That's down to a mixer isn't it?

Nina: Yeah, so either I could use a video synchronizer or I could put it onto laser disc and then I could operate it via a computer. So I've got to do quite a bit of research.

Anna: What about these SIS people, what about the company that do the filming - can't you get them to film it?

Nina: That's another possibility and I've been to see them and chatted to them about it, but also another thing we might do, or would be nice to do ... is do a feature on the racing channel. So, they do the racing channel that goes out on Sky - which is a different kind of thing, they show live racing and stuff but they also have a lot of down time because racing is only going on for part of the day. So I think it's quite possible they'll agree to do a feature ...

Anna: ... and show your piece on telly?

Nina: Mm, OR it might be more appropriate to do something different because, well obviously I'm in a sort of liaison position between the artists and Ladbrokes and Ulay and the audience and they've obviously, the other artists have invested quite a lot of trust in me that I'm not going to take the piss through the piece ...

Anna: Sure.

Nina: So, I think maybe I don't want an SIS film crew following them around - it might be that we have to do something different ...

Anna: It would get too much out of your control ...

Nina: The other thing is I might be able to go to Ladbrokes and use their editing facilities ...

Anna: They do editing?

Nina: Yeah, because they put their own gloss over the SIS pictures ...

Anna: That's more desirable, that sounds like a good one to follow, somehow.

Nina: In a way that's the most logical extension of it, to use the actual facilities ...

Anna: ... in house ... with the people you're collaborating with ...

Nina: Yes, so it's really exciting!

Anna: Totally.

Nina: I have got a good feeling about it, and everyone I've met from the betting world has been totally up for it and really nice. I've got a great bookies I go to in Dundee as well ... Gary's the manager, let's me film in there which is really good.

Anna: It's funny that because I applied to ... It reminds me of this thing ... I applied to 'East' last year ...

Nina: Oh yeah ...

Anna: Not for the first time! (both laugh) Probably for the last, and my proposal was to run an art competition in Norwich and the art school, to do .... I can't remember what it was to do - I would provide people with some kind of a theme and then ask them to do drawings and then I'd do a competition basically ... and it didn't get in basically - but it was like this kind of competition within a competition , in a way ...

Nina: Mm, I've been watching 'Water Colour Challenge' every lunch time ...

Anna: Oh I've seen that!

Nina: Yes, I got quite obsessed with it, and I thought ... I like the idea of setting up some kind of ridiculous set up like that in a gallery ...

Anna: Yes.

Nina: It's also quite interesting to think what is 'amateur art' in terms of digital art ...

Anna: Yes

Nina: ... because that hasn't really been defined and there's a lot of web sites done by people who call themselves 'amateur artists'...

Anna: Oh, there's this really interesting one, I was on the LAB thing ... the jury - suddenly I've been propelled onto it, for Artists Film and Video and basically one of the people who sent stuff in was a wedding video maker and a filmer of catering and weddings and stuff - and of course it was my favorite ... so there was this really brilliant moment when LAB where like 'No, no but that's not art' and I was saying why has he applied then? It might be an artist in disguise! They were like, no look at his CV he's definitely not an artist ...

Nina: They were like why did we get her!

Anna: Yes, but it was very funny that there was such a certainty, no way will we consider that, but it was interesting ... more interestingly filmed and they'd put a lot of work into the application, and a lot of the stuff was awful actually, I probably shouldn't say that but it was ... it's a very vague area ...

Nina: There's an interesting problem to do with skill ... Oh, yes - this is another thing we should talk about because you know me & Karen are doing this project about MUDS and MOOS - on-line text environments ...

Anna: Vaguely yes...

Nina: Well suddenly in that we are the least skilled people artistically in the space!

Anna: In what way?

Nina: Well because we don't know the commands and stuff, we don't know how to move around or how to build things or how to do all these things ...

Anna: Right, but who does? The other players?

Nina: The other players that are in there...

Anna: ... and they're experts because they've done it for hours and hours and hours ...

Nina: ... exactly and suddenly your kind of currency as an artist is taken away from you and you're like 'ah now what do we offer?' ... and like with this Water Colour Challenge thing - if you sat down the five digital artists and ask them to do a water colour I'm sure they would be appalling most of them ... whereas the people that come on that programme ...

Anna: They're brilliant at it!

Nina: Yes.

Anna: Well a lot of being an artist is about a certain kind of skill definitely ...

Nina: But not the same kind of skill ...

Anna: ...not doing water colours or, no ... I've always thought a lot about skill or craft and how I'm not that into it really, but how I do have certain skills that are much more communicative or persuasive or they're about organizing - trying to make something happen. I recognized that relatively recently I think - that it's very similar to being good at drawing, and I think well, I've got that and I'll use it as much as I can - I'll use it when I'm in that mood or something ...

Nina: So do you know what you're going to do in the Bingo Hall?

Anna: No, I don't, I need to do more research. I feel like ... yes, I don't know what I want to do ... the first idea that I had was to do with the fact that it was a cinema and now it's bingo ... is just so sort of tempting really. There's still a screen there, Oh, and the main thing was the porter or technician who actually mends all the bingo machines, he was the projectionist when it was a cinema ...

Nina: Wow ...

Anna: ... and he's been there for years, and he's great - he's got a blue Jaguar and a mobile phone ... we've missed meetings as well but my next thing to do is go and meet him, and he'll show me round - behind the scenes of the space. I kind of like the idea of trying to work with him in a way, actually. Then there's also Mecca - mad organisation - they do talent competitions, they do trips to Brighton, they do trips to here there and everywhere, they've got a whole cultural scene going ...

Nina: ... it's almost too good isn't it ...

Anna: Yep, it's a kind of ready made or something ... and I'm thinking about how I can tie up or relate the Bingo hall with Camden. I'm doing a residency at Camden arts center in February which is kind of connected, they've put me in at the same time as the Sophie Calle show ...

Nina: Oh that'll be nice ...

Anna: I don't know what I'm going to do but I'll treat that as when I really get going on this ...

Nina: So, the Sophie Calle show will be up, but you'll be the resident artist?

Anna: Yes.

Nina: Do you know Mike Nelson? Because he's just done that ...

Anna: No, I don't but he's the boyfriend of Rachel Lowe ...

Nina: Yes! But did you see what he did there? He did this really nice piece ...

Anna: No, it sounds brilliant.

Nina: What was weird was that when I went I wasn't sure if he was in it for ages, and so I was talking really quietly for ages ... thinking any minute Mike's going to appear ...

Anna: No, I was away I really wanted to see it.

Nina: In a way having the Ulay thing to focus on with this is good, because if I'd just thought right I'll go and do a project with betting shops I would be totally 'this is just too good' ... which is what I imagine the bingo is like?

Anna: Yes, but at the moment I haven't really focused in on what I want to do. I'm still checking out the ingredients at the moment, let's say ... and the other ingredient is that Camden have hired this Curator - Peter Cross, who did 'Rear Window' and Hackney Hospital 'Care and Control' ...

Nina: Oh yes ...

Anna: ... they've hired him to look after the whole A4E project and he's great and he sort of has more ideas than I do at the moment! Which is a bit ... it's like 'No, no no ... shut-up stop saying things' but he's introduced me to a guy called Thomas Anderson who's just left Goldsmiths 'Future Designs or Design Futures' course ... do you know it?

Nina: I know the Design Futures course ...

Anna: I've only got into it through him ... But, I got interested in Catholicism because of Kilburn, Kilburn High Road has got a sort of Catholic shop in it, and the Irish community are into Bingo and there are certain quite obvious connections like paying and then putting your faith in something ... I don't know ... that relationship between money and your mental state ... or something. Anyway, this guy Thomas has been designing a new religion and he's really into it and I met him just before Christmas and he was going on about the Daz washing powder box being just like a Catholic Icon of the Virgin Mary and I was just like 'Fine'. So, Peter Cross has just said - blind date - why don't you two work together and I'm quite into that ...

Nina: It's about 18 projects ...

Anna: It's a lot of stuff yeah ... I'm at that stage where I haven't decided. It's a really small budget and I know I'm thinking of it in quite a big way .. maybe I need to tone down a bit ... not sure, but that is kind of where I'm at.

Nina: Maybe in a way it'll be good if it's not so much money because you'll be forced to use the infrastructure of the bingo hall, which might be quite nice... But it's like you say, if you meet that guy and he's fantastic suddenly you might be off down another route ...

Anna: A way in yes ... Thomas has basically said he wants to do loads of work on the project, he wants to get in touch with Rank and maybe interest them or see what they might have to say about it. Sometimes it's as if you can just push buttons ... not push buttons, but push things that are already on a trajectory and sometimes you don't have to do that much ... Sometimes you have to do loads! (both together then laughter).

Nina: Again it's like with the Ladbrokes thing - I'm sweating over where I'm going to edit all the footage and stuff and then yesterday I just said to him - this is what I need, can you help me with any of these things ... and he's like 'yes sure' ... and to them ... well it's no skin off their nose it could be really really easy to do it there - which would be fantastic, but you know it might not work ... the irony is that doing it through an arts organisation might be a nightmare!

Anna: I think that's completely possible, I really do, Arts organisations are just so under resourced that they have nothing to give sometimes ... I mean individual people have a lot to give, time and energy wise but ...

Nina: Mm, LEA were asking me to do a budget but I was saying well unless we get given the stuff we can't do it ... it's not like we need to find another 500 it's either that we get given it, or it doesn't happen.

Anna: I quite ... do you kind of enjoy the risk of a project being very dependent on the circumstances that you're working with or other people?

Nina: Yes, and one thing that I was talking to this Ladbrokes guy about, which I wanted to ask you about as well, is who you see as the audience for your work?

Anna: Oh yes ...

Nina: I've kind of got to this point now where ... what I was trying to say to him last night was imagine my audience starts with you (i.e. the Ladbrokes man) and then it kind of goes out in concentric circles from that, and the people I'm perhaps most concerned with are the people like you at the center of it but I count you as part of my audience. He got into that.

Anna: That's interesting because I was writing the subtitles for the wedding video and I want to put very few on ... and I wanted to put something about the couple being the audience, they are who the work's for in the first place or 'at least' or something - and then everyone else, like you say it just kind of reverberates outwards. I like the idea that at least two people will find this thing significant - because actually I think especially working in London, there's so much art going on so much cultural activity, it's really easy to do something and basically ... you just do loads of stuff, it might be a really good piece and no one really notices! The significance is just ... well it's as if everything is zeroed because so much is going on ... and that's what made me think well at least I'll do something that matters to one or to two people ... I don't know why or how you got into that? But it has to mean something to someone!

Nina: Strangely it happened through working on the Internet, which you wouldn't think would happen, because you're going through this supposedly global medium where you're audience is massive, can be from any where, blah, blah, blah ...

Anna: They're overloaded as well ...

Nina: Ultimately you realise that people who actually get involved in the project to quite an intimate level are your audience ...

Anna: Who participate yes ...

Nina: Yes, and you end up collaborating with them, they get something out of it - you get ideas from them ...

Anna: Visa versa ... yes ...

Nina: Then I sort or switched that over to working in public situations, like when I got the team involved to do the garden project - I suddenly thought this is fantastic, this guy would never have come to see this exhibition in a million years but here he is now giving me a list of tips to put on the web site ... what do I care if no one comes to see it after that!

Anna: That's really interesting, and one thing I like about the Bingo situation, and I haven't talked this through with Camden, is if you can't seduce someone by showing a film showing gambling then can you show it to people who are already gambling? I like the idea that if it's screened in the Bingo Hall that no one from say the art world would be able to come unless they became a member of that Bingo club a week before, which is a quid ... which is not a lot ... but it's a huge barricade in a way to access ...

Nina: It's prohibitive yes ...

Anna: Then your audience is already there, and they are the people who've actually inputted into the thing ...

Nina: I like the idea that you have a captive audience there in a way too, you know, if you don't like the people who come to the Bingo hall it's tough, you've got to work with them ... you have to get them on your side. It's not like a gallery audience where they come and if they don't like it they just drift away again ... which is again a bit like the on-line text based environment project ... you go to one and you've got to relate to who's there, you know that you're going to meet them over time ...

Anna: They determine what you are going to do as much as anything else. It is quite interesting how the 'art space' is somehow apart from the rest of public space, and it's apart from private space it's kind of neither or something, isn't it?

Nina: How many people use the Bingo hall regularly then?

Anna: Oh, loads ... 400 ... 500 loads of people. My main sort of 'worry', let's say, is always - how am I going to engage people? That's where it depends completely on the mood I'm in or what just happens to 'be' and it's hard work ... that's the really hard work is talking to people ... or something.

Nina: The interesting thing about the wedding event is that you couldn't help but be engaged by it because it was a wedding ...

Anna: Everyone got into the idea of the wedding...

Nina: I thought "Oh God is it going to be really voyeuristic", which could have been interesting, but actually it wasn't ... It was like being at some one's wedding who you knew almost ... so, you know, I found myself welling up when he was doing his speech ...

Anna: Oh I know, I cried when I was watching the video footage it was so sweet!

Nina: So, the engagement problem was sort of dealt with by the type of event ... where as with the Bingo ...

Anna: Only just though! Were you there at the beginning?

Nina: No, I got there just as the groom was doing his speech.

Anna: Oh yes, that was one of the most voyeuristic times, but then that's what weddings are like - so it fitted.

Nina: Whereas at the Bingo, people are going to do something quite focused aren't they?

Anna: Oh completely ...

Nina: It's like going to a betting shop ...

Anna: Or going to church or something!

Nina: Yes, you could be doing anything in the corner and unless you've done a lot of leg work to get people engaged ....I mean I'd like to send stuff out into the bookmakers but I know it wouldn't work because it would just be dropping into this void ..

Anna: A chasm yes ....

Nina: Whereas maybe I could work with local ones to get something going ...

Anna: Yes, I think you need to have contact. I mean the Tate ... I think it's a real issue with how big organisations approach their potential audiences, and for the wedding they sent out 4,000 ... we did a newsletter trying to get people to come to meetings and it was just a complete waste of time - because that isn't how people feel like they might become involved. You could write 'You are invited to become involved' in huge letters and it just goes in the bin! I think that's done a lot, as a token gesture, to say widen the audience or involve the locals or whatever these weird agendas are - and it's just not good enough really, and what annoyed me most about the project and what I will say formerly in a report is that - if that is what they want to do, if that is the underlying agenda for some of those kinds of projects then they have got to give it more time. Otherwise it's just well yes they got to tick that box on the funding application form, and it's really depressing. If you really want to involve people then you need at least a year, or longer, you need to really set up something.

Nina: Because even the project on the Naval Base, you'd think everyone on that base would come just out of curiosity as to what was going on in the houses, but it wasn't like that at all ....

Anna: Were they sort of leafleted and all that?

Nina: I think they were, the women who organised it put quite a lot of effort into going to community meetings and all that kind of thing ... but then basically you realise that the way I got people engaged was because I was there, I was in the garden , I was chatting to people - that's how you do it.

Anna: Definitely.

Nina: They did definitely respond to that, they could see that I was trying to dig in a quagmire (laughs) and I was willing to make a fool of myself, but also that I was working quite hard to turn this thing over ... I don't know, basically it was just chatting to people, and all the people I chatted to came to the opening which was interesting, but no other residents came to the opening ...

Anna: They didn't feel it was part of their lives ...

Nina: Yes, they weren't engaged enough.

Anna: Yes, it's a very interesting area, especially to do with lottery funding that's flying around at the moment ...

Nina: Because I'm realising increasingly, that I have quite a specific idea of who my audience is, and who I want it to be ... and I want it to change with each project.

Anna: It's not just the generic art world or something. That is interesting. I'm quite into having a foot in both worlds, or definitely having a foot in the art world because I feel that's where my next opportunity is going to come from, it's where my bread and butter is going to come from - and so I kind of like the idea of a dialogue where I might work outside the art world, and the audience may not be the art world at all and then somehow try to deal with the problem of what you take back into the art world ... and maybe to build that into the project as well, so that there's a dialogue and things cross over a bit. I mean the worse, worse worse scenario is sort of, I don't know, serving up something from the 'real world' to the 'art world' and saying 'look at this'- That's just a nightmare scenario.

Nina: That's something we find a lot working in the 'digital world' - how do you take that stuff out of the digital world without being 'look how weird this digital space is' ... because it's too easy, it's like those MUDS and MOOS, they're so bloody weird it would be just too easy ...

Anna: What, you could take that into the art world?

Nina: Yeah, we could printout dialogues that we have with people on-line, in big letters, slap it on the gallery wall and it would be interesting ... because they are so weird, but it's too easy a translation, your not giving anything back to the people you're having that dialogue with.

Anna: That would be some kind of betrayal in a way, or then you'd be an anthropologist, or whatever, a colonialist of sub-cultures ...

Nina: Which comes back to what we were saying about trying not to film things in a way that looks like a documentary, because in a way you're trying to document your own process rather than make a documentary about the situation you're involved in.

Anna: That's a really interesting one of who's framing who, and yes, where's the camera pointing and who's holding the camera ... and you've just put yourself in ... and the Tate Wedding thing, first time I've ever put myself in the video, and I'm kind of uncomfortable about it, but it feels really necessary, that I'm on an equal. I'm mentioned, so there I am ... but I don't like it!

Nina: That's interesting because I'm uncomfortable about taking myself out of it! Out of the video, because in a way when I was presenting it and making a fool of myself, it seemed more ... well, because I wasn't making a documentary about the estate, it was about me in the estate ...

Anna: No, I see that, what you were doing ...

Nina: Whereas now with the Ulay thing, because it's a competition between the five of us - I can't do the commentary, I need to be up for criticism as much as the other artists, or for praise or whatever ... and so I think I will have to get someone else, it will have to be an outside voice to do the commentary. That's why I was interested in what you were saying, maybe I just get someone else to edit the footage that I take and to put their gloss on it, I don't know. I find that problem of where you position yourself in it quite ...

Anna: It's interesting.

Nina: In the horse piece you just hear the tannoy saying 'This is by the artist Anna Best' and is that the only point of reference to you in that? You don't see you charging about with the gymkana ponies?

Anna: (laughs) No, in the pony race, and the wedding video, I'm present but as someone ... actually sweeping up, funnily enough, just someone behind the scenes. I don't think I appeared except for it saying 'directed by' you know project 'directed and produced by' ... I mean, I have a real problem with credits and I'm wondering at the moment how to frame the wedding video. Do I say ... yes that's a weird question, and it feels very important.

Nina: Because as you were saying ultimately the decisions come down to you ...

Anna: Yes, in a way the project was a lot more collaborative than the video has been, the video has been a very singular vision in a way going into it. It's been about tying things up from my point of view very much. I don't know, I feel like it can change with every project actually and that I don't have to say my status as an author will always be on this level , I will always be this collaborative, I will always be totally in control ... I think it can really vary and depend on what happens.

Nina: To go back to what we were saying about intention, and you were saying perhaps you won't make it clear that you're an artist. I think that in a way, like with this guy from Ladrokes, I think that me stating that I see my relationship with him as part of the artwork is probably quite important though ... I don't know ... I think a lot of it comes up intuitively as you're doing stuff.

Anna: Yes.

Nina: It's like with the couple who agreed to let you film the wedding.

Anna: Oh, I would have to have told them! I mean that would have been ... but of course it did come up in my head! I mean do I ... how much do you say? Yes, but it seemed to be very clear that we had to be completely open with each other, and it worked very well and they clocked it very quickly - what I was trying to do, and they also had their own understanding of what it would mean for them, which I thought ... fine. They really felt, well she really felt that they were subverting what a wedding might be by doing this ...

Nina: Oh that's nice ...

Anna: I didn't think I was doing that, but that's fine if she got that. In the Lambeth walk project I used the fact that I was an artist as a way of saving my skin at one point! Literally, someone got really angry with what was going on and I kind of ran up to this guy and said 'It's all right, don't worry it's only an art project', and it was quite an interesting moment for me, because I realised I really had to use that moment to take the meaning away that this person was seeing. It was a really interesting moment and quite weird - it really sticks in my head. Anyway intention as you were saying ...

Nina: I don't know, I only really realised yesterday as I was saying it, that it was really important that I didn't try to pretend that he wasn't going to be implicated in it ...

Anna: I think that's right, but then how do you credit work? One of the things that I'm really wondering about at the moment is that if I'm taking something back into the art world or wanting to operate in the art world as well ... I mean it's happened totally with the wedding project, I mean it's all 'Anna Best has done this thing' and there's not a long list of credits, or names on the invite, I mean there will be in the show but, yes I don't know what to think about it, and I feel like maybe I'm being a bit weedy not stating that I'm collaborating, or maybe I'm not really collaborating ... I guess I'm just dealing with things as they come up, and trying to do them in the way that seems right.


Safe Bet website | Original Proposal | Nina Pope



Safe Bet website