Artist Talk : Adam Dembski- Bowden

Adam Dembski-Bowden is a Luton based artist who studied his Masters degree at Slade School of Fine Art in London.  His art practice is based on social occurrences with high focus on social interaction.

Adam is the primary carer of his Grandmother who suffers from Dementia. She appears a lot in his artwork. One of the pieces was inspired by a phrase his Grandmother used to repeat, she used to say she never thought she would go gaga. This gave Adam the inspiration to mix images of his Grandmother with images of Lady Gaga in a photomontage style and then get her to sign next to the quotes he wrote at the bottom. This gave the effect of a celebrity portrait. 

He also created two video pieces involving his Grandmother. In the first Adam is sitting beside his Grandmother but we cannot see their faces, Adam is the one filming. One by one he showed a selection of toys and ornament owls that his Grandmother had been given over the years. He in turn discussed each of the owls with her to see her reaction to them. We only got to watch a little of this video but her interest in the owls dipped in and out and she confessed she did not like some of them.

Another video was taken looking at his Grandmother sitting in her chair. The video was extremely simple but highlighted all her mannerisms and actions.

As a student studying at Slade in London, he encountered a group of women who deemed him unable to appreciate feminist art because he is a man. This inspired him to create an alter ego, Nelly, who was a man ( but never Adam) dressed in a black morph suit who wore Hawaiian theme attire. Nelly was placed on a chat roulette alternative and sat fully clothed in a bath reading a book about pigs. The idea of the piece was to see how long people stayed on webcam for.

Whilst on Craigslist, Adam came across a man who wanted to be hired as a slave. He initiated a Skype conversation with the man who explained all the services he could perform. The conversation lasted pages and pages and became a part of Adam’s degree show piece. Along with his created a series of chairs that encompassed the acts the slave wished to perform and Adam being uncomfortable with contact. A section of his degree show work centred around the acts the slave wanted to perform. This involved the chair, blue tack balls and also toenails.Adam invited him to the show with adverts on Craiglist. One of his degree show pieces was banned from being shown by the Slade board and Adam has a copy of the letter they sent him due to the participation of the people who may not have know they were in a public exhibition.

Being interested in video, another piece he did involved pouring cream upon himself and waiting for his dogs to lick it off. His aim was to tie in with the theme of control, Unfortunately he did not obtain the outcome that was in his vision, the dogs did not end up fighting over the cream however he did think it was successful being that one dog felt it had to wait for the other dog to finish his helping before starting his own.

The last piece of work he showed us involved the use of an actor. He created a situation in which he and the actor sat side by side at a table and were filmed in order to see the outcome of this social interaction, From the viewpoint of someone observing this interaction, it seemed awkward and even we did not know where to put ourselves. The running time of the video was one hour in which it seemed there was in fact no interaction of any kind between Adam and the actor.

I found Adam’s practice interesting and especially where he gets his inspiration from. He is not afraid to break boundaries of what is Art and challenge not only himself but the viewers of his pieces.  He clearly puts a lot of thought behind his work. I am really intrigued to find out more about is forthcoming projects and where he sees his work going in the future. Overall a really fluid talk and an in depth practice.


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