In Life Span at Glasshouse projects, Jame St Findlay displays a collection of objects, both quotidian and marinal, that are separated from their intended use. Buoys, usually hung from the sides of London houseboats, are rendered in glazed ceramic and suspended from the gallery ceiling. The artist imagines these ordinary objects as future relics of our contemporary age - their purpose unclear, they become mysterious, archaic and alluring - the marker of a civilisation whose practices have been long lost to the annals of time.
An iconographic language is developed through Life Span. From advertising slogans to Getty images, moments of 21st century life appear scattered across the surfaces of St Findlay’s fired clay. These fragmented, images conjure uncanny yet touching moments - viewing the old BT piper logo as a faded Barthesian symbol of early 2000s mass media is unexpectedly moving. The slow dripping of river water echoes through the exhibition, grounding Life Span in its urban environment, and crucially, the preserving silt of the river Thames. 
Jame St. Findlay is currently completing their final year at Royal Academy schools; their moving image work Death Knell (2022) is being shown at Camden arts centre as part of the 2023 Bloomberg New Contemporaries. Life Span ran until the 9th of March in the incubator space Glasshouse projects, part of the Gathering space.
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Hi Jame, it’s great to talk to you. I was wondering if you could introduce your practice to METAL. How did the show for Glasshouse projects develop? Did you have any key texts, films or artworks that you looked at while preparing the show?
Hello METAL. I am a multidisciplinary artist working in film, performance, sculpture, and drawing. My work deals with themes of collapse, the ultra-quotidian, and reality.
Having only really exhibited film work in the past, Life Span represents my first-ever presentation of solely sculpture. I decided that I wanted the show to be centric to the buoys; in this way, they acted as a locus point from which all the other work in the show spawned. I had previously exhibited two of the forms as part of a student showcase at The Royal Academy. I displayed a buoy suspended above a flooded polyester suit jacket, and decided to carry this format into the show, marrying each suspended form with a different flooded vessel.
In terms of artworks that inspired me, I have been looking a lot at the work of sculptors like Magali Reus, Liz Magor, Cathy Wilkes, and Spencer Lai. Liz Magor’s recent show at Focal Point Gallery really resonated with me. I also loved Spencer Lai’s recent show at Neon Parc in Melbourne (which I only saw online, sadly), which featured a huge assemblage of small dolls, perfume bottles and other ephemera enclosed in the centre of the gallery behind an unpainted picket fence.
It’s refreshing to see work that breaks through the confines of how sculpture is supposed to be displayed; I like work that plays with space.
Entering Life Span, one is struck by the shape of the buoy displaced from its usual setting. Its materiality is subverted; rather than floating plastic, it appears as suspended ceramic forms. Could you discuss the symbolism of the buoy within the show?
Most of my ideas come to me while in transit. In the summer of 2022, as I walked down the canal, I was struck by the houseboats adorned on every side with these lattices of ropes and buoys. I thought they were beautiful, as if the boats were wearing jewellery. I had been working with ceramics for a while at this point, and the natural progression was for me to translate that shape into clay.
At that moment, it was as if I could see past the menial, logistical function of the buoy and see it for its formal qualities. As soon as I produced and suspended the first one, I was entranced; I knew it was something I would be working with for a long time. In my work, I re-tread territory over and over again. In my making process, I truly stopped seeing them as buoys, yet I understand it’s hard to separate the form from its intended function. To me, they became these lonely sentinels, these kinds of time capsules which took on their own life, their own identities.
A particular feature is the large-scale numbers painted directly onto the gallery floor between artworks. Then, the jesmonite clock faces fixed to the ceilings. One is aware of the passage of time - is this the intended effect?
Time, or temporality, is something I think about a lot in my work and life in general. I have always been fascinated by memory and humanity’s collective cultural obsession with time. Particularly, time in relation to achievement, with what is time well spent, and with the idea of wasted time. Time as a concept is so mundane that it becomes almost invisible; but it is also enormous, omnipresent and impossible to really comprehend.
I became fascinated with the sequence of numbers on a clock face, how every lived moment can be categorised within the framework of the numbers one to twelve. I had begun transcribing this sequence of numbers onto my drawings and sculptures. I had the idea to turn the room into a clock face; the numbers get lost among sculptures, and they become markers instead of categories. On the gallery floor these numbers are actually rendered in sieved flour; they appear solid and flat but are, in fact, incredibly fragile. Most did not survive beyond the first week. It was important to me that they existed in a fleeting medium, that they were subject to change. 
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How does text figure into the show, Life Span?
Text is of extreme importance to me in every medium I work in. I am a constant note-taker. The text in Life Span is a mixture of automatic writing, borrowed lyrics from songs, and various logos and pieces of text I have seen used in advertising contexts over the last years. I am interested in language as a medium, and how if removed from its original context a piece of text can take on a life of its own. One buoy reads “Ask me what I did with my life”, which is a heartbreaking statement. Yet, it is borrowed from the summer anthem I Got U by Duke Dumont (2014). Another reads “artifice, mortality, innocence” which according to Joni Mitchell are “The Three Great Stimulants”. I have also utilised a lot of romantic platitudes in the show, phrases like “Together Forever”.
I recently had a tutorial in which I took someone to see the show; they told me it was as if I had taken an interesting book and torn it up, spread it all over the room - that nobody would ever read it as a result. This was meant as a criticism, but in a strange way, I think this is what I wanted to achieve. There is a sense of overwhelm when looking at the work in the show. A viewer will pick out choice phrases, little glimmers in amongst everything else. Nobody can notice every single detail.
Upon entering the gallery, visitors observe the bi-weekly raining of artworks onto the floor or into receptacles placed beneath them. It is rare to witness a show that contains this kind of eroding, slow movement. How did you implement this process of raining?
The work in question is Time Keeper 2 a ceiling-mounted clock face that rains twice a week for an unspecified period of time. It is shown in conjunction with Time Keeper 1 which is a similar but impotent version of the same work, which does not rain. I had the idea to create a raining sculpture last year.
I feel there’s a huge amount of fountains in art shows at the moment and for the last few years and I wanted to create a work using water that felt less formulaic or generic. I had never seen rain in a gallery or seen a puddle form on the floor of an exhibition space. It is at odds with the conventions of a gallery where everything is tidy and hidden. Usually, problems are fixed quickly, and leaks are cleaned up, not left to soak into the floor. The rain feels disruptive, in a way that, for me, makes the show feel less static; it gives it a life.
The receptacles are quite uncanny. They vary from large stone troughs to plastic bottles. Objects associated with disuse are reclaimed into the gallery space. Were these found objects?
The vessels under each buoy are, in a clockwise direction; a deep plastic catering bucket from the kitchen at school, filled with a mixture of water and cooking oil. Inside is a found photograph of a mother and daughter, or perhaps two close friends, laminated and adhered to the base of the bucket. A small jesmonite cast of a Welsh brass plate featuring a man in a conical hat working with a spinning wheel, the dish is filled with coins that have had their faces sanded off. A bottle of Highland Spring sparkling water that has been cut in half and filled with water from a peat bog in the north of Scotland. An extremely generic resin bird bath, bought from a garden centre, this particular bird bath is the standard product stocked by most distributors that sell garden ornaments, it is filled with sanded coins, and peat stained water. A Belfast sink taken on loan from The Royal Academy; it had sat gathering rain in the courtyard and bears the marks of decades of use by former and current students.  A shallow baking tray was found discarded in the alley outside of school, filled with months' worth of dried rainwater and dust; round the room are several bottles of river water, and water from the decorative fountains at two different luxury apartment complexes that are situated beside the Thames.
In the press release, the character of the nameless heterosexual male is mentioned. Who is this figure to you?
The everyman is a character I often inhabit in my work as he is in every regard antithetic to my day-to-day existence. As a gay artist, exploring themes of heteronormativity or normalisation, in general, is far more interesting to me than exploring my own queerness; I feel that I live that every day, and I want to use my work as a means of exploring other narratives. The nameless heterosexual male is, to me, the generic drone worker family man that late-capitalist society wants us to be. He is ok with giving up almost all of his time to work a job that means very little - he aspires to fatherhood and marriage and he is happy to engage in the framework of the generic life model that is fed to him, a kind of hyper-normalised existential inertia. I am at odds with everything the everyman stands for.
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One bouy is suspended from the silhouette outline of a rose attached to the gallery wall. Another hung above an ornate bird bath collecting water. These two elements feel almost poignant and romantic. Could you discuss them?
The rose bracket is the same shape as a stock image called wilting rose that I took from an open-source stock pdf website. The bird bath is also mass produced, it came from a box and had probably never been touched until I took it out and assembled it. Interestingly, these elements read as romantic, as things that have feelings or heart, when in reality, their sources are completely sterile. I am interested in the mass production, the generic, and the mass appeal of the generic. The bird bath especially is an object that resonated with me a lot. It is a beautiful thing, but it has no soul; it’s lifeless but gives the impression of having lived, with its fake verdigris patina and faux metallic finish. The rose is an almost universal symbol of love; I was interested in how far I could push it so that it still retained that warmth, even though it is made of steel and coated in the same paint railings painted in public parks.
The show features an iconographic programme, with stock images and logos transformed into a new hieroglyphic language. The icons recall Nancy Spero’s vast atlas of images and silhouettes collected from art history, re-collaged into her scrolls of the 1970s. Do you consider these a part of your own atlas?
I love Nancy Spero’s scroll works. I remember seeing a show of them a few years ago where I spent a long time looking at each individual glyph and image she’d used, and I was transfixed. I had never thought about them in relation to my own work, but I do see a similarity in terms of our treatment of imagery.
The show is perhaps more like a mind map than an atlas; it’s a sprawling ven diagram of my phases while making it. What I like about Nancy’s scrolls is no image has a hierarchy over another. So, too, in my work, logos from estate agents sit alongside religious imagery, historical diagrams, lists of terms from beauty salons, song lyrics and silhouettes of couples kissing. It all exists on one plateau, there is no intended or implemented value system.
As the press release states, “Moments of familiarity indulge our instinctive urge to decipher.” Do you consider the objects in the show to display a sort of history upon their surface, akin to an archaeological find?
Whilst making the work I didn’t think about the idea of the buoys being buried and dug up in the future. Still, I have begun to see them as time capsules, and the idea excites of somebody one day deciphering our time period through the buoys as artefacts. They do contain a history on their surface. But, this history is a confused one that only mimics the time we live in; hyper-crowded and overwhelming to an extent, impossible to understand truly.
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