Inventory Eleven

A film by Oliver Payne
Interview Philip Watts

Inventory Issue 11 – FW14

For the eleventh issue of Inventory magazine, I spent a day in Los Angeles with the British artist Oliver Payne. Having originally worked alongside Nick Relph, in a post-YBA London landscape, Oliver has shown his work internationally at The Tate, Whitechapel Gallery, MoMA and The Serpentine among many others, and is represented by Gavin Brown's Enterprise in New York, Herald St in London, and Nanzuka in Tokyo.

As part of our launch celebrations, Oliver produced a new work, entitled Inventory Eleven, that was first exhibited during of a three-day show at 0fr in Paris, and has since been on display at our New York store. Having caught up with Oliver via email recently, he explained a little about the narratives and ideas behind his latest work, which is shown online here for the first time.

Perhaps it’s best if we start by talking about the idea behind the video and your approach to making it?
I wanted to make something completely engaged in the present, a film that is vaguely from the perspective of a smart phone. I suppose I was just thinking about the experience of using your phone for a minute as a ‘visual whole’ – the soundtrack would be your iTunes or Spotify, the subtitles are like your text messages, you can play a game or maybe look at a website whilst having a little window open running a video on YouTube. So this film was a sketch for a larger idea that I’m planning to explore further. 

Modern technology, and smart phones specifically, do seem to endeavour to engage all those mediums at once. What about this idea interests you, and where did it come from?
I’m just considering the realities of daily life in a post Wi-Fi world. Ideally, there would be an app that simply went through my last month of phone usage – every call, text, video, photo, song, etc. and I’d just make a 20 minute film of that. Everything I’d used my phone for. Better still, it would go through everybody’s phone and I’d make a film of it. Maybe it would be boring – full of Geiko ads, and invoices, and being put on hold, and One Direction fan videos, and Uber receipts – but that’s probably the closest thing we have to the modern kitchen sink drama.

Do you see technology as alienating people from one another, or is there an argument that it’s actually bringing people closer together? It seems there’s a lot of tension around technology at the moment. If we’re not being listened to, we’re not listening…
Well, I think they physically symbolize our need for attention – to connect. I think there is something rather lovely in people physically gathering together at free Wi-Fi points to play online multiplayer games. None of these people speak to each other but who is to say they are not communicating in a meaningful way by playing Monster Hunter with one another?

For the launch of Issue 11 at 0fr in Paris you presented, alongside the video, a photograph of a bus shelter advertisement. Can you explain that image, and its connection to the video? This invisible luxury, or the promotion of something that isn’t really there, that can’t actually be touched, or experienced in the traditional sense.
It is a poster for and they’re using the Smurfs to endorse the forest – as if to say the realities of nature are not enough. I think the imagination is a beautiful thing, but if you step into the forest looking for Smurfs to entertain you, then you’re going to be severely disappointed. The forest should be able to sell itself without needing the support of Papa Smurf. And I love the Smurfs.

In what other ways did nature play a part in the film? It seems like a critical element, through both the collages that are displayed, the scene in the park, and on the beach at the end? Is the piece a reaction to nature, or a comment on our interaction with it?
It’s more the synthesis and simulacra of nature that I find fascinating – things like Pokémon, frozen yogurt and indoor rock climbing. I think it all comes down to an uneasy commitment to the future. We are at a stage, as humans, that we’d erect large ugly signs in beautiful places to advertise the fact that the area has free Wi-Fi (provided courtesy of Toyota) – a luxury that is totally invisible. 

We’ve discussed the inclusion of the frozen yogurt before, but for those who were not eavesdropping while we pottered around Paris, could you explain how that particular food choice connects to all this?
I see frozen yogurt as being the antithesis of ‘honest,’ artisanal, locally sourced, organic and sustainable culture. It’s fantasy food and it’s probably the closest we have come to edible 3D printing. I’m not bashing it as a foodstuff, I think it’s wonderful that all these fantastical flavours come out of a faceless pipe that’s been built into a mosaic tile wall.