22 Feb Interview: Eddie Peake / AnOther
I was first due to talk to Eddie Peake on the day after his opening, until a bad case of flu saw him bed-bound for five days. It’s a strangely appropriate reminder that even the most outré performance artist is human too: fallible, vulnerable, subject to the whims of illness. I also find myself in the rare position of interviewing an artist about their exhibition after the reviews come in. What does Peake think of the response so far? “First of all, if I may say this, I absolutely love the show, I love it so much. Having that feeling lends me a certain amount of resilience.”
“One thing that comes up in relation to the show that makes me cringe a little bit is the word ‘nostalgia’,” he says, after a pause. “I understand why they’re saying that, because it is a show that looks back to a certain period of time, but it’s using that moment as a model or a template for how we share space within communities today, at a time when politics are very, very divisive.”
Peake has acquired a reputation for being bracingly candid: a notorious early stunt involved a website that was just a picture of his erect penis, and his most memorable pieces have included a five-a-side football game and rollerskating in the nude. As he puts it: “I like to do shows where I don’t leave anything at home — it’s all laid out there.” Peake’s forthright instincts have left him occupying a strange position in the art world: he’s highly collectable, but there are a few critics who view him in more sour terms.
You could chalk this up to his impressive family background, his mother being the Turner Prize-winning sculptor Phyllida Barlow (although she’s 73, her career surprisingly began its ascent at around the same time as Peake’s) and his grandfather the writer Mervyn Peake, of Gormenghast fame. The nudity also seems to prompt an oddly pearl-clutching response from certain factions of the art-going public, despite it being playful and even silly rather than straightforwardly erotic. “I feel like people look at me as a sort of provocateur, which is really not how I see myself,” says Peake. “I find that reaction very indicative of our relationship culturally to nudity, sex, identity, gender.”