Which artists have most inspired you?
I was introduced to Christian Boltanski’s work at art school. What drew me to him was his acknowledgement of the victims of the Holocaust and of history, and the materials that he uses, such as photographs, clothing and lighting. I’m also heavily influenced by Aboriginal Australian artists Julie Gough and Vernon Ah Kee: I admire their fearlessness and drive to create artworks that target the treatment of Aboriginal people during the Frontier Wars – the colonisation of Australia. I see their work as historical documentation, much like my own practice.
Tell me about your residency at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham. What interests you about the local context and how will this manifest in your work?
The University of Birmingham is where the first calculations for the atomic bomb were written by physicists Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls. Part of my residency will be about researching those scientists: hopefully I’ll spend time in the lab where they worked and talk to historians who have written about them.
I am planning to create a work in collaboration with scientific glassblowers in Birmingham, about the internal structures of these weapons and the equipment that might have been around when they were developed. Frisch and Peierls were aware of the danger of the nuclear atom when they began, but continued to work on it anyway. Not long after that came the Manhattan Project – and Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Maralinga. When you think of weapons of mass destruction, it all sort of started in Birmingham.
‘Yhonnie Scarce’ is at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 9 April – 1 July