Dominic from Luton stars as the cross-dressing champion of the British underdog in his own photos.
Shoes Off If You Love Luton! wasn’t chosen as the cover image of the Saatchi Gallery‘s upcoming show for nothing. Whether dressing up as Margaret Thatcher (his “magnum opus”), his dog Dolly, or a Burberry-clad chav, Dominic from Luton provides undeniable Brit impact.
So… why Luton, exactly?
Most people think Luton is shit, but I’ve always loved the idea of the underdog. Luton’s got a rough deal over the years, and deserves better than that.
You’re often in drag. Do you think that helps or hinders viewers to take your art seriously?
Humour’s not a bad way to engage people, to make them react, though the works themselves are quite serious.
Do you consider yourself a performance artist as well a photographer?
Definitely. I was recently asked to give an artist’s talk at a working men’s club. But I was more interested in it being experiential, a shared moment, through a three-minute pop hit in the guise of singer Paul Young.
Is your work distinctly British?
A lot of what I do is autobiographical, and has to do with Thatcherism, which my family bought into. Their current state is a consequence of their trying “to better themselves”.
What if the viewer doesn’t pick up on all the multiple Brit cultural references?
They don’t have to have a sense of contemporary British cultural issues. I’m more interested in people actually liking my work at face value.
Are your performances re-enactments, like Jeremy Deller’s Battle of Orgreave?
It’s a rebirth. I’ve thought about recreating when Millwall came to Luton for an epic football cup title in 1985 and basically rampaged through the town. It was also racially motivated. They attacked the referee, tore up the seats, and it was one of the most violent incidents in English football history.
What influences and inspires you most?
I’m obsessed with plays. I recently worked with David Eldridge on a one-day event. Someone I look at is Stuart Brisley, the daddy of British performance art: he’s fearless. Gilbert and George are still fantastic and relevant. There’s also a very underrated, late 90s band called Campag Velocet, which means taking drugs while cycling.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
A collaboration in which I make my dog into a fancy dress costume. It’s going to be furry, have whiskers and look identical to my dog, Dolly. We’re going to walk down Whitechapel High Street, then to a park off Brick Lane to play football together; it’s going to be documented. But before that, I’ve got a load of fake Burberry fabric from Shepherd’s Bush Market. I’m going to construct another Thatcher in a power dress suit, with pleated skirt, tights, high heels, Burberry makeup. I’m using Burberry as camouflage, as a vehicle for that term “chav”. It’s a deplorable, lazy word to describe people who haven’t got very much. It’s a very British affair.
1. Paul Young from Luton (2013): “He was a global pop-star and nice bloke. I wanted to breathe life into his memory and sing a love-song to my Luton Town.”
2. Shoes Off If You Love Luton! (2012): “The Reebok is the emblem of everyman, people I grew up with. The 99 with flake tattoo is a beautiful nod to that fleeting moment in suburbia, the sound of the ice-cream van in summer.”
3. Antagonistic Relationship Aesthetics (2011): “One of my favorite pieces. I think art has a duty to communicate, and I was the lucky recipient of this phrase via football.”
4. The Pursuit of Happiness (2007): “I found this bike in a skip in Walthamstow. This piece was never trying to do that much, that’s why it worked. It was purchased by buyers for Paul Smith.”