#QueeringLockdown The Beauty of the Discarded: recycling and queerness in Daniel Fountain’s work

In this episode of #QueeringLockdown I am interviewing interdisciplinary artist and researcher Daniel Fountain (he / they) about the intersections between craft and queerness, language and identity.

Daniel Fountain, ‘Cocoon‘. 2020. Discarded textiles, found objects, acrylic medium, dirt, latex, industrial pulley hook, 148cm x 54cm, installation dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.

Francesco Ferranti: Hey Daniel, can you first of all introduce yourself?

Daniel Fountain: I am Daniel, an interdisciplinary queer artist, mainly working with textiles, assemblage, waste and found objects. I use they / he pronouns. I am currently undertaking a practice-led PhD at Loughborough University, researching the intersections between craft, queer identity and waste, broadly speaking.

FF What does #QueeringLockdown mean to you? Why did you decide to take part in my project?

DF: Mainly because I think art is a vital source for comfort, joy and stimulation for many in times like this I guess. Also that such projects provide the ability to reach out and share the work (and experiences) with other queer kin.

FF: Do you have some tips for self-care during this period of Quarantine?

DF:

Try to keep some sort of a routine – waking up at the same time, going to bed at the same time, and so on.

I have a two-year-old spaniel who keeps me busy and entertained on our daily allotted walk chasing after leaves and butterflies…

Connecting with others (virtually) is really important. I’ve been taking part in a queer theory reading group with some colleagues and some friends I have been starting a regular weekly pub quiz via Zoom.

I’ve been finding it hard to concentrate on much, especially my artistic practice or writing on occasion. I think admitting that that this is perfectly acceptable (and normal) during a pandemic is important. Don’t force it and try not to worry if you’re not feeling productive.

FF: Both your works ‘Cocoon‘ (2020) and ‘Nest‘ (2019), entirely made from discarded textiles and found-waste objects, seem so relevant to meditate on queerness and community in these porous, uncertain, and fluid times of COVID-19 pandemic . Can you elaborate more on the meaning and making process behind them?

DF: Nest‘ (2019) started as a small project, and grew while collecting the materials I have found. The piece is made from found and discarded materials interwoven, such as stained textiles with holes, plastic packaging, feathers, electrical wire, waste threads. Given that queer citizens often feel cast aside or ‘refused’ in society, it felt fitting to construct my own nest using materials that have been discarded, tainted, unloved and marginalised. The aim here was to give agency to these shunned objects, celebrate queer identity, inviting people to engage with the piece, sit in it, and contemplate.

Daniel Fountain, ‘Nest’ (2019). Found and discarded objects, 118 cm x 118cm (including: ex boyfriend’s shirts, stained textiles, waste threads, electrical wire, trash bags…)
The work resembles a large nest big enough for a human being to sit in. It is made from braided fabric that is spiralled around and there are a variety of materials woven between its layers including feathers, plastic packaging, discarded clothing and costume jewellery. It is brightly coloured from all of the different fabrics used to create the structure. The photograph shows Nest in an exhibition space on a grey floor.
Daniel Fountain, ‘Nest’ (2019). Found and discarded objects, 118 cm x 118cm (including: ex boyfriend’s shirts, stained textiles, waste threads, electrical wire, trash bags…)

Cocoon‘ (2020) is a re-working of ‘Nest‘ and spotlights the crucial role of the making process and how the materials are always reused and recycled back into the practice again. The work explores ideas of domesticity and home, demonstrating how for queer lives these notions are continuosly contested, in states of flux, and ever-changing.

Presented in its evolved form, the work, made from discarded textiles, latex, acrylic medium, represents a corpse-cum-cocoon structure, which oozes, sheds and drips abject substances. The twine, sourced from a local fishing lake, is done in bondage knots, and I used it as a nod to the Japanese decorative art of Shibari and to sexual (queer) subcultures.

Daniel Fountain, ‘Cocoon‘ (2020). Discarded textiles, found objects, acrylic medium, dirt, latex, industrial pulley hook, 148cm x 54cm, installation dimensions variable.
Daniel Fountain, ‘Cocoon‘ (2020). Discarded textiles, found objects, acrylic medium, dirt, latex, industrial pulley hook, 148cm x 54cm, installation dimensions variable.

FF: You were selected as one of the artists for And What? Queer Arts Fest 2020 with your piece ‘Faggots‘ (exhibition closed prematurely for pandemics). Can you tell us about your findings about the etymology of the word, which has later been referred to gay people in a pejorative sense?

Daniel Fountain, ‘Faggots‘ (2019-20). Found object sculptures, dimensions variable.
Daniel Fountain, ‘Faggots‘ (2019-20). Found object sculptures, dimensions variable.

The project ‘Faggots‘ started with a research on the roots of the world faggot- primarily a bundle of sticks, and twigs used to burn heretics and people regarded as others at the stake. This series of work explores this process using found objects including poles, rope, and gloves. The specific method of binding follows the Shibari bondage tradition, offering reference to (queer) sexual culture.

Daniel Fountain, ‘Faggoting‘ (2019). Scrap fabrics, darning thread, broken/found jewellery, dimensions variable.
Daniel Fountain, ‘Faggoting‘ (2019). Scrap fabrics, darning thread, broken/found jewellery, dimensions variable.

Additionally, in needlework faggoting (or fagoting) refers to a method of joining two pieces of fabric together leaving a small gap or ditch between them with a zig-zag pattern. Within this series the process of faggoting has been used to unite scraps of waste fabric and the stitch itself has been intentionally exaggerated. Sections have also been adorned with bits of broken jewellery which provoke associations with the human body, adornment and excess.

FF: Which people keep you inspired and motivated during these days of social distancing?

Aaron McIntosh has been working on a brilliant community textile project called ‘Invasive‘ which is a collection of stories of LGBTQ+ people from community workshops and archival material. It fills me with hope and joy.

John Perangie has been creating some really interesting work from home using household objects such as tin cans and marigolds.

Sarah-Joy Ford‘s research is interested in re-visioning lesbian archives and whilst she usually relies on technical  digital embroidery machines, she is creating some beautiful watercolours of lesbians in the meantime. I featured her as part of my Queer(ing) Craft Issue of Decorating Dissidence .

Matt Smith has undertaken many projects that explore the practical ways in which craft can explore untold queer histories in museums, galleries and historical houses.

FF: Are you currently working on any projects during Lockdown?

DF: Due to the COVID-19 situation several conferences and exhibitions I was due to present or exhibit at have been cancelled so future projects are very uncertain for me. That said, I’m channelling energies into my practice-led PhD research and working towards a collaborative symposium and exhibition entitled ‘Let’s Talk ‘Dirty’!’.

FF: What does queer future after COVID-19 look like to you?

DF: I’ve noticed a lot of people saying that they can’t wait for everything to get back to ‘normal’. But what does ‘going back to normal’ mean? Normal for our community, and especially for other marginalised groups (such as QTPOC, disabled, sex workers, and so on), was often fairly terrible before the pandemic anyway at the hands of heteronormative, capitalist society. I hope for a different world after COVID-19, not a ‘return to normal’, but a future where everyone is more supportive of each other and actively contributes to enact real social change.

Links:

Daniel’s editorial for Decorating Dissidence: https://decoratingdissidence.com/tag/issue-eight/

Website: www.danielfountain.com

Instagram: @danielfountainart

Twitter: @Daniel_Fountain

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