Welcome to the only official site for People Like Us and Vicki Bennett
Since 1991 British artist Vicki Bennett has been working across the field of audio-visual collage, and is recognised as an influential and pioneering figure in the still growing area of sampling, appropriation and cutting up of found footage and archives. Working under the name People Like Us, Vicki specialises in the manipulation and reworking of original sources from both the experimental and popular worlds of music, film and radio. People Like Us believe in open access to archives for creative use. In 2006 she was the first artist to be given unrestricted access to the entire BBC Archive. People Like Us have previously shown work at, amongst others, Tate Modern, Whitechapel Gallery, The Barbican, Centro de Cultura Digital, Maxxi and Sonar, and performed radio sessions for John Peel and Mixing It. She has an ongoing sound art radio show 'DO or DIY' on WFMU. The People Like Us back catalogue is available for free download hosted by UbuWeb. Nothing Can Turn Into A Void – a doc film about People Like Us has been screening in cinemas and festivals since Autumn 2015.
Currently, Vicki is focussing on expanding a/v work for a multiscreen and multi-speakered environment with Recombinant Media Labs own Cinechamber, with 10 screen work "Gone, Gone Beyond". Also a new People Like Us live performance (and sometimes stand alone movie) "The Mirror" premiered at FACT, Liverpool in Spring 2018 and now tours as a live performance (Europe), and stand alone movie (US). October 2018 sees the release of a new CD/online album also called The Mirror.
London’s Horse Hospital are very happy to present a double bill of horror themed content from People Like Us (aka Vicki Bennett) – legendary figure the field of sampling / appropriation and regular host on the Horse Hospital’s beloved WFMU, alongside Gwilly Edmondez known widely as the many faceted godfather of Wild Pop, founding member of Radioactive Sparrow and one half of YEAH YOU.
You were so young, only sixteen, when you got interested in “collage”. ¿What pushed you to get into that first experimentation?
I have always been inspired by music and moving image rather than non-time-based media. The only education that I completed was a pre-degree art and design foundation course and I immediately was most interested in photography rather than drawing or sculpture, etc. I was lucky enough to have a tutor there to lent me his books on performance art, conceptual art and photo collage, and through that I started working with footage and pictures as “found” objects rather than trying to capture something through a lens alone.
Are you aware that you get into cut&paste in a time and being part of a generation that wasn’t digital? In which ways could that circumstance have influenced your work?
What I do is folk art in the age of digital reproduction. When I started it was in the age of analogue reproduction. I couldn’t predict how fast things would develop around 2000 with the age of faster cheaper computing and broadband internet. When I started it was still possible to do quite a lot with a cassette four track, hifi-based electronics and a scalpel and glue. I couldn’t go back to that way of working now and I don’t romanticise it at all. I always had a vision of what I am doing now but had to wait, and in some ways I’m still waiting. For the past two years I’ve been making a 360 surround immerse audiovisual work called Gone, Gone Beyond. This is only possible to do with the fast computer that I now have, but I still am looking ahead and forward, or rather my visions of what I could do next are.
Do you think that for digital natives, collage, or the fragmentation of things, is something more natural, or there is no difference?
No, I think computers and also analogue copying (cassette, photocopier, printing press) are modelled around the human mind’s way of working. We learn and improve ourselves by copying and improvising, by cutting and pasting in our own lives. That is all that we have taught machines to do for us.
Another fact that is related to your job, is that digital media caused an over documentation. Nowadays everything is filmed, photographed and saved. What implies for an artist that works with found footage?
That is true, but most of what is documented is pretty trivial, and the analogue version of that might be taking photos and leaving them in the wallet that you were given them in when they came back from the photo developers. I think once again it’s to do with the way that we are, we like to document as a “witness” to us having been somewhere or done something. This is why people used to like to photograph a landmark, or themselves in a landmark, it isn’t necessarily because they are going to ever look at that again but they want to take the snap shot to some how validate that they were there, possibly with the intention that they would share it in the future with someone, or just with themselves. Although a lot of the time they never will.k
There are some authors that think that this over documentation cancel out, in some way, the “oblivion” and get us into “loop dynamics”, blocking progress or experimentation, especially in artistic languages. Do you agree with that? What do you think about it?
I agree that we all are in danger of repeating ourselves over and over again rather than being on a variable cycle of gradual/sudden change. Although the latter happens naturally if we try and do the same thing over and over anyway.
How much importance do you give to movements like Collaborative Art and DIY? Nowadays what role plays the authorship in contemporary art and what it means to be an artist?
I would rather that there were not “movements”, since they imply that something is in or out, or good and bad. I understand the need to categorise in order to communicate faster but at the same time it can trivialise the subject matter then toss it onto the scrapheap once it’s been summed up. DIY is very important, to learn through repetition is how we finally come up with something that makes sense to us, something that is more than the sum of the parts. Authorship is limited once something is published. You cannot put something out into the public and still have 100% control of it.
What could we see in Oviedo on this trip trough 25 years of “People Like Us”?
I’ve been publishing work since 1991 (so it’s more than 25 years now, in fact!) and decided to make an audiovisual concert compiled from a number of different works. So it’s a whirlwind rollercoaster ride!
The Mirror will show in its theatrical form at Recombinant Festival, San Francisco at the end November/beginning December 2018 – specific date to be confirmed nearer the time, but here’s a heads up about the festival in the meantime!
Discrepant Sucata Tapes (CS72) SUC19 On Pre-Order. Shipping mid-October 2018
Vicki Bennett aka People Like Us returns to Sucata Tapes with another epic radio collage from the archives. You can buy the cassette (with a digital download included from us or Discrepant, and if you want just the digital download then get direct form Discrepant.
“The work of People Like Us rests gingerly between two dangerous positions: on the one hand, the risk of fashioning merely stylish pastiche out of borrowed finery for the sake of self-conscious kitschiness; on the other hand, the risk of making simplistic, heavy handedly “topical” audio-jokes at the expense of one’s raw material to a smug effect. If the lounge creeps uncritically snack on their sonic ingredients and coast on being “groovy”, the cads of pseudo-critique take cheap shots at straw men and call it subversion. Happily, Vicki Bennett has yet to fall down either precipice, but yodels down contentedly from her own Alpine audio-cottage. There, with loving care, she snips and tucks at the lycra jumpsuit until the fit is snug, places every plastic shrub on the Happy Valley Ranch just so, and throws another dance record on the bonfire. Undercutting her own utopian mirages with formal breakdowns and sneaky semantic pranks, Vicki Bennett is One Funny Lady, with a deadly sense of comic timing that puts her in my personal pantheon of edit intensive music makers: -Steinski and Mass Media, Hank Shocklee, Tod Dockstader, Teo Macero, the Hanatarash, John Oswald, Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock. Serving her birthday cake with a turd, her gags are always lined with a virulent creep factor. You get the feeling that the vacancy and pointlessness of empty speech is being lampooned and mourned in equal measure. In sticking to this balance of celebration and critique, People Like Us genuinely hates and loves People Like You. The least you can do is head up to the Happy Valley Ranch for a spell and have a listen.” – Drew Daniel