For Thomas Buckley, the line between interior and exterior is porous. His technically masterful in- stallations bring forest scenes into unlikely settings through projection, animation, and seeming magic. Large screen panels with projected forest animations and speakers playing ambient nature sounds in darkened rooms give one the sense, not of being necessarily immersed in the forest, but of being in some liminal, interdimensional space, able to step through the portals into the woods at any time. In some instances he embraces the fantastic entirely, creating forests not as we know them now, but the fairytale forests of our childhoods, with whimsical translucent butterflies flitting through the undergrowth and tents that seem to enclose a variety of tropical fauna. He has even moved beyond the typical art space, having been commissioned to transform a pub into a Narnia- like winter wonderland with great success. It is not a surprise then that his latest installation, he inverted this formula to bring the drinks inside the outside, personally making cocktails with woodland and tropical twists inside of first one his projected tree-scapes and now a beach. We spoke to him recently about the experience.
Alex Foley: One of the often heard tropes in the art world is ‘multi-sensory’ exhibitions. However, it’s rare for one of these senses to be taste. How did you first decide to incorporate drink making in your show?
Thomas Buckley: Taste is an area where you can take a lot of artistic and creative risks, it’s subjective and personal and can quite often give people a surprising experience - I really enjoy that playfulness. You can do things with taste that might be difficult to communicate in audio and visuals without it feeling over- played- being cheeky, contrary or even threatening are tropes that visually can be overpowering - or are at risk of being cliche. Taste can give someone a consumable personal experience that is evocative and personal.
AF: The drinks were just as much works of art as the actual installation. Could you tell us a bit more about them?
TB: I work on both how I’d like drinks to taste swell as how they’re presented- each cocktail is based around a narrative or an idea. For ‘Cocktails in the Forest,’ I created ‘Moth to a flame,’ this drink was smokey and used charred liquorish root and smoked hickory to create an idea of heat and passion - I’d hope people felt the same lure and draw a moth does when it sees a bright light. For ‘Cocktails on the Beach’ I pushed this further - the ‘Shipwreck Gimlet; is created by pouring gin through a bamboo luge piled with ice and seaweed - the idea being it takes on the flavours of a sunken wreck. For the ;Sunset Martini’ the timings of the visuals matched the cocktail and as the sun set to twilight you could pour out this colour changing cocktail into the glass and watch it turn from blue to dusky pink.
AF: Artists are often present on opening nights to discuss their works with the viewers, but they don’t often appear to serve those viewers. How did this dynamic change your experience of your own work?
TB: It’s very enjoyable, being able to guide a viewer and really take them on a journey is so rewarding. I find opening nights quite difficult whenI’m simply there to show the work - being part of it means I’m able to have fluid interaction and play in the work as I hope my advance does.
AF: What is it that draws you to the natural world so strongly? Having moved to Brighton years ago, you clearly also have a draw to urban life.
TB: I’ve always loved nature, when it’s outside of human intervention it feels very honest to me- it’s there because it should be, and there’s something pure in that. I enjoy the opportunity of the city, I love the community Brighton has and the people that are drawn to it. It sometimes feels like a small town that runs like a city and I love that.
Thomas’ newest work, ‘Come Inside It’s Raining,’ finishes tonight at The Spire in Brighton. For the show, he created a digital downpour inside of the abandoned church venue using a mixture of modern and Victorian techniques to bring about the illusion of a storm cloud opening up inside.