Behind The Shit Job Machine

Anastasia Bow-Bertrand 23 January 2014

Artist Lawrence Epps explores his motivations and the workmanship behind The Shit Job Machine, his latest in a portfolio of clay installations, for which he has become renowned. Showing until 24 January, at The Front Room, Cambridge, this collaborative work also features the text of Holly Corfield Carr.

What does your art entail?

I use clay and other media to make comments about culture.


Specifically, what is The Shit Job Machine all about?

The Shit Job Machine is a machine I’ve created which pumps out endless lines of clay commuters which are then cut by a whirling blade and the heap of clay workers gradually piles up over the gallery floor.


How do you source your material or what inspires you?

I used to work for a multinational corporation and I was shocked by the deadening reality of my daily existence. This experience has been the basis of my artwork ever since. At the moment I’m also interested in our relationship with money and how value is attributed in our society.


What is the most challenging aspect of your work? 

I can laugh about it now, but to move the twelve thousand ceramic units of Take Stock for the biennial we hired three hundred bread crates (normally used for delivering baguettes), which were surprisingly expensive.  The ceramics were then speed-dried in these massive industrial drying rooms.  When I opened the doors of the drying rooms the ceramics were fine but we had three hundred melted bread crates…


What’s the most unexpected or unusual aspect of your role?

Every project seems to involve some bizarre specific things: for The Shit Job Machine I bought a mobility scooter from an old lady and adapted it to power the machine.


What’s the worst aspect of working with clay?

The spectacular level of mess I can create! Last year I spent several months working at a clay factory where I became so encrusted in clay that it took many months to stop shedding dust.


Why do you think that people get involved with your work?

That’s a really fascinating question. With Take Stock [a 2013 exhibition, at the British Ceramics Biennial, in which visitors were invited to choose a block of the sculpture to take away] I was intrigued by the way the nature of a visitor’s gaze would change once they discovered they could remove a piece of the sculpture. Suddenly a leisurely but distanced art appreciation of the sculpture as a whole turned into a much more detailed, acquisitive gaze that came with the pressure of choice.  For me, the dialogue between those two types of looking was one of the most interesting things about Take Stock.


Why did you choose to exhibit The Shit Job Machine in Cambridge?

At the moment the Cambridge art scene feels really exciting and I sense the emerging scene is blossoming, alongside more established places like Wysing and Kettle’s Yard. The Front Room is just the kind of tucked away gallery experience that I’ve always loved – it’s an unexpected hidden gem and is also one of my top spots in Cambridge.