"Creating a false sense of reality and in some way creating a nostalgia, or simply a non-existent experience and non-existent reality has become the focus of my practice."
Callum Diffey is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Glasgow. I was instantly drawn to the visceral nature of Callum's work, which left me eager to learn more about his practice. His stark photographic style and equally as brutal documentation of self-mutilation left little to the imagination, whilst simultaneously revealing nothing of the artists motifs.
As a newly found fan of Callum's work, I had to find out more about the inspiration behind these pieces and his motivations as an artist.
I am particularly interested in your video work. Both the videos selected are really visceral. What inspired you to create these works, and what part did the creation of the works - like the sewing of your own hands - play in the artwork as a whole?
The first of the two videos I shot features my ex-boyfriend and I kissing while being waterboarded. This piece was a homage to the Magritte painting "The Lovers" of the same name. The second video was actually a performance from back in 2016 that I recorded again as a response to the initial video. This video was then titled "The Lovers: II", this was inspired by "The Red String of Fate" a concept that comes from Chinese mythology, they say you have an invisible red string around your finger, the other end connected to that of your soul mate.
I came up with the initial concept after going through a particularly turbulent period in my relationship. Both performances were created with the participation of the ex in question. The pain and discomfort we are experiencing is caused by each other yet also self-inflicted.
As those videos were obviously inspired by a turbulent relationship, is it unrest that your work usually portrays? Is this something that triggers your creativity?
My artistic process begins by using the camera as a tool to navigate ideas and the world around me. Photography is a performative act and the process of making is entirely part of the work. The photographs are the catalyst which allow my ideas to evolve to a new medium. I have always practiced intuitive working. After years of making work because it “felt right” and having ideas that came to me fully formed without experimentation, I began to question why I was attracted to certain symbols and references.
Within my photography I find that I reference early internet subcultures and found imagery. I remember discovering photos in my parents and grandparent’s photo albums that held huge artistic value that they were oblivious to. I looked through Craigslist and Gum Tree of advertisements of homes for sale and used furniture and would find objectively “bad” photographs of beautiful things (I think this is what drove me to start photographing old homes).
Photography, as most people relate to, is an object of documentation and nostalgia. I feel like any photographer working in analogue -circuitous or otherwise - references the past and how the medium is consumed by the masses past and present. Creating a false sense of reality and in some way creating a nostalgia, or simply a non-existent experience and non-existent reality has become the focus of my practice.
Your photography in the houses focuses on small and seemingly unsignifcant details. Why did you pick these houses to photograph, and why focus on their intricacies?
I started photographing flats and houses back in 2018. I was looking online at flats for sale around the city just out of curiosity when I came across what would be the first flat photographed in the series. Even the estate agent's pictures were reminiscent of an old family photo album, they felt nostalgic despite never having been there or known it's inhabitants. I decided to book a viewing. I forgot about it until I received a reminder email that morning, I turned up with a friend having not slept and smelling like beer, I told my friend to distract whoever was there with questions about the property while I walked around with a film camera.
I decided to keep checking Zoopla and Rightmove every couple of days to see if any other places came up. I've travelled all around Glasgow going to viewing at the drop of a hat for this project. The images and the process of making them feels morbid, all but one of these homes were where someone had died. I was once shown around by the grandson of one of them. I think that's what makes this specific project so interesting to me, it's no longer just about the interiors.
If - like me - you are drawn to the unapologetic nature of Callum's work, you can learn more about Callum and his work on his website.