William Pope L uses performance, theatre, installation and sculpture to take on the contemporary issues of class, consumerism and culturally embedded racism with a blend of dark humour and gawky awkwardness.
Work through mediums such as peanut butter, mayonnaise, and tapioca pudding, he provokes a closer examination of the glue of everyday life to question the idea of art and artist as commodity - like an African-American shaman to re-ritualise the everyday.
The manner in which he addresses social issues is demonstrated in his 'Eating the Wall Street Journal' performance, where he sat on a stack of newspapers in a Boston financial district, eating the pages and drinking milk. In another performance piece 'The Great White Way', Pope. L crawled his way from the Battery north through Manhattan dressed in a Superman outfit. Although his performances can be seen as controversial, his work promotes conversation rather than confrontation.
William contributed three pieces of work to the Grizedale project 'Romantic Detachment' in 2004.
'White Room #1/ Blacula' was an sculptural video piece based upon the Blaxploitation classic of the same name as part of the exhibition at PS1/MoMA.
'For White Room # 2 /Moby Dick', William developed a project for the isolated community of Roosevelt Island in New York, in which he dressed as an orange yeti and climbed to the top of the island's lighthouse to read Moby Dick over a PA system whilst dropping goldfish to the ground below.
The performance 'Musical Appreciation' saw William forming a supergroup comprising of his white English fellow exhibiting artists (Juneau Projects, Mark S Gubb and David Blandy). The group dressed up as Gene Simmons look-alikes and performed Prince's 1999 repeatedly for 30 mins, whilst a character called 'The Funkmseister' called upon the audience to throw gelatinous white chocolate pudding at the band as they played. This made a mess of the gallery which caused PS1/MoMA to get cross with Grizedale, again.
William later returned to work with Grizedale developing a commissioned film project for 'Agrifashionista.tv' in which he generated a global online collaboration between several convenience stores across the world. The film explores the corner shop communities of Maine (USA), Adana (Turkey) & London (England), carving an existence on the edges of the mainstream.
William is a law unto himself, and will do what William does. This is in many ways a traditional artist's role, always moving away from categorisation, always reinforcing the notion of artistic freedom, and - in William's case - always moving away from interpretation of his activity. His performances are deliberately incomprehensible.
William's role within the project will in many ways be that of a chaos monger, he will be interviewee, critique and performer all at the same time. Try to analyse him or his work and he changes tack and slips away.
In the words of Ralph Merritt of Egremont Regeneration Partnership: "William can come and strap himself with sausages to our cash machine anytime he likes."