British Sea Power's Yan at Tate Britain
Yan, the lead singer of band British Sea Power, at Tate Britain

The lead singer of British Sea Power, Yan, tells us about the sound installation he has created for Late at Tate Britain based on the work of Kurt Schwitters

I knew a little bit about Kurt Schwitters when I was growing up in the Lake District [near where he spent the final years of his life]. The Abbot Hall gallery there had two or three of his little pieces. I remember hearing his name and thinking they looked a bit weird! To a 10-year-old they looked a little bit dirty, almost like someone had hung some rubbish up on the wall.

It wasn’t until much later that I heard his sound poem, the Ursonate, and we started to use that combined with other sounds at the start of our concerts. The more times I heard it, it kind of grew on me and then I read a little bit about him and the interest slowly grew.

For our installation at Late at Tate Britain, I wanted to make the Ursonate big – I thought about slowing it down to give it weight and sculptural dimension. We will make different layers at different speeds to create something with a lot of atmosphere.

I just like Schwitters’s ideas and his attitude, the way he was very intelligent but also quite silly. He said you could make art out of anything, which I think is true, it’s more about the thinking and the doing than rendering something perfectly in paint.

It’s almost a bit British Sea Power in a way – just doing something because you’re in the moment, or because you don’t care about the consequences. It’s almost like you create a layer out of nothing, then you treat it each time as if you found something and shape it in some form or edit it.

It’s nice to find out that an artist you appreciate a lot found a home where you grew up. When you hear descriptions of the Ursonate, some people use words like primal and I guess there is a sense of primal nature up there, which Schwitters must have liked and it’s something I like as well.

Please note

British Sea Power will not be performing at Late at Tate Britain: April 2013

The exhibition Schwitters in Britain runs until 12 May 2013.

Tags: