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In conversation with multi-media artist Georgia Lucas-Going

“My palette is people.”

Georgia Lucas-Going’s practice spans a range of mediums, from sculpture to installation, video art to performance. Comprising an ever-growing rolodex of interests, her work explores collaboration, being uncomfortable, gossip, group chats and grief, art crit language, and the everyday—“supermarkets and people watching sports”. Through it all “my palette is people,” says G. Born and raised in Luton, Lucas-Going comes from a line of singers and entertainers, who often participate in her work, with her mother being her most frequent collaborator. Their dancing performances are exhilaratingly vivid with feeling, bringing the artist an unparalleled level of care—“after performing, my mother mingles with the crowd and I usually vomit. It’s a great dynamic, to be honest.” Having studied at Leeds and Slade, and with numerous accolades under her belt (showing at Bloomberg New Contemporaries, Deptford X and the Sarabande Foundation founded by Alexander McQueen, to name a few) today Lucas-Going is a resident artist at the Rijksacademie, and a death doula in training—a pursuit that “means as much as art does, possibly even more”. Making emotionally heavy experiences and serious socio-political topics approachable through humour, Lucas-Going’s work confronts power dynamics in and beyond the art world; she is “here to fail so you don’t have to”. Thank her later, preferably with Lidl’s finest prosecco.

To start off, could you share a little bit about yourself—you grew up in Luton, and you studied and practiced art extensively in the UK. What was your childhood like? And what made you want to make art in the first place?

Yes, Luton and proud. Amazing mother and father, who I saw every other weekend. As for deciding to make art—at the beginning it was about experiencing something I was trying to get close to or understand, which I guess I’m still wading through. So, I made a lot of sex-based works as a virgin teen that were (sadly) never documented.

And what’s at the forefront of your mind the most at the moment? What’s brining you inspiration?

At the forefront is collaboration, actually. I go through phases of hating the art world, while also being aware that I’m in a very privileged position. I’m not necessarily interested in just my own thought processes, and I don’t think anyone should be. I also think that I’m not made to work alone all the time. Co-collective working has a longevity to me and just feels way more interesting than what I could do by myself for 8 hours a day in the studio. Being uncomfortable brings me inspiration, as well as feeling supported, humour that “fails”, supermarkets, people watching sports, use of language in art critics, stand-up comedians, semantics. My bio is basically an “ongoing” list of things I’m interested in, and it changes monthly. But my palette is people.

A lot of your work is at least semi-autobiographical, and you often work with your family members. The performances where you dance with your mother or your uncle have always struck me as heavy with tender joy, and I was wondering how those relationships operate when it comes to your work. Has working with family always been an intrinsic part of your approach? Is it ever challenging to work so closely with people so dear to you? 

My mother is a performer, and so is my uncle. I come from a line of singers and entertainers, whose craft I cherish. I’ve also watched how hard my mother has worked to raise me, so if I can give something back and pay her for her skill, talent, and collaboration, I do so. It’s also a way for me to spend time with my family. Life’s busy, delicate and has its nuisances, such as mental health. Working with family momentarily derails that for me, there’s a joy in it, and there’s nothing more healing than sound and movement for us. In terms of challenges of working with people you love, yes and no. There’s a level of care that always has to be there and my mother can read me like a book. So, it’s easier in a way; she’s a professional and has over 30 years experience. After performing she mingles with the crowd and I usually vomit. It’s a great dynamic to be honest.

As well as family, there is you, of course. And the (often extreme) situations you put yourself through, going on all these immense journeys, both physically and emotionally. How do you cope with all that? Do you have any rituals that help you prepare, wind down after, or sustain you in between?

Before a performance, I focus on my breathing and hide away from everyone. After, I go home, I don’t party, and I eat whatever I want to. Ten hours later, I take a bath, ring my best mate, avoid anything art-related and watch “bad” TV. I write, sleep, FaceTime all the babies in the family to hear them laugh, or I drink Lidl’s finest prosecco.

You’ve started training as a death doula this year—could you please tell us more about what led you to this path, and what this new occupation entails for you, both professionally and personally?

It means as much as art does, and possibly even more. Separate to my practice and not about me. A friend of a friend quit art to become a nurse, and I think about that in depth at least once a week. In terms of my training, I’m keeping the details close to my chest until I’m qualified. I’ve been a caretaker for a few people and witnessed deaths very close hand. But one thing I will say, death is the most guaranteed act in life yet the most feared, if I could help some people leave this earth for their next stage not scared but content, then that would be amazing.

The other side of losing people close to you is that something in your brain just rewires. So, when I sit in art lectures or crits, I find my attention span to be incredibly short, as most of us have been institutionalized to flit around topics with this incredibly flowery language, which can be beautiful but also alienating. Death just puts everything into perspective and also highlights how self-important we have all become. Apart from my mum and my aunties, because they’re the best.

Your show “MISSES EVERYTHING” responds to how we can thrive through everyday acts of resistance, by prioritizing making space for hidden conversations. I haven’t been able to experience it myself yet, but I did listen to the SoundCloud recording of “RANTS” (Explicit content half hearsay half facts), and I’d like to ask you about ranting and personal conversations, and even gossip—could you talk about their potential as a material for subversion and resistance?

First off, being loud in spaces is often criminalized, so when I do these rants I’m taking an opportunity. It’s joyful to not hold back and it reminds me of pre-adolescence. We’re controlled from birth: how we move through spaces, how people view us, how we shouldn’t be loud, or questioning, or say exactly what’s on one’s mind (a very British trait). So, telling the explicit truth is an act of resistance in the art world, as there are very clear hierarchies, especially when you’re exposing the ugly side. So yes, the curator shouted at me for buying him flowers in real life.

Also, WhatsApp conversations with my womxn have all my gossip, they even have my nudes, memes, secrets, loves, miseries. It’s such an overlooked non-documented archive. These conversations have saved my life and I know have saved others too. Obviously, aside from this fact, the government also has your secrets too… Let’s all download Signal.

What’s the role of intuition in your practice?

It’s the main agent. I work off of it, but this doesn’t mean that it’s without its “failures”. I often keep those in.

What are you most proud of in yourself?

Caring for my dad.

Who, in your opinion, is making exciting, important work at the moment? Who should we be shining a spotlight on next?

Mandy Harris Williams, an artist, writer, theorist and consultant.

I’m going to say in advance—you’re welcome for the wealth of knowledge that’s about to hit you.

Words by Masha Ryabova

Photography by Katarzyna Perlak