The name Lloyd Corporation conjures up the commercially or financially driven imagery usually associated with the type of shiny branding that makes you feel both envious and scandalised. When I first met Lloyd Corporation, formed by artists Sebastian Lloyd Rees and Ali Eisa, in 2015 at their studio in Clapham, housed amongst grubby mechanics and other trade businesses, it was the polar opposite. Lloyd Corporation’s work stems from a constant curiosity with social, political and economic structures, so it is appropriate that they gave themselves a corporate name, it automatically creates a dialogue with audiences about what it means and where it comes from (incidentally it is taken from Sebastian’s middle name and is a nod to collaborative practices that have taken on corporate structures such as Bernadette Corporation).
They first met at Goldsmith's University, London, and shared an interest in examining what collaboration can mean. They began working together in 2010, primarily using found material from scrap yards or public space to interrogate the materiality and narrative of consumption and waste. Works such as Value at Risk, 2013, a found advertising board with layers stripped back to reveal years of red-top newspaper adverts, one of which being Margaret Thatcher’s face, is a good example. Or the Loot series from 2015, where they reframe the tiny adverts from the classifieds magazine ‘Loot’ in large window mounts, unhinging them from their usual visual language and isolating their strangeness. In 2013 their practice began to take on another dimension, after their second solo presentation at Carlos/Ishikawa. The discursive nature of their collaboration and their ability to investigate the systems within which they live and work led to a move away from the physical materials that signify social structures and towards performative acts that actively disrupt them and create dialogue about what these structures are. In 2014 they exhibited as part of Mirrorcity at the Hayward Gallery, rather than showing within the exhibition spaces, they sought out the famously public spaces of the Southbank. They hired actors to take up roles associated with loitering and being on the fringe of markets; holding advertising boards, selling fake Louis Vuitton bags, or balloons, they interrupted the notion of free public space by positioning actors where they were not allowed to be. This began to reveal the latent issues from within the institution and how closely controlled seemingly public spaces around the institution are.
This practice was further developed in their solo exhibition Developing Landscapes at Pump House Gallery in 2016. Asked to respond to the new development of Nine Elms in the South Bank area of London, they formed a group of watercolour enthusiasts to meet over 6 weeks visiting sites in the regeneration area and local landscape. Seeking to disrupt the typical language associated with ‘the good life’ and luxury living they took the vernacular language of Sunday painter watercolours and applied it to the corporate world of regeneration, all beautiful couples sipping champagne and fancy roof terraces overlooking the Thames. They also disrupted the communication of the ideals through social media, applying images made in the watercolour sessions and tagging them to developer accounts, which created a disquieting contrast on applications such as Instagram. The project culminated at Pump House Gallery with an exhibition of the works created by the group members, again disrupting the convention of ‘professional’ artists exhibiting and shifting Lloyd Corporation’s role from artist to curator or facilitator. Their interest in systems of bureaucracy went deeper in the final display as the ground floor was designed as a civic waiting room, with turquoise blue walls for calm and issues of 'The Enquirer' and 'Heat' magazine available along with tea and coffee.
Their recent project, Mobile City, 2017, as part of the exhibition Driftwood, or how we surface through currents, 2017, as part of the Fondazione Prada’s Curate Award featured an old Nissan pick up truck with banners tied to the back and free advertising space offered to anyone who cared to post something. Parked in the Exarcheia area of Athens, which has become known for skirmishes between police and anarchist protesters, this work is a good example of their interest in the human scale of discrete economies. They are often able to make comments on the scale of economics at a corporate level by speaking about the intimate negotiations and currencies of localised communities.
Their upcoming 2017 Frieze London presentation (booth H21) can be seen as a follow on from their Loot series. They have spent the last year or so buying up collections of miscellaneous merchandise in one lot, otherwise known as job lots, from eBay. These have been sorted into categories and housed in boxes and shelving units that are being kept in their studio, the range of items is mind-boggling, from call to prayer alarm clocks to framed paintings created for film sets to discarded passport photos, t-shirts, or blank Tony Blair and Gordon Brown Plaster of Paris figurines ready to be painted by the lucky buyer. The objects removed from their original context take on a strangeness, but within that is a melancholy that these, mostly mass-produced items, are part of a parallel economy away from the Toys R Us stores and supermarkets that originally despatched them.
The work of Lloyd Corporation takes small, discrete economies as their starting point because people are more connected to these, emotionally, than to global economics or corporate finance. They feel less inclined to directly address representationally the macro-politics and economics of the world because these topics are so cold, they push one away and often art about these subjects does the same. They access human elements of economics; 'Loot' magazine with it’s bizarre items and stranger adverts, the job lots that professional Sunday market stall owners buy up, or free advertising space that local businesses, residents, con artists or community groups would take up. They populate or accentuate fringe positions; the gaps where parallel systems come into contact, sometimes awkwardly disrupting both, playing out the narratives of contingent existences.