What drew me to Bruce Asbestos’s Instagram profile was his clever rendering of a large graphic, made by compiling several posts together and spelling out the words ‘Father – Stones – Woods’ with a chosen log graphic bearing his name.

The Nottingham-based artist is launching his Autumn and Winter clothing collection on 19 May 2018, at Nottingham Contemporary. The project’s backbone is the story of Hansel and Gretel, and the clothing consists of, amongst actual clothes, sweets and shoes made from loaves of bread.

It’s filling him with “giddy excitement”, you can tell. First trials of such footwear broke apart when worn and this imperfection was wonderfully documented on his colourful, selfie-infused, feed.

To produce the collection, Asbestos has been running workshops with Costume Design and Making students at Nottingham Trent University. He is taking the notion of workshops further in his current practice, thinking through possibilities and problems of labour and learning. Instagram is a great place to pull people together, acknowledging the work of others, captioning and capturing their production as well as your own.

Evidenced by his master-crafted Social Media Takeaway ‘TV channel’ on YouTube, Asbestos navigates multiple social media platforms, enjoying how they “provide space to potentially share something with people you don’t know”.

“I think about artworks as little narratives, and I use different methods to tell a story. Instagram is just the most useful place at the moment. There is something about the pace of it I find appealing, which these small and simple narratives seem to fit into.”

When my selfie game was on point

A post shared by Bruce Asbestos (@bruceasbestos) on

For Asbestos, social media blurs lines between performing, being and working as an artist. He finds this confusion attractive, allowing us to question “whether these little images [on Instagram] are artworks themselves, about artworks, or documentation of artworks”.

He also has an interesting position on Instagram takeovers, or “takedowns”. Our previous Artists + Instagram feature looked at the work of perfect.girlfried (James St Findlay); Asbestos worked with Findlay for a takedown collaboration in Autumn 2017.

“We naturally came to the idea of the ‘takedown’, it was also a nice way to be ridiculed on your own Instagram account! I think the door is open for artists to do some more interesting or elaborate takeovers.”

There is an aspect of collaboration in his approach too. The artist is working with Alison Lloyd to shoot behind the scenes documentation of the making, and cat walking, of his collection artwork.

Asbestos explains how the project is allowing him to get to grips with European pop art by asking “what it would look like, if you discounted the 1960s?”. He points the same question at his Instagram followers, referencing Japanese pop and its history of Manga connected to Hokusai’s 36 Views of Mount Fuji woodblock prints. He also dwells upon American pop and its “defined sense of self”.

Drawing upon the surrealism of the Hansel and Gretel story, he asks us to consider a different type of European pop sensibility, which “touches on a longer history than simply the time since Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

1. Bruce Asbestos, screen grab from Instagram post uploaded by the artist 9 October 2017. Courtesy: the artist
2. Bruce Asbestos, screen grab from Instagram profile, 2018. Courtesy: the artist
3. Bruce Asbestos, Instagram post uploaded by the artist 24 March 2017. Courtesy: the artist
4. Bruce Asbestos, Instagram post uploaded by the artist 25 September 2017. Courtesy: the artist
5. Bruce Asbestos, screen grab from post uploaded by the artist, 27 February 2018. Courtesy: the artist

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