Art Basel questionnaire: Michael Dean, ffff

The British artist talks to us about his project for Art Basel Parcours

Sun and rain cursive ffff, 2016. Courtesy the artist

Michael Dean is presenting a new work ffff, with Supportico Lopez, Berlin, Herald St, London and Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo. The work is part of Art Basel's Parcours section, which consists of a series of artistic interventions in the city's neighbourhoods, this year centred around Basel's Münsterplatz.

You’re making a new site-specific work for Art Basel Parcours titled ffff, can you describe what it will entail and where visitors will be able to find it?

Concrete – sorry – cursive analogue ffff's about the same size as me family, thrown up and left locked to lamp posts in the sun and rain on Rheinsprung.

Many of the elements making up the installation in your recent South London Gallery show evoke the urban fabric, or at least remnants of it, including metal shutters, steel beams, concrete barricades. Here, the installation will occupy the public space directly; to what extent does your work engage with the context of Basel?

I can tell you there’s rich soil in the ffffing difference between Basel and Newcastle. When I went to live in Basel because I'd ffallen in love with a Swiss lass I fffound meselff shocked to ffffing inanimacy at the difference of living by the Rhein to my previous life by the Tyne.

Language holds a central place in your work, in that your sculptural and installation work often derives from your writings, while also visually evoking letters, or ‘glyphs’ – as linguistic symbols for concepts and ideas. Does ffff share the same approach?


Speaking of words, if you had to pick just one to describe this new work (and ffff doesn’t count), what would it be?


What else are you looking forward to see while in Basel?

The Buecher Brocky in Gundeli is ffffing hardcore!

Looking to the future, can you tell us something about what the focus of your next new project will be and what is exciting you most about it?

I read recently that evolutionarily speaking cacti can be described as having lost true leaves. Lost true leaves. Lost true leaves. I’ve been ffffing writing this lost true leaves out ffff knows how many times and in as many ffffing ways as I can, but anyway about the bones of this ffffing text lost true leaves im building emotions that diagrammatically analogue loving and hate, leaving and having left. I will publish my findings at the Nasher Sculpture Centre in Dallas in October of this year.

Read more Art Basel questionnaires

Online exclusive published on 13 June 2016.