Thomas Goddard’s diverse practice looks at the impact that media misinformation has had on contemporary culture. His recent works have included customised football wall charts, an odyssey across Wales and an archive about the existence of a lake monster, as well as film, drawing, painting and animation. We caught up with him as he prepared for Art Across The City 2014
Who are you?
Thomas Goddard, 33 years, 5ft 10 1/2, 27 teeth, abnormally small ears and glasses.
Hello, how are you?
I’m very well thank you. How are you?
What do you do?
I’m an artist who takes on lots of roles (researcher, educator etc..) and produces different things. I work on projects that respond to places, communities and people looking at the stuff in the margins and questioning the nature of truth.
What have you been doing recently?
I’ve been researching and collecting information on Teggie – the beast of Bala. I found out about Teggie while staying in Bala. Teggie is a lake monster of dinosaur or crocodilian nature that has been reported since the turn of the last century. I have since gathered interviews, photographs, video footage, newspaper cuttings and correlated these into an online archive of all known sightings.
For Greetings from Bala Lake (curated by Jess Matthews) I created a tourist information leaflet and have been sending to tourist information centres and venues ever since, where they are free to anyone to take.
I like to work in series and have on-going works like Venice Biennale Wall charts and coins which I design each year in the tabloid style of major sporting events replacing them with the exhibiting artists and grouping the countries due to their yearly conflicts so it can be read as a short history of political change.
I’ve recently shown some of these in London in an exhibition related to football curated by Bearspace. Another large series of work is From Ape to Adam to Apocalypse. I have drawn 101 A4 drawings to represent each year of 20th century a selection of which were shown in Chapter, Cardiff early in the year.
What are you doing for Art Across The City in Swansea?
A project about Lizzie the elephant who died of colic in Llansawel and was sold to Swansea Museum in 1889. The carcass of the elephant was then taken down to Swansea where a carpenter from Cardiff, a taxidermist from Bridgend and a butcher from Swansea worked together to taxidermy the elephant that stood in Swansea Museum until it was hit by parts of the door when a bomb came through the door during World War II. Lizzie was stitched back up and is lovingly remembered by children of the time who stroked her for luck on the way to exams which took place in the museum. Her demise occurred after a new curator found traces of arsenic in Lizzie and made a funeral pyre for her in the garden of the museum in 1954. It’s an amazing story and one, once Locws is over, I’ll be looking to further encapsulate to film.
For ‘The Life, Death and Afterlife of Lizzie the Elephant’ I will be making ‘circus’ banners for the front of the museum; there will be a series of elephant mask-making workshops and a parade for all the participants; I will hold a bonfire out the back of the museum on the final day of Art Across The City following the parade (think The Wickerman with elephants).
What are your ideas behind the work?
I’m interested in presenting the full-unabridged story of Lizzie the elephant considering how we romanticise and become nostalgic over stories. From my research it is clear that almost all areas in the UK and mainland Europe have an animal story whether it is a giraffe walking from Marseille to Paris or the people of Hartlepool hanging a monkey who they thought was a Frenchmen. I’m also want to draw attention to the decreasing numbers of elephants in the wild.
What do you think the public will make of it?
I hope the public will want to be involved and won’t decide to burn me on the bonfire.
What are you up to next?
I’ll be showing in Glasgow as part of Editions later this year and I will be the first artist in residency with BBC Wales & Outcasting shadowing the health news correspondent. I’m looking to film Lizzie the elephant’s story as musical theatre as well as researching a thinly disguised love letter to the A470 through the depiction of one man’s life’s work.