Linder Sterling’s early collages were published in collaboration with journalist Jon Savage as The Secret Public, and she designed record sleeves for Buzzcocks, Magazine, and her own band, Ludus. She designed a menstrual egg-timer for Factory Records, and performed at the Hacienda covered in meat and wearing a strap-on dildo. In 1991 a book of photographs of Linder’s friend Morrissey was published as ‘Morrissey Shot.’ Early solo exhibitions include ‘What Did You Do In the Punk War, Mummy?’ at the Cleveland Gallery, London, and ‘The Return Of Linderland’ at Cornerhouse, Manchester. Performances include ‘The Working Class Goes To Paradise’ in Manchester and London. In 2006 a monograph edited by Lionel Bovier was published by JRP/Ringier. Linder has just shown her ‘Pretty Girls’ series at Baltic, Newcastle, shows new work at Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London, from November 16-December 21, and as part of Re-Make/Re-Model at Sorcha Dallas, Glasgow, from December 8-January 21.
You’re about to open at Stuart Shave and Sorcha Dallas. So, what’s the buzz, cock?
(Buzzcocks and Magazine vocalist) Howard Devoto got the name for Buzzcocks from an article in Time Out about 'Rock Follies’, the 1970s television series. This featured The Little Ladies, a hard rockin' trio of feisty girls managed by a man wearing a white fedora hat called 'Hyper' Huggins. For the hat alone, feminism was a necessity, and, in my view, remains unalterably so. So I'm busy working on the cause. Looking forwards and backwards at the same time.
Domestic appliance: what are your current working concerns?
I've spent the last year making a series of collages using 1960s ballet annuals and glamour magazines as the starting point. The former are figures from the world that I dreamed of inhabiting as a young girl. I've been collaging ballerinas and pin-up models with photographs of roses taken from The Rose Annual, which existed between the 1930s and the 1970s. I like the idea that flora can threaten and subsume. It is a conceit made frighteningly persuasive in one of Nigel Kneale's 'Quatermass' tele-dramas of the late 1950s. Kneale was from the Isle of Man, which more or less faces my house.
You live in Heysham, near Morecambe. How close is that to Linderland?
Heysham and Morecambe provide a ready made lineage of artists and celebrities. Eric Gill, Ravilious, Turner, Ruskin all worked here. Everyone from Diana Dors to The Rolling Stones to George Formby played in Morecambe. I just stand patiently in line, hoping one day to be adopted as Morecambe's own. The idea of Linderland, on the other hand, came from living in the depths of north Manchester during the 1990s. My immediate neighbours were Bernard Manning, whose club was around the corner, with a painting of Bernard above the entrance looking uncannily like Saddam Hussein, and Mark E Smith, just across from a street called Slack Lane. With neighbours like those, how might one dream of adding to the cultural populace of the district? My answer to this was a homage to the shared anarchism of Smith and Manning. By conflating my interest in Mancunian religious non-conformism with a passion for Leone's 'spaghetti' westerns, I set out to pioneer a bleak urban district where lawlessness, male violence and visionary witness were principal features.
Ludus is Latin for school or gladiatorial game. Shaker rituals featured in The Working Class Goes To Paradise. What music moves you?
It all begins in the north. Wigan Casino was a feature of my youth, but equally forceful were the greatest excesses of progressive rock. Jon Savage still plays me extracts from 'The Court of The Crimson King' down the phone. I have an endless and tireless fascination with the making of music, although I go through long phases of not wanting to listen to anything.
Ludus played Morrissey’s Meltdown in 2004. Art/music-music/art – equal-but-different/different-but-equal?
I saw no difference whatsoever between the various outlets of my creativity; drawing, taking photographs, fronting a group, making clothes, body building, it was all the same for me. Looking back, one could see this idea as being directly in the lineage of Dada and Duchamp. I loved the ideas of Richard Hamilton, and I loved the fact that Andy Warhol 'produced' The Velvet Underground. Most musicians have very little interest in the art world, but I think very interesting things can happen when the two worlds collide. Early Roxy Music is one example. You could dance to it or hang it on the wall. With Ludus, we thought in terms that had nothing to do with music in the 'NME' sense. We were as interested in Albert Ayler as we were in Wilhelm Reich. It was all collage.
Beyond your own sleeves for Buzzcocks, Magazine, etc. what are your favourite record covers?
(John Greaves and Peter Blegvad’s) 'Kew.Rhone.' Yes, I know, unbearably obscure, but released on the same day as 'Never Mind The Bollocks' by The Sex Pistols. Out of the two, 'Kew.Rhone' is infinitely more interesting, and the one that I return to, both musically and visually.
You’re forever associated with Manchester’s original punk scene. How much are you judged by your early work?
After thirty years, there is an inevitable accretion of fact, myth and speculation about my early burglary years. I was prepared for my contemporary work to be perpetually overshadowed by its predecessors but thankfully, this has been far from true. Although the original photomontage that was used for Orgasm Addict now hangs in Tate Britain, this liberates rather than imprisons my new work.
What art is on your walls?
I'm looking at two heads drawn by Adrian Wiszniewski.
Clint Eastwood or art-house?
Clint wins every time; or rather, his puppet master, Sergio Leone. No one else can do dirt like he can, if only they'd let him do Mary Poppins.
Manchester – So Much To Answer For. Discuss.
I've left the city and the city, rightly, has changed. A friend from Wales arrived there recently and thought he was in Tokyo.
What’s next in Linderland?
Shows in London, Berlin, Glasgow, Cologne, Vienna, and a musical collaboration with Ian Devine and Benoit Hennebert. We recorded twelve songs on a cassette player in 1982 for Les Disques du Crepuscule and now, twenty-five years later, it's time to take them into a studio. Finally, it's to Brussels with love.
Map Magazine, October 2007