Over the period of 4 years, artists Chris Butler and Will Grundy, under the moniker 'We Are Willow' worked on Berlin; A book, album, exhibition and live performance. The project all came together as a result of the perspective they captured traveling to Berlin and tracing the outlines of the people, places and situations they came across.
Chris and Will spoke to each other about the project for Junk.
Will Grundy: Hello Christopher Butler
Chris Butler: Hello William grundy
W: Capital G please.... Have some respect
C: Hello Gangster Grundy
W: now then, tell me what you’re doing right now?
C: I’m sat with a coffee in our new place. Just moved in Friday. Very calming. You?
W: I'm at a sauna in North East London attempting to recompense myself from last nights enjoyments. I'm in between regretting my last and ordering my next if you know what I mean.
C: I get you. Probably shouldn't have your phone in the sauna, might seize up in the heat.
W: Not if I don't first. Ok, I have a question for you, what were a couple of fellas like us doing in Berlin making work?
C: Fellas like us eh. We were exploring. And slowly but surely it took on a life of its own. For me a trip away with friends became a more focused project taking us both out of our own environments. Outsiders looking in, as much about people as it was about place but I'd say the two usually come hand in hand.
W: I agree with you that being taken out of our environment was conducive to doing something interesting. And what furthered that was that Berlin is as familiar as it is unfamiliar. The Germans and the English have much more in common than both parties like to admit.
Do you think we work well together??
C: I think the viewer/listener will have the final say in whether we worked well together! But the fact that we'd previously worked on other We Are Willow projects meant we did have an understanding of each other's practice.
W: You’re not the easiest person to travel with, and I can say that because I've known you a long time, but it definitely worked. The final product reflects that.
C: Ha well I'm surprised you kept coming back with me then! I don't agree with you on everything, which is a good thing. Just like you don't always agree with me. For me that's part and parcel of collaboration, pushing each other and finding creative compromises for the good of the work. It gets you thinking out of your own box by taking on board the opinions of the other artists involved.
W: I like my own box.
C: Having collaborated with several different creatives, the unknown elements of working with someone new can bring new qualities to the fore which you won't discover with someone familiar. However the flip side in our situation was that we knew what to expect from each other to extent, mainly in our personalities. By placing ourselves in an unfamiliar environment with the aim of responding to it together through our different mediums was a big task for our friendship as much as anything!
W: True, haha.
C: It pushed us outside of our comfort zones which is really important if you want to create a body of work which challenges your own sensibilities. The viewer/listener has the final say once it's published as to whether it affects them too. You know I don't sleep much but I definitely lost sleep over this project!
So back at you William, you focused a lot of your shots on people. Why? And what do you think you've learnt from these portraits?
W: I think the type of pictures a person takes will always reflect their personality. Which apparently means I like people, plants and nuns! (Only 2/3rds of that is explicitly true).
People have always interested me the most, weather they're in the picture or represented in it based on their effect on the landscape. The only thing I feel I can learn from the pictures I take is about myself. But maybe that's just me being a typical egotistical Leo / only child haha.
One final question I have for you Mr Butler is, having visited Berlin nearly 10 times over 4 years, what is your overall favourite single memory? And nothing to revealing please.
C: That's difficult… Minus 12 with wind chill factor going up and getting in to Devils hill (Teufelsberg). Pretty special. Besides that? Bikes. Riding bikes. All day long. Exploring. Lurking. Purposefully getting lost. Yours?
W: The first time I went to purposefully take photographs felt pretty good. Then the moment that you and I pulled out a copy when they arrived at the gallery and looking at the final object.
Beautifully designed by our esteemed colleague Mr Daren Newman. With the album masterfully produced by Dave Thacker.
Buy the book here