Alannah Currie is a London based artist who builds deliberately luxurious chairs around uncomfortable and often provocative narratives. She works under the name Miss Pokeno.
Born 1957 in New Zealand Currie trained as a radio journalist and came to London in 1977 attracted by the idea of a punk revolution. The same South London squats which incubated the Slits and the KLF hatched Alannah’s first political actions – she formed an anarchic girl band called the Unfuckables.
“Although we did only one gig we destroyed a lot of sexist billboards with black paint. Feminism proved more potent than punk.”
FACADES AND BARRICADES
In 1981 Alannah became one third of the hugely successful pop band the Thompson Twins. For 15 years she continued writing, recording, and performing around the world, working alongside pop giants including Debbie Harry, Madonna, Nile Rogers and Grace Jones.
In 1996 Currie ended her music career and returned to the bush of NZ with her two children to live a more reclusive life. Here she began writing stories and retrained as a glass caster and welder.
“I attempted to build an aeroplane from glass but the enormity and difficulty of the task overwhelmed me. I have only a few pieces of glass left from that time and I have donated them to the Sisters of Perpetual Resistance.”
ART AND ACTIVISM
In 2001 Currie founded and ran the notorious anti GM movement in NZ called MAdGE working alongside Greenpeace organising protests, marches and mobilising women in supermarket boycotts.
In order to provoke an ethical debate on the use of human genes in milk-producing cows she designed a highly controversial billboard campaign titled Sold, featuring a naked four-breasted woman attached to a milking machine posing the question ‘why not just clone women for milk?’
The billboard won several international art prizes and has since become an iconic piece of NZ activist art
In 2004 Currie moved back to London and spent 2 years at London Metropolitan University learning traditional furniture production. She graduated with advanced City and Guilds and went on to work with the underground artist group known as the Armchair Destructivists. Miss Pokeno became her working title.
“Only by deliberately and purposefully destroying that which has become so mundane and comfortable can we hope to expose the very nature of our own complacency.”
ENGLAND, BLOODY ENGLAND
In 2008 Miss Pokeno had her first solo show at the Ragged School Gallery Southwark.
For England Bloody England she built a collection of nine sumptuously-formed and finished chairs but incorporated the taxidermed bodies of roadkill into them, in the Victorian tradition of memento mori. The chairs confront and challenge notions of comfort. Stuffed with hidden stories, letters and other mementos each chair whispers a tale from her own ancestors’ journeys to New Zealand and back again.
“I am a bastard daughter of the British Empire. I work with scraps. Scraps of conversation, scraps of secrets half told and scraps of memories that can’t be buried.
My chairs are comfortable but the stories they tell and the secrets they contain are not.”
TOO UGLY FOR WORDS
Miss Pokeno continued working on private commissions and public chair destructions until 2010 when she began working with the militant feminist activists, the Sisters of Perpetual Resistance. The Sisters commissioned Miss Pokeno to create work for their South London HQ with the only brief being to “glorify that which is too ugly for words”.
The work for HQ has now been completed and was exhibited in London from November 14th 2013 to 13th December 2013. Instruments of Nuisance are still available from the shop and bigger works can be seen by arrangement.