Alannah Currie is a London based artist who makes work using luxurious veneers around uncomfortable and provocative narratives. She works under the name Miss Pokeno.
Born in 1957 in New Zealand, Currie trained as a radio journalist and came to London in 1977 attracted to the idea of a punk revolution. She was part of the South London squat scene that later incubated the likes of the Slits and the KLF and it was there she formed her first band – the anarchic all-girl group the Unfuckables.
“Although we did only one gig we destroyed a lot of sexist billboards with black paint. Feminism proved more potent than punk.”
In 1981 Alannah joined with squat neighbours Tom Bailey and Joe Leeway and together they became the internationally successful pop band the Thompson Twins. She co-wrote the songs, performed, recorded, styled and visually directed the band for 15 years – working with many pop giants including Debbie Harry, Nile Rodgers, Grace Jones, Alex Sadkin and Madonna.
“‘It was the golden era of pop music. I had a fantastic time and freedom to play endlessly with rhythm, words and visuals. Even when you stop making music it continues on as a thread through everything you do. Using different mediums keeps it interesting”
Currie ended her music career in 1996 when she returned to live in the New Zealand bush with her two children, in order to find quieter modes of working. She began casting glass and welding metal and exploring new ways of marrying art and politics.
ANTI GM MOVEMENT
In 2001 Currie founded and ran the notorious anti-Genetic Modification movement in NZ called MAdGE working alongside Greenpeace to organise 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.
ARMCHAIR DESTRUCTIVISTS AND SISTERS OF PERPETUAL RESISTANCE
In 2004 Currie moved back to London and spent 2 years at London Metropolitan University learning traditional furniture production. She took the name Miss Pokeno and began the slow process of myth-making, building taxidermy into chairs to tell the stories of her imagined ancestors, leading to her first solo show England Bloody England at the Ragged School Gallery Southwark.
At the same time she formed the Armchair Destructivists and performed a series of recorded actions violently dismantling Curries own meticulously constructed works.
For her second solo show in 2013 she created an installation that was the headquarters of an imagined group of militant feminists called the Sisters of Perpetual Resistance.
“I build chairs as bodies to carry narratives and then often I very purposely destroy them. My work talks a lot about the struggle women have to escape the domestic. The facades we create. The complacency we despise. The rage we feel. And the thrill we get from the acts of violence we allow ourselves.”
In 2013 Alannah set up Doyce Street Studios in London and now uses it both as her workshop and as an artist-led gallery space. Collective shows, collaborations and happenings have become an intrinsic part of her work.
Doyce Street Studios Projects
2019 3 Streets Away
Series of happenings in collaboration with artists responding to surrealist Dorothea Tanning
2015 Art of Nuisance
Residency scheme with collective of artists and activists
Installation of the HQ of the imagined Sisters of Perpetual Resistance
IN THE MEDIA
Miss Pokeno and The Sisters of Perpetual Resistance: Review – ‘militant feminist art’, The Independent, London, UK
Is Your Muff Big Enough? Introducing Miss Pokeno and the Sisters of Perpetual Resistance, Huffington Post, London, UK
Sonia Solicari talks us through Victoriana: The Art of Revival, Time Out, London, UK
Victoriana Takes Art Back In Time At Guildhall, Londonist, London, UK
From 1980s synth-pop to ‘armchair destructivist’ Independent – London,England,UK
Miss Pokeno, Still Crazy After All These Years, Auckland, New Zealand