Made in Hull artists: Preston Likely

Have you ever stopped to check out the small ads? Preston Likely’s Amuse Agents – Hull’s Premier Inconvenience Store encourages you to look closely. You might find the object of your desire, the event you really don’t want to miss, or that special service your lifestyle has been lacking. They might just offer the one thing that could change your life for the better. For ever. No time wasters.

Hull-born artist Preston Likely tells us more…

What made you want to get involved with Made in Hull?

I have never been involved in such a large project so I was thrilled to pieces when I was offered the opportunity. It presented me the chance to give something positive back to the city of my birth.

Where might we know you from?

In 2012 I released a book called Amuse Agents, which reached number one in Amazon‘s Movers and Shakers chart in a day. It comprised 60 or-so fictitious shop window adverts, echoing a number of cultural themes, and a cluster of random subjects. Some national newspapers dedicated a whole page of their newspapers to a selection of my adverts.

I also created a project in 2010 called Identity for Sale which had nationwide exposure and led to discussions in parliament when I attempted to sell my social identity (driving licence, passport, birth certificate) to explore the nature of our social identity, and the legal, moral and philosophical aspect pertaining to the subject.

In 1996, I created a project called Win an Artist for the Day, where I offered myself as a prize in a nationwide raffle and in 1994 I planted fake adverts in 25 different job centres in London with the aim of my project drawing attention to appallingly low-paid jobs, owing to the (then) Conservative Government’s reluctance to introduce a minimum wage.

Can you describe your installation in one sentence?

My installation comprises about 150 fictitious and humorous, Hull-related shop window adverts, with some interactive elements and a display of physical objects.

How did the concept develop from the initial narrative behind the installation?

I had a very strong sense of what I wanted to achieve, right from the beginning. I knew how I wanted the adverts to work, however I later decided to add a second layer to the creative cake by means of physically exhibiting some of the objects that appear in my adverts and adding some interactive elements, including a poster inviting people to take selfies standing in front of it and post on social media. I think it’s important to draw people in by means of holding out a metaphorical hand.

What can people expect to feel when experiencing your installation?

I think lots of people will find my installation interesting on many levels. There’s an element of dry, self-deprecating humour, which is synonymous with many Hull-folk. There are historical references to old pubs, places, and events that have occurred in the city over the course of the last seventy years which people will relate to. Furthermore, there’s a general interplay of fact and fiction throughout, which, I hope will become apparent to the spectators.

What have you most enjoyed about being part of this project?

It has been an unquestionable thrill breathing life into a shop that had lain empty for several years – resurrecting it, so to speak.

What inspired you to make a collection of small ads for your book?

I’d been interested in the nature of shop window adverts for many years; the way that you can place your finger on the pulse of the nation by simply browsing such adverts, and whenever I used to see a curious advert, I would make a note of it in my diary. I did this for many years, before deciding create a book of my own.

I think it’s important to draw people in by means of holding out a metaphorical hand.

Preston Likely

Out of all the small ads you’ve seen, has one in particular stuck out as the best?

There is one particular advert that I saw in a tiny shop in a village in Kent during 1994, which left an indelible impression on me.  It read: “Would the thief who stole the Noddy pedal car please return it. My 3 year old is heartbroken. Thank you.” Having read that advert, I couldn’t help but think about the Noddy car, and the type of person who would have stolen it. I played around with the scenario in my head for a few minutes afterwards, and suddenly realised that many of the shop window adverts that I’d previously seen were almost like short stories and portals into a very curious world where almost every conceivable subject matter was addressed, be it political, economic, cultural, religious or personal. And this is how I began to approach my own fictitious adverts – as miniature short story, often presenting the spectator with the opportunity to create their own imaginary endings.

You can see Preston Likely’s Amuse Agents – Hull’s Premier Inconvenience Store, as part of Made in Hull on Whitefriargate, Hull until Saturday 7 Jan.