Interview /

Jake Cruzen and Jared Madere / Mother Culture

Mother Culture is a new gallery and digital platform founded by Jake Cruzen and Jared Madere in December 2017. Based in Los Angeles, Mother Culture will collaborate with many contributors from a variety of fields, including parenting, sustainable living, contemporary art, journalism, spirituality, music, education and social consciousness, to create digital content as well as physical exhibitions. The current show, “EVERYTHING IS MORE THAN ONE THING FUTURE FEEL GOOD,” includes works by Jacolby Satterwhite, Bunny Rogers, Darja Bajagić, Suzy Amis Cameron, James Cameron, and Dachi Cole.

Patrick Steffen: From Bed-Stuy Love Affair to Mother Culture in Los Angeles. Why Los Angeles?

Jake Cruzen: We had three years of conversation and planning that led up to Mother Culture. We had ideas about a place that celebrated life and generated creativity of all kinds. When planning things out we often say to each other, “let’s get rid of the quotes,” and what we mean is that we want to try to help democratize creativity by allowing a mixed vocabulary that doesn’t rely so heavily on a know-it-like-the-back-of-my-right-hand grasp of the history of fine art. Above all, California is the wonderland for dreamers. In short, with this new venture, we are definitely more interested in communal values, nature and celebrating creation as a whole.

Jared Madere: Nobody can like good in NY. They like putting thumbtacks in their knuckles for Instagram and bragging about how their mom cried when they saw the blood dribbled on their baby photos. I love seeing my mom smile too much and couldn’t live with the lie.

Jake Cruzen: We are creating a place that puts a high value on a good life, actualized community and celebrated effort. A blend of languages is very appealing to us. Our current show, “EVERYTHING IS MORE THAN ONE THING FUTURE FEEL GOOD,” was put together to form an exhibition of artists that had these aforementioned qualities while still expressing an alter-universe of their own.

 

PS: The geographical organization of the city is very different from New York. Will this change the way you work within your artistic community?

JC: Yes! We are already working with a local vegan chef to give away bag lunches to the community we are a part of. We are also working on a local youth art exhibit. We want to create a platform that can help anyone who is doing positive creative work and community initiatives. We are working with doulas from LA and helping to organize a podcast and video series that appeals to unconventional motherhood. We also have a giant off-site project in the works that primarily focuses on sustainability.

JM: I like being able to pick up artists’ work in my car instead of telling them to bring it over on the bus. I used to spend a lot of time crying if I missed a blackberry yogurt sunset, but now if I miss it today it’ll be there tomorrow.

JC: And the weather makes it so you can be naked most of the year.

 

PS: Your platform addresses very wide social goals. You mentioned parenthood, sustainable living and spirituality, among others. With art spaces proliferating in the city, a clear identity is necessary to identify newer ones. What is your main goal?

JC: It’s a real challenge for us to isolate any one of those goals. The elements we are focusing on are the actual interests and challenges in our day-to-day life. I have a baby on the way.

JM: In conceiving of Mother Culture it was very important to us to create a platform that reaches beyond the art-world audience most familiar with our work and this flavor of inquiry in general. With most other expressive/creative avenues audiences are much wider, whereas with art a huge percentage of the audience is highly professionalized within the industry or a very committed and interested third party (collectors, turbo-fans, fashion/furniture designers, architects, etc.). Not many second-grade teachers have the same relationship to the summer group show at Petzel, the Triennial or even Venice, as they do with the top forty cycling through the radio on repeat that same summer, or whatever collusion of forces gives rise to culturo-distributive phenomena like Memoirs of a Geisha, Infinite Jest, A Million Little Pieces or The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK. Art has tunneled or weaseled its way out of the majority of its responsibility of engagement with the larger society, declaring that it will be a cultural laboratory at the far corners of the social fringes, exploring only the most esoteric and rarified subject matter, such that its fruits are only shared with the mainstream as quickly as an advertising agency can figure out how to exploit them through their translation into an ad campaign (a kid graduating art school in the late 2000s sees Clown Torture [Bruce Nauman, 1987] and pitches the Burger King “Wake Up With the King” campaign to seal their interview at Crispin Porter). We are interested in genuinely engaging an audience on a wavelength beyond connoisseurship directly through the programming at Mother Culture.

 

PS: Can you share a few highlights of the 2018 program?

JM: Our program is fluid in the sense that our exhibitions do not necessarily have hard beginning and end dates and thus the space functions more like a living organism whose belly sometimes contains bubblegum for eight years and/or crab larb for five minutes depending on what fairground the lizard is dining at. Sometimes you take a bite of winter and, surprise, you get a mouthful of spring.

JC: Mother Culture exhibitions will have a longer duration than most and will give birth to new objects and events as they unfold. We have an accomplished team and are really excited to be working with Milo Conroy from Cloudburst, Kate Hillseth and Cindy Conrad from Young Art, and Marie Heilich from White Flag Projects. We are really honored to be working with Dachi Cole, Dese Escobar and Jessi Reaves, and those are the artists we will unveil projects by next.

by Patrick Steffen

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Interview /

Jean Pigozzi / Miami Art Week

Claudio Santoro in conversation with art collector, photographer and philanthropist Jean Pigozzi at the Galerie Gmurzynska booth at Art Basel Miami Beach.

Claudio Santoro: I spent hours in the “Art/Afrique, le nouvel atelier” exhibition at Fondation Louis Vuitton. Do you have more plans to exhibit your collection?

Jean Pigozzi: We’re going to do an exhibition of works by Bodys Kingelez, who created the model cities from the “Art/Afrique” exhibition. We will have a show next spring at MoMA, in May 2018. That’s the first time that an African artist will have a solo show at MoMA.

 

CS: Can you tell me a bit about Bodys Kingelez?

JP: He’s from Congo (Zaire) and, sadly, passed away. He was a documentary filmmaker who would make these individual buildings. When I met him I said, “Bodys, why don’t you make a city? It’s much more interesting.” So he started making these very big cities that would have like twenty buildings. I own four of the big cities, and I think he made seven. Fondation Cartier has one, Agnes B and someone in Germany. At MoMA we are going to do a virtual reality thing with Oculus, where you will fly inside the city.

Bodys was completely self-taught. I don’t know if he knew who Le Corbusier or Zaha Hadid were or anything. That’s why I’m so interested in African artists. Pre-internet. They had very little information, so everything that they did really came from the inside, or from tradition, or completely from their imagination, or from a few magazines they could see. That’s why I like that work.

 

CS: Surrounding Bodys Kingelez’s cities were Congolese night scenes painted by Moké. I’m always reminded of them when I see colored lights reflecting off someone’s skin.

JP: I gave one of these paintings to a friend of mine who showed [Francis] Bacon. And Bacon said, “This guy can really paint.” And Bacon was not an easy man to impress.

 

CS: When you’re away from home, what might trigger a memory of your collection?

JP: I go to Japan quite often because I collect Japanese art, so I go and buy stuff there. I go to every fair and hundreds of galleries and museums every year, but I’m very focused now, so I really only buy African and Japanese art.

 

CS: Why did you decide to focus on Japanese and African art?

JP: Because you have to be focused on your collection. A lot of these collections are not interesting because they have one Warhol, one Prince, one this, one that. It’s not interesting. I’m trying to collect in depth, so if I like an artist, I’ll buy ten pieces by the artist. The artists I buy are more reasonable. You couldn’t have ten Van Goghs or ten Picassos, even though some people do. If you go to a provincial museum, they will have one Sisley, one Rembrandt, one Yves Klein. So they only know one example of the artist’s work. If you go to MoMA there are five Yves Kleins, so now you understand what the works are all about. If you saw the show we did at Louis Vuitton, we showed five to ten pieces of each artist, so you could really understand in depth what the artist is all about. That’s what I find interesting.

 

CS: What made you want to start collecting?

JP: I’m a sick collector. I collect anything. I would collect toothbrushes. I collect absolutely everything. If there was something like “Collectors Anonymous” I would be there, but it doesn’t exist. There’s very little I buy from the gallery. About ninety-nine percent of my African collection we bought directly from the artists because there were no galleries representing them. The Japanese works came from galleries in Tokyo.

 

CS: How did your collection start?

JP: I had a collection like a bad dentist from Minneapolis. A little Clemente, a little this, a little that. And then I became friends with Charles Saatchi, and he told me my collection was ridiculous. So I went to a show in Paris called “Magiciens de la Terre” about thirty years ago. And I saw some African art in the show, the day it was closing actually. I called the museum the day after and asked “What are you gonna do with this stuff? Can I buy it?” They said no, because it was owned by someone else, but that I could meet the curator called André Magnin. I asked what he was doing now and he said: “My dream is to keep going to Africa.” So I hired him, and for twenty-three years we worked and put this collection together.

 

CS: What do you think your collection says about you?

JP: It says a lot. Everything I do in my life is slightly different. I couldn’t imagine having a collection with a little Warhol, a little Clemente, a little Prince. I really wanted to have a collection that was very different. Nobody has my African collection. Now I have a very Japanese collection, and nobody is really collecting that either.

 

CS: That says something about you.

JP: I have no interest in being like everybody else. It’s not something that turns me on.

 

CS: And does that attitude translate into your photography?

JP: I don’t like people posing. I have no interest in people posing. So I try to take them when they are a little bit off balance. Not people picking their nose or doing drugs, but taking pictures that are slightly imperfect.

 

CS: Do you think you’re photogenic?

JP: Myself? No. But I’m not vain so I couldn’t care less.

 

CS: Do you prefer acquiring works in the context of a fair or gallery or directly from an artist?

JP: It doesn’t make a difference. For instance, here [at Art Basel] I did my shopping yesterday morning. I had a map and I ran from one place to another, and I did it, and it was done. I got three things yesterday morning, one African and two Japanese.

 

CS: Did you consider bringing your dogs, Charles and Saatchi, to Miami for the fair?

JP: They are in the South of France. They are very crazy, high-strung dogs. They would be running around driving everybody crazy. They’re not like quiet, living room dogs. I wanted to play some recordings around the photographs of them barking, but you’re not allowed to do that at the fair.

 

CS: How would you characterize Charles and Saatchi?

JP: They are very cute and affectionate dogs. They think they are smart but they have no understanding of space. They are not really interested in other dogs, but they love humans and expect people to talk to them. They’re Hungarian so they’re philosophers.

 

CS: Do you spend much time going through all the pictures you take?

JP: I don’t really go through them unless I have a project. I really just like doing “click.”

 

CS: Any final remarks?

JP: Sell toothpaste.

Claudio Santoro is Flash Art Online Editor

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Interview /

News Crime Sports / Interview with Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff

News Crime Sports (2017), the new musical by artist duo Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff, takes place on a cruise ship lost at sea. As its passengers yearn for firm ground beneath their feet, the ship only drifts farther off course.

They take turns delivering verbose speeches into the void and rambling about the past. The play inaugurates Henkel and Pitegoff’s season at Volksbühne Berlin’s Grüner Salon. The theater itself has recently experienced a sea change by way of its controversial new director, Chris Dercon. At the time the duo began their work at the house under Dercon, it was being squatted by activists protesting his appointment and the city development it suggests. In News Crime Sports, the cruise ship’s staff goes on strike. The American duo gush about the lively political discourse at Volksbühne, and its employees’ dedication to the theater. They also praise the technical expertise of its various departments. It has been a hectic production in many ways, but Henkel and Pitegoff are accustomed to running their own very DIY New Theater. Naturally, the poetic quarreling aboard News Crime Sports is reminiscent of the complex set of relationships currently being renegotiated at Volksbühne. Art imitates life, huh? Ahead of the second set of performances, they took me below deck, to the theater’s wood-paneled, smoky and enchanting canteen.

Bianca Heuser: What has working at Volksbühne been like for you?

Calla Henkel: What’s so amazing about this house is that it is possible to really produce work here. Usually, we encounter art institutions as places to put things, but this a temple to keeping things alive. It’s so exciting to learn from people who have worked at this house for so long and know how to attack problems. Everyone is an expert in their respective fields.

Max Pitegoff: Especially after New Theater, where it was just us and a handful of people who tried to do everything at once. Here the process is spread out in a way that is  beyond anything we’ve dealt with before.

CH: The first time I went to the costume department, I was like, “Oh my god, it’s like a museum!” They were like: “It’s not a fucking museum — it’s all usable!”

BH: How has this impacted your production?

MP: We worked on this play completely in the present, as we were constantly negotiating how we work within the house. That really fed into it. Sir Henry, the musical director of the piece (along with Katrin Vellrath), has been part of the ensemble at Volksbühne for many years. His knowledge really influenced us. Though the director has changed, the structure of the theater itself remains more or less intact.

CH: Well yeah, because the beautiful, insane machinery of it still exists. I think we’ve learned more from these months of working here than I have in my whole life. The play is still funny though. It deals with this vacuum of misunderstanding and uncertainty.

BH: Uncertainty of what?

CH: The play is centered around a group of people who are stuck on a boat and have been for long enough to no longer have a concept of time. There’s this back and forth about everyone’s versions of the past and their visions for the future. But they’re also reckless in their inability to worry about anything other than the next drink. The only things they have on the boat are canned peaches and champagne. So it’s this space of rot, social and emotional rot. Lily McMenamy’s character grows up over the course of the play.

MP: She’s this truth teller.

CH: The only character with monologues that feel honest. There’s this tension in imagining the future when it feels hopeless — since you’re stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean.

BH: What’s appealing to you about the idea of people being stuck together?

MP: A great part of it was dictated by the space itself. There’s no backroom at Grüner Salon, so we started imagining the story of those seven performers stuck on stage together. Our past plays have also dealt in different ways with people being stuck together.

CH: Or being mentally stuck.

BH: Your characters at times appear stuck in their relationships, too.

CH: This piece really tries to deal with that. In one scene, the character played by Mia Von Matt says: “Seelen reisen in Gruppen.” Souls travel in groups. Even if we all jumped off this boat together, we’d all just come back to life as a bunch of tarantulas in a terrarium.

BH: How does that relate to you?

CH: Oh, to our own toxic relationship? [all laugh] We really have to be in love with people in order to write for them. The way none of these characters actually listen to each other is not just bleak. Sometimes you stop listening to people to continue to be able to love them. But theater is about conflict.

BH: Like the newspaper segments of the play’s title: “News Crime Sports.”

CH: We were thinking about the cycles of a city, how shit gets passed back and forth between people. It’s also everything that’s absent from a boat. The sport comes out of annoying each other.

MP: The crime comes out of annoying each other, too.

by Bianca Heuser

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Interview /

#CelebritiesOnDrugs / Cory Arcangel

American artist Cory Arcangel talks with Flash Art about his technological exploration of obsession, obsolescence and the vernacular.

What’s the #CurrentMood?

How do I even answer that? Maybe #CelebritiesOnDrugs?

At Lisson Gallery in London you recently showed a selection of wall-based works, presented in the same format, in carpeted rooms together with a new audio piece. Can you tell me how the exhibition originated?

I’m a digital pack rat. I have every file I made or downloaded off the Internet since I was a teen. And a couple of years ago I finally collected everything — about 750,000 files — in once place. This show came out of that process. More specifically, it came from clicking around in all that stuff. So in the show there are tons of different series I have been working on over the last ten years — “Scanner Paintings,” “Photoshop Gradient Demonstrations,” and “Lakes” — as well as things which were on my drives but not exactly “art” — things like old cell phone photos and random images I downloaded off the net.

Several elements in the exhibition either reactivate existing material or appropriate it for a different purpose. How do you see the notion of the archive in relation to reworking visual imagery you produced and collected over all these years?

I can just talk specifics, as I am sitting here in front of my computer. My archive is literally a twenty-four-terabyte hard drive, and it is fairly organized. I am able to see all the different works I made since the 1990s, and all the research that went into them. When making the show, pretty easily, in an hour or two, I was able to pull up thousands of images and put them into a folder. I started off with a thousand or more images and then I narrowed it down to five hundred, then I narrowed that down to two hundred, then one hundred, then fifty, then thirty and then twenty. Then I made some new things depending on the twenty.

It’s kind of as if I turned my hard drive upside down, dumped everything on the floor, and sifted through the pile until I came up with twenty things I felt represented something.

Some of these images relate back to the clickbait campaign you are running alongside the exhibition. What would you say is your relationship to the vernacular?

It’s about shifting context. By taking images from the show and running them in a clickbait campaign — the really trashy articles that you often see at the end of articles on some websites — it’s just playing around with Lisson, dispersion and context. Is an image more important on the wall of Lisson than next to celebrity trash online? Can it resonate in both spaces? Questions like this.

Your work is often discussed in relation to the obsolescence of technology. I am interested in the way you are appropriating your own work and translating it into an upgraded technological output. I think it’s a very ingenious way of keeping it relevant.

It keeps the work alive. In the show, there is a work from 2005, Mig 29 Soviet Fighter Plane, Clouds, originally a Nintendo game hack, which is now running on a Nintendo emulator on a Macintosh OSX desktop with some other Macintosh programs. It’s quite modern looking. I understand the original work is historically relevant, but it’s important to me to give it some energy and to keep it floating around. Not to mention it’s so easy to pull this stuff off my hard drive and play around with it.

I have been following your work over the years and I’m fascinated by how the context in which you are operating has changed dramatically.

I wouldn’t have been able to do an exhibition like “currentmood” at Lisson ten years ago. I wouldn’t have had the knowledge, and I wouldn’t have had the nerve and it wouldn’t have made sense — which is a lot to do with the context. It would have been completely impossible to understand. When I first showed the “Photoshop Gradient Demonstrations” in 2006–07, people had no way to read that, and when I first showed the Nintendo stuff in galleries, again people had trouble reading it.

I have been thinking about the diagram that Guthrie Lonegan made, “Hacking vs. Defaults,” in relation to your “Photoshop Gradient Demonstrations” series in which you relinquish any knowledge about digital technology by using a default mode.

Guthrie is one of my favorite artists of all time! At a certain point vernacular use of technology was absolutely not a part of my work. Though, it was around 2000, when I first saw Paper Rad’s website, that my thoughts on all that changed. Paper Rad’s website was the first convincing work I saw that dealt with vernacular technology – armature homepages, low rez flash animations, and stuff like that. That site was a masterpiece. I would definitely credit them for opening up that part of my work. And it was through collaborating with them that my work started to move away from coding. Guthrie’s chart is very good in the way it divides those two ways of thinking about technology, which I think is split on a generational line.

Your work is particularly relevant today because it came from within a context of early digital art but it crosses over into post-Internet. I think many younger artists see your work as a point of reference. How do you see that?

The post-Internet question! That word gets used a lot, and everyone has a different meaning for it so it’s hard to talk about it. When I was in school in the late ’90s, art students hated computers. If you were on a computer, you were not making art, and art that did use computers was called “media art” and was seen as techy. I think what happened was, a few generations later, you had kids who were in art school when computers finally became okay, and they graduated and started doing shows.

What would you say it means to be a media artist today?

I think the way that I use the term is old-fashioned — to denote an artist who makes medium-specific, experimental electronic work. There have to be new words because everything has changed, you know? I am clearly tied to early digital work, when there was a clear division between digital and fine art. Things didn’t cross back and forth, and I still consider myself part of that earlier era even though my work ended up crossing over. Even my Lisson show is split down the middle between wall works and real-time software performances. But I don’t know what it means to be a media artist today.

by Silvia Sgualdini

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Interview /

The Force within Franco

Tatiana De Pahlen and Gea Politi talk with artist, performer and actor James Franco.

Gea Politi: Is there a “force” like the one in Star Wars? Or was Hunter S. Thompson right — there is no force at all, and thus no hope?

James Franco: There is a force, whether it comes from out there or from within us. I have seen people recover — make something of their lives through spiritual means. I don’t know if this spirituality comes from within, a kind of focus, a tuning in to an energy; or if the force is something outside of us. I don’t really need to know.

Tatiana De Pahlen: Your work is transversal on so many levels. You seem to revisit the notion of the “total artist” in contemporary culture. Would you define yourself as a Renaissance man?

JF: Crossing boundaries is how I like to define myself. I like to sit on the borderline between mediums and practices. When I was only an actor, my potential for expression was limited. I needed to find other outlets. But once I found those outlets, I became a better actor, because my acting became more pure. I wasn’t trying to write and direct when I was acting: I was finally just acting. When I was hired as an actor I could focus on that, on my job as an actor, because I knew that I could write or direct or do whatever on other jobs.

I am also very interested in the way that mediums are translated into new forms. When I direct a film I always adapt the story from a source, usually a novel or a nonfiction book. Mostly because I love collaboration, and adaptation is a kind of collaboration — collaboration with the writer of the book.  I do a lot of things, but they all derive from the same place; they all address my interests. Some forms fit certain subjects better than others.

GP: Actor, film director, screenwriter, artist: Which one of these practices would you prioritize? With what form of expression are you most comfortable?

JF: I am most comfortable with acting because I have done it for so long. But I am drawn to directing because it involves telling the story from a more central perspective — it involves more collaboration.

TDP: What was your most formative art experience? And what film was most formative?

JF: Probably working with artists. I’ve gotten to work with Paul McCarthy, Josh Smith, Douglas Gordon, Laurel Nakadate, Ryan Trecartin, Kalup Linzy and Aaron Young. Working with artists, just like working with actors and directors, shows you how others work from an insider’s perspective. You get to really experience the process.

Working with great directors has changed me. Robert Altman, Danny Boyle, Harmony Korine, Gus Van Sant, Sam Raimi, Michelle MacLaren, Seth Rogen, theater director Anna Shapiro, David Gordon Green, and show runner David Simon have all given me something.

GP: Do you mean to provoke the art world? Maybe sometimes? Maybe unconsciously? Is there irony in your recent artworks?

JF: I’m not trying to provoke, but yes, there is irony. I know that I am an outsider — that my entry into the art world is automatically viewed with skepticism. So I try to acknowledge my outsider status with humor and irony. I know I can’t hide that I am a celebrity entering the art world, so I try to address it in the work.

GP: Painting seems to be the weakest of all the practices you are mastering. It’s not only critics who think so — the general public doesn’t seem to take your painting very seriously.

JF: Well, they’re pretty simple paintings. It’s obvious that I’m not trying for something complex or technically skilled. Their significance is supposed to come from the subject matter, the humor, and the fact that I did them. They’re almost like a performance.

And it’s easy to criticize an actor’s painting, just like it’s easy to criticize an actor’s writing. People can’t see past the fact that I’m an actor, so I make the paintings humorous.  But the fact that I don’t have to paint, that I don’t have to put my stuff out there — but I do — should say something. I have a career. I don’t need another one. I do it because it’s a form that is important to me. It’s a conversation I want to be a part of, and I think I have something to contribute. Even if it’s a silly contribution.

GP: Can you tell me more about the series of birds you showed in Gstaad at Siegfried Contemporary? Animals seem to be a recurring theme in your practice. The works are painted in a childlike manner, almost as if they were made by an outsider artist.

JF: I wanted a subject that wasn’t connected to anything in the art world or the movie world. They are connected to my childhood. I grew up in the suburbs, and there were always birds around, especially humming birds because my mother had a bird feeder in the backyard. Like many of the things I do — my books, my art — they are a connection to my youth. Youth is one of my subjects.

TDP: The process of learning seems to be a pivotal aspect of your personal growth. Are you more of a student or a teacher? You come from an academic background, and I believe your mom is also a teacher. What do you find in education? And are you more of a student or a teacher? 

JF: I love being a beginner. I used to have a fear of trying new things. At one time I was afraid of acting, but then I did it, and I worked at it and I became an actor, and now I’m accepted as an actor. I don’t need to be a master at everything I do; I just need it to express a certain aspect of myself, an aspect that wouldn’t be captured otherwise. Or wouldn’t be captured in just that way. So, I am always a student.

But teaching is an incredibly rewarding part of my life. Teaching at universities, high schools and at my own school puts me in touch with students that are still pure — they’re still making things for the love of it.

GP: How important is art history to your filmmaking? Do you think it has any impact? Do you recall your first memorable interaction with an artwork or artist? Did you visit museums as a child?

JF: It’s always been important. My parents and grandparents would always take us to museums. My grandmother and my uncle deal in Japanese art, and my grandfather was an amateur artist, so it was always around. One summer my grandparents took me to Japan to visit with the artists that my grandmother represents, and for the first time I saw artists who made a living as artists. They would just get up and paint every day. That was very influential because I saw that they were actually just doing it.

Later they took me to a traveling Monet show, and the paintings were huge. I think the size had a big impact on me. And then Picasso, and I saw the endless experimentation. Warhol, the same thing — that he was experimenting with form endlessly. Later, people like Jack Smith, Paul McCarthy and Vito Acconci showed me different ways that performance could be altered from a naturalistic approach.

TDP: What do you think about the performance of a public persona as demanded by media?

JF: I don’t know what this question means. But I think you’re asking about the way that a public persona is a kind of performance. It is something that I am very interested in because the public person is a shared creation. The individual is not the only author of this persona — there are many contributors: different media outlets, the movies this person performs in (if we’re talking about an actor), the way he is written about, the way people talk about him, etc. I am very interested in this creation. It becomes material for me to mold.

Tatiana De Pahlen: Have you followed Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker?

JF: Only a little. Gawker is scum.

TDP: It seems that even among academics (e.g. Rachel Dolezal), identity is radically subjective — something to be slipped into and out of. In your experience, is being a performer in the film industry different than the “performative” role of the artist?  

JF: I love this idea because it’s something I understand deeply. I think life is a performance. Every day we choose our “wardrobe,” style our hair, put on our make up, go out into the world and play our role. We have things that are imposed on us, like who our family is, where we were born, just like characters in movies, and then we make choices about how we deal with our situations, what we study, what we do for a living. Sometimes we’re just trying to get by; sometimes our choices are made for other reasons. But these are essentially the things that an actor determines when he creates a character: He figures out what makes the character tick, why he makes different decisions.

The performance of life can be altered, just as an actor can play different characters.

TDP: Do you watch reality television? 

JF: Not really. I watch a lot of documentaries.

GP: What do you think about the many extremely successful television series that have come out over the past two years? Would you say TV series are a kind of “new literature”? Do you think TV is better than cinema in 2016?

JF: I just acted in and directed part of a Stephen King miniseries called 11/22/63, and I’m going to be part of a David Simon (The Wire) show on HBO called The Deuce, so I have been watching a lot of the new television series. Without a doubt they are a new kind of literature. Movies are generally like short stories because of their length — they generally have one rising arc and one climax. But a series can have multiple arcs and storylines, more like a novel.

In Fitzgerald’s last, unfinished novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, he paints the head of production at the studio, Monroe Star (based on Irving Thalberg), as an all-powerful creator. He controls everything at the studio, from the scripts, to the casting, to the directing. It seems unrealistic — not exactly how movies work — a novelist’s ideal version of how movies are made. Novelists have total control over their work, they don’t have to collaborate, but movies are incredibly collaborative. That being said, the show runners of the new television series are much more like Monroe Star. Many of them are collaborative, but they are in a position where they can control all aspects of the series, much like Monroe Star. So, in that sense they are like novelists, controlling every aspect of their creation.

TDP: What do you think about “reel” life in “real” life? 

JF: I’m not quite sure what this means. But like I’ve been saying, my public persona, my movie persona, is inextricably bound up in my actual persona. The public persona is me and it isn’t me. I identify with parts of it and other parts I don’t, but it’s still part of me somehow.

GP: Why do you think you make and create so much throughout the year? Does one project feed another? What are you trying to build? 

JF: Creation is how I engage with the world. It’s how I socialize (there is nothing more bonding that creating with others), it’s how I make a living, it’s how I relax, it’s how I communicate, it’s how I interpret the world around me. Harmony talks about all-around creation like it’s building a house. As Fassbinder said, one project is the kitchen, one is the bedroom, and one is the bathroom. They aren’t all the grand living room. Sometimes you’re just making the toilet, but everything is needed to make the house.

James Franco is an artist, performer, and actor.

Tatiana De Pahlen is Flash Art Contributing Editor.

Gea Politi is Flash Art Chief Editor and Publisher.

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Interview /

Interview with Gabrielle Giattino

After a Scandinavian summer, New York-based curator Gabrielle Giattino tells Flash Art about her experience in anticipation of the new season at Dispatch, a non-profit art space she’s co-directing together with Howie Chen.

Nicola Trezzi: You have been in Sweden for a residency and you have just curated the show “Subject Index” at Malmö Konstmusem; how did this project come about?

Gabrielle Giattino: Yes. I was in Malmö through a new residency program for independent curators called Residency Far Away So Close. They hooked me up with the Malmö Konstmuseum, and I just returned from opening the show there. It turned out great. I was really happy with the results of the show. You know, it’s so hard to plan an exhibition from a remote location — It’s always different when you actually get in to the space, but it was even better than I had planned in Google sketch up! I had some great feedback too. One person commented that Daniel Lefcourt and Erica Baum’s work were like the anchor to the show: like the rhythm section of the band. It’s true, it was Daniel and Erica’s work that the idea for the show grew out of. Both of them illustrate a frustrated desire to communicate, which is the common thread through the show, but the iconic, maybe minimal gestures of Erica and Daniel really form a very steady and clear beat through the show. It gets quite frenzied with Tom Holmes’s amazing textile ,“SkillSet,” which we had woven in Nepal, and Marcelline Delbecq’s video, “Close”, which very seductively addresses the kind of desire we feel to succinctly link word to image.

NT: What is the difference between the show at Malmö Konstmuseum and the version at Dispatch?

GG: The show was really developed with the MKM’s F-gallery in mind. That’s their project space dedicated to emerging art. It’s quite a thin, long space, and I had the walls built to reflect a kind of logical, semantic structure, which, of course, the works in the show defy. In Malmö I also have the work of Nancy de Holl, who, like Erica and Daniel, uses quite iconic modes of image making. Her photographs appear to be straight-forward documentary depictions of artifacts, but they are in fact much more complex and manipulated than that. Her photographs also, for me, relate directly to the issue of a museum’s collection and the inherent problems of authenticity and categorization that arise when looking at a large museum collection, especially one as diverse as that of the MKM. Another work that was created specially for the show in Sweden was by Klara Hobza, who was in Copenhagen all summer and had the chance to work with the consortium of the Malmö Museums’ vast holdings. She decided to work with a long wave radio antenna donated to the museum in 1920. Her piece, “Searching for the Longwave,” which includes not only the 3-meter antenna, but also documentation of performances she did in the region, actually physically embodies the theme of the show — the frustrated attempt to communicate and receive signals clearly. The last work in the show was also created for the show, which is by EllieGa. It is the first work she’s made since returning from a long journey in the Polar North aboard the Tara — a polar schooner. Her work addresses the inability to define place and time. For her and her crewmembers, the desire to locate and map was a constant, but impossible quest, as they were drifting in the polar ice floes.

So the works that related to, or that were specifically created for, the museum are not on view New York, but more than that, I call the version for Dispatch “an abbreviated version,” since it’s only part of the phrase that makes up the whole show.

NT: Did you find any Dispatch counterparts in Sweden? What do you think of the so-called non-profit situation in the country?

GG: Well, so far I’ve really only seen Malmö and Copenhagen, but both cities have very vibrant art scenes. The Malmö art academy is quite an exciting institution and so there are quite a lot of artists living in the relatively small city. I actually discovered an amazing space called Signal during my first visit to Malmö this past February. They had a show up about the methods of Sister Corita. It was a great exhibition — I had only seen her work before in bits and pieces but this show had several films about her from the period, some of her screen prints, as well as a lot of written material. Signal is run by 4 curators, so like Dispatch they have the idea that curators have all the tools it takes to run a space — no administrators, no executives. But they are supported with public funds, unlike Dispatch. I was totally impressed with them and their mission. Malmö is quite lucky to have a space like Signal, which is somewhere between institution, Konsthall, library and lecture center. Hopefully Dispatch will be able to collaborate with them in the future.

NT: Did you make some studio visits during your stay in Malmö, can you compare the situation in Sweden with the vibrant situation of the Big Apple?

GG: Yes! Part of my residency program was to do many studio visits in the region. Because Malmö has been a working class city for many generations, the city is still comparatively inexpensive — the artists have a lot of space for not a lot of money. So it’s quite concentrated with artists, which seems to me to make a good sense of community. The ArtAcademy, which has a critical studies program, has an effect on the scene as well — with a lot of artists interested in discourse and, well, because there is not a huge commercial scene there, there is more room for political art and a more engaged critical practice.

NT: Do you still believe in the difference between commercial and non-commercial?

GG: I certainly think there are still differences, yes. My experience in Sweden, and before in Switzerland, introduced me to very different systems of support for the arts. The American system of privately funded institutions and a commercial art market supporting the emerging art scene is quite different from that in Sweden. As an American curator, part of my “on the job training” has been to learn to make pitches and sell a product, even if it’s an idea or an institution. I think there is an attempt to try to embrace the American model a bit more in Sweden, but the potential private funders don’t have that consciousness yet: there is still the expectation that the government will fund the arts, and in most cases they do, so the business incentives are not in place yet. It makes for a great haven for the arts in Sweden and other socialized countries, where there are opportunities for artists to receive grants, prizes and funding for projects and also support to live on. On the other hand, the potential to grow is limited to the resources that are available — whereas in a commercial market, there is the potential to grow and expand a business.

NT: What are you preparing afterwards? Is there any exciting upcoming project?

GG: Always exciting projects, of course! We are showing Vicente Razo’s exhibitions, “Public Address” at a new alternative space, Atelier Atelier, in Copenhagen in October. And in November Dispatch is traveling to Artissima art fair in Turin to present work by Justin Matherly at the Present Future section of the fair. It’s exciting for us that the model of Dispatch as a home base for our curatorial production can expand as we had planned: To collaborate abroad and diversify our context from the small office in New York to a wider public, and keep our antennas up in Europe and beyond.

“Subject Index,” featuring works by Erica Baum, Marcelline Delbecq, EllieGa, Klara Hobza, Nancy De Holl, Tom Holmes, Daniel Lefcourt is on view until October 11 at the Malmö Konstmuseum, Sweden.

by Nicola Trezzi

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