Some notes from last week’s talk with Emily Mast. Tonight at seven – Jim Shaw.
- “My work is based in the moment and the ephemeral; and it’s performative.”
- Emily Mast tells us that she prefers to answer questions during the talk, not afterwards. Her work is collaborative. She would like this talk to be collaborative too.
- she starts with a performance exercise. About fourteen people volunteer to join her in the stage-like area at the front of the auditorium. Now they are asked to lie down, very slowly, moving their bodies piece by piece. They are asked to articulate their movements out loud: e.g., “I am stretching my right knee up as it bends.” “My neck is bending forward, my chin is moving down against my chest.” Once down, they say, “I’m down.” Then they get up in the same way. “Use whatever language is comfortable for you,” she says.
- a single person undergoes the same getting-down exercise while the rest stand around and describe the actions of his body. (This time the ‘down’ person does not speak.) He gets up. One of the volunteers says, “I feel like I’ve joined a new church.”
- that was (says Mast) “a little introduction to what rehearsal might be like if you ever work with me.” She doesn’t have a set plan for the talk. She wants us to choose one of her works – she will then talk about it.
- she discusses a work she made in Toronto, The Cage is a Stage, 2016, a re-working of a previous Los Angeles work, The Stage is a Cage, 2015. She had been thinking about John Berger’s zoo text. (This must be Why Look at Animals? from About Looking, 1980.) The overlap between humans and non-humans: both encountering and merging. The photograph that she used as a poster image is “the emblem of the piece.” What could we learn about ourselves by scrutinizing the way that we exist?
- the man in gold pants (the one bending down in the poster photo) has been a butoh performer for twenty years. “I need to cast people who can get ugly.” One of the other performers has had a career in primate movement.
- creating a work: she starts with a vague idea of what she is going to do. She brings her performers into a rehearsal space. Has “incoherent” notions — guides the performers — they try them out — the result: some “bad, stupid things,” and some good. They develop the good.
- “moving collages.”
- she is nearsighted. Her eyes understand details but not the big picture. She has accepted this into her practice.
- someone in the audience asks if she builds her own sets. Answer: “Yes and no.” The sets are part of the collaborative process.
- relational aesthetics. Guy de Cointet.
- she prefers a stage in the round to a proscenium arch. Doesn’t like the hierarchy between performer, audience, and stagehand that goes unacknowledged in the proscenium. She wants the mechanics of the performance to be visible. It “pushes the ephemerality too” – the work is emphatically not static when you can see it putting itself together.
- originally she made 2D art. It never felt right. During her 2006 Skowhegan residency she directed her first performance work. It didn’t run to plan. A trumpet player got lost on a lake. She liked the problems so much that she decided never to make a static piece again. “I think I’m highly influenced by theater and dance and the visual arts.” Once she could mix them together she felt comfortable.
- the instructions that she writes in place of scripts are referred to as “scores.” The lying down/speaking instructions that the volunteers followed at the start of the talk … that was a score.
- she documents the performances. Someone asks her how documentation influences the works. Answer: further refinement. Things that she didn’t like in real life can be edited out of the videos.
- “The reason I make art is to have conversations and butt heads with people who will make me think differently about the world.”
More quick notes, this time from last week’s excellent presentation by Jenny Odell. Tonight at seven we will be hosting the multidisciplinary L.A. artist Emily Mast.
- trash, “It’s what I’m interested in right now.”
- at first, a proclivity for collecting. Later, an interest in infrastructure and networks.
- a childhood fascination with Narnia, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and other depictions of people being altered and transported. Those changes feel (quote) “magical.” They give us a new perspective on familiar scenery. She appreciates the fact that the children in C.S. Lewis’ stories had to pass through coats to reach the otherworld. She shows us a still of the tiny Honey boy inside his hoop of breakfast cereal.
- studying literature at university, she wrote about Emily Dickinson’s fascicle 14, c. 1862 (the fascicles are small books the poet made of her poems, arranging them in groups and sewing the pages together by hand). Half of the poems in 14 are poems from Dickinson’s earlier practice, said Odell, and the other half come from the later practice. The latter ones have a more “cosmic perspective.” Again our attention is drawn to the encounter between everyday viewpoints and the super-perspective of the “magical.”
- studying art: she recreated shots from Google Street View by deliberately imitating the incidental poses of people caught by the Google camera. More difficult than it looks, she said. The photographer had to stand in the middle of the street. In one of the photographs she had to jump so that the top of her head was visible behind the high roof of a van.
- speaking about Google Maps’ overhead satellite viewpoint: “Things look specifically human when you see them from a nonhuman perspective.”
- cataloguing, a reaction to an abundance of imagery.
- looking at satellite view, you realize how much infrastructure a city requires. Infrastructure is hidden from us in two ways: 1. actually hidden, e.g., underwater cables; 2. hidden in plain sight, e.g., overhead power lines.
- Once, she coupled a gallery show with a tour of a wastewater treatment plant. Tour was unexpectedly popular. Had to schedule more tours.
- infrastructure is part of the “peripheral landscapes” of cities – e.g., the pipe that runs from San Francisco to Yosemite, collecting the water that generates power for the public transport system. She toured the length of the pipe. (Power Trip) Now, riding on the Muni, she always thinks of the far-away pipe running down the side of a cliff in the Sierra Nevada. The pipe is also part of the journey.
- Plastic Bag, by Ramin Bahrani. Mardi Gras: Made in China, by David Redmon.
- Her dilemma: how do you represent near and far, and present and unpresent, in the same space? (The end credits of Mardi Gras, are they one answer?)
- a residency at the San Francisco dump. Access to a heap of thrown-away objects: “the pile.” During her residency she visited Walmart with her mother and the display of new objects “looked like the dump” – everything was “imminent trash.”
- every object is limited edition. The circumstances that brought it to its exact existence are highly unstable. “Every object is already suspended: they’re suspended wherever they are” … “we’re just seeing them on different points on the timeline.” Researching a discarded & anonymous stuffed dog from The Pile, she is surprised to discover a forgotten 1950s TV celebrity, Morgan the Basset Hound.
- Ultimately she would like people to come out of her shows into the everyday world & be intrigued by things they hadn’t considered before.
Artist, photographer Mikayla Whitmore delivered this bouquet of signage in preparation for a special October 4 Visitor-Made that celebrates the exhibition “This Time Around.” More at Facebook:
Mikayla Whitmore, Las Vegas Native and UNLV graduate, has exhibited at multiple venues including P3Studio at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Contemporary Arts Center, and the Marjorie Barrick Museum. Her work explores the potential of the photographic image in an attempt to explore the way memory functions. Acting as a archivist of memories seeking to re-order phantasmal visual instances in time. She currently balances her studio practice with work as a staff photographer, researching dinosaur species, and planting succulents.
Some notes from Margaret Honda’s lecture last week. Don’t forget, we’ve got Jenny Odell here tonight. Her talk starts at seven.
- Honda talks about her show An Answer to ‘Sculptures,’ which appeared at Künstlerhaus Bremen earlier this year. We see two cloth works: Big Mr. Elephant and Brown Puppy IV. The position of Big Mr. Elephant on the top of a table tilted against the wall was proposed by one of the gallery staff: the artist needed a surface that would display the object so that it wasn’t on the floor; so that it was ambiguous but still suggested what it was (the ‘skin’ of a giant cloth toy animal, unstuffed). It was too tall and large for a pedestal. The table was suggested. Good! On-the-spot solution.
- the Puppy draped across a pedestal almost touching the ground on both sides – a symmetrical distance from the ground on each side, clear folds, a very clean drape.
- she shows us a photograph of the original childhood elephant stuffed toy next to the artwork, looking at it. It happened that the cloth skin she made in imitation of the toy Mr Elephant was seventeen times larger than him when she measured it. Seventeen times larger became her measure of size for stuffed animal pieces. Original elephant looks fluffed and hunched in comparison.
- then re-using the puppy in a show with shorter pedestals – the body was supported on one pedestal and then a droop and then the head was on another
- an ottoman on a pedestal in the same show. Her father made this ottoman, finding four legs first, then keeping them for ten years until he discovered the right seat. Interesting, she said, that he had waited faithfully over a decade for a seat that might never have appeared.
- [referring to one of her films, Spectrum Reverse Spectrum, 2014] – you can run it forwards and backwards, a film-palindrome: this doesn’t happen with digital. The fact that physical film is harmed when it is played. It gathers marks and dust. As a sculptural object it was displayed on a pedestal at the Hammer Museum when it was not being screened.
- Melting down an old sculpture, Fish Trap, 1989, into ingots: the ingots are now a new sculpture. Shown again, the ingots are re-melted into yet another new sculpture of ingots. Fish Trap was in a museum collection. The museum let her take it away and make the change, but there was confusion when she returned it because a work with three objects had become a work with five objects and now it had to be accessioned over again with a new number.
- old sculptures covered with paper and photographed to turn them into new, photographic works: old floating-in-pond works disassembled and turned into new works with multiple pieces that lie on the floor of a gallery like broken sections of a chassis.
- a picture of her Color Correction, 2015 – a 101-minute film of pure color – being scheduled between The Jungle and Straight Outta Compton. The incongruity of that. People laugh.