Synesthesia From A Higher Power: An Interview Of Double Diamond Sun Body

text by Summer Bowie

When Miles Davis scored Louis Malle’s Elevator To The Gallows, he took a wild approach that was as daring as it was genius. He simply watched the film from beginning to end, took some notes, wrote a few themes in his hotel room and then handed them to a small band in the morning. From there they followed his lead as he improvised his way through a second screening of the film. He didn’t read the script, he didn’t speak French, and he certainly didn’t know much about French new wave. Miraculously, the result was uncanny in its ability to capture the very essence of loneliness and desperation. He had an incredible facility for processing an image and then giving it a sonic projection that glides past the intellectualization process and rings clear as a bell right in the central nervous system. Thus is the facility that is immediately evident in the work of Robbie Williamson, otherwise known as Double Diamond Sun Body.

He is a musician first and foremost, but his work has expanded into a multitude of mediums over the course of his lifetime, and right now his creative juices are bursting and radiating in all directions like a newly born star. Though, that’s definitely nowhere close to the way that he would describe himself. He’s a humble soul with a genuine sense of curiosity, all of which is underscored by a mystical je ne sais quoi. He spent over a decade scoring films and television before he started experimenting with performance and making his own films to accompany his soundscapes, or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, this work has proliferated and evolved to include installation, sculpture and paintings, and is now finally culminating in his first solo show at MAMA Gallery in Los Angeles, entitled Saffron Crow’s Associate. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself feeling a little dissociated while experiencing the work. If you submit to that feeling, it becomes an otherworldly adventure that allows you to zoom out and observe Earth from a bird’s eye view. We had the chance to sit down with the artist and talk about his musical beginnings, his spiritual investigations, and the wonders of human nature.

Summer Bowie: Let’s start at the very beginning, where did you grow up?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I grew up in Seattle.

Bowie: What was the atmosphere like at the time? Did you always have creative ambitions and were they always nurtured while you were growing up?

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, my atmosphere was music in Seattle. I grew up just skateboarding a lot and playing in bands. I would play shows during the era of Nirvana and Soundgarden, and a lot of punk bands from D.C.––that Dischord label––people like Beefeater and Fugazi.

Bowie: Wow, so you were fully in that world while it was happening in Seattle.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, I was really entrenched in it. I was in a record label called C/Z Records and playing a lot of shows and touring.

Bowie: What kind of band were you playing with at that point when you got signed?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I was playing with a band that was very math rock, super intense, just very complicated arrangements mixed with punk––that kind of music.

Bowie: That’s amazing! What were you playing?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I was playing bass.

Bowie: And when did that start?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I started when I was fifteen. And then from there I moved to Portland and played in a band called Hitting Birth.

Bowie: Wow, what kind of music was that?

Double Diamond Sun Body: It was very theatrical. Sort of industrial, but very light. Not industrial aesthetically but sound wise it was very rhythmic and heavy, but aesthetically it was lots of white clothing and colors, and the opposite of what you’d think industrial would be.

Bowie: Crazy. And how’d you get into composing music for films?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I wrote a film called Dandelion that starred Vincent Kartheiser from Madmen. I wrote that with my friend and we got it made. It ended up doing really well, went to Sundance and winning a bunch of awards in different festivals around the world. That was the first film I scored. That film did pretty well and a lot of people started asking me to score their films based on that movie, so that’s how I got into it. I just kept going with it and never stopped for a decade.

Bowie: I love that. And there’s really a spiritual aspect to what you do––something kind of ‘other­worldly.’ When did you first get introduced to this side of yourself - or was it always there?

Double Diamond Sun Body: It was always there - since I was around twelve. You know, it started normally with Carlos Castaneda books and stuff, then it just kinda grew and never stopped growing. I don’t know, it was something that was always with me. It came from reading. Then I joined a lot of different groups that were studying various esoteric things. And I never really expressed it as much as I do now because I was always doing things with other people.

Bowie: Wow, and were your parents a part of this or was it just completely your own thing?

Double Diamond Sun Body: It was my own thing, and then when I was around twenty I started to do some things with my mother.

Bowie: That’s so beautiful. And then your name Double Diamond Sun Body...where did it come from and when did you decide to adopt it?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I took on that name from something that I read a couple years ago. It’s hard to explain but it has to do with the Christ embodiment or sort of like a Christ consciousness or Christ energy 2.0.

Bowie: Heavy.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, I really resonated with the ideas around that and how that energy integrates into modern life. So the name just really resonated with me.

Bowie: It seems like a lot of that ethos was evident in your former band, We Are the World, but that work was much different than your current work. What was the creative mission behind that project?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I don’t think there really was a mission. It was a group of creative people coming together and going off the cuff, ya know. There wasn’t a mission but a lot of people interpreted it that way, like they would see us as a cult, or see our performances as very cult­ish and always wanted to know what it meant. I think it was just the right combination of people that exuded that kind of impression, but there wasn’t an intention, you know what I’m saying?



Bowie: Yeah, just a performative exploration as a group. And do you like being in a band or do you prefer performing solo?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I think that all the different projects I worked with I really enjoyed, but they’ve each served their purpose in getting me to where I am now. I couldn’t really foresee being in another band, but I’m really glad that I was for so long.

Bowie: You blend music and performance in a really unique way. What kind of emotions are you trying to convey or evoke through the energy of your music and your performances?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I think in general I’m trying to express the utter mystery of life and what we’re all doing, while embracing very traditional actions and very traditional institutions in terms of very basic spirituality. Trying to hone that down to a basic thin––not making it very complicated. Traditional values of family, physical labor, children, simple colors, and combining those energies with the ambiguous, ethereal nature of the music. When you combine those two you get something interesting.

Bowie: And do you feel that you’re on a journey or a spiritual path that you’re exploring with your work that’s separate from your own life trajectory? Or are they both one in the same?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I think they’re absolutely one in the same. One couldn’t exist without the other.

Bowie: Your show at MAMA is very unique because it’s the first time that your pursuits as a fine artist will coalesce into something much grander. Can you describe the show and its meaning? Particularly, the meaning behind its title?

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, Saffron Crow’s Associate is about an entity named Saffron Crow and his associate. They are off­planet entities that visit Earth to basically just check it out. They’re flying by to see what’s happening. They get here and are immediately enamored with the way in which races coexist and battle each other more or less. They’re also very interested in the way the media perpetuates this sort of battle. They find it really unnecessary and sort of comment on all of this, while presenting simple solutions to the problematic way that the races react toward one another.

Bowie: Can you give us an example of any of those solutions?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I think that they really are of the opinion that races should try to have more pride in their race, versus trying to shove their race down other races’ throats, and say “accept me, accept me!” That goes for white races too. All races should. And simultaneously I think they really say that you should have mad respect for all races while letting them be sovereign entities and not give into this forced assimilation constantly. Again this is all their opinion. They think it just causes more problems.

Bowie: Do you believe in a higher power or spiritual enlightenment? Do you think that humans have lost sight of this side of themselves?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I don’t think that question can really ever be answered––in the way that I think any answer to that question would be a complete assumption. So yeah, I would leave it at that. But I think for someone like them and me­­because I feel as though I’m channeling them­­there’s something going on. I would be absolutely floored if this was all a result of stars colliding into each other and bacteria growing.

Bowie: So if you were an alien that came to this planet are these the first impressions that you believe you would have regarding human nature?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I think I would. If I really imagine another planet or another race of beings that live there, the last thing I’m gonna do is think, “Oh there are these beings living on this planet.” I would think, “Wow, there’s several types of beings on this planet and they don’t get along? They have bombs pointing at each other, and still don’t understand each other, and are still fighting for equality?” and I’d be completely enamored by this.

Bowie: How does sound play into that aspect of the show?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I’m working with colors and tones in the notes. Specific notes go with specific colors. So the sound of the show is going to be very meditative and very different than the music that I’ve been performing live. When there’s a certain message or certain subtitle, or color, there is a corresponding tone to accentuate the message.

Bowie: It’s almost like you’re sharing a sense of synesthesia with us.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Absolutely. It’s subjective to the most of my ability. But work like that is highly mathematical. Somewhere in the universe of Earth there are objective equations that can get information across better via color and tone. However, I’m no expert at it, but I’m trying to incorporate that to the best of my ability, which will work for some people, but it might not do anything for others.

Bowie: I guess we won’t know that until the show.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, I’m sure it’ll be very different for everyone.

Bowie: Well, where do we go from here? What’s the most important lesson that we should learn as a species?

Double Diamond Sun Body: In my opinion, I think there should be less identification. That’s what Saffron’s talking about in the intro of the film when it says, “come with me to observe the animal.” I think that that’s what the show is about, observing the animal. And the animal is only an animal when it has lots of identifications. And when you can observe yourself and not identify with everything all the time, then you’re opening yourself up to some potential.

Bowie: My last question is why is Saffron Crow’s Associate the pointed figure?

Double Diamond Sun Body: Because Saffron Crow only speaks when he really wants to speak and he’s busy. So his associate does most of the commentary, but Saffron does appear a few times.

Bowie: Gotcha­­I like it. So sort of like the way Double Diamond Sun Body is just channeling something higher.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, maybe Double Diamond Sun Body is someone else’s associate.

[laughs]

Bowie: Yeah. Awesome, thanks so much.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Cool, that was nice. Thank you.


Double Diamond Sun Body "Saffron Crow's Associate" will be on view from November 5 to December 5, 2016 at MAMA Gallery, 1242 Palmetto Street, Los Angeles. Text and interview by Summer Bowie. Photographs by Oliver Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


A Dark and Fluffy World: An Interview With Galen Pehrson

text by Summer Bowie

 

Watching one of Galen Pehrson’s films, like his most recent, The Caged Pillows, starring the likes of Jena Malone and James Franco, is like stepping into a psychedelic cartoon where you can’t help feeling a tinge of déjà vu – you’re not sure if it was a dream, a childhood memory, or an omen. It’s as though a mixture of real life memories and old movie scenes were plucked from your brain and rearranged into a brilliant new narrative. They’re the renderings of a world that most of us have inhabited for all our lives, but for Galen, who spent the first 12 years of his life in rural Nevada City, without access to cable TV or any other means of consuming pop culture, this world can be seen from a slightly outside perspective.

His exposure to MTV was a wild awakening that led him into making music videos and working as a cartoon artist. His harrowing tale of running away, moving to New York, studying at RISD and eventually spending the first 7 months of his life in Los Angeles at a halfway home for dual-diagnosed criminals with psychiatric disorders in South Central is one that deserves a film in itself, but it certainly set the stage for the world of Caged Pillows that he has been creating for the past several years.

Former iterations of this world are clearly seen in previous projects such as El Gato, a collection of hand-drawn, animated vignettes that was part of James Franco’s Rebel project, a multi-artist exhibition presented at MOCA during Jeffrey Deitch’s sadly missed reign. You can also see further developments of this vacuous, celestial world filled with characters that behave like humans but look like ducks, dogs, cats, wolves and mice in Mondo Taurobolium. This short film that is as much a music video for Devendra Banhart’s track Taurobolium as it is a film that carries its own, not only features the same starring cast and characters as his other films, but the score is also masterfully mixed and produced by the brilliant Noah Georgeson.

His new film, The Caged Pillows, is a short that was originally intended to be a feature, but Galen says this introduction is just a pinprick into a world that will encompass several mediums and film projects in the future. Until then, in under ten minutes, this short is a vortex of mind blowing musical and visual narrative that will be premiered this Wednesday night at MAMA gallery alongside a celebration party for Ruins Magazine, an editorial content site that produced the film and will be launching online with the premiere. We sat down with Galen over green tea in his Hollywood Hills home/studio to talk about his process, his inspiration for the film, and the meaning behind the Caged Pillows.

AUTRE: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or none of the above?

PEHRSON: I think of myself as a director. But the art is cartoon art. I more closely align to cartoon art than animation. The style is taken from my memories; when I was a kid and would watch DuckTales. I’m interested in how those worlds could mature with you. So as an adult, what would that be like? You can always trust cartoon characters. You don’t have to build up characters like you would in a film. There’s this consistent moral overtone. It’s very light. If there’s a bad guy, it’s clear he’s a bad guy. With a cartoon-style arch, you can get away with a lot that you couldn’t get away with in a shorter amount of time. It helps with the compressed stories.

AUTRE: Are you drawn to any other mediums?

PEHRSON: Cartoons are just one facet of it. I have other projects that I’m working on. I produced a bunch of audio on this, like music stuff. I see it as all under the umbrella of this world of Caged Pillows. 

AUTRE: What mediums were you drawn to when you were a kid?

PEHRSON: I’ve been painting since I was a kid. But then painting seemed pointless. As though everyone had already done everything you could possibly do with it. What could I contribute to this? It’s a medium that is so deeply covered. And it didn’t resonate very deeply with me. We’re in such a pop culture-driven society that paintings feel like something people do to remind them of the past. It seems extremely irrelevant. For me, the excitement of creation is bringing out people’s imaginations, immersing them in a different place for a while. I think that’s what the old painters did, like Heironymus Bosch. They had these whole worlds. During that time, it was very contemporary and edgy. For me, it’s trying to be innovative with technology and to create a reflection of our current society.

AUTRE: It’s interesting that you feel Caged Pillows is a reflection of the present. It feels like an ambiguous representation of what could be the present, or likely a dystopian future. It makes sense that you’re working in a medium that is present/future.

PEHRSON: I wanted to be reflective of our current society, which has fascinated me since my childhood. I was raised off the grid until I was twelve years old. I didn’t have television, electricity, any contact with popular culture. We had a Magritte book, and a few others. That was my connection to art. Besides that, we had nothing to do. I drew, painted, or played with dirt. That’s all there was.

AUTRE: Was that a conscious decision that your parents made?

PEHRSON: There was nothing else to do. We were really poor, so we had pens, paper, and dirt. It was something I always did. There are photographs of me, in diapers, smearing paint all over something. I never thought, “Oh, I want to be an artist.” Most of the time, I wished I could do something else.

AUTRE: What was your first introduction to pop culture?

PEHRSON: MTV.

AUTRE: What was that experience like?

PEHRSON: To me, it seemed so bizarre. Pop culture in general does this. Imagine landing on Earth and seeing people singing and dancing like this. That never went away for me. A lot of my work is coming from this place of being young and seeing all these images on TV. “Dress like this to be cool.” I think it’s different if you grow up with it naturally and slowly. It becomes something you adapt to. But at 12, I was like, “I don’t have the right shoes. I have to wear these pants.” There was this extremely fast rush of information on how to fit into society. Plus it was so limiting to be an individual. There were these groups you could be in – nerd, jock, bad guy, whatever.

AUTRE: When you first started watching it, did you feel indoctrinated in it? Or were you immediately critical?

PEHRSON: I loved it. I went on to do music videos.

AUTRE: How long have you been developing your style, these psychedelic, celestial, animal worlds?

PEHRSON: The first time I used the duck characters was 2005. That was for the cover of Adam Green’s Jacket Full of Danger. I didn’t know what to do with it yet. I sat around with a lot of ideas, with a very particular aesthetic in mind, for a while. In 2012, for the Red Bull exhibition, they wanted to commission an animation. So I was like, “The ducks!” That was the launching pad for it.

AUTRE: That one was very erotic too.

PEHRSON: Yeah, each one has its own experiment to it. That piece focused on the erotic. What’s interesting, all the dialogue in that is dialogue from Rebel Without a Cause, just mixed up. That was the first iteration of the characters. They’ve become more and more human over time. I think eventually they’ll just turn into humans.



AUTRE: Your work deals a lot with Hollywood, fame, and money worship. Where do you see yourself in this landscape?

PEHRSON: I have a pretty patronizing point of view. I was never asked to be a part of society. I find myself with all these rules, conditions, and responsibilities that don’t make any sense to me. I constantly feel like I’m walking through a preset maze. It’s so limiting.

AUTRE: It seems like people don’t know they’re in a maze, and that's the scariest part.

PEHRSON: Yeah, it goes back to pop culture. The best artist is not the most popular. Everything is essentially a commercial, even music, and now in art. We’re in an art renaissance. There’s so much content. But it’s all funded and propelled by how and who is making money. Art, to me, has been an honest, accurate reflection of society, without commercial interests. That’s the kind of stuff we get from design. Though they are close, design is for a purpose. Art isn’t necessarily for a purpose.

AUTRE: In many ways it seems like artists are starting to ask themselves how they can commodify their own work before they've even made it. Or a brand is already finding ways to commodify it for them.

PEHRSON: Exactly.

AUTRE: Originally, this was going to be a feature length film, but then Ruins came to you?

PEHRSON: Yeah, I was really excited. I thought of it as an introduction to the world of Caged Pillows. What started as a very linear feature film morphed and grew in many directions that go beyond the film. They gave me a lot of freedom to do whatever I want with it, which is rare and very refreshing.

AUTRE: Who are the Caged Pillows?

PEHRSON: We are the Caged Pillows. Our world is very comfortably jailed. We’re sedated, distracted by television. Everyone is on medication. Our society as a whole, Western culture, has completely driven itself away from the natural human state. That’s such an interesting topic. The Caged Pillows are us. I’m susceptible to this. We’ve been programmed to respond to what success, beauty, and happiness look like – and from a young age. The film is about that. People get these ideas, that success is a beautiful pool, a Bugatti, probably some gold chains.

That’s what the gem in the film represents. At one point, he says, “I’ve been with you since you were a baby. Touch me and I’ll go crazy.” It’s the phones, the screens, touch-touch-double-tap, the instant gratification. There’s a line, “I fed you a lifetime of lies. I can’t even look in your eyes.” The screen can be talking to you, but it’s a one-way communication. There’s no singular accountability because it’s a culture.

AUTRE: We’re all victims inflicting culture on one another.

PEHRSON: Exactly. That’s the overarching idea of the film. There’s a fantasy that we will someday break that and learn more about ourselves as individuals rather than an idea of a society.

AUTRE: Did these ideas become more pronounced when you moved to LA?

PEHRSON: Yeah, definitely. This is Los Angeles. Everyone here is here for a reason. You can separate your friends into two categories: people you would actually call if you had a problem, and people you call for a drink or to go out with or whatever. It’s not a negative thing. Everyone here is ambitious, and acceptably so.

AUTRE: It’s a superficial fame factory. Your work really dives into that.

PEHRSON: The whole film in itself is commercials and the commercials are starring so-and-so. Everything is tied to the celebrity. Even unconsciously, we’re drawn to these figures and the meaning assigned to them.

AUTRE: And the isolation on the other side of that.

PEHRSON: Yes. I made Mondo from a very personal experience. All I had been doing was sitting on a screen. The only experience I had to tell was the experience of sitting on a screen.



AUTRE: Do you ever have to go through a digital detox?

PEHRSON: Every time I finish a project, I go hiking to the Sierra Nevadas for a week. Or I drive through the desert. I go out there and there’s just nothing. I have to hear my own voice. It’s a very strong contrast from, like, literally listening to top forty while I work, because I’m so fascinated by pop culture.

AUTRE: What’s your work process like?

PEHRSON: I’ve worked twelve to fourteen-hour days for the past few years. I wake up at 4[pm], I work from 5[pm] to 9 in the morning. Working all night, I don’t see anybody. It’s all done from a very isolated place.

AUTRE: When people do voiceover, do they have to conform to your schedule?

PEHRSON: No. I do all the voices first. There’s a fun version, which is just me. I send them that version and then they work independently. This piece being so much about pop culture, celebrity, dreams of “being something,” I wanted to involve people that live that lifestyle. I don’t give them much direction. They’re collaborators. They all seem to find joy and release in it. And all the actors are able to find the cracks in the system. They are involved with other things. They appreciate the art. But still, it is pop culture. If that’s the palette we have to work with for people to see it, that’s the right medium.

AUTRE: What about the process do you enjoy the most and the least?

PEHRSON: I enjoy all of it. The hardest part is sitting still for so many hours, and the isolation of not having connection or touch for weeks, or months even. I also feel like this piece called for it. That’s what it was about. It was a bit of method animating (laughs). The best part about it is working with my friends and people I’m genuinely a big fan of. Bar none, to collaborate with a community of ideas and artists who are like-minded.

AUTRE: Is this world going to keep developing?

PEHRSON: Oh yeah. This is just the entrance. It’s a primer to a much larger narrative, extending across music, film, sculpture. There’s a whole set of stuff. As a creative person, it’s all communications – writing, music, art. Any time you can take your vision and make it work in a different medium you’re improving that communication. I think that’s so important, to set outside of one channel of expressing something. I think everybody in the project feels that way. The Caged Pillows world is going to provide a place for people who are stuck in a genre to come and do something completely new.

AUTRE: Are you excited to share it at MAMA?

PEHRSON: I’m very excited. One side is that I made the piece in isolation, as I wanted it to be viewed in isolation. I asked people to call a 1-800 number when watching the film, and I got over 20,000 messages. They’re all about people feeling isolated, feeling like an alien. There’s this disassociation from the world around them.

AUTRE: Can you tell us about Ruins Magazine?

PEHRSON: Yeah, this film is kicking off the launch of Ruins Magazine. It’s a cultural digest that focuses around urbanism and the future of cities. It’s architecture, design, prose and imagery that all somehow express the human condition in present urban environments.

AUTRE: Like a crossover between urbanism and art?

PEHRSON: Yeah, urbanism, art, and culture. And it’s an amazing set of people. I think they’re going to publish a lot of content that otherwise wouldn’t get made.

AUTRE: When does the site launch?

PEHRSON: June 1st.


The Caged Pillows will premiere at MAMA Gallery on June 1st, in conjunction with the release of Ruins Magazine, at 7pm. Follow Galen Pehrson to learn more about the world of The Caged Pillows. photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Text by Summer Bowie. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Pulverizing Rabbits: An Interview with Ariana Papademetropoulos Before Her Solo Exhibition In Los Angeles

After her solo show opening this weekend at MAMA gallery in Los Angeles, artist Ariana Papademetropoulos might make a film about killer mushrooms that murder young punk kids. This should give you an idea of her creativity – it's a boundless creativity that bursts with schizophrenic, hallucinatory imaginativeness. Her paintings literally split at the imaginary seams, tearing into new images – half hidden sadomasochistic scenes are obscured by foggy veils, and midcentury living rooms peel into wood paneled dens where shadows portend dark and dangerous things. There is a Freudian element - her paintings feel like repressed memories, places where we were abused and aroused, places where we learned about our sexuality; places where past lives lived, made love and died under unknown suns. In her work, the hippocampus unfurls like a beautiful prismatic flower and drips with vibrant eroticism. It's truly electrifying. You can see many new works this weekend at one her first major solo exhibitions in Los Angeles – a small house will be built that will make her paintings come to life. We got a chance to visit Papademetropoulos in her studio to discuss her work, her life growing up in Los Angeles, and her new show, Wonderland Avenue

OLIVER KUPPER: Did growing up in Los Angeles inspire your work?

ARIANA PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Yeah, in a way, I guess without me really wanting it to. It kind of seeped in. I’m from here. I kind of grew up in Pasadena. My dad lived in Venice. I moved back and forth between those two worlds.

KUPPER: It’s hard not to be fascinated by Los Angeles

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: There are so many strange things that keep popping up. When I was younger, I was in Pasadena, but then I learned about Jack Parsons and Majorie Cameron and that whole realm. There are always these undertones. Even in upper class neighborhoods, there are always strange things happening.

KUPPER: There’s always something dark going on. Even in Beverly Hills.

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Totally. Everywhere.

KUPPER: When did you know that you wanted to become an artist? I read somewhere that your parents encouraged you at an early age. Was there a defining moment?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Not really. I think it was just the only thing I ever did, since I was literally a kid, which sounds cheesy.

KUPPER: Was there a moment when you knew that you were going to do it for the rest of your life, or was it natural?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: That was just the only thing I did.

KUPPER: And your parents encouraged it?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Yeah. My dad is an architect. Everyone on my mom’s side of the family is an architect. I just wasn’t really good at anything else.

KUPPER: So you were around a lot of creativity?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Yeah. It was very natural.

KUPPER: Did you know it was going to be painting, or were you ever working with other mediums?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: I think it was always painting. I would love to do other mediums as well. I would love to move into installation. I’d like the works to get bigger and bigger – to envelop you in a sense.

KUPPER: To take on a life of their own?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Yeah.

KUPPER: And your parents never wanted you to do architecture?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: No. They actually told me not to do architecture. You actually don’t get to be that creative, unless you’re very very very successful. Working for an architecture firm would mean me painting pictures of people’s cats for the rest of my life. I wouldn’t get to do what I want. Unless you get up there. But I would love to do architecture.

KUPPER: You’re part of this really exciting art scene in LA that has started to grow, especially among female artists. Do you find strength in this collective energy?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: No. I feel like most of my friends aren’t artists. Most of my friends are musicians. I don’t feel like I really exist. I don’t have a core group of artist friends.

KUPPER: Do you feel like there’s a creative energy in LA going on that’s stronger than it’s been in the past?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Totally. Everyone is moving here. I just don’t exist in any realm. There’s a lot of cool stuff going on. It’s a good time to be in LA.

KUPPER: When did you start developing your style?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: I’ve been painting in a similar way since I was like fourteen. I was really into the style of vintage clothes. There was this one dress that had airbrushed flowers and patterns on it. One of the backgrounds of my painting, I copied the fabric from the airbrushed dress that I wore. That started off the whole thing. A lot of people think my paintings are airbrushed.

KUPPER: But it is brush work?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Yeah, it’s all brush work.

KUPPER: Amazing. Do you start with the image and work backwards towards obscuring distorting it?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: I create the image first and then distort.

KUPPER: So the image is underneath it the whole time?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Yeah. It’s almost as if it’s collage, in a sense. I’m just photographing them in the in-between state. I work with a lot of these vintage erotic, nude postcards.

KUPPER: I wonder why erotica is not like that anymore. Maybe it was the Internet. Maybe it was the times.

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: There’s no mystery. There is, but not really. Everything is kind of disgusting.



KUPPER: What is the symbolism behind the distortion of the work?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: In a sense, I’m interested in creating images that trigger the viewer’s sense of psychology. All images do this. I think when images are in limbo, they can be perceived in more than one way. That, to me, is more interesting to me than giving it to you all at once. I try to make things to inspire the view to use their own imagination.

KUPPER: It seems like an alternate reality. You could peel the surface off to reveal something more.

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: I’m really into that. I think most of my paintings have a layer of separation. There’s a double layer. This makes the images seem more tangible to me. The thing on the other side might be real, because there’s a barrier that’s separating our reality from that one.

KUPPER: It brings to mind Magritte’s philosophy of the treachery of the image. Ceci n’est pas une pipe. The image is something else entirely. That deals a lot with psychology. It’s interesting related to the time period of the images you’re working with. In mid-century film, you would have these split images, and your whole perception of things is skewed.

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Yeah. When you’re watching a film, you are in the film. Similar things have been coming up a lot in my work.

KUPPER: Do you spend a lot of time sourcing your images? You probably dig deep to find them.

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: I do. I think half the time is making the images, and half the time is actually executing it. I do spend a lot of time figuring out what to make first.

KUPPER: How long does this process take?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: It depends on what kind of deadline I’m under. I’ve done this whole show since January, which is kind of nuts. I haven’t left my studio. I work like 16-hour days, just going nuts.

KUPPER: Is that ideal? Do you like that pressure?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: I’d like to have a little bit of room. But this is how I always seem to work, always at the last moment. I’m used to it.

KUPPER: It’s an interesting juxtaposition – to be rushed, but also to have to be so meticulous.

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Yeah. That’s something I’ve learned – to never rush. If I rush, it will take me longer, in the end. But if I just zone in and do it right, it’s fine. I never try to rush. I just get lost in it.

KUPPER: Do you apply any practical theory to your work? Classical training?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: No, not really. I just use turpenoid. I don’t know how to use anything else. I’m really into rabbit skin glue. That’s what I put on the canvas. It’s literally pulverized rabbits. You have to get the powder and put it in the pot and boil it. They’ve been doing it since the Middle Ages. The rabbit’s skin glue is clear, but it’s sparkly. It’s magical.

KUPPER: Where do you get rabbit’s skin glue?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Just at the art store. I like the idea that pulverized rabbits make sparkly glue.

KUPPER: Your upcoming show, “Wonderland Avenue,” was the title based off those murders from the 80s?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Yeah, but it embodied all my ideas about Los Angeles, in a sense. I wasn’t super keen about it being about the Laurel Canyon murders. But it made sense in my ideas about spaces, how they change over time. For example, that house where the murders occurred, the Wonderland Gang lived there. But before that, Paul Revere and the Raiders lived there, a psychedelic band. That street was 60s, with the Doors and this band and that band. It was this magical utopia. And the name itself – “Wonderland Avenue.” In Los Angeles, especially in Laurel Canyon, we have all of these street names that are like Disneyland. I’m interested in how Los Angeles becomes itself. The newspaper would say, “Oh, LA, where all the movie stars go!” even though there was nothing here. So people came with this idea, and then it was created. History intertwines itself. Fact and fiction interplay.  

KUPPER: It’s very manufactured. That name sums up a lot. It’s a great title for a show.

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: My work is kind of magical, in a sense. I don’t want to say that, but the palette has a magical quality to it. It’s both light and dark.

KUPPER: And you’re creating a fantasy, just as LA is creating a fantasy.

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Yeah.

KUPPER: There’s an erotic element to your work. Erotica is something that you seem interested in.

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: I think it’s a natural thing. Women are the most beautiful things. Of course I’m going to want to paint them. I strayed away from painting people for a long time, because I felt like I had to get away from portrait. But I like putting them in these different situations, like the woman with the plastic on top.

KUPPER: Oh, yeah. I guess it’s erotically charged in the sense that they’re naked.

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: When a woman has panties on, or stockings, how is that more sexy than being completely nude? These accessories that cover you up actually make you sexier. I think my painting do that, in a way. They’re only giving you a little bit. Whether they’re erotic or not, I’m not sure. Like, I have a piece that’s a picture from Poltergeist. When you only get a little bit of something, it draws you in more. I’m using that idea of eroticism with all my paintings.

KUPPER: What’s next after this?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: I don’t know yet. There are a couple of art fairs that I’m supposed to do. I’m probably going to take a break. I’ve been talking about making this film for four years, and I’m finally doing it.

KUPPER: Can you talk about the film at all?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: It’s kind of hilarious. It might not be a film; it might be more like a picture book. The movie is about a killer mushroom who murders all these young punks. It’s all my friends, and everyone has a role that’s exactly for them. One of my friends delivers the boys to the mushroom in exchange for snacks. She doesn’t understand that the mushroom is killing these people. But the mushroom isn’t killing them; she’s just turning them into plants.

KUPPER: Is it going to be a feature or a short?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: Short.

KUPPER: Are you shooting it on film?

PAPADEMETROPOULOS: I’m still wanting to make a book out of it instead, a bunch of photographs telling a story. Kind of in the same way of a comic book. It’s like a graphic novel but with photographs. All my friends are like, “You have to make a movie.” I might try to do both. 


Wonderland Avenue opens March 12, 2016 and runs until April 23, at MAMA Gallery in Los Angeles. Click here to see a tour of Ariana Papademetropoulos' studio. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Sound and Vision: An Interview With Eskmo

Brendan Angelides, better known by his stage name Eskmo, is one of those rare musical artists and composers that can combine the natural sounds of the earth and digital elements with a romantic, alchemical simplicity that is orchestrally abstract, but also extremely beautiful - like a soundtrack for a flying dream. Eskmo has used samples of field recordings from Icelandic glaciers, the rain falling in Berlin, tour bus fan noises while passing through the American Midwest, and parking garage construction in San Francisco. Indeed, Eskmo is a constant diarist of sound and vision. His latest album, SOL – which was released back in March – takes a slight departure from his previous albums, but still holds true to the lineage of using samples and drum beats – it is also rife with Eskmo’s discernible aural brush strokes that are cinematic and otherworldly. The only difference is the grandiosity of scale and concept behind the album – combining traumatic life effects (which is delves into details in the following interview) and the entire celestial body of the sun as conceptual inspiration. With SOL, Eskmo may have conceived one his most personal, but also one of his best albums – an album that sees him poking out of the drum and bass pigeon hole that music journalists and critics have tried to put him into over the last decade. It is also proof that Eskmo has many sonic avenues to travel. With SOL, you can hear the power of the album after the first note – like a magnetic flare bursting through the darkness of space. In the following interview, Eskmo talks about his artistic journey as a composer, the inspirations behind SOL, his entrance into the Echo Society (a collective of Los Angeles based composers), and the music he likes to listen to at home.

Joe McKee: First of all, why so long in between records? Four years might not be that long to some, but it’s a significant time to develop ideas and to work on new material. What was the reason for the gap?

Eskmo: Logistically, I actually wrote a bunch of stuff in 2011 and 2012, but it was so far from what my other album was that Ninja Tune wasn’t even into it. I sat back with that, and I decided to release that material as two EPs—quietly, digitally on my own label. Just to hold onto the stuff in case anything were to happen.

JM: What was the gist of those EPs? Can you give me an idea of why it was such a big departure from the previous album?

Eskmo: For me, it wasn’t that big of a departure. I think [the record label was] at a particular place in which I had a certain buzz around me at a certain time. I was working with Amon Tobin. I had done a couple of things where I think they had a very particular idea of what I would do. They put out the first one just to see how it would go from there. I think they had a particular idea of the aesthetic that I would keep going in, which wasn’t my idea of myself.  My new stuff sounded more like Peter Garbriel. I was like, “That’s awesome! Isn’t that cool?” But that’s not what they wanted. They’re focused on a particular aesthetic. For me, so many different things were happening in my life in 2011 and 2012—the songs reflected that. There were things that were way over there and some things that were way over here. Proper heartbreak, proper crazy travel.

JM: Being pulled in different directions, and the music follows that.

Eskmo: It was all genuine and very authentic. It was still melodic, still sound-design-y, but it was pulled in different directions.

JM: When you talk about sound-design-y, could you elaborate on what you mean by that? Are you talking field recordings involved?

Eskmo: Not even necessarily field recordings involved, but more so the idea of creating the craziest type of sound possible doesn’t inspire me that much at that point. I didn’t relate writing that material. I did a little bit before that. The Eskmo album, the one with “Cloudlight” and stuff, was very methodical, very clinical-sounding, very precise. After, it didn’t make sense to ask, what kind of crazy new type of sound can I create out of this? I was genuinely feeling more inspired by more simple melodies and song structure. I was like, “Oh, that’s engaging to me,” instead of trying to make some crazy-sounding thing.

JM: When, you’re creating a record, when you’re sculpting that world, what are your parameters?

Eskmo: I think I have a sound palette, to a degree. Over the years, I’ve refined my ability. Specifically drum and bass taught me this years ago. Here’s a tiny little box—what can you do with that box and be creative? Taking that as a formula and applying it, I have been able to do that in different ways. With this [current] album, contextually, I started out just wanting to write an album that sounded like the sun. I wanted this big sound. My biological dad passed. I had record label stuff. Big things in my life were shifting. So the first, initial impulse—the sun thing—happened. A couple of tracks came out of that—“Sol” and later “A Thousand Furnaces.” Then, as the year went by, as I working on more of it, stuff would come up. Oh, wow, this is clearly a heartbreak song. Here’s another one, this is a very human, heart-on-sleeve song. Another song, “Blue & Grey,” I’m literally singing about a blue heron—fucking get more hippie than that. It felt right to me. Looking back at it, that’s why I started to associate it with yes, the sun, but there’s also really human stuff in here. The idea of the moon coming in was in relationship to a female-personified figure.  It had to do with authenticity, too. At one point during that writing process, I was trying to force writing an album about the sun. Why am I writing these tender things? But I decided I needed to just do that and see where it goes.

JM: What does authenticity mean to you, musically?

Eskmo: My personal relationship to it is a sense of vulnerability, a sense of being honest with that process. My version of authenticity would be not controlling that pre-ordained narrative of needing a particular type of song, a particular type of aesthetic. For example, the show at MAMA Gallery—I wouldn’t have done that a year and a half ago, man. I’ve had a hard time, in the past, even inviting friends over for dinner, nevermind inviting 70 people come to the gallery and watch me sweat and struggle in these very vulnerable positions. For me, that’s the authenticity in my understanding of it. I’m pushing myself while being very honest. Participating in that dynamic actually fueled the record, too. The same type of thing that I was experiencing emotionally and psychologically during the photo shoot was part of the album-writing process.

JM: Exposing yourself, breaking down the walls that you build. Letting people in, letting people understand the process. It’s more of a naked process that way.

Eskmo: A band that’s inspired me for a few years now—it’s rad to watch them progress—is Future Islands. Samuel Herring—I view him as a very authentic, vulnerable human. He’s just wearing his heart out there. Combined with his charisma, that’s why I seem him excelling right now. You have this guy saying, “This is me.”

JM: Beautiful thing to witness. On that note of inviting people in and taking down those boundaries that you may have previously built, with whom have you been collaborating? Who is instigating those collaborations?

Eskmo: Particularly on the album, the album artwork—

JM: I love that artwork; it’s beautiful. What is it looking down at?

Eskmo: A feather sculpture. Check out her stuff—Kate MccGwire. Her stuff is rad. Some of her art installations have feathers coming out of a pipe, and going out to walls. Amazing, alien-looking stuff. Also, the back cover is a wooden sculpture by my friend Aleph Geddis. That’s become a huge, integral part of the album theme. We worked with it in the music video too—we projected the geometric lines of the shape onto it. I can’t say this yet, because we’re just talking about it, but we’re working on making hollow versions of his geometric sculptures—50 to 100 of them—to sell along with the vinyl as a bundle-package. Also, my friend Dean Grenier is working on the art direction. That collaborative process—allowing people to do what they’re good at—I thrive in it. I think, in the past, I wanted more control. Particularly around the album and how the tour is going to go, I’m being more open to other people’s ideas instead of being more controlling.  


"Looking back at it, that’s why I started to associate it with yes, the sun, but there’s also really human stuff in here. The idea of the moon coming in was in relationship to a female-personified figure.  It had to do with authenticity, too. At one point during that writing process, I was trying to force writing an album about the sun. Why am I writing these tender things? But I decided I needed to just do that and see where it goes."


JM: At what stage did the visual artists on the record come on board?

Eskmo: The album art was after. Aleph—I’ve been friends with him for years, and I’ve always loved his sculptures. I wanted to work with him. The other artists—I didn’t know how to make that happen, until I decided I wanted to work with Kate. That feather sculpture, she already made that. The aesthetic—the feather thing was organic, alien, clean, minimal—what would work in tandem with that? Some of Aleph’s photos one morning, holding a wood block over his head—I was like, “This is it. This makes so much sense for me.” That process has been step-by-step, seeing it progress.  It turned into a thing where I was literally using his shapes during the music video, too. I was integrating feathers into the music video, too, which hadn’t been a part of it at all. Also, working with Dylan, the actual animator that was doing—that process was letting him do what he’s really good at.

JM: There’s a performative element to it.

Eskmo: 100%, man. Coming out of a place where I hadn’t really done any collabs—I had turned into this lone wolf thing—right now, I’ve been breaking out of that. The collaborative process is still new for me. It’s only been a year and a half of breaking out of that shell. I’m step-by-step. When new things come in, I allow it to flourish instead of trying to control it into a very specific kind of direction. In some ways, I’m taking baby steps, to be honest.

JM: Okay, what is the Echo Society, what is it, and how did it come about?

Eskmo: The Echo Society is a collective of composers, musicians, and artists in LA. We’ve put on two events so far with a chamber orchestra. We had a couple of guests for each show. Everyone, essentially, writes one piece for the whole ensemble that’s put together. It’s all LA-based musicians. We had seen a couple shows in LA before we did the first one, before we started talking about it. Other musicians were brought in from New York and stuff. There was one particular show that inspired us to do something more LA-based. We were inspired to do something better, to be honest. So we started talking about it. This came organically out of hanging out with a bunch of music nerd bros. We were just going to Disney Hall, to the Greek, and we decided—what would happen if we just threw our first one? It organically happened. Most of the other guys are doing film stuff—aside from David, who is doing electronic stuff, too. It just happened.

JM: Sweet. Do you have any other artists that you consider your peers creatively? Particularly in LA, but elsewhere too. Are there people you’re in communication with regularly that you might feel in competition with? Or feel inspired by, creatively? It doesn’t have to be musically, necessarily.

Eskmo: I’m definitely inspired by Rob Simonsen, one of the guys in Echo. He’s become really, such a solid hope for me. I’m inspired by his work ethic, how he’s built the work he has. Watching him work on different films.

JM: What’s he been working on?

Eskmo: The last thing he did was Foxcatcher. He scored that whole thing.

JM: How did he get into that world?

Eskmo: Oftentimes, in film, you’re an understudy for another composer. You do a whole bunch of work for them. He was with Mychael Danna—he did Moneyball and Life of Pi. He was doing his own score, but working with him. Then, it gradually got to the point where he was offered his own role. He did The Way Way Back. He’s in a handful of things right now. He’s working on something for the guy that did Independence Day. I’m actually getting to work on my first film score now, too.

JM: What are you doing? I know you’ve done some scoring for short films. “Memory 2.0” is one that I saw. What else have you done, scoring wise?

Eskmo: I’m brand new. Just this one that I’m working on right now. That was the goal of this album—to move past the idea of being a hyper-sound pointing artist. I wanted to write some pieces that were thematic, ethereal, and cinematic in general. And I wanted to present that alongside the Echo Society to put myself out there, so that I can do that work here in LA. That’s the direction, at least. I don’t know what’s going to happen.

JM: Let’s talk about rituals. I noticed, before you started eating, you bowed your head and took a minute before you ate. What other kind of rituals do you have creatively? Is there anything you need to do before you enter this creative process?

Eskmo: I try my best to meditate every morning. I pray every morning. I give thanks for being able to breathe. Ritual-wise for music, there’s no specific thing I do other than grounding myself.  But I don’t even do that all the time. If anything, I try to tap into what’s happening in my life, which I think any other artist does. What’s occurring for me? How can I express this honestly? I just let that carry me. That 90% of the time what happens. The other 10% is methodical. What’s happening out in the world? How can I, potentially, do my own expression of that? But usually it’s, what am I genuinely feeling? How can I get this out? Later, I go back and contextualize it.

JM: Tell me about the deaf music program you’ve been putting together.

Eskmo: We haven’t actually started it yet, so I don’t know if I should speak on it. I did an AV show last April in a movie theatre with some guys. My friend David Strangeloop. We were standing in front of the movie screen, doing the visuals that were synced up to the music. I’ve been working with this company called Subpac, which makes these vibrating bass packs. We brought thirty of them into the theater, and had people sitting with them—watching the visuals, hearing the music, and then feeling the vibrating bass pack. it’s very specific too. The lower frequencies hit down and goes all the way up your back as it rises. From that, I got inspired to do a show like this, but for deaf kids, for kids that can’t experience music in the traditional way.

JM: That’s a really exciting project.

Eskmo: I’m stoked about it. For me, working with kids, using technology—the biggest thing for me is the conversation. There’s something in that that’s moving me forward.

JM: There seems to be a swing back—in the past couple years it feels to me—towards ambient, electronic sounds. Why do you think it is that particularly ethereal music is finding its place again?

Eskmo: I know my own personal reasoning behind it. It’s a response to the environment. It’s a response to the United States electronic scene. Not in a sense that I’m trying to change anything. When I sit down to write something, there’s a part of me that wants to sit in that space. The amount of noise with the Internet, the amount of noise at any festival. There’s not good music or bad music—sonically, there’s a lot. For me, on the album, I want to convey different sides of that. There are tranquil, piano pieces, but at the same time, “Light of One Thousand Furnaces” is literally trying to evoke a solar flare on the sun. They’re both a genuine response to the state out there.

JM: Are you trying to locate something organic in an otherwise seemingly industrial landscape? What I’m noticing in a lot of this music is that marriage or things that are organic and things that are synthetic. It’s a cyborg middle-ground, which is really interesting. I’m curious about that marriage and where it sits anthropologically-speaking.

Eskmo: Some of the stuff I go back to the most, when I’m at home—I always put on gentle, ethereal stuff, for the most part. I listen to a lot of folk, too. It depends on the timing. If it’s a sunny Sunday, I’ll probably throw on some folk. It’s a genuine expression to my relationship to my life at this point. I try to be very mindful of it. That’s something I think about a lot. When you start to create art that is a reaction to this other thing, you end up being owned by it. As an example, if I were to make music that was a counter to DDM, everything I’m doing is a reaction. I’m still owned by that thing, instead of it being a genuine expression of how I’m feeling. I don’t want to battle this other thing. It’s this rage against the machine thing.  


Eskmo's SOL is out now on Apollo Records. Click here to purchase in multiple formats. See below music video for the track "Mind of War" directed by Eskmo with stop-motion animation by Dillon Markey, filmed live at MAMA Gallery. Photographs by Trevor Traynor. Interview by Joe Mckee. Intro text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre magazine on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


"To Hide To Show" A Group Exhibition That Explores the Nature of Hiding and Revealing: An Interview With the Artists

Opening tomorrow night in Los Angeles, MAMA gallery will present To Hide To Show, a group exhibition derived from a contemporary French social anthropological study entitled Montrer / Occulter, which loosely translates to the exhibition’s title. The artists chosen to represent the ideas and concepts behind this study, and its conclusions, experiment with the notion of concealing and revealing on a societal, intellectual and creative basis. These artists include Clara Balzary, Zoe Crosher, Nana Ghana, Ariana Papademetropoulos, Mattea Perrotta, Fay Ray, Lisa Solberg, and Johanna Tagada. The concept of hiding and showing lends itself as a true analysis of the assembling and dissection of the human psyche, in a constant battle between order and sabotage, between how we present our true self to the world and how we feel about inner self – the dark ghost that is always haunting from within. In To Hide To Show, the artists are interpreting these multi-dimensional, anthropological, psychological and metaphysical concepts using varying degrees of personal reflection, historical reference, visual language and controlled performance. To Hide To Show is the idea that concealment is to make something sacred and exposure of that sacredness is equal to degradation. To be revealed in this exhibition are the artists' artifacts of what they hold sacred while at the same time what they choose to defile.

Read the following Q&As to learn more about each artist in the exhibition…


JOHANNA TAGADA

                                                   photo by Jatinder Singh Durhailay

WHERE ARE YOU FROM? From a tiny village in east France.  Now based in London.

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION: Nature, daily life, feelings and traditions.

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD:  A chance for "places"? My lover's arms; Nara in Japan and all the small villages near by; my grandparents’ farmhouse.

CHOSEN MEDIUM: Painting. I also do drawing, photography, video, publishing, sculpture, textile and installation.

MEDIUM THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE WORKING WITH: I enjoy very much working with all mediums mentioned above and I look forward to do more modular sculptures. In a conversation with LA based BOOK STAND earlier this year I said "It is important to question the physicality of the medium with which I am involved. It can be something difficult, for example, one of my main mediums is painting, which has such a big tradition, but that is also so often seen again and again as “dead.”  Push the reflection further, compose, question, endlessly, and yet keep it simple and understandable on various levels. I like to create a dialogue between the various mediums with which I am composing in my body of work. Every thing is connected, my paintings are like the roots, my photographs might reveal the seeds, my publications are the branches that are like traces of the growth of the tree, the videos and installations pieces are like the blooming flowers of my work that are only seen occasionally and that should be enjoyed together as a whole."

GREATEST DISCOVERY AS AN ARTIST: The world.

STRANGEST EXPERIENCE:  What do you call "strange?" Here is something happy and unexpected: Meeting Yoshitomo Nara, one of my favorite artists and assisting him for his lecture on the occasion of his retrospective at the Dairy Art Center in London last fall.

WHAT ARE YOU HIDING? Insecurity.

WHAT ARE YOU REVEALING? Positive feelings, happy memories.

WHAT’S NEXT? Épistolaire Imaginaire - Les Fleures du Japon: a solo exhibition and the U.S. introduction of my piece Épistolaire Imaginaire (it first premiered in Tokyo, July 2014) opening on July 11th at at IKO IKO x BUILDING BLOCKS (LA) in collaboration with BOOK STAND.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST IN FIVE YEARS? Working on projects and exhibitions through which I can bring positivity to people's lives. I truly hope for my work to be a trigger, softly, like a warm hug pushing people to make positive and meaningful changes. Despite my soft and tender imagery, the ideals I pursue as a human, as an artist, require hard work and strength. For my artistic practice and lifestyle I am inspired by the way of life from my ancestors, I do best to apply this to the period of time in which we live. Such decisions for example imply saying no to mass produced food and clothes, creating my publishing work with acid free paper, binding them by hand, it's a little like being a Poetic "Punk". I am very attached to nature and I do not believe in a hierarchy system in which the human sits on top. Therefore life choices such as being Vegan are relevant to my body of work.

A QUOTE OR SENTIMENT TO LIVE BY: Oneness


MATTEA PERROTA

 

WHERE ARE YOU FROM? Venice Beach, California 

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION?  Anywhere and everywhere. It’s all in the tiny details of what is existing in our peripheral, and what we choose to take note of. Curiosity inspires my work most. 

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD: Any ocean.

CHOSEN MEDIUM: Oil.

WHAT IS THE MEDIUM THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE WORKING WITH? Bronze, plaster, wood. 

GREATEST DISCOVERY AS AN ARTIST: Being comfortable sharing what is hidden. I often times have these moments and think, “what the fuck am I doing?” This is always a break through moment for me because I go deep into my unconscious when I work and lose sight of my reality. I work from emotion, pleasure and use my work as a vehicle to understand what the hell is going on around me. When I take a step back and leave my unconscious is when I’m tested. It’s what I’m revealing about my hidden emotions and seeing this abstract emotion painted on a tangible object is wild. Sometimes it works and can exist in my reality, and often times I’m not ready to share it. Vulnerability is difficult for me, but my work has helped me become okay with sharing what I’m hiding.

STRANGEST EXPERIENCE:  Anytime someone asks you what your painting means.

WHAT ARE YOU HIDING? I won’t tell. We’re all hiding something, aren’t we? These things are what make us more complex and interesting individually.

WHAT ARE YOU REVEALING?  Life is very, very complicated. I’m trying to understand the absurdity and beauty of it all through my work. 

WHAT’S NEXT:  I’m currently at Al Maqam Artist Residency in Marrakech working on a new oil series for a fall exhibition. I’ll also be showing work alongside a handful of Moroccan and French Artists in San Francisco this October.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST IN FIVE YEARS: That’s difficult to say considering I barely know what I’m doing tomorrow. I only work when inspiration strikes. I hope to be traveling and understanding more about the world, being inspired from the places I visit and people that cross my path. The unconscious comes to me during these moments, and these are the moments that get me in the studio creating. I see myself working on large-scale paintings and working 3-dimensionally with plaster or wood. I’d love for these two mediums to have a relationship and co-exist in the same space.

A QUOTE OR SENTIMENT TO LIVE BY: “This whole world is wild at heart and weird on top,” David Lynch.


NANA GHANA

WHERE ARE YOU FROM? I am from a coastal village called Bakaano in Ghana West Africa

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION? I look for inspiration from everyday life, people, places and things.

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD: Favorite place in the whole world? Hard to say, there are many places I still haven’t been yet, I guess it be in the arms of my lover.

CHOSEN MEDIUM: Performance art and filmmaking.

WHAT IS A MEDIUM THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE WORKING WITH? The medium I like to be working in is exactly the medium I am in right now: performance and filmmaking

GREATEST DISCOVERY AS AN ARTIST: The greatest discovery thus far as an artist is that that the path of the artist is a spiritual journey.

STRANGEST EXPERIENCE:  Strangest experience as an artist, like Jim Morrison said, “People are Strange.”

WHAT ARE YOU HIDING? Nothing

WHAT ARE YOU REVEALING? Everything…take it all.

WHAT’S NEXT: Keep doing dope projects with amazing people and sending African Alien Mermaid vibes to ALL.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST IN FIVE YEARS:  In five years….Keep on doing what I'm doing but get to higher levels…Cause there are levels to this shit!

A QUOTE OR SENTIMENT TO LIVE BY: Life is a feeling process…I love Feeling…feeling it all.


LISA SOLBERG

WHERE ARE YOU FROM? Chicago.

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION? Everywhere… boring, but true.

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD: Iceland or Indo.

CHOSEN MEDIUM: Oil paint, ballpoint pen.

WHAT IS A MEDIUM THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE WORKING WITH? Black sand.

GREATEST DISCOVERY AS AN ARTIST: Beauty.

STRANGEST EXPERIENCE: Saying I’m an artist.

WHAT ARE YOU HIDING? It would ruin the show if I said! 

WHAT ARE YOU REVEALING: I like the unexpected.

WHAT’S NEXT?  I’m doing a performance based installation/strip club, pimping out a snowcat in Utah, exhibiting a new show at 24HR PSYCHIC, and continuing to write on the side.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST IN FIVE YEARS:  With a secondary studio on a bunch of land out in nature someplace.

A QUOTE OR SENTIMENT TO LIVE BY: Go big or go home!


CLARA BALZARY

WHERE ARE YOU FROM: Los Angeles, CA.

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION: Books, films, and out the window.  

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD: The south in the summer. 

CHOSEN MEDIUM: Photography. 

WHAT IS A MEDIUM THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE WORKING WITH? Writing. 

GREATEST DISCOVERY AS AN ARTIST: That to dig deep into your own work isn’t always all that dissimilar from a 9 - 5 job. 

STRANGEST EXPERIENCE: Going on trips up north alone to take photos and realizing I hadn’t spoken out loud for days. 

WHAT ARE YOU HIDING? Boring light. 

WHAT ARE YOU REVEALING: That Oooh heaven is a place on earth!

WHAT’S NEXT: Breaking away from shooting pretty girls by default. 

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST IN FIVE YEARS? On the southern coast of Italy dressed like Truman Capote. 

A QUOTE OR SENTIMENT TO LIVE BY: Life’ll kill ya. 


FAY RAY

WHERE ARE YOU FROM? Southern Califronia

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION: Rocks.

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD: Any beach.

CHOSEN MEDIUM: Photography

GREATEST DISCOVER AS AN ARTIST?  If you keep making work, you learn things about materials, process and meaning and if you stop making work you don't.

STRANGEST EXPERIENCE: It's all strange.

WHAT'S NEXT: I am in a group show in Miami titled Bananas at Gallery Diet in Miami from June 19 to September 5th

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST IN FIVE YEARS? My only hope is to still be making art and to be grateful for whatever is going on at the time.

A QUOTE OR SENTIMENT TO LIVE BY: Reward yourself often.


ZOE CROSHER

WHERE ARE YOU FROM: I was born in Santa Rosa in Northern California, but never lived there, growing up the daughter of a diplomat. I often describe my life as covering the Cold War Hot Spots - Germany in the late 70s, Moscow in the early 80s, Athens in the mid/late 80s. I spent the last few years in High School in suburban MD (years I have basically blanked out.) Then I did the rebellious thing of going to UCSC, while my parents went on to live in Seoul, Korea in the mid-90s, where I did spend a junior semester abroad. CalArts called me for my MFA, which is how I moved down to the Los Angeles area.

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION: It depends on what time of day and what day of the week! Generally cinema and architecture (particularly about Los Angeles, and particularly from the 70s and 80s) inspires me, as does work that collapses theory and inspiration. Really good art writing can light a fire as well. Ladies who own who they are, have agency and are generous in nature, who really find their own course, are an endless inspiration. Recently, I’m overwhelmingly moved by someone known only as “Madame” from Lotusland - Madame Ganna Walska  (please see here for more). I learned about her while doing a small residency up at the stunning garden in Santa Barbara. Just read her bio to see why I’m so inspired - she is noted for selling a million dollars worth of her jewels in the 70s to buy super rare cycad seeds to complete her gardens. She made her own clothes, staged her own plays, had numerous husbands, built out her fantasy world - she even wrote an autobiography called ‘There’s Always Room At The Top’. I think she even helped start the Audubon Society, to stop millineries from decimating birds for hats! Along with lady eccentrics, my current obsession right now is tending towards gardens - I’m thinking a lot about what gardens and art collections have a lot in common - constantly fighting entropy, chaos, decay, collecting, endlessly archiving, etc.

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD: I’m defaulting to the Ice Hotel for some reason right now. Perhaps it’s a conversation from tonight, speaking to a lady who is getting married and on the fence about taking a honeymoon. It is something I didn’t do right after getting married, which I regret - and for some reason I always thought going to the Ice Hotel in Sweden would have been amazing (it harkens back to a childhood fantasy in Superman, when I fell in love with his crystal palace, appropriately called The Fortress of Solitude.)  I also default to a fantasy Italian villa that is rustic and perfect, complete with the food and wine that magically appears in between siestas, long walks and other distractions.

CHOSEN MEDIUM: Right now, I’m terming something I’m calling the IMAGIATIC - as opposed to the “photographic”. I come out of a photography background, but have always felt limited by the terms of it, terms which have in the last few years melted away. But instead of tending towards this sort of New Materiality that so many of the formerly photographically-inclined in Los Angeles do, I’m tending towards a more expanded field of photography that I am terming the IMAGIATIC - concerned with the imaginary, the image, etc. The medium itself doesn’t matter, it’s almost a conceptual conceit. Thus I’m engaged now in sculpture (natural bronze), fools gold dust, desserts, billboards, compositions, publications, and still of course images as photographs, anything that engages with the imaginary of Los Angeles. For it is not the medium that determines the message, it’s the imaginary that does.

WHAT IS A MEDIUM THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE WORKING WITH? I’ve already jumped into it - and am learning an infinite amount right now about bronzing.

GREATEST DISCOVERY AS AN ARTIST: Walking into Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room at Robert Miller Gallery when it first was shown - before the Whitney, before its infamy. I was in NYC, somewhat annoyed and downtrodden about the commodification of Chelsea, when I fell into a line to go into this nondescript  trailer sort of thing. I remember being so annoyed at having to wait in line (and it was a very short line back then), then only to discover the life and mind-bending perfect art moment. Discovering that piece, discovering the potential of art, discovering the promise of Art, it was a joy I will never forget. And it is a joy that keeps me going through the dark days of the current art world.

WHAT ARE YOU HIDING? How angry I am at/with the extreme and horrendous level of sexism that exists in the art world. And how crazy it makes me that so many women with power perpetuate this sexism.

WHAT ARE YOU REVEALING? My endless enthusiasm.

WHAT’S NEXT? Bronzing all these “blossoms” from various disappearing and rare plants from the Lotusland Garden. A lot of these incredible plants do a sort of last hurrah dance, with reproductive organs (sex parts!) that grow sometimes ten times the size of the plant itself, going full out right before the plant dies! I’m collecting all these blossoms, both male and female, from super small blossoms to super huge pieces - it’s been quite an amazing experience to work with these incredibly rare and extensive gardens. I am also continuing my conceptual mapping of Los Angeles, this time through its discarded palm fronds. Ideally this project consists of about a hundred natural bronze palm frond sculptures, all of which are unique and named according to where they were found in and around Los Angeles. There will be an exhibition of a handful of them at LAXART, opening on September 12th.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST IN FIVE YEARS:  Similar to my life now, but at a more expansive scale. I already have in mind the things I want to do and make, and I have tasted what is possible when there is real support behind a project. I think expansively, from huge, harrowing archives to cross-country billboard projects. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to get Swarovski involved in the crystalizing of one of the entropic Shangri-LA’d walls I’m commissioning, which I’d love to have produced all over the world (I want to see what a London florist will do vs. a San Paulo florist will do, when given the challenge to create their fantasy of Los Angeles, in any way they want, as a wall of flora and fauna.) I’d love to find the right place of support where the means and ways can catch up to what I already see and imagine in my head - and it is something I can’t wait to realize. It’s an inspiring time right now in my practice.

A QUOTE OR SENTIMENT TO LIVE BY?  Don’t confuse the personal and the professional - make sure your true intimates have nothing to do (or as little to do) with your work life as possible. In a time when so much is privately and publicly collapsed, it’s hard to tell why someone might engage with you. When it comes to your home and romantic life, take that ‘what can you do for me’ and whatever power question completely out of the running. Make your personal life about something more than what you do.


ARIANA PAPADEMETROPOULOS 

WHERE ARE YOU FROM: Pasadena and Venice California.

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION: The more I think about it the more I realize that it’s very difficult to pinpoint. It’s not from being in my studio this I know, it’s from experiencing life outside of it, anywhere from attending a lizard convention, to a castle or a gun club. I would say that it stems from anything out of the ordinary, but even the ordinary can be really, really strange. If I am on a deadline and need to come up with something quickly I’ll go to places with a concentrated amount of information, i.e. library or museum, the optimal place being The Huntington Gardens that contains a bit of everything.

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD: The Greek Islands.

CHOSEN MEDIUM: Oil paint.

WHAT IS A MEDIUM THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE WORKING WITH? Electricity. I would love to start making marvelous light fixtures.

GREATEST DISCOVERY AS AN ARTIST: That a painting can possess you.

STRANGEST EXPERIENCE: Last year I co-curated a show where I planned out a séance with Andy Warhol for the artist Jeffrey Vallance. Before the show, the medium, Joseph Ross and I got into a little quarrel.  We had originally agreed he would be dressed in normal attire (not actually normal he wears fabulous purple suits and feathers in his hats resembling a 90s pimp) but that he wouldn’t be in a costume of Andy Warhol. This was so that the audience wouldn’t think we were phonies.  Anyhow, an hour before the séance is to begin, he tells me that Andy has communicated to him that he refuses to be channeled unless Joseph gets an outfit and a wig. I couldn’t argue with a ghost, especially not Andy Warhol; so he got his way. Later I found out that Andy Warhol would sometimes have impersonators of himself do lectures for him at schools in his wigged disguise.

WHAT ARE YOU HIDING? The taboo, the kitsch, kinky, and strange. Darkness, death and mortality.

WHAT ARE YOU REVEALING? An attractive palate of colors that distracts the viewer. Only the curious realize there’s more to what the surface layer of my paintings conceal. Sometimes it’s a midget handing a zucchini to Snow White from an Italian Snow White porno, or a dead man that’s been so brutally murdered he has become an abstraction.

WHAT’S NEXT?  I’m illustrating a children’s book, recreating the vintage board game Snakes and Ladders and designing a few record covers I’m very excited about. I also have a solo show in Sonoma in a few weeks.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST IN FIVE YEARS:  Hopefully living in a hobbit / storybook home I’ve built.

A QUOTE OR SENTIMENT TO LIVE BY? My high school quote was “If you’re having a terrible day, just pour a bag of glitter in front of a fan and live in paradise”, and I think that’s still a pretty good quote to live by. Although I meant it literally at the time, I think it means that you don’t need much to be happy except for a little effort and a good attitude. 


TO HIDE TO SHOW will open on June 13th and will be on view until July 25, 2015 at MAMA Gallery, 1242 Palmetto Street, Los Angeles, California. Interviews by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Stay up to date, follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


After Malevich: A Q&A With Robert Levine Before His Solo Show @ MAMA Gallery

What do you get when you combine the work of Russian geometric abstract artist Kazimir Malevich, Superman, the minimalism of Joseph Albers, and Groucho Marx? – Besides a Pleiades-like connect the dots of near-schizophrenic referencing, you also get a conundrum of contradictions and a strange telling of art history that contemporary artist Robert Levine explores in his uniquely powerful, incongruous and disarming paintings and collages, which will be on view starting tonight at MAMA gallery. Autre got a chance to chat with Levine about his early introductions to art, his technique, his views on art history and art criticism and his solo exhibition opening tonight at MAMA gallery. 

Autre: What were some of your earliest introductions to art?

Robert Levine: When I grew up, we had some art…nothing really valuable or anything…but we just always had art at home. That was my earliest introduction.

Autre: Was there a specific artist, or a specific work of art, that really inspired you?

Levine: The first time that I really thought there were possibilities or that things can be different was in Boston, at the ICA, and they were in a very small building at the time, but there was a show of minimal work….there was Robert Smithson, Robert Morrison, Donald Judd and [Dan] Flavin. I’ve tried to look up the show, but there is scant information about museums from back then. This would have been in 79’ or something. I had never seen a group of work like that, up close, and that really changed my mind about what art can be.

Autre: When you first start making art, you were creating sculptures, but then you recently started painting…what motivated you to pick up a paintbrush?

Levine: Actually, when I first started making art, I did a little bit of both. I worked concurrently until I was in CalArts, but after my first semester I stopped making painting and focused only on sculptural work. I mean I was doing these painting that stood in for painting, but it was sculpture. And I recently got back into painting, because I was making these sculptures with broken pencils and I just started doing drawings of them to have something else to go along with them.

Autre: And then drawing and painting stuck?

Levine: And then I just really started liking the drawings. Soon enough, I was doing paintings of the drawings. And while I was doing some other sculptural work, I was making small little gouache paintings…kind of like product labels and book covers. That’s where I developed a technique of tracing the image in pencil…either tracing it from something or just hand drawing with a pencil and just filling in with paint. That is kind of what I still do. I don’t really have a sophisticated painting technique.

Autre: A lot of your new works have these distinct pop art references and it’s an interesting dichotomy…can you talk a little bit about that?

Levine: That started with the image of the Malevich white painting with Superman holding up the white square. I was doing collage and I needed to do an artwork for a benefit and I was working on a college and somehow in my mind I made the connection between the cover of the very first Superman comic where he is throwing the car. I think it was 1928 or 1930. And he was throwing a car…and the car was at a very similar angle as the white square in the Malevich painting. And I just made a connection and up to that point I had never really used any pop art images in my work. In fact, I just did it as a collage.


"Through these paintings I deal with the language of talking about art. Sometimes I make it literal or I make a pun or I use humor to make a connection with the images."


Autre: Were you thinking of them as painting?

Levine: You know, I wasn’t thinking of them as paintings. I made a bunch of collages. Only later did I think to try to paint them. It grew out of the collage work.

Autre: A lot of artists throughout art history, especially 20th century art history, have declared some form as art dead. Up until the minimalists, arts were declaring that painting was dead. What can we glean from this?

Levine: You know, I am not totally against this idea. You know, maybe it is. It seems like when that happens, it opens the doors for other ways of thinking. Declaring it dead almost allows you to cast aside what was done before. Even if the art looks the same…there is an incredibly difference in the attitudes of how paintings are done now compared to how they were done in 1970 or 1960 or 1950. I think because I have done work other than painting, I don’t really think of myself as a painter in a way that some other people do…in a way that it as a distinct genre of art. I just think of it as a different form of art making.

Autre: What can we expect from your upcoming show at MAMA gallery?

Levine: I think we decided today that the show will be the collage work that generated the ideas for the Malevich, or After-Malevich paintings. After doing the initial one, I ended up printing out photocopies of as many of the supremetive paintings that I could and collaged on to them. I tried to not really limit myself to too many rules as to what I can do in this collages. But when I started painting them, I was limited to only what I felt I could paint for my skill level. But I’ve gotten much better at it and now I’m not really as limited to what I can do.

Autre: So, you will be showing collages and some of the paintings?

Levine: I will be showing collages and I have a number of paintings that I will also be showing. Through these paintings I deal with the language of talking about art. Sometimes I make it literal or I make a pun or I use humor to make a connection with the images. Or I try to use humor with the way that critics have talked about art, like Clement Greenburg. People who may have been discredited, but there is still talk of what they have done. So, a lot of what’s in my paintings is the way that I deal with the language of art and art history. But I try to make them visually interesting. You know, a lot of my most successful pieces have a little bit of a contradiction in them that causes a tension that makes them more and more interesting over time.  


Robert Levine's After-Malevich opens tonight at MAMA Gallery with a reception from 6pm to 9pm and the exhibition will run until May 30th, 2015. Text, interview, photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. follow Autre on Instagram to stay up to date: @autremagazine


Installing After Malevich at MAMA Gallery.  

Subversive Narratives: An Interview With Ryan Heffington

Ryan Heffington has carved an extremely unique place in the world of dance and contemporary art. If you’ve seen the music video for Sia’s triple-platinum song Chandelier, you know Heffington’s work. If you’ve seen the Sigur Rós music video where Shia LaBeouf goes full frontal, you know Heffington’s work. But Heffington’s real magic exists in his spectacular live performances – where he uses the medium of modern dance and movement to paint a portrait of identity and culture in a fragmentary digital age. Next week, as part of Art Basel Miami, MAMA gallery will present Heffington’s premier of Wading Games – a performance that he describes as a “punk rock water ballet" – at the Ritz Carlton hotel. In the following interview, Heffington explains his upcoming performance in Miami and how dance can change the world.

AUTRE: Can you talk a little about your upcoming performance in Miami – you once described it as a “punk rock water ballet.” Is that an accurate description?

RYAN HEFFINGTON: Yes, the piece will live between a glorious ballet in terms of scale, and at moments aesthetically beautiful, but sharply contrasted by a subversive narrative where the dancers will have to fight from drowning over collectively taking part in a synchronized swim routine.

AUTRE: You have been thinking about this project for a long time – why is this particular project so meaningful to you?

HEFFINGTON: The fact that certain performative spectacles cling to my brain collecting momentum over the years creates a feeling of deep respect and attachment to the piece. I'm not sure exactly when this ballet pushed itself inside, but the element of potential danger, the symbology of over-flooding tears, and a certain societal class - all of this is so dramatic. It has spoken to me in my dreams and waking state as well - at this point it's a part of me and I cannot keep it a secret any longer.

AUTRE: Why is dance important in today’s contemporary artistic landscape?

HEFFINGTON: In this age of digital media, over-saturation of well most everything, dance claims it stake in that it is most simple in its form. Its the body expressing the mind. No need for tools, keyboards, audio accompaniment - just the human form. There is something inherently grounding about this. It's access is given once the being accepts their own invitation to do so - again no money, tools or experience is necessary. It's also powerful in terms of invigorating the soul and once you come to peace with that you dance like no one else on earth - think fingerprint - an endless amount of joy is yours. Really - imagine if every human danced for 1 hour a day, how that would change your life, your work space, your community, your nation, our world.

AUTRE:What do you hope to convey – or what kind of feelings do you want to emote – through your dancers and your choreography?

HEFFINGTON:In rehearsals, sometimes I squint when watching the piece in front of me. I know when I feel something from the bodies before me - I'll get a tingle or goosebumps or rays of energy - I know I've created something visceral and this is what I hope my audiences experience. I can make aesthetically arresting imagery - yet without playing to the heart I'm afraid people leave empty handed. We're over stimulated visually as a society - but to connect emotionally to people or art is how I want to live and have my work experienced.

Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. MAMA gallery will present Ryan Heffington'sWading Games – with music by Banks and film installations by Osk – at the Ritz Carlton (pool) in Miami Beach as part of Art Basel Miami 2014 on Thursday, December 4 (rsvp@mama.gallery). 

5 Questions for Jena Malone on the Eve of Her First Solo Show

Actress and musician Jena Malone is set to present her first solo photography exhibition titled, The Holy Other, at MAMA art gallery in downtown Los Angeles, running November 21st through 28th. Proceeds will benefit Girl Determined, a charity which works with young Burmese women to educate and empower them through societal shifts in their country. Malone’s debut solo series features 39 images she captured while traveling through Myanmar, Burma this past summer. She was deeply moved by the way of life and the vibrant culture she experienced. As she took photos throughout her trip, the artist was inspired by the many young women who were finding their voice against the new backdrop of democracy in their government. In the following interview, Jena talks about Myanmar and why photography is important to her.

AUTRE:Can you explain your series The Holy Other?

JENA MALONE:The Holy Other is a series of photographs I took while traveling to Myanmar this year. I was drawn there because it is a country on the brink of great change, from its government to its way of life. I wanted to see Myanmar before the modern world rushed in. It was actually a life changing experience for me.

AUTRE: Why is photography important?

JENA MALONE: Its important to me because it helps me see the world in new ways and it is an absolute time capsule for everything I might have forgotten.

AUTRE: Who are some of your photography icons?

JENA MALONE: Mary Ellen Mark , Nan Golden , Boris Mikhailov, Sebastiao Salgado.

AUTRE: What do you think about when you look through the viewfinder?

JENA MALONE:My mind goes blissfully blank actually.

AUTRE: What do you want people to feel when they look at your photographs....

JENA MALONE: I want them to feel whatever they want! Ahha! I just want the images to evoke stories, small intimate stories that touch on giant fundamental truths.

Interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. You can check out the opening reception for Jena Malone'ssolo show – The Holy Other – tonight at MAMA gallery (1242 Palmetto Street, Los Angeles). The show will run until November 28.