Wavepool – A lot of your photographic work documents interiors. What do you find to be interesting about these spaces as subjects?
Brett Suemnicht – The interiors I gravitate towards speak about human presence and a sense of time passed. Growing up with divorced parents and living in 22 different places in my life have had a direct influence on why I’ve become so interested in multiplicity of how space can exist. I’ve always found a sense of truth when photographing interiors, knowing that the spaces can’t hold back anything. A place one occupies on a personal level tells a lot about the individual, the residual interactions of bodies effecting environments. The spaces I focus on include alternative interiors such as DIY musical venues, punk/show houses, queer spaces; basically any space that de-romanticizes the ideal of heteronormative domestic comfort. My work tries to catalog spaces that resist normative culture by expanding on notions of how comfort, community and space can manifest.
In each space I photograph, I look for a persona that is unlike most domestic spaces I’ve come across in my life. A series I have been working on since 2012, DIY:MKE, documents the various house venues that come and go in the Riverwest Neighborhood of Milwaukee, WI. Each space I photograph has its own individual name and most don’t exist longer than one or two years. Another project that came out of that series, The Piss Place, was a documentation of a punk house I was living in at the time. The series was actually used by my landlord as evidence she was gathering to sue us. We ended up settling out of court, mainly because of how bad the title sounded, knowing the photos didn’t show much damage. I did use some of the correspondence as part of the final artist book that added an extra dynamic to the project. In addition, I just completed a photographic book, Domestics, documenting the houses, music venues, and punk houses I stayed at while going on an east coast tour with some musician friends of mine. It was interesting to turn the camera away from the musicians and focus more on the various environments we encountered. During that entire series I don’t think I took a single photo of the musicians I went with. I wonder if that bothered them or not.
Wavepool – What do you look for when photographing?
Brett Suemnicht – I look for oddities within spaces. Most of what I look for is naturally occurring still lifes. Composition is important to my practice because I photograph a lot of interior spaces that are often cluttered and busy. I think of photography less as a fine arts medium and more as a process of documentation and curation of space. I am constantly thinking of how each photograph I take will fit with the rest of the series I am shooting for. Most of the photography work I make usually rests as a zine or artist book. I spend a lot of time cataloging, filing and editing. The whole process can be very tedious. Through my photographs, I try to make sense of space, reframe culture and re-imagine the alternative.
Wavepool – In addition to the photographs of interiors, architectural structures pop up in your work. How are these structures used conceptually?
Brett Suemnicht – In my practice, I’m interested in reclaiming ready-made information such as capitalist structures, gay identity, and domesticity. The opportunity to subvert culture and reshape meanings becomes an important tool to reimagine the world in relation to my own desires. Some of my non-photographic work deals with looking at common structures such as malls, parking lots, luxury apartment buildings and the rural domestic landscape. By focusing on these structures, I question the most fundamental aspects of the mundane by looking closely at scale, simplicity and multiplicity attributes associated with the decay of capitalist structures.
Wavepool – Your body of work 7/10 borrows imagery from Google Earth to be collaged. In that project specifically, and in your practice as a whole, what is gained from using outside sources in the production of the work?
Brett Suemnicht – I think Google Earth is an interesting tool. It lends so much information about the geography of the world, but I also find a sense of derealization between my interaction with it. I feel this sense of falseness with my interactions between Google Earth and the screen, the screen and myself. This interplay creates a vastness that lends to the complexity of the interaction. The digital textures in Google Earth create this almost unrealistic lens of the world with all the blurring of street views, the unmatched angles of perspectives, to the oddities that exist in the world. I find this sense of falseness matches how I’m trying to interrupt oddities with my own view of society.
For my series 7/10, I expanded on this notion of oddity through perception, continuing this divide between articulation and falseness. I think using Google Earth was a way to introduce a dialog that the average viewer had some form of ownership over. I wanted to go in and out of these perspectives, playing with visual space, abstraction and creating an unidealized version of something cherished. I’m obviously not the only artist working with Google Earth as there is a series of contemporary artists using the platform in really interesting ways: Clement Valla’s Postcards from Google Earth, Doug Rickard’s A New American Picture, and my favorite Jenny Odell’s Satellite Collections.
Wavepool – What artists do you consider to be major influences?
Brett Suemnicht – I’m inspired by other photographers who work almost exclusively with interior space by creating so much agency without the use of the human subject. For example, the beautifully lighted photographs of Kate Greenes in her surreal series Anomalous Phenomena. Dave Jordano’s Articles of Faith is a series of interiors documenting some small town churches in the south and selected neighborhoods in Chicago. The composition and color scheme in this series sets a mood putting the idea of religious worship into a different connotation. Another major influence, Anne Hardy, constructs interior spaces to photographs working in-between the lines of surreal, sculptural, photographic fabrication.
Wavepool – What are some significant influences outside of art?
Brett Suemnicht – A lot of my recent works have been in direct relation to readings I have been doing focused on queer theory. I’ve been looking closely at the works of Judith Butler, Jack Halberstam, Kate Boristen, Jeffery Weeks and others questioning sexuality, identity, and hetero-normality. My recent photographic series Fluid Identity documents individuals who don’t describe their sexual orientation as either homosexual or heterosexual. The photographs of each individual in their personal spaces are accompanied by quotes letting each person describe their own sexuality. By showcasing a series of individuals who fall in-between, outside, and against established notions of a solidified personhood, identity becomes fluid. Letting the idea of a queer life permeate. I really enjoy the ambiguousness that lends itself to a queer identity. I feel I can let myself grow emotionally, mentally, and sexually without needing to defend my personal identity.
To see more, please visit Brett’s website.