Jamie Campbell

(L) Unliving Ghost and (R) Widowed Ghost from Looking Askance

 

Jamie Campbell – Maybe I’ll preface all this, before I start – for context sake. I am in Vienna at the moment, on a three month artist residency. I’ve been here nearing three weeks now. At the moment I am in one of these classic Viennese cafes from the 1880’s. The server is quite cold, and it seems she purposely ignores you, but that is just the style here. I’ve been fluctuating between espresso and beer, and although I’ve never had a redbull and vodka, I assume the results are near the same. Next to me is a tourist family, possibly British. The teenage daughter takes cell phone snaps of all the dishes as the father looks on is disapproval. In front of me is a middle aged man who seems to be on his 8th course (a never ending meal). He wears his napkin bunched into the neck of his shirt, like a small baby’s bib. I have to pick up film from a lab in the 7th district in a bit over an hour. I will pass the time here. I’ve also been speaking some strange version of English lately, in order to communicate – so bare with me, my mind is a bit mixed. In an hour and a half I answered just one question, then quickly deleted it. I’ll have to start again.

Wavepool – Why are portraits appealing to you?

Jamie Campbell – You don’t dare order a Cappuccino here, you’d call it a Melange. They are pretty much the same thing – but just slightly different (according to Wikipedia). This is also true for the idea of a portrait. Every person brings a slightly different grace to the camera. For example, if you know Thomas Ruff’s early work, even if you sit a subject in the exact spot, with the exact light, and the exact camera position, a different subtle sort of magic happens for each individual. And to quickly clarify, when I say portrait, I don’t at all mean an attempt to capture the true essence of a person through this objective truth-telling machine, which we call a camera. I am using people as subjects based on their physical attributes, and how I think that physicality might be represented through the photographic medium.

But very simply, I like the human face and form, and the implication of gesture, or gaze. So far, the possibilities have been endlessly amusing. It is also a thing the viewer can directly relate to. It could be them, in that very situation – it is possible for it to be their experience, or something similar (relatable).

Wavepool – Many of your images depict fantastic and surreal scenes. Do you consider yourself to be a storyteller?

Jamie Campbell – I probably hint at stories, or direct fictitious moments, more so than I tell a whole story. So I suppose, by definition, I am not much of a good storyteller. I tell a story half way through and I never quite get around to finishing it.

I craft these bits of a story, and then I give them away – but I’m not the one telling them. If anything, I am a story-giver.

 

Untitled from Only the fantastic has some chance of being true

 

Wavepool – Do your images function independently or is it necessary for them to exist together to reveal a larger narrative throughout the course of a project?

Jamie Campbell – Lately I’ve tried to make images that are simultaneously their own little thesis, but also important to the make-up of a whole body of work. Each image, therefore, is an independent idea contributing to a larger concept. Some photographs work better than others as independent images, and maybe some don’t work at all on their own, but I think they speak louder or convey their idea better when grouped within the series. I do like the idea of a strong, stoic, stand-alone image. It, however, becomes a different thing when viewed on its own versus when seen in the company of others. I am at once considering the series and the independent image when making photographs, each is important, and each scenario offers a beneficial something. Was that an answer?

Wavepool – Can you tell me about the importance of humor in your work?

Jamie Campbell – Is my work funny? Oh, I am never so sure?

It isn’t in my current artistic mandate (to be funny). But maybe it is in my personal life mandate, to try and be funny.

The two must intermingle.

I don’t make much of an effort within my current practice at being purposefully humorous though. And even if I did, I am much too self conscious to admit to that.

I am interested in the suggestion or subtlety of humor though – and not through the creation of a laugh-out-loud type experience, but perhaps a smile-to-yourself-like-no-one-is-watching type experience (however, both are welcome).

I am so distracted, this is my first laptop and I’ve never tried to use it in a public space before. How do people concentrate? I think someone is drawing me? She looks up, then back to the page with her pen, and back up again, and back to the page. I think this is funny, this bobbing head and the awkwardness or the tension in our gazes catching each other and overlapping. It is hilarious to me how I am sort of in on her secret and we both don’t know how to negotiate it. I try not to look over and her, and she tries to glimpse at me as I type, hoping I can’t see her in my periphery (which I can). All the meanwhile, I am writing about her and she is trying to draw me, it is very mixed up – no one has agreed to any of this. This is a perfect metaphor for how I use humor in my work. AH HA! I attempt to re-create the awkwardness, or to visually reproduce this so called tension. That to me is funny, and maybe only sometimes experienced equally by the viewer.

The whole experience is equally precious and uncomfortable.

It makes me giggle to myself, and I like this a lot.

I sometimes get the feeling my sense of humor is a bit backwards.

 

image cluster from This will never last

 

Wavepool – This will never last combines a variety of photographs, ranging from seemingly casual to more formal pictures. How would you describe the project and its intentions?

Jamie Campbell – The series is based around an idea put forward by Jean Baudrillard, which states – “When the real is no longer what it used to be, nostalgia assumes its full meaning.” This is the perfect photographic metaphor, or so I think. I attempted to make a project based purely on personal nostalgia or sentiment. This included staging past happenings, or trying to imply a feeling through imagery, or snapshots, or studio experiments. I didn’t care if I was using a 35mm point-and-shoot, or a 4×5, the image-moments were more important than a cohesive quality. I wanted to just make pictures, instead of thinking about how I was going to go about making pictures. When exhibited, the images were hung in varying sizes and arrangements and groupings, which cause rather unrelated image types to dialog and create larger narratives within single narratives. Each image has its own personal story, but it is not the point to disclose this. It was an entire series based on these “personal punctums”.

It was a bit of a purposeful mind-fuck. The snapshots, or casual images started to feel staged and the staged images could feel “real-ish”, and I think reality became a bit twisted, or unraveled. Nostalgia is a powerful tool, the same with truth and fiction – and even my personal nostalgia starts to slip into a universal nostalgia, and the viewer could experience something completely personal and completely separate from the nostalgia I intended to create. And this is a nice thing, because something that was once just mine is passed along and morphed into an entirely new thing.

I think I’ve used this to explain my experience of the project in the past: “I’m not sure why, but when I look at this series of physical photographs, I feel like every individual moment has been lost.  It is there, in a haunting visual form in front of me, but these moments (contradictory to the mediums intention) will never last”. 

Wavepool – Who or what has influenced the way you work and think about art?

Jamie Campbell – After I finished Grad School, which I don’t necessarily think was the most positive experience, I wanted to reject making and thinking about art (for only art’s sake). I had this reoccurring thought which played on repeat in my mind – intuition over justification, intuition over justification, intuition over justification…

This is important.

It has influenced and loosened my practice.

 

Portal no. 2 from This will never last

 To see more of Jamie’s work, please visit his website.

Colin Todd

Untitled from Bienville

Wavepool – How does a project begin for you?

Colin Todd – Generally I start researching something I’m interested in. Usually it’s something that I stumble upon randomly and it has stuck itself in my head for a while. If I find myself mulling over it a lot while I’m riding the subway or driving across country, I’ll begin research. After reading about it, or checking out some background info, I just dive in and start shooting, and figure out where it leads me. Usually I get diverted from my original plan and that’s where the fun stuff happens. 

Mostly what happens with my work in the South is that one project leads to the next. Some detail of the first project or some story from a person I photograph leads to the next project. It’s all part of the bigger project of the South I’m working on.

Wavepool – How do you know when you’re ready to end one? 

Colin Todd – I find that when I work, I try to push every possibility as far as I can. When I realize it’s too much, too busy, or usually too schizophrenic I pull back. Once I find the right balance, that’s when I stop.  

 

Big Kurntry from around the noise, the heat

 

Wavepool – You seem to regularly work on documentary projects, including your recent series around the noise, the heat. Can you introduce the body of work and what you would like viewers to take away from it?

Colin Todd – Well, I am constantly working on this huge project that I think will take the rest of my life. It’s about my home town in North Louisiana, the people who live there, and how all the little micro-cultures in that town shift and evolve. What ends up happening, though, is that sometimes facets of that project are demanding enough to stand alone as a body of work. That is what happened with around the noise, the heat.

I’ve been photographing dirt track racing in North Louisiana for a while, and as the images started to build, the project evolved beyond the story of my home town. I feel, in the images, the racing culture down there is analogous to “the human condition”; specifically in regards to the South’s attachment to nostalgia, sports and entertainment, and the cycling economics built around those. Racing in a circle with modified stock cars is such a great metaphor for so many things, I feel it’s incredibly relatable. This type of backwoods racing eventually birthed the giant industry of NASCAR racing as well. The drivers and community in the photographs are all working-class hobbyists that celebrate the idea of the race. There is something pure and poetic about that.

Wavepool – One exception that breaks from the documentary style is 100 Seats. How did the project develop and can you explain the visual that the images take on?

Colin Todd – Well, you caught me at a time in my practice where I’m focusing a lot on economics and time, both in how they relate to photography itself as a medium, and visual economies through time. Specifically on how history is represented or used. For 100 Seats, I chose to use “official” press photos of the current US Senate. These are photographs distributed by senators on their election campaigns, or as part of donation gift packages. These images are carefully crafted to appeal to the voter and constituency of each Senator.

I’ve appropriated these photographs and manipulated them, heavily, in order to remove the identity of the senator and to play with the visual cues of the crafted portrait. This act of manipulation acts, not only as a political comment or critique of the disillusionment felt toward our government, but also as a gesture to subvert the trope of “corporate portraiture” that these photographs take on. I am then mailing these images back to the senators to request autographs. These photographs play with the visual economics within the image and flip the intended purpose of these photographs as objects.

 

(L) Paul Ryan and (R) Kelly Ayotte from 100 Seats

 

Wavepool – Because some of your work focuses on the American South, I’m curious about how living in New York affects your practice. What are the advantages? What are the disadvantages? 

Colin Todd – Living in New York, I am naturally exposed to a massive amount of inspiration and culture that effects my practice subconsciously and gives me greater access to resources for research on projects I am interested in. There are also many great communities of artists in which to work with, and get feedback from. Those are probably the biggest advantages.

Specifically concerning my work in Louisiana, I find it gives me a distance necessary to view my work from two different perspectives. When I am down there photographing, I see the place from a certain point of view. It’s my home town so there’s a lot of history and relationships with people and places that influence the way I see things. When I get back to New York, I have that distance from the place to separate that influence from my editing and practice. I think that’s a good thing.

The downside is that if I notice something I want to re-shoot or something I missed and need to fill in, I have to wait till the next trip. I end up going down there each time with entire notebooks full of things to shoot and people to go visit and photograph. But that’s kinda the way it works with my process. I go and immerse myself and shoot, shoot, shoot. Then I get back home and edit and sequence until I’m tapped out. Then I head back down there and the cycle starts all over again.

Wavepool – What artists do you think are making the most exciting work today?

Colin Todd – Colin Stetson (musician), Lucas Blalock, Ofer Wolberger, Jason Polan, Jessica Eaton, Trevor Paglen, Erik Kessels, Daniel Shea.

All rock stars!

 

Prep from around the noise, the heat

To see more of Colin’s work, please visit his website.

around the noise, the heat is available on Oranbeg Press’s website.
Bienville is set to come out next spring as a self published artist edition. More info will be available on Colin’s website soon.

Joy Drury Cox

selections from Chairs

 

Wavepool – Can you tell me about your history with photography and how it fits into your practice?

Joy Drury Cox – All of my formal training is in photography. I first studied photography as an English major at Emory University with Nancy Marshall. Then I did post-baccalaureate studies at Georgia State University with John McWilliams, Constance Thalken, and Nancy Floyd. Finally, at University of Florida, where I earned my MFA, I was fortunate enough to study with Andrea Robbins and Max Becher. The majority of my undergraduate work in photography was darkroom based. Even in graduate school, I was making c-prints in the darkroom.

Prior to graduate school, my artistic production was almost entirely photographic. I took a few drawing, painting, and sculpture courses, but I really considered myself to be a photographer. While in grad school, I started studying Conceptual Art and Minimalist movements of the 1950’s – 1970’s. It was at this time that I first learned that it was possible for art to be something made with a typewriter on a piece of 8.5 x 11 in. paper. As an English major, I also started to react to and engage with language-based work. The program at University of Florida was very open and supportive, and so I found myself using a camera less, and instead working in other media like drawing and sculpture. This led to several years of work with few or no photographs.

A couple of years after graduate school, I ended up working in the Photography Department at Parsons The New School for Design in New York. There I was surrounded by some of the best equipment any photographer can get his or her hands on – both film and digital. This led to two studio-based series of photographs: Chairs and Still Life.

I would say currently and for a while now, my feelings towards making images with a camera have been mixed. I find photography one of the most difficult mediums within which to work.

Wavepool – Your work takes on many forms, but seems to continually address similar concepts. Do you make a conscious effort to control your work and ideas, or does everything naturally fall in line?

Joy Drury Cox – Earlier in my practice, I tried to think more about controlling my art production along conceptual lines. At a certain point, I got antsy or bored and decided to try to make something completely different. The project ended up being tied to older work despite my original intentions to stray. It took me a while, but I ended up loving this way of working. Despite my best intentions to deviate, I usually come back to one of a few consistent threads in my work. I’m not interested in this being about cohesive authorship, but rather a more natural outpouring or processing of things I’m thinking about. This is one of the gifts that I think making art can give one… a more subtle way to trace thinking and making over time. It’s a different way to understand oneself as a visual artist.

 

Chipotle from Applications

 

Wavepool – How does literature intersect with ideas of production, labor, and time?

Joy Drury Cox – I find this to be an interesting and difficult question, and one that I had not really considered before. I guess for a lot of people their engagement with literature (post-school) is often done during leisure time. I think there is something interesting in between the time it takes to write a novel and the time it takes to read a novel. I feel this separation in production and reception in my own art. Once the work is on the wall, it becomes like a punch, and all that came before feels silent and gone. I think with most art forms there is so much invisible labor that never gets seen in the final presentation. I like that art-making still teaches me about this process, one that feels completely antithetical to the immediacy and instantaneous nature of so much of contemporary life.

Wavepool – What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given in regard to art-making?

Joy Drury Cox – During graduate school, Andrea Robbins, my thesis advisor, gave me some advice that I still think about and struggle with today. She told me, “You learn in the making. You learn in the doing.” As a grad student and even at times now, I tend to be way too much in my head. I conceive, make, and critique an entire body of work before I’ve even taken a picture or put pencil to paper. At times, I get really entertained by the idea of something and mull it over for way too long. But, once I’ve actually made something, that’s when the real work begins. I keep re-learning this lesson.

 

(L) I’d Rather Be Lucky Than Good and (R) Twenty-Four Switches

 

Wavepool – I find your works I’d Rather Be Lucky Than Good and Twenty-Four Switches to be particularly interesting and attractive. Can you talk a little bit about each piece’s conceptual motivations and the resulting physical forms?

Joy Drury Cox – I’d Rather Be Lucky Than Good is a piece that gets its title from my grandfather, James Drury. He was a WWII veteran and an architectural engineer for the John Portman Architectural Firm in Atlanta. He was also an incredibly hard worker. One summer, I remember he tried to teach me how to play pool. He made bank shot after bank shot, and found angles on the pool table that just didn’t seem possible. He followed each incredible shot after the next with, “I’d rather be lucky than good.” This always mystified me, as it was clear that he was very skilled and had practiced a great deal in order to be “good.” This phrase somehow let him modestly run the table, and also let me feel like my loss might not be entirely tied to my lack of skill. I made this collage of a losing raffle ticket at a point when I was feeling frustrated with my art practice. The drawings I was making at the time were very labor intensive, and yet it felt like that labor was invisible to most. The collage was a way to be a little freer and quicker in my making. This piece also became a sort of devil’s advocate for me in that I could allow myself to make something contradictory to my usual process.

Twenty-Four Switches was a piece that came to me as a vision of sorts. A lot of my work tries to pick at this idea of subtlety in everyday experience. For a while, I got obsessed with the moment right before one switches on a light. This moment is so innocuous and filled with certainty. I began to imagine this field of light switches as a field of possibility and also as an interactive “painting” of sorts that the viewer could literally flip off or on. I still dream of making one of these roughly the size of an Agnes Martin painting and among the switches, having one switch wired to a solitary bulb in the space.

Wavepool – What are you currently working on?

Joy Drury Cox – I recently just finished a yearlong project where I drew every comma on every page in Moby-Dick. So aside from recovering from that, I’m working on various new pieces. Lately I’ve been looking more and more at fabric and textile work, especially the quilts of Gee’s Bend. I can’t get enough of them. I also have a collection of photographs I took of people’s feet on the streets of London and Paris this summer that I’m hoping will come into some more realized form. At the end of this month (October), I will be showing a new set of photographic prints from my project Stranger at Workshop at Christian Berst Gallery in New York.

 

selections from Or, Some of the Whale

 To see more, please visit Joy’s website.

Tommy Bruce

Shia the Cabbit (cat-rabbit) at FurTheMore, Baltimore, MD from Funny Animal People

 

Wavepool – Can you introduce your ongoing documentary project Funny Animal People? Where do you see the project going in the future?

Tommy Bruce – Funny Animal People is an ongoing photographic and written documentary project focused on the Internet subculture of the Furry Fandom. For the last few years I’ve been investing myself in the community and tracking my experiences at conventions, meet-ups and all types of furry events. I am interested in the furry community as a site of social transgression and intense identity construction. The community holds an important place in my own sense of identity, and I have taken it as my duty to construct an image that accurately represents the complexity and importance I have observed and experienced within it.

In regards to the other half of my work, which at a glance is very different from the documentary, I try to think of the two as opposite ends of my practice that I can bounce back and forth between whenever I hit a wall. I don’t see being completely done with the community anytime in the near future, but I’m specifically working towards a substantial book for the project, to come out in the next year or so.

Wavepool – Your other recent work focuses on everyday discoveries and encourages viewers to experience simple moments in refreshing ways. What is the most exciting part of your process when making this work? Do you set any sort of parameters for yourself?

Tommy Bruce – Coming up with a new idea for work usually starts with a snag in my attention. When I experience some phenomenon and can see within it some formal beauty – that is probably the most exciting moment. Often, it is the case that the “art” happens right before me, and from there it is about making something that describes the experience or captures the phenomenon. Also, whenever viewers see a piece and say, “I’ve noticed that before.” That is what I’m trying to get at. I’m trying to open doors with each piece that I make, to name and activate that which is already in front of you. The work finds it’s meaning in the endless possibilities that it suggests; it isn’t just about the light that I see in my bedroom at night, or the set of jet trails I saw one afternoon, it’s about helping you find an appreciation for the lights that you see every night, the clouds and jet trails that you see everyday.

Parameters play a big part in my process because I want my work to have a sense of facility to it. I try to make my pieces seem easy, like you could go out and make the work yourself. They are emblematic of an art idea more than they are discreet art objects.

 

Fogging my glasses to make the world look different

 

Wavepool – It seems like performance or interactive art of some kind might fit well with your ideas. Do other mediums work themselves into your practice often?

Tommy Bruce – I work with photography a lot because of its inherent indexical nature, it is an easy way to suggest that what you are seeing exists in the real world, that what we think of as abstraction and formalism didn’t just come from our creative unconscious, but also from the physical world in all its spontaneous creation.

Like I said earlier, a piece begins with an art experience, and the work follows in an attempt to articulate that experience. So aspects of video, sculpture and performance enter into my practice by way of necessity. Sometimes time, movement and sound are integral to an experience, thus a video. Or the tactile or spatial nature of an experience is important, thus sculptural elements.

Wavepool – If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be? What would you make?

Tommy Bruce – Hmm, dream team wise, probably either Gabriel Orozco or Felix Gonzales-Torres. I love Orozco’s sense of overflowing creativity and playfulness. I’d probably want to just sit in a room full of windows and art supplies and just make things for a whole day, riffing on intuition. 

For Gonzales-Torres, I have always been floored by his powerful use of simple metaphor and sentimentality. I have no idea what collaboration would look like between us, but I imagine his insights would be invaluable.

 

The wind on my hand

 

Wavepool – I see that you minored in Creative Writing while attending the Maryland Institute College of Art. Does your interest in writing relate to your interest in visual art in any way? Do the two ever intersect in your practice?

Tommy Bruce – I entered into the creative writing minor in the first place for the sake of my documentary writing. I wanted some support in developing my ability to articulate my experiences effectively and truthfully. But while on my path developing my written voice, I also picked up a strong interest in writing poetry. I’ve found poetry to be another way to express the same “art experiences” that my visual work focuses on, so I see it as just another tool in the same box. I sometimes find it easier to draft up a sketch for a visual piece through poetry, where I can interact more directly with a concept. Once I’m closer to understanding what exactly I’m trying to say, it’s easier to figure out what that should look like.

Wavepool – What are your plans for the future now that you are out of school?

Tommy Bruce – I’ve been living back in State College, PA and taking some time to decompress after four years of very wonderful, but very tiring, education. I’m working two jobs, saving up before student loans hit and applying to lots of residencies and grants. I’m hoping, with my new free time being out of school, to get into a very intense focused period working on a book for the documentary.

Around town I’ve started organizing artist collective events to try and build a strong local artist community, the first of which is was a local artist talk night, modeled after the Slideluck events out of New York. I’m hoping to turn that into a monthly series. Come the New Year I’m planning on getting back to a bigger city. I might be returning to Baltimore, NYC or a number of other places, depending on where the wind blows!

 

Birds and the opposite of Birds

To see more, please visit Tommy’s website.

Anastasia Samoylova

Improper Disposal from 5000 Head

 

Wavepool – Your bodies of work 5000 Head and Landscape Sublime share a similar aesthetic, but the conceptual motivation behind each project seems to be radically different. How did each project begin?

Anastasia Samoylova – Both projects are about the existing representations of specific environments. Landscape Sublime explores the natural environment and its depiction in contemporary popular photography, and 5000 Head references the agricultural land as it’s shown in food industry advertising. The concept behind each body of work is similar: it’s the analysis of images, a metaphor of the world seen/experienced through pictures. When I moved to Central Illinois, I found myself surrounded by grain fields and farms and all the imagery associated with those on billboards and in direct mail catalogs. The ads present the food industry as clean, safe, and ethical. But, the industry has many serious drawbacks that the consumer is not informed of. I looked at the historical images produced by the early food companies when the industry was at its roots: these were not just ads but basically propaganda of food corporations. I was interested in the aesthetic of those ad campaigns: the bright colors, dynamic lines, flatness of space and the inclusion of photographs. I wanted to recreate some visual elements of those agricultural posters, but the cutouts of photographic prints in my compositions show the darker sides of the industry. These are the public domain photographs sourced from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website and other archives. I continued working with photographs sourced from the online image archive in Landscape Sublime. I wanted to understand the semiotics of the most popular images that are meant to make the viewer experience the beautiful and the sublime through photographs of nature.

Wavepool – You construct complex sculptural installations to be photographed in a studio setting for Landscape Sublime. Have you ever considered constructing something similar to be shown in an exhibition space? What makes a still photograph the best end result for your work?

Anastasia Samoylova – The process of documentation is integral to the project. My subject is not the actual constructed environment, but its visual records. The photographs that I print out and use in my assemblages present the landscape in an altered, digitally enhanced visual form. Such an aesthetic is dictated by the necessity to stand out from the flood of other nature-themed images on the web, a category that is incredibly popular. Try googling ‘beautiful photography’ and see how many landscape images come up. These photographs are not meant to act as straight records of reality. Due to post-processing that most images undergo before surfacing on the web, the pictured natural environment starts to resemble a fantasy world. My project is based on the idea of transformation through photography: from reality to an intensely picturesque image, from image to a constructed environment. My installations are meant to carry on the further elapse of the pictured landscape into a fantastical ‘perfect’ world. It wouldn’t be the same concept if I were to exhibit the actual constructed environments. The perceived distance that the final photograph provides is necessary for the concept of transformation I’m trying to allude to.

 

Lightnings from Landscape Sublime

 

Wavepool – Between a physical exhibition space or an online gallery, what do you think is the best setting for viewers to experience the images?

Anastasia Samoylova – I like the idea of these photographs documenting paper and then being presented as paper again. The visual language of my images is meant to seduce the viewer, as was the case with the photographs that I appropriated. I think physical prints communicate that idea more effectively than images on screen.

Wavepool – What other artists are you looking at right now? What are some of your influences outside of the art world?

Anastasia Samoylova – Kate Steciw, Michele Abeles, Lucas Blalock, Christopher Williams, Thomas Demand, and Penelope Umbrico, to name a few. The Internet and social media, and all the imagery employed to communicate the abstract ideas online fascinate me. I think Instagram is important for understanding the future of media. I’m currently reading W.J.T. Mitchell’s What Do Pictures Want? This book is giving me insight on the concept of my future work.

 

Mountain Peaks 2.0 from Landscape Sublime

 

Wavepool – If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?

Anastasia Samoylova – I don’t think there could be an alternative. I’d be profoundly dissatisfied!

Wavepool – What are you currently working on?

Anastasia Samoylova – I am exploring two new directions in my work right now. The first one investigates the process of orchestrating a tableaux photograph. I’ve been recording the stages of setting up my still lives for Landscape Sublime. I think the timelapse videos that come out of this documentation take on a new aesthetic quality and meaning that is complementary yet independent from the series of still images that I produce for the project. The other idea I’m interested in is the process of images becoming objects intended for some form of consumption. The online archive of public domain pictures is expanding, and the possibilities are endless. Usually intended for commerce, these images are meant to be used, rather than just looked at. Public domain even contains contemporary photographs of people, which means that the persons pictured in these images signed a release enabling anyone to freely use their portraits. I’m really interested in this portrait of ourselves that we are imprinting on the web.

 

Tropics from Landscape Sublime

To see more, please visit Anastasia’s website.

Travis Shaffer

selection from A FEW POMMES FRITES

 

Wavepool – On your website, you devote a section to projects that were created in response to a variety of works by Ed Ruscha. Why do you think that it’s important for artists such as yourself to pay homage to other influential artists?

Travis Shaffer – It seems to me that participation within any channels, trajectories, or ‘traditions’ ultimately involves some amount of reflexivity. Whether tacitly or explicitly, the work of an artist is dialogical. One value of the homage is the consideration of it as an ‘Academic’ act: one related to a rigorous training in art which involves repetitive acts of reproduction. The significance of this act – whether connoted as appropriation, homage, copy, or derivative – has something to do with acknowledging ties to the past. I see the deconstruction, analysis, and reconstruction required of the copyist to be an important learning experience which addresses both criticism and production.

Because of this, it seems natural to me that my first work after Ed Ruscha – Thirtyfour Parking lots in Los Angeles … via Google Maps was made as an MFA candidate. I very consciously saw this work as a product of my ‘academic’ training.

Wavepool – In addition to Ruscha, who are some artists that have had a long lasting impact on your practice?

Travis Shaffer – The answer to this question has proved to be a perpetually moving target. Generally speaking my work has always has some level of conscious reference to existing works. A small and diverse sample of these influences and citations include Robert Campin, Edouard Manet, René Magritte, László Moholy-Nagy (and many others associated with the Bauhaus), The Marcels (Broodthaers and Duchamp), John Baldessari, The ‘Art & Language’ gang, Robert Adams, Hans Haacke, Hans Peter Feldmann, Joachim Schmid, as well as a steady stream of other contemporary artists engaging the photographic medium.

 

REWORDED from ABCED

 

Wavepool – What sets the book apart from other setting or methods for viewing artwork?

Travis Shaffer – Most compellingly, I appreciate the book for it’s autonomy. The book absorbs all of the criteria for reception. One could of course speak of the differing implications of a book presented on a pine shelf, atop a Noguchi coffee table, in the stacks of a public library, or within a museum vitrine, etc. However, once relegated to the hands of a reader the book has the ability to be engaged based mostly upon it’s own criteria. Unlike other forms it seems much less conditioned by context – speaking about a book as site specific seems absurd.

I have also come to appreciate the book as a practical solution to the problem of proximity. Biographically speaking, I have been self-aware of my peripherality – though admittedly, such a suggestion is a problem of perception. The mobility of Artist’s Books (specifically Print-on-Demand publications) has made my physical location a far less significant factor.

Wavepool – You describe your ongoing body of work O WHITE GODS as ‘a mixed-media exploration of whiteness.’ Can you go into more detail about this?

Travis Shaffer – Sure. O WHITE GODS is an exercise in obscurity. Does that clear it up? With this body of work, I am compelled to resist explanation – I certainly am compelled to resist the current model for writing an artist statement. But, for these purposes that seems rather arrogant.

O WHITE GODS is the by-product of a process of compiling and presenting a growing collection of significant images, objects, and text. These components have surfaced as a part of ongoing research which stems from a study of various encountered implications and theories of the color white. The installation of the work is lead by searching and playfully leverages these items into meaning generating relationships. Specifically through the juxtaposition of image and text.

 

USP:SKH26L-TZ//There is no danger that standardization will force a choice upon the individual from O WHITE GODS

 

Wavepool – With O WHITE GODS it seems that you’re exploring new territory in both the installation and the form that individual works take on. What prompted this direction?

Travis Shaffer – This project does mark an intentional transition away from the ‘conceptual’ and ‘post-studio’ workflow that has, to this point, governed most of my artistic practice. It quite literally started as an excuse to engage in the conversations which were increasingly becoming part of my pedagogy. Conversations – though in my train of thought – which have been left out of my work for various reasons. I have always defined my practice as that of a photographer…of sorts – I was never completely comfortable with the title photographer on it’s own. O WHITE GODS, from inception, was an excuse to explore possibilities of form that were not consistent with my previous works. A point of departure.

What results from this freedom are works like USP:SKH26L-TZ//There is no danger that standardization will force a choice upon the individual: An archival inkjet print of a galvanized joist hanger reproduced about 7 times taller than the actual object which sits atop a pair of Whitewashed Pier blocks. This work considers utilitarian objects of ubiquity in a way that suspends recognition and forces them into a particular conversation with their appropriated subtitle. These choices have something to do with monumentality, reliquaries, suburbia, etc.

For the first time since graduate school, I have a studio larger than a closet. I’m not sure, but this may be a contributing factor.

Wavepool – What are your plans for continuing O WHITE GODS?

Travis Shaffer – My only plans are that I will continue making and exhibiting white things about white things. There will be more images. There will be more objects. There will be more and more text. There naturally will be books.

In February, I will be mounting a second solo exhibition from this body of work in an all white 1920’s Bungalow turned exhibition space. Additionally, I have just finished PAINT, my contribution to ABCEUM: a multi-book project by the members of ABC (artists’ books cooperative). ABCEUM will debut simultaneously at Printed Matter’s NYABF and the Brighton Photo Biennial this fall.

 

installation view from O WHITE GODS

To see more, please visit Travis’ website.

Daniel Alexander Smith

Eighty-Six from Corpus


Wavepool – A lot of your work references religious ideas, both conceptually and visually. Where does this interest come from?

Daniel Alexander Smith – I grew up going to church and Catholic school in the South, so theology is one of the frameworks I see the world through. It also makes a difference to me that the Catholic Church has a history of exploiting its members to support amazing art. It’s an interesting irony that the Church stabilizes individual’s lives around common values, and these values simultaneously serve to destabilize the Church. I look at icons as artifacts of this phenomenon, but I’m not just talking about Byzantine paintings, and counter-reformation clashes. It’s evolved, and we now have a secular art world where certain art works and artists have an almost divine prominence. I’m really interested in the way money is shaping the art world right now. It feels Byzantine.

Wavepool – Your series Ruckenfigur seems to be a bit more experimental than some of your other work. Does the process behind the project differ from others?

Daniel Alexander Smith – Yes and no. I do big, committed experiments, where I try a different idea and see it through on a large scale, and I do work that plays with a lot of little ideas in different ways. Ruckenfigur is play. I also wanted to keep it lighter than Gold Standard and Corpus, and develop a little humor that adds to the concept rather than just distracting. Sometimes I can be a little too serious, so an ejaculating milk crate felt appropriate.

 

Reentry from Ruckenfigur

 

Wavepool – I’m particularly interested in the milk crate image. Can you give a little bit of information about the image and the idea behind it?

Daniel Alexander Smith – The milk crate was largely inspired by Man Ray’s Monument to D.A.F. It’s such an elegant image. I didn’t initially realize that it’s a cross overlaid on a butt. The cross becomes Freudian, and it’s instantly weird. I’d already been playing with ways to visually unfold a milk crate, while thinking about Corpus Hypercubus. The idea for this icon of unfulfillable desire popped into my head pretty much as it is.

Wavepool – Do you have a final physical format in mind for the project?

Daniel Alexander Smith – Not yet, but I’m playing around with gallery installations… maybe a book.

 

detail from Gold Standard

 

Wavepool – It looks like you’re currently working on an ambitious display method for your project Gold Standard. Where did the idea for the installation come from and what will it add to the piece?

Daniel Alexander Smith – The content and format of the piece is largely tied up in my obsession with the Pergamon Altar. This monumental frieze that celebrates the gods’ victory over the forces of chaos was eroded and broken over time, then cut up and reassembled out of order by archaeologists. It’s a really modern piece now. The 3D structure of Gold Standard is my attempt to reference some of the contradiction of classical friezes, which are sculptural but flat. The images read as even flatter when the display structure is not. And flattening all of these figures is a tragic gesture for me. Flatness is the fate of the ancients, and it is ours too. We are also eroded, cut up, and reassembled out of order. Look at Facebook.

Wavepool – What do you want viewers to think about when looking at your work?

Daniel Alexander Smith – Context. Not as in “everything is determined by context,” but rather, “everything is determined by context.” Our history, our religion, our desires all determine our present, but we struggle against this context. We build monuments knowing they’ll fall apart. We cut up the pieces to preserve them forever. We battle our context, and I want to show this battle in my work. The stories and contexts in my work aren’t universal, but the story of context is.

 

rendering of projected sculptural component for Gold Standard

 To see more, please visit Daniel’s website.

Peter Happel Christian

PHC_01
Firewood from Black Holes & Blind Spots

 

Wavepool – Your practice seems to be highly intuitive and ever-changing. Would you agree?

Peter Happel Christian – I’m happy my work reads that way. I agree. Over the course of the last four or five years I’ve been consciously trying to work more intuitively and let my studio practice evolve in a more organic way. It’s a strategy that’s funny to me – to try to be intuitive, to plan to not have a plan – but it is a way of working that I found myself wanting. One reason I started to work in this way is that I grew tired of the idea of having a project to work on, to name the thing I wanted to make and then make it. Maybe that has something to do with the world of art photography or grant writing or applying for things where I felt like I was naming projects before I really knew what they were.

Something I tell my students when they’re developing work, and that I end up telling myself, is to think about going to the grocery store. Most anyone goes to the store with a list. If you go to the store and just buy the things on the list then you haven’t really been at the store. You’ve only completed a task you knew you would complete before you arrived. There’s no adventure – no new foods make it in your cart. That’s really how I think of my studio practice. Go to the store with a list, but always buy a weird thing – something not on the list. For me, that’s how I try to preserve intuition in my practice. I want a sense of adventure in what I’m making. If it doesn’t have that, then I feel like I’m just executing tasks on a list. I’ve also grown comfortable with not knowing what I’m doing all the time – I no longer put that pressure on myself. Letting go of that has been pretty great. It’s good to not know sometimes. Again, that’s the adventure. I know that anything I make will lead me to the next thing and so on and that those are all related to one another. In that way, work will always have meaning. But as the maker it’s up to me to speculate on where the meaning lies and if something compelling is lurking in that process of making and thinking. That’s not to say that I make work out of thin air. The ideas come from different places and areas of interest, but often the physical making of things is largely intuition and reflection.

Wavepool – Much of your work makes reference to geographic, historical, or scientific ideas. Does preliminary research play a significant role in the development of a project? How do you go about starting something new?

Peter Happel Christian – Yeah, preliminary research often plays a significant role in how a body of work develops and evolves. An older project of mine, Near The Point of Beginning, was really heavy on background research and focused on a more singular idea that in retrospect paved the way for a lot of new work. In the research I do I usually come across a reference to another book or author or artist in the footnotes of a book or essay I’m reading. Those little details have been really significant at times. For instance, when I re-read Rebecca Solnit’s Savage Dreams a couple years ago a very short passage in the book about the Claude Glass, or convex black mirror, really stood out to me. It was maybe a paragraph of information. From there I dug into the history of that object, made some of my own mirrors and let it take over my studio practice for a little bit. A lot of that work was in a show called Sword of the Sun this past February at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. That’s one way I go about starting something new – chasing down a curious detail and finding ways to open it up and connect it other things I already have in the works.

Another way I start something new is by making a lot of things and then sifting through what I’ve made. That fluid process is usually going on while I’m reading stuff and somewhere along the way things fall into place. I don’t want to make it sound so casual, but it really is a bounce between making things I’m drawn to on an intuitive level, letting those things live in the world while I try to understand why I made them and then make more things with an informed mind and sharpened focus of intention. Most often, the stuff I make that I am initially fuzzy about are the photographs I enjoy the most.

 

PHC_02
(L) Broken Sun and (R) Infinite Field II and Infinite Field III from Sword of the Sun

 

Wavepool – Can you tell me a little bit about your collaborative venture Clear As Day?

Peter Happel Christian – Clear As Day (CAD) is an irregular collaboration I have going on with Phillip Andrew Lewis (http://www.phillipandrewlewis.com/). It’s something that was born from failure! Phillip and I started collaborating when we were colleagues at Youngstown State University in Ohio. CAD originally started out as an idea for a group exhibition in an abandoned hotel in Youngstown, Ohio – the name came about as a response from the present-day clear skies of Northeast Ohio where the soot and smoke of the steel factories used to dominate the region. The name of the exhibition was going to be Clear As Day and we thought it would’ve been an interesting way to acknowledge the history of a place while capturing its contemporary state. That basic idea of looking back (into history) and looking around (in the present) is how we’ve subconsciously developed projects as Clear As Day. We were really ambitious about that exhibition and laid some groundwork for it, but it never materialized for one reason or another. After all that dreaming and planning we realized we wanted to keep working together on making things and so we did! We’re drawn to similar subject matter and both have an interest in the natural landscape as a complex social space – plus working together has always been really easy. Sometimes we meet up to physically work together, but nearly all of our collaboration is done remotely. One of the best parts is that early on we agreed to not have rules and not assign individual authorship to anything we make as CAD – it’s an incredibly fluid process that has definitely impacted how I make decisions on my own projects. We haven’t lived in the same town for years so much of our collaboration has been in the format of a website and now a tumblr that we use as a way to talk to each other. We periodically remind each other that “nothing is something” – that seems to be a little bit of advice we feed each other. Anything has the potential to be something.

Wavepool – You’ve been working with Conveyor Editions to publish Half Wild, which will be released soon at the New York Art Book Fair. Was this always a goal for the project?

Peter Happel Christian – Pretty much! Early on in the making of Half Wild I imagined it as a book. As I made more and more photographs and grouped them together at various times it started to make sense to me to build the project with a book in mind. I’ve been working on it by name, as Half Wild, for over three years although there are some pictures in the final edit that came before and also one or two that lean forward into newer work. In that way, the book is something very much independent of an isolated project and it’s a part of it that I’m really excited about. It is its own thing, but it also captures broader parts of my studio practice. The final edit and the book itself has been an incredible collaborative process – so satisfying on many levels.

 

PHC_03
Nickel Mountain from Half Wild

 

 

Wavepool – What aspects of the publishing process have been the most exciting? Have there been any major challenges?

Peter Happel Christian – Hands down the most exciting part has been working with other people who have a vested interest in the project. Letting the project become something I couldn’t imagine or make on my own has been an exceptional part of the process as well. Also, laboring over a body of work for so long and seeing it materialize in the format you desire is really incredible – the translation of ideas and effort into a succinct, tangible form is pretty mesmerizing. I’ve also learned things about my own work along the way – stuff I couldn’t see because I was too close to it that another person might readily pick up on. I tried to stay out of my own way and let the process and the good people around me take over. I’m happy to say there haven’t been any major challenges. I think that is mostly to do with working with Conveyor Editions – Christina and Jason are great collaborators and have wonderful people working on their end of things. Only one thing stands out as a challenge. Early on in the process of editing the very final group of photographs and sequence was a little tricky for me. I had looked at a certain sequence of the work for so long and had let it become something on my own that when the editing and sequencing really started happening for the final version I had to let go of some of it. But the letting go opened me up to what the book could become – rather than trying to stick to what I already knew it to be. That’s the beauty of the collaborative nature of making a book in this way, rather than self-publishing where the process is so different and monocular in comparison.

Wavepool – What’s next after the release of Half Wild? Any big plans?

Peter Happel Christian – Well, we’re aiming to do some book signing events and carry Half Wild out in the world as much as possible. I’m hoping the book will translate into new opportunities for me – I haven’t shown a lot of the work in the book and working towards some exhibitions would be great. I’m also working on another book with Mystery Spot Books, based in Minneapolis, and we’re working towards a November launch. It’ll have twenty photographs in it and won’t be as expansive as Half Wild, but I’m super excited about it. Starting in January I’ll be on an academic sabbatical for a semester so my big plans are to keep making work, experiment and do some reading. Like almost anyone, I never seem to have enough time for everything I want to do. I also have a residency at Coast Time in Lincoln City, Oregon in June so I’ll be preparing for that and hopefully building some momentum heading into the time and space of the Pacific coast. I’ve never done an artist residency so I’m curious to sink into that mode with the ocean nearby.

 

PHC_04
Black Piles Drip from Half Wild

 To see more, please visit Peter’s website.