Photo: Patrick Leonard. Courtesy of the artist, the lumber room, and Laurel Gitlen.
Although frequently referred to as “disposable” in our society, objects often predate and outlast us, continually cycling through owners and contexts over time. Museums, junk shops, curio cabinets, auctions, and collections all serve as sites that help to define the narratives and emotions that we bring to our things. Within the context of a private collector’s artwork holdings, Mack’s project examines the magnetism and lingering appeal of objects and images.
Kristan Kennedy: This project is a likely and unlikely collaboration: between you and a patron and an institution, and between you and a collection of objects and a site. Where do you begin? How will you go about developing a new body of work while in residence? Will you shut out or let in influences, and from where and from whom?
Anissa Mack: I will begin by trying to start where I left off in my studio—trying to keep the momentum going. I’ve brought along a few pieces that I just finished, as well as a piece that’s almost done. I think in two weeks it’s more about considering how to integrate my work (or my collection) and Sarah Miller Meigs’ [of the lumber room] collection, rather than making a new body of work. In terms of influence, I’m sure that the artwork in the collection, the conversations I have with you and Sarah, as well as just my experiences in Portland will have a great effect on the final project. I can already see certain trajectories developing that wouldn’t have occurred to me back home.
KK: What is it that interests you about collecting, or what we choose to live with, arrange, and display around us?
AM: In part, I’m intrigued by collecting because there are some serious collectors in my family. So, I’ve always thought about it; considering the order that a collection demands, but the irrationality it creates as well. Also, to me, there seems to be such a direct relationship between collecting and art making. On a basic level of aesthetic choice, valuation, arranging, narrative, etcetera, [the two pursuits] seem very similar.
KK: There are times I look at your work and it feels like a stand-in for something else. And yet, in the end, the formal choices you have made are so serious and distinct that it keeps it safe from kitsch or irony. When you decide to recreate things, how do you make them your own?
AM: I think the work can sometimes stand in for my experience with the original object, image, or “inspiration,” but that it always needs a level of specificity in the making to balance the potential familiarity or, conversely, the obscurity of the reference.
KK: It seems that the situations or objects you decide to mine for content, form, or inspiration live somewhere between art (things made in the name of aesthetics) and artifacts (things made or modified for use). What do you look for, or rather, what is it that distinguishes something as worthy of your gaze and consideration?
AM: I’m not sure what makes certain things worthy of an extended look, but often they are objects that confuse me or remind me of something, or that I have an odd emotional reaction to. You could say they are objects that I want to “collect,” but I want to preserve them in the way that I perceive them, which usually requires that I make some modification or alteration. Perhaps that’s why they exist between art and artifact for you.
Mack is represented by Laurel Gitlen/Small A Projects in New York.
My Heart Wants More was developed for TBA:10 in residence at the lumber room, with the generous assistance of Sarah Miller Meigs.
This conversation was excerpted from a collection of interviews published on the occasion of Human Being, a series of exhibitions, installations, and happenings curated by Kristan Kennedy, for PICA’s 2010 Time-Based Art Festival. You can download a PDF of the full ON SIGHT catalogue here, or pick up a hard copy at the Washington High School galleries (through October 17), or at the PICA Resource Room.