For her interview, we asked Lesley Moon to describe the process of creating her show, Tortoise – On – Domino, in detail.
LM: I suppose the place to start would be with the salt [Coruscated Salt]: a piece made up of hundreds of pounds of Himalayan pink salt spread out across the floor, which created a grounds for the exhibition. Out of that, the other works sprang up!
The first thing I can remember making after I had the salt in mind was a sculpture of a silicone rabbit held up on steel rods called BunBun. I had been thinking for years about ways to eroticize the space between the wall and the floor, entertaining all kinds of variations as a kind of mental sport. For this show, it began when I was shopping at the Pleasure Chest with a friend for sculptural objects, amongst other things. I grabbed this little rabbit that was supposed to fit onto the tip of a dildo (it was in a tiny ziploc bag!) - but I found the object replete for whole host of other possibilities - so fresh and available for use. I decided to weld these three rods together to form a tripod and put the rabbit on top of that. I had an aluminum rod gently arc out of the wall in a way that might reference furniture or the arm of a lamp. I attached a peacock feather to that, so it would just barely touch the tips of the rabbit’s ears. In this way the rabbit was being constantly both penetrated and tickled - and held in a delicate counter-position to it’s original purpose.
Then I thought it would be nice to incorporate a slab of marble next to the rabbit - a very traditional Carrara marble that’s been used in sculpture for hundreds of years. I conceived of it as a smoky mirror, or dim looking glass. I leaned it against the wall, so that with BunBun there could be a coupling of pieces that connected the wall and the floor, but this one was had four right angles, along with some extreme material weight and discursive history as an object for use within sculpture.
Next came the rings, they're called FYA #1, referring to both “For Your Art” and “For Your Ass.” I had been thinking a lot about therapeutic objects, especially as I was making BunBun. You can get these inflatable rings for hemorrhoid pain and other posterior ailments: you sit on them, and I think the goal is to help one continue daily seated activities whilst afflicted. I cast a few of them in concrete, half-stacked and half-splayed them around one corner of the space. They were dipped in bright blue tempera paint on one side, which I thought might give them this sort of secret, connective vanity, as they were stacked with their blue markings largely outside of the dominating sight-lines.
Then there is the prepared game of pick-up sticks. I call it a ‘prepared game’ since I striped all the sticks before I dropped them, which primarily subverted the overriding logic of the game (to pick up one’s color sticks). I photographed them this way and hung the photograph to invert the original perspective, so that the game was upside-down. This way it wouldn’t adhere to a logical sense of space, or ‘looking into’ when looking at the photograph. In this way, the sticks appear to be stuck against a wall or stuck up against a ceiling. They reference something that is at once graphic, abstract and representative. I hung the photograph low on the wall, allowing the bottom of it to droop onto the floor and curl up - maybe another moment for relief or support...
And then there was the tortoise! A tortoise is a perpetually ancient creature, but also an abiding sign of time, living a life that extends beyond the parameters of human lifespan. They look old from the day they are born; they are never creatures of youth. All the rest of the work was also made at such a scale that the tortoise could access it - closer to his scale instead of our human scale. Not to undermine the greatness of the species, but significantly - according to the choice words of a few tortoise-keepers I met - in our eyes, they also more or less behave like rocks that happen to eat. During the opening, if the tortoise wasn’t up and walking around, people were very concerned with the tortoise’s disinterest in socializing. It was fascinating to see so much pathos extended to a thing that has so little in common with our wants and desires, our culture and our projections - it seemed a bit hysterical, but of course I kind of completely identified with that sense too. Alienation or estrangement within viewership has always been a compelling element for me within the cultural field, and as someone making things - and to some degree, I think it gave the tortoise extra agency within the environment as a more entitled participant. I should mention that an animal enrichment specialist who owned the tortoise had sanctioned him to be there. He had just come out of hibernation, and to whatever degree he could experience pleasure, maybe he experienced the pleasure of discovering a salt floor, strewn with lettuce, with a whole host of objects to be explored within its bounds. To me, the traversal of the tortoise across the space, between the other objects and across the salt became an important, active intersection within the show, something that created a persistent, quixotic question for me.
To go back to the salt, there was a sense of mineral time at play, working in relation to the concrete and marble, amongst other materials in the show. More than mere currency, in history salt was prized as a necessity - it brought survival because of its properties to preserve food - material currency! Now of course, I think most people just love the taste of finishing salt (the first thing that hits the palette!) and the color pink - of course, even Trader Joe’s markets and sells the stuff. But on the ground, as the tortoise’s feet and our shoes crossed through it, the salt made a sound and registered the marks made by each step. I thought of the sliding and continual elision of this index along with the pick-up sticks and some of the more ambiguous indices referenced within photography - the presence of the body, questions of what can be made and heard, when and where process is registered, things going away, and things kept.
Finally, I painted the walls and floor dark grey because I was looking to create a bit of a visual recession within the environment. The elements in the space could then function in contrast to a shadow tone. It was about creating or emphasizing a containing space - outlining, as it were, an area to be filled.
More about Tortoise - On - Domino here.
[all Lesley Moon. top to bottom: BunBun, 2011. Untitled, 2011. Tortoise - On - Domino, 2011.]