Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Samara Golden

Workspace: When looking at your work, I never know if I'm looking at documentation of a piece, a sculpture, an installation, a video still, or a photograph. Can you talk about the role that confusion plays in your work?

Samara Golden: I have a hard time believing in finality, and especially the finality of the piece. I like the spaces between things, the ambiguity and suspension. For me the sculpture, the installation, the live video, the prerecorded video, the video stills, and the documentation, are all dimensions of the work that exist together with little regard for a hierarchy. As individual elements they both reinforce and undermine each other. I think of them as one thing, the same way a person is a whole person, but they do things like eat, drink, and sleep - no one ever asks them if "sleeping" is all that they do. Why is art making so specialized? To push the metaphor further, why are most artists defined as either eaters, drinkers, or sleepers, instead of simply alive.

In terms of confusion, I try to set up pieces that will organically and structurally build up to a complicated existence that is riddled with contradiction - like frameworks for multiple choice experiences. The pitch I'm trying to hit is an aggressive but subtle un-equilibrium: the mix of emotional harmony and discord that amounts to a sense of internal conflict.

On a more external level, I've always been fascinated by the idea of multiple dimensions in one place: that where you stand now, someone else could also be standing, but you can't see them and vice versa -- The idea that two (or 50?) universes exist at the same time in the same place.

WS: In your Workspace show, there was a video component that fixed a point of view. The live feed video incorporated the viewer into a tableau of "busts" that you had made of all the people you had met with in the making of the piece. What is the relationship between your friends and colleagues and the making of your work? And how do you think about the viewer of your work?

SG: For the Workspace show my idea was to make a sculpture that was made up of representations of everyone who had ever seen it. At the time I thought of it as a piece that was self-generated. I was having many studio visits to discuss the idea, and decided to sculpt busts of those friends and colleagues to incorporate into the final piece. I called that group the "Conversationalists", because I literally talked the piece into being.

Inspired by Heavy Metal Arena Rock Tour VHS tapes, the original Busts Project was intended to go on a "World Tour". At every new venue I would take pictures of the people who came to the show, after which those people would become sculptures and be added to the next show until the piece was one huge group of artists, curators and spectators from all over the world.

The piece was set up so that a viewer would see their own face in a crowd of busts at the exact same scale. It was important to me that the viewer "complete" the piece by being there, and witnessing it. I wanted them to feel implicated, or confused.

After the first show, I realized that the piece was actually quite transparent. I work in a intuitive way, even with a project like this one, that has a clear structure. I never know what my real motivation is until I'm done with the project. I had recently moved to Los Angeles and didn't know too many people - in retrospect the piece can be seen as a direct illustration of the process of meeting people and making friends.

WS: Your work is really maximal. You seem to scour the Internet and thrift stores for material, I am wondering what your research and accumulation process is like. What is your relationship to commerce in the accumulation of all the different elements you use?

SG: First off, I like to go look at stuff, I like to look at how it was made and what it was made of. I like how thrift stores organize things by color, material, and use with no regard for time. You can see a range of similar things made at different times and in different places. It’s a much wider base than you could ever find in a store that sells new things (or a "vintage store").

I like the worst thrift stores. I like seeing things that aren't popular, patterns and colors that are outdated, and once obsessed-over commodities that are now forgotten about. I think of it as subliminal learning and subtle therapy. I've learned a lot about the world from spending time in thrift stores, at garage sales, and looking at things on craigslist and eBay. I know a lot about what people don't want anymore, which I guess is sort of political.

I think a lot about class, both class as in "social class" and as in "classy." Thrift stores are places where everything is second class, where everything was once classy, and for me where there is a potential for future classy, and the possibility of being poor with class. I feel comfortable in the second class, and that’s political.

In terms of commerce, I often treat the sculptural aspect of my work as a display. I used to shop online for things to put in the installations, but instead of buying them, I would print them out and put the prints into the work. I think it’s an interesting way of circumventing the exchange/value system. But, even when I “fake shop,” I look for things that I have a sincere feeling about -whether good or bad. It's not ironic, it's similar to how a painter might use under-painting. Its just the beginning of a larger, abstract story.

More about Busts: My Personal Winter here and more of Samara Golden’s work here

[all Samara Golden. top to bottom: it's so classic to be wrong, 2010. Busts: My Personal Winter, 2010. Busts: My Personal Winter, 2010.]