Tag Archives: Krisjanis Kaktins-gorsline

KRISJANIS KAKTINS-GORSLINE [on] GRIER EDMUNDSON

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Untitled {2013} Courtesy of Grier Edmundson.

KRISJANIS KAKTINS-GORSLINE: Your work has often made pointed appropriations of other artist’s work.  Especially in this new series, beginning with the work in Easy Come, Easy Go, it seems that you are appropriating other artist’s work as a means of discussing the status of works of art as commodities.  Could you talk about your appropriation of other artist’s work, and in particular how you arrived at the set of concerns that define this new body of work?

GRIER EDMUNDSON: I have been working with found images for a while and was really trying to figure out what it meant to re-present these images as a painting.  That contemplation of the dichotomy of the reproducible image and the ‘singularity’ of painting led to the mirrored and repeated paintings I have made in the past.  You could say the mirrored and repeating paintings had certain implications on the value of the object by undermining their own uniqueness but that wasn’t really what I was focusing on.

The artwork as a commodity was definitely a focal point of the work in Easy Come, Easy Go, but those works were the first that were dealing with that idea in such a straightforward manner.  But a lot of that had to do both with the intent of the original works by Kippenberger and the text from the Monopoly cards I chose to superimpose.

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Un Serpent Dans La Pelouse. installation view {2014} Courtesy of Grier Edmundson.

Initially I was appropriating other artists’ work for the symbolic or iconic quality of what or who was represented within the original painting and seeing how the change in context affects both the reading of that work but also the reading of the work that is shown with it.  However, something funny happened when I recreated the portrait of the American Revolutionary figure Thomas Paine that was painted by Auguste Millière. I later found out that Millière based his portrait on an etching by William Sharp who had based his etching on a painting of George Romney so my painting was the 4th reiteration of one portrait.  That really got me thinking more and more about appropriation, studies, copies etc.  A lot of time this kind of thing is bordering more on interpretation or symbolic representation rather than straight up appropriation.

I don’t really see myself working within the vein of someone like Sturtevant or Sherry Levine–I don’t have the conceptual fortitude to be that strict within my practice.   I think of it more like when a singer or a band comes up with a really good cover of a song or brings a new interpretation to a traditional form.   Coming from the South with it’s history of blues, bluegrass and country music, those genres of music have always been as much about reinterpreting traditional tunes as they are about creating new material.   One of my favorite albums is Cat Power’s The Covers Record and I remember very clearly the first time I heard it and how impressed I was with how she brought such a particular voice to the songs she chose.

KKG: Have your experiences working in a commercial gallery affected your understanding of what works of art are and how they function?

GE: That’s a tough one…the works from Easy Come, Easy Go and Une Serpent Dans La Pelouse, definitely were influenced by my working in a commercial gallery to some degree but I don’t think I can say it has affected my understanding of what works of art are or how they function…or maybe I just down know how it has affected me.  I can say that my working in commercial galleries has shown me the best and worst of the art world. I have met gallery owners who really believe in their artists and what they are doing, put no limitations or expectations on them in terms of what they are making or how marketable it is and find a way to help them realize the ideas that they have.  But then there is the side that sees all of the money and politics and how much influence that can have on a lot of the art world; how it can influence galleries, museums, collectors and artists and the choices they all make.  Its a weird feeling when you see a collector buy something solely because someone told them it would be a good investment and not out of any personal attachment to the work.  As an artist you want to think that your work means something or speaks to someone and some of these big collectors buy stuff and file it away in storage until it appreciates enough in value to sell it off.  With all that in mind, I don’t necessarily recommend to most artists that they work in a commercial gallery.  It can be an eye-opening experience and you learn a lot about the machinations behind the art world. But it can also leave you feeling a bit cold and jaded about it all.

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Untitled. installation view {2014} Courtesy of Grier Edmundson.

KKG: I’m interested in your appropriation of Kippenberger’s work in the last exhibition. It seems to me that this move really points to an explicit tension between the “use value” and “exchange value” of works of art.  To me, Kippenberger was an artist whose work very much foregrounded the use-value of art as the event of lived experience.  However, since his death his work more or less transacts purely at the level of exchange value.  His work seemed to attain a much more explicit function as a commodity, both in terms of being a literal financial asset, but also as a reference used by art world types to acquire coolness capital by association.

Why did you choose Kippenberger’s work in particular?

GE: I guess the shift to ‘exchange value’ took place after his death because there is now a finite amount of the work, no? I agree with you about the cool capital that comes along with Kippenberger but I guess that’s just the residual effect of the whole mythology he built up while he was alive.

As for why I chose Kippenberger, it had more to do with the specific body of work, the ‘Preis’ paintings, than anything about his practice as a whole.  I saw the ‘Preis’ paintings at the Tate Modern retrospective in 2006 and I remember immediately thinking they were so right on.  With that said, I am a fan of Kippenberger’s work and there are a lot of things about his practice that I find fascinating but he’s not necessarily the first person I would gravitate towards when I think about artists that influence my own practice. When I started thinking about making these Monopoly paintings I started thinking about the overlap between the Monopoly cards as a readymade and Kippenberger’s work and how they both so implicitly dealt with artwork as a commodity.  I just decided to double down and mash the two together and, in a way, give Kippenberger a sort of Kippenberger treatment.  It’s a slightly absurd project, trying to painstakingly recreate this series of ‘bad’ paintings only to then paint this foreign text overtop.

KKG: In the last exhibition you superimposed the Monopoly typography on to appropriated works, but in Un Serpent Dans La Pelouse, there is just the text on white paintings.  What precipitated this shift?

GE: Actually the shift would be when the Monopoly text was superimposed on the Kippenberger background.  Even though the Complex Economic paintings for Easy Come, Easy Go were made first, it came out of thinking about the monopoly game property cards as being these perfect ready-mades.   I had already come up with the idea behind the installation for Un Serpent Dans La Pelouse, which included the monopoly paintings on the white background and had planned to show it in Montreal at Clark in the fall.  But before I could get to that I had this show in Glasgow that I had to tackle.  So I put the first idea of making the paintings to the side and started with Kippenbereger series.   It worked out well because I really wanted the show in Glasgow to be just paintings, no sculpture, no wallpaper, no found objects, just paintings…and the Kippenberger paintings are so crazy that it would have been too much to have anything else in the space with them.  The funny thing was that it had been so long since I had put together an exhibition of just paintings that it felt like I was doing something really radical!

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Easy Come, Easy Go. installation view {2014} Courtesy of Grier Edmundson.

KKG:  How do you see this difference in approach working in the paintings?

GE: Well the paintings for Un Serpent Dans La Pelouse, are definitely easier on so many levels.  Those monopoly property cards have such a clean and simple design; it’s really what drew me to think about working with them in the first place.  The Easy Come, Easy Go works are more precarious.  The whole idea of appropriating this series of Kippenberger’s paintings that were initially made, I have to assume, to be as bad as they possibly could be only to paint this somewhat arbitrary text over them felt/feels absurd in a lot of ways.  For all I know Kippenberger and some assistants cranked the 13 paintings out in a week and it took me hours upon hours of guesswork to deconstruct and reconstruct each one.  It’s hard for the paintings not to come across as being flippant, though I guess in a lot of ways they are, but it’s not really the intention.

KKG: The new show also features various objects throughout the space.  Most notably you have the plaster boxes that make a sideways reference to Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes, but there are various other objects throughout the space: a boot, some Cheerios, a couple of figurines, etc.  Could you talk about how these are elements operate within the exhibition?

GE:  For this exhibition those objects came from a couple of different places.  The first was thinking about the game pieces from Monopoly: the thimble, the shoe, the car etc. and having this desire to create my own set.  So I started looking around at things that I thought might work as game pieces.  Slowly through the selection process it became a way for me to introduce more of a biographical element into the exhibition which I thought was quite important because for me all of the work has this personal narrative aspect though its not readily apparent in the paintings and sculpture.

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Easy Come, Easy Go. detail view {2014} Courtesy of Grier Edmundson.

Another line of thinking was when I first thought about making these Brillo box works a couple of years ago, I had this idea of using them both as sculptures and as display devices.  By introducing these found objects a lot of things happen in the space.  The boxes suddenly take on multiple roles: they’re sculptures, plinths, designer side tables… and the viewer is then suddenly forced to question what is what.  Is the paper coffee cup supposed to be there? Is it really an old coffee cup or something that was made just to look like one?  I guess it kind of just jars the viewer out of walking into the space and thinking “I am in a gallery, there’s the painting on the wall, there are the sculptures on the floor, this is an art exhibition” without completely banging them over the head with it.

KKG: Throughout your practice you have made much use of wallpaper.  In this exhibition you’ve made a wallpaper pattern using the motif of Mr.Monopoly with empty pockets.  What led you to using wallpaper in your work?  How do you see it working in this exhibition?

GE:  The original thinking behind the wallpaper was mostly about introducing content into a material that is normally a backdrop and is traditionally seen as a decorative element.  I thought it was an interesting way to flip the script and take the content out of the paintings and inject it into the decorative.  Another thing that happens is it tends to move the space away from the neutrality of the white cube.  In a strange way, even though the patterns are often quite loaded in terms of the content found in the imagery, the wallpaper pushes the galleries towards a more domestic feel.  I am really interested in that effect, it’s really similar to my interest in the role of the Brillo boxes and how they can so easily transform from sculptural to a design element. In this exhibition the wallpaper only covers one wall so its not as full on as some installations but the pattern is also one of the more optically aggressive patterns I have made so covering the whole space would have been pretty intense.

KKG: I’m also quite interested in the fact that you made the pattern available for download on your website. What was your thinking there?

GE: So much of the show came from me pondering these ideas of value and how value can be somewhat arbitrarily projected onto these things, that it only made sense to give something away and just negate its value.   I’ve always made the wallpaper out of pretty cheap material, its usually screen printed onto newsprint but that still requires access to specialized equipment and such, which requires money.  These were just made using a laser printer and basic white paper.  I put the pattern up on the website with the idea that anyone could download the pattern and do what they want with it.

KKG: Your work repeatedly touches on the question of how value is inherent in, or is produced by, works of art.  Within your practice you seem to repeatedly approach this topic from a variety of angles.  Could you talk about how you came to take this on as a concern in your work and maybe talk a bit more about you’re approach to the subject of value in these recent shows?

GE: I don’t know that “value” has always been a concern of mine…I would almost say its only with this last body of work or two that its come into the conversation or at least been a focus of the conversation.  Some of that has to do with what you touched on earlier when asking about the influence of having worked in a commercial gallery but I think a lot of it has to do with being at a point where my priorities or concerns in life are shifting.  With that shift I started taking a closer look at the mechanics that affect those priorities and questions began to evolve.    Fresh out of art school money is not (usually) an issue in the same way that it is as when you start getting older, having a family and looking a little further down the road.  Going back to the personal narrative aspect that is not always evident in my work: six years ago my first exhibition in Montreal was mainly focused on ideas of progress, revolution, change and all of that work was made just after moving from Glasgow to Montreal and having just found out my wife was pregnant with our first child.  So the work now, just as it was then, is mostly about me working through things that are weighing on my mind.

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Untitled {2013} Courtesy of Grier Edmundson.

 ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS 

KRISJANIS KAKTINS-GORSLINE: Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline is an artist who lives and works in Winnipeg. He recently had a show at ACTUAL in Winnipeg.

GRIER EDMUNDSON: Born in Memphis, TN, Grier Edmundson holds a BA in Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and a MA in Fine Arts from the Glasgow School of Art. He has had recent solo exhibitions at Kendall Koppe Gallery(Glasgow), Fourteen30 Contemporary(Portland), Battat Contemporary(Montreal) and PowerHouse(Memphis). His work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions including the 2011 Quebec Triennial(Montreal), I’m Not Here:An Exhibition without Francis Alÿs at the de Appel Arts Centre(Amsterdam), Samedi, Samedi at Galerie Art Concept(Paris), and The State with A. Vermin at Glasgow International 2008. He lives and works in Montreal.

ELAINE STOCKI [on] KRISJANIS KAKTINS-GORSLINE

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Jaune Brillant. 72″x60″, oil on canvas {2014} Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline.

{Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline’s most recent body of work uses a random number generator app to instigate the painting process.  The work was recently shown at ACTUAL Gallery in Winnipeg, Canada.}

Elaine Stocki:  Why the random number generator?

Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline: Using the random number generator was just a pragmatic solution to the problem of how to motivate the painting process. Early on in the trajectory of this work I began by using a set of cards, but as the parameters of the work became more complex, it just became impractical. So I numbered all the variables that go into making the paintings and use the number generator to select the moves that happen.

For me the making of the paintings is about searching through the material space of possibilities presented by the process, so the randomness of the number generator is as good a criteria as any really.  The randomness is just a catalyst for the process that allows things to happen in the work.  The number generator is just the spark that sets the other causal chains of the process into motion.     

The work that I’ve done since around 2011 has all come out of the use of a generative system of stencils.  The stencils more or less function as a shabby information relaying mechanism in the work.  They allow me to transcribe elements from one painting and then translate them onto the subsequent paintings.

One of the earlier stencil sets was a group of lines based on marks from one of the paintings.  I transcribed the elements of this gesture into sections that could be fit together end to end like plumbing or the tracks in a toy train set.  The problem of how to fit the pieces together became apparent, so I numbered all the ends, wrote the numbers on bits of paper, and then more or less pulled them out of a hat.

Immediately this altered my relationship to the work. Rather than just being an inert tool, the stencils had their own strange behavior.  This completely changed how I would approach making the paintings. Over the past few years I’ve just extended this situation out into almost every aspect of the making of the work so that everything more or less just follows sets of scripted protocols.  My painting process became some sort of golemed-doppelganger of itself and my position in the making of the work has been demoted to something more like an attendant rather than an author.

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Soft Object. 60″x48″, oil on canvas {2014} Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline.

ES: Do you think that your self inflicted demotion to attendant in the art making process has any philosophical basis or precedent?

KKG: Early on in the development of the work there were two people that influenced my thinking about the work quite a bit.  Firstly, Manuel De Landa’s work relating to the inherent morphogenetic capacities of the material world. What is most striking to me about De Landa’s work is the way he points to the material world as a dynamic space of self-organizing systems and processes that are perpetually generating new forms and assemblages between forms via their interactions.  His work outlines a very interesting re-formulation of materialist philosophy.

Secondly, Andrew Pickering’s books The Mangle of Practice and The Cybernetic Brain, were both quite important to me.  In these books Pickering foregrounds a much more performative understanding and way of interacting with the world, which he contrasts against a more dominant representational model of understanding the world.

In relation to my self imposed demotion within the making of the work, what both Pickering and De Landa point towards is a much more symmetrical relationship between human and non-human agents in the world; what could be called a flat ontology. Subjects and objects are seen as occupying the world equally, exerting reciprocal formative pressures on each other. Both also point to the world as a material process that is perpetually unfolding itself in novel ways. For me, their work proposes a displacement of the habitual notions of artistic agency in relation to making work. It shifts the emphasis towards operating more at the level of designing parameters for processes or situations where the inherent creative capacities of the world can to play themselves out. This creates a situation where both artist and the work shape each other in what Pickering would call a “reciprocal dance of agencies”.  This also be extends out into how the larger context of the work’s production bears on what is produced and how it is produced.

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Fruit on Black, installation view, ACTUAL {2014} Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline.

ES: Do you have full faith in the process, or does your emotional or aesthetic opinion ever intervene?

KKG: I have no faith in the process.  It’s not really an issue of faith.  The process is a way to proceed in a situation of non-faith.

The whole process is built around my emotions and aesthetic opinions in that the process takes the habitual ways I would make a painting and then systematizes them.  But in doing so it also makes those biases alien to themselves by re-organizing them.  The process becomes dumb to itself, and so, it itself becomes an intervention into the pre-existing system that is my emotions and aesthetic opinions.

ES: Would someone who was watching your process note certain “cheats”?

KKG: Yes.

ES: Does this become problematic to you?

KKG: I think what I’m doing is making the whole enterprise of making a painting problematic for myself.

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Fruit on Black, installation view, ACTUAL {2014} Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline.

ES: How does the sculpture you made for your show relate to this? There are odds and sods thrown in there. I noticed half of a wiener dog salt and pepper shaker. Are these everyday objects meant to perform with the pieces of sculpture in a sort of flat ontology that you describe? Is that why you put them in there?

KKG: I suppose if you took the idea of a flat ontology seriously everything would perform together within that ontology.  But the work is not meant to be an illustration of that idea.  Wouldn’t the work just be terrible if it did that? I mean, there may not be much of a valuable distinction between a work of art and a Dachshund salt and pepper shaker, other than value itself, but that’s not really why I put it there. Although, I feel like your interest in the salt and pepper shaker is by virtue of the fact that you gave it to me.

The objects in the sculpture are really just the banal stuff that was around me that met the criteria of the sculpture. But as such, the objects are an extension of my subjectivity in that together they form what Timothy Morton would call a hyperobject. They are a kind of subjective Katamari ball. They are just things that I have made, used, had given to me, put on, in and out of my body, looked at on the internet, etc.

Similar to the way my painting process is re-organized through the systematizing of that process, the objects in the sculpture are also re-organized and re-distributed through the system of the sculpture. The tiles used in the sculpture basically just amount to a bad minimalist sculpture tarted up with a funky paint job and arranged using a drunk-walk algorithm. By placing the objects in the sculpture the relationships between the objects are redefined by the program of the sculpture. But part of what interests me about this systematizing of the work is the way it mimics the cybernetic/algorithmic systems that basically re-organize and re-distribute subjectives in contemporary culture.

I think both DeLanda and Pickering are great in showing the productive virtues of these types of systems, but I feel like the show also comes with a fairly ambivalent back hand. Part of what was going through my mind during the making of the show were the resonances of recently re-reading Deleuze’s Postscript on the Societies of Control. That essay was written in like 1992 but it couldn’t be more important for today’s culture. Its just jarring really. Plus, it has the great line: {Everywhere surfing has already replaced the older sports.}    

ES: Wait – how in the first place did the paintings turn into 3-D? Does that relate to de Landa and Pickering as well?

KKG: I guess you are referring to the tiles, but in the end I really feel like the whole show ends up being the sculpture.  Putting the tiles and wall paintings in the space was sort of a catalyst for how the rest of the elements would be organized.  So the limits of the sculpture are quite fuzzy. Its not clear to me where it really starts or ends.  It absorbs the accoutrement of a contemporary art exhibition into itself and also points to things well outside the show.  So there are also the paintings, QR codes that lead to websites, one of which shows a drawing hanging in the basement of the gallery, the hand bills, the artist’s statement, my blog, etc. Beyond that I included an image of a Heineken can found at the bottom of the Whittard ocean canyon, basically one of the deepest parts of the Atlantic.  I consider that can as part of the sculpture.  Not the image, but the can itself.  I’ve appropriated it, wherever it is. And finally, the images of the fruit supposedly mutated by Fukushima radiation. Given that there are detectable amounts of Fukushima radiation in Manitoba it only seemed right to have the mess of Fukushima as part of the sculpture, since it has already integrated its caesium particles into the work anyways.

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Martha. 14″x17″, pen on paper {2014} Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline.

ES: The barcode that scans to an image of the drawn bird in the basement in the gallery is my favourite idea in the show. I love how it works with the rest of the work. Can you talk a little bit about why a bird, and why the basement?

KKG: The image of the bird is an image of Martha the last Passenger Pigeon, who died alone in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.  She was stuffed and ended up in the Smithsonian.  I guess I really just made the drawing in lieu of being able to actually acquire Martha.

Again, I think a lot of the things in the work have a relationship to the way subjectivities are sort of being recomposed at present.  The modern individual has been replaced by a networked “dividual” able to be broken up into information of various kinds.  At the same time you have the tension between individuals and multitudes.  The tension between one person in relation to, for instance, the geologically scaled biomass of the anthropos.  You sort of have this situation of the one as many, and also, the one and the many.

For me Martha’s story seems to head in an opposite direction. Passenger Pigeons flew around in flocks of billions.  They would basically black out the sky like some sort of sentient meteorological event.  So its quite staggering to see something like that reduced to one individual completely severed from their relevant networks.  Placing the drawing in the basement seemed suitable to this situation.

Beyond that I think that only being able to see the work by linking to it via the QR, through a smart phone, over the internet, allowed for another means of renegotiating the space of the gallery.  It also holds the drawing close and at a distance simultaneously.  You can understand where it is but in a sense have to project yourself into that space. I think it generates quite an odd experience of a work of art, but also one that is completely familiar to how we consume art now.

ES: You used to do a lot of figurative work. Would you ever conceive of this process using representational repeating patterns? Is that idea off putting to you?

KKG: One big influence on the work was Jeff Funnell’s cat paintings which are more or less that.

The new paintings came directly out of my earlier representational paintings.  In a lot of ways those earlier works were more or less what you are describing.  They were basically made by layering segments of found images.  But as I went forward it was really the structural and material aspects of the painting that were interesting to me, so it was enough to use a repertoire of visual information collected from the paintings themselves. I guess I’m more interested in what the painting is and what it does rather than its ability to reference something in that way.

That being said there were plenty of images in the show. I’m not opposed to representation. The supposed dichotomy between representation and abstraction has always been a false one. I think this notion in modern painting often obscures what paintings are and what they are doing.

ES: Last Question: What does the title of the show, Fruit On Black mean?

KKG: It means Fruit on Black.  But stroked out.

The title of the show and most of the titles for the paintings came out of another process I’ve been using.  I drop texts related to my work into a William S.Burroughs style text cut-up app and then pick out the interesting word combinations. That was one of the phrases that popped out.  It fit the show and I liked the image that it conjured.  For me the title is again just another piece in the show.  I liked the idea that people would read it and then carry the image it provoked for them through the show.  /Its more like a micro-poem.  But it also has a performative drawing aspect through the striking out of the text.

The strikeout aspect was also interesting to me in that these types of fonts have been created in order to make texts illegible to computers trained to read through text on the internet.  Actually getting the title of the show to appear on the internet has proven to be quite a difficult thing.  Even getting it on the handbill properly was quite hard. (Apparently it doesn’t work in my email either.) So I like that aspect of it also.  It ends up being a kind of delinquent text that sort of falls in and out of the symbolic order.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

ELAINE STOCKI: Elaine Stocki is a Canadian artist who works in Photography. She recently had a show at Thomas Erben Gallery in New York.

KRISJANIS KAKTINS-GORSLINE: Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline is an artist who lives and works in Winnipeg. He recently had a show at ACTUAL in Winnipeg.