Saturday, 3 December 2011

Interview with Laura Paolini

Laura Paolini's recent work, I'm Tired of Being Fucked, is being featured in XPACE's Window Space. The artist explores some of the undesired aspects of a creative lifestyle and the absurdity of struggling for ownership, or an ideal.

To watch a video of the Window Space exhibit, click here.

Here is an interview between Gwendolyn Bieniara and Laura Paolini...  

Jeff Koons' rock star status and ability (or entitlement) to do, say, and present any ubiquitous object and stamp his name on it makes me wonder if you are mocking him, or simply using his own tactics of borrowing mass iconography for your own use. Is your use of the inflatable bunny a gesture of accession or derision towards Koons?

My use of the inflatable bunny acts as both an homage and a slight towards Koons. Around the time this piece was being considered, Jeff Koons attempted to sue a company for manufacturing and selling bookends that look like inflatable dogs. He saw this as a direct reference to his own inflatable dog sculptures, while 1/16 the scale. [More info on that story here.] It kind of says something when you start using the same logic of public sphere appropriation that made your career happen against someone for your personal profit. Koons and his attorney basically asserted that now Jeff Koons owns all references to, and the actual object of, an inflatable dog. It's a bit puzzling, as if balloon dogs didn't exist before Koons and now don't exist outside of his jurisdiction.

Your previous work involves technology as a medium and a subject. I like asking people why they like what they like and do what they do. So what do you like best about working with electronics and new media?

First, I hate the term new media. A lot of it really isn’t that new, and I just can't really get it through my head that all innovation and progress ultimately has a commercial end. Also, despite 40 plus years of technology and new media art in galleries, some people (who should now better) don't understand that it might break, need maintenance, etc. Paintings don't break, sculptures might fall down but the place where media arts is right now is kind of rough.

I heard this really good example of what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder feels like: you're in a burning car and you're struggling to get out. To someone with OCD, if they don't make the bed 15 times until it's perfect, they are in a burning car. Not to liken art to therapy, but in my non-art-making periods (they happen more often than I'd like) it feels like I'm in a burning car. I write about art and 'curate' occasionally, and I like that as a way to meet cool artists and feel immersed, but ultimately I need to keep making work.

My use of technology in other works is sometimes really explicit, like the title gives you a clue to what's happening (blowing hot air, talk dirty to some extent) but the tech is a means to an end, I suppose. I keep working in it because that's what I like making. I'm not going to pick up a paintbrush or make figurative sculpture ever. I might make an object and a video when someone asks me to, but this is what I basically want to do, so I stick to it.

The way I work on art is kind of like a perpetual rehearsal. Rehearsing is like being in my studio figuring things out and then once the work is done, it indicates for me what I can change, and it can be seen as a rehearsal of the next piece.

There are definitive sexual connotations in this work. Can you elaborate on any of them? How intentional are they and do they speak to the other conceptual goals within the work?

Well, it's pretty explicit. Because they're objects/toy animals it's not as intense as it could have been. And because "fuck" is pretty casually used, it's impact as a verb maybe isn't too intense.  It's just like cartoon-violence, which a lot of my work deals with. It's also become apparent to me recently that the work deals with the complexities of Schadenfreude, which is taking pleasure in someone else's misfortune.

I want to say my work isn't about sex, and while the innuendoes act as a pretty accessible entry point, it can get dangerous and gimicky to use it as a constant motif. Especially for a woman, because I think we are so easily dismissed when given the opportunity—and any excuse will do. The way I see my work having sexual connotations is also through the way it’s about being close and not being close. Attraction and repulsion. Humour and horror. Interaction with consequences.  Someone said to me a long time ago, “If I were a cartoon character, or even a character in a John Waters film, I would be putting banana peels on the ground for people to slip on.” After experiencing my work, generally everyone is more careful of banana peels.

What significance do rabbits have beyond a reference point from Koons?

In a few artist statements I talk about how many stories use rabbits and bunnies as a signifier for lost innocence and a pursuit of the real. One example would be The Velveteen Rabbit, who had to go away when his boy got sick and needed to heal and grow (up). In the same gesture, Lenny from Of Mice and Men eagerly wanted to be rabbit-keeper for a farm that he and George would never be able to have. Not unlike George and Lenny, rabbits are generally preyed upon by other animals.

When I first wanted to make Untitled (Of Mice And Men Revisited) I found a rabbit toy that 'fell asleep' when you stopped playing with it. And with I’m Tired Of Being Fucked I think it was the inflatable rabbit I wanted to get and start figuring out what it would do. I'm not sure. I think I like rabbits because they're fluffy.

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