I like Eva Papamargariti’s re-tweets. One is by artist Sara Ludy and it says: “wonder whose art objects will float when the world ends in a big flood”. Another is by Petra Cortright who writes: “Every time I’m asked for a high res image of a low res work an angel loses its wings”. The London-based artist and I meet very briefly at the opening of Assembly Point’s group exhibition, Faith Dollars, Tax Free Imagination and Uptown Bliss –also running as part of Art Licks Weekend October 2 to 4 –in which she has two new pieces, before she becomes too busy rendering and editing work for several upcoming shows and production gigs to speak again in person.
The amount of production as well as the content produced within Papamargariti’s practice is staggering. It makes you wonder what it must be like psychologically to spend so much time contributing objects and landscapes to computer generated scenes, or “scenarios”, as she describes them. Computer generated metallic spheres, bleak landscapes, and a pair of tongues; Caravaggio’s horses, white linen bedrooms, and people turned into musical instruments playing themselves. These are just a small (non-)example of the things that make up Eva’s image making. They’re non-examples because, as one finds during a Skype chat with Papamargariti, there’s not much use in calling upon a speakable narrative of materiality or any content-based themes.
I ask Papamargariti, who’s also making work for new DAM Gallery show, Porn to Pizza: Domestic Clichés during our brief encounter whether or not she finds the feeling of infinity overwhelming. “No”, she says, “it soothes me”. It makes one think about vast panes of smooth glass. She sends images by 60s Architecture groups, Superstudio and Haus-Rucker-Co who pulled into question the tacit dominant optimism and surplus that ran throughout Modernist Architecture and its surrounding Design by stretching and multiplying perspectives in their images. It recalls a sketch on Papamargariti’s Animal New York profile, where Kanye West is pictured dissing an interior of a Modernist Le Corbusier house that has the largest pane of glass ever made in it. Glass is breakable, and when it’s that large a pane, you can hardly carry it anywhere, it can’t move. In her own videos, Papamargariti’s vast surfaces and images are also endless, but eerily floaty, proposed, uncomfortable, stretched and strangely real –or perhaps that feeling is pessimism. When considering the artist’s aforementioned re-tweet of Sara Ludy’s “big flood” comment, there’s an echo of Superstudio’s proposed flood of the Italian city of Florence.
A 2014 video work, ‘New Nosthetics’ presents shiny balls moving around and becoming attracted to each other in a sparse desert-scape, an automated voice mutters out loud over the video, its corresponding actions being undertaken in a 3D modelling programme. Papamargariti tells me she likes to “inform the viewer of the characteristics of the file [she is] rendering”. Some of the visuals in this work, too, occasionally, intentionally break down and you see what could be an X-ray view of the work. You can see everything. The outcome is an art practice that feels like being in a dream. You can see everything unfold in front of you, not only because you are inside it, but also because you’re the one doing the dreaming.
Eva Papamargariti, ‘Someday I will Buy an Ikea Chair with Bitcoins’ (2015). Courtesy the artist.
I just found this [‘Some Nights I Dream of Rooms’] online and was about to ask you what you dream of…
Eva Papamargariti: I always dream of rooms, buildings.
Are you always inside the buildings?
EP: Ninety-percent [of the time], yeah. Today I saw a weird dream. I was in a huge building. At some points it appeared in my dream like an old asylum. Then suddenly, inside my dream, I saw myself sleeping inside one of these rooms. I woke up (in the dream) and when I got out of my bed all the furniture in the room disappeared. Then I ran outside and suddenly the building appeared more luxurious and there were screens that were playing art and old movies.
Watching your work makes me focus on my eyes and how I am looking. Is there an attraction to being able to see everything?
EP: My previous studies were in architecture, so an important part of my work has to do with trying to create compositions that can all be viewed as individual frames.
Maybe then better wording would be, ‘to see everything at once’…
EP: Well, at the beginning of the videos you always have an eye that supervises everything, like a Panopticon approach. I got very affected by thinking about things through a bird’s eye view. But then I also want to consider what happens to that view and also the knowledge gained by it when you tip [it] horizontally. So that you see the same sense of everything but on a human scale.
Can you clarify that?
EP: Yeah… I’m thinking of a silent [Samuel] Beckett film called ‘Film’, which is about (and of) a person who is trying to escape being filmed. Watching, you sense that he senses the camera and the viewer behind him, following him. There is always something that has to maintain this contact with the real element. That is one of my intentions.
You mean to keep the scenario unfolding close to the viewer’s eye? With your work there are hardly any people depicted inside. It’s like the filmmaker is the viewer and also the person being followed. ‘Trainroom3.0‘ is interesting in this respect.
EP: Yes, and to keep the virtual object coming so close that you (the viewer) can touch it and kind of make it act. But then there occurs, for example, a violent camera movement that interrupts the video’s normal pace.
What you wrote there really reminds me of your cat / IKEA piece that you made alongside the film, ‘Someday I will Buy an Ikea Chair with Bitcoins’ for the Faith Dollars… show.
EP: Yes, totally. I saw a post on Reddit that was asking: “does anyone have a VITTSJO and a cat?” And I thought that was strange, so I Googled it and it appears cats and IKEA are more connected than I thought. I suppose it has to do with the increasing domesticity and intertwining of consumerism into domestic lives. Like how IKEA also sells things for cats, and I thought, ‘I don’t have a cat’. So I wanted to print the words onto the fabric on top of the outline of a cat that says: ‘I didn’t buy my cat anything from IKEA because I don’t have a cat’. I felt like it inverts this whole system of representation by bringing on this fabric surface all at once (including: cat/ IKEA/ image of non-specific cat/ buying something). It obviously also has a humorous aspect to it, which also somehow subverts the meaning from IKEA adverts. You know, they always try to say something serious but in a cute way.
So are you talking about a productive kind of over-representation?
EP: Yes, but also how easily things can be symbolised now, and how they can produce meanings that are building one inside another. I hope I’m becoming clearer. One of my favourite things to do on Instagram or Twitter is to put hashtags that are completely irrelevant to the actual post I am doing. It feels like a game of defining but also deviating from a dominant statement sometimes.
I’m interested in the pessimism of this. I was thinking about the process of rendering and the idea that maybe you are rendering nothing into everything, and also somehow everything into nothing, especially in relation to objects/ things. Is this what you’re calling ‘Nosthetics’?
EP: Yeh, so the title, ‘Nosthetics’ is No + aesthetics. On art sites, on tumblr, on magazines, on fashion editorials, everything was full of digitally rendered objects, very abstract, blobs, geometrical fragments. And they all had a similar atmosphere, shiny and polished and hyperreal (I must say I also make objects like that a lot) but I don’t know at this point… It feels like there is a factory, that creates massive quantities of these digital objects and disseminates them on the net. They are so distant from reality. Maybe this is why they are so appealing to the eye. Everything becomes a bit flattened.
Like your horizontal perspective that you’ve ‘dragged down’ from the bird’s eye view?
EP: Yeah, and when your eye gets used to something it starts to lose its magic. **