1. Your residency with Makeshift marks your second collaboration – can you describe the dynamics of your working relationship?
Our studios were adjacent to each other for two years at the Frostic School of Art. Between classes we’d chat about what we were working on at the time, which eventually evolved into longer discussions about our concepts and struggles. We’d spend late nights in the studio working towards deadlines and encouraging each other to make every project our best. Working collaboratively has brought out the best in our artistic practices. Maddie tends to hold onto ideas for long periods of time, exploring every aspect until there is little left to explore. Emily is great at generating ideas but doesn’t always stick around to see them through. This balance has sustained our working relationship and friendship.
2. Your proposal looks to address, ‘the duality of comfort’ from both physical and mental perspectives – what is it about this topic that interests you?
We began exploring comfort with our exhibition Daybreak. This exhibition marked our first installative work that attempted to create an experiential environment. We created a bedroom scene that was the epitome of comfort; a calm, quiet space that reflected on the early hours of morning. However, for this project we are interested in how spaces and places are broken and entered, effectively dismantling intimacy and solitude.
So maybe the ‘duality of comfort’ misled me a little. It sounds like you’re more interested in interruptive, destabilizing forces that compromise certainty and personal well-being, to an extent. Would you agree with that, and if so, can you expand on where exactly this shared interest actually comes from for each of you?
We are interested in the interruptive and destabilizing forces that compromise well-being, and that’s really where the interviews have come into play in this work. In an attempt to get away from ourselves as subject matter, we have conducted interviews with people to find new content and interesting stories. This interest in audio and interviewing really came from our love of podcasts and the personal narrative style of journalism. Our new work is directly linked to our past exhibition, Daybreak, where our goal was to reflect on the private and intimate moments that happen in our personal domestic environments. However, for this exhibition we are pushing or “breaking” that boundary that we identified in Daybreak to allow for more experimentation, investigation, and discussion.
3. Your proposal also reflects a shared interest in narrative journalism, a subgenre of creative nonfiction where investigative processes provide a contextual platform for subjective storytelling. Does this mark a shift from previous, more autobiographical work?
We have always been interested in narrative journalism as avid podcast and NPR listeners. In attempting to create immersive environments, audio seems like a natural fit for our practice, and one we have both been experimenting with regularly. Narrative journalism is able to communicate and broadcast ideas across boundaries. Radio shows like This American Life and 99% Invisible begin with individual conversations and interviews which reveal larger conceptual ideas or issues. Our autobiographical work has functioned in the same way. We have found our personal narratives resonate with larger audiences and in this project, we are seeking that connection at the start.
4. There are unavoidable socio-economic implications to examining ‘comfort’ – what are your criteria for engaging with the community during the research phase of your project?
Our past work has been very insular. We’ve made work from personal experiences since they are the most accessible content. This audio project is an experiment. We aren’t trained journalists or reporters and don’t have any experience in interviewing subjects or producing stories. As artists, we appreciate audio for its ability to provide additional layers and depth to a visual experience. First and foremost, we’re using the internet to reach out to people in our networks in Kalamazoo and across the country. This project will challenge us to find new ways to creatively and personally connect with our community.
5. Looking at your individual works – Emily, you seem concerned with the marks you leave on a place, whereas Maddie, your concern appears to reflect the marks a place leaves on you. Would you say this is accurate?
Emily: I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m concerned with what I leave behind. I am interested in how spaces and places store memories and how they can be revisited through self reflection and investigation. My memory of time is understood through emotional episodes. I find that I am most excited and inspired when confronted with a situation or feeling that requires me to re-evaluate myself and my reality.
Maddie: I am very affected by my surroundings, which are often the premise and inspiration for my work. I am interested in capturing my memory of place, often reflecting on architectural spaces that I have lived in or encountered. Living in rentals, I have really come to appreciate the ways in which these temporary spaces have changed over time as people have moved in and out.
I like how you suggest that ‘places store memories’. You then refer to self-reflection as a tool for recovering some of these memories. Are either of you interested in the deterioration or corruptibility of memory, in spite of, or as a result of direct evidence to the contrary?
No, not really. We are not interested in questioning our memories, or the memories of others. These memories and stories inform our work and we trust ourselves and the people we are interviewing to tell us the most accurate account of their memory as possible. Yes, it’s true that memory deteriorates, but that’s not where our interest lies.
6. Can each of you describe an artist or a particular artwork that you recently discovered, or rediscovered, that has resonated with you in some way? (This can be a visual artist, writer, historian, etc)
Maddie: I have been looking at Sophie Calle’s work recently. It’s interesting to see the way her work has evolved over time, starting with photographic work that was voyeuristic, following individuals and searching through people’s personal belongings. I am drawn to her more recent work, specifically her artist book, Blind, in which she interviewed blind people about beauty, the monochrome, and the moment each individual became blind. It is an absolutely stunning book.
Emily: I recently read The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Lang. Lang uses her own experience of loneliness to reflect on how artists such as David Wojnarowicz, Andy Warhol, Edward Hopper, and Valerie Solanas among others have used art to communicate their suffering. Creativity coupled with emotional trauma is the perfect environment to breed loneliness and isolation. This book really resonates with the concepts I’ve been concerned with in my work.
7. How do you see the sensory immersion of the pink room informing the viewer’s experience, particularly in relationship to the audio component of the work? What reasons or research influenced your choice to make the room pink?
This specific color of pink is in reference to Baker-Miller Pink, a tone of pink that is often used in prisons and locker rooms to reduce aggression and numb emotions and strength. This idea that bubble gum pink could hypothetically calm you down caught our attention. Taking this normally comforting environment of the living room, we are juxtaposing these stories of aggression and violence with this supposedly calming color. However, a room in which everything is pink, is extremely jarring. Together, the audio and visual elements come together to create an environment that speaks to these uncomfortable situations that everyone has experienced in their lives.