Making mischief and mascots for the Hammer Museum’s “Lifes”
At “Lifes,” a sundry and symphonic group present on the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, a string of performances, readings, songs, and a “tuning meditation”—by the good Pauline Oliveros—ebb and move all through two galleries as a part of an hourly cycle, shifting the vibe as if for the sake of it. The quicksilver strategy of the exhibition, which numbers greater than fifty members and runs by means of Might 8, puckishly defies the expectations of a museum to fossilize and dignify its objects on view, to bestow a sure, sacred seriousness. Nothing may very well be much less grave, and extra puzzling to pin down, than the LA-based artist Olivia Mole’s contribution to “Lifes”; her small troupe of hand-drawn characters solely inhabit the present’s press supplies and publication, making mischief on guide pages and lamp-post banners alike. Right here, Mole discusses the scope of the mission and the peculiar energy of the profane.
ABOUT A YEAR AGO, Hammer Museum curator Aram Moshayedi approached me about contributing to “Lifes.” It had solely just lately turn into “Lifes.” He mentioned he had been considering calling it “Salade Russes”—Russian salad, like Ballets Russes. And now he was calling it “Lifes.” “Lice?” I mentioned. Anyway, he’d been fascinated about Serge Diaghilev and the Russian Ballet, and the way interdisciplinary it had been: dancers, musicians, painters, sculptors assembling in live performance to provide a complete murals. He envisioned “Lifes” as this roiling, rhizomatic, shapeshifting, processual factor, orbiting round 4 commissioned texts and increasing outward from there.
After I first spoke with Aram, I hadn’t realized it was primarily a pitch assembly. I believed it was merely a “dialog,” which is a relatively foggy art-world time period. He requested me how I’d reply to Rindon Johnson’s textual content—and I began occurring about carpeted flooring and SpongeBob. I known as up my companion afterward and was like, “Why do I at all times convey up SpongeBob?” There’s a scene in Rin’s textual content that makes use of an underwater perspective. And SpongeBob lives in an aquatic realm that may be very a lot exterior of the world, however nonetheless in relation to it. There are these wonderful moments within the present when that barrier begins to indicate cracks.
I didn’t hear again from anybody on the Hammer for months, so I figured, okay, that’s it. However then Aram wrote to me out of the blue and talked about that he had a distinct concept. Whereas the Fulton Leroy Washington portray included in “Made in LA: A Model” final yr had turn into the literal and synecdochical face of your entire exhibition, he requested me to contribute one thing particularly for these promotional areas—indicators, banners, brochures, net graphics, even the exhibition catalogue. To make use of them as a website, and to ascertain being a form of parasite within the present. Lice, in spite of everything! He mentioned, “Assume: world takeover.” I met with the guide designer, who instructed me every little thing needed to be in black and white, and that a lot of the guide’s pages can be crammed with textual content. So, a world takeover, however with a set of Submit-its and a pen. A coup d’sharpie.
It didn’t really feel proper to provide one mascot for such a multitudinous present, so I made a decision to collect an meeting of disparate characters I had devised for earlier tasks. They organically fashioned a collective that mirrors the group of artists within the present, inhabiting a parallel area. I drew some early sketches of them frolicking inside pictures of the museum’s empty galleries, however the photographs didn’t really feel impartial sufficient. I wished to work with a digital area as a result of I see it extra as potential area, like a circumstantial vacuum. With a really empty area, I felt freedom for them to essentially fuck round.
That’s after I turned to the grid. Earlier than architectural renderings and particular results may very well be made on the pc, three-dimensional area needed to be constructed by hand. Again within the day I had discovered how to attract perspective in a extremely technical manner—there’s fairly a little bit of math. These latticed interiors are taken from a Nineteen Eighties reference known as the Perspective Grid Sourcebook, which incorporates an enormous array of areas and views, rendered solely from black strains. It’s divine.
For the “Lifes” publication, I instantly thought of medieval marginalia. There’s a tremendous guide known as Picture on the Edge that discusses the antiauthoritarian roles of the creatures that enhance the margins of medieval texts. They have been at all times so irreverent, and responded to the in any other case austere writings in such mischievous methods. They’d a subaltern social company, just like the Beavis and Butthead of the Center Ages.
I introduced in ten characters, whom I hope carry out the same perform. It’s like going to the museum along with your imbecile associates, who’re a bit embarrassing but additionally make it extra enjoyable. There’s Bambi, who’s now a jaded, cigarette-smoking cynic. There’s the unicorn from the “Hunt for the Unicorn” tapestries, the spear nonetheless in its haunch, who’s gotten a bit curvy and extra cartoonish. Then there’s a trio: a tree, the Charmin Bear, and Skeletor. The tree generally manifests as a tree costume, however generally it’s an precise tree. The squirrel arrived unplanned, swinging from the tree, a jubilantly idiotic little animal who’s at all times leaking piss however tremendous completely happy about no matter is going on. Skeletor is like somebody dressed up as Skeletor to go to, say, Comedian-Con. The Charmin Bear can also be a far cry from the unique. A worm has additional little arms that she makes use of to make the peace signal, or flip the pages of her guide. The water cooler is wise, like a “sensible” equipment, however whose “machine intelligence” is a squirming fart blob. There’s a gaggle of three little cubes, who’re regularly gaining sentience as they observe all of the pandemonium. Lastly, the cloud and the pile of shit function religious, mystical figures. The cloud is a masculine form of deity, and the golden shit pile is female, like a divine mom. It’s a motley crew. I’m unsure if any of them are primed for world takeover, however that’s hardly what anybody wants extra of as of late.
— As instructed to Juliana Halpert