Mitchell Anderson & Deanna Havas "The Republic "

Sundogs Paris | Paris, France

Mitchell Anderson & Deanna Havas
The Republic

8-9 September 2-6pm
By appointment until 14 October

Please call to enter building: +33 (0) 6 44 29 11 73
+33 (0) 772 30 36 55

10 Boulevard de Strasbourg , F-75010 Paris

And so when we have anointed him with myrrh, and set a garland of wool upon his head, we shall send him away to another city. Plato, The Republic

Mitchell Anderson: Is art meant to change society?

Deanna Havas: If your intent is to change society maybe you should try your hand at blogging.

M: For example, is the readymade a political, a lazy or no action at all?

D: In a punk way, the readymade has an inherent lazy quality. Anyone can do it. I heard that Duchamp ate the urinal cake as a dare.

M: I don’t even count that as a readymade anymore, he painted on it and changed its display, separating it from its use. It’s kinda boring proto-Minimalism. You know he made a living dealing works for Brancusi in America? Why is what artists do or don’t do for money redacted from their reception?

D: Often what they have to do for money is weird and humbling, sometimes even illegal. Artists begin as temporarily embarrassed millionaires, but most have rich parents.

M: I don’t know if most artists are getting parental support, but certainly artists our age are not representative of the full socio-econonomic range of society. Within this are endless issues of entitlement and privilege which have just not been discussed. How does this impact culture in a wider sense? Why is everyone hiding the obvious fact and the values that are promoted here?

D: I have to do a lot of odd jobs to supplement my practice. Most recently, I was a paid audience member for daytime television shows like The People’s Court. It was the most civically-engaging experience of my life. Even more so than actual jury duty, which is more about bureaucratic procedure than anything else.

M: A collective belonging?

D: There’s a sense of pride in performing your civic duties, doing your part to contribute to the grander project of liberty and justice. Even if its entirely simulated and scripted and occurs inside a television studio. Can you tell me about your project involving the homes of artist’s families?

M: I’ve used free websites to find the addresses of a range of my artistic peers’ family homes. The estimated values of those homes are presented as photographic prints. I see a need to discuss ideas of class and monetary privilege in the cultural realm. The family home is so closely related to any semblance of the American Dream that it’s a useful platform to explore this. Of course, there are real implications of what is public and private in a society and what is readily available to anyone on the internet. But, this information is publicly accessible right now. When we look at the works as a whole, even accounting for errors and personal situations unknown, we can see in general that this broad, untargeted group of young exhibiting artists is not representative class-wise of America. Does this make us uncomfortable? It should.

D: How did you decide which artist’s families to include in this project?

M: There’s really no meaningful decision. When I think of an artist I look it up and if I can find it I add it to the project. I also ask friends to name artists our age to widen it away from the possibility I’m focusing on artists I’m interested in. The artists selected are ones that I consider peers in the sense that they are exhibiting and are part of a larger conversation of contemporary art. The set of 40 I have so far is not final. Due to financial limitations, I’ve only framed eight for the exhibition but not because of any hierarchy. I’ve printed the full set as a small pamphlet for the exhibition.

Yes, imagination rules the world. The defect of our modern institutions is that they do not speak to the imagination. By that alone can man be governed; without it he is but a brute. Napoleon Bonaparte, Writings 1796-1817

D: Are we living in a utopian republic?

M: I’m not sure I would even know what that was, but I’m worried that the structures of our society haven’t changed during a time of social progress. We have the same old institutions of fear and the fucking military and the same religions, which are criminal organizations, and sports, which are the worst because they create a sense of success in people, the audience and fans, who have never had any and don’t know that they could if they just wake up.

Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus, Inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty

D: Unchecked libertinism can create a public nuisance, collectivism is impossible with a cabal of self-interested psychos. How much money could we get from melting down the Statue of Liberty and selling the copper for scrap? Why do we, as Americans, worship a European anthropomorphism of Liberty, one that resembles a modest version of Delacroix’ Marianne? Does she protect our harbor or is she a cursed talisman in our possession?

M: Who is being annoyed here? The public as an idea is a splintered whole. When the military or law enforcement use the word ‘public’ I’m probably not onboard. Is the Statue of Liberty a poet, given a crown and cast out by Plato from the French state in the first place? At this point she’s become like Devil’s Tower, beacons that marked progress and possibility before becoming the locations of final act action sequences in science fiction films. If the statue was absent would America lose an important symbol of embracing people from across the world?

D: I quite liked that Michael Jackson music video filmed in the torch.

M: Symbols are abstract and real. The Statue of Liberty is much more than a physical sculpture. But, this works in reverse as well. When I acquired John Wayne’s personal gun holster I was curious about how this ordinary phallic object contains so much information on the errors of American society. I’m not just talking about the impossible idea of gun rights, but also forced masculinity in the public sphere, celebrity worship, the West.

D: Would you rather be governed by law or ruled by spectacle?

M: At this point law and spectacle are exact. I enjoy law sometimes and spectacle often. Bread and circus. Cake and darkrooms. I'd be fine inhabiting Ancient Rome if I was sure of my standing.

D: I’m not sure I would like ancient Rome. I saw some of their public toilets…. Heard they wiped their asses with a communal loofah that they reused time and again after defecating in vulgar unison. I wouldn’t enjoy that level of civic engagement.

M: Myths of orgies also, but people lived for shorter periods, which seems nice. And daddy Hadrian was around.

D: True, one has to wonder about the neo-classical revival. Perhaps we’re not much better in our contemporary societies… There’s trash and excrement everywhere, godless materialism, and innovative new strains of gonorrhea to accompany each Tinder software update. Do you ever fantasize about leaving civilized society?

M: It’s an endless fantasy. Who wasn’t seduced by Alex Garland’s The Beach? But, I exist in a society and I react within it and around it with my work. Away from it, all I would be making is crafts. In these new paintings, I’ve been thinking about how the systems of political campaigning are expressed visually. I found salesman templates for buttons from the turn of the 20th century, the height of the campaign button boom, which have areas for candidate photographs and text left empty to be filled by whoever ordered them. This kind of found imagery exists between politics.

Indeed, a nation or city is ruled by the people, or by an upper class, or by a monarch. A government system that is invented from a choice of these same components is sooner idealised than realised; and even if realised, there will be no future for it. Tacitus, The Annals

D: The revolution began, but when will it end?

M: The idea that there is an end goal in sight is quaint. The world changes as we move subjectively forwards and backwards and all without someone landing on an aircraft carrier proclaiming the mission is accomplished. Are you part of a revolt?

D: I’m always in revolt, I am revolting. We're merely bacteria crawling on the face of this wretched planet that quivers with cadence of the living and decomposing.

M: Do you see the planet wretched because of humanity?

D: Humanity, but more broadly, life itself, and the vain and futile project of organization out of chaos.

M: So you're an environmentalist?

D: No, I find nature to be tacky. Recycling is a waste of time.

M: You think it’s a waste of your or society’s time?

D: Maybe people have nothing better to do than sort through garbage, that’s their prerogative. To some extent, that’s the beauty of liberal democracy. Do you sort your trash?

M: I'm a hoarder. I produce almost nothing, but one is compelled to sort garbage. One can’t just throw out batteries with everything else. We have some guidelines and laws.

D: Oops. So there are.

M: Do you use tacky in the French way? Gauche?

D: Yes tacky as in gauche. I think we cut down all the forests because we didn’t like them. Also we needed stretcher bars for paintings. I once rode a Flixbus through the Alps, the trees all looked like fractals and it made me feel ill. It was too much. I’d much rather look at a painting than some obscene fractal, even a bad one.

M: Plato mentions this idea of the painting versus nature a bit in The Republic when he talks about imitation. He's judgmental of art because it imitates. How does your art imitate?

D: I’m concerned with the amplification of imagery that is already present and existent in the world, images that may come from unclear sources, but are symbolically charged. There's an element of theatricality and mimesis in every artwork.

M: In my purest readymades, I guess, I wanted to skip that, but really I traded it for narrative which had its own tracings. How do you source the images or styles you take up?

D: I’m attracted to cheap, vague content that's freely available in the content-mill of life…

M: When you combine images in these new works, jets, blue fire, lens flares, what are you thinking about? Is there content here to be further deciphered?

D: My works in this show are quite big. I use spectacular imagery that is intended to evoke power, awe and unease. I’m more concerned with the visceral reactions these images might provoke.  

M: Both of us have used reflective surfaces in this show. In my Campaign Blanks the old gold adds this sort of trashy aesthetic with connotations of success and grandeur. How do you see your use of retroreflective paint?

D: Retro-reflective paint is typically used in utilitarian applications, to enhance visibility in poorly-lit situations. It has a contingent property, but is also about self-reflection. In its application on my painting it renders a sort of bacteria on the surface of the canvas, a retro-reflective bacteria, over a grid of lens flares.

D: Is there any hope in utopia or have we lost sight of paradise?

M: Utopia, like the present, doesn't exist. Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work forward as if it might.

Design by Marietta Eugster
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September 8, 2018