Back in 5 Minutes

The following interview was conducted over the phone on August 15, 2022 between MarieVic and Brackett Creek Exhibitions (Tessa Granowski) about her show at Brackett Creek Editions New York.

Brackett Creek Exhibitions: I’m on the phone with MarieVic, we are both in Europe on our summer holidays and this is our second interview (first interview here). We're going to talk today about MarieVic’s show at Brackett Creek Editions New York, titled “Back in 5 Minutes” which is up until September 9, and will also open on September 9, 2022...

MarieVic:  …Because we’re on our summer holidays, And we'll be “back in five minutes”.

BCE:  Let's start with talking about your studio, as the show is more studio-centric. How long have you been there?

MV: I've been in my current studio for three years, and right before that, I was in the building next door. What's so special about my studio, at least from my perspective, is that I live in it. Living in a commercial space is a practice in itself, almost. I love my small loft because it is located in a really busy intersection in Chinatown but the space is quiet. The street is extremely vibrant and chaotic and colorful. But inside is calm.

BCE:  And how did you find this place?

MV:  By word-of-mouth. But I found my previous space through a broker that specializes in finding artist’s live-work commercial spaces. And it got me started on the live-work dynamic where oftentimes you have to build your own shower, come up with a creative solution for a kitchen because the place comes with no domestic appliances, nothing. It’s just a shell. If you're not given a layout to use for your primary needs, then everything becomes intentional. What you cook and how you cook it in a space that doesn't have a kitchen becomes very significant. Same with the bathroom, you often have to build your own shower, etc. Simple details you would normally take for granted when you move into a space become things you have to consider.

BCE: You are kind of making your own Lloyd Kahn tiny home.

MV:  Exactly. But anyways, I had been looking all over New York. And I ended up moving to this space that a handy man told me about, up on the 7th floor in the building right next to mine. And it turned out that it used to be my friend's old office space.

And what I love about this space is not only the community, but the fact that my studio is a little extension that was built afterwards on the roof. The view is really amazing. It really feels like you're connected to the urban fabric of New York. So the studio is this little pocket of quiet on a roof,  like a castle in the sky, or a pigeon’s nest.

BCE:  And you've been able to have photo shoots on the roof, right?

MV:  Yeah, but that's a roof that's been pretty well-documented because a lot of artists have lived or worked in my building and used it as an outdoor studio or for photo or video shoots. I had been to my roof before I even moved into this building.

BCE:  Can you walk me through the studio?

MV:  Sure. So, when you walk into the space, there's quite a lot of light. The floors are white linoleum. They're really fragile, so I'm going to ask you to take your shoes (or boots) off.

BCE:  Okay. Taking my shoes off.

MV:  We're both taking our shoes off. There's a line up of rubber slippers as you walk in. They're pastel colors. They're not meant to be functional slippers. I bought them at the dollar store downstairs. I find them visually extremely appealing.

And when you walk into the space, there's a long table. The tabletop is actually a door, a white door with a sheet of clear plexi over it. And the legs of the table are metal tubes. There's six of them. And I cared too much about the look of it when I did it and not enough about its structure. So, it is a little awkward, it tends to rattle and shake. I could easily fix it, but in a perverse way I like that it demands delicate use from its user.

BCE:  A large top body with tiny legs, kind of like a fat Chihuahua.

MV:  And the table legs are all wearing socks! It prevents the rust on the metal tubes from damaging the floors. And on that table, there will be my laptop. There will be a bunch of totems, which are these sculptures I've been working on for a while. There will be books that I'm reading or using as research. And if I'm not currently reading them, I want to be reminded to go back to them. There might be a can of seltzer, maybe an espresso. Or sweets that I will get from the bakery if I’m waiting for you.

BCE: Or a bowl of popcorn.

MV: Yes, or a bowl of popcorn if it's evening time. The table might even be dressed to expect people for a dinner party. There are also T-shirts on the tabletop, between the door and the sheet of clear plexi. Those two T-shirts are garments I made that illustrate a project of mine: each bear an image extracted from the work. At this point these T-shirts have become part of the table.

So, that's the main area. The chairs are always mobile. I will have a stack of those red cushion folding chairs. If I'm expecting you, they'll be pulled out and positioned around the table. If I'm not, they'll be folded, leaning against the wall. And I have two small stacked blue stools that I bought at the dollar store downstairs. I've had them for a very long time. I like the dash of blue, and I oftentimes sit on it when I'm on my own, working at the table. It's not a very comfortable seat, but it's an appropriate height to make work.

If we go to the right, there is the kitchen and storage area. It's not very big and the room is longer than it is wide. And I have a sink in it. And then I have shelves from above the sink up to the ceiling with banker’s boxes of all of the items that I've used in my practice for the past ten years. And sometimes there's also objects that I've never used, just objects that I find interesting.

And then on the lower level, there are some blue metal cabinets. And so, when you walk into this room, you don't really know what's in it, but inside two or three of them, you've got my tools, paint, rubber molds, things I need. Then you've got plates and pots and some food to cook. And then once you've passed the sink, you've got my personal things: the pharmacy, my underwear, things that are bathroom related. And at the end of that room is a tiny bathroom with just a toilet and a shower and a massive water boiler that takes up a lot of space. And that's about it.

BCE:  Wait, what about the mannequins in the shower?

MV:  Yes, at the moment in the bathroom are three silver mannequins that were a gift from a very dear friend. She’s an artist and would normally use the mannequins in her practice, but she ended up not using those three and gave them to me as a gift. I don't have much space for them, so I decided to keep them in my shower. It is a perfect spot for them: imagine these three stunning silver women reflecting the white tiles around them… But also, when I have studio visits, people won't confuse them for my work, but rather, it's a personal item. Sometimes three mannequins can be a bit much for me to shower with, so I’ll take one out and put her in the kitchen. At the moment, there's a sweater over the lady in the kitchen. It's a sweater that I stole from a friend as a reminder of our friendship.

MV (cont.):  And then when you go back into the main space, you’ll notice the entire space is shaped like an L. So, on the far left side of the space, you have my bed. My bed is this daybed that pulls open and can be a king size bed. It looks very childish when tucked away because it's this little white piece of furniture with two drawers at the bottom where I keep my pillows and bed sheets. It is versatile though... It’s a simple daybed whenever I have meetings or a large king size bed for a more private setting.

Next to the bed there's a wall of books, clothing items, works of mine, or just objects that I like to look at that don’t need to be in boxes.

Most of this wall is my entire wardrobe, including the items that I don’t wear as often, like large tutus or wigs.

MV (cont.):  And again, there's a lot of windows in that space, so it's often bathing in the sun, which I really enjoy. The walls are white, the floors are white. Every object of color that will be placed into this space will pop. And that's something that I find exciting both as a living space but also as a working space where I have constant visual stimulation. And there are also objects on the floor. A lot of objects on the floor. They are pieces of a puzzle that help me put my thoughts in order. Sometimes they can stay for three, four months before I do anything with them. Sometimes they just stay for two weeks. Their status is ambiguous. But they are projection of whatever is in my brain onto the space. The space is like a white canvas which I am able to throw things at.

BCE:  Let’s talk about a few more of those objects that are in your studio right now. Right by the door when you walk in, there's a newspaper stand.

MV:  Yes, a large blue plastic box. It’s resting over a gray metal hand truck with two big black rubber wheels. I've had this object for a long time and got it maybe ten years ago when I was working on a video project. I had a bit of a crush on this object… it was fairly clean and bright blue and it had the word “FREE” printed in white on it. It was like so many of the newspaper stands you see in New York, except that this one was plastic, not metal. I took it, and I brought it back to my studio, which at the time was maybe four blocks away from where I picked it up--and which is the intersection where I currently live. It was never clear wether I actually stole the object or not because, after all, it said “FREE”. And when I moved to my previous space, which is the building next door, I had to go back to the scene of the crime with that same blue newsstand on a hand truck. And then again, I moved it to the 7th floor into my current studio, past the scene of the crime. So, I do have a weird attachment to this object. And I never ended up using it for the video project. *laughs*

BCE:  Did you try and hide it when you were moving? Cover it up at all?

MV: Not at all. I figured, the more obvious, the better. And if anyone wanted it back, I would certainly return it.

BCE:  How about one of the pieces that made it into the show? The plexi box containing three over-the-knee silver boots?

MV: I had that plexi container already. I bought it from a guy who was closing his store and selling the retail elements for very cheap. As for the boots… I found them at a store on Broadway. Those boots really caught my attention and happened to be on sale. I asked for a size 7 and bought them without even trying them on. I never thought I’d wear them, as they seemed uncomfortable. I wanted the boots simply because they were a beautiful object, an object of desire. I had a great surprise when I came back home and opened the cardboard box: there were three legs in it, three shoes, three boots!

I felt like there was this untold story of a three-legged woman who would have saved that trio of boots. And I was never going to separate them. And they happened to fit right into one of those acrylic containers I had, a perfect purpose this object I had bought many years back. 

BCE:  And what about your wigs?

MV:  I do my wig shopping in Los Angeles because they are spectacular there. I own three. There's a black wig that has incredible volume. I once wore it to a friend’s opening in LA. And I was pretty proud of myself because you can barely fit through a door with it. It's a massive 1990’s Elizabeth Taylor wig that’s now resting on a white head mannequin in my studio. And then there's the red head. A Peggy Bundy sort of wig. And then there's a white Marilyn Monroe-esque wig in the kitchen that I once wore with my friend Mae in Los Angeles and had a great time. My friend Mae is a wig expert, and it's always a true honor to go wig shopping with her. The wigs function both as a female presence that I enjoy living with and also a remembrance of past memories with friends. And they are definitely available for potential new memories.

And if I were to go and talk more about one specific object or arrangement of objects within my space, I will go back to the bathroom. In the gallery space, a photograph is resting on a sink that is mounted onto the wall and connected to a shower head. And I wanted to go back to this one because this is exactly what I have in my own bathroom. When i moved here, I had to build a shower in the bathroom. The handy man that introduced me to the landlord took care of it. He built a shower tub underneath the sink that we connected to a shower head. The old sink was very bulky so i substituted it to a smaller sink. The water in the shower comes from the sink, an absurdly tiny sink. The first time I had one of these installed was in my former loft. The bathroom was very tiny and the man who helped me renovate it laughed because his own hands would barely fit into the sink. Luckily, I have smaller hands so it worked for me, but it's really tiny. This time the sink is only a water conduit for the shower head, the ceramic bowl is purely decorative, I like to put photos on it.

And we've recreated that in the gallery space: a sink and its shower head is mounted on the wall, a photograph leans on it and a blue inflatable vertical figure is staring at the assemblage.

This composition is pretty personal. I've always loved substituting bathroom mirrors with photographs. I can project myself into this vertical figure staring into this photo of a shoe. I like the thought of an anthropomorphized plastic mattress staring at another flat image of consumption in the mirror.

BCE:  Has this always been your studio practice, curating your space with objects or was this something that came out of the necessity of a live-work situation?

MV:  It was always one of my favorite things to do, even as a child. I would rearrange my room all the time. It would be very minimal because my parents were pretty strict about keeping the place organized but they gave me a lot of freedom in terms of rearranging the space. I remember having this classic French cafe table and chairs that I would set up and turn my room into a cafe. You would normally not expect a child's bedroom to look like this. I never had posters on the wall, but I would lay out objects in my room that I was drawn to aesthetically or for what they represented.

BCE:  And maybe just a brief point of reference. You grew up in Paris…

MV:  Yes, I grew up in Paris, in hospitality. That was my parents’ job and why I had access to the cafe table. And given parents line of work, the live-work environment is something I grew up with. Our family life often occurred in their business. So, the notion of work being very present in the domestic life is something that I already find natural.

BCE:  And they have an apartment above one of the Parisian cafes, right?

MV:  Yeah, there's an apartment above my family's restaurant. That is where I stay when I spend time in Paris. But it's more of a storage for the restaurant. It's a tiny place and they've arranged a room for me to stay or for whoever needs a space to stay.

BCE:  So, let’s go back to your show in Chinatown. How did you approach recreating elements of your studio within that space?

MV: I approached it with much anxiety. I felt extremely exposed because most of the things I have in my space, in my personal space, are works that I would never want to show, which was kind of interesting to contemplate. And also, I had just found out that I was going to have to move by the end of the month, which came as a surprise... it’s a long story. But in trying to recreate my own space into another space, not knowing where I would be living when the show would be over, which was quite stressful, all of a sudden, my life revolved around me, my space, my work. It felt like an emphasis on that. Hence the anxiety. Apart from that, you forced me to clarify my way of seeing in a new space and you invited me to present works that are not necessarily related together. Even though they are… There are a few images in the show that belong to separate series, but they actually can also speak to one another.

One series is about boarded-up stores on 57th Street in New York during Election Week in November 2021. Luxury stores that were still in business feared looting and riots and started boarding up their facades with plywood. And because the results didn't come in until a few days later, there was an evolution. First, the stores put plywood panels over the facades and then, the next day they would paint them, the third day there would be a logo on it. Over the course of that week I kept going up to 57th Street and did a series of images of those boarded-up stores. This series of images show mute facades of luxurious stores relying on paint and logo placement to evoke their identity.
The 57th Street series are printed matte and mounted on a sturdy surface. The other series is, on the contrary, very glossy. The other series is called “Stranger Stuff” and it portrays luxurious garments knock-offs that I chose to photograph for their creative designs. It gives that sense of consumer culture and enhances the notion of desire.

MV (cont.):  But I also kept in mind that I’m selecting objects to display in a mall. One of the things I find extremely interesting about your space is that it is in a mall. And so oftentimes you and I will say, “Are you in the mall today? Can I come see you at the mall? Going back to the mall soon...” etc. About an art gallery. And I think in terms of the language, it's pretty appropriate because the gallery ultimately is a space of commerce. It always goes back, at least in the Western world, to this capitalist notion of how things need to be for sale for them to be sustainable. Recreating my living environment in a place of commerce was relevant to me because I am profoundly influenced by things of commerce. I do believe that goods and products in general have a kind of moral part to play in contemporary societies. Is this a good thing? I don't know. That's a different story. But I think that's something that I identify in the world we live in.

BCE:  But also, in putting artwork in a mall, you start to feed people culture instead of commerce in satisfying their consumerist desires.

MV:  Yeah, that too. And one thing I noticed from spending time at the mall, since the show has been up, is that people will be drawn to some of the work on hangers because they think it's a garment that's for sale. And then they end up staring at the window and looking at the compositions within the space. And they start noticing they might belong to someone because of the way they're placed in the space. And it's ambiguous to know whether the tutu on the chair belongs to someone who will be back in five minutes and whether the yellow jacket that's on a hanger is actually for sale.

BCE:  We also have a neon work in the show that is your edition. Do you want to talk about how you came up with that idea? And also, have you worked with neon before?

MV:  I've used neon before, I've had signs made in the past. Again, it's the sign of commerce, like an Open or Closed sign. And having the title of the show presented on a neon seemed to make sense. And it creates this white, ghost-like light, which helps manifest an absence in the show. Will I work with neon again? Maybe not. Am I happy about the neon as an object? Not necessarily. But I think it does what it's meant to do in the space.

BCE: Well thank you, MarieVic for your studio tour and thoughtful responses!