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DEAR POPE. L,

Questions on artistic appetite, intervening in the public space and good taste.

  • Apr 26 2022
  • María Inés Plaza Lazo & Ido Nahari
    MIPL is publisher, editor and founder of Arts of the Working Class.

    IN is a sociologist, researcher and writer who works in the fields of cultural revivalism, social welfare and the commodification of emotions. Born in Jerusalem and currently living in Berlin, Nahari holds a Master of Science in Culture and Society from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he investigated the marketability of authenticity.

    Pope.L is a visual artist and educator whose multidisciplinary practice uses binaries, contraries and preconceived notions embedded within contemporary culture to create art works in various formats, for example, writing, painting, performance, installation, video and sculpture.

You are destroying the Humboldtforum in your work. How so?
I PREFER TO SAY THAT I AM RETHINKING IT. RESTAGING IT. REPURPOSING IT. re-being it. HERE IS AN IDEA I GOT TO: IMAGINE THAT EVERYDAY IN THE HUMBOLDT FORUM ATRIUM THERE Is A FLEA MARKET OR FARMER'S MARKET WITH SPECIALLY DISCOUNTED STALLS  FOR THE VENDORS. or A SOUP KITCHEN FOR THE HOMELESS OR ANYONE! WHO IS HUNGRY FOR A MEAL. or horror upon horrors, maybe even a gun show. THIS SORT OF TINY REPURPOSING IN ITSELF WOULD NOT CHANGE THE PHYSICAL!! BUILDING that is the Humboldt Forum BUT it WOULD dramatically CHANGE THE WAY WE UNDERSTAND and INTERACT WITH IT AS A STRUCTURE.

How did this abstraction work?
THE WOoDEN MODEL THAT THE ARTWORK 'CONTRAPTION' (NOW AT THE SCHINKEL) GROUNDS INTO DUST An object, the so-called model, which is a CONGLOMERATION OF ARCHITECTURAL EFFECTS THAT EXIST IN THE MUSeUM NEIGHBORHOOD. THis MODEL BORROWS FEATURES FROM THE HUMBOLDT FORUM, THE SCHINKEL AND SEVERAL OTHER BUILDINGS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, INCLUDING THE CUPOLAS FROM THE CHURCH SCHINKEL. ABSTRACTION, IN THIS CASE, WORKS BECAUSE IT'S complicit with REPRESENTATION. THE RUB IS IN THE QUASI AND THE ABSENce. 

What would you like Berlin to be?
WHEN I FIRST READ THIS QUESTION, I THOUGHT: KALE. NOW I THINK CAKE. NOW I THINK COLLAPSE. Now I think berlin.

How would you describe your relationship with both the public space and passers-by who, by default, become audience members of your performances?
I WOULD DESCRIBE MY RELATIONSHIP WITH PUBLIC SPACE AND THE SO-CALLED DEFAULT AUDIENCE AS SEEMINGLY PROVISIONAL AND OPEN YET BOUND, interrogated AND POLICED. PUBLIC SPACE, HOW PEOPLE USE IT, HOW PEOPLE ARE USED BY IT, how people resist it, IS DEFINED BY COLLABORATION, SHARING AND CONTINUOUS CONTESTATION.

All across the Global North, there is an increasing minimization of its so-called public space due to nation-wide legislations and local regulations. What would you consider interventionist art, or even art in the public space to be now that spaces of democratic expression are intentionally diminished?
TO  SOME FOLKS, PUBLIC SPACE HAS ALWAYS BEEN A BATTLEGROUND, always holding poor breath AND AN UNCERTAINTY SUCH AS ROMA OR BLACK FOLK OR POOR FOLK OR HOMELESS FOLK OR IMMIGRANT FOLK or refugee folk or disenfranchised folk of any sort. INTERVENTIONIST ART MUST INTERVENE INto ITS OWN PRIVILEGE to intervene (to go into the disneyland of someone else's situation) WITHOUT SUCCUMBING TO NAVEL-GAZING. FOR EXAMPLE, THE WORD ITSELF, 'INTERVENTIONIST', SUGGESTS ACTING FROM WITHOUT, AS IF THE PERSON INTERVENING IS OUTSIDE THE THING INTO WHICH THEY want to INTERVENE. SO what is ‘OUTSIDE’ and in WHAT WAY?

Do you think that absurdity is a helpful tool to reveal and explore ongoing sociopolitical predicaments to how cities are planned? Or would you say you deconstruct them with something else?
For me, ABSURDITY IS INESCAPABLE. IT IS SIMPLY OUR RECOGNITION AND WONDER AND POSSIBLE DISMAY. HOW SMALL WE ARE AGAINST THE SKY OF CIRCUMSTANCE. ABSURDITY IS A CONDITION AND A TOOL. HOWEVER, IT IS ONLY ONE SUCH TOOL AND IN AND OF ITS OWN  IT  IS NOT ENOUGH.

Given that your past works involved crawling on turmec or being buried for eight hours on a hot summer’s day, what do you think are the components that are necessary in order for pain and endurance to become artistic forms of expression?
I HAVE USED PHYSICAL DISCOMFORT AND ENDURANCE IN MY WORK SIMILARLY TO HOW I'VE USED FOOD. BOTH HUMANS AND FOOD ARE ORGANIC, THEY OXIDIZE AND are CONSUMED OVER TIME. I WANTED TO SHOW A MORE DIRECT ROUTE TO VISUALIZING, MAKING SYMBOLIC AND POETIC CERTAIN SOCIAL and existential CONDITIONS AND STATES OF AFFAIRS. yeh lik tha. 

You bring the ambivalences of the representation of class and unfulfilled desires close to a heartwarming amount of levity and humor in your works. Works, or social formulations. Like when you tied yourself with a sausage to the Chase Bank building while wearing a skirt made out of dollar bills. What do your actions, works, formulations concern first – the comical aspects of art, or the complexities of visualizing social injustice?
FUCKING DIFFICULT QUESTION. thanks. I AM CONCERNED first WITH BEING ABLE TO ENTER THE QUESTION. I think absurdity is A SOURCE of comedy. THE SAUSAGE WAS A DELAY. IF I HAD USED METAL CHAIN I WOULD HAVE BEEN ARRESTED SOONER. I WANTED TO PLAY THE MOMENT. THE SAUSAGE LINK WAS A CHAIN BUT NOT A CHAIN. THE POLICE FELT IT required DISCUSSION. 

Much of your interventionist work includes you wearing costumes, whether a superhero attire, a dapper suit and a dollar skirt. Do you think there’s such a thing as an artist costume, or is the artist always naked and faced with the task of finding creative expressions in dressing up as something or someone else?
ONE WEARS A MASK IN ORDER TO SEPARATE ONESELF FROM THE WORLD and IN ORDER TO SPEAK TO THE WORLD. ONE WEARS A MASK IN ORDER TO CO-EXIST WITH THE WORLD YET COMPROMISE THE WORLD.

What are the challenges and possibilities granted by presenting Contraption in a closed gallery setting?
IN MY DESIGN for the exhibition, THE GALLERY IS NOT CLOSED. IN FACT, THE WHOLE MAGILLA IS DRIVEN BY THE FACT THAT THE PIECE IS CONTINUALLY CONTiNuALLY OPENING  ITSELF TO OTHERS, to serendipity and to time. 

In the Schinkel Pavillon, you are presenting Small Cup, a film that you have shot over fourteen years ago in a former textile mill in Maine. What  is the difference for you between creating a film, in which you have complete artistic control over the final result of the piece, and an interventionist performance art piece in which you are, to a certain degree, exposed to the whims of the environment surrounding you?
I DO NOT HAVE COMPLETE CONTROL WHEN I AM MAKING A FILM. IT IS ALWAYS RELATIVE CONTROL or control in relation. ONE REASON, for this, IS I ALWAYS WORK WITH EDITORS AS COLLABORATORS. IN THE VIDEO 'SMALL CUP' I CEDED MUCH OF THE PERFORMANCE- CONTROL, AS IT WERE, TO A BEVY OF ANIMALS, WHO HAD THEIR OWN IDEAS OF HOW THE SCENES SHOULD BE ENACTED. 

Alongside art and photography, you have also directed several theatrical productions, such as your adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. Do you consider the rigorous interaction that you’ve had with people in your interventionist art as influential to the way in which you staged and wrote roles for the stage?
FOR ME, DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN PERFORMANCE ART AND THEATER ARE NOT HELPFUL, EXCEPT MAYBE HISTORICALLY. I FIND THAT BOTH FIELDS ARE ENVIOUS OF EACH OTHER YET DEFENSIVE.. FOR EXAMPLE, AND THIS IS NOT A GREAT EXAMPLE, BUT IT IS AN EXAMPLE ON WHICH I AM CURRENTLY CONCEPTUALLY WORKING, THE SO-CALLED 'REENACTMENT' IS A TERM USUALLY APPLIED TO PERFORMANCE, BUT I HAVE BEEN FINDING IT HELPFUL IN THINKING ABOUT FILM EDITING. REASON BEING I AM CURRENTLY RE-EDITING A SET OF FILMS, SOME OF WHICH I BEGAN TWENTY YEARS AGO. I FIND THE PROCESS OF RE-EDITING AKIN TO RE-PERFORMANCE. IT IS AS  IF I WERE  ACTING THEM OUT AGAIN BUT THE CONTEXT OF STAGING IS DIFFERENT. 

Speaking of the written word, many of the pieces in your Skin Set Drawings revolve are short pieces of text, such as White People are Angels on Fire, Green People are Hope Without Reason and Purple People are the End of Orange People. Is the introduction of fictional green, purple and orange people of color a way of illustrating the arbitrary absurdity of race and the way in which it is essentialised?
I SUPPOSE SO. OR MAYBE GREEN AND PURPLE ARE JUST PRETTIER COLORS... 

Given that you have a relationship with words both visually - as in Skin Set Drawings - and orally -as in your theatrical and interventionist works - what would you consider is the strength of presenting words in either medium?
WHEN YOU OPEN YOUR MOUTH, YOU OPEN YOURSELF, you open yourself TO POSSIBILITY. Who knows what stuff can fly in there? ONE IS ALWAYS TAKING A RISK WITH ACTS OF COMMUNICATION. TO WRITE, TO SPEAK, TO PERFORM IN PUBLIC REQUIRES ONE TO MAKE ONESELF porous, VULNERABLE. SO IT IS INSTANTLY A MOMENT OF sharing, NEGOTIATION AND THEATRICALITY, whether one likes it or not. 

In the lower room, you destroy your own drawings as part of the shiny surfaces mimicking doors, while making incisions into  the walls for you to see the series you are stabbing with a piece of the same wood you use for the performative presentation of labor and destruction in the octagonal hall of the Schinkel Pavillon.Many of your performances involve the consumption of fast food. Ranging from sausages, ice cream and now barn animals eating a seed-coated architectural model of what looks like the United States capitol. Why so?
IT WOULD BE MORE ACCURATE TO SAY THAT MY INTEREST IS IN CHEAP FOOD, POOR PEOPLE'S FOOD, MOSTLY HIGHLY PROCESSED FOOD LIKE AMERICAN BALONEY OR HOTDOGS OR EVEN MILK WITH VITAMIN D. I AM ALSO INTERESTED IN FOOD STAPLES LIKE ONIONS OR POTATOES, CARROTS OR APPLES. EVERYDAY FOODS, AGAIN SOMEtimes HIGHLY PROCESSED. THE USE OF FOOD in the work SUGGESTS PROCESSES AND SYSTEMS--SOME OF WHICH HAVE BEEN PUT IN PLACE BY HUMANS AND SOME LIKE OXIDATION, WHICH OPERATES ON A MUCH LARGER SCALE, leveling the difference between human and non-human. 

Have you tried currywurst already? That’s a worker's favorite meal here.
YES, SEVERAL TIMES. IT'S AN INTERESTING IDEA. IT TASTES LIKE IT JUST CAME OUT OF A CAN. 

Poverty and protest are social and political conditions that you strive through to claim economic redistribution of wellbeing. Right? Or do you think that the so-called art world, as this  exists today on the motives of profit, is equipped to represent artists and art works that concern economic disparities and exclusion?
YES, POVERTY AND PROTEST ARE IMPORTANT IN MY PRACTICE,but to over-valorize it is to commodify it. And YES, a MORE EQUITABLE REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH IS ALSO IMPORTANT to me. So, IN ORDER TO participate in THE AFOREMENTIONED YOU HAVE TO FOREGO PROFIT OR EVEN ‘STAYING EVEN’—in a situation like this, IT IS MUCH MORE LIKELY ONE WILL LOSE, maybe everything. SO---MAYBE THE REAL PROJECT IS HOW CAN ONE LOSE ONE'S destiny?

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Pope. L’s solo exhibition ‘Between a Figure and a Letter’ will be on show until July 31st at the Schinkel Pavillon in Berlin.

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