For sculptor Livia Marin the answer is Yes! Yesterday’s trash is a cornucopia of artistic inspiration.
Items that invariably end up in the gutter or garbage when all used up – items as everyday and utilitarian as lipstick tubes and bottle caps – take on a new life in her London studio as models and molds for some very interesting and highly original sculpture. Read on for some thought-provoking ideas about art and creativity from a thoughtful and cutting-edge artist.
Current Residence: London
Areas of Focus: Sculpture
You often use consumer goods in your artwork. Can you explain to us what inspires you to use everyday objects like cups, plates, bottle caps, lipsticks, and etc.?
I am very interested in the fact that the signifiers of a culture are lodged in its artefacts, whether these be the memorialized artefacts of the museum or the banal objects of globalization or the elite precious objects in which the art market has a stake. Within this I have developed a greater interest in objects of mass-production rather than in objects of exclusive design. I am interested in everyday objects in that they play an integral part of our lives. I am interested in them as far as they reflect something of the people that use them, aspects lost in the exclusive, ideal object. Within this, my work explores the afterlife of objects. Rather than the idealization of an object’s function and design, it’s the residue of use, age, and the passage of time that captures my attention. Perhaps I can say– my work addresses the everyday through the objects that inhabit it when they have out-lasted their use value or economic exchange value.
My intention is to present those objects and the order given to them through use. Lipsticks when they have become useless stub– disposable plastic cups, crumpled and discarded. Bottle tops, flowerpots, and neglected things that no market will ever make chic or sexy. There is the trace of humanity in these mere things– handled, then used up, close to exhaustion or extinction. I understand this “mereness” of things, not only in terms of a used, discarded object that had gained an identity or singularity by being used, but, more fundamentally, as identified as something that becomes lodged in the things themselves and therefore relates to the relationships that a subject can establish with them.
Can you share with us the process that went into creating “Fiction of a Use I”? What inspired you to create “Fiction of a Use I”? How long did it take you to create it? How many lipsticks did you use? What tools did you use to sculpt these lipsticks?
The work began in the recognition of the fact that, through use, every lipstick adopts a particular shape in relation to whoever uses it, and to however it is used. We can find an enormous variety of shapes created by use in every woman’s lipstick. This was the starting point of the work.
Whatever material I use – and in that sense the objects are my raw materials – I am very interested in identifying some symbolic aspect of the object and then to develop its plastic potential. The question becomes– how do I bring to attention the fact that we all shape lipsticks in a unique and singular way that indexes a human presence? In this respect the work is addressed both to issues of gender and the individual on the mass-produced object. It was very important for me, then, to present the object and the underlying human presence in a heightened aesthetic register. This is achieved, I think, in a number of ways– by the paradoxically ‘industrial’ finish of the object, contrasting with the natural expectation of a used lipstick as somewhat abject– by a standardized variation of shapes, by the chromatic effect of a variety of close tones of red and by a certain domination of the space by sheer numbers.
In respect to the actual making of the work, it took me six months in working out how to make concrete the project. In building the series, it took me around six weeks – with help of other people. I used around two thousand lipsticks, and I shaped them via a process of moulting and casting. What is relevant in the work is that it is the actual lipstick that which appears transformed in the work.
In “Broken Things”, you generate the simple intention of creating a spill, what inspired you to do so? And why did you decide to exhibit those particular pieces?
In Broken Things, fragments of ceramic objects form a body of work whose decorative pattern contradicts their brokenness by extending past their broken edges. Although the objects appear clearly broken, they also stand as wholes. A recurrent theme in my work has been to retain something of the original object. Here it is the pattern extending beyond the object itself that makes the end result paradoxical. Equally, presented as a series– of something, with a common identity however obscure – the viewer is presented with a somewhat quizzical unity.
This series of works offers a reflection on the relationship we develop with the day-to-day objects that populate our everyday lives. In this specific series, this relationship develops around the care and attachment with which we treat those invisible objects that meet our daily needs. In particular, what happens to the broken or the hand-me-downs? Broken Things introduces a further element, interrogating the boundary between the conservation given to the precious museum object and the care afforded to the banal or utilitarian object of our own lives. My work has been characterized throughout by the appropriation of mass-produced and mass-consumed objects, and then turned into the precious and unique objects of art. It could be said that the work parodies the serial production of the mass-produced, even as it retains something of distinction from the objects in question.
Why do you like to use repetitions in your artwork?
Many of my artworks are formed by accumulation, repetition or by an anomalous combination. Given the banal unexceptional nature of the objects with which I work, a strategy I have employed is that of estrangement. In this context, to repeat brings about a sense of estrangement. Even though common objects are produced in large quantities and are all copies of a same matrix or mould, when they appear in the work, also in quantities but endowed with a sign of differentiation, they gain a certain strangeness. I aim to present the viewer with what he or she already knows but in a way that makes the encounter fresh and, at times, uncanny. Here, there is a quest for variation that I situate within a strategy of repetition and that it is made concrete in those works that consist in accumulations of hundreds or thousands of the same but differing objects. Here, I would say, a strategy of enormity comes into play. One is, so to say, ‘over-familiarized’ with the particular object.
You were born in Santiago, Chile. You now live and work in London. What’s it like being a Chilean artist in London? (any challenges, difficulties, things you’ve learned that you would like to share with us…)
I’ve lived in London for seven year. It has been both a great and difficult experience. Beside all the very stimulating aspects that London offers, one inevitably bears the weight of coming from without. The sense of belonging and not belonging inevitably seeps in my everyday.
Can you share with us your typical day as an artist?
Have breakfast. Check my emails. Work on my PhD thesis. Go to the studio.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a piece that will be shown in September 2011 in Santiago at the art fair Ch.ACO. It develops from the series Broken Things that employs objects that have been shipped (traded) towards and from the costs of the Pacific. I am also working on a mural piece that will be shown in Paris also this coming September.
How does your Chilean up bringing resonate within your artwork?
To a certain extent, I believe that everybody’s up bringing resonates in his/her life and working experience. In my case, I do not make a biographical case out of it, rather, I aim to extend and relate my experience to that of others. The fact that in my work I employ mass-produced, global objects is undoubtedly connected with the impact that the policies of liberal market imposed over the Chilean economy by the military regime had on material culture. In this sense, since in the 80’s and 90’s the landscape of objects that one could encounter in Santiago was changing dramatically – the newly imported standardized object, mainly coming form Asia, was replacing the local manufactured objects. That changing scenario later appeared, yet transformed, in my work.