Twin first came in contact with Cara Mills at her Central Saint Martin’s degree show where she presented The Labour of Ideas — a giant shredder which methodically rated then shredded hundreds of her art ideas which fell like snowflakes, gradually amassing to a five foot mound of destroyed work plans. Mills took this art work and developed a second piece, Painting Machine a highly visceral work which spluttered and almost aggressively threw paint creating a new art work experience every day. Fresh off the back of her recent exhibition at Fuimano Projects, Machine: Part A, Part B, Part C & so on… Twin sat down with Mills on the sunny rooftop terrace of RCA where she is currently studying to talk about what makes an idea art and how it feels to be a female artist in today’s landscape.
I loved The Labour of Ideas so much. It draws on all these projects you had in your mind and you’re making all of them, in a way — was that the point?
Yes! I get bored really quickly with my ideas, and I thought there was something interesting about the process artists go through to make ideas and why they chose one and why not another and where do those ideas go when you don’t use them? Where do your thoughts go when they’re forgotten? They’re still there, but not being realised or spoken. I wanted to see their full potential. It was all about this concept that I wanted to make something physical but using all these ideas and I was tongue tied on how to approach that and do it. What was ironic about the piece was there was no hierarchy between the ideas – there was in the ratings sense that they were all rated out of ten – but at the end they all created this pile, and they all had the same shredded weight in this pile.
You had a lot of ideas, the pile was impressive!
It was five feet! I think I started writing down my ideas from March until the degree show, like ten hour days of writing down ideas. The sound of the shredder was really visceral. You became very aware that things were being shredded and destroyed, but that you were also creating.
So in a way all those ideas led to this final idea, The Labour of Ideas machine?
No, it was more a series of tests… I was really inspired by auto-destructive art, that something could be destructive but also creative. Looking at it now, that’s what I was doing. Also the systematic approach – one of the ideas in the shredder was ‘Make a piece about shredding your ideas’ so it was very much in the project. When I’d finished the piece I was empty of ideas… I didn’t really know where to start again. So, that was the end of the idea culmination — but I still write all my ideas down.
It’s really interesting to think about what makes us realise and not realise our ideas…
I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with an idea for a painting, then don’t do it. What interests me is why? I’m interested in ten years time to look back on my ideas, and maybe then I’ll have one of those ideas I really want to make at that time!
I also liked how with The Labour of Ideas that you could see the ideas, and see the performative piece and machine and take from it what you wanted.
At the CSM show, the same people kept coming back. People were saying that they felt like over time they came back a few times and told me they felt like they were killing my work, like a piece of your work is dying by me coming back, because they’d be reading the idea then watching it shredded. It’s like if you caught it at that moment then you saw it, but then it was shredded, deleted. It’s like you’ve made an idea in your head, is that done? Or do you need to realise it? I was interested in the actual physicality of an idea, like it was one pile made up of hundreds of ideas, metres and metres of paper.
Do you have a mission statement or motive behind your need to create art?
I think it’s about communicating ideas really. I think you get an itch to get it out of you. If it’s stuck, it’s not enough to say it or draw it, you need to make it and leave it there and let it manifest. The journey between thinking and making is really hard.
Your most recent exhibition showed The Labour of Ideas and Painting Machine. What is it about making these really visceral present machines?
It’s about detachment of myself as an artist, and as a creator. I like making something and setting up a situation and letting it happen. The machines will be churning away. I’m very interested in the gallery time frame, the gallery day being the limit but also the potential of the work. The solo show I recently did was three and a half weeks long, so during opening hours that was when the machines were going. The pile would never get any higher than it would be allowed to than the days in the gallery. They’re part of the work. The machines performing and I leave them and the audience see that process.
There’s an artist called Michael Stailstorfer who installed an art piece ‘Forst’ at Sammlung Boros in Berlin. It was a steel machine frame which turned a tree trunk and leaves on the ground, as the machine circled gradually the leaves and branches turned to dust creating piles on the floor — first leaves, then dust. I went to see it a few times, and each visit it was a different experience in the two year life cycle of the art works presentation.
That’s so interesting — something I’m thinking about a lot at the moment is ‘what is destruction’? So I’m using a lot of sandpaper on sandpaper and do we expect something to be grounded to flour — when does destruction become creation? When is that? Who decides that? I think what was interesting about the show was that with the Painting Machine it was chucking paint at the wall and kind of being destructive but also creating moments, and with The Labour of Ideas you could come in on the first day and it was a tiny pile of shredded material, and you could come in on the last day and it was this impending five foot mound!
Both could be seen as live sculpture in a way, and also be interpreted on so many levels…
I don’t want to make highly cerebral work only accessible to artists and intellectuals, I want to make something visual that people can interpret in different ways. I’ve looked a lot at performance work and I’m really interested in that — how much the audience plays a role, and what expectations artists put on their audience to complete a work. With ‘Painting Machine’ it was a very different experience depending on whether was moving, or when it was off. I like with kinetic work when something is moving it’s very different when it stops, sort of like how people are very different when they’re speaking to when they’re not. When it was moving it was aggressive and painting and when it was off it was very sculptural and poetic.
I was wondering if we could talk a bit about your experience as a woman in the art world?
It’s funny that you say that… on Facebook this morning I saw a post which said “Enough of Jackson Pollock”. It looked at Lee Krasner who was Pollock’s wife, who was making incredible paintings, and it was so insane because as soon as Jackson Pollock died she went into his studio and her paintings got so much bigger… I find that every artist I’m reading about are all men. I find it really frustrating. I think female artists are making incredible work, and I think historically men were more written about but today I think it’s really important for female artists to be louder otherwise it’s just going to continue to be a man’s world.
How do you navigate that?
I think you just don’t tolerate it. You just see yourself as an artist whether male or female. I think female artists need to not be afraid about working in such a male industry. Just be aware of it, and don’t take any shit.
Forever aka June Moon is a Canadian artist living, recording and performing her ethereal, dreamy and all encompassing music in Montreal. She also has a wonderfully addictive radio show, drenched in nostalgia and named Flip Phone Forever. Emmett Rose is a director, artist and all round powerful woman who started the political art movements VOTES4NUDES and Tramps Against Trump, which aptly supplied anyone who voted in the Canadian and American elections with a tasteful nude.
The duo are one half of Girls Club, an inclusive creative community for anyone and everyone who identifies as females and have recently come together in creating a video for Forever’s latest track, “Heaven’s Mouth”. The video (akin to a blissful short) sees a girl meandering through her day, exploring her innate hungers and desires with clips that see her as she plunges her nails into a plump juicy orange, squeezes her fist around peach halves and tears into a cream cake spliced with clips of her wandering through grave yards and late night subway stations. We got together with June and Em to explore their work from a creative, fashion and feminist perspective.
Twin: Firstly can you tell Twin readers a little about who you both are, how you met and what sparked your creative relationship?
Em:June who are you?
June:I’m a poet, popstar and provocateur.
Em: That’s good trademark that. I’m a tease, a queer performance artist, painter and total babe. Now Juney, tell me why you love me.
June: We met through Michael (Mind Bath) we really established a connection in the summer of 2015, and Girl’s Club happened right away and the rest is in the making…
Em:Us meeting feels like forever ago (ForeverTM) I remember feeling shy riding a train up to Harlem with you and desperately wanting to get close to your energy. I feel like Girl’s Club spawned from that longing for connection, a closeness between women that you often feel like you just can’t reach for whatever reason. But what we’re doing now feels so much further along than that, now I don’t ever question my wanting of being close to other women.
You worked together on the video for ‘Heaven’s Mouth’, how did you work collaboratively on this? What are some of the themes in the song that were important to translate visually?
Em:How did it all start with this project in particular Juney?
June: After I released the EP “Forever” I started fantasizing about the visual aspect of the record but I was looking at a blank wall for a couple months. One morning I got a text from you saying — we’re making a music video
Em: I like that I texted you without giving you any choice in the matter ha
June: Ya I came over and you had received the vision. And I trusted you 100%
Em: I remember it coming to me like a wave, sometimes I get clear visions that just need to come out and I knew June would let me see that feeling through. I saw peaches and flowers both rotting and blooming mixed in with skin and hands, one object cutting into another creating this abstract mesh that was more about feeling than it was about recording any one image. I wanted to work with the idea of a Vanitas painting, a dark still life that speaks of time and fertility and death but in a way that also speaks of rebirth. The orange peels we see show what has come to pass before the orange was eaten, the way trauma leaves marks on our skin I wanted to show the passing of time in the skin of a woman.
June: I like that. That insight is why I trust you 100% – we’re on the same tip
Em: without really needing to explain everything by words ha I don’t even think we communicated all of this before we started shooting. But that June is what you’re always talking about with intuition.
June: Which is the most sacred quality of feminine energy.
Why is it important to you to support each other and in doing so other women?
June: Well that’s an obvious question
Em: Well it feels obvious now but it didn’t always, I think Girl’s Club has changed our instincts. Being supported by you has changed my life. It’s changed what I do with my life, not only am I an artist who deals with the duality of living femme but now my life with Girl’s Club is dedicated to fostering an environment where other women, femmes, n queers can connect in way that really heals and builds.
June:We have to learn how to do this, together. We’re taking up space in a new way, reclaiming space is a lot of fighting and a lot of resisting and for me if I can feel this with my community then we can make herstory together. Girl’s Club was about recognizing that we didn’t want to fit into the boys club, it’s just not gonna serve me or speak to me.
What challenges do you feel women face in the creative industries?
Em:What challenges don’t we face in every industry!
June:In every aspect of life to be honest
Em:I don’t think it’s about what challenges we face but what incredible insight we bring to our practices because of our experiences. I couldn’t make work with the sensitivity or drive that I do if it weren’t for my trauma living as a woman (she sings).
June:Which brings us to why we absolutely needed an all femme production team.
Em: We needed a crew with intuition and sensitivity; we couldn’t have done it without that femme expertise.
You co-founded feminist collective ‘Girls Club’, I’ve just been on the site and I love how inclusive it feels and the fluidity with which you look at femininity and what constitutes a woman. What birthed the collective?
June: Girl’s Club was the simultaneous desire for community that brought Emmett and I together as friends, and artists. We started with t-shirts, and our lives have totally and completely been changed. We like to say ‘all you need is two’ ~ because women are taught to remain isolated, to keep them out of power, but we re-claimed our power, our feminine power by coming together.
As Girl’s Club, what is your mission statement? What do you hope to achieve?
Girl’s Club:One individual and their own right to create safer spaces and communities around them. Girl’s Club is in opposition of a club of only girls who must all think the same. A girl is anyone who harnesses the power of femininity. To us, femininity is a force that can be wielded by any sex, gender or orientation. A girl is anyone who occupies unsafe territory and, against all odds, rises. Girl’s Club is driven by the need for a community, it’s not for everyone but it can be for anyone who identifies with us. Girl’s Club represents visual solidarity – more space is being claimed for us, by us. If you want to be in the club, you’re already part of the club.
Emmett, you’ve been very vocal around both the Canadian and American elections (which is super important, so thank you!) especially around Harper and Trumps opinions on women and who owns their bodies. How do you both feel art interacts with politics? Should all art have a political agenda?
Em:My life is political but not by my own choice, being born a woman is political. And being born a chatty-ass gotta-say-somethin’ woman is my blessing and my curse, I couldn’t lay dormant if I tried. I don’t have a background in government politics but my body has always been a political battle ground whether I like it or not. I’ve lost family and friend just for embracing my body, being both a naked sexual woman and a smart evocative woman, we all live in that battle.
How now post-election can we keep each other safe and empowered as women? How can the arts play into this?
June: Art is always political because it has the capacity to influence the individual and society as a whole
Em:I think we keep each other safe each time we create something, we add another object into our cultural realm that speaks to us and for us, representation is everything, each time we make a work we tilt the scales in our favor.
What message do you want to leave us about being a woman in the world at such a tumultuous time as this?
June: Get into your sexuality and own it.
Em: That may be the most powerful and terrifying thing you can do. Sexuality continues to scare people because it’s such a power force that people (men) have tried to keep under wraps for too long. The world has always been tumultuous…
June:Duality is constant.
Em: As the world seems to get more chaotic we also gain more power, it’s this constant push back that drives us forward. I think it’s easy to feel scared at times like this, but if our oppressors are pushing back against us, it means we’ve scared them. And that is a good thing.