Debriefing Correspondence: Jenifer Evans

All good things come to an end. The residents of 5 Nabatat have dispersed, and the Table Museum has been passed on to a new owner, unknown to us and likely indifferent to the Table’s expressive possibilities. Geography prevented us from cooking up our usual breakfast feast to discuss Jenifer Evans’ work–which had to be prematurely removed for the sake of the Table–but we nonetheless managed to correspond over email to discuss the pieces and their effect on our lives:

August 2
From Jr Evans
To Silvia, Helen

Dear Helen and Silvia, I’m sorry it took me so long to reply. I had a lot of work and was then travelling. Here are some thoughts I had to start with.

– I really liked being asked to do something for the table, especially as I have long been interested in spaces that don’t have the authority of a gallery, which treat art more like other objects, and where viewers are less reverent. The art-food mixture is also very attractive to me. It was also very cool in Cairo, where small projects like this don’t seem to happen much, and I thought maybe that’s changing.

– There was the group of you Table Museum founders to contend with, who I didn’t know that well, and I wanted you to end up happy you asked me to do it.

– I knew I was going to be the last artist, and I was thinking a lot about the previous pieces that had been in the table, all of which I had seen. I liked the idea of doing something to complete the series.

– I think my work is often more agressive than I intend it to be, and in this case I wondered if I had caused any upset about the table being damaged. Apart from that I didn’t think about it much after the installation night, before the de-installation.

I found these John Baldessari nose images on the internet just now. I hope you’re both well. Jenifer x


August 2
From Silvia Mollicchi
To Jr, Helen

I sometimes like conversations that protract themselves in time long after their ‘object’ has stopped existing/being in place, as both the conversation and the object have the chance to become something else.

-I was very pleased with the work you brought to us. I loved how present your piece was. Its composition was elegant and remained elegant throughout the period. It imposed itself on the space, filled it and used its main characteristics (including the element of separation between the two boxes). I was never really concerned about the Table. I actually enjoyed thinking that the art was somehow taking it over, a quite poetic ending for that piece of furniture: killed from within by the ephemeral project it had been hosting.

And here some random thoughts:

-Even stuck under the glass top, your work never looked static to me. I guess that was mainly due to the fact that one of the two elements was perishable, alive and relentlessly dying, therefore always changing, a slow but persistent motion. Remarkably, not only the bread, but the whole piece went through a process of transformation. Its form and aesthetics were changing and so seemed to be the implicit troubled relationship/story between the two components of the work. I liked that this continuous change would generate a continuously changing state of desire—from the fresh bread that neither the noses—nor we—could smell, to the mouldy bread that nobody wanted to smell, but was so interesting to look at.

-And I loved the colors, shades and texture of the bread after the first few days, filling and growing off the limited box assigned to it, rebelling to it. It literally turned into something else, a monstrous and yet innocuous creature.

-I liked the way your work played with the two senses of sight and smell. The noses would suggest and draw attention towards the smell, but then just the sight could operate.

-Your art work to me was alive also in the sense that it had a personality! Not just because it was strong, but because I think it had some sort of volatile human-like personality that I could project fickle feelings on (frustration, distance, judgment, boredom, grumpiness, etc.).

-I found that there was something funny and sarcastic in your artwork. First of all, because there is something funny in a line of noses floating on top of a mold, and then, because always negating any contact between the two components of the work is a bit sarcastic. In regard to this, I would like to ask (also considering the pieces I saw on your website and in the show with Hady) what role do irony and sarcasm play in your art practice? And paradoxes and oppositions?

August 2
From Silvia Mollicchi
To Jr, Helen

It might look a bit unrelated to our conversation, so you could simply take it as a homage to Fischli and Weiss, but The Sausage Photographs have something playful, witty, humoristic and transformative. Also, I did not know that in Suddenly This Overview they made their own loaf of bread out of clay.


August 4
From Jr Evans
To Silvia, Helen

I also like talking about art that no longer exists: We can make it into anything! I just realized that I have made several pieces of art at different points in the past with bread – croissants, pretzels, baguettes and bagels. (I’ve attached images of two of them.)

With regards sarcasm, I never want to make something that lies there passively, but something that comes out at you and forces a reaction, so humor is useful for that (as is provocation). Humor is good for insubordination, for angrily pointing out things that are wrong (which is a hopeful and positive thing), for getting noticed, and for being simultaneously seductive and repulsive (two boxes I seek to tick when making art). I remember I was thinking of the Table Museum as a two-frame cartoon at one point. I also like making things that have an internal logic, where each element exists for the impact it has on the others.

What I was happily surprised by and hadn’t thought through properly was what you called the “continuously changing state of desire”, the changing relationship between the two elements. First both were restrained – stuck/smothered – and there was the frustration of the noses not being able to get to the bread. After a while it felt like the noses were lucky to be glassed off, or that the bread might be preying on them as it broke out of its swaddles.

A professor once told me that artists like comedians have to decide who they want to laugh at their jokes. I love Fischli and Weiss for their humor above all, how it prods at things. I’m going to think a bit more about paradoxes and oppositions. Jenifer x


August 5
From Helen Stuhr-Rommereim
To Jr, Silvia

I wish I could be a better contributor to this, Jenifer and Silvia you both already said so many interesting things.

So, I also really liked having your art in the table. First in a few very basic, aesthetic ways: I liked that it filled up the whole space, and seemed to really want to come out of those boxes, but was stuck inside. I think it used the spatial limitations of the boxes in a really nice way. That, paired with the really organic, visceral nature of both parts of the work gave it a really strong physical presence.

Silvia, I think that’s a beautiful idea—the continuously changing state of desire.  The work did set up this expectation, constantly thwarted. And people were always asking me if the bread smelled, and I could tell them that it was safely contained under glass, unable to escape and its smell also unable to escape.

Can we talk about the fact that it had to be taken out? Do you think we should have just left it in? What was it like taking it out? Did it feel like we were compromising our principles? Or was it just a testament to the force of Jenifer’s piece that we had to make adjustments to our usual parameters and do a little maintenance on the space?

August 6
From Silvia Mollicchi
To Helen, Jr

To me it stood more for the strength of Jenifer’s piece. If I think about it, yes we could have left it inside the table, it would have damaged the table itself, so, in a sense, it would have compromised our principles anyways. I guess the piece put us in a situation for which there was no way out (which is generally a good thing for an artwork I think). How did it feel? Like a first time. I was curious, excited. Also, every time we had to deal with the Table and the art in it in general, I would become all serious about it and formal and I like that. Silvia

August 17
From Silvia Mollicchi
To Jr, Helen

I think I am about to say something really sad. Jenifer said at the beginning of the thread: ‘I also like talking about art that no longer exists: We can make it into anything!’

Well, a little longer than a month has passed from when we removed the piece, and I think that in my mind it kind of frosted. The bread turned into clay. In a sense its vital burst died as soon as it was taken out of the table. Maybe we really had to leave it there?

This entry was published on August 26, 2012 at 6:45 pm. It’s filed under Debriefing breakfast and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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