The Art Assassin

Chapter 4: DOUBLE ASSASSINATION: CarianaCarianne, Artistic Duo

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CarianaCarianne are conceptual artists who are examples of doubled self-collaborations. They explore the body as a site for collaboration, of which these interview portraits have been examples of such work. Combining fact and exploratory fiction with a healthy dose of the scientific process, this duo deconstructs the nature of identity and captures the essence of what the social construction of humanity is through their challenging projects.

Projects include the following: Diplomas, Management of Expectations, Witness to a Social Drawing, and Drawing and Being Drawn. Currently CarianaCarianne are working on a project involving the female named Jane Halloway as a further exploration into the construction of a voice for the artists’ personae. This artistic experiment resembles a short story by Borges where traditional assumptions about the nature of the “I” as well as the meaning of a person’s life are violated in time and space. In any case, this interview portrait between qi peng (a pseudonym as much as Jane Halloway truly is) and CarianaCarianne represents the merging of three minds into a trio of harmony and disharmony in the same boat.

The artistic duo is not represented currently by a commercial gallery, except through the registry at White Columns. So if you have any questions about CarianaCarianne’s artwork, feel free to contact them privately at carianacarianne@gmail.com.

qi peng: To start off on a lighter note, what are some of your favorite artists, books, television shows, sports, art magazines, toys, movies, and other cultural artifacts that you wish to share with your fans of your work here? Do you have any recent galleries or exhibitions that you have seen and would to recommend to us? What things in those shows inspired your visual eye?


Photograph of CarianaCarianne in Chicago, 2009. Courtesy of CarianaCarianne.

CarianaCarianne: Our favorite book right now is ‘The Lone Twin’ by Joan Woodward. It has struck us to the core.  The show ‘Income Property’ on HGTV is a favorite and ‘Before Night Falls’ is still our favorite movie of all time. Our iPod cue includes Cold War Kids, Kings of Leon, and Modest Mouse. The Jenny Holzer show, Protect Protect, was amazing. She is brilliant actually. In this particular show she paired the bold confrontation of language to the lingering, quiet erasure of governance and manipulation.  The entire show was numbing.

qi peng: Who is Jane Halloway? Considering that I use the pen name of “qi peng” so much that I get confused with reality and personal imagination as a conceptual artist. What things are you trying to explore under her name? Ms. Halloway acts a press secretary for a conceptual artist. What is her ultimate purpose and goal in life to exist? In what way is the collaboration with the divided self a difficult examination of who the term “I” refers to? What are the philosophical implications of this duality? Does Ms. Halloway ever feel like a female version of James Bond with all of this identity switching?

CarianaCarianne: Jane Halloway is our current project. Jane Halloway is a fictional figure that addresses the media on our behalf. Essentially she becomes our ‘I’ – ‘I think.’ ‘I know.’ ‘I am.’ We came to this idea when thinking about the role of the White House Press Secretary. Similar to how the ‘I’ functions in language, Jane Halloway operates under the assumption of truth, yet is a filter for the truth. Jane Halloway is limited in her knowledge. She is privy to certain information and so her personal interpretation of that information becomes questionable. The viewer should suspect the motivations of Jane Halloway.They should be suspicious to the role the ‘I’ has in language itself. Since she is a completely fictional figure and we are the non-fictional figure, questions concerning singularity, as well as reality, arise. Jane Halloway does differ from our past works in that she does not follow a legal channel for verification. Instead she is a linguistic metaphor that takes on the role of a figure. To us, she is not considered a single work or project, rather she is a self contained identity that serves CarianaCarianne at their request.

qi peng: Would you mind explaining the background for each of your major series? What is the inspiration behind Diplomas (1999-2003)? What is the inspiration behind Management of Expectations (2004)? What is the inspiration behind Witness to a Social Drawing (2005)? What is the inspiration behind Drawing and Being Drawn (2007-2008)? What connections exist among all of these projects in terms of focus, theme, and conceptual drive?

CarianaCarianne: Last Will and Testament, 2004, ink on paper, 11 by 4 by 1/2 inches. Courtesy of CarianaCarianne.

CarianaCarianne: Within all of our projects we are exploring the collaborative body and in many cases that exploration involves social contracts. In ‘Diplomas’ (1999-2003) we each attended an institution of higher education, fulfilled the requirements for a degree, and received separate diplomas. Each diploma was legally awarded and could be traced back to our individual names. This work was our first attempt at drawing a collaborative body in space. Continuing to work in the social realm, in ‘Management of Expectations’ (2004), we worked with an estate attorney to legally acquire a last will and testament for two selves living in one body. The project addressed how the doubled document could provide social recognition for both selves. Two fold, this work also allowed us to defend our body after death. Another work that followed was ‘Witness to a Social Drawing’ (2005). Here we used our body to publicly draft a document that could relate to a larger collective entity. In this work we legally became a Notary Public to witness each other’s signatures as we prepared a legal peace accord and signed our names in contract.  We used the authority of the Notary seal to witness each other fulfilling our individual agreements outlined in our peace accord. The formulation of this work came from searching the media for doubled images. We were looking for images that ultimately readdress and question our collaboration.

CarianaCarianne: On the Lawn of the White House, 2005, single channel video, 4 seconds (looped in 2 second, 7 second, and 2 minute intervals). Courtesy of CarianaCarianne.

We came across the famous image of Rabin and Arafat shaking hands in front of President Bill Clinton on the lawn of the White House in 1993 after the signing of the Oslo Peace Accord. We were particularly interested in the political framework of the image. Not only is dichotomous consensus in question, but the image also spurs questions regarding the potency of contracts. This image captures the peace accord as possibly the most favored and the most failed doctrine of the 21st century. Creating, signing and enacting our own peace accord prompted us to question the effectiveness of legal contracts. Following this work we began researching conjoined twins.

Drawing of the Two-Headed Boy of Bengal, source material. Courtesy of CarianaCarianne.

We came across a technical drawing of the Boy of Bengal.  This drawing of a two-headed boy reminded us of when we were employed as a patent draftsmen during college. We started thinking about the patent industry and about intellectual property. From this we started to develop the project ‘Drawing and Being Drawn’ (2007-2008), For this work we theorized the legal invention of a double life-form within one body.

CarianaCarianne: Organ sharing system for producing humans with a contractual supernumerary kidney to correct body isolation imperfections, 2008, ink and pencil on mylar, 11 by 8 1/2 inches. Courtesy of CarianaCarianne.

Comprised of patent drawings, sculptural prototypes, and video recordings, this multimedia installation not only explored the moral and political implications of recent advances in biotechnology, but it also investigated the act of invention and examined the limitations that exist within intellectual property. Because legally registering a patent is a form of public service, this project allowed us to realize our first citizen-based or civic work. In previous projects, we produced legal artifacts that substantiated a collaborative body. Politically, socially, and personally our projects attempted to decolonize the flesh, draft a new skin, and validate the human right of self-determination. However, this work allowed us to approach an expanding dialogue that incorporates social, political, and personal contracts involving all citizens.

qi peng: For the series Witness to a Social Drawing, what have been the challenges of exploring the system of contracts and self-preservation? You displayed this at The Drawing Center. What was the experience like? What is your feeling about text-based artwork which isn’t in the form of a painting? Are there more challenges to displaying conceptual art pieces relative to more traditional forms of output?

CarianaCarianne: [no answer]

qi peng: What is your opinion of art world journalism? Do you read periodicals such as ArtForum or ARTnews to get an up to date understanding of what goes on within the art world? Do you have any favorite artistic blogs or websites that you enjoy looking at on a regular basis? Do you feel that smaller, regional art markets like San Francisco or Chicago will have a chance to expand their horizons into becoming essential and vibrant art hot spots just like Los Angeles or New York City? What do you think is the current state of contemporary art within the Chicago area where you are located? Is it difficult to sell conceptual art to the public?

CarianaCarianne: We rarely read art journals or periodicals. We do read The New York Times. Although it is a good practice to keep abreast of the tides and flows of the art world, we do not feel compelled to track it’s every move. If we are centered intensely on a new work we close ourselves off from outside input. But when we are in between works we read up on what is going on and who is hot at the moment. Bad at Sports is a good online post that we check out often. They do a great job at interviewing recognized artists and the not-so-established up and coming artists.  Their programming feels more spot-on in terms of depicting the current concerns of artists. It is funny that you ask about Chicago’s art status. Everyone seems to ask that question. Chicago will always be the awkward stepchild to New York and Los Angeles. In our view, Chicago artists should embrace that by taking chances, pushing new art forms, and ignoring the market. Artists in Chicago are in a good situation because the art market is not over riding their creative output.

CarianaCarianne: Drawing and Being Drawn: Series I-III, 2008, video, drawings, sculpture at I space Gallery in Chicago. Courtesy of CarianaCarianne.

qi peng: How do you feel that the current economic recession impacted the contemporary art market and way that it functions in the larger national economy? Do you feel that artists will be pursuing more personal and intimate projects than the overly commercial work, typically geared for the art fairs, during the upcoming years? How do you think that galleries and non-profits will be coping with the dramatic shifts within the political and corporate culture, particularly in America? Do you have any thoughts about the current state of the stock market and its concomitant corruption? Any thoughts on the Obama administration in relation to your viewpoint on history, social identity, and the arts scene?

CarianaCarianne: The recession has certainly brought down the record high and record number of sales for contemporary art. The wealthy purchasers have also been hit by the economy. This will certainly impact the art fairs. The art fair trotters may find themselves missing the big lavish parties of yester year. Obama may not be able to fix that either. Maybe the art crash is healthy. Maybe it will create a generational fissure. Change is good. We are pro-change.

qi peng: Do you consider yourself a feminist artist and if so, in what way does your conceptual art projects reflect the female identity and self-construction or deconstruction? What sort of research or note-taking do you do before you start a series of conceptual works which tie in together? What do you believe is the position of women, specifically the female artist, within today’s cultural climate?

CarianaCarianne: Great art transcends gender, just as great art is universal. As to the question regarding the position of female artists, there is no secret that women are under represented in museums and in the art world. The statistics speak for themselves. However, our work is not motivated by the market. We make work to satisfy the need to see one another. We make work because we are compelled to understand the language of the visual world. Expression needs nothing but the maker.  The art market is an interesting force though. Regardless of gender, many young artists, seeking art star careers, think they can make work for the market. Their work becomes bland and, hence, it blends in. Their careers do not last long. On the flip side, mature artists feel a greater pull. After developing strong bodies of work, these artists are recognized, coddled by the market, and ultimately the market influences them to pare down their work. When an artist suggests that they are not interested in participating in the art market or selling their work, they are viewed as ambivalent or non-committed to their work. The opposite is true. This artist is fully committed to their work with no strings attached.

qi peng: What is your opinion on juried competitions such as New American Paintings and curated artists registries such as The Drawing Center‘s Viewing Program or White Columns in the development of a young artist’s career? Do you feel that being judged by “officials” or “art referees” help to create a strong reputation for the artist’s work? What elements do you think are necessary to make a particular artwork strong and communicative? With the rise of online curated galleries such as the New York Art Exchange (NYAXE), Collegeartonline (CAO), and Ugallery, do you think that those type of galleries are a good stepping stone into the larger art network?

CarianaCarianne: Curated artist registries, such as the Drawing Center, Artists Space, and White Columns, seem to work well for artists with a tight body of work. However those same artists may not benefit from a studio visit, where as other artists with less ridged formal or conceptual constraints might. To us, it seems that each artist is looking for sympathetic and intelligent listeners no matter what form of art they make. These registries attract sympathizers to eager artists. It is pretty simple. It would be great if registries could expand their purpose to include forums for dialogue.

CarianaCarianne: Drawing and Being Drawn: Series I-III, 2008 (detail), video, drawings, sculpture at I space Gallery in Chicago. Courtesy of CarianaCarianne.

qi peng: Are there any restaurants or hangouts such as bookstores around Chicago or anywhere else that you wish to recommend us? What are the qualities that you enjoy best about the places that you have chosen?

CarianaCarianne: The best hangout in Chicago is the street or stoop in the summer. People from all walks of life are eager to have a conversation and just hang out. People and sunshine can’t be beat. The great thaw in Chicago is bliss.

qi peng: As a graduate of the of the University of Florida, University of North Carolina, and then The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, what were those school years like? How was life in the studio like back then? Did you have any influential professors or students during that time and what was their impact on you and your work? How did you develop your current style of playful installations and text-based artwork?

CarianaCarianne: Attending The School of the Art Institute of Chicago was an important experience. Just being around so many artists and getting acquainted with various views and approaches to art-making was incredibly influential. Finding our unique voices amidst 3000 creative students was challenging. In the first year the question of ‘which one of us was speaking’ came up over and over again. The truth is that we were, and are, more like a weaving than a divided whole. It felt right at that point to think of our work as a performance in which we both participated. From that point on, we did not entertain thoughts of making work without discussing our simultaneous nature. This decision informed the rest of our work.

qi peng: Do you have any favorite hobbies which you enjoy in your spare time? How do these activities inform the studio work?

CarianaCarianne: We enjoy carpentry immensely. We come from a family of ‘fixers’ – mechanics, construction workers, plumbers, etc. Our father could build anything. He was also a convict so employment was always off-and-on and generally scarce. Any job he did get, we were there working with him. He was also a bit of a workaholic. If work was scarce he would take the engine out of his truck and have you put it back together. Some things that he wanted his eleven-year-old daughters to do were impossible. Needless to say, we did not enjoy mechanics. The love of construction stuck though. Carpentry is a therapeutic, physical work. It occupies the body and allows the mind to wander. We can roam fields of grass while building cabinets. Our work benefits from this preoccupation.

qi peng: Are there any places which you would like to travel someday to? Which places would you find inspiring to see? Do you incorporate the idea of travel within any of your pieces?

CarianaCarianne: Drawing and Being Drawn: Series I-III (detail), 2008, video, drawings, sculpture at I space Gallery in Chicago. Courtesy of CarianaCarianne.

CarianaCarianne: Site specificity is not a particular interest. We can be inspired and work anywhere. Our collaboration depends on time. The event that shaped our view of place and time the most was when we legally became our own guardian at the age of sixteen. Becoming a ward of the state meant we were on our own. We were guiding our own experiences. We were building a life together, shaping it into a reflection of how we saw each other. There was never a ‘place’ that influenced our natures. Only time has that capacity. Time passes.

qi peng: What is your opinion about how technology has infiltrated the contemporary art world? The Internet, online video sharing, and blogging have been interesting and pretty effective tools for expanding the average person’s interest and knowledge of the new art trends that have appeared during the past few years. Do you feel that these tools as well as the new media art movement in art have been complementary to the type of artwork that you execute?

CarianaCarianne: The internet has exposed more people to our work than any show has. Sometimes curators first find out about our work this way, although word of mouth is still the primary introduction. Students and artists tend to read up on our collaboration through the internet as well. Having a personal website helps. Seeing the real thing is still pretty important though. Studio visits are solidifying for people that have read about our collaboration or have perused our works online.

qi peng: Who would you consider as your greatest artistic influences on your artwork that ranges from the use of documents to more ambitious installations? How are their ideas manifested within the final product of your wonderful works? In what way is your own life a complete work of performance art that you can have your environment anywhere as a studio?

Photograph of Joseph Beuys in Dusseldorf, 1971. Courtesy of CarianaCarianne.

Joseph Beuys: Capri Battery, 1985, lightbulb with plug socket, lemon. Courtesy of Walker Art Center and Joseph Beuys / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

CarianaCarianne: We are always thinking about the work of Joseph Beuys and Tehching Hsieh. Their individual stories and their reasoning behind art and life are great influences. Through art they made themselves. Their visual investigations are what remain. The relationship woven between object (felt or cage) and body (history of a person) becomes evident over time (time spent with art). Our work shares a similar interest, which is to merge art and life. Our studio plays a large role. For us the studio provides a physical space where we can concentrate on our work together. It is a place where our responses to our body unfold, mature, and live.

qi peng: You went to two different MFA programs in order to get two framed diplomas for each school. How was this challenging to execute such a long-term performance art piece? Does having two MFA degrees help you much in real life or other projects that you want to leap towards? How has the Diplomas project fared since getting your degrees? What does it tell the viewers of your own life story?

CarianaCarianne: ‘Diplomas’(1999-2003) was a long-term project. The time frame of four years allowed us to complete an extensive project while working on and experimenting with smaller works. Generally, in this time period the smaller works were focused on finding different approaches to internal conversations. We were interested in what it meant to spend time together, how time moved, if intuitive processes could be followed, how gestural marks read, and how gestural marks could be used.

qi peng: What is your proper legal name? How do you riff off your original identity like a Nabakov narrative? Like a detective, do you ever find clues about how you choose to present yourself to the public through a deconstruction process? Can the name Carianacarianne be read as Cariana/Carianne like a doubling through odd forms of genetics? What biological implications are the viewers supposed to get out of it?

CarianaCarianne: CarianaCarianne is our legal name. Many people do wonder if it is our real name. Legally CarianaCarianne is a first name and there is no last name. Our name is not meant to confuse the issue of who we are, rather it is who we are. Artists that make work using a specific name do so to permit more latitude in their work. Naming can also allow for broader comments. Our name does both of these things, but it also joins us and allows us to live together legally.

qi peng: What is the best way to confuse the viewers as an artist? Would you ever consider playing the role of an art dealer as a long-term performance art project?

CarianaCarianne: Do you mean ‘What is the best way to allow the viewer to question what they are viewing?’ We would hope that viewers of our work would question what it means to be alive. Do social norms limit the way in which we live in our bodies? These questions are important to us.

qi peng: What are some of your future projects that you will be pursuing soon? Will these new pieces be an extension of the themes and ideas that you are examining now or a different direction instead?

CarianaCarianne: Jane Halloway is our current project. Jane Halloway is a continuation of our collaborative work. Although she is the voice of the ‘I’, the drafting of the collaborative body is integrated with and defined by this paradox. The whole notion of creating a double body that the viewer can see is contingent upon the viewer questioning the validity of the egocentric ‘I’. With Jane Halloway we are exploring the historical role of the ‘I’ as a fluid dynamic that limits the deeper understanding of human experience. In the past, our work used this space of questioning to allow the ‘I’ to fall away so that the ‘we’ could find form. We have begun to wonder if we have said all that we can say with the ‘we’ for now. Maybe we can say more about the collaborative body by confronting the ‘I’. When we go to the studio we are not comfortably making work. Rather we are torn, on edge, and frustrated with the limits of visual language. Working in the studio is a difficult process. But this is also the right place to be – in a place of deeply questioning your thoughts. The ‘I’ has always held that same level of difficulty.

qi peng: Is there anything else that you wish to share with readers here or fans of your brilliantly executed conceptual art projects?

CarianaCarianne: Art is the most liberating space in which one can dwell. People, history, theories, politics, religion, and courage create the constellation of Art. Past, present, and future creative acts are precisely what inspire and challenge our complex human experience. To touch this complexity takes a lifetime. We all should keep truckin’.

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at qipengart@gmail.com
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