Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Interview: Alexa Horochowski

Ouroboros, dimension variable, straw wattle, bronze hood, inkjet on metal, wood, 2015

Untitled, 5.5” x 7.5” each, inkjet prints of scanned pine needles on metal, 2015






EDP: What philosophies (works of literature, etc.) have influenced you?

AH: Lately I’ve been reading Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects, and Jane Bennett’s, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, where she argues that agency emerges as the effect of ad hoc configurations of human and nonhuman forces. She also writes, “Darwin describes the activities of worms as one of many ‘small agencies’ whose ‘accumulated effects’ turn out to be quite big. Worms…‘make history’ by preserving the artifacts that humans make”.

As a sculptor the concept that things have agency seems common sense. I am perpetually inspired by objects, and I don’t mean art objects, just the ones that are everywhere all around us. Today I was walking in my neighborhood in South Minneapolis, heading to pick up my car from the garage, and in someone’s yard I saw these lawn ornaments of fake, outdoor, Christmas “presents”, except that typically they would be sitting in snow, but this year though December, the grass is still visible and bright green, which is rare enough, but stranger still, there was a giant multi-layered, beautiful mushroom clump growing right next to the “presents”. It was as if this natural, living thing was showing off its vitality. But it was the contrast and collaboration of these objects that made them striking. We tend to think in dichotomies about what is “natural” and what is man-made but the more we learn about what things are made of the more difficult it becomes to differentiate. According to a report by the Geological Society of America a new stone, officially named a plastiglomerate is formed when plastic trash melts and fuses with natural materials such as sand, shells, wood, coral, and basaltic lava fragments, resulting in a plastic-rock hybrid. Beachside campfires form this new permanent marker in Earth’s geologic record. Is this readymade a collaboration between man, plastic, sand, and fire? Is it garbage? Regardless, it has the potential to outlive humans. All literature pertaining to the epoch of the Anthropocene interests me.

EDP: Can you describe your “pursuit of the physicality of form”. What strategies do you take and how did this interest come to be important in your work?

AH: I have a background in journalism and I see myself as an observer of the world more than an interpreter. Everything I make, I have somehow experienced in the world. The physical world interests me, things I can touch or feel in my body, trees, rocks, water, wind, objects, etc. I am drawn to detritus and the way it merges with leftover natural matter such as you find in flotsam or jetsam on the beach. But there is another aspect to the idea of the “physicality of form” that has to do with how the work is physically created. Sculpture requires movement of the artist’s body in space and an interaction with materials. Just as a land formation gets eroded through time by wind and rain, in the studio, a work of art becomes what it is through a real physical interaction with the material. I am not interested in fully controlling the material, but in working with it so that it maintains qualities of randomness, gravity, and time.

 

EDP: Can you elaborate on your interest in materials and the effects they have in different pieces (or one piece)?

AH: The most appealing material I have ever used, I found at an artist residency at CASAPOLI, Coliumo, Chile in 2013. Durvillaea antartica or cochayuyo, as Chileans refer to it, is giant, antarctic kelp whose tendrils commonly reach 24 feet in length. Cochayuyo has many fascinating qualities, it is elastic when wet but will dry to a crispy, leathery substance that is strong, light, and airy. Cochayuyo is edible and is harvested by the locals who fold it into neat packages and put it in the sun to dry. To reconstitute and eat cochayuyo, Chileans soak it in water, so that the kelp becomes malleable once again. The first time I worked with cochayuyo, I used fresh specimens that I hung from the interior windows of CASAPOLI so that its black tendrils contrasted with the white, rectilinear lines of the space. I returned to the United States with several, large, dry specimens of kelp (seaweed is not regulated at U.S. customs). Back in my studio I reconstituted the kelp in a salinated solution and molded it into cuboidal forms. I was interested in this alien/natural material whose powerful tendrils resist the rectilinear confines of the cube and have the power to destroy it.           

 

EDP: What is next?

AH: I am presently working with industrial, erosion control objects, such as straw wattles, silt logs, and coir logs. These biodegradable geotextiles are used to shore up the land in areas that have been stripped of their original plant matter and soil. The geotextiles are filled with non-invasive, non-native materials such as coconut fiber (shipped from Sri-Lanka to the Midwest), wood shavings, and clean, seedless straw. The "biodegradable" mesh holding the organic matter takes longer to decay than its counterparts, so empty clumps of it are readily visible in highway areas. A bronze version of a deconstructed wattle suggests the head of an emptied scarecrow, or the hoods used on war detainees at Abu Ghraib, or the hoods of the KKK. I’m interested in humanity’s contribution to global warming by mass-producing objects that pollute while simultaneously attempting to “correct” environmental damage. The decapitated wattle seems to me a human trophy in our war with the Earth.
 

 
 
For more reading on this work:
 

 




For more about Alexa's Horochowski's work, see http://www.alexahorochowski.com/

 

 

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