Armory Week 2009: Artist Interview

Volta Art Fair 2009
Interview with Featured Artist: Machiko Edmondson
Nikki Schiro interviews Machiko Edmondson in New York

NS: In one of my all time favorite movies, The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris’ Jame Gumb/Buffalo Bill’s ruthless desire to be a woman has him killing obese women and using their skin to make a woman-suite to wear. The character refers to the victims as “things”, completely devoid of emotion, and becomes obsessed with the idea of metamorphism. In a less criminal way, isn’t there something undoubtedly sociopathic or at least maddening about obsessive desire? How does this relate to your work and or process?
EM: Obsession is never sane, right??? Hahaha. But, being an obsessive person, I'm fascinated with other people and society's obsessions in various forms. I guess there are 2 'strains' of obsessive-ness I bring into my paintings: Obsessive process of hunting for the 'right' image which signifies the 'unattainable desire'. Obsessive process of painting itself to achieve that unattainable 'perfection'.

NS: How separate are you from your art?
EM: Do I not think about 'Art' and 'Art as what I do' every minute of my waking life? Well, almost....

NS: What is your ultimate aspiration as a painter?
EM: Ummmm. Still working that out....

NS: How are you trying to affect people and contemporary discourse with your art?
EM: To question the notion of desire and desirability. And to give them a bit of jitters. ;-) My paintings are a bit like 'decoys' really. Having 'lure' them with iconic yet somewhat cliched images of 'desire'(fashion/music) industry, the viewers may be quite at ease with thinking that they know what they are looking at... But really, this aspirational perfection will soon evaporate giving way to anxiety and obsession that assert these paintings as paintings.

NS: Do you believe art must have a relationship to the rest of the world?
EM: Yes. I don't see how else you can make art... At lease for me, that is.

Where do you locate yourself in the contemporary art world, in an art historical sense?
EM: I appropriate, signify and allude... Also, I'm very much concerned about the semantic spatiality where my work might occupy... So where would that be? I guess I just see myself being in this all embracing /emgulpingsoup of Postmodernism.
Can you tell us a little bit about the work you will be exhibiting at Volta.
EM: At this point, I'm not sure which ones are to be displayed... But they are all works made in the last year ( or 2...) which were made in London studio before my 'big-finally-taken-the-plunge' relocation to NY!

AC: John Baldassari once said that painting was dead. But thankfully, your work lives provocatively outside the realm of death, lurking in a space situated past a post hyper-real. How has that iconic statement by JB informed or opposed your work?
EM: Oh gosh! Our generation of painting students ( (late 80-mid 90') suffered so so much from this 'Painting is dead' statement. You won't believe it now! We all had huge hang-ups! So much so that it was so much harder to be a painter (particularly at places like Goldsmiths MA) and we always felt that we had to justify and legitimize the fact we are using such an antiquated and moribund medium.

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