A conversation: Chris Adler & Ali Edmark with David Bell



DB. When we live behind, in or between the exhibition space, we are putting our life on display alongside the art exhibited. Home, which is uniquely located from person to person but often rooted in some form of solid or safely identifiable location, becomes malleable; allowing for a violent breakdown of identity, your comfort becomes a representation of those around you, constantly penetrated. When I walked into Vacancy for the first time, the show Casual Friday had a cohesiveness that stood out immediately. Not only did the work go together, there was an obvious relinquishment of space from each artist, each person giving up a little self, and in the end benefiting tremendously. I find this deliciously satisfying, as it forces the artists to hone in on each of their strengths, simulating perhaps the experience you have living with it, sharing your home or allowing your home to be less about you (two).

C&A. Yesterday, a visitor walked into our space while we were sharing some sandwiches. One of us had recently spilled aioli on his shirt (not naming names). No time to change, he went out to greet the guest, gesturing a little too much with his hands, unconsciously signaling the mid-belly stain. The ironic proximity to our own wardrobe in that moment is perhaps the reflection of a choice to have a more chance-based privacy. It’s a funny thing that our bedroom almost transforms into our office during open hours, but with the constant lull of, say, working while sitting in bed with your shoes nearby. There is a more than slight confusion of the front-stage and back-stage. In the show itself there is indeed a very strong sense of shared space. It is both a facilitated sharing and an ordinary sharing, and it’s something we work hard to stay aware of as co-curators. The relinquishments made by each artist in Casual Friday direct each work toward the other in a more intensified way, making the show stronger as a whole. A well-engineered collaboration becomes additive through its many mutual edits. We also usually hang work related to the show in our bedroom.

DB. Intimacies key elements, transparency and a willingness to expose and transcend vulnerabilities. To change out of the aioli-patterned shirt would be to put on a uniform; not often can a mayonnaise variation be credited for breaking the boundaries of public/private. Including the bedroom (office area) as potential exhibition space forces guests to always need to see “where the magic happens” (decisions are made) in order to get the full experience of the show. Privacy then becomes more of an action, locking the door, taking a vacation, denying viewers the Provençal sauce.


C&A. We’re still figuring out how to navigate this more active relationship to privacy, but at the end of the day what we lose in pantsless weekends, we make up for with a closer relationship to artists and their work. Lots of decisions are made in the back, but for us, the magic happens at the dinner, which takes place in the gallery space between shows (and then continues over email chains, google hangouts and studio visits). So, we are breaking this dichotomy between front and back spaces already. Our setup necessitates a play with psychogeographic assumptions, that different types of work happen in different places. This weird relationship to space is actually key to LA’s creative landscape. Not even all of the sleeping happens in the bedroom — artists have slept in the gallery. Our personal openness translates into a more intimate relationship with the space itself (we also encourage work that requires a high level of engagement with the space). More of that “magic” will be revealed in a process-based publication, to be released some time after the first three shows are done

DB. Yes, dinners, consuming with one another; then follow-up emails, studio visits, digesting with one another and returning back to the space and flushing (fleshing) it out. Being a fan of the run-on sentence, the publication is great because it then brings the exhibition back into the home of the attendees, extending the narrative full circle back into the bedroom. Curious, do you two sit side by side; laptop on one of your right thighs and the other’s left?  One of you typing with the left hand, the other with their right?

C&A. We are definite fans of the run-on, too, how Barthelme uses it, stacking up blunt cogitations all threaded with commas. This book might be something like that. When it comes to writing, we like to trade off roles. One of us will generate, the other will edit; it’s like a loop. We are heavy editors, preferring to not attach ourselves to a single idea from the beginning. It’s one of the biggest challenges, though, putting the pins down and letting the images flip about. That’s partially our attraction to curating. Several versions of this book will exist before we find the right one, for sure. Maybe we can find someone to publish all of the different versions, as a meta-processual record of the shows and their possible other lives. Have you ever done something like that? We like the idea of us both trying to type at the same time. It sounds like a good performance.


DB. In 2008 while living in Barcelona a friend and I put together a small show in our apartment; till this day I have been organizing events periodically in my living space. I have always used the press release as a sort of window into my life and the area in which I live; residing in downtown at the moment provides seductive and lush material, albeit disturbing. I’ve never extensively documented the shows or kept a website, so the writing (along with some random images) is all that remains. I’ve thought at some point I would put them all into a book of sorts to tell the tale, but when I sift through them, I usually just end up depressed at all my precarious living situations.

Barthelme has a particular effortlessness to his writing where you sort of fall into each word after the previous one, the commas like little waves moving you along so you don’t have to paddle; he makes it look so easy. Of course we don’t see any of the behind-the-scenes (the dinners, the emails, the studio visits) that make for such succinct arrangements. Seeing Proust’s endless edits even after his work had been published is always so satisfying; his sentences seem miraculously flawless yet were never quite right for him. I have always thought writing to be very sculptural; you have all this material, you put it in front of you, then you start ripping it apart, placing it on top of one another, throwing some of it out, saving some for later; for me I’m never satisfied after I’m “finished” — I stare at it and only see a cluster of choices I made at a particular time.

C&A. Yes you made mention of the landless art entity when we met. Bravo you’ve kept it going so long! What you’re playing in with cataloguing (or the neglect thereof) is memory (which is why we are interested in doing sets of shows). How does a publication engage with the content that might remain from an experience, and how might it affect the mental residuum shared by others? This is the necessary question because the book can’t be seen as separate to the experience of the show — it’s a distinct but dependent thing — and it weighs heaviest because it performs the final word, comes last. What if we were to release a book before a show happened, or before the work itself was ever made? Could it encapsulate a generative state of exhibition-making, instead of functioning as a summary or review? That’s the goal with our press releases, and is something to work toward with this book, to be an extender rather than evaluator. This book-first thing, though. . .

The sculpture analogy is spot-on, writing as a cluster of choices, wonderful. The link you’re drawing between words and objects. For a while in our own practice we were toying with including words in our exhibitions. We’ve many times debated whether words are more powerful than objects in their associative power. Using the press release as another part of the show was the result, as a gesture that can point you to new spaces or modalities in the same way that the other works play off of one another. In this case words have the power to expand rather than collapse meaning. All parts dispersed among the same plane.


DB. In poetics, it’s everything that is not being said, right? It’s in-between, it’s access points or entryways, without a steady guide, just a door man. Press releases that read like reviews almost make it seem ridiculous to even go see the show; it’s all right there already, it’s like shopping online, click-click, got it! However, those who dabble in poetics have a hard time letting go; there is always more to say, always more toothpaste, you hang up, no you hang up.

I think the associative power you mention with words is most powerful in this way; it forces the reader to engage their curiosity not just initially while reading the PR, but later, when placing themselves in front of and engaging with the work, their earlier experience of what led them there then needs to be reconsidered. How did I end up here?

C&A. Yes, how did we end up here? Craigslist? Young Chung?

It is this poetic gap that all of our shows are grappling with. In the third show, the works each deal in a different kind of negative space, which together engage in these estranged double-negative relations. E.g. the concept “Negative Search,” which is a type of query that eliminates incorrect search results without the user providing a specific target. It’s a filter system that says, not this, not this, not this, slowly delaminating these chunks of data with the hopes of arriving at some thing presently unknown to the user. It’s an oddly poetic feature that is built into a lot of search engines, and it somewhat mirrors the way we like to make shows. Same as before, collaboration is addition via subtraction. But, conversation is addition via addition, and this seems like a good stopping point.


UPCOMING Exhibition at Vacancy

Easton Miller, Ryan Perez, Jennifer Remenchik, Pascual Sisto

Opening May 14 – June 25, 2015



Images taken from email exchanges between the artists and curators leading up to Everything Speaks Twice and Casual Friday

1 Comment

  1. I am Chris’ paternal grandmother. My love for Chris (and now Ali) does not get expressed daily, but is, nevertheless, felt daily.

    In reading this interview, I am awed with the content, as my relaionship with the art world is extremely limited. I am extremely proud of Chris & Ali and wish them happiness and success in their part of the art world.

    Thank you the opportunity to express this,

    Carol Morgan

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