Interview: Daniele Frazier over haar werk op de werf

Daniele Frazier launches her work A Vital Mess’ and It Takes Two’ at the NDSM wharf. These works of art, consisting of so-called “skydancers”, play with the contradictory connotations of art and commerce. We spoke to Frazier to find out more about her working method and why the NDSM wharf is an outstanding location for her installations.

Daniele, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

I was born in San Francisco, California in 1985. I moved to New York City to attend The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and graduated in 2007. I have remained in New York ever since and currently live between Manhattan and rural upstate where I maintain a studio practice consisting of sculpture, drawing, and writing. My work addresses the politics inherent to public art itself such as gender inequality, the difference between public and private space, and the definition of ownership.

Could you explain the idea behind the work It Takes Two?

It Takes Two is a piece that uses the material language of advertising to address issues around cooperation, miscommunication, the politics of urban development and the uses of public space. Like many of my pieces, It Takes Two subverts familiar imagery in order to humorously provoke thought around complex issues–in this case, the relationship between art and gentrification. As the hammer and nail ceaselessly attempt to enact their purpose (the hammer hitting the nail), their hapless movements and repeated failures comically signal to passers-by that to the empty lot they occupy, construction is “coming soon.” Unlike an advertisement for an auto mall or car wash, these anthropomorphic figures herald the futility of their own message: that change is imminent and you cannot do anything about it.

‘It Takes Two’ is now on display at NDSM. We found it interesting to show your work in the context of the former shipyard, the current developments for housing on
NDSM-West and also the relation between that and the numerous artists having their studios and maker spaces in this area. But It Takes Two has been shown at other locations as well, could you go a little more into depth about wat these locations mean in the context of the meaning this work?

It Takes Two’was originally designed specifically to be installed in an empty lot in Miami, Florida that was intended to be developed into luxury real estate. Although the circumstances of the opportunity were unique, the phenomenon of gentrification is universal, which is what made the portable nature of the work so convenient. Other venues requested to show the work because the message, while nihilistic, uses humor to appeal to viewers who might not normally consider the politics of empty public space.

 The piece is an intentional ‘vulgar extravaganza’

The work has been shown at Socrates Sculpture Park (a former landfill-turned-public-art-venue), The Oxbow School (an interdisciplinary high school boarding program in the rapidly-gentrifying Napa Valley), Central Park (a man-made natural space), Sweet Pass Sculpture Park (an artist-run non-profit venue occupying an empty lot in Dallas, Texas), and at City Hall in Boynton Beach, Florida (not far from the affluent West Palm Beach and Mar-a-Lago, areas critically threatened by rising sea level due to climate change).

You made ‘A Vital Mess’ specifically for the context of NDSM. Can you explain your ideas around it?

‘A Vital Mess’ is my first text-based sculpture. The title comes from Learning From Last Vegas by Roberts Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, a seminal architecture text that formally examines the postmodern architecture and signage of the Las Vegas strip within the context of the history of architecture at large. Materially, ‘A Vital Mess’ is in keeping with many of my public kinetic and wind-based works because of the convenient ability for hollow volumes such as these to achieve monumental physical scale (8 meters-tall, in this case). Additionally, as my work in the past has subverted the typical associations of the materials I use (plastic-based outdoor performance textiles), ‘A Vital Mess’ is the thing itself: a roadside advertisement–visual pollution–designed to make people stop and look. To quote Robert Venturi again, the piece is an intentional “vulgar extravaganza.” Instead of obliquely critiquing the visual and material vernacular of capitalism, this jumble of “sky dancers” is loudly proclaiming itself as a monument to the tackiness and tactlessness of contemporary modes of persuasion and enticement. The human-like forms and anthropomorphic movements reflect the viewer––they are a mirror, and what has hypnotized culture with these ubiquitous roadside spectacles is that they look like us, and therefore, we recognize ourselves in them. We are the ad and the ad is us.

Both works are making use of a medium often used for advertising purposes: the “skydancers”. Why did you want to use this medium?

What subverts the material and form of these objects is the text. I specifically chose phrases and idioms that are vague, philosophical, open-ended and confrontational. The messages on either side of the inflatables are contradictory. The entire “system” dictating the rules of this piece is intended to challenge the tenets of advertising, yet ironically deliver the same thing in the sense that I am proposing that the promises of the visual capitalist lexicon are empty. These promise everything and nothing. These types of signs connote desperate and cheap pleas for attention, yet what I am presenting is the signs as the destination themselves, begging the viewer to expect one thing afar only to have that expectation twisted upon examination: An 8 meter-tall figure emblazoned with TRUTH, APPEARANCE, FORM, CONTENT. I am asking you, what is the truth and content of the form and appearance of our commercial visual landscape?

Then a little bit more about yourself and your approach to your work:

What do you like / interests you about making work in public space? And how does this relate to other works you make?

Making work in public space satisfies my desire to work outdoors, generate work on a large scale, and for the creation and reception of the work to be social and egalitarian. Most traditional galleries are inevitably linked to market systems and dependent on the sale of artwork to sustain the space. I am attracted to working outside of that system, literally and figuratively, idealistically hoping that art that isn’t contingent on ownership will be inherently radical.

I keep notebooks full of fragmented ideas

What are your general thoughts about NDSM, what do you think of the idea of creating art for a place like this?

NDSM is a fitting venue for my work due to the varied industries occupied by the warehouses and outdoor space. It is easy fodder for me to address the complexities of art and commercial endeavors sharing space.

Take us with you in your creative process, how do you usually operate in your work, how do your ideas arise?

For large-scale work such as this, I begin by considering the site, it’s history, and current uses. I also think about the trajectory of my own work and how I’d like to steer it. For A Vital Mess, I was compelled by NDSM’s industrial outdoor space, which was originally belonging to the shipping industry, and create a work that, due to it’s portability and the sense of urgency inherent to the material, could speak to how the use of spaces at NDSM has changed over time. The text itself comes from books I’m reading, music I am listening to and in general, just snippets of whatever sort of content I consume as part of my broad interests and research. I keep notebooks full of fragmented ideas that, ideally, are able to come together. This piece is influenced by semiotics, architecture critique, the politics of ownership, the urban American landscape, ugliness, chaos, and the dubious entertainment value of art.

And to conclude which artist inspires you and for what reason(s)?

I could go on forever, but here is a short list of artists I value for their humor, criticality, treatment of materials, and attitudes towards the culture of the art world: Lawrence Weiner, Mike Kelley, Rosemary Mayer, Ree Morton, Rosemarie Trockel, Robert Smithson, Paul Thek, Hans Haacke, Fred Wilson, Christo & Jeanne Claude, Isa Genzken

‘A Vital Mess’ en ‘It Takes Two’ are visible until June 25th at NDSM. For more information on Daniele Frazier, click the button below.


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