Danske Mie Mogensen og amerikanske Carissa Potter tør, hvor andre holder sig tilbage. De er begge kvinder, har omtrent samme alder, er udannede fra San Fransisco Art Institute, og så har de en helt særlig relation til hinanden. De deler stort som småt, når de på tværs af Atlanten og henover 9 timers tidsforskel stiller hinanden udfordrende spørgsmål, deler intime erfaringer og søger råd hos hinanden. Nu har de skabt en total-installation i et privat hjem, der viser sider af livet, som hverken er flatterende eller lykkelige.
I en smuk og nyrenoveret villa fra 1930’erne i det som af nogle bliver kaldt '2900 happiness’ har jeg haft fornøjelse af at kuratere en udstilling om livets genvordigheder. Et betagende hus, som man bliver tæt på lykkelig af at arbejde i, men ikke desto mindre har kunstnerne fyldt det med værker, der viser sider af livet som er grimme og ubehagelige - dog synes det rigtigt og godt. Det er følelsesfulde emner som ensomhed, parforhold, erotik og usikkerhed som de – med private referencer, humor og forskellige medier – italesætter, så alle kan relatere til dem. Der er både tegninger af utæmmede planter, klumper af stentøj, portrætter af avant-garde kvinder, våbenlignende køkkentøj, en reol fyldt med tekstbaserede værker og et drivhus i haven, hvor man kan lytte til de to kunstnere, der udveksler hemmeligheder.
Vi er inviteret indenfor i et privat hjem, hvor alle værker er skabt, så de går i dialog med interiør, funktion og konnotationer. Det er usædvanligt, intimt og et spændende kuratorisk potentiale. Det er derfor, udstillingen hedder er Home is where the House is – fordi det understreger husets rolle, og at vi både bogstaveligt og i overført betydning får lov til at komme indenfor, ind bag facaden. Ifølge Freuds drømmetydningsteori symboliserer huset desuden hele mennesket – altså også dets længsler, trængsler og mindre duperende sider, som kunstnerne vover at åbenbare. De er åbne, ærlige og viser skrøbelighed, som er en bemyndigelse af dem selv, hvilket også er tydeligt i samtalen her, hvor de deler generøst ud af deres tanker og følelser om hinanden og udstillingens temaer. De er heldige, at de har hinanden, og at de med deres særlige forhold også frisætter ømtålelige emner.
Spørgsmålene har de formuleret i fællesskab, men besvaret hver for sig.
Why have you agreed to do this project/show with me?
Mie: I have always admired you. You were my muse secretly the first couple of years when I was alone working in my studio in San Francisco. I remember listening to Coco Rosie and for some reason imaging it was you who was singing to me. It might sound stupid but that led me through a lot of weird, lonely and confusing moments in my studio back then.
Carissa: I am not sure why I wouldn’t? I mean there is no reason not to and all the reasons in the world to work with you. I love your work. Also, I think our work looks good together (I flatter myself). Working with you gives me a certain amount of permission that I would never give myself. Working with you takes me into the flow of things that makes me happy.
How was it to share your secrets with me – and what is a secret to you?
Mie: I always feel safe around you, Carissa. I feel that you know all my secrets already so it wasn't hard at all – it actually just felt like a normal conversation we usually have. A secret to me might not be a secret to other people. To me, secrets can vary depending on who I share it with. I guess there is a degree of importance in a secret. Something I can not live with alone – yet too precious to share with anybody. Often when I tell a secret, it is because I need an advice - or to figure out whether I’m crazy or not.
Carissa: I've been thinking alot about this lately. The definition of what I think of as a secret is changing. I think about this alot with celebrities. When someone shares something unsavory or weird it can either ruin you or become a point of pride. It seems so contextual. And cultural. You have to ride this line. The line of pushing the boundaries to the edge of what society deems as ok, but not too over the top. Like it's cool and super relatable that I sometimes pick my nose in the car when I think no one is watching. But any further than that… People will probably hate you. And oddly, I care about if people I don’t know hate me. Yes, I am working on that with my therapist.
What is a home to you?
Mie: Home is the place where I feel safe. And I feel safe when I’m funny and people laugh. Other people’s laugh makes me comfortable. I feel that when people laugh they understand me a little more and that we share a small common ground. Home is also a place where I can close my eyes without risking anything. I can wear my pyjamas with no underwear and look ugly. Like so ugly that even my iPhone 10 doesn’t recognize me. It takes time to feel at home - approximately 7 months. It’s a really slow and subtle process. I go on my bike in the neighbourhood and I expand my radius with 200-500 meter pr. week. I start recognizing the lady in the supermarket and she says "hi" to me and I say "hi" back. I go to the local book store and buy myself a book. When I have finished the book, I’m usually close to feeling at home.
Carissa: We all have a complicated relationship to home. On one hand, I think about it like a safe haven where you can feel comfortable and safe just as you are. But sometimes, I think, lots of really fucked up things have happened when people never leave home. For example, before I left home, I thought my family was totally normal. Healthy. Like regular folks. But it turned out that not all families are on massive amounts of antidepressants. Not that there's anything wrong really with the people in my family, and if you have mental illness like we do, I think it's good to explore treatment options. But I do think that you don’t have to be sad, self centered and anxious all the time. Getting out of the house helps with that. And to go out searching for the possible collective reality that we all say that we exist in.
Why do you think we have become friends?
Mie: It’s interesting. When I invited you to come to Iceland with me, I was so nervous that you might reject my offer. But you didn’t. You stayed for a whole month! Such an honor. I remember you arrived and said: "I want to do anything you want to do." I was overwhelmed and relieved. We could do anything together. I feel that we are in the beginning of a long beautiful journey. Like with my objects, I feel that they know their own destiny and they are just waiting for me to make them able to live that out. I feel that our friendship is laid out – it’s just up to us to live it.
Carissa: Sometimes I worry that all relationships are about convenience. That I don’t really like anyone and no one really likes me, they just spend time with me because it fits into their already overly complicated schedule. But then I met someone so perfectly wonderful in every way and I questioned my own pragmatism. I've said this before, but I think I shall say it again in case you missed it the last time: I was never really sure how you'd fit into my life. I am talking to you, Mie. You must know that you are one of the most dynamic people I have ever met. You could entertain anyone for hours. You have style. So much style and grace and creativity and brilliance and you are everything I would like to be. But also, you hold it so well and your sweetness has just the right amount of sour to it. A criticality that works in your favor. I love everything you touch in this weird unquestioning way.
It was very inconvenient to become friends when we did. I remember when you were moving to London, and I wanted to be friends so bad I invited myself over to bring pizza to you when you were packing up. In retrospect, this is a crazy act. It is the last thing a person could want, to feel like they have to entertain a new person while having the stress of moving everything including a small child internationally. I remember thinking this. And then talking myself out of it. Just coming to your house and in some ways I knew that it was a bad idea, I just didn’t want to let you go.
Is happiness possible?
Mie: I think so. I feel happy once in a while. Small intense moments of fully existence and fully precense. But the moments can only last 2-4 minutes – they are really intense. I’m collecting these moments and I’m trying to write them down even though it's hard. When I write them down they sound so banal. "Was that it? Was that really happiness?" I ask myself.
Carissa: I think so. I don’t think it can be all the time. This is totally obvious, but I think that you only really see things in contrast to other things. I think it's the wrong goal to be happy all the time. Or maybe I just can't do it and I am making up excuses for my own defeat. I am competitive sometimes. I am a sore loser. I am unrealistic. When I think about the times that I am truly happy, and I am really honest with myself, I think it's when I am in a flow or when I get some really good news. Like when someone I have a major crush on is asking me if I could come stay with them.
What are your thoughts when you are working on your pieces
Mie: When I work I have this constant dialogue in my head. It’s a dialogue between myself, the object that I’m making and dreams about what would happen if it was exposed to the world. Everytime I create something, I imagine myself very famous, looking at and explaining my work. I see myself smiling, being wise like the really clever artists in those BBC-documentaries.
Carissa: Not sure. I should start tracking them. Recently, a few people on instagram have said that my work is a copy of David Shrigley. I should be totally flattered that anyone would think that. I do love David’s work (we are definitely not on a first name kinda friendship…). I want to believe so badly in uniqueness and purpose and being special but everything in my gut tells me that it is just a construct. That all of this is meaningless and that I am a worker bee (which shouldn’t be bad, but somehow it is).
I really admire your relationship with plants. You are so good at making them flower and grow. Can you tell me how you do that?
Mie: I don’t do much. I water them. Then I also remove all the brown leaves. That’s a new trick, I taught myself the other day. Before I would wait the pain out and observe and support the plant in losing that leaf. Now I do it for the plant and it seems to me, that it is a relieve for the plant. My relationship with plants is really new. Until about 3 months ago all plants would die from me. That has changed. I feel so fulfilled and proud when plants want to stay with me and not give up. I guess I feel a little needed around them.
Carissa: I went through this time where I was really sad and plants helped me. Somehow they nursed me back to health. I could spend time with them in the sun and just be. In California everything grows. You would be amazed. You just have to put something in the earth and poof! so much life. I am really not all that good with plants, I just like being around green things.
Do you ever feel domesticated?
Mie: Yes, but I’m trying to get along with it. When I accept it, it feels good.
Carissa: Yes. When I was young I had all these ideals. I was radical, I was outspoken. I believed in change. But something happened between now and then. It was slow, nothing over night. And I grew up. It’s not that I don’t have crazy thoughts, it is just that I feel so much more complicated. Life is so complex, that it is hard to really know anything anymore.
Who is your heroine?
Mie: You, Björk, Laurie Anderson, Claude Cahun, Inger Christensen, Phyllida Barlow and many others. To think of my heroines, is an important drive.
Carissa: People who get out of bed and do things (some days it is totally ok to stay in bed). And people who sit still and wait for something to happen.
What is radical acceptance?
Mie: It is the full freedom to do exactly what you want to do with no judgement at all. You introduced me to this and it has been a key for me to find a free space of making. I’m very insecure in this space and I’m not sure I know how to navigate in it but I use it as a mental gatekeeper when times get very hard for me. I’m ever grateful that you introduced this practice and there is so much to discover - this is just the beginning.
Carissa: I think realistically it might have to come down to balancing being ok with how things are with the drive to do better.
Natalia Gutman (f. 1979) er kurator og Mag.art i kunsthistorie fra Københavns Universitet. Natalia har bidraget til idoart.dk siden 2018.