Paul Soto: Let’s begin by talking about the actual materials you are using in the films. We can talk about how the objects and image-objects pictured have transformed in 9, 7 or 6 from previous installments of the films.
Paul Pescador: The materials in the film have become much more exaggerated and hyper- fantastic. I think in 1, 1 1/2, 2 the objects functioned more like materials for a set.
You thought of them then as props? Your body was so much more present in 1, 1 ½, 2, and there it was much more about an exchange between your body and these objects, an everyday interaction. They had not yet taken on lives of their own.
By film 2 we begin to see objects replacing the role of my body. My hand by then was still attached to these objects in order to reference the maker. In 3, 4, 5 and 8, I started to create more of these environments which the objects would live in, and at that point my body was no longer needed. The objects started to stand in for characters.
Even in 3, 4, 5 and 8, the understanding is that even though you are not on screen, your presence is implied as you are the director of the film. In that vein, you are still very hands-on and enlivening your objects in a particular register. Finally, by 6, 7 or 9 and 9, 7 or 6, they are pulsing on their own, and are maybe even defying the affective shapes you’ve contoured for them as a director.
They begin to come alive, developing their own personalities, habits, characteristics, traits…
The films start to yo-yo. It takes on an animistic quality once the objects themselves begin to embody their own subjectivities and live out their own lives on-screen, though by the end of the latest installment you resurface again and seem to rein in that quality. There seems to be this tension between runaway memory and theater, as both serve to repurpose these banal moments in one’s life as they are repeated in one’s mind. How does the re-appearance of objects serve to represent this act of continuous creation of meaning through memory?
In the making, there is this process of trial-and-error that occurs. I decide to work with a material for whatever reason (the color, the pattern, or just it reminding me of some other reference point). Let’s use the porcelain seal, which shows up throughout the film, as an example. When I first photographed it in 1, it didn’t really have a meaning. You try something and it might or might not stick. What ends up happening is that meaning gets generated from reuse. Each of these films is merely comprised of a set of problems that occurs differently each time, a set of repetitive acts in which time merely restarts itself, in a very ‘Groundhog Day’ way.
As I reach the final parts of the film, there is this sense of cannibalism that is going on. You've released control, but the objects now start to cannibalize you as well as these insignificant experiences. Each moment gets heightened, but then it gets devoured again.
What you’re describing is this quality of the film’s existence as a set of constantly shifting signs. Color functions as both a noun and a verb, and then it becomes a location. Each formal quality becomes very subjective. This all contends with my starting point, using these numbers as an objective indication of chronology, which later stood in for social relationships. Film 1 comes before film 3, but then I start messing with that. In 3, 4, 5 and 8, the numbers 6 and 7 are missing, but then show up again in 6, 7 or 9. By the time we reach the end, everything is moving backward and forward in time
So the film begins with a conception of seriality, which then is applied to autobiography and the personal, almost as a process of life-logging. What ends up happening is that the objective narrative gets entwined with memory and misperception. Then finally, when we reach 9, 7 or 6, we are watching a film within a film. These inner films offer up all this potential for adjustments, importantly the performance of affect emerges through a sort of rehearsal process. They mimic the previous films and quote real life while vacillating in and out of construction and reality.
The film is a push and pull between buying into the experience of watching versus questioning it. Can you do both simultaneously? I think the addition of dialogue in 6, 7 or 9 really made that change. The moment you hear dialogue over a pink object, we assume that object is talking. Sound gives a freedom to the images, as they themselves are no longer responsible for carrying the narrative.
I actually think this comes into the film earlier, once you enter the musical portion, where the overwhelmingly affective quality of sound is foregrounded. It is dictatorial in a way. The musical is almost inappropriate at times, formulating a gulf between sound and imagery. This disjuncture occurs again and again as the film is figuring itself out. It creates a transparent situation where you are working through problems in front of the audience.
By watching all nine parts of the film, you are exposed to the process of making the entire thing. As each of the films develop, my existence as a guide for the audience becomes more and more apparent.
Maybe not as a guide, but as a context-maker?
Exactly. Here is an example of this. I was trying to make an elliptical machine out of tape to reference the gym and it wasn't working. Then I decided that by merely showing the sign “24 Hour Fitness” with gym sounds, the audience could quickly piece together the location.
I find your material language to be so simple. When I watch your videos I am struck by how pedestrian the materials are: the gaff tape, gift wrapping paper, generally just castoff shit I would find in my mother's garage. It is as simple as putting things next to each other to generate specific meaning for you. It is like child’s play, but it is also some strange analog version of Second Life.
There is this fantasy in the work that everything wants be bigger. It wants to be more important than it actually is. All the materials are so cheap and the labor come from one hand.
For me it relates to digital technology, analogous to email spam, in a way. Poor images, as imagined by the artist Hito Steyerl in my mind, grasping for meaning or signification. Spam comes to your email screaming out to you in multicolored patterns, glittery GIFs, images of dicks and tits, and so on. In your films, you picture these sorts of poor images that are literally poor, who are screaming out for meaning. It is a metaphor for everyday life experience desiring to be important.
The objects in the film are trying to desperately seeking attention. The materials are shifting so quickly that there is a hope that something will hold on, that something will stick.
The film is operating through this mode of maximal visibility, with its over-dramatization of events, but what ends up happening by virtue of that is that everything start flattening out through time, which itself is not even linear, rather it is backtracking and skipping around. Everything is being warped through the process of memory. You let moments play out and attain visibility and then they die through neglect. Objects are trying to maintain our attention, to be important and significant as beings (and later as beings-in-themselves). All of the subject matter is autobiography?
I want it to perform in that way. Events and objects are performing from the artist’s life.
But they slip into fiction really fast?
Its all performing as “truth”, as opposed to reality.
Because it come from an extreme subjective perspective, it is more difficult to enter the work, but slips into fiction when entry is possible. Is that the irony of it? That one can only enter reality through “truth” and its fictional entry points?
Yes, and that’s something maybe we could look for in discourses beyond personal narrative. You look at art history, for example, and you try to trace out a lineage of how ideas develop, but what happens when a discourse mixes with another discourse.
Its like two different methodologies intersecting. In the end the logic of depicting a moment interferes with the logic of the re-occurrence of an object. They cannot exist in the same trajectory with one another. Its left up to “intuition” to place them in the same spatial moment.
The idea is that these raw intuitive thoughts will hopefully rationalize themselves, because if they have a rationale, then the decision is OK. Whereas the personal on its own is all too subjective. So it becomes its own form of conceptualism, this process of justification.
And that rationalization becomes a performance, and here a sort of failure to perform. The thing about conceptualism, in terms of rigorous conceptualism, is that it is a brilliant form of branding. Whereas I think in terms of subject matter, you seem to point at moments that upset the possibility of conceptual branding, where I have a cold, I have a broken arm, and so on. I read these as the moments when one cannot perform oneself in a way. That frustration of performativity, the moment when you just can’t do it. This seems to be mediated, structurally, through the making of another film, as a way of performing the emotion, and conceptually through these different modes of distraction or escapism.
Yes, in 6, 7 or 9, the fantasy of sex becomes an escapism, but by the time we reach 9, 7 or 6 what ends up happening is that this fantasy gets integrated into life, becoming another problem. It is now reality and a responsibility. Segueing into the making of the film becomes a way to forget. It becomes about someone alone in the studio. Those are the quiet moments in which you are alone, reflecting on your problems and upon the objects that are around you.
The materials that are on standby.
I think that is what ends up happening when you work from home. It is about that space in a way, you can't really escape it. I am constantly in a space of distraction: take the dogs out, send an email, daily responsibilities. There is this constant negotiation with life in my process of making.
It’s about working from home. Home. Work. Laboring in these short increments of time. The bare bones reality of making.
Taking five minutes for yourself. Working through one's thoughts and ideas. The moments in the day that you can truly be in your head.
The irony of the work is it is about all those other moments.
It becomes about what's happening right outside of it. It can never really escape.
You are representing those negotiations as you are coping with those negotiations in your home-studio practice.
I think this is true. This goes as far as watching this film. Watching film is a temporary escapism, but the moment of disbelief falls apart, and we are reminded of what else needs to occur.
-Paul Soto is a critic who has written for Art in America, Flash Art, and Blind Spot. He currently works at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects.