In their recent exhibition Fanfare for the Times at Heaven Gallery, the Chicago-based artists Lauren Edwards and Eric Watts combined photography, projection, sculpture, and installation into a mysterious collection of objects and images.
I interviewed the artists via email to learn more about their project and practices.
Tell us about the origin of the title of the exhibition, Fanfare for the Times.
This is probably the fourth title we worked with while planning the exhibition, but by the time the show was approaching, Eric was listening to the 20th Century Fox theme which is called a fanfare — an introduction to the cinema experience (this is also where the snare drum comes into Eric’s work). It seemed to fit the thread weaving our works together; both are character driven and use the camera as a landscape for inquiry. Whether in front of or behind the camera, there are several kinds of re-embodiment happening. The roles of actor, director, and set move between maker and audience and architecture, but none resolve in one place or time.
In relation to the fanfare, our show card show acts as a trailer — we decided that we wanted to use an image that wasn’t our own and wouldn’t be explained by the exhibition. We asked our friend Josh Duensing, who created the work “Non-Circulating,” if we could use an image for the card. Curiously enough, Josh documented his banner in our studio and in this image you can see some of Lauren’s work on the bottom left corner. We liked that the audience would get a glimpse of her studio as yet another location framing possible origins.
We thought about a lot of different “fanfares” but were reluctant to commit to one. We thought of this show in the present, but also of future iterations. We wanted the possibility of multiple introductions.
There seems to be elements of the personal and the collective in the imagery and architectural interventions in the show. Can you tell us about how this exhibition delves into questions of personal and collective history?
Lauren: It’s hard to pull the two from one another in this question. My work in the show was a practice in using very personal subject matter. Typically at least a portion of my work is culled from public archives, which can feel as personal as some of the familial reference materials I used in this show. Beyond the specifics of the images, that might have only a particular meaning to me, the work ultimately lies in an unspecified place. I tried to make the work volley between being a set and being evidence. I wanted the viewer to be either searching for a body or being the body in question.
Eric: My work in the exhibition has specific historical cues, for example F.W. Murnau’s film Der Letzte Mann (The Last Laugh). I’m interested in my relationship to these referents — by re-making a scene from The Last Laugh with a co-worker (Mike) I acknowledge the similarity of our situation to that of the protagonists (cyclical labor), but I call into question the level at which Mike and I construct our identity from our shared occupation.
I’m interested in how no singular piece seems to appear as a whole, but rather as a fragment of a larger image or experience. Framing devices appear as an important strategy for providing enough, but not too much, visual information. How do framing devices play into your practice in general and this show in particular?
Lauren: Framing devices are critical to my practice. I want my work to have a relationship with a body. I typically am not interested in the passive image or object, but would rather have a body be as implicated in the work as the image content. I want the two to need each other. Sometimes, as in the case with some of the work in the show (ex. “The Mime from New Jersey”), I might be the only body directly implicated as a character creating an idol. In general, I want to acknowledge the act of looking. In the same way, the individual works rely on one another without a hierarchy that would cast some image/objects as less important or autonomous. Each acts as an after image for the next.
Eric: I thought of the three individual pieces, “Door Without Air I “(looping 16mm film), “The Second Line” ( snare drum with film reel, book, record and portable record player), and the “Untitled Slide Show” as working in harmony with one another. The three pieces reinforce one another with a very literal cyclical theme.
Lauren, you have a BS in Psychology. How has this background influenced your creative practice, if at all?
Lauren: Having studied clinical psychology and subsequently having worked in that field has had an incredible influence on my practice. Though I would say having a formal degree in the area is more a symptom of the cause than the cause itself regarding influence. I have always had a fascination with the psychological while simultaneously having an arts practice, and the two continue to shape one another.
Do you tend to work collaboratively or independently? How much of this show has been a collaborative project?
This is our first exhibition together, but we are going on ten years of sharing our thoughts and work with one another. We are interested in the fact that the root of our works have many similarities but our thought process and individual art express themselves very differently. For the show, we each produced our own works, collaborating on the overall installation. In many of the individual works we each utilized assistance from one another. We have been in specific communication about this exhibition for two years and have made decisions together about which work should be included and how to frame the show. We have learned a lot from this production, and we are energized and excited to work together for future iterations of this show.
Both artists will have work for auction in the upcoming ROBOPOCALYPSE Heaven 16th Annual Benefit and Art Auction on Friday, June 24th. The event runs from 7:00pm until 1:00am. Heaven Gallery is located at 1550 North Milwaukee 2nd Floor.