CAMERON: I wanted to start something like a band but with visual art (but not a collective). Or at least have a Malcolm McLaren type role. I still would like to start a visual art version of Bow Wow Wow. So we started Body by Body, and it was nice to make work that was different from what I did solo. When we started the Aventa Garden series, we needed a writer with a certain tone of voice, so we made Julia Rob3rts who does all the writing for us and about us. In this way, we have our own private economy. She writes all our press releases and sort of plays the ‘artist as researcher/digital ethnographer/cyberflaneur’ role for us, so we can focus on being symbolic artists and beatniks. This isn’t new by any stretch, Pessoa is the first thing that comes to mind…
MELISSA: It was pretty random and not as deliberate as it seems now. Parker (Ito) and Caitlin (Denny) asked me to do something for jstchillin, and at that point I had been out of school for two years and wasn’t really making much work. I said to Cameron, ‘I don’t know what to do for this but I think we should make something together and sell it on the site’. Then Cameron suggested we use a pseudonym to identify our collaborative efforts. The name stuck and grew into something else. We started creating other ‘characters’ and giving them a life, but really the pseudonyms function, at least for me, as a psychologically liberating outlet. It helps to not get bogged down in what one thinks they should be making or how it will be perceived – it’s kind of like wearing a Halloween mask (though not so much for purposes of hiding behind). It’s an outlet for our multiple personalities to grow so that we don’t second-guess and suffocate the ideas just as they are beginning to coalesce. It also just makes sense to me since my interests change almost daily.
BODY BY BODY: One way to deal with these shifting interests or our reluctance to commit to anything is to work in a similar cycle as fashion houses i.e. Autumn/Winter, Spring/Summer collections.
Body to Body, Virgin America, Chateau Shatto, 2016
Facing an interior impasse, a result of the tacit understanding that artistic progress should be perpetual and that an artist’s subject/object should rise above all others, the artists have opted to remove the possibility of novel objects and materials, and produce works on paper in a quantity that must necessarily be sieved through to locate quality.
In the ensuing exercise of auto-production (‘on good days we could get as many as 5 or 7 drawings done in a day, on other days it was hard to just get one done’), subjects and formats emerge and sometimes recur. These reflect the trusted conventions of works on paper, mixed with the shifting attitudes or mental states or inclinations of the artists over the past months: still lifes, portraits, a few landscapes that are failed attempts to copy Peter Doig, female vampires, Frankenstein as a cigarette-smoking dandy (then pornstar, then dope-dealer), the American flag replaced with the color purple, portraits both of friends and celebrities, and a lot of pure abstraction and experiments with composition.
This material is used and discarded with what can best be described as a “warm indifference”. The output takes on the gestural whim and edgeless murmurings of a diary or even daydreaming, which is why some of the works just end abruptly.
When the artists paint Dover Street Market (twice), is it because they’re fervid customers or are they just recalling a time they used their bathroom to take a shit? The works don’t account for this in their tone. They’re catchments for the fallen material of representation and everything lands on the same surface. An extended study of Isabel Marant’s wedge sneakers takes place over several drawings and watercolors, seeming to overstay its welcome, feeling like a joke in search of its own punchline. Yet it is this insistent lingering on the surface that indicates precisely where the artists would prefer to remain.
In the Body by Body show at Courtney Blades in Chicago, niche Internet iconography is utilized in tandem with commercial images and logos. Collapsing corporate and homemade imagery appears to be a strategy within your work — can you talk about the interplay of these images?
CAMERON: That’s interesting that in the Courtney Blades show you think there is a lot of corporate imagery. I thought in that show we were actually getting away from that. The one Internet niche iconography would be the trollface painting (‘Ghost Tweets’) by Deke2 so I cannot claim responsibility for that. The interplay of the images in this show is more about the interplay of the characters/’artists’ involved: firstname.lastname@example.org,Julia Rob3rts, Deke 2 and Body by Body. This show is definitely influenced by our love of group shows as a thing in itself.
MELISSA: Hmmm… I know we hang out with a lot of people who make work that utilizes the type of imagery you are mentioning, but I don’t think we really do much of that — aside from when we made our shirts in 2010. I guess the video game we made for that show, features Whole Foods, Kombucha and the New Yorker – but that’s just our reality and we’re not trying to comment on it or anything.
BODYBYBODY: The Courtney Blades show is probably best understood in the context of being the second part of a ‘trilogy’ of shows called Aventa Garden. The first being ‘Anime Bettie Page Fucked By a Steampunk Warrior’ with Body by Body, Deke 2 and Julia Rob3rts at Headquarters in Zurich back in March. The third I think will take place in a coffee shop across from where CBGB’s used to be (now a John Varvatos store). And then the three shows will be “laid to rest” in a self-released artist’s book/monograph. In a way, this trilogy is like a movie or play with a beginning, middle and end. That’s why the press release reads like an introduction and that’s why the artists are more like different roles we take on: Painter_john99@yahoo.com, for example, is us pretending to be a painter who doesn’t know how to paint, Julia Rob3rts: a polemicist/critic…. Often times the subject matter is very self-destructive and nihilistic. In that sense, it’s sort of cleansing.
Julia Rob3rts’ blog
Natural Body Magic (or NBM) was the first micro-art-“fetishist” scene I came across on DeviantArt. I stumbled across a user named Nerson25 whose page was filled with Photoshopped images of women with various limbs (usually legs, heads, arms) removed or conjoined in odd ways, but done in a ‘cartoonish’ non-violent way. In his bio he explained that he wasn’t a “freakin’ psycho” but that his work was just a “magic-sexual-fantasy-fetish” called Natural Body Magic or NBM.
The name intrigued me, and a few Google searches eventually brought me to this definition on, strangely, Trip Atlas (it has since been taken down): “Natural Body Magic (also called Natural Body Separation) is a paraphilia where the main subject is fantasizing about a person that can be either cut or disassembled into various pieces, and live and function normally. The most common separations are at the neck or at the waist. A common visual example of this is the ‘Sawing a woman in half’ trick that was popular among stage magicians in the early 20th century. The name was coined by the late wife of one of the community members in the early 2000’s. This paraphilia has not been the subject of any research, and may be restricted to very few people. Usually, people with this paraphilia find the sight of blood very disgusting, and almost always in the fantasy, the cut surfaces are described as covered with normal or slightly darker skin.” […]
Body to Body, Weepy Donuts, the Kratom Kids at Appendix Project Space, Oregon, 2013
Appendix Project Space is proud to present Weepy Donuts, the Kratom Kids, Cameron Soren and Melissa Sachs’ first solo exhibition in Portland, Oregon.
Keeping the context of the artist-run space in mind, the fruits of the artist’s labor actually bear more resemblance to a jam session than a proper solo exhibition. With a jam session, musicians work spontaneously, playing off of riffs and following tangents. So it is with “Weepy Donuts”, charting the previous months of the artists’ lives before the exhibition. The statement and work are the product of fits and starts, side tangents, “feelings”, cancellations, random biographical incidents and general formlessness all resulting in a conceptual gumbo that is carefully placed on the knife-edge between “real life” and “fine art.” Neither of the artists smoke weed (a common tool used in jam sessions) and with Molly (MDMA) now mentioned regularly in Top 40 pop songs, the artists sought a slightly more obscure fuel replacement in the Southeast Asian plant Kratom. When consumed in tea, Kratom has a similar effect to morphine.
This lazy drug-hazed riffing produces “paintings” which are done in the most effete method possible, a Wacom pen tablet. In this manner, the paintings can be produced while lying down in bed (which the artists prefer). These cuddly luxury toys, employing the hybridization and “new media” that places them squarely in line with their peers while at the same time evoking the friendliness of a “trip toy”, would not look out of place in one of the interiors of a Domus book (volume 6 or 7), and would probably go nicely with a soundtrack of Can playing in the background. Also produced for the exhibition is a 3D printed sculpture: a hybridized figure of Charlie Chaplin and the ‘IKEA man’, an aborted idea made manifest, a plastic Virgil. A wall vinyl pattern of breasts rounds out the rest of the show. The artists in this case see themselves as a PUA (Pick Up Artist), the giant breasts impose their inverted alpha-ness with a goal of leaving the audience both offline and online with ‘gina tingles.’ Here the jam session reveals itself as classic ‘peacocking’ albeit in a post-gender K(ratom)-hole. Each artwork becomes a pick up line. Only one question remains: will the viewer hook up with us?
Uninterested in the assisted readymades, slick irono-corporate aesthetics or post-minimal noodling that swamp most of their peers work, the artists here delve into a drug-induced escape pod, looking only into their interior lives to produce this implosive body of work.
*Craig “Vermont” Shimano, paints a graffiti landscape for the work to inhabit. With the Facebook IPO windfall in mind, Craig dreams of one day doing a mural for Twitter (for money or $tock).
Body by Body @ Artissima Section: Present Future Gallery: Chateau Shatto, Los Angeles
Body By Body
Melissa Sachs born 1986
Cameron Soren born 1984
Live and work between New York and Los Angeles