Adam Parker Smith Interview
Oct 23 2013
Untitled (Player Piano), 2013, Burnt wood, solenoids, computer and audio components
The Soap Factory is launching a new interview series on the blog, with local writer Kristine Frank Elias. We're looking forward to catching up with some of the past exhibiting artists and learning about their current projects. Next up: Adam Parker Smith
In 2009, Adam Parker Smith's "Umbrella Cloud" was part of The Soap Factory's show The Austerity Cookbook. Since then, Adam has been part of several group and solo shows featuring his evocative sculptural installations that include a seemingly endless variety of materials and refer to vernacular culture with spectacular resonance and emotion.
I recently caught up with Adam to ask him about a couple of his most recent exhibitions and what’s coming next.
Kristine Frank Elias: Your recent exhibition at La Montagne Gallery "Angelyne" (April 25 – June 15) featured "Untitled (Player Piano)." It looks like a piece from 2010. Is it evolution of that piece?
Adam Parker Smith: I would call it more of a redo, than an evolution. The first burnt player piano had a very primitive internal mechanism to move the keys and I wasn't entirely satisfied with it. I decided to destroy the original piece and remake it last year.
It’s just slightly larger than a normal piano and was built from unburned wood in a modular way, so it could be disassembled and each piece could be burned in a controlled environment.
For the new version, I worked with a programmer and redesigned the guts of the piano to run with computer programmed solenoid pistons and a driver board. So, the piano plays continuously on a seventeen-minute loop.
I am much happier with this version.
KFE: Pianos, woven bracelets, mirrors, photos, human hair, foam, rope, etc.; you use a variety of media treated in a variety of ways. I am curious about your broad choice of media – what drives these choices?
APS: My materials are most always driven by concept. The seemingly wide range of media is really a reflection of the broad subject matter I deal with. I always feel that the materials are appropriate for what I am dealing with conceptually.
Once a concept becomes clear to me, it’s very simple. When an idea begins to form, I try to choose the most appropriate form for it to take. In most cases, the form is very obvious, for example the simplest way to represent a burnt piano, is with a burnt piano. I could have chosen to show a video of a burnt piano playing, or maybe a charcoal drawing of the piano. But, I like to take the most direct path as far as materials are concerned, so this makes things both easy and very difficult.
KFE: Art is so often categorized by genre or medium, so your work defies these types of categorizations. How do the pieces in "Angelyne" relate to each other? How does the exhibition come together as a whole?
APS: I actually think my work still does fit into the "sculpture and installation" genre. I think the form that I work in, in which work is coagulated together from seemingly disparate categories of materials and media is somewhat prevalent in the contemporary art world. For me the exhibitions have to be emotionally tied together under the surface. Those undercurrents in the exhibitions are what make things come together for me.
KFE: In “Thanks” at Lu Magnus Gallery this spring, you curated an exhibition of works you stole from 77 artists – paintings, sculptures, sketchbooks, video, architectural objects, etc. As Melena Ryzik wrote in the New York Times “… this raises messy art world questions about aesthetic ownership and influence, the division between curator and artist, and the value of nontraditional and repurposed work.” The article goes on to discuss the appropriation of ideas. How did you come up with this idea? How is the theme of appropriation manifested?
APS: I actually thought of the idea for the show all by myself, albeit as a joke at first, but many of my projects start that way. I think as far as appropriation goes, as things move along, so much of what we do, say, think, and make is appropriated to some degree. It has become nearly impossible to distinguish originality from appropriation. One of the nice things about the show at Lu Magnus was that I didn't have to dance with the definition of appropriation. The works were labeled – “Stolen Work” with the name of the artist and title of the piece – which, in a way, is much easier to distinguish.
KFE: Did patrons understand what was going on?
APS: Yes, in a way, they understood. However, there were some things about the show that were kept secret – things I haven’t been caught for yet.
KFE: What are you working on now?
APS: I'm actually working on another "curated" show. As you may guess however... it's top secret. At the moment, my studio is full of new sculptures that I have been making to reflect the roots of my sculpting practice. They are essentially large rudimentary resin figures that emulate juvenile clay armatures.
Hopefully it will open this summer. Fingers crossed. Shhhhhhhhhh.
Paranormal Interview - Stains of The Soap Factory’s Past
Oct 9 2013
By Tim Turi
Back in the 1900s, long before it became a space for artists, The Soap Factory fulfilled its name. Workers processed dead animals, extracting lard from their skins to make soap. Piles of coal still remain in basement today as reminders of the building’s former purpose. Unused fuel may be a physical reminder of the basement’s origins, but Minnesota’s own Waite Park Paranormal suggests there may be unseen links to the past lurking down there.
Kayla Dorman leads a team of paranormal investigators that base their research on scientific findings rather than spiritual intuition. They use equipment like voice recorders, motion-activated cameras, and rigged flashlights to test allegedly haunted locations for activity. Last May, Kayla and her crew packed up their gear and spent half a day in The Soap Factory’s basement. Early anomalies included the motion-activated camera taking pictures without any of the investigators nearby. Things got stranger from there.
“We also had a plethora of EVPs [Electronic Voice Phenomena] that we picked up using a digital voice recorder,” says Dorman. “You play that back and you can sometimes hear voices besides your own. We have a good solid 30 EVPs that we really question what the heck was going on. Some of the EVP are full sentences and some of them are even direct responses to questions that we had asked.”
Dorman recalls asking how many beings were there with the investigators, to which she heard a voice clearly reply “eleven people” when playing back the voice recording later. Human voices aren’t the only sounds they picked up.
“What was really odd for us is we kept hearing animal growls or barking in the basement,” says Dorman. “If you’ve been in that basement you know you can’t hear outside very well. It’s pretty stagnant down there. During our whole investigation it was also raining quite heavily. So picking up those sounds was very odd.”
Waite Park Paranormal also used flashlights to communicate with the supposed spirits lingering in the basement. The team employs a common ghost hunting method which involves screwing off the front of the flashlight, creating a minute gap between the bulb and base. The idea is that spirits create electrical energy when active, which causes the flashlight to turn on or off.
“We had multiple 10, 20 minute sessions where in direct response to our questions the light would come on or turn off,” says Dorman. “It was very interactive down there, which is unlike anything we’ve run into in our journeys so far.”
The biggest surprise came when the team made the basement pitch black and waited in the dark.
“We were down near the coal rooms there and we do lights out – it’s completely dark we’re only using our flashlights – and my tech manager and I were both looking down the hallway,” says Dorman. “There was a large canoe, and we were both focusing on that and at the same time we both saw what looked like a figure take a big step to the right.”
Dorman says full-body apparitions and movement are incredibly rare from her experience. She and her coworker and confident in what they saw, but trying to make sense of it rattles her a bit.
“When you get down to it and you’ve got nothing, you’ve got to start questioning what is reality down there,” says Dorman. “From personal feeling, I’d say there might be something down there.”
Want to learn more? Contact Waite Park Paranormal at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosemary Williams Interview
Sep 18 2013
Video still, Two-Faced Beauty: Kubrick photographing Rosemary
The Soap Factory is launching a new interview series on the blog, with local writer Kristine Frank Elias. We're looking forward to catching up with some of the past exhibiting artists and learning about their current projects. First up: Rosemary Williams.
In her exhibition Belongings at The Soap Factory, December 2010 – February 2011, Rosemary Williams catalogued every object in her home. The ambitious video project, comprising 11 screens and more than 35 hours of footage, explored the concepts of public and private through intimate look at possessions that fill our everyday lives.
Public and private life is a recurrent theme in Rosemary’s work, and she explores it again in her latest project: Two-Faced Beauty, a film that tells the story of a 1950s model and showgirl, also named Rosemary Williams.
Although this new project is a narrative film, Rosemary describes it as unconventional, bringing an artistic critical stance and theatrical excitement together.
During our interview, she generously shared some rough-cut footage and we discussed the journey of discovering her doppelganger and recreating her story.
Kristine Frank Elias: When I read about Rosemary Williams, the showgirl in your film, I almost thought you invented her. How did you discover her?
Rosemary Williams: I was actively looking for Rosemary Williamses for a project – I was collecting them. I found an astrologer in Rhode Island, a writer of erotic fiction in San Francisco. I wanted to explore identity through my name and the tension between the public persona and what we keep private. I just Googled my name and found all these other Rosemary Williamses. I was going to do a show of all these different alter egos of mine to expose this overlap in public identity.
I found the Broadway showgirl Rosemary Williams who is the subject of my film Two-Faced Beauty in a Pageant Magazine from 1949. She was the model in a photo layout where she was posed, basically nude, as iconic women in history – Helen of Troy, Cleopatra.
And then, I found these photos of Rosemary taken for Look magazine by a young Stanley Kubrick. I realized that the project was really just about her, and I put aside the other women I’d been pursuing.
KFE: How did you go about researching her?
RW: I started trolling eBay and the internet. I found a lot of magazine covers and photos. I found a Time magazine article referring to a court case involving her boyfriend stealing from her friends and buying her minks, diamonds, and a Cadillac with the money. It was a big scandal. made national gossip news, and ruined her career.
When I had found out all I could by myself, I hired a detective agency to try to track her down – Sherlock Investigations in New York. I liked their name and I thought it fit with the noir mystery feeling of my search. An investigator on their staff had been in show business in the 1960s and had a lot of contacts.
Although she never found her, she did track down mentions of Rosemary in the press, and sent me pieces of information, but was very protective of her sources. She also uncovered the D.A.’s file relating to the court case against Rosemary’s boyfriend in the New York City Municipal Archives. She sent me a package with copies of some of the documents, including interrogation transcripts of her boyfriend, a list of luxury items he had given her with the stolen money, and one page of the transcripts of the phone tap on Rosemary’s phone from the investigation.
The documents exposed a world not even hinted at in Rosemary’s show biz photos. The phone tap transcript was a conversation between Rosemary’s roommate and another friend and referred to a jealous fight over past lovers at a lesbian bar for models and showgirls. I was hooked. I went to the archive and looked through everything – check stubs, pawn tickets, and I copied everything I could.
The phone tap transcripts revealed an unadorned version of Rosemary’s private life. Her roommate – a failed showgirl – was prostituting herself and had been beaten up by a john. They got an eviction notice a few weeks into the police department’s surveillance. All the glamour of Rosemary’s public image concealed a seedy and often destructive reality.
KFE: The narrative of the film is constructed from the archival material you found. What material did you use directly and what did you create?
RW: Most of the shots in the film are recreations of the photos and images I found. We tried to stay to true to the settings and locations as we could. The script is based almost entirely on the transcripts or other archive materials.
We did create or imagine some scenes and dialogue. But, it is all based on stories and details from the archive.
This is the first time I worked with a team – a Director of Photography, an Assistant Director, and an Art Director, among others. It was an incredible process. While I was still the director of the project, it was an amazing feeling to have these incredibly talented people get on board with the project and make it their own, bringing all their creativity to it. I loved it, it made me realize film people have a lot more fun than art people.
KFE: You’ve stated that you are interested in the public and private aspects of life. How are public and private manifest in the film?
RW: Rosemary had this incredibly glamorous public persona – she was on the verge of becoming a big star. But, her private life was very different. That split really interests me.
And, there’s my performance of Rosemary in the film. We share a name and I resemble her somewhat. So there is this double vision that explores identity, and public and private life. Her life couldn’t be further from mine, but we are indelibly connected. My attempt to inhabit her persona for the 70 minutes of the film, and reenact this period of her life, is an exploration of the tension between public identity and the private reality behind it.
KFE: In the rough cuts you showed me, the film has a big Hollywood stylization – saturated color, crisp edges. But, the tight shots and quick cuts create tension and anxiety.
RW: We wanted to create a glamorous look, but edit it in an unconventional way. We styled the film to be in line with that era’s movies, but the content is not cleaned up; it’s very adult. And yet many of the conversations in the transcripts really have that noir feel from films of that era, so the film is both stylized and authentic.
The shots and angles underscore the sexual tension, and the power struggles between the characters. Rosemary wanted power and she used her beauty and sexuality to get it. There are still women who do that today, but there are more options open for the rest of us.
KFE: You raised money for the project through Kickstarter. Do you have advice for other artists who may be considering Kickstarter for fund raising?
RW: Kickstarter is all about your own network. You need to understand your network and how much they will be able to contribute. You have to be realistic about what you can raise.
And, don’t feel bad if people don’t contribute. There is a little Kickstarter overload out there, and people can’t contribute to everything. And, that’s ok.
KFE: When can we look forward to seeing Two-Faced Beauty?
RW: It is in final editing now, and will go to sound editing after that. I still need to raise some money to finish it. But, I am hoping that early next year I will be able to start submitting it to film festivals. It is not a conventional film, so it will be interesting to see how it’s received.
It is structured somewhat like a collage in 10 sections, so it could also be shown on multiple screens in the right gallery space. So, I will pursue art venues, as well.
For more information about Rosemary Williams visit http://www.rosemarywilliams.com/
Haunted Basement Scavenger Hunt Ticket Giveaway
Sep 2 2013
The Haunted Basement Scavenger Hunt is a progressively perilous adventure in the Haunted Basement tradition!
Want to experience this year's Haunted Basement in its full opening night fury? Great.
Wait, what's that? You say tickets are going fast and you need an easy way to dodge the feeding frenzy?
You're in luck. We're giving away pairs of opening night tickets along with free admission and drink tickets to our new Spooky Speakeasy lounge to three lucky winners. One pair of those tickets can be yours.
But, you gotta work for 'em!
- - - - ENTRY - - - -
To enter the rabbit hole of this competition and secure your place in the race for free tickets, simply create something - a drawing, a video, a sculpture, a song, a poem - that represents your greatest personal phobia.
DO NOT SEND US YOUR ORIGINAL WORK. EMAIL US A DIGITAL PHOTO, LINK OR SCAN.
Send image files of your visual work via email to email@example.com. If you are sending video, please keep length one minute long and file size under 25MB. You can send video files or URL links to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for submissions is September 9th.
Your digital submissions will be uploaded for review by the things that live in the Basement. The creations they deem most dire will result in contestants moving on to the next challenge.
Winners will be notified via email and alerted to the rules for phase two of The Haunted Basement Scavenger Hunt.
GOOD LUCK. YOU'RE GOING TO NEED IT.
Haunted Basement Teaser!
Jul 23 2013