Cameron Platter’s latest exhibition at WHATIFTHEWORLD is a quite literal party platter; a collection of engorged Cheesecurls, anxious Ghost Pops, Monster Energy drinks and assorted miscellaneous snacks. The sociability of these sculpted foods, as well as the quasi-abstract paintings and collages which surround them, are also heralds of indigestion, nausea and MSG-Malaise. Over a series of emails, Platter and I discuss this process of consumption and excretion; talking trash, Žižek and edible Modernist sculptures.
The following interview constitutes excerpts from these exchanges.
Felix Kawitzky: The title of the show, ( 😱😱😱 repeated x3 for emphasis [!!!!]), is made up of one of the more bizarrely existential emojis around (aside from maybe 🐣 ), seemingly modeled off of ab-ex works like Munch’s The Scream. The angst of that expression is so earnest, but also suffers from the tragi-comic indignity of being an emoji. This combination of humour, art-historical reference and anxiety seems to present fairly consistently throughout the show. Could you talk a little about your thinking around the meeting of these elements in terms of the atmosphere of the exhibition as a whole?
tear your shit out
set it on my face
water’s getting cold
done in the dark
Anxiety, art-history, and humour come up consistently, whether I like it or not, in this show, in all my shows, these things have my number.
I have an interest in psychoanalysis, and in translating a contemporary existence (the exhausting meaningless of it all.) A favourite, The Sopranos, explores these issues pretty de-haustingly. I used to suffer from blackout panic attacks similar to Tony. (I cracked my head open, while watching Almodovar’s Skin I live In, and had a nose job because of it.) One of the ways to get a handle on these episodes/experiences is, obviously, to use my work to work through it.
FK: That is one of the more poetic circumstances for a nose job.
CP: My method of working is equally about anxiety and the therapy of that anxiety. And anxiety isn’t a single headed beast. I have mega-anxieties.
FK: Right, anxiety can be a compound, splintered thing. I wanted to bring up the text fragments (the irregular spacing, stream-of-consciousness, raggedy connections), used above and also in your artist statement, which feel really resistant to decoding – as does the show as a whole, in some ways. Does this also feel like it hangs around the meaninglessness and anxiety, or stubbornness or or? Since we’re talking about therapy.
CP: My working method, and the way I go about “producing” works, from inception to completion is pretty irregular and fragmented. They can hang around for years, or be produced very quickly.
Decoding my work for the viewer isn’t my priority – I find it hard enough to translate. I’d like people to get what they want from the works, I don’t want to be prescriptive in how they’re read.
On an existential level this show is about nothing in particular. Why Must I Chase Da Cat? But nothingness reads as a positive. It’s about everything too, and very personal at the same time. Nothingness though, is meaningful.
It’s hard for me to pair something fucked up with something beautiful. It’s hard to make work, to understand, to make sense, to de-code, to repair, and to heal.
Art History is everything. A Cheescurl. And an Oreo. And a Genetically Modified Organism. And a Jacuzzi. And an Orgasm. And a Dream Sequence. And an Anus. And an Orchiectomy.
I try to use experiences as a found concept, thought, object. In this way, I (try to) use anxiety, history, and anecdote (humour) in a way that’s related to Proust, Knausgaard, Easton Ellis, and Vladislavic (circa Portrait with Keys.)
All experiences are equal. The collage as fragmented experience.
FK: Following on here, the emojis, pseudo-expressionist paintings garnished with anuses, chicken portions etc, the Very Serious Minimalist Sculpture which is also a Fling, all sit on the high/low art binary – neatly finished, professionally installed, but in Bad Taste. In what ways are you interested in troubling the constantly shifting boundaries between high and low-brow sensibilities, and how do ideas of taste figure into your strategies?
CP: Garnished is just the juiciest word in that question. Food = Sizzle = Sex.
Bad Taste implies that Good Taste exists?
What I’m looking for is a democracy of experience- a Cheesecurl has the same relevance as a Sekoto, and they’re both equally relevant, and need to be sorted, gathered, documented, edited, recoded, and transcribed. And vomited out again.
I suppose that there’s also a degree of empathy in this. Why is a Cheesecurl the same as a Sekoto? What is a Cheesecurl? What is a Sekoto?
FK: I realise now that this is a Cheesecurl, not a Fling. Sorry.
CP:No apologies. It’s what you want it to be, and make it become.
‘High and Low’ is also about pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable and unacceptable- where, to whom, how. What one can and can’t present. What one can get away with? What is polite society? Fuck polite society. Fuck you. Fuck myself.
Anuses aren’t in Bad Taste. Everyone has one. Most people use them everyday. They’re extremely beautiful and highly functional. I wish we all sniffed each other’s anuses. It would make the world a beautiful (Rainbows & Waterfalls & Anuses?) and far less stressful place.
FK: Ya, absolutely. Bad Taste doesn’t exist, but the aesthetic of Bad Taste, of “Trashiness” does, in relation so-called polite society. In the Žižek sense, the “trash can of Ideology” – this is the idea that we consume and shit out ideas and products indiscriminately. By Bad Taste I was also thinking of the weirdo aftertaste of Cheesecurls; the MSG, the stickiness (as you talk about later).
CP:The aesthetic of trash is definitely something that I’m attracted to, for whatever reason.
By trash, I’m also into the overlooked, subliminal, fringe elements of society- exploring those references that aren’t floating in polite society’s main avenue of discourse.
The cannibal vibe of eating and consuming and shitting and then eating again is very much part of how I operate.
A Very Serious Minimalist Sculpture aka Smiles:
A Cheese Curl Henry Moore by way of Brâncuși (which is pronounced Brun-cooshh,) and side-of-the-road curios, which lead me to R&B, which in turn leads me to Teazers (in Springfield Industrial park in Durban), which takes me to an ATM, which leads me to KFC, which leads me to the partial history of bronze sculpture, and to chicken portions and polystyrene, and to crocodiles and waterfalls- which take me back to R&B, which leads me to Versace shirts (vintage, Gianni-era), and Miami, and John Muafangejo and Mickey Mouse selling fireworks near the Durban China City, which leads me to a sunset over a palm tree in a crumbling business park viewed from a car on a highway, to the smell of red earth, fungus, and to Cheescurl dust and chicken oil, and a dirty studio.
That’s (one version) of my typical, simplified, experience of a work.
FK: That makes sense – again the thing of free association within what is actually a very finely honed aesthetic. You’re also gesturing towards a relationship between at least two really specific kinds of lifestyles – Miami cruising and a more tactile world of grease, urban decay, industrial zones, etc. What is your thinking around the interplay of economics and class here?
CP: Simply, my view is (Casino) Capitalism sucks ass, and we’re pretty much fucked, but there is a certain beauty to the unraveling and (hopefully) the demise/change.
On a literal level, one of the things that I appreciate, being an artist, and working how I do, is that it does take me to a wide spectrum of human activity. In a single day, I could be talking to a woodcarver from Mozambique, a gallerist in Paris, weavers in Rorke’s Drift, while doing an interview with Roxy from Cape Town, discussing things with an Italian foundation in Los Angeles, then doing an errand in an industrial park in Durban.
I’m also into mixing these elements together. I think a Cheesecurl (and all its baggage) deserves to be presented in a gallery, and vice-versa.
From another view, I’m a middle-class person/ white/ privileged/ man/ human/ artist who is interested in not very middle-class things.
Another curveball comes when we remember that this is all taking place inside the mega-elitist art-world. (Non) sense is hard to come by.
By the way, Miami has plenty urban decay. The patina of South Beach is just that. I mean, any place where a naked man can eat another naked man’s face on a highway ramp, in broad daylight, is more than just a glittery strip.
FK: There is a pervasive creepiness to a lot of the works – a things-are-almost-as-they-should-be, wonky, failed simulacra Madame Tussauds of chips type vibe. And also (maybe projecting a little here) a sense of the abject horror of dinner parties, hosting, sustaining social interaction with those nervous looking off-brand snacks. I’d like to talk a little bit about the real/not real/almost real-ness of some of the sculptures, and how they point to social exchange and/or discomfort or even apathy?
CP: Apathy = Exhaustion. Reality= A Version of Reality. (The Almost Realness of Life.)
Life as art. Real is strange. Strange is good and bad.
I’m not setting out to achieve this effect, hopefully is just the perverse nature of self-shining through the embodiment-signifier of a Ghost Pop. I love all those snacks. I try not to eat them because I generally feel like shit after binging on them (and they contain GMO’s.) But I do eat them.
FK: Ghost Pops are certifiably the spookiest chip. You also have Monster energy drink branding floating around, which an ominous image in itself. Not to mention its propensity to induce caffeine related panic attacks.
CP: I have an unhealthy obsession with Monster Energy.
Like Ghost Pops (or even more so), it’s a perfect signifier, it’s of its time, with so many incredible associations and off-shoots, it’s almost unbelievable.
Wouldn’t it be great if Žižek were sponsored by Monster?
FK: Is he not?
I get fetishes, and work through them. I’ve had a fetish for cheese-curls (perfect modernist sculpture) for some time. The way they crumble, and crunch perfectly in your mouth. And then stick to the roof of your mouth. The way, after 4 mouthfuls, you feel nauseous and your fingers are nuclear orange and sticky. They’re a perfect signifier of now (and a decent gateway drug).
I never host dinner parties.
FK: I mean, there’s also the satisfaction of how the perfect modernist sculpture is made vulnerable by way of hydrogenated fat – feeling the ideal form of it dissolve and essentially become abject, digested and excreted (an unthinkable fate for the Modern/minimalist form).
CP: That’s an ideal work of art, with a perfect ending.
😱😱😱 is showing at WHATIFTHEWORLD until Saturday, March 12 2016.