MM: I would like to start with a visual preamble to our conversation.



The first image is the depiction of a brain from Key and Retzius’ 1876 ‘Anatomical Study’; the second represents diatoms, microscopically photographed by Hans Hauswaldt around 1900. In one case, the enclosure is the locus of a chemical reaction and a metaphorical act: the visual autopsy of the brain consists in injecting the tissue of thought with blue ink, so that innervations reveal, or write, themselves. The result is very close to a representation of a partially clouded sky, which of course opens a field of infinite analogies between the human brain and a brain of the earth’s body, the organ by which the world thinks itself. The second image encloses in a Petri dish an unsettling taxonomy of forms: distinct, co-existing in a kind of anti-geometric harmony, but belonging – and I find this to be a crucial hinge – to the same family of algae. This sameness – the scientific fact that the algae are the same in spite of looking like an inventory of asymmetries – rips open the analogy in the first image. There is a break here in how the mind organizes experience, in how it retrieves itself metaphorically from what it scrutinizes.

EH: These images are both interesting in terms of the display of content, its transformation and perimeter. The depiction of the algae in the Petri dish reminds me of a well-arranged collection of leftover components after you assemble a piece of IKEA furniture. But let me answer with another image and a brief description of a collaborative project between Baldessari and Koolhaas for Caltrans Headquarters in L.A., the government agency in charge of freeways. I recently stumbled upon this somewhat Warholian-looking picture of four coloured profiles of trucks parked somewhere indoors.



Actually, I am not sure if is supposed to be indoors, but at least it shows a roofed space and instead of trees surrounding the trucks we can see black and white columns supporting a green ceiling where the same trucks appear as clouds.
Koolhaas, who is known to import lessons from urban into interior space, and Baldessari – who is known to turn things upside down - proposed to carpet the HQ floor with Magritte clouds and to prepare the ceiling with photographs of freeway interchanges. But the best part in this proposal was: they suggested to paint every Caltrans truck in a different colour, each having its own coloured parking spot outside of the HQ. Every morning as the trucks would leave the parking spot, they would turn the city into an animated pointillist painting, and return to their appropriate point of departure at night.
It’s surely quite disconcerting to see traffic intersections and trucks above your head and clouds underfoot, to be standing on the organ by which the world thinks itself. But this is not what makes this project interesting.

When the trucks leave the building in the morning, it means the HQ colours leak out into the region, and the building expands into the urban sphere. That’s a brilliant way to speak about diffusion and the transformation of an object.

MM: These images introduce something that returns in different forms in our practices: the point where objects take over, maybe a speculative terminus in both art-making and curating. I would venture that you approach that terrain from the perspective of production, the almost-anonymous perfection of the surfaces in your work, the intimation that the object is somehow the product of a desirous machine. Your objects achieve a second level of autonomy when they are extended as invitations, as shelters or platforms for another artist to contribute to an exhibition.
In my own practice, autonomy is interesting on an interpretive level. I am fascinated by works whose prime material seems to be explanation itself, their own sense-making, regardless of whether this is articulated as a political polemic or in poetically diaphanous ways. Sometimes works seem to know what they will mean and they carve out an interpretive future for themselves, as radical counterpoint to the disciplinary closures sought by art history. What do you think about these twinned limits we enjoy bumping against?

EH: I am not quite sure if I agree there are limits. I’d rather consider them as intersections where your GPS has a different idea of where to go than you. I think objects take over in a very early stage of production. Way before their physical existence. You start with an image you find, some material, a text, a fragment, whatever triggers your fantasy and seems worth to be stored in your mind stock. That’s when things already exist and act on you. So it’s not the exhibited object that matters in the end in my case, it’s more about the exercises I make on the way.
I like how you described my works as invitations. Because invitations happen before the party, but they always map you in your present. I’m interested in these twinned timeframes coming together.
But let’s talk more about objects taking over: I know you are familiar with an essay by Raimundas Malasauskas: Objects curate too. With which object you would like to collaborate in curating a show?

I would be very happy to share curatorial responsibilities with this (undated and anonymous) fellow.



I am curious what its, his or her thoughts are, how these thoughts depend on an idea of plenitude or necessity that might be distinct from mine. I would like to know where it, he or she is headed, and I have the feeling this sense of direction would function as a kind of Occam’s razor in our co-authored exhibition, or take this exhibition towards a new regime of imagination, expose it to entirely new possibilities.

I would like to continue talking about new possibilities and cross-fertilization which rise from collaborations and extend an invitation to your future collaborator to participate in our conversation. But since the space in this publication is limited, we should continue somewhere else.


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The conversation was conducted on the occasion of the HISK publication “a portrait of an artist”. Erika asked Mihnea to pick the topic. The conversation was limited to 1000 words by the editor and was conducted via Email.