Arielle Falk is an artist working in Brooklyn, NY. Her recent body of work plays with notations of fantasy and unattainable desire. We loved her recent show at Safe Gallery and were curious to hear that she was inspired by a residency in a cabana (in an unlikely place). Her work will be featured in our upcoming exhibition No Vacancy II, opening March 31 at Squat Gallery, 929 Broadway.
Did you always want to be an artist?
No definitely not, simply because my childhood understanding of that term was limited to like Monet and Picasso, the Great Masters... Basics blah. I have no real drawing or painting skills, so the idea of being an artist didn’t even cross my mind when growing up. Instead, I spent much of my free time as a young girl choreographing little dance pieces and presentations in our basement, which I would then perform for my babysitters or for my family after dinner. I eventually studied ballet formally but quit when I realized one of our teachers was molesting my classmate in the men's dressing room after class. As a teenager, I attended a semester-away program here in NYC -- we went to the Whitney and saw some huge survey show. Among other things I saw the standards Meat Joy, Shoot, Oh Superman, and prob some Marina / Ulay piece. This all completely blew my mind , it related directly to this extreme performative sensibility I had at the time. I had no idea that art like this existed and that it was considered "art". It was sorta special, in that moment I finally felt like I understood and realized that I had the potential to be understood, as an “artist.”
When did you start this incarnation of your work? I can see the progression from IDLE IN IDYLL to your most recent show at Safe. How has the series progressed?
IDLE IN IDYLL was a performance for Untitled Art Fair in Miami -- it was pretty frightening because it relied on several like wild-card variables, like the light and the sunset and who knows about the weather and the electrical capacity of the deck area of this tent structure at a given time ETC. I look back and sorta can't believe I did that. I don’t think about that performance much but it's true it was the beginning of this series, as for some reason after finishing that performance I felt the desire to totally destroy the backdrop (one of those paradise murals). And also it was my first piece that used those kind of images to focus on this idea of distant or unattainable desire, fantasy.
(Images courtesy of Safe Gallery.)
You mentioned much of your work is derived from personal experience. Was there a particular event that inspired this series?
YES. I lived in a cabana on my friend’s roof in very industrial East Williamsburg a few summers ago. I stayed there for almost 3 months. The ides was to use the experience as a residency to make work for an upcoming show. I was particularly interested in further exploring my relationship to fantasy and this was sorta the perfect place to take on the role of “castaway” (if I were to think about fantasy in that kind of tropical desert island sense). The roof had a wooden deck and down below was the Anchored Inn and the Acheron – a figurehead of a mermaid hung off the side of the building.. The sides of the cabana were made of heavy canvas and when it stormed they blew in and out like sails. I pretty much isolated myself and rarely left the roof except to buy food and supplies. It was like being “shipwrecked” on my own island , but next door to several working factories that were pushing rocks around. So yeah, it required a tremendous amount of imagination and just allowing myself to go full on into this fantasy place. After making a few different test works on the roof that were complete garbage, I finally thought back to that performance and realized that there was a strong relationship. Not just that the images were of the places I was trying to imagine, more also because the action of burning them with a heat gun also recreated my experience on the roof --- extreme heat, wind, a certain harsh rawness that was also incredibly beautiful in a way.
Can you talk about the show that just closed at Safe Gallery? It was amazing. How did the collaboration with Robbie McDonald happen?
Thank you! Safe only does two person shows – they approached Robbie with a list of possible artists and he envisioned that our work would be cool and weird together. I’m super proud of our show, I think we both went into it trying to create this dark paradise vibe and we succeeded in doing so. The Safe space is super unique, not typical white box -- it was awesome to be able to play in that environment with another artist whose work and ideals I respect in general. Also Pali and Sarah are amazing gallerists (and artists as well) and I have admired their program for awhile. I loved the experience – probably one of my favorite shows ever.
You mentioned in your artist statement that your work aims to "deconstruct and reinterpret the notion of unattainable desire." Cany ou give an example of this and how it manifests through your work?
Eeeeeeek, I might need to delete that.…. When I wrote that a few years ago I was referring to Lacan, and his concept of the “objet petit a”, which is “the object of unnattaible desire”. Basically a more complicated wording of the idea of “fantasy.” I think that I realized that I always was trying to find different ways to create work that invoked that emotion – of something being there that is actually out of reach. This most recent series it’s a little more obvious and direct because I have been using images that typically represent this idea of paradise, or fantasy. But in general, I’ve stepped away from using that jargon – I think it’s better to feel it in the work without having to attach this very specific explanation to it. If I want to have a conversation about Lacan, I can easily do so without making the art…
Your past projects look very different from what you are currently working on. Do you still work with video? What was your show ON LOOP about?
I no longer work with video, ever since everything went HD I just didn’t want to deal with it for some reason. ON LOOP was a show that also had this theme of wanting, or particularly with this work, chasing , something that is not available --- but in a much more abstract way. I have always been a project to project based artist -- this last series with the burnout pieces has been the longest I have worked on. I think with this work I felt very emotionally and aesthetically invested and that’s why I have kept going… I have had more of a hand in this than with any other project – I have used fabricators a lot in the past. It’s been a challenge and also very rewarding to be thinking more about composition, and really be in charge of and owning that. Also, when you keep going with a certain project it’s like you are giving yourself the opportunity to dig in and ask yourself what comes next – how can this work grow and change?
How has performance and the body influenced your work?
I was initially only concerned with performance and the body when I started making work. Coming from a dance background I think that is what made sense to me the most at that time and what I was familiar with. I made several performative videos and did have a few actual time based performances. I’m not really interested in performance so much any more but I think I naturally still involve performative aspects into my work. This burnout series is in a way very performative – from living on the roof to the pure action of burning the material to deny those images and recreate this experience of heat and wind, violence and fragility.