WICKERHAM & LOMAX
Can we start out by saying how much we love Wickerham & Lomax? Because it’s true, and we were so honored to include them in our inaugural exhibition Post Real World at Stream Gallery last month. Wickerham & Lomax (b. 1986) is the collaborative name of Baltimore-based artists Daniel Wickerham and Malcolm Lomax. Their practice is based on the accelerated exchange of frivolous information, gossip, and codified language that crystallizes into accessible forms in hopes of giving dignity to that exchange. They have shown at Terrault Contemporary, Baltimore, MD; AC Institute, New York, NY; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD; Artists Space, New York, NY. We are excited to see their upcoming solo exhibition at American Medium (Brooklyn) this fall.
Tell us about your newest video Take Karaoke: A Proposition in Performance Art.
D: We are actually still working on it right now. Once Orlando happened we had to fix this video.
M: It’s strange because we built this video in a way where we were speculating about the uprising if the curfew in Baltimore did not take place – as if businesses were still open during the uprising in April last year. We wanted to build this video to acknowledge if both things were happening at the same time, if people were still trying to have a night out of entertainment while these serious things are occurring around them. There are points in the video that have these instructive qualities and ways in which the body gets acknowledged over and over again with these add-ons and performance tropes. It was shocking when Orlando happened because through this common thing of gays bars being targeted we found out more the history of this and although the video was made in a different space but it was really timely.
D: And then The Drinkery in Baltimore closed.
M: The CGI space in the video is a real bar here in Baltimore that was closed by the City Council and then people had a petition to reopen it.
D: When the bar closed I thought “well we made an archive piece now, we’ve made a lasting memory.” I think the riot reference is so subtle in the video as a starting place for us to work from that I don’t think it’ll be remembered in the future in that specific way, I think it speaks more generally. It can speak to the Orlando thing and it can speak as an artwork and not as a specific protest.
What did you edit in the video and do you want it to be a specific reference?
D: I think being specific about it is kind of important but I guess whenever we are making work it has to find a way for it to live on its own without a thesis or something. The video has so many of these add-ons and things that it can absorb so much into me and we keep going back and saying its not enough.
M: We had written this whole script for it.
D: We wanted to be more specific than we normally are and that may have come from a general idea video where they will have chapters about a pageant or something and they will be very specific about what’s happening. I think it’s very interesting dynamic for it to be didactic and specific and then it leads into a video that you can experience in a more abstract way. It’s new for us to tell you exactly what this or that section is about and then have it unfold visually into some new interesting way.
Did you get the idea to start on this video directly after the riots?
M: We started the general idea about this bar (The Drinkery). I had been wanting to make something about this location and I was interested in this Francis Ford Coppola movie One from the Heart because he tries to make it through a televisual way instead of a normal filmic way. He tries to make this musical basically and I was trying to use the form of a musical as a way to talk about things. I don’t really love musicals so it was just a way to think about form. That was the start and that was late 2014. Then the riots happened in April and then things started to come into alignment. Once things were being dismantled and body politics became a significant conversation again it allowed us to continue thinking about all of these additive elements to our own bodies. So we were thinking of combining destroying ourselves and making ourselves and what was happening to destroy a city and location but also constructing people’s identities through this destruction.
How true to yourselves are those characters? Or are they completely fictitious?
M: I would never sing Karaoke.
D: That was a chance to really embarrass the shit out of ourselves.
M: In performance, you have to be available to people and we are interested in this kind of coded language and mediation that can happen but you still remain on the surface. It’s supposed to be vulnerable but also manipulative in a way. This way we get to do performance art but feel in control.
D: I guess we also realize that we had to be at the center of every single part of the video. We decided there should not be stand ins. Originally we thought of using CGI characters of ourselves but we decided it would feel too cold and removed so we decided we would be in the center of all the ways of performing. We had to do the stand up, we had to do the karaoke and so it turns into a two person, evening out narrative.
There is a lot of intimate and private dialogue included. Why were those specific excerpts included?
D: When we were filming it we were laughing off camera because we didn’t know what the other one was going to say and we didn’t know all those things about each other. When I got the footage back I started finding parallels between them and intuitively started to match them up. Towards the end of that section I tried to layer the stories instead of them being one to one, like four stories together, so it would take on the feel when you can’t hear someone in the club and you are just saying “yeah yeah.” The conversation was supposed to break down but hopefully fold in on itself so hopefully more connections would just intuitively build and I think they did because all the stories are coming from us so there has to be some overlap and some connection. It’s called Toilet Gossip and we talk a fair amount about shit. I was thinking of the most embarrassing story I could tell.
M: It’s so weird because we worked on it for so long that we don’t even think about content when I think about making the visual things. I only have a maker’s relationship with it, not a viewer’s.
D: That’s a good point.
What were your film references and influences for the video?
M: We are really into concert staging and watching a lot of pop concerts. We are really into musicals as films but not theatre productions per se.
D: Our interest in pop concerts was trying to figure out how to get the images on stage, the way that they would have these huge LED screens. I feel like when we started making Take Karaoke we knew that it was going to be film length and we also thought it was going to be at a film pace which I always think of as slower, a little more nuanced, more emotionally felt. I don’t know how long we held on to that idea because it is built in such composited ways there is no slow tracking shots that we wanted.
M: We watched a lot of VFX clips, and over produced films like action-adventure films. It’s hard to composite a space like this because you have to think about the illusion of the camera so much – like depth of field and how to articulate 3D space. It’s easier to make things that collage together, like if we put together an art video, we could have had it be done faster but it’s hard to deal with depth of field. Or thinking about these things and try to articulate them in this stylistic ways.
D: There is a lot that went into making a still that felt resolved and full and requires a lot of little tweaks that you always want them to go unnoticed sort of so that you are not distracted by them.
M: Filmmaking has this weird quality where you almost want anywhere you stop to be a substantial image. We weren’t use to making durational an image substantial enough for an hour to two hours. There is this website called Filmgrab.com that turns every film into just stills. So we looked at screengrabs to think about making the video. It’s funny because there aren’t any close ups on us, like tight close ups. There is one where Dan has these chains on his face and that moment for me is a good one because it finally presents a more film quality rather than video.
D: There is this thing about films from the 40’s where they only use close ups for love scenes and they hold out on these close ups so it feels like you haven’t been close to the character until they kiss and then they are right in your face.
What’s the next step with video?
D: It’s the first in a trilogy.
M: We wanted to put ourselves in a CGI world with this first project, the last video will be CGI parts in a real world and the middle is kind of where we want to deal with people doing monologues on a projected screen of these CGI worlds so it starts having this counterbalance. It’s a way to talk about the correlation of reality of these digital things.
How do you approach your video and object making?
M: It’s usually built through this construction of thinking about peripheral forms and television. We think about sets and backdrops and props.
D: A lot of these things came out of trying to spread out ways to describe an ensemble cast who are really in place to describe a single person named Boyd. So all of these attempts to making videos, and having exhibition, and paintings and putting stuff back on the website is just a way to world build until it’s finished.
M: Dan was telling me something about this allegory/narrative with which Boyd was aligned. The things we are making are kind of like how people live their lives on social media. Your friends are articulating parts of you through a news feed. In a way this is how Boyd exists, he’s a single person who is talked about through his friends. This was initially thought about through Derek Jarman’s movie Blue. This guy has AIDS related complications and is going blind and he principally sees the color blue. The whole movie is just a blue screen and all his friends and favorite actors read the narration that is kind of based on his life. We thought it was really interesting how a single person was being dealt with and talked about and described through other people.
D: The first attempt at that is through the website.
M: The show originally started with the idea of being resilient. You can be dead but still be generating content-rumors, gossip, mythology, foundations, estates. These things keep going even though you are not there.
You have an upcoming exhibition at American Medium in the fall. What should we expect to see?
D: We haven’t named it yet. We are trying to work more on objects.
M: It’s about this character Kimbra whose parents owns an Antique Store. This show is an attempt to articulate that space. Once that show is finished it will be part of her narrative depicted as paintings.
Are you still working with the cast?
D: A lot of the cast has moved away we were trying to have their heads 3D scanned for these paintings.
How did you guys start collaborating?
D: We should have made up a new story by now. We met in school towards the end…
M: We were in one class together. Dan would always be on his Sidekick, he was the only person that was never doing the critique. Teachers never told him to put his phone away, which is weird. Then we were the only two people who were always in the studio in senior year, so then we just started hanging out. We would go to the bar really late and then come back right before the bar closed, work and then go home. It was kind of through Olympian effort.
D: After we graduated we decided to do a show together because our friend just opened a gallery in Baltimore and offered us the show there. After that first show we started working more collaboratively but that first show we were just showing parallel to each other and it took off from there.
Was your individual work similar to your collaborative?
M: It was, just not with the same voice. When we got of out school people were really into the whole online thing. Sculptures were tiny. We were working that way but through installation and then we shifted out of that because we weren’t doing what we wanted.
D: And then we took all the tropes from the first show and used to build a collaborative language. We tried to get a stripper for the first show but he cancelled at the last minute. My car was parked in the show and we drove that out of the show on the opening night and we went to the Eagle. The gallery was a converted auto body shop so we backed my car halfway into it and played a soundtrack out of the trunk. It was fun. We were a little crazier then. When nobody is watching you feel like you can do anything.
What were your majors at MICA?
M: We both took painting.
D: I took a film course, yeah. We started making a bunch of oil paintings in the studio and they are still unfinished. I realize that I can’t paint in oil. Malcolm paints beautifully with oil. We actually started taking them apart for the hardware parts on the back. So I don’t even know if they will get finished.
M: We can probably make abstract paintings.
D: I took a film course in college and I found myself sitting in the dark watching all of these movies and getting a ton of ideas from them. It would be this incubation process and I get a lot of ideas of ways to make non-video work from watching movies.
M: I think this is why we got into television, we were thinking of television as a medium that survived the Internet. When new mediums appear, the old becomes obsolete but television has managed to find its way to streaming culture. It found a way to take Internet things and move them to TV. You can have whole series that are articulated through Twitter now and a live conversation that can happen in conjunction. We found TV to be this amazing symbiotic thing, and the notion that television could also be a corrective thing. You can build a whole season and then in the second season talk about the first season in a way that makes people reconsider how you presented the first season. This notion of a serial narrative can have these moments of correcting the course of a show. So television is kind of my thing more than film. Working through ideas regarding time – television is a great medium.
What are your favorite shows you grew up on?
M: I watched so much PBS I can’t think of real TV shows.
D: I watched so much Real World and Road Rules.
M: I didn’t get cable or satellite until I was 15 or 16.
D: And then the world opened up?
M: My family from NY used to mail my grandparents VHS tapes in this huge box because they had HBO and they would record all these movies and we would get them four months later. I only know these VHS tapes.
D: I love this story every time Malcolm tells it because I always imagine this huge box because it feels like an artwork, it feels like Donald Judd, like a box full of curation.
M: It was! And they would always put three things on each tape.
D: I have been watching Unreal lately.
I love it! It’s a Lifetime soap based off the Bachelor. It is about the producers. Do you watch the Bachelor?
D: No, but I feel like I watch it by watching this show.
What music do you guys listen to?
M: I have a hard relationship with this. I listen to a lot of interviews on YouTube, I don’t listen to music that much. I went back to try to listen to the new Rihanna and Drake album but I don’t like either one of them.
D: I have been listening to Drake’s One Dance cover by this Youtube star who sings it in Spanish and I just listen to it on loop all day.