Reena Spaulings interview


text by Simone Klein

On the occasion of Reena Spaulings exhibition More Michael Paintings at Indipendenza Studio (October 24 – January 14, 2012Via dei Mille, 6 – Rome) we asked the artist some questions.


Artists have often become art dealers; the Spaulings story flips the order around. Is that so? Were you essentially first an art dealer, or an artist? The first artwork you ever sold or gave away, were you the creator of it, or was it a product of someone else’s artistic dedication?

Chronologically, Reena Spaulings the gallery came slightly in advance of Reena Spaulings the artist.  But some of the people working under the name Reena also work as artists under their own names, and were already making work on their own, long before the gallery existed.  Working as Reena allows us to work differently, and to work in relation to the gallery as a specific site and function. It can be liberating to not always be ourselves when we work, to forget the artists we may have been.

The main character of novel is facing the ‘who am I?’ question. Is one conscious when granting the inner self to be sculpted by the human context of his existence. Does humanity still acknowledge the fundamentality of the question ‘Who am I in context?’ ‘Who am I as an individual?’

I’m not sure we would want to speak on behalf of humanity.  Reena the novel was written by many. The main character moved across many laptop screens as the book was being produced in this networked, multiple space.  The specific context was post 9-11 NYC.  The individual was being massively re-produced, our worlds increasingly customized, and we were interested in opening up another sort of space, a whatever-space. Who are we in whatever-space?

Various artists (Bernadette corporation) wrote one novel together, meaning the narrative structure is at constant flux. Thus, a single character’s self is permanently shifting because it is determined by the exterior influences?

Yes, there was always the possibility of constantly rewriting the main character as she was passed around that way.  She also became a Sonic Youth song, the first track on their record Rather Ripped.

In an interview, you say, we are all born into a sort of fiction. Before you were an art dealer, maybe even now, when observing a classical masterpiece of art, do you feel nude? Nude in the positive sense, meaning you forget about history, future, money; The fictional self is left behind? Or do you believe that even the most classical artworks (for instance a Caravaggio) is only perceived through your fictional character’s vision, not the nude self?

I wonder if “naked life” is in fact a post-literary concept?  After Auschwitz, is life swiftly becoming exiled from literary space? The use of fiction by artists seems connected to an impulse to reclaim literary space in the context of hyper-communication and cybernetic efficiency.  And fiction always involves bodies, always moves between bodies as it hallucinates new nudities. I guess naked life is still conceived in a literary space, even as it points beyond it.
Reena the character works in an art museum where she spends a lot of time staring at Manet and thinking about cleansing her colon. She is made of gossip, a gossip girl. She also works as a part-time underwear model.  She is a kind of naked life in lingerie, and a hack literary device.  A book like Madame Bovary, but without an author.

Is Beauty subjective or objective, to you?

Desubjectivizing?  I guess it’s when the two begin to contaminate each other.  It’s mutational.

True appreciation of Art means overcoming the gap between Life and Art. Would you agree?

Yeah, didn’t Robert Filliou have a nice quote about that?  Or was it Rirkrit? Basically though I guess I agree with Ranciere that the art/non-art relation is what founds the aesthetic regime we work within today.  Art is always trying kill itself, but always as art. So it never dies, it’s living-dead. But you were asking about life…

Art is whole and self-encompassing, thus sanctioning the primacy of reality, motivated by the tensions of circumstance. This is the main focus of your art, in all of its forms, correct?

We always work with whatever and whoever is at hand… other artists, other dealers, discourses, galleries, cities, art fairs, dinners, images and materials… the so-called reality we inhabit. But the desire is to shift these materials from their normal positions, to make them act differently, and to put this difference on display.  In doing so, the artist itself is destabilized, acts differently.  I guess this is a sort of Reena-function. It’s always between one position and another, always working in a sort of gap or void that opens up just to the side of the artist. This void is a hyper-productive medium, a channel, a leak.

Do the Reena Spaulings money paintings also call for the awareness of our current, reasonable skepticism of virtual money?

Sure, but we were thinking about abstraction in relation to value. Marx defined money as “real abstraction.” We wanted to make “really abstract” paintings, both with the money paintings and with the tablecloth paintings (Enigmas).

Does the ‘ambiguously washy painting style’ emphasize human condition in the 20th century? All corporative ‘truths’ have become fading convictions?

The washy painting was mostly about speed and ease. They were our first paintings, and we wanted to get them over with quickly. The Euro itself has a washy, pre-faded look. We were also interested in the generic design of these bills, with images of generic cathedrals and bridges that resemble European sites but do not reference any European site in particular. This is another sort of abstraction, representing the contemporary E.U.


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All images: Courtesy Indipendenza Studio