WIR Image

L'Image Intérieure Part 1: Smoking to the Point of Something

Maryse Larivière

Published 
January 1, 2017
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Maryse Larivière: I would like to start by asking you who you are?

Lizard Magor: Really, or not really? I am Lizard Magor.

What are these accessories you are wearing?

I have a transparent plastic glove on a green paper hand glued to my purple-flower- pattern-over-greenery silk t-shirt, a broach attached above my heart with a Ferrero Rocher wrapper pinned underneath it, a plush hat in the shape of a lizard and an alien-green neoprene glove with black diamond-shaped nails.

What about this thing hanging off your breast?

Oh, it is a 3$ price tag for the plush toy I wore as a hat when I first needed to be Lizard Magor. After drooping from my hat for a while, it fell onto my shirt, and I decided to just leave it there.

Now, what is this hand on your t-shirt pointing to?

It’s pointing to the Ferrero Rocher wrapper/broach amalgamation.

Your outfit is part of a larger body of work that consists of a series of opened gift boxes with the paper tissue unwrapped to reveal various tops and sweaters. Each of these garments is adorned with a glove or a paper hand pointing to a label or a tag.

All pointing to where they were made, which is often China, or where they were being sold, which was in Vancouver.

So who are these cardboard box people and what are they all pointing towards?

They are themselves. They do not represent anyone else. There is no symbolic representation within them. The objects speak for themselves and as simple, yet excessive, objects they have very simple, direct things to say that are both material and sensitive at the same time. That is what they are pointing at.

If you look at them closely, they are very self-contained and they wear an irresistible melancholy. They are animated, yet they are nobody but themselves. They are not just packaged garments in an opened gift box. Each one of them has a personality that emerges through the layering of the tulle veiling, the matte sequins, the plastic credit card, the tickling feathers, the printed patterns, the smooth silk, the velvety chenille, the tactile embroidery, the fine weave, the loose threads, the dirty stains, the vintage slogans, the metallic candy wrappers, the dizzying polka dots and the dried-up cigarette butts.

Tiny and cheap details.

Colourful and dull…

Like one of these intricate gift cards with ribbons and layers of paper and cutouts. Cheap, cheap, cheap, mass-produced gift card with a poem on the inside that is supposed to mean something to someone. The feeling I get from the open gift boxes are the same as an unsigned card; beautiful, cheap and trying so hard to mean something. So hopeful that it becomes sad, beautiful and funny. It’s very subtle… meaning here is more like a tingling sensation than a slap in the face. It is more of a suggestive or felt significance, yet it is quite specific. It is not hazy or vague, but it is not specific in the sense of being able to be expressed through language in a direct way.

The suffocation of meaning, for an affective understanding of art…

The bird is dead, the glove is paper flat, the blanket has moth holes. They are all on the discount rack of meaning. They are not devalued but outside of normal ideas of value, outside of the fancy display case of making meaning. Their real lack of value rots and sticks to their surface in a veneer that is isolated from the couture, value-making prestige.

Why are you wrapping everything though? If it is not about showing off, then is it about protection and care? Looking very carefully, the motif that I see punctuating your work is wrapping. The birds are in a poly bag, the garments in silk paper, squished candy in their wrappers. The collection of all your furniture from an old apartment is all packed. The blankets are in dry cleaning bags - old blankets that are found, cleaned, repaired, expanded, folded and hung in a perfect way.

There is an intimacy with the blankets that you can sense through the plastic bags, their warmth and value are palpable even though you know they have been rejected.

Your fingers and the needle are probing the moth holes. The moth holes are mended, attended to and cared for. To me, it feels like you project your desire onto these ordinary objects and the poly bags protecting them serve to uphold your cherished visions of them.

The fascination is certainly with layers… a clear thin covering that emphasizes the strange sensitive sparkles of things. And authenticity. I like the word “authenticity.” It is a fuzzy term and you don’t really know what it means. When someone is authentic, you try to read that person and also the relationship you have with them.

The discarded blankets that have been patched up and made useful again, re-engaging the object in the world by unearthing its vulnerability. A sort of magic, when intuitions become real, or when excitement becomes muted in objects.

Or the moment when a materially-sensitive connection with an object can be seized within space. That’s what the polybags are for… It is all about space, the space between the object and the mould, between the thing and its expectation.

The other frequent gesture in your work is casting. To a point where the viewer cannot tell what is real or what is a copy made from a cast. Why put everything into a cast, like a broken limb?

I never even thought about that! Ha, ha, ha! A cast holds the broken body, it holds it still, and it is very sculptural in a sense, figurative, but not directly. It is an imprint of the immediate surrounding space. Though they are real objects, they are casts, like photographs of space, a space where you don’t know what to expect.

Do you see your sculptures as broken extensions of yourself? A lot of the cast objects evoke the body, or its orifices, objects as  extension of the body such as cigarette butts, or a piece of clothing.

It is about a body pushed to excess through cigarettes and alcohol, it certainly relates to the wounded body, the body in harms way. It is about how there is affective knowledge that becomes tangible through an imperfection, through a hand that does not touch to receive a perfect sensation but feels what is simply there… It is a fascination that sits between whether the object is alive or dead, and it is really up to us to say whether an object is alive or dead, isn’t it?

Or is it? What if objects could decide for themselves the state they are in, a state that was completely outside of that duality? Can’t we let them speak for themselves?

A couch is not passive, it is actively working with you the whole time you have it. It is holding you in space, and the traces of that are found in the creases you make in the material. Over time, this layer of potential gets activated for me. That is why I don’t want to be the authority of what my sculptures looks like. The material has all sorts of things to tell me and a lot of it is bad news. I accept the cracks, the breaks, the discoloration, the bubbles. The material is quite busy talking about its business and what it wants to do. “I don’t want to flow there, I don’t want to fill this space, I don’t want that.” The work and I go back and forth, and I need this imagined conversation to be visible and honour its fluidity, and keep these static signs as evidence of the process and it is exactly in the shadowy folds the material goes into, these dark shadowy creases it fills in, these shadowy places are what make you believe in the surface of a sculpture. The image I am trying to produce is just the appearance of something, a surface only, and I want that surface to be as eloquent as possible so when you look at it, your eyes, your brain, you body, have seen something rich and complicated, but you don’t exactly know what to do with this complex experience.

It consolidates the imagination, and nothing moves and everything feels…

Frozen. Sculpture has always been interested in holding on to a moment but in the complexity of how it is holding in space and time. In a way, sculpture is against a singular, unique and static image although it produces a similar desire and satisfaction as when one holds a photograph of something from their past. These many images submerge us from within and infinitely open the field of meaning.

The dry cleaning poly garment bag gently lifted, or the Chanel suit jacket collar revealing the neck of an alcohol bottle, both are about revealing contrast in texture. It is to me a sort of eroticism that points towards a very minimal discrepancy between smooth aseptic textures of commercial goods versus the unruly weaves of natural fibres. It promotes a very sensuous and intimate relationship with the work, with enough room left for the ineffable…

It is a physical need to interact with the work, to hold a cigarette and bring it to your mouth, or the sound of the ice cubes crackling in a glass of whisky. Smoking and drinking are like breathing and eating, but as excess. Smoking and drinking are an excessive material fascination that goes beyond the necessary. My work is always a layer beyond what is normal or necessary.

Has your relationship to these materials in your work changed throughout the years? Do you still smoke? Smoking is so taboo now.

I don’t think I smoke. Maybe it’s just as taboo as showing a dead animal or that proximity to death like casting a real, dead, newly born fawn. Or having a stuffed bird, maybe that proximity to death is what makes the work alive.

But the work promotes an introspective mood with whiffs of tobacco and alcohol. And suddenly, you are overwhelmed by this desire of oneness with the work. Can you explain that?

It comes from ritualistic behaviours of low-level of addictions; lighting a cigarette or lifting the drink to your lips.

What are your rituals?

I spend a lot of time touching things, ribbons, fabric, plastic and appreciate their texture.

Have you ever put yourself inside a plastic bag?

I’m not too romantic with my relationship with the material. I think it is more of a friendly thing.

{There is so much in the inherent materials and objects that Lizard works with, there is meaning in them and she works with them and she creates a thing between the sense and the meaning, the real and the not real.}

I feel like my ghost is here…

[Laughter]

That godly voice, could it be the charlatan of the art world?

Speaking in…

Tongues?

That’s exactly what I want.

Obviously there is a way of making meaning through symbols and representing and through codes. Sort of building on information by re-arranging codes or symbols. And there are ways of making meaning that are more physical or phenomenological, which is maybe more tangible and present but more primitive because it has to do with your body and there is no right way... Understanding is not to make knowledge but to make meaning differently.

What does it mean to make meaning for you?

To make an object that has the ability to define its own meaning. It can self-determine its own voice or way of contacting you. The gift that can give itself, the glove that can touch you.

The chocolate that will melt in your mouth.

The cigarette that will kiss you. The drink that will drink you.

Cheers!

Maryse Larivière is an artist, writer and scholar whose work re-imagines how we engage with the textual, visual and social through bodily and emotional acts of encounter. Her practice crosses art, literature, politics and theory, taking the form of text, performance, sculpture, collage and film. Recent exhibitions include Talking Back, Otherwise (Art Museum University of Toronto), Down to Write You this Poem Sat (Oakville Galleries) and A Pool Is Water (Galerie Division Montreal).