VVG: We’re in your studio, but we’re not alone. There are about 7 other figures, characters, and sculptures surrounding us. who are they?
CM: I call them bad babies, because they are all pretty naughty. They are very scary to be in a room with even for me and I made them. I’m their mother and father. They are all based on people that I know and am inspired by. Those people are exaggerated greatly, but the process I go over in my own head is augmentdement: as I’m working on them, I augment their personalities and then I dement them. I also refer to them as social selves because I’m very inspired by social media and the way that people project themselves on social media: it’s this place where we can project ourselves to be anything we want the world to see, and therefore a lot of our inner desires are expressed. Or versions of ourselves we might be afraid to express in person. People’s insides are being put on the outside and that augmentation really excites me.
VVG: I see a lot of role-play in your work, extending yourself into characters and vice versa. Is this a deliberate, like the formation of Gesamtkunstwerk?
CM: I’m interested in role-play, in fetish. I’m a sexual person but I’m also interested in the concept of LARPing (live action role playing). My characters are a combination of role play and exaggerated selves because it is all part of the same category.
VVG: Looking at your work, it’s load-ed with emotional expressions and iconographic references reminiscent of my childhood. How does your work relate to your childhood?
CM: A lot of trauma happens in people’s childhood. And we grow up thinking we’ve moved past it, but really it’s the foundation of our character. If anything, that trauma is augmented when we get older. I love being in Tokyo, I love anime, I love things that are really cute and those are the things I loved being a child as well. There is a darkness there. And that intersection point is what I find very powerful.
VVG: You grew up in the Midwest?
CM: I’m from the suburbs of Detroit and it’s very Midwestern, a completely different world from New York. My best friend actually referred to the place I grew up as something like the suburbs where Edward Scissorhands takes place because there is this surface normalcy to it. But when you’re looking at it from an outsider’s perspective, it’s pretty twisted. I actually find a lot of darkness there in the Mid-west — it’s where Trump got elect-ed. Family members of mine have voted for Donald Trump and that’s real. That’s not new, that’s the way that people have thought and that’s not going anywhere. The Midwest is really a crazy place.
VVG: Your studio is a stage set and your sculptures are the actors, we visitors are just waiting for the script to happen. Have you ever considered moving your installations and sculptures to include performance and film?
CM: Specifically, yes. I have this fantasy of writing a mystical with my characters, something terrifying but also hysterical. I just saw the Mark Ryden Ballet, and I got so excited. Because I am a storyteller and I do create these alternate universes. I’m very interested in architecture. Detroit is such a good reference point for architecture. I grew up in a Saarinen Building and when I went downtown everything was Mies van der Rohe. So I would create a complete universe in the form of a musical, play or my own movie.
VVG: At your gallery show in Athens, your work engaged so strongly with visitors, it became a spatial experience I can only relate to as direct consumer culture, almost like being in a store. How did you design your recent show in Los Angeles?
CM: I was looking into Chuck E. Cheese, because I knew I wanted to create an immersive environment. That’s where my love of Keen Holes really takes part. I can’t not take over a space. As if I’m living in it. So I was doing research into Chuck E. Cheese’s and I found that Chucky E. Cheese was in direct competition with another Pizza chain restaurant, Showbiz Pizza Palace. The main restaurant was known for its animatronic theatre. The main character in this animatronic theatre that performed every night was this bear names Showbiz and he was quite demented. I think that that touches on the ideas of child-hood, and this touches upon we spoke about earlier: Childhood is supposed to be this light, beautiful experience but there is so much darkness there. Even aesthetically, that darkness was so apparent in this ani-matron-ic band. The way they chose to design the characters, they were twisted looking and I loved them. The showbiz bear got me so excited, so I thought I’d use my gold bear characters and interject him into a world similar to this stage setting. I did that, got to LA, and looked at the space. Architecturally it wasn’t my dream space so I thought to fix this. I made these huge multi-paneled curtains that were all glitter mesh tooled into a rainbow color directly related to the stage setting of Showbiz Pizza. I took their tinsel further and used glitter fabric. Similar to my Gold bear, I’m always interested in taking low things and making them high and vice versa. Displacement, moving things and ideas around… I am very happy with the result, but let’s just say if this was someone’s home, I don’t think they would be happy with how much I took over the space.
VVG: What are you currently obsessed with?
CM: My constant obsession is cinema and film. Recently I started a film log, where I would write down every film I see, the name, director, the year it was made. It’s not like how a normal person does, because since I bought the journal 4 or 5 days ago, I’ve been to 6 movies. I spent a Saturday alone and I went from one movie to the next, so whenever you want to go to the movie, let me know.
VVG: I was talking to my dear friend and colleague Richard Flood about you, and having recently been to Mexico being obsessed with its multiplicity of religious beliefs, coming back I started rewatching the Matrix trilogy in a row. So, thinking of these alternative realities you create, the big question Richard and I came up with was: Have you ever seen an alien?
VVG: I knew you would say this.
CM: I am obsessed with aliens. When I was young, I was living in my first house I grew up in and I was playing in my bedroom with my sister. The lights were off. All of a sudden from the window there was this spotlight that came shining in my room. yBut it was brighter than any spotlight I had ever seen. And living in the suburbs from Detroit, it made no sense there was a spotlight shin-ing into my room. I looked up into the windows and I saw an aircraft and it wasn’t a helicopter or place. It was flying low, it was right above the trees and there were multiple colours and it was spinning… I remember this so vividly. I asked my sister a day later and she doesn’t re-call it happening. Maybe I have just made the memory stronger because I’m so fascinated with the subject.
VVG: Your reality is your reality. In our previous conversations we spoke about patience, taking time, how do you see yourself growing in the next years?
CM: Slow. I’m a really big believer in the slow burn. I believe that taking your time is important and a big deal. I’m lucky because I feel no pressure to create at anybody else’s pace. In 5 years I’d like to have a New York gallery, but I won’t be nervous if it doesn’t happen before 5 years. These days people feel far too rushed to be at the top of their game before they are 30. I’m not even 30 yet. I have a lot of room to breathe. The things I make aren’t for everyone. There are not a lot of people that want to live with these characters. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
VVG: You’re very fearless for some-one who uses fears iconography so much.
CM: I’m so afraid for fear. I’m a fighter, not a flighter. Hanging above my bed hangs an original Alien poster and it says, “in space nobody can hear you scream.” And I sleep with that thing. If it were up to me, I’d sleep with the devil every night, and that’s not because I’m not afraid of it; it’s because I am afraid of it.
Carly Mark: In Space,
no One Can Hear You Scream
By Vere Van Gool
This was originally published in
Tunica Issue 6 F/W 2017