Lara Schnitger “My Other Car is a Broom”

Prologue by David Neuman, director Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall

Conversation January 9, 2005, Los Angeles between Lara Schnitger, artist, and Richard Julin, curator Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall.

Exhibition catalogue no 33 
ISBN 91-974236-6-1. 40 pages, color, illustrated, soft cover. Texts in Swedish/English. Published 2005 by Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall.
Price: 150 SEK
 (approx. 15 EUR)

Conversation between Lara Schnitger, artist, and Richard Julin, curator Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall
January 9, 2005, Los Angeles

Richard Julin: Lara, you’re from Holland, travel a lot, have spent a longer time in Japan and currently live and work in Los Angeles. How important is the place you live in to your art?

Lara Schnitger: I have a pretty restless mind but you have to stop in some place for some time. What is interesting to me about L.A. is partly that a lot of my travels over the years come together in this city. Los Angeles has so many different areas that are authentic to their foreign origin, as far as you can be within another culture. Like Little Tokyo near my studio, where you can go shopping in entirely Japanese stores, for example. After living in Japan for a year I learned what culture is to me. Before going there I had never thought more deeply about my own culture, but the shock of being in Japan showed me that culture is like a comforter. Like actually wanting to go to McDonald’s in Tokyo just to feel a bit more normal, because that’s a place you recognize. It’s that feeling of being uncomfortable that I like to use within my work. I want to continue to challenge myself and let things from outside influence me. And as I said, L.A. lets this happen in one place. Things come together here for me. For example there is a huge Buddhist temple life going on here. I love temples as places where art gets made, often in the most eclectic way. Churches I think are for painters and temples are great for sculptors, like me! Buddhist temples have great installations in them. In some of these temples people give water to the gods, but some times they end up giving Coca Cola or sake bottles. In a temple in Japan I saw Barbie dolls and Hello Kitty next to the old stone sculptures. I feel that our times are like that. L.A. certainly is. This mixture of things that makes perfect sense to me ties in with my hopes that art can somehow be universal.

RJ: During the construction of your exhibition we have to shut off your space since two other exhibitions are open to the public at Magasin 3. We started talking about this fact, which then led to a major new work, “Gridlock”. The actual work will shut off the space. Once the show opens you’ll transform the piece into something new, incorporated into the exhibition.

LS: Yes. During my first visit to Stockholm we spoke about shutting off the space for practical purposes. It very soon brought up my fascination for Japanese construction sites. While I was in Japan I took tons of photos of these sites. So I thought if we need to put a sign up and some kind of rope telling people that the show is under construction I wanted to play with that. I’ve worked with patch works before and in relation to those started thinking about signs, texts, walls and the fact that you’ll bump into this new work, especially before the show actually opens. Back in America this got mixed with Bush getting re-elected. At that time I had just made a lot of anti-war T-shirts. Together with a bunch of friends we were part of those who really tried to help getting Kerry elected. After the election we were all so sad. The one thing that sort of remained here were all these stickers on cars that you always see, where people post the wishes or views that they have. It’s like you constantly bump into these wishes, these bumper stickers. Before I went to Sweden I had spent some time in Tibet where all these prayer flags hang around, flying in the wind with hopes that these prayers might come true. I connected the prayer flags with bumper stickers put on the back of cars, the little prayers we might have. Like “My other car is a broom” or “Keep your rosaries off of my ovaries”. Or “I love cats – They taste like chicken”! I saw that one on a guy’s truck out in the Midwest. Maybe he hates cat lovers or something… I guess he just wants to insult them by saying he would eat cats. Just really weird! Anyway, it was so interesting to start choosing slogans to be included into the work. To me this new piece is a celebration of my new relationship to politics. Now I try to do my best with my own way of living. The work I’m making is very crafty, handmade and uses the help of friends, hopefully helping them by doing so. I do believe in that. For example, “Gridlock”, has been sown by a woman I know in Mexico. Her husband died really young and she has three children that she’s trying to get through university. So it feels really great to be able to give these jobs to her. I try to live that way and I also try to have that feeling in the show. Some pieces may be really big and spectacular, but there’s always this feeling that this is made by a human.

RJ: “Gridlock” will hang like a big wall shutting off your exhibition spaces about a month before the entire show opens.

LS: The visitors who come when the exhibition space is shut will get all these little messages about religion, politics, nature and feminism. Later this wall will change and move, go into the space. Working with exhibitions that transform is something I’ve done before. I want my work to be alive somehow. To create something beyond my own life and my own energy. I guess that’s the moment I feel that a piece is working, it’s done, there’s something happening. It klicks.

RJ: Once the entire show has opened, the first work after “Gridlock” is a large sculpture.

LS: “Piece of Shit”, that’s what the piece is called. I made that piece when America invaded Irak and I’d gotten really angry at politics. I was really involved in that before. “Piece of Shit” shouts it out and hates that the world is based on corporate money bullshit. It’s a fucked up thing. You’ll walk into the exhibition space and hit this big super punk rock piece. This is all my own tape made silkscreen. Compared to most of my work it’s a very solid piece. It’s a fat, not that elegant, stubborn, big piece. The messages are just shouting out of it. I tried to make a powerful move. I want it there because I like how it connects the “flags” that you see first with the other three-dimensional work that you will see later in the show. It’s a link. Also it’s really like “if you can get past this motherfucker, you’re going to be fine”! Kind of like a test. I like to play with the expectations of people. I’m hoping to bring in that fact into the show right away.

RJ: The next area in the show is probably the most dense. It’s filled with a number of new sculptures that you’ve made here in L.A., installed together with a selection of older works.

LS: I see that area as this gang of weird creatures, kind of hanging out together. They create a little scene together. I work with collages of the fabrics in the pieces themselves and the pieces will collage together into a new tableau. That’s how I hope for it to work. The pieces are different characters. Some are more figurative, some more abstract. They’re influenced by people I see around. Like for example the sweater piece that’s in the show. A friend was talking about these wild housewives you see sometimes. They’re really big and wear amazing weird looking purple sweaters. They’re often seen as low class and ugly. I wanted to change the view of these ladies into something really beautiful. So I made this flower bouquet-like hourglass figure. Then there’s the guy with the raincoat, the flasher. It’s a kind of raincoat opened up by sticks where you can see his inner structure with all these horses running wild. That sculpture really opens up and you can see what’s going on inside. (…)

Excerpt from the catalogue My Other Car is a Broom published by Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall.