An interview with David Moré
September 7, 2010
Hello! this is my first blog post as the Gallery Director at Green Lantern. We’re really excited about our opening this Saturday September 11 from 7-10 pm for David Moré’s show Normal Bias. For each exhibition we’re putting together a publication that will include things like interviews, essays, and documentation of artists’ projects. Here’s our interview with David, the rest of the publication will be available for download from the website starting Saturday. See you this weekend at our new location, 2542 W. Chicago Ave. And we’ll have open hours next week from Tuesday through Saturday 12-6 pm. Yea, we’re opening! -Abby
A conversation between David Moré, Caroline Picard and Abigail Satinsky.
AS: So let’s start by talking about when you began making instruments.
DM: Probably six or seven years ago?
AS: You were drawing before that right?
DM: Yeah. I think I kind of I came to a realization that “I’m drawing or painting just so I can hang out in my studio and listen to records. That’s real dumb.” I’ve also had this kind of uncomfortable relationship, as far as being a cultural producer, I would go to more shows and buy more records than I did books or go to art galleries. And I actually had an instructor who brought that up and said something like, “You kids buy so many CDs, when was the last time you bought a really good book about artists?” And I think it’s a pretty common thing. But yeah, I’m not a musician. Even though it seems like I should maybe try to be, it seems like the format of being in a band and having this relationship where there’s an audience and you’re presenting your music and asking for peoples’ time is not a natural thing for me. And I’ve played instruments before, so I don’t think it’s a patience issue of whether I should just sit down and learn to play the cello.
CP: Do you think it’s weird to think of these homemade instruments as being your medium? It seems like there is a difference between an artist that works with painting and pens and charcoal versus a musician. But then it also seems like you’re using these acoustic tools as a traditional artist would pens or charcoal.
DM: Yeah that’s nice because I occupy a difficult in-between place. You can’t really play a song on a spring and a piece of wood, but you can produce this other kind of thing and that’s what led to this project [sound portraits]. Thinking “Hey I should find a context for these things I do.” You can’t do like a Beethoven cover record on styrofoam.
CP: Can you talk about how you found or came upon this context of making sound portraits in the gallery?
DM: Well it originated from when Temporary Services did the Fair at UIC’s Gallery 400 and I got asked to do something. And so the fair was mostly people presenting publications or other things they had made or that were easily salable. And so I thought, “Fair, hmm, it’s called Fair. Maybe you can get your portrait done like you do at fairs, like a caricature. Cool, yeah! Audio portraits! Yeah that’s a great idea!” So I took this opportunity at Green Lantern to see if I could expand on it. And like you said, now I have more space to move around…
AS: How did you think it worked at Gallery 400?
DM: It was OK, it was fun. I think it worked alright because it was one day in a really cramped space. I definitely think that doing it at the Fair involved relating to an initiated audience. People knew they were going to an art fair. But here, [at The Green Lantern] I’ve been able to get people who are just passing by. And that’s some what interests me. The way I can relate to them, like “I do this kind of weird thing but what do y’all think, what is this music?”
AS: That’s interesting to me that you say the people at the fair would be the initiated and the people that would walk into the gallery aren’t. Because even though we are testing out ways to be something other than a totally traditional gallery space, for most people this is definitely a gallery. There are a bunch of objects on display that they’re going to look at and judge.
DM: But I don’t think this place is obviously a gallery yet and that’s the sense I get from people coming in like, “Wait, so what is this…?”
AS: Right, we’re still in a state of ambiguity…
DM: …and so it’s only a temporary gallery and you’re going to move in January..
CP: …the space right now is full of plants and furniture and curious tables with unusual homemade instruments…
DM: I also kind of like and hate when people ask what I’m doing. I don’t really know but I’m going to try it first and then try to figure out. That process can be pretty infuriating, but it’s also nice because ultimately I might learn something. It feels like an actual experiment.
AS: Well it’s an experiment but there’s also parameters. The participants know where to sit, how long it’s going to take, etc. Which actually, I feel, is really helpful in a lot of ways in terms of getting people to feel comfortable if they know what the parameters of the space they’re occupying because these instruments are such curiosities too.
CP: I agree. It’s interesting with this portraiture set up that people have so many expectations about what their portrait is going to look like. And then I think that there’s also this tendency to read into how somebody describes you as to whether or not they like you or they think you’re a good person or they think you’re attractive. And I think that by making this soundscape the result is already so abstract that it seems to cut a lot of that stuff out, or at least make it very transparent, you know, because you’re like “Whoa there was that weird squealing sound I wonder if it means that David thinks I’m depressed.” And then you’re like, “What am I doing? That’s idiotic. It’s just a sound. ”
AS: Yeah when I see people come in and sit in the chair, they feel special. It’s even true when I was sitting there, I thought, this is just for me. And it reminds me also of another portrait experience. When I was ten, I went to New Orleans with my family. I got my portrait drawn in the touristy part in town. I remember it didn’t look anything like me and I was so disappointed because I felt like I had just sat there for so long! Somehow I thought the portrait would explain something about me, like it would be the window into my soul or something. And then actually getting it and thinking, “Oh you didn’t get me at all!” That is so sad! I don’t even know what happened to the drawing itself, but I remember vividly the expectation of the portrait to really be me and then realizing that that fleeting encounter failed miserably.
DM: Yeah I have never sat for a portrait like that but I imagine that it would be like the expectation of a kind of truth about yourself which is, I mean, that’s nuts! But maybe it’s a mistake that I’ve entered into making people’s portraits using audio. But I’ve been working on it and actually trying to give it a shot and find some parameters and maybe there’s some way you can gauge like, wow you’ve actually got me! Some people sitting have said “Oh wow that’s actually pretty accurate! You were right on there.” And they’re joking a little bit but there is something there. The idea of someone sitting there making abstract noises and then someone else relating those to their life is actually a pretty wild idea.
CP: Can you talk more about your selection of sounds?
DM: One of my concerns is drawing attention to everyday sounds. I think that is a common theme that there’s all these interesting sounds going on around us and if we start paying attention to them, it can be a really fulfilling experience. I can also make the analogy of when I was drawing a still life or an object or a friend, it would really change your relationship to the person or to the object just because you’re so intensely looking at your subject. You can kind of get the same thing just by walking around with a tape recorder and anytime you click it on, you’re paying attention to everything that’s happening around you. I had a really sweet experience a couple of years ago. I was walking around in Havana with this guy, and during a power outage, I said I wanted to make a recording of a generator. When I switched the recorder on he was quiet and when I was done he said, “That was so amazing, as soon as you turned that thing on I just noticed all the amazing street sounds and generative sounds just from taking this walk in this darkened city.” Focusing on surrounding sounds can be a really rich experience.
I want there to be a lot of humor involved too. Yesterday for one of the portraits I took a cymbal and I was bowing it in the bathroom. It was really really loud but at least there was this spatial difference in the sound. Also, with a lot of the work I’m interested in doing, sound doesn’t have to come from two speakers, even though that’s the way a lot of people perceive it.
The only thing I guess I don’t know how it’s going to end. There is going to be a formal gallery opening and I am collecting all the portraits. They are definitely a gift, they are a gift for the person whose portrait I took.
But I am also recording them all digitally and I’m going to have an archive. So on a personal level a lot of the project is getting composition ideas because you have to improvise on the spot to see what these people sound like, right? The project is kind of like a big exercise for me.
CP: Does that mean that over the course of a day before you come into the studio, you think about different sort of compositional progressions?
DM: Well, I think the project potentially builds a more efficient process to describe what someone sounds like which sounds like a completely ridiculous idea. But it is kind of good to make your brain do this thing that doesn’t really make any sense. Just to see if it comes up with anything else, a solution to this ridiculous problem.