Bea Fremderman is an artist and rat (the rodent kind) connoisseur. She was born in Moldova and grew up in Chicago to a mother who could do quantum calculations in her head and to a father who invented a machine that tinted glass in the USSR — one can see a blend of ingenuity and a microscopic focus on the “suburbanal”. Her main focuses right now are: a video installation at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts opening November 7th, curated by Ceci Moss; a solo show at Born Nude in Chicago in January 2016; apocalypse; potatoes; fine china.
As for the macroscopic, there’s something baroque about Fremderman. Not in the classical painting sense (although she has drawn some twisted faces on fruit that recall the agony of certain Jan van Eyck paintings) but rather in the sense that Deleuze developed vis-à-vis Leibniz — the former saw something in the latter about successive folds (inversions) basically being the key to all things elementary, sublime, anatomical, and otherwise. Fold, Bea’s work does. The fold of a playing card’s meaning inside an oyster. The folds that mold makes.
There is, however, a better book as a point of departure for Bea’s work — “RATS: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants,” by Robert Sullivan. Tyler Sayles and Fremderman both found the book darkly compelling. They met on the first day of Fall (dappled sunlight, some leaves green, some dead and skittering) over Aperol Spritzes to talk all things rodentary, residential and more…
Tyler Sayles: Funny how people want waterfront housing nowadays but how way-back-when it was synonymous with rats and poverty because of sewage dumped directly into waterways. Yet, still to this day, the East River via Ward’s Island has sewage dumped in it (and worse) and people still want to live in those Williamsburg cruise ship high rises?
Bea Fremderman: Things are so backwards now, aren’t they? Before being tan was a sign of poverty because you had to work outside, now being tan means you’re rich because you can afford to go on vacation. Gotta luv that.
TS: If people evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys? If English evolved from German, why do people still speak German?
BF: Not all of us evolve.
TS: Speciation is a cool phenomenon — it happens through geographical isolation of an ab ovo similar thing… what do you think about being in group shows/collaborating? Were you the girl who loved group projects? Game theory has pretty much proved that when you get anything more than one agent (one already being a lot in itself) in any situation then things get harried and entropy speeds up… I don’t know if that’s a leading question?
BF: I hated working with others in grade school. I think on my report card it said something like, “Has difficulty working with others,” “Doesn’t take direction,” those kind of things. I had to learn how to appreciate collaboration. After graduating from school I realized I never took the time in college to learn from my peers. My favorite collaboration has been with artists Brian Khek and Micah Schippa for our project Definitely Living, Likely Cognitive at Courtney Blades Gallery.
TS: In Rage & Time, Sloterdijk says of rage, “The song concerning the heroic energy of a warrior, with which the epos (epic) of the ancients starts out, elevates rage to the rank of a substance, out of which the world is formed.” Was raging against a machine a starting point for you, as it is for so many other artists?
BF: Rage was real and yeah. I started with photography in high school, graduated early and traveled around the country taking photos. I was raging, hard. I didn’t go to college right after high school like I was supposed to. Instead I traveled and got depressed and realized what I wanted to do. Sorta. Also, what is the difference between passion and rage? In order to be passionate, I really do think one must be rageful.
TS: In the Greek era roundabout Homer, war was all the rage — “according to the ancient ontology, the world is the sum total of battles that take place in it.” Who are you battling against? It is said (I think Zarathustra said it,) that the artist chooses her audience and not the other way around — what art would you like to see done away with? What makes you gag?
BF: What makes me gag is art that’s masturbatory (no pun intended?). Art that strokes the artist’s ego and offers nothing to the viewer except for an invitation to bask in the creator’s glory and legend.
TS: If you were a sport which would you be? I think you would be volleyball.
BF: I played volleyball! I’d be volleyball. I’d want to be tennis. But I know I’m not tennis.
TS: What is the thing on top of the a/c unit? It looks like a sea urchin or black mold and maybe black mold is a good analogy for a side-effect of folding (clutter, moisture, forgotten dense things) and dark growth — how yeast grows in folds…
BF: Haha, it is a birds nest that I made with pieces of computer parts and wire woven into it. I am so allergic to mold. I get so creeped out by it. At the first sign of mold I freak out. If there is mold anywhere forming in my house I lose my shit. I toss it out, clean it with bleach. If I don’t, I get really sick. I feel so tired and weak and eventually develop terrible hay fever like symptoms. I did a show a while ago at a gallery where there was black mold in the bathroom and I got so sick from showering in there. I could barely function. I got delusional. I really believe mold triggers severe anxiety in me. My body responds to it by going into panic. Black mold is really fucked up and I don’t get how people could live around it. I go to friends houses and see black mold in their tubs and I just don’t understand. How can you live with something like that?
TS: Yeah, like how can you live in a Cape Cod Chicken Coop (When a Crawfish Whistles on the Mountain (2015). In that exhibition there’s a bit of wabi-sabi, a crushed coke can in an otherwise clean, sterile environment, a dead rodent on a Pine-solèd floor, something like a Japanese garden freshly raked of all leaves, then throwing one or two back out… There’s also that architectural style of the bench with pokey-proddy things…
BF: You could call that architectural style “brutalist” and those pokey-proddy things are bird-repellent spikes. We usually encounter benches like that in public spaces such as bus stops, government buildings or outside of corporate high rises, etc. The design of the bench is familiar but strange. The divided bench at first glance seem innocent. The divisions offer a much appreciated separation of space, sterilizing people from one another. However, it’s inherent in the bench’s design that it doesn’t allow a person to lie down. It becomes clear that the bench is only for members of society that are on the move.
TS: Speaking of Definitely Living — Daniel Dennett says this thing that whenever he attends a conference about a subject he’s unsure of, he asks the speaker to give one simple example of what he’s talking about and if they can’t then they’re probably just doing some technical mumbo jumbo — that simplicity isn’t just for beginners. In DL, LC, explain, simply, why a piece of plywood attached to a chain?
BF: It was a map for the show at Courtney Blades. I had the idea to put the show on a piece of plywood that was chained to a gallery wall so that the viewer/gallery participant made a lot noise when walking around. There was only one copy (the plywood) of titles, materials, dims, etc. for the show. It kind of became a performance in itself, watching the viewer at the opening walk around with this huge piece of plywood. I guess it was kind of like, a “fuck you” to the passive viewer.
TS: Speaking of floor-plans on plywood, do you think of IKEA and modern American coops?
BF: Haha, I think IKEA is a great example of delusion-of-self brought on by capitalism. What I mean by that is like: O.K., you go into IKEA, and you’re like, I’m broke, I need things, I need stuff. But I need things that are for me, that are made for me, that are made for my taste. I need things, that will show people, that I have taste even when I don’t have money; things around me that show other people and more importantly myself that I am a unique person, a cultured person; quasi-sophisticated. You go into IKEA being like, “Omg, yes, that side table, that is for me, that is made for me, this is the side table for moi,” and you fill up your cart with all these things that you think make you You (because they do) and then you put them in your apartment, and you sit back and are like “ahh, wow, I feel so much more like me,” and then you go over to your friend’s house and realize they have all the same shit.
TS: Why the recurring motif of having perfect little squares of furniture up on the wall (shag carpet, this)? is it: u can find art in furniture/textiles? This could be like a piece of an IKEA couch cut up reminds me of fabric swatches
BF: Totally what I’m thinking of…that was a cushion I made out of men’s imported suiting fabric. The idea was that this was a sort of portrait. Man as object, object as man. The 6 buttons look like a double breasted jacket.
TS: In a village, a barber shaves everyone who does not shave him/herself, but no one else. Who shaves the barber?