THE HIGHWAY IS FOR GAMBLERS: AN INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST JEREMY EVERETT
In Jeremy Everett’s latest, most ambitious work of art, entitled FLOY – a magnum opus of grandiosity and scale – the artist crashes a 60-foot truck on a highway in Utah, leaving milk spilled across the asphalt. The wreckage was filmed from a helicopter – the artist had to race from the crash site to the helipad before the milk evaporated. Indeed, evaporation is an important part of Everett’s oeuvre – in his Double Pour series, for which his current exhibition at Wilding Cran is named after, the artist captured water spilled on a generic parking lot in Los Angeles before it dried and disappeared into the ether. While most artists apply material to material, Everett’s practice seems almost like a VHS tape on constant rewind; a fuzzy layering of time, space and ephemerality that makes you realize the illusion of time, the impermanence of life and the absurdity of everything. For instance, there is the time the artist took a vacuum to Death Valley and literally Hoovered the desert landscape – in the following interview, you’ll find out what happened to the vacuum. Also in our conversation, Everett talks about what it's like crashing a truck full of milk, the symbolism of the American highway, and his experience growing up in the American west.
Oliver Kupper: So, I want to talk about FLOY because we’re standing in front of it right now, what was it like making that project?
Jeremy Everett: We had a very small crew, only seven people. No insurance. It was mostly spoiled milk. We also had to use this fire-retardant foam because the milk was evaporating so fast I wouldn't have had time to go get the helicopter and fly back and document the piece from above. But I like it even more, that it was staged in this way. Shooting from the hip.
OK: Yeah, it’s like a set. Was it originally used to transport milk? Real dairy?
JE: Yes its all real. The truck was previously wrecked so I filled it and wrecked it again.
OK: Was it difficult to get permits?
JE: It was tedious, government agencies need facts. Part of the text for this piece will be the proposals for the permits. They ask for exactly what you’re going to do—how, when, who. It’s this absurd idea dissected into factual government vocabulary. I was trying to convince the department of highway on the phone, they said, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but if it all evaporates and there will be no permanent damage then okay.”
OK: Utah seems outside of that creative realm. People might be more open to saying, “Okay, whatever you want to do.”
JE: In the beginning they couldn’t understand how it could be sculpture, but they were still very supportive by agreeing to do it, by the end of the day they loved it so much all of the families of the local crew came out to see it and celebrate the work. Very interesting to see that transition. I am so grateful for their help, I’m sending them a print from this show
OK: The branding on the truck says Real Dairy, that's such an American, generic thing.
JE: Yeah, and the highway is America’s greatest monument
OK: I’ve been reading a lot of interviews about you, and it seems like people have trouble defining your work in a less abstract way. How would you define your practice?
JE: All of the work is directly related to and participates inside of life. The work in this show begins with an action, wrecking the truck, pouring two puddles in a parking lot in LA, painting the visual structure of the surface, the grid, until it breaks. Allowing these disruptions to produce a visual charge.
OK: And earth art. Could that be used to define your work? You grew up in Colorado, right?
JE: I grew up in Colorado very close to where Christo did Rifle Curtain, I enjoy the works of Smithson and Heizer very much but I don’t feel my work has a connection to land art. I closed the the highway so I could wreck the truck, so the sculpture could participate in the system, stop the system, this disruption is a significant part of the work.
OK: So there’s a performance aspect to it?
JE: Yes. All of the photographs of Works in Situ are documentations of temporary works that I stage or perform. I really enjoy how factual a work is when it participates inside of life. Double Pour lasted five minutes, during this time the parking lot became something else long enough so I could photograph it.
OK: And landscape architecture—what were you going to do with that degree?
JE: Nothing. But the school was incredible. We had full freedom in a very conceptual environment.
OK: So, you used that to explore your artistic practice?
JE: Yes. I never really practiced landscape architecture. After school, I went to Toronto to study with the designer Bruce Mau. It was a graduate interdisciplinary studio with only seven people, so we had full freedom. My entire education was full freedom. I never really thought about the need to categorize what I was doing or making.
OK: It seems you have an obsession with materials and decay, the way materials interact with one another.
JE: The way the cream of the milk ran down the chrome of the truck. I enjoy using references of certain materials as a part of the work. Also revealing certain visual qualities like the way the wireframe grid leaves an image on the surface of the painting with photographic accuracy.