How would you describe your work?
Maris Olson: I’m an interdisciplinary conceptual artist who’s interested in the cultural history of technology, the environmental impacts of constant upgrading, and the politics of pop culture. I make installations, drawings, video art, net art, and performances that address these topics. Objects like the phone in this auction, which is part of my ongoing Time Capsules series, are either old devices of my own or those that I’ve found and ‘rescued’ from the streets of New York, where I live. The series started with cassette tapes, which I think of as ‘endangered units of time’ that are otherwise destined for life in a landfill. By taking the objects out of circulation and painting them gold, I think of myself as preserving their value, in the spirit of the gold bars in Fort Knox.
Who or what inspired your approach?
Though I am related to Claude Monet I started my creative life as a punk musician, and some of my first visual projects were music videos, blingy mixtapes, and zines. In this sense, the gold spray paint I use is a natural go-to material for me. I’ve been as performatively inspired by musicians like Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex or comedians like Andy Kaufman as I have by exhibiting artists such as Sophie Calle, Valie Export, Carolee Schneemann, Ana Mendieta or Michael Smith. Coming out of a zine world and into a net art scene, I find affinities between a lot of collage work and my sculptural assemblages, with favourites including Robert Heinecken, Stan VanDerBeek, and Genesis P-Orridge. It’s about a level of social practice and a self-reflexive engagement with visual languages.
Whose work would you most like to be exhibited alongside?
I’d love to be in a show of some with my favourite sculptors who responded to everyday materials, including objects that have sometimes been discarded or that people otherwise consider ‘garbage’ Robert Rauschenberg, Eva Hesse, Claes Oldenberg, Louise Nevelson and Mike Kelley come to mind.
In your opinion, what is the most exciting development in contemporary art?
When I coined the term ‘Post-internet Art’ to describe my own work, in 2006 I had no idea it would be a concept with which so many other artists identified or that it would become such a hot topic. (Even Kanye West says he wants to be ‘the Postinternet Disney!’) Though it can now sometimes be a cheesy marketing term, I still find the idea compelling in a number of ways. Living and creating art in a world that is constantly marked by network conditions means having a greater understanding of our interconnectedness, which enables a fluidity between a diversity of media (online and offline) that was not as possible or supported in an earlier era.
Can you tell us something interesting/unusual about yourself?
Both of my parents were spies. They are dead now so there are many things I will never know about who they were and what they actually did, but I know for instance that my father’s work entailed elements of cryptography and he was fluent in nine languages. Because of their work interests we had a lot of cool computer gear in my house from a very early age. It’s no wonder that I became a bit of a geek with a love of hardware and the internet.
Bianca Chu, Head of Sale for First Open / London: Marisa Olson’s work chimes with the concept of crowd sourcing art online. Having coined the term ‘Post-Internet Art’, the inclusion of her piece which directly explores what she terms ‘upgrade culture’ works on multiple levels in this context.
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