by Patricia Rose
(Lauren Beck, Hannah Givler, Laura Robbins Maidens,
Danielle Rosen, Casey Smallwood, Danny Volk)
We recently got the opportunity to work with Danielle Rosen of Patricia Rose on a specialty clamshell box for their work ANTHROPOEMBRYOS, and wanted to talk more with her about this beautiful project.
This piece for ANTHROPOEMBRYOS is a 14x18x2" clamshell box with a reflective blue-metallic Japanese fabric, and a blind-debossed title on the front. The two fitted trays hold five mounted archival pigment prints and a letterpress booklet produced by April Sheridan.
What was the origin or initial vision of the work?
The project started as a conversation with Danny Volk about Lee Edelman’s book No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Danny asked several cis-gendered female friends to respond to the question: Why would an artist want to have a baby today? Danny invited each of us to collaborate on a show called The Baby Gap at the Outhaus in Urbana. Using the retail environment of The Baby Gap as a context, we explored our varied personal views on human procreation. Hannah made a cash wrap, Laura made a playlist, Casey made banners, I made a scent, and Danny was the model. Lauren was later invited to contribute to the text because I felt that we needed the perspective of an artist friend who does have a baby. All of the collaborators produced a piece of writing in response to the project prompt to be woven into a Baby Gap lookbook for the seasonal collection: ANTHROPOEMBRYOS.
In early discussions of the show, Danny brought up his collection of old underwear stained with pre-cum. Somehow, Danny wanted to incorporate these into The Baby Gap exhibition. After several discussions, Danny’s underwear became the ANTHROPOEMBRYOS collection. It seemed important that the underwear were represented as conceptual images rather than as physical products in The Baby Gap exhibition. So the lookbook format really arose out of a conversation around fashion, waste, absence, reproduction, desire, and queerness inspired by Danny’s soiled underwear.
Fashion designers like Yohji Yamamoto often include inspirational notes within their lookbooks, so we introduced several references for the collection into the text. We referenced the movie Alien and other sci-fi films to think through surrogacy and attachment. Plastic surgery, labiaplasty, fruits, and the yummy mummy operated as molting figures within the text. And the title came about when thinking about the inherent anthropocentrism of concerns over the propagation of the human-animal. Through the ANTHROPOEMBRYOS lookbook our personal experiences were interpolated with theoretical and cultural references to reproduction, sexuality, domestication, and agency.
After the show was over, I felt that the lookbook needed a more permanent and formal structure. So, I approached Matt at Candor Arts to help pull everything together. And here we are!
Describe a little about your practice and how this piece fits into your work overall.
In my practice, I’ve always obsessed over the question of the animal—what animals are, how human-animals relate to each other and other species, and how animality is represented in various cultural contexts. Reproduction as a metaphor for breeding and art processes like casting or photography has been an interest of mine over the past several years. Many animals spend an enormous amount of energy trying desperately to reproduce. With that in mind, problematizing what it means for a human-animal to resist a biological imperative like reproduction is very relevant to the concerns of my practice. The fashion system as a site for gendered expressions, mating displays, and molting processes are also concepts that I’ve been exploring in my work for a while. So when Danny started talking about this project, I was very engaged with the lines of inquiry. Danny is a great collaborator who is always driving conversations forward and that also made it a fun project to take on.
Patricia Rose is a performative platform that I’ve used within my practice since 2011. Over the years, Rose has become a site for collaborative authorship where various human-animals intersect and are invited to perform as one polyvocal entity. With this project, I like to think of Rose as a non-binary Mother, not unlike a SCOBY. With ANTHROPOEMBRYOS, Rose is the fictional designer who is pulling various entities into relation to a produce a new being: a conceptual queer fashion collection.
Can you talk a bit about the design and how you came to deciding how this piece should exist?
When working on the design for ANTHROPOEMBRYOS, I felt that photos of the collection should be separate from the text. The photos function as conceptual product shots and the text walks viewers through Rose’s poetic framework for the collection. That is why they are placed in separate compartments within the book box.
Having a letterpress book was important me to because it seemed vital to have physical impressions on the page to add sensuality to the reading of the work. Creating a book that viewers will physically touch is an act of intimacy. Through the process of touch, viewers may further soil the work unless they wear protective gloves. I make no stipulations about how the work should be handled.
It is not typical to make just one letterpress book. This was intentional for this project—the object is an individual. Of course, all of this is wrapped up in fetishism. And if this book finds a home in a library, anyone who wants to see it will have to go to that specific context. Like when I want to see Francis Bacon’s Figure with Meat, I have to go to the Art Institute of Chicago to see it. So the library that the book belongs to should have a collection that relates to the content of the work. This would allow opportunities for intertextual reading and research. Finding a library for ANTHROPOEMBRYOS is the next step in its actualization.
What is your next project?
A long term Patrica Rose project called HELIANTHEAE, SCALESIA. is in the works. We are using sunflowers as both poetic figures and political metaphors to meditate on the life of autotrophs. For the final text we are specifically looking at Scalesia, endemic to the Galapagos Islands. This project is exciting to think about in contrast to the form of ANTHROPOEMBRYOS because I plan to make editions that function like an ecology; each book will live in a different habitat or site but still play with thematics of polvocality, multiplicity, and singularity. HELIANTHEAE, SCALESIA. is a long term collaboration with a very thoughtful group of artists: Carris Adams, Autumn Elizabeth Clark, Maggie Crowley, Hale Ekinci, Catherine Feliz, Ingrid Lee, Natasha Mijares, Luan Sherman, Jen Smoose, and Falak Vasa. It is really exciting to be in the process of pulling the writing together and I look forward to building the edition soon!
Many thanks to all of the incredible artists who helped to produce ANTHROPOEMBRYOS including Matt Austin, April Sheridan, Lauren Beck, Hannah Givler, Laura Robbins Maidens, Casey Smallwood, and of course, Danny Volk!