Fayen d'Evie is an artist and writer who recently founded a publishing imprint, 3-Ply. She has been based in Melbourne, but is about to move to the countryside, get some chickens, and save money so she can throw more resources at her book projects.
I worked for a good decade in international politics, and it was very different, on the surface, from what I am doing now. For example, for one of my last jobs, I was heading up a new centre for educational peace building in Canada and one of our big projects was looking at Islamic Peace building. So we'd bring together people from Kashmir, Tajikistan, Indonesia, Philippines, other Islamic parts of the world, to look at how the Quran and the Hadith can be used for conflict resolution and peace building. So it appears very different from what I am doing now. But the thing was - at the time, I had reached the stage where I was feeling quite frustrated with academic ways of solving problems, with policy - and I had this moment when I was walking from a disappointing meeting in New York, in the basement of the UN building, where there is artwork lining the corridors. And no-one was looking at it. I had been interested as a collector, and had also been making art myself for many years, although in a more private way, and I thought - there just must be a way, with discussions like these that are stagnant, that we can look outside academic and policy prescriptions, and find new ways of thinking. And for me, the way I had always approached those issues, was through this private, domestic art making. So I began to wonder if there was a way I could pursue that. And I felt that I didn't want to do it as a late hobbyist, but to take it seriously. So I left what I was doing, and came to Melbourne and started at the VCA. I've just finished my undergraduate degree in painting - and it took me longer than the ordinary amount of time, as I stopped briefly to have a baby. But I do feel that I got out of it what I wanted - to feel confident that I had a connection to the professional art community, and an understanding of where contemporary discourse was at, rather than the more superficial engagement I felt I'd get as a hobbyist. That's really the roundabout way I got to practicing art.
I became more convinced that, for me, it was useful to think both through texts and through artmaking. To give an example of this, a project I have been working on for a while - and I keep revisiting - is about Radovan Karadzic, who is currently in The Hague on trial for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. He is an intriguing man - he escaped capture for about 13 years, in disguise as a new-age guru Dr Dabic who was highly regarded for his healing powers. It's a really interesting story of alias and reinvention and authorship - he released poetry and novels and childrens' books under his alias and his original name while in hiding. I've been working with some of his poetry, as a way to think through big questions on good and evil, and I've also been looking at him in relation to another figure who I find intriguing, which is Luce Irigaray - a feminist theorist who has also written a lot about good and evil. One of the works I produced last year was a book where I contrasted these two figures, wrote stories about them, and then wrote a script - which merged an excerpt of his poetry with an extract of her writing. It's strange the way it works, merging their voices, because it creates this domestic conflict conversation. Alongside the written material, I was creating paintings, and the paintings would inform where I would go next with the writing process. It's very difficult for anyone else to be able to access these specific points, but I think it is enough to be able to say that the painting process is intimately tied to the textual product. So I guess that I am realising that there is definitely a way that working beyond the spheres of academia and policy gives me insight into the big questions I felt stuck on before.
I think it's not possible to say, retrospectively, how it would have changed my thinking, but what I am clear about now is that visual art provides a point to lift myself outside of a conventional logic when thinking about the world and its problems, and thinking about opportunities and possibilities that exist. I tend to think in quite a linear way, but visual art provides this point which is less accessible for me, and because I can't access the logic of it, it requires me to think more deeply, in a different way than I would have otherwise.
Basically I find that visual art - both artmaking and as an audience member of other art - lets me think more critically about situations. And if I were trapped within conventional texts, academic or political texts, I don't think I would be able to expand into new realms of thinking.
I don't think it's that, I think there is often a lack of transparency about how contingent the knowledge is that is contained within those forms. I think there is a lot of pressure within the political system to appear expert. And the problem with that is there is a repetition, a regurgitation of ideas.
Something like that. There are these interesting ideas about discursive democracy, and discursive expertise - one example of that would be the 'expert crowd', which I don't always agree with, but it's the idea that instead of having one expert, maybe you can reach an expert opinion by seeking a whole range of opinions, and then make a judgement about where you think the most credible, integrated answer lies. But I think we might be getting off track -
I can explain in another way. I was recently asked to write two texts. One of them was for Matt Hinkley's upcoming book with Rainoff - and I found that writing exciting, it made me think through my relationship to his work, and I realised I wanted to talk about his work through a particular story within my own life - which was a road trip through crumbling, pre-election Zimbabwe. There was a real freedom writing that way, and it let me rethink that political experience, and find new insights into that experience driven by Matt's work - in terms of subtlety, the complexity and intricacy of a situation. That piece of writing really encapsulates where I think the power is, that without being able to think about Matt's artwork - which seems completely divorced from this strange, political conundrum that I faced going through this country - I never would have appreciated those subtleties. The other text I mentioned was an academic text analysing a project in Canada. Two Canadian artists had invited survivors of torture and human rights abuse to place mementoes in a box, and they displayed about 500 of these boxes in a stadium during the all-night arts festival, Nuit Blanche. Analysing that project in an academic way - I began to feel so trapped, I felt there were so many more interesting things to say about the work, but I couldn't because of the academic form, and I ended up feeling that my article was missing what was most fundamentally interesting about the work.
What I'm doing with 3-Ply is actually broader than that, but it does connect back with Matt. I was a silent partner in supporting and catalysing his concertina publication. I became involved because I was really interested to see how Matt's work would operate in a book form. I hope that 3-Ply will allow me to think through the relationship between text and non-textual artmaking not only in my own work, but also in connection with certain artists that I am interested in. The sorts of people I have picked to work with range from Joshua Petherick to Tony Garifalakis, Damiano Bertoli, Liv Barrett and Nick Mangan - who, for example, had a show recently with work that drew on the photocopier form and function so much, that it seemed like a natural segueway to think about what kind of book could come out of that show. After reading some writing about Nick's show, I felt it cut off the entry points for the viewer, rather than creating new ones. So I suggested to Nick that we minimise the place of any kind of expert text in his book. In the end, it looks like he has decided text isn't necessary at all, and the book will act as a visual thesis including documentation of his shows, research images, background images. It's exciting because I always felt his work really does operate as a visual thesis, and I think any written text could have detracted from the power of his images and visual process as a research tool.
Not too far off - Nick's book is a co-publication with Warren Taylor of The Narrows, together with 3-Ply. Warren is overseeing the design of it, it should be out sometime in the next 3 months.
Where it is possible for me to contribute writing to a publication, where it can amplify this publication as an artwork - then that is something I will do. But also sometimes my role may be to interrogate what the value or use or the possibilities are for a text, in relation to imagery, within a particular artist's publication. It's where I get to be critical about that relationship.
No - and with Liv's book, which will, of course, be her text, my contribution will probably be a series of paintings, because I develop my paintings in a very similar way to how she develops her texts. When I am writing, it is usually in a very linear way, but when I am developing my paintings, they are more iterative - they sometimes include aspects from other paintings I have been developing, I am constantly reworking them, and there are a lot of layers to the process - painting, printing, using a dremel to engrave the work and repainting. It's very similar to the way I see Liv approaching her writing and her curating, where she often comes up with an idea, and then a few months later we will have another conversation and she will revisit that - and with her book, it is looking like it will include revisiting the text she wrote for her show, Chinatown: The Sequel, which you discussed in her interview. One of the series of paintings I'm working on just now involves a reworking of parts of a print of a single painting I previously made. I have just realised now how convoluted this all sounds! Anyway, I'm looking at ways of honing in on certain details, of removing and extracting parts, of hiding parts, and seeing the ways within this suite of three paintings, I can produce three different positions coming from the one work.
It will depend on what books I have been reading, the conversations I've been having with people at the time. What I am trying to achieve is a feeling of equilibrium. So I work and re-work a painting, until I feel I have arrived at a position that I am prepared to contribute, and say "This is my position at this moment." But also I have been going back and reworking old positions - old paintings that I felt were finished, and it was only later that I realise I have more to add. Which is where it connects through to Liv's writing.
I am so interested in different people's processes, a bit like you, but in particular their ontology - what they believe about knowing, what they believe about how you approach the world and find out. What intrigues me is how different people approach this.
I couldn't do it! But perhaps on that last statement: My original degree was in Nuclear Physics and my doctorate, even though it was in Environmental Studies, was really looking at Integrated Environmental Management. So constantly, I have been looking at ways of approaching issues from a broader perspective. Therefore I'm eager to avoid forcing a boundary around what my art practice is, because what I am interested in is understanding how writing, painting, publishing, collecting - all these activities, how can they reinforce one another so that the discourses I am able to engage in are richer.
Images property of Fayen d'Evie and Double Days. Images 8,9 and 10 - Some Kinds Of Duration 2011 (video still) by Nicholas Mangan. Image 11 - Tony Garifalakis, Anti Christs (detail) 2012.
The referrals began with Leah Jackson who referred Stephanie Downey who referred Chris Hill who referred Jonathan Wallace who referred Dominic Hofstede, who referred Paul Fuog, who referred Ben Edwards and Juliet Moore, who referred Ryan Russel and Byron George, who referred Dianna Snape, who finished the stream with Jessica Brent. We also introduced Matt Hinkley who referred Warren Taylor who referred Yanni Florence, who referred Liv Barrett, who referred Fayen d'Evie, who referred Masato Takasaka, who referred Madeline Kidd, who referred Meredith Turnbull, who referred Nella Themelios.
In May 2012, we began a new Melbourne stream with Oslo Davis. He then referred Alexander Stitt, who referred Mimmo Cozzolino, who referred Fysh Rutherford, who referred Simon and Jenna Hipgrave.
In March 2012, we went to Austin for SXSW, where the daily referrals began with Sonnenzimmer who referred Landland and Hometapes who referred Zorch, who referred Brian Maclaskey, who referred Bobby Dixon, who referred Brian Phillips, who, through some auspicious coincidence, turned the SXSW referral interview project into a perfect circle, by referring us back to Sonnenzimmer. Then there was a giveaway to celebrate.