Greg Carideo’s projects mine archetypes and stereotypes found within current culture with metaphor, wit, and unexpected but often comic surprises. His curiosities for and questions about what can be visually explained, especially regarding assumed or common cultural behaviors (Craigslist ads, tourist photo-ops, desert sojourns, an evening walk in a neighborhood), come into question when still-examined.
I think that is what’s super smart about the work: often Carideo stops to notice, pausing time in a moment, the connection (well, one of many) to a self-conscious use of camera. Without offering answers, he presents. And from most work I’ve seen, he’s seemingly absent from the image-making process as a personal voice. Why interfere with pure inquiry?
Across projects, the viewer’s reaction familiarizes itself in how much laughter and consideration one recognizes in one’s self when looking at his so-far oeuvre. Work which been rewarded with an MSAB Artist Initiative Grant, Jerome Foundation Emerging Artist Award, and residencies. He is a graduate of MCAD in Minneapolis, MN and Accademia di Belle Arti in Firenze, Italia.
MPB: Could you explain how this project came about?
GC: I had made a sculpture earlier that year of a few cardboard cut-out figures sitting together looking excruciatingly bored. The figures were taken from a picture found on the web. I liked the gesture of making a life-size, chintzy memorial to a remarkably banal moment. At the time when I started working on Hikers, I would get into these searches for typological images on the internet. Pictures of people on top of mountains were always funny to me because their pose is meant to show their triumph over a mountain, which is sort of absurd to begin with. The two converged because it seemed natural to make a cardboard cut-out of a person at the peak of their glory, whether they look it or not. I decided that if the average person were to pose for a marble statue, they would do something similar to these pictures. The photo series that followed was a way of animating the figures and stressing the physical space between these people who were originally photographed in such distant places. I was interested in making the cut-outs perform for the spot light, a game of king-of-the-hill if you will.
MPB: Were you shooting on location?
GC: I photographed the cut-outs on a photo sweep in my studio but the source images are of course from different locations. Each figure is a person standing at the summit of a mountain top.
MPB: Are the cut-outs ready-mades? (If not, do you know the individuals’ identities, how many figures are in the collection?)
GC: No, they are not ready-mades. I produced them in the studio and took some liberties in the process, such as adjusting the contrast or skewing the tiled pages within the person’s shape. I don’t know who the people are however there are a few people who appear in the series twice, pulled from different pictures of the same hike, so when looking at the series there are moments of familiarity similar to “knowing” them. It’s kind of like seeing a stranger twice in one day, in totally different places of the city. I think there are twenty different cut-outs but probably only seventeen different people.
MPB: Have you ever hiked or trekked yourself?
GC: Oh yeah. Hiking is one of my main activities when traveling. I am not a “legit” backpacker though. I go on long, grueling hikes wearing jean shorts. I’m really not into the consumerism surrounding outdoor activities which may disqualify me as a hiker. I don’t own a Camelbak.
Here are my observations: Part of the humor in theses images is how the car-beauty shots are in formulaic sunset backdrops. Sunsets are about the wane of something and offer remaining nostalgic thoughts, and yet the project is about the impetus for new infatuations. There’s a charged, “Look at what’s already occurred, something is closing down as night settles.” It’s like the subtext is as though there’s death before it starts, or that like so many spontaneous infatuations, many of those objects we pine for “drive away” too quickly, moving along to pass us by.
MPB: Be honest. How many cars or drivers factually caught your interest?
GC: I knew where to look, so most of the cars I came across caught my interest. These pictures came out of an observation not a preconceived project. I had an irresistible urge to photograph them. This all took place in a very small town in Iceland during the winter, where the few hours of sunlight consisted of a sunrise that transitioned into sunset. Because of the remote nature of the town, there is a “boundary line” where the town ends and the landscape begins. The cars in the photos are on the edge of town and appear to be in the wild, however there is usually a house just out of frame. It’s a manipulation of perspective; the camera positions the car in nature while I (the photographer) remain in town.
MPB: There’s also a place for social commentary–both online personals and car marketing shots, are ways we sell items.
GC: Yes, they both have a lot to do with desire. Photography is rooted in a desire for ownership; a way of dealing with something otherwise difficult to appreciate. It’s difficult to know what to do with a sunset or a monument like Notre Dame, so we make the experience into an objective activity of attempting to “capture it”. I saw a correlation between those Craigslist ads and a car against a sunset/mountain backdrop in that they were both a momentary idealization of something. The ”missed connection” postings are not so much advertisements as they are a memorial to an individual or moment.
MPB: One of your awards is a 2010/2011 Jerome Foundation Emerging Artist awards. How much impact did the award offer you? Could you describe your learning arc, as well as what surprised you?
GC: Well, one of the benefits of winning a grant is that you are relieved of some of your monetary stresses. I know that’s obvious but the time that affords you to work has an impact on the things you make. I feel like I made some good moves in that year, of which I am still working from today. The Jerome is great too because in addition to the stipend you have a few visits from individuals from the art world who you may not have access to otherwise.
MPB: Do you have insight into what you would have done differently, or how winning a different year might have changed your experience?
GC: It came at a good time because I was experimenting with different approaches to making pictures, such as slide shows and longs photo-sequences, that needed a viewer for me to know how well they worked. The fellowship was an excuse to show projects in progress, which has influenced me to be more permissive these days. I spent the majority of the grant period in Minneapolis, and if it were a different year, such as last year, I may have been inclined to work somewhere else, which would’ve limited my involvement with the fellowship. For instance, after the grant period finished I set off on some lengthy travels in an effort to insert myself into a different culture or context partially to see how a different place may influence my ideas.
MPB: Do you have insight for any others who aspire to receive the grant?
GC: Apply. It’s a gamble with no risk. Submit work that you care about and don’t be influenced by what you think the jurors are looking for.
MPB: Do you have particular goals right now in your career? Additionally, where do you want to go within the next year/three years?
GC: I’d like to find a sustainable way to support my travels while maintaining a studio somewhere. Currently, I’m just trying to share my work as much as possible. I may be applying to a few grad programs this year, so school could be in my future.
MPB: Whose recent photo-works have caught your eye and why?
GC: I’ve been re-looking at a lot of Fischli & Weiss photographs. Specifically, the project Airports. The project is “recent” but they’ve been making these pictures for something around 25 years. Airports is great because it’s the biggest gesture towards a totally mundane thing, which is in fact totally crazy. They are giving the world what it needs, hundreds of pictures documenting an insane place, an in-between space designed to be overlooked.
MPB: Who are your non-visual inspirations?
GC: I have a tendency to idealize musicians and what they do. I’m not sure if I am inspired or envious of them however, because they make something that enters the body and moves people without explanation. I just like to think about the directness of a noise made by one person instantly influencing the feelings of another.
MPB: Are you a comedian? Do you celebrate that?
GC: I wouldn’t say that I am a comedian, they have a different motive. A comedian usually tries to entertain and be funny. If you’re an artist who is a comedian and the joke isn’t funny, than what does that mean for the art? This would be really troubling to me if humor was at the forefront of these projects. I think that the work fits more into the category of ‘witty’ because the humor in it is speckled here and there like little treats for a viewer who continues to look and engage with the thing.
MPB: This past year you spent time traveling — in New Orleans, the American Southwest –and your projects continue to explore desire: whether it be for immediate needs (water), personal interest (space, personal time), intellectual curiosity (exploration, research). Does your work play off or touch a personal narrative? As if the work is a meta-example of your own search or relationship to these desires? I’m curious if the work is personal — not that it’s important — but I think about a young artist and all the obstacles and all the confusing challenges that exist in the world.
GC: That’s a good question. Sure, things can be looked at as personal, however not too personal because they are somewhat universal. I like to work from cliches and archetypes because they are often true and usually funny. Themes like ‘lost in the desert’, ‘paranoia about your surroundings’, or ‘sexy cars’ are meant to be metaphors for more common experiences. What I try to do in the more “narrative” projects is make them open-ended enough so that someone watching can fill in the blanks with whatever they see fit. The desert to me is like the manifestation of a mental space. There’s a lot of space for movement but it’s easy to get lost. To me, it’s strongest as a metaphor but the project also came out of the curiosity of what “getting lost” would look like without portraiture. Because experiences help generate ideas and material, you can see a personal narrative in most of my work. But then, what distinguishes the work from being documentary is that an image or object is not only itself. It usually demonstrates an idea that may be about something different than the literal subject of the photograph. I mean, most art functions like that though.
MPB: Let’s talk about botany. Can you explain your interest in plants and perhaps the way plants entered your work?
GC: I started to work with the bush as an image because of what it meant to be inside it. I think we all have a preconception of someone hiding in a bush as a voyeur or outsider. Taking pictures from a bush was a way to have the viewer look out onto something with skepticism or curiosity. It was a way to turn the subject around to the photographer rather than what’s being pictured. This line of thinking lead me to the thought that, whether or not there’s a person in the bush, we should be suspicious. I started making pictures as a voyeur whose paranoia of being watched made him suspicious of all trees. Like I was saying in the previous question though, what’s being photographed is just a way to get at something else. Plants and trees are my way of dealing with the idea of watching/being watched.
MPB: Any planned upcoming trips/travel? Or dream-wanderlust trip?
GC: I’m going down South again this winter but no concrete plans beyond that. I’d like to spend some time in Mexico City and the surrounding area. That might be my next long stay somewhere.
MPB: Where can someone see your work next?
GC: Well, there are some potential shows in the works but it’s too early to say for sure. The best way to see my work is to come to my studio and hang out with me.