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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.

HIKERS:

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.

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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.

SUNSET ENCOUNTER

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.
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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.

JEROME FOUNDATION

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.

Hikers Installation Shot

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.

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Justin Newhall’s photography has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, including solo, two- and three-person exhibitions, at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago), Galerie Lichtblick (Cologne), Franklin Art Works (Minneapolis), and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

His work is represented in numerous public and private collections, including the permanent collections of the Museum of Contemporary Photography and the Walker Art Center.

Justin is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He received a BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art & Design and an MFA from the University of Minnesota. Aperture has published an individual title of Newhall’s work. Newhall is represented by Weinstein Gallery in Minneapolis.

For more information, contact newhall.info@gmail.com.

MPB: Your work involves myths and history, and in your Lewis and Clark series, many of the photos depict “history” as it relates to opportunities for tourism and commerce. In America, public knowledge about her history is a commercial industry in as much as commerce equates America’s national pride. For you, is there a semblance which stories from history sell, and which stories people are attracted to, and how those stories are spun over time?

Sacagawea State Park, Walla Walla County, Washington

JN: My work in Historical Marker revolved around the 200-year anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition. One of the things I was interested in with that project was exploring how we tell or sell our historic past. It is usually incredibly oversimplified and often hyperbolic – animated dioramas, reenactments, etc.  As a kid visiting these places, I can tell you it did little to shed light on history in any thoughtful or educational way.  I also wanted to juxtapose those often absurd images with images of the geography itself, which is often unremarkable.  Many historic sites and monuments belie the significant events or histories that actually took place there.

MPB: Contrarily, photographing up in Churchill, Manitoba is more about hunting down the mythology that inspired Gould. Whatever community there was, it was a fringe-society without the glamour of the heroic American mythological epic. Your series, Northern Studies, is less about a public or collective connection to history, yet, like any other story, the landscape’s narrative is mysterious and compelling. Is there a reason why you started the series as it relates to the hyperbolic tourism found in Lewis and Clark’s legacy, or the shared fetishism found in Axis and Allies?

JN: With Northern Studies I wasn’t so much interested in “hunting down” the North that Gould portrayed in his experimental radio documentary as I was in finding a way to translate its essence into visual form.  As for how it relates to my Historical Marker images, I would say that both involve following someone else’s path.  And in both those projects and in my Axis and Allies series, I was interested in history – past and present. Also, in all three bodies of work, the landscape figures in or looms largest.  Even in Axis and Allies, the Midwestern landscape, full of buckthorn and honeysuckle, becomes a character.

German Soldiers, Rosemount, Minnesota

MPB: What’s an experience about an image you had difficulty making, and could you describe what potentially distracted or diluted the image before you were happy with it?

JN: With Northern Studies I had many difficult experiences making images. My first of several trips to Churchill, Manitoba (where the Northern Studies images were taken) involved a 10 day trip (five of which were on a train) with me shooting around 100 rolls of film – and I didn’t like any of the images I made.  There were a few images from that trip with promise, but I could tell I just needed to figure out a better way of picturing them.  On my next trip I switched from a medium format to 4×5 so I could get more descriptive power from the images and that helped a great deal. The worst part about shooting in the region was the cold in the winter (one trip the mercury never made it above -30 F), which made taking pictures with my 4×5 almost impossible.  And add on top of that that the very real possibility of a polar bear attack. The summers weren’t much better – I still had to be worried about polar bear, but the real menace was the bugs. You can’t even imagine how insane they were. It was the Boundary Waters times ten!

MPB: Is the purpose of your work satire, or to critique? Or both?

JN: No comment.

MPB: Your previous series Axis and Allies explores history as consumption: the rituals of subculture, nostalgia, and respect ultimately compel larger bodies of people-groups to reenact war battles. How much is spectator-sports? Education? 

JN: Many people who participate in reenactments feel like they are having this very intense and “real” connection to history.  Of course in reality, it’s a very selective and often nostalgic one.  Sometimes there is a component of public education – reenactments often take place as part of celebrations commemorating historic events.  But what I was interested in was the private events that reenactors hold, where the general public is out of view. There, there’s very little pretense about educating.  Participants are still obsessed with “authenticity,” especially as it relates to their gear and weaponry, but in my experience at least (I participated in many private events as a Russian soldier in a Soviet unit), there’s not a whole lot of talk about the nature of war or its outcomes. They would have these battles with an end goal, and sometimes they’d relate it to a particular historic battle, the Battle of the Bulge for instance, but the outcome wasn’t actually predetermined.  Most of the time I participated, the Germans won.

MPB: I’m also curious: what is your understanding of the psychological motivations of the participants? Is there a general through-line as to why they participate? Are there financial costs to participate (do they pay a participatory fee)? And if there are fees to participate, does money go to something specifically?

JN: Motivations vary – everyone comes to their “impression” from a different place.  Typically, there are no fees to participate.

MPB: Were you able to deduce how much of the battle re-enactments are a way for two sides to continue fighting, or for two opposing frames of thought not to compromise? 

JN: Not sure what you mean? I think in large part it’s a way for a bunch of grown men (and some women) to get together, camp, drink, smoke and play war. I believe much of it is about fantasy and play.

MPB: Political-theorist Hannah Arendt said, “I’m more than ever of the opinion that a decent human existence is possible only on the fringes of society.” All of your work appears to be focused on fringe-societies. In many ways “the other” (aka “fringe societies”) is becoming more consistent in our own society. What’s a fringe society now?

JN: I’ve never thought of my work as concentrating on the idea of “the other” except perhaps in Axis and Allies.  With Historical Marker the work was born of familiarity – paying homage to decades of family trips out West and also to the work of a generation of photographers often associated with the New Topographics exhibition at the Eastman House in 1975.  I guess with Northern Studies there was a sense of the exotic – due in large part to geographic distance and isolation – but in reality the town of Churchill isn’t all that much different from what you find in Northern Minnesota or Rural Montana. Fringe to some, but again I think familiar to many others.  I’m not sure what I would consider a fringe society as it requires you to set a baseline for the norm, which is something quite difficult to do.

Cold War-era Radar Facillity, Fort Churchill, MB

MPB: Could you list your most important influences–visually and philosophically? 

JN: Tough one to answer, there are so many, and it varies depending on which project I’m looking at.  Music in general is almost always an influence, whether it’s a specific band or song  or composer, or a general movement – punk rock, folk, classical, etc.  Frequently, I think of my projects in terms of structure the way I would a song or album. That was one of the reasons I was so keen on using Glenn Gould’s Idea of North as the foundation to build my Northern Studies series.  Gould’s work is a radio documentary but it’s structured like a musical score.  Also, with my most recent work, I keep coming back to a song by the British post punk band Wire – Outdoor Miner. It’s spare, simple, beautiful and mysterious in a way that resonates with me.

MPB What inspires you to photograph currently?

JN: At the highest level of generality, I make photographs to discover and make sense of the world and to communicate what I find with others.

MPB: Do you have any opinions about the future of photography: technically, artistically?

JN: Practice-wise I could care less if an image was made with an iPhone or with an 8×10 view camera as long as it’s compelling. Also, I’m sure digital cameras will continue to get better and the means of producing images easier – though you will still need a good idea to make something worthwhile. Predicting photography’s artistic future (in terms of subject matter)  I would say that, from now until the end of time, we’ll be rehashing the same broad or general themes and ideas.  What’s the quote…“the really original artist does not try to find a substitute for boy meets girl, but creates the illusion that no boy ever met a girl before”?  Some might find that discouraging.  But I find it comforting.

MPB: What is the surprising-best quality about the “Minnesota photo-scene”?

JN: I’m not sure if I see it as a scene per se, but I do think there is a strong visual arts community here.  Its best quality is that it’s accessible to anyone seeking it out.

MPB: Are there any dynamics you would wish could change? Or things “we’re doing,” but could do better?

JN: I do think that one could argue for trying to make it (the MN visual arts community) better known to the world outside of MN.  There are certainly a number of people in town whose reputation or work is well known elsewhere, but there’s still a sense that artists in the Midwest are not the same caliber as their coastal peers and that there is a provincial quality to work made here. Both in my experience are not true.

MPB: Whose unnoticed photo-work are you particularly excited and engaged by and would like to find wider exposure?

JN: This is a bit of a copout but there are too many to list.

MPB: I’d associate you as a Minnesota photographer. Have you lived elsewhere, and if so has that experience informed your work specifically?

JN: I was born in Los Angeles, but shortly thereafter my family moved back to Minnesota. But my family has had a long connection with the state of Montana, going back almost 100 years, so growing up I spent many of my summers on my grandparents’ ranch in Central Montana.  That connection has and continues to inform the work I make.

Installation View of Northern Studies at Franklin Art Works