Mark Dudiak visited by Nicholas Brown

Mark Dudiak

NB – This is a big space and there appears to be a lot of construction going on — big sculptures and installations being made on site — is this large scale, three-dimensional work characteristic of most of what you do? I also see drawings on the walls, how do these fit with what we’re seeing in the foreground?

MD - Yes, large work is pretty common for me. I make drawings at different stages in the development of an installation, sometimes as sketches but drawing often finds itself into the larger pieces.

Also related to the size of the space, are you sharing this studio? If so, with whom, and how did this arrangement come about? Would you mind describing the location of your studio with respect to the city of Vancouver?

I share with four other artists, but we have two rooms. When I moved back to Vancouver from Regina in 2006 I just got lucky that some of my friends needed someone to help with the rent. The space is located under an apartment building
half a block off of Main street, two blocks from my apartment in a neighbourhood rapidly becoming too rich for my blood.

Mark Dudiak Getting into the work itself, I’d like to begin by asking you about the large, green structure. Could you explain this piece a bit? I’m especially interested in the materials you’ve chosen for this and some of the other pieces like the ones in the photo is of the silver snake, two pieces of wood with painted-on woodgrain, and the “splatter” painted
circle, which sort of looks like a shield).There seems to be a bit of deception going on here between the appearance of the objects and what they seem to be indexing in terms of materials and types of objects. Is this intended, and if so how large does that deception factor into the way these objects are meant to function?

I’ve been working on an installation of props recovered from post-apocalyptic nightclubs. Everything is made of wood each piece is meant to mimic a material either literally or symbolically. The green piece is the first element of the
exhibition that viewers are presented with, it is the gate from a literal space into the symbolic/imaginary content of the overall installation and is thus the most realistic, at least in terms of texture. I’m interested in using artifice as an invitation into the work, it really isn’t a determined effort to deceive.

It’s interesting that you’ve chosen to make everything out of wood, especially since I noticed that you chose to paint woodgrain on certain pieces (almost like wood paneling on an old station wagon) — this seems to highlight the distance between appearance and reality. I wonder if you could expand on the space your work occupies between fiction and the “real world”. If your work isn’t meant to deceive, then what is it pointing to? As you say, it is an invitation, but to where or what are we being invited?

Mark Dudiak My installation work revolves around fictions rooted in true events or current conditions. I try to envision possible outcomes to present situations as a way to discuss such topics in greater depth, to create portraits of present communities and their desires. I think that the wood grain on wood can be seen as the same intention, I’m layering a plausible fiction onto reality, which is an intimate relationship rather than distant one, much more like a hallucination than a discussion. Its also a bit of a lame joke too I guess.

Sometimes I feel that viewers may be hesitant to explore an artwork fully, and that’s really problematic because surface readings miss a lot of the humour, paradox and deeper meaning that is found after some time with the work.
Often the decision on whether to spend time with a work or not hinges on the prestige of the artist. Lacking that name recognition I try to demonstrate a commitment to the work and to the viewer by offering a invitation that appeals
immediately to the senses before proceeding to the mind.

I’m also curious about your choices in titling pieces. I personally love your OOOoooooo piece for its mystifying title. Could you talk about your considerations when formulating titles?

I’d been thinking a lot about titles for works and had decided that many are pretty much just there because they have to be. I figured that untitled is no longer a way around the issue and started naming things based on the verbal sound I thought
they might convey, the onomatopoeia of their content. I fantasized about future gallery tours where the guides were saying these titles out loud, making explosion or drip-drop sounds to the delight/irritation of gallery goers. The installation
‘OOOOOOoooooooo’, is based on this principle.

As I consider your titles in relation to what we have discussed about your work, it has occurred to me that you are using the ‘title’ in a formal way, as opposed to a didactic one. Is this the role that language plays in your work, or is there a place for language in a more conventional sense? I wonder about earlier pieces like Facture (notes on artistic collaboration) (2003) — how might these works relate to one another?

Facture uses language in a very circular, almost visual manner it doesn’t really lead anywhere specific or draw any firm conclusions. It relies on the same basic strategy of creating a selective and intentionally inaccurate reading of history
that vibrates between being a series stupid jokes and genuine moments of insight that informs my present work. When I use text in my art it doesn’t exist outside the bounds of the piece itself, it isn’t there just to clarify the work.

I’d like to discuss further the relationship between formal strategies and meaning in your work, and to return to this question of deception in your work- perhaps a better word here is “translation”. It seems to me that, rather than some of your peers in Vancouver, your have opted deliberately to avoid indexing reality with your work. Why this desire to go beyond your own existence or direct experience, and what makes this “otherworldly” space interesting to you?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that my work has no relationship to reality, usually I identify a historical event, or prominent topic of discourse that I find interesting or pertinent, and remove it from its original context. This is just my starting point and I generally do not feel bound by any notions of accurate representation. In fact I often present work based on intentional mis-readings of a situation in order to create a sort of critical deadpan. I don’t believe in art that limits its discussion to an examination of appearances or a re-statement of fact, for me its about discovery and danger.

Mark Dudiak Could you specifically address this with regard to the cistern piece, as it has these very specific historical and cultural reference points that I sense are less direct than they might appear.

The cistern was a response to discussions of impending ecological doom. It is a functional object meant for a wealthy household interested in flaunting valuable water holdings. Its the bastard child of a Victorian occasional table, a
terrarium and, a water proof survivalist bag that creates a continuum linking the Victorian drive to tame and control nature with our current ecological predicament. I also kind of thought it looked like really posh Arte Povera.

Mark Dudiak I don’t know why I didn’t ask this earlier, but what’s the story with those soccer balls in the mesh bag?

The soccer balls are not art. I found them in the alley but had no room to keep them at my apartment.

Can you talk about how violence functions in the broader perspective of your work, of the post-apocalyptic being viewed through the framework of the future nightclub, and how it resides in the details present in the constructions of your installation work itself? (ie the inclusion of objects and mis-en-scene that have violent implications).

Violence seems to go hand in hand with the future but I feel that this installation presented a time after violence. Just as Soviet motifs are now fodder for cocktail rooms I wanted to imagine a time when current preoccupations about security etc. were just quaint historical remnants. Unfortunately it didn’t seem plausible to say the world just spontaneously moved out of our current moment, so I presented props drawn from a time so dire that change was the only option.