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Art Talks with Alex Da Corte

Simply put, Alex Da Corte makes art with stuff. With the eye of a social anthropologist he transforms everyday junk—sugary cereal, sneakers, deli sandwiches—into immersive installations and meditative sculptures that seem to somehow capture the precise moment in which we living. Currently, his “set piece for a [kabuki] film,” Star Trap (with Bird of Paradise), can be seen in the group show SLIP, at Mitchell-Innes & Nash in Chelsea (through July 25), but that’s not the exhibition that’s currently on his mind. He’s also hard at work wrapping up the details for Easternsports, his collaboration with fellow Philly artist Jayson Musson, which opens at that city’s ICA on September 19. An “institutional telenovela,” it promises to showcase a lesser-known aspect of each artist’s practice: video and language, respectively.

Alex Da Corte by Bobby WhighamPortrait by Bobby Whigham

How would you introduce yourself in a few words?

I would say I’m a participant, a surveyor, a voyeur and an occasional poet specializing in weaving and chemistry.

Your work can take many forms, but I’ve read you describe it first and foremost as sculpture. Why?

I think sculpture is indefinable. It’s fluid and forever changing, without frames, or prescribed stilts to perch upon—allowing it to be new, queer and strange.

You often work with everyday, mass-market objects. How interested are you in the original object vs. what you can do with it?

I think it’s a mixture of both. I consider what it is, what it means to me personally but also what it meant to someone else and what it is intended for. All objects can be divided and change without ever being physically altered, for context always creates new skins for the object which at times proposes new function and discovery and so on…

A Night in Hell installation view Courtesy of Carl KostyalA Night in Hell installation view Courtesy of Carl Kostyal

What types of thing attract you to an object?

Color and form, if it makes me laugh or makes me nauseous, or if it’s completely divorced from its original form and context—a missing piece, so to speak—then I take the invitation to find a new function for it… I rarely like things with faces on it.

Describe your ideal object to work with.

An icon. Icons need to be reshaped and unraveled so as not to be stagnant, to avoid a culture that leans on faded ideals and ethics.

How similar are the objects you choose to use for your art to the objects you choose to use in your life?

I don’t think the objects I’m drawn to are very similar to the ones I use in my life. Occasionally there may be a collision, for instance, I recently discovered the Wet Jet Swiffer, which is beautiful and also practical for home use. But in general I am attracted to simple things in my life. White Ts and white sneakers, not much color.

Delirium 1 installation view Courtesy of David RisleyDelirium 1 installation view Courtesy of David Risley

I’ve read you describe yourself as “an anthropologist of the immediate past.” What do you mean by that?

I think this is where weaving comes into play. By gathering and absorbing and analyzing the bits of plastics and products I collect from local stores, one can understand what shape the community is taking, where we are politically and socially. If we are to weave these contemporary relics into history, we notice how things are like or dislike the past and to better understand the system of development that we are currently engaged in. This process may be slow and peripheral at times, but it allows for a nice view of where the holes are.

What do you make of today’s current wave of nostalgia for all things 90s/Y2K? Is it just part of the usual cycle of cultural nostalgia?

I think this is very much in line with the cycle of nostalgia for decades past that has existed for a long time. I think the hyper-alert and spastic way of absorbing and sharing is extremely fascinating. It makes for a certain type of alien. I’m pretty sure my parents still have several gallons of water in their house in anticipation of Y2K, I might consider borrowing them soon.

You work has been linked to the history of Pop Art. Is this something that you feel a part of (or a descendant of)? Why or why not?

I get asked this question a lot. I love Pop. I think the concerns of that movement are slightly different than our concerns now, but only insofar as Pop is all around us, and the effects of Pop are still cascading over much of what we see in art. My work among many others is trying to make sense of that and the plethora of images that we receive and translate everyday.

White Rain installation view Courtesy of White CubeWhite Rain installation view Courtesy of White Cube

What about history beyond that?

Yes. Of course. My work is solely concerned with history, as it happened, as it changes, what we can learn from it and how we morph and mutate it going forward, in hopes of understanding more…

Who are some artists whose work you feel like you are in a dialogue with at the moment?

I think artists like Anicka Yi, Darren Bader, Ajay Kurian, Andrew Gbur, Nancy Lupo, and Abigail Deville are all artists I deeply admire and think are also invested in the culture of stuff and making sense of it, or poking holes in it, and surveying how truly strange we are by creating microcosms of their own which exist as parallel mirrors to ours.

Tell me about your collaboration at the ICA with Jayson Musson, Easternsports.

Jayson and I are working on a multi-channel video projection to be shown this September at the ICA in Philadelphia. Easternsports will look at our relationship to the stage, performance of self, and the constant collapsing and restructuring of one’s lifestyle that occurs while navigating these ideals. Jayson will provide the script, which accompanies the videos and sets I’ll be building all summer.

Where does the name come from?

It comes from a poem Jayson wrote in the early 2000s. In the poem, he speaks of different aspects of delusion and the trappings of romanticizing the other, as one falls asleep. We equated these kinds of aspirations, to the lifestyles we perform on a daily basis. The poem and the show are dedicated to these hat changes, lifestyles as sport, and the evaluating the absurdity that it invites.

Easternsports Video StillEasternsports Video Still

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I’m from Philadelphia, so I need to ask: How does the city find its way into you work?

As you know, Philadelphia is a gritty weird city that is fraught like any other—but I think the city is my work. They are married to each other and much of my time is spent walking around and noticing how we operate in it to better understand it. I source all of my materials locally and feel that the residue of the city is embedded within whatever I acquire, be it through my hands or my eyes.

What’s your WILD Wish?

Right now I’d like to try the new frozen Arnold Palmer that they are selling at Dunkin’ Donuts this summer for a limited time only.

text by: Heather Corcoran

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