Liz Magor, talking about the workCarton II
Polymerized gypsum, cigarettes, chewing gum, matches, lighters
29.2 × 53.3 × 48.2 cm
Collection of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal
This work is called Carton. I did three versions of Carton. This version is version two. It’s in the collection of the museum. Maybe it’s similar to early works in that it’s a container with contents. And it’s also a form. It’s looking at the form that material takes. In this case I’m thinking of the form of a pile. And a pile of anything is kind of dense. A pile of anything is sort of, by definition, is a pile of itself. What you see on the outside you assume is on the inside. So a pile of dirt, you assume it’s full of dirt all the way through. So you could see in Chee-to, the one that has the cheesies in it, that pile of rocks turns out not to be a true pile. It’s a false pile and it’s covering a true pile which is the pile of the snack food, the cheesies.
So this Carton piece operates in the same way, of a false pile that conceals a true pile or a real pile. Often when I’m making what I call the false image ? but it’s really the sculptural image that I make in the studio, through the process of the mould and the cast and all that work ? I put it in a relationship with real material because they are tense together, they disagree with each other in a certain way because one wants to be real, the other isn’t real but seems real, so there’s a struggle. It’s a struggle that doesn’t have a lot of space. There isn’t a lot of space between the image of a pile of clothes and a real pile of clothes. They are very close together. That’s not an abstract image, that’s not a poetic image, that’s not a metaphor. It just is literally the image of a pile of clothes. So I put the real in there to jerk that sculpture around a bit, to cause a problem.
And in this case I chose, not cheesies but, maybe for a similar reason, I chose a big stack of cigarettes. That comes from my interest in materials that are powerful, that we form relationships with that sometimes we can’t control; with really tasty things or pleasurable things or rare things, beautiful things. And sometimes we develop quite a passionate dependence on materials, things in the world that… it becomes an odd thing that you can’t break, you can’t break up with cigarettes. Because they don’t have actually any psychology of their own. Cigarettes don’t have feelings. But somehow we get bound to them the way we do to other people. There’s an attachment. Those things interest me. So throughout the exhibition there are images of candies, snack foods, cigarettes, alcohol, odd collectible things, like there’s a bag with an Ookpik sticking out. I don’t think I’m the only person who sees an Ookpik in a second-hand store and remembers the history of Canada, or thinks of the history of Canada and the Arctic and things like that. So those things that have power become the contents of my sculptures.