CCS Exit Interview: Blaise Larmee

Blaise, along with Julie Delporte, just completed a year-long fellowship at CCS. This e-mail interview was conducted by James Sturm the week following commencement.

J: You’ve just spent the last year in WRJ and I feel like I still don’t have a sense of your work. It’s like a moving target and keeps me guessing as to what your intent is. I think that’s something I like about it—I’m not sure where its edges are.

B: thanks! i like keeping the work abstract and then clarifying it in discourse around the work (like interviews). when i think of the word ‘abstraction’ i have an image of architectural privacy. it’s a way of not becoming a cog in the social machine … and it’s also a way of preventing the work from becoming a cog in the artist’s machine! i do have intentions, though these often develop alongside the work.

J: Would you then consider your public discourse of your work inseparable from the work itself?

B: yeah but it’s tricky. discourse operates in time whereas objects occupy space. books function in both ‘realms’ (hard to avoid spatial language here) — they are autonomous things as well as latent flows which require activation. some of my books reflect discursive narrative more than they contain it. they may serve as markers for my own exploration of certain ideas – a way of relating to the terrain as i move through it.

J: It is tricky. That reflection you speak of can be like a hall of mirrors and the viewer is left to wonder if they are seeing the work clearly or “getting it.” When Francoise Mouly was in town she passed along an observation that Chris Ware had made, something along the lines that when someone walks into a gallery and doesn’t understand the work on the wall they feel like an idiot but if they read a comic and don’t understand it they think the cartoonist is an idiot. Have you experienced blowback concerning your work since it can be quite opaque?

B: hmm an opaque hall of mirrors? 😉 actually that’s a pretty cool image. (i’m imagining labyrinth of mirrors coated in white paint.) i think no one cares about me anymore, which is cool. i mean i haven’t gotten a lot of google alerts or anything. when i do it’s still about young lions. these latest books haven’t gotten much of a response. i’m marketing them as pure, austere things, which is to say i’m not marketing them. my idea of marketing now is to erect barriers … my books look like graves. if you go to my website it’s like a cemetery. that’s a pretty romantic job, making graves.

J: Opaque relative to what one expects from a traditional narrative is what I should have said (but I like that image of painted over mirrors). Let’s talk specifically about one your recent projects.  Construction as you say is quite austere. What’s your set of concerns as you worked on that piece?

B: there was a mechanical mindlessness in the labor of that book that allowed me to think abstractly. it’s such a different process than drawing. this was my first time screen-printing, which has always intimidated me. so in a practical sense it was a means for me break into this medium. i was reading about post-fordism and immaterial labor at the time, and this book became a means of thinking these things through without feeling constrained by a certain way of thinking. i was also thinking about minimalism and how books might relate to this history. books can be these timeless, specific objects, and they can also be these temporal flows. between these two things — space and time — there’s no reconciliation. construction opens onto the weird space in between.

J: I was surprised by your basketball skills this year. Do you attribute this to playing with an old man and athletically challenged cartoonists or do you actually have game?

B: thanks! i really enjoyed playing basketball with you guys. i was pretty limited, considering i could only make layups :)

J: And a lot of steals! You’re surprisingly quick. Beyond the basketball, I’m glad you could spend a year in White River Junction as a CCS fellow. You come to comics from a unique place that can be challenging but well worth grappling with.

B: also thanks :) i think it was a big period of growth for me.

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