Carla Adams is busy – and likes to be – collecting encounters. During her Honours year at Curtin University she produced two additional not-entirely-intersecting bodies of work. Reproduction, at suburban apartment/project space Applecross, saw her make copies of director-residents Shannon Lyons and David Attwood’s personal art collection; for Rough Diamond, Adams and artist Wade Taylor used a stranger’s Instagram account as source material for paintings and sculptures. Barely a season after graduating, she is opening two more simultaneous projects: Mate, a curated exhibition drawing from the kitsch humour of Australiana and Bedroom, which pairs her work with former studio buddy Mardi Crocker. Both these projects depart somewhat from Carla’s recent, long-term investigation into Chatroulette as a source for embodied experience and disembodied portraiture. In the lead up to the launch of her new projects, Gemma Weston asked Carla some questions about how it all fits together.
Do you think you’ll continue with your Chatroulette project now you’re out of the art-school ‘institution’?
I think that the Internet will always be a material and impetus for me, it influences everything that I do and think about, but I also don’t want my practice to be just about that. It’s not necessarily the subject of the works.
Life on the Internet is a material or a beginning point, but the results of your projects are often by contrast very physical and sculptural. Would you consider taking the work ‘back to the source’?
People often ask me about the possibility of returning the work to the Internet, but I feel that’s an unnecessary step in the process. For me what’s most interesting is how objects work materially, how we interact and respond to objects, or how the feelings those objects produce might relate to how the Internet makes us feel.
In terms of an audience, they have quite different reach – an object in a gallery and an image online. You have the one-on-one encounter vs mass distribution…
But the encounters that I’m getting my ‘source data’ from are usually quite limited, still one-on-one. The Internet isn’t necessarily always used for mass distribution, it can be about exchange rather than broadcast and that’s what I’m interested in. Even on a platform like Craigslist, which is more about broadcast, the requests are so specific, especially some of the weirder sex things – like the tradie that wants people to come round and wash his feet – the return you get on posts like that are also quite… specific. So I think the one-on-one encounter in the gallery still fits.
A deliberately ‘rudimentary’ aesthetic seems to reoccur in your work, but applied in a lot of different contexts. Why do you think you keep coming back to it?
It’s definitely deliberate. I always thought of the Chatroulette figures as straight portraits, but the decisions to use those materials and those shapes reflected my response to the person on the other side of the screen. Some interactions were quick, where I’d be disconnected before I got a chance to make sense of what I was looking at, and some would be much longer. I found that the more uncomfortable I felt the more abstract the portraits would become, maybe as a coping mechanism.
Your upcoming project with Mardi Crocker, Bedroom, seems to look at a more private and introspective space, although one where encounters still happen. How do you see that transition working?
I did want to take a step away from my Internet-based work, while still working with the idea of making an object from something that was intangible. I’m remaking these felt toys that my Grandma would make for me, which I would tie to the springs of my bunk bed. She’d make one a week, and I used to get great comfort from them, touching them and rearranging them. I have two left, so I’m trying to make the rest from memory. They were quite crudely made shapes, and when I reflect on my work now I think that influence is quite strong, so I also wanted to make work that nodded to that.
Would you consider Bedroom a collaboration?
Our practices work so differently, in idea, outcome, aesthetic, the speed we work at, that a collaboration could be frustrating. But I think there’s just enough in common that we can bring works together around the same subject.
And you’re also working at the same time on Mate – are those projects informing each other at all?
I wish that they would! Paper Mountain invited me to put together a group exhibition, and I had been researching kitsch and recognising a lot of parallels with things I was familiar with in my childhood. There also seemed to be a lot of artists rediscovering that aesthetic, perhaps because of nostalgia, perhaps because the 1980s and 1990s are generally popular right now.
Is Mate a celebration or a critique?
Can it be both? Australian identity, expressing an Australian identity or discussing it is quite problematic, especially around Australia Day, but the things that the show includes have a sense of humour about them that offers a different point of entry to that conversation. It’s a very sincere appreciation but I also think it can be ironic at the same time. Sincerity and irony are such confusing ideas now. I blame the Internet for that.