Interview, Review
Mark Siumin “Struggling Through Life Without Habits”

Mark Siumin in conversation with Jack Pryce during a walk through in Mark’s recent show “Struggling Through Life Without Habits” in Material, Zurich.


JP: When you first told me the title of the show i really had to think if life’s a struggle without habits. It kind of spelt out a certain type of freedom to me, especially when counting the many habits i have. Do you really struggle through life without habits?

MS: Well i do. And i don’t. The title has to do a lot with the way i feel about habits. In a way i believe that i struggle because i don’t have fixed habits and it’s reflected through things i buy, collect, and eventually get rid of. I’m kind of constantly adapting and abandoning habits. I used to think I live in a process of elimination but it’s way more blurry and confusing to determine what’s a habit or what is just me even for a short period.

JP: I see this echoed multiple times throughout the show. The objects and structures you see and photograph in many ways reflect exactly this point. The printer for example. Usually found in an office or similar spaces, but not on a street corner. The disregarding has almost certainly begun. Have you always had a soft spot for these in-between spaces?

Mark Siumin© ,*printer*, 2022, inkjet print, 25cm x 30cm (documentation: June Fischer)

MS: I keep feeling that these so called in-between spaces or discarded objects reach their truest form of existing once they lose our placed value. And in this abandonment and sort of purgatory state i start making connections to my practice of ascribing meaning. Printers always fascinated me. They are the last step between me and the physical image and the people who see them. Printer manufacturers keep pushing out new models and upgrading software too often leaving many of the “old” models obsolete.

JP: Freaks me out just thinking about it. A new phone model every year now… want want need need produce produce. The preserving of the iPod as an artefact makes the beginning of technologies over producing alongside our over consuming feel so distant.

MS: I feel a bit shit about this aspect of technology, because i have desires and maybe fomo about each development. There are certain products with the ability to change how we see each other, the iPod did that for me. I became more interested in the world and this made me more interesting to others. These sort of things happen nowadays but in a much faster and unnoticeable way.

Mark Siumin©, *western canon*, iPod, brine, Jarred, 10cm x 16cm (documentation: June Fischer)

JP: The first picture on the wall shows a work with the words “Hold Me” on a stool. Throughout the show you giving a desirability back to objects and situations is quite telling. A last portrait before they go back to being left behind, deserted and forgotten. How important was this aspect in your thinking during the build up to this show?

MS: It wasn’t, i was taking these images for years in a compulsive way. I really always thought i am going to make installations or sculptures that would be inspired by these images. Then after failing to deliver that type of rawness i kind of stopped trying to make anything apart from the images. Once i chose the images i wanted to work with i unconsciously started with the process of re-assigning desirability to the objects the images and the framing. And i say unconsciously because it only appeared to me after i started to see interest from visitors of the show.

JP: So these images were actually intended as sketches and ideas for physical works?

MS: In the past when i was trying to make sculptures based of them they were. But they also acted as a collection i don’t actually have to store. In fact they became what many people like to refer to as a mood. I personally think now that i am just photographing the act of giving up in a very general kind of way.

Mark Siumin©, *hold me*, 2022, inkjet print, 25cm x 30cm (documentation: June Fischer)

JP: Was the process of selecting what images to print and exhibit an easy one? I’m curious as i know there was a lot to choose from.

MS: I was choosing and shooting simultaneously. Once i had a few choices made i tried to shoot in the topic which, like attempting to recreate the images in physical form, felt weird and left me with a lot of unusable pictures. I believe that there are many images that can describe the approach i have towards debris, and discarded objects. So eventually i stuck to my gut feeling and made aesthetic choices like going for the most centred objects.

JP: I’m curious about this very direct approach. I remember you telling me the images are unedited i.e. scanned and then printed. I can already hear the shrieks of nerdy photographers pulling their hair out over this lol.

MS: I think for this show and dealing with these images it was kind of a no brainer to just print as close as possible to how they were made. Maybe it’s a combination of being a purist and lazy. I can not sit and edit skin tones and asphalt colours if my life depended on it.

JP: I totally get what you mean, i know for a fact we’re both impatient people! I must ask about the framing, or the playful passe-partouts, to be more precise. Was this decision based on toying with the layout within the frame?

Mark Siumin©, *chandelier chair*, 2022, inkjet print, 25cm x 30cm (documentation: June Fischer)

MS: I think i just couldn’t have a perfectly centred image and passe-partout in the same frame. When framing the work i was looking for ways to separate the images from one another. It was an instinctive choice that made sense at the time, now it has developed into different interpretations, some which suggests the images are cropped into a sort of focus point or, frames from a movie based on association.

JP: It made me think of graphical layout decisions. In photography books i often notice how the image moves around on the pages, this toying around with non centred/non aligned placements can add something, especially in this case. It’s almost as if the whole frame is the image, the white space is censored as ones view is locked on a particular image section, similar to peeping through a keyhole.

MS: That’s interesting you mention that the whole frame is the image, i see that happening more and more with photography and the formal choices being made with framing. I think for me it was always a struggle to be one thing in particular and, focusing on the formal language of the frames is a way to shift that categorisation from strictly photography to a more sculptural way of working.

JP: *Collapsing chair* is a work set around a performative act of reducing a wooden chair to basically nothing in 12 steps, shot on polaroid. Here censoring is non existent, the act is documented chronologically with the camera’s focus locked on the object. The other images in the show are poppy and really stand out where as here we are presented with something quite sober that differs from the other works, containing a different narrative. By the last image you have created something very sculptural whereas in the other works the focus is on found objects. Where does this work sit within the show for you?

Mark Siumin©, *collapsing chair*, 2022, polaroid, 48 x 49 (documentation: June Fischer)

MS: The last piece in the room is a narrative sculpture. It tells the story of the absurd balance between the meaningful and useless. Like i said, i often attempted to emulate and sample these images i was shooting and it always felt too staged and the results especially in a completely white empty room looked so distant from that feeling i was looking for. *Collapsing chair* is my attempt to show that thought process that keeps failing somehow, it is both a portrait of my gaze and myself.

 

Installation view: Struggling Through Life Without Habits, 2022, material, Zurich