Michael Stipe Talks About His Recent Book on Pandemic-Generation Presentations of Energy and Vulnerability

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Michael Stipe, ragged frontman of the epochal rock band R.E.M. and a multivalent visual artist within the years since, fair currently released Michael Stipe, a brand fresh e book of literal and figurative portraits of about a of his favourite of us within the area. The third in a series of volumes published by Damiani, the fresh offering follows Quantity 1 and Our Interference Cases: A Visual File. Some of the fresh portraits are photographic—together with shots of Tilda Swinton, John Giorno, Kirsten Dunst, and chums and family in and around Stipe’s homes in Recent York, Berlin, and Athens, Georgia. Others include more oblique styles, equivalent to commissioned ceramic pots and empty e book covers with names emblazoned on their cloth fronts; matters of those vary widely from figures love Gore Vidal and Bryan Stevenson to Thurgood Marshall, Jonas Mekas, Neneh Cherry, and Greta Thunberg.

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From his dwelling in Recent York, Stipe talked to ARTnews about paying tribute to of us around him whereas increasing his activities in various geographical regions of art.

ARTnews: You’ve made tributes to of us within the own of objects—e book covers, ceramic pots, and so forth. How did you arrive at that plan?

Michael Stipe: I’m attracted to tangibility. Most of my life’s work that of us know me for is intangible: tune, melody, the written word sung—now not even written down. I safe myself to be a truly object-obsessed particular person—I assume in objects. So the premise of growing a portrait the spend of an object became once appealing to me. For the e book masks, I labored with Ruth Lingen, who labored on a e book I did known as Giants of the 20th Century that became once a factor of a display I did it at Journal Gallery [in New York]. I also approached Caroline Wallner, a ceramicist who’s one among my oldest chums and the mummy of my goddaughter. We went to art college and she’s a impossible artist who has a enterprise upstate in Bearsville, Recent York, known as Tivoli Tile. She makes dazzling pottery and plates and mugs. All the pieces in my kitchen is by Caroline.

However the premise total became once to provide objects that represented the spirit of a particular person. Empty e book covers—with correct the skin of a e book with nothing interior—and ceramic vases are vessels.

Michael Stape Vase for Greta Thunberg

Ceramic vase by Caroline Wallner commissioned for Michael Stipe.
Courtesy the Artist/Damiani

ARTnews: How did that route of of growing the pots work? What kinds of conversations did you’ve gotten about each and each particular person?

Stipe: Piece of it became once deciding on those that I knew Caroline would acknowledge to. I wished to get those that I knew would excite her, which potential that of she’s obtained a enterprise going and I became but again or less asking her to realize an art favor. I talked about, “I’d like you to be the artist. I’ll provide the title and then you definately produce something that you assume represents this particular person.” There became once a little of dialog inspire and forth, but I wished her to be at liberty to provide.

ARTnews: How would you listing the scope of the fresh e book total?

Stipe: It’s in actuality about my 365 days of 2020 below lockdown. Plenty of the of us in it came to me or were of us I became once reaching out to. Some were correct extremely engaging, love I saw them attain one interview on CNN and I became once love, “Oh my God, this particular person’s on fire and to boot they’re very fair appropriate and I love them.” There are reasonably plenty of fierce heroes of mine who’re now not within the e book, so it’s in no manner full. Nonetheless it’s a portrait of a dire distress and attempting to profit from a venture to defend up myself from going batshit loopy thru lockdown.

ARTnews: Did you attain preserving yourself from going batshit loopy?

Stipe: I realized points of myself that I never anticipated were so stable and other points that I never anticipated were so fragile. I’m a truly fortunate particular person, but I misplaced some of us and, as for each person, 2020 became once extremely complex when it comes to allowing house for exactly what this e book is set, which is being inclined and allowing vulnerability. What the e book represents are of us that are dauntless to me which potential that of their strength and likewise allowing vulnerability. I assume of myself as a now not very dauntless particular person. My father idea of me as extremely dauntless which potential that of I’d rise up on stage and build in entrance of 80,000 of us and, to him, that became once the most horrible thing he might perhaps perhaps factor in. But he became once a helicopter pilot. He became once operating reconnaissance and being shot at and saving of us’s lives. That’s one manner of being dauntless, to me. But beginning with Tilda Swinton on the masks are these options that we include now got of strength and vulnerability and braveness, and the plan we’ve allowed these to change into gendered, culturally. To me, what the 21st century is in actuality about, a lot, is pulling inspire and taking a detect at this very male/female manner of taking a detect at issues and announcing, “That’s under no circumstances who we are. That doesn’t signify now. This doesn’t signify me. This doesn’t signify the of us that I safe extremely mettlesome.”

Folks love Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James … I don’t know the principle thing about sports, but what I attain know is how phenomenally dauntless they were to position the entirety on the motorway—their reputations, their careers—in expose to focus on up for something that they felt in actuality strongly about. After which there are of us love Breonna Taylor, who I’ll never meet—none of us will, except we knew her earlier than the tragic ending of her life: I’m terrorized by that photo of her receiving an award and smiling with her extremely open, dazzling face. It broke my coronary heart after I saw it, and it’s seared into my memory eternally. She represents something very dazzling and intensely dauntless in all of us.

John Giorno by Michael Stipe

Portrait of John Giorno in Michael Stipe.
Courtesy the Artist/Damiani

ARTnews: The e book has a mixture of various kinds of pictures and portraits made by opposite route. How did that mixture evolve?

Stipe: I had this theory that I became once going to trip around the area to photo of us. I became once going to search out Jane Goodall, which potential that of she’s fucking very fair appropriate, and I became once going to persuade Joan Didion to let me photo her. Then lockdown took place. I made up our minds I’d correct include it to my archive and set apart a various own of e book. But then I became once love, That’s me being cowardly. I wish to be dauntless. I wish to amass a detect at to embody the moment and resolve out what I assume is a truly seminal and crucial moment in humanity’s historical previous. How can I signify that on this e book with out sledgehammering it? How can I focus on about what 2020 became once for me and for reasonably plenty of of us? What better manner than to confidently painting strength and vulnerability as these dauntless states to strive for?

ARTnews: You described the empty e book covers as vessels. How did you attain to lengthen the premise of working them you’d started manner inspire?

Stipe: I’ve had an obsession with books as a cloth for sculptural work. I made a plinth the spend of encyclopedias and dictionaries that I blasted with plastic, so it’s a single stable portion. I started working with books around 2008 which potential that of that became once when of us were convinced that computers and digital abilities were destroying the premise of books and libraries—that the entirety became once going to be uploaded to the cloud and books were no longer going to be a factor of our lives. I turned taking into consideration what they signify to of us and this analogue versus digital manner of remembering. No longer in a nostalgic or sentimental manner, but [I’m interested in] how various generations include radically various systems of organizing and categorizing memory in line with what we grew up with and the plan that’s organized and cataloged, versus of us which include had backlit screens as a necessary source of recordsdata their total lives. We’re in a truly moving time-frame.

ARTnews: How did you plan e book covers formally as a own for portraiture? The one for Thom Yorke, as an instance, is yellow, alongside with his title in a more or less blocky, stocky font…

Stipe: The names are so crucial. Some of the of us are in actuality famed and some are now not, but most of them are somewhat searchable online. It’s funny that you chose that example which potential that of I texted Thom to articulate, “Succeed in you like the colour yellow?” And he talked about, “Yeah, it’s honest.” So he obtained yellow. That one has steel-plate lettering that’s stamped on, and what I love about what I love referring to the books is that they nearly detect love computer-generated images. But they’re now not—they’re all proper, and to boot they’ve all been photographed. For Cher, I realized these dazzling, massive letters. For some I made choices to embarrass of us I know in actuality nicely. For Wolfgang Tillmans, I chose this in actuality tiring putty colour and then frail it in more or less a rainbow ’70s thing. I wished him to wince when he saw it. [Laughs.] For PJ Harvey, I had a dialog once with her within the ’90s about about breathing technique to spend whereas singing. At some level of the dialog she became once dressed head to toe in a hot-red catsuit. So I made hers red—I idea she would truly like that.

Michael Stipe Book Cover for

Book masks for Wolfgang Tillmans in Michael Stipe.
Courtesy the Artist/Damiani

ARTnews: Some of the of us are paid tribute with their names represented in every form of various fonts and kinds of typography. Is that own of own something you’ve been attracted to for a truly long time?

Stipe: Oh my God, certain! Had I now not realized tune, I might perhaps perhaps be a failed photographer or a deeply failed graphic dressmaker. I’m so hooked in to graphic own. I also know that the of us that are in actuality correct at graphic own would detect at this e book and chuckle out loud. It’s extremely untrained and uneducated graphic own. I wish to repeat graphic designers around the area that their jobs are intact and stable—they don’t wish to distress about me!

Michael Stipe on His New Book

Ceramicist Caroline Wallner and her daughter Lucille Reback in Michael Stipe.
Courtesy the Artist/Damiani

ARTnews: Slack the digicam, how would you listing your technique to taking portraits—especially as somebody whose had his include image taken a lot?

 Stipe: Some of the photos are of my chums and family, as shut as I will also score within the route of lockdown which potential that of no person became once vaccinated but. But for those that were studio-shot earlier than—I’ve been hooked in to Richard Avedon. When photographing somebody I wish to provide an image that they’re entirely elated and joyful with. And I’d like beauty. I’m now not ashamed or embarrassed to admit that. It comes from belief, in overall, and openness.

ARTnews: How did you arrive upon the dazzling blue within the portrait of Tilda Swinton on the masks?

Stipe: I in point of fact include this gracious printer I work with in Italy, and we checked out all these various tactics for straightforward systems to score that blue. The premise became once to provide something that felt futuristic and at the the same time references Xeroxes and colour-route of printing the put you strip away the entirety but one colour. I wished it to detect love an broken-down mimeograph or Risograph but also detect love the longer term in a technique that represents 2031 as an different of 2021. Tilda embodies that and—if I will also fair articulate—engenders that. The very best other colour within the e book [for tinted photo portraits] is aesthetic red—blue and red, prospects are you’ll perhaps perhaps put that together. But there’s also one page that has yellow on it. Yellow gifts itself because the non-gender colour. The sphere is now not binary, and the more we’re ready to acknowledge that, alternatively abstractly, the nearer we are to fully realizing who we are within the 21st century.

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