Ugo Rondinone

3 Stories

Doug Aitken

Station to Station, Cheese Fondue, & a Mustang


Some artists are defined by how they use a specific material or how they work within the confines of a medium. Doug Aitken, who dabbles in everything from painting to photography to performance, is not that kind of artist. In fact, his 2013 endeavor, Station to Station, blurred defining artistic lines so messily that Aitken prefers to call the piece a “happening.” This work entailed artists of seemingly every type hopping on and off a transcontinental train, experimenting with collaboration and performance throughout. The stationary version of the project took place at London’s Barbican this past summer. We caught up with Aitken on his recent visit to NeueHouse Madison Square, hoping to learn a bit more about the man behind this impressive body of work. 


NeueJournal: What’s your first memory of your mother?


Doug Aitken: I couldn’t sleep unless I was in a moving car, so my mom had to drive me around. All my memories of my mother are in motion, in her 60s mustang driving through Beach Cities in California.


NJ: What did you care about most when you were 10 years old?


DA: Becoming eleven… you always want to be older.


NJ: Who deserves an Oscar that hasn’t ever received one?


DA: There is such a long list. Give one to Werner Herzog… for everything. I think usually the people that deserve those awards don’t get them anyways. It’s a really capitalist award and often it doesn’t show too much as to how experimental a director is.


NJ: How does the internet work?


DA: It’s a box that you plug in the wall.


NJ: Who was your last text from and what did it say?


DA: Let’s see… I guess it was to Ugo Rondinone. I just visited him up in Harlem. He converted a Church into an art studio by the Apollo.


NJ: What snack can single-handedly return you to sanity?


DA: Cheese Fondue. Without a doubt.


NJ: What superstition do you believe in?


DA: None. Not superstitious at all. Although it is Halloween Eve…


NJ: How would you describe the color yellow to a blind person?


DA: Well it kind of looks like what a lemon tastes like I guess.


Photography: Manolo Campion for NeueJournal 

Lacombe Icons:
Ugo Rondinone

Solitude, Meditation & Reinvention

Artwork by Brigitte Lacombe w/ guest photo editor Janet Johnson | NeueJournal Issue 1

Ugo Rondinone is a Swiss-born artist who is a master of inserting the surreal into the real, transforming the everyday with paintings, sculptures, video and sound. Alicja Kwade is a Berlin-based artist who plays with space and time like they’re toys, using the constructs as materials to be explored and manipulated. We put the two artists in conversation, and what resulted was a discussion about surrender and solitude, meditation and reinvention. These themes and the emotions that come along with them are present in all of Rondinone’s projects, including the high-concept exhibition “I ♥ John Giorno”, just recently opened at Palais de Tokyo in Paris. 


ALICJA KWADE: As your works increase in scale and production, how do you balance personal and creative control with the necessity to trust the other people involved?


UGO RONDINONE: Individual works may have increased in size, but I have always done large-scale installations. I respond to opportunities with work that I feel meets the needs of the situation and my instincts as an artist. It happens organically—my reaction to the environment and the development of the work. Trust is crucial in every aspect, and it comes from experience and communication.


AK: Is being tactile key to your process?


UR: The artist’s touch is very important to the process, and with modern technology there are many more ways to realize one’s vision. If I am not making renderings on the computer I am in the studio painting or sculpting.


AK: Surrender and solitude are concepts I sense strongly in your work. How essential are they to you in your process and life? Do you deliberately create time to be alone?


UR: I would relate surrender and solitude to time. They are connected to meditation and being in the moment, and letting that moment pass into the next. Acknowledging the familiar increments of days and months, but then also escaping them. Giving in to the ephemeral and the spiritual, while also staying connected to the physical, through art, requires solitude and a certain freedom that could be called surrender.


Brigitte Lacombe w/ guest photo editor Janet Johnson | NeueJournal Issue 1


AK: How do you decide who gets your time professionally and personally, including time with yourself?


UR: I need time alone to develop ideas and do my work. That solitude slows time and allows me to review and rewind as a method for developing my work, and in turn, the artwork that results is a diary of that passed time. And as in any life, there are work relationships and personal relationships. I make time for both.


AK: How often are you working?


UR: I am in the studio every day. I try to balance work with rest, but I am not always successful.


AK: There’s the feeling in your body of work of reinvention, but there is also repetition, and familiar forms and icons. What is the value for you in repetition and revisited forms? And is reinvention something you mindfully pursue?


UR: I try to create work that takes the moment and recycles it, repeats it, never completely lets it go, but also never completely captures it, the way objects and feelings are in a dream. In a dream, the most familiar object or feeling has also an awkwardness, a strangeness, that escapes our senses and defies our memory. [Whether] dreaming or awake we are always reinventing our reality—art is a physical manifestation of that condition.


AK: Do you still think time in New York is crucial? For example, should an artist just starting out move there now?


UR: I think you have to go where the energy is, especially when you are young. You have to go where there are ideas and challenges that make you question what you are doing and force you to defend your vision, refine it, [and] make it better.


Photography: Brigette Lacombe
Guest Photo Editor: Janet Johnson

The Door to Hell

Florence Welch & Vincent Haycock discuss
chaos & the underworld

FLORENCE & THE MACHINE - Feature Image Crop

Musician Florence Welch, the fiery redhead of Florence and the Machine, and video director Vincent Haycock talk about chaos and the underworld on a cross-country bus.


VINCENT HAYCOCK: When was the first time you fell in love? And looking back, do you think it was true love or just a crush?


FLORENCE WELCH: I fell in love with a boy in a band when I was 17. He was my friend’s oldest brother, and my best friend fell in love with his other brother. They are still together after 11 years. I’m no longer with the boy in the band. He’s not in a band anymore, either.


I think I was in love with him. I was certainly obsessed with him. I still think we had one of the best kisses of my life, although youth and alcohol may have played a big part in that. We kissed at a house party on a kitchen sideboard. It doesn’t sound romantic, but I was in heaven.


Who was your first kiss?


VH: As I get older, I’ve been losing these memories. I honestly can’t remember very well, but I do remember kissing a girl named Jessica in grade school. Afterwards, my friend read her diary, and then told her that I had read it, so she slapped me in front of all our classmates. It was terrifying.

Artwork by Florence Welch & Vincent Haycock | NeueJournal Issue 1

FW: Do you think that having a family has affected the way you work? Does it make you think more romantically about the world? Now that you have this stability, does it encourage you to be more adventurous in your work? You’ve found the light in your life, so are you free to explore the dark in your art?


VH: I think it has made me much more serious about my work. Your emotions shift when you have a family. Instead of spending time falling in love or being heartbroken, or on Tinder, or whatever you do now, you can invest that energy and passion into your work. It’s also an amazing source of inspiration, love, and support. I think it has made me look at the world in a very different way, more optimistically, but it hasn’t stopped any passion for the dark side.


FW: I always wonder how having a family will affect the way I write songs. . .



VH: What’s your favorite dance move Ryan Heffington has come up with so far, and what does it mean?


FW: I love the hands-to-mouth to mouth-to-hands one. It pops up a lot in St. Jude. It’s like the things you want to say to someone but can’t, so you place it into their mouths—like a sacrament. You are drawn to biblical references almost as much as I am. Is this a new thing, or has it always been part of your work?


VH: I’ve always been fascinated by the iconography and stories that come along with the Bible, Dante’s Inferno, Homer’s Odyssey, etc. There is so much amazing story- telling and poetry written in those books, really beautiful themes and characters, metaphors and lessons. They’re the greatest pieces of fiction ever written.


FW: What was the first work you ever produced?


VH: I made some surf videos in the ’90s. Me and my friends filmed each other surfing and fucking around: skateboarding through shopping malls, lighting garbage cans on fire, etc. That’s what you did in California during that time, and honestly, that energy, the mid-’90s punk vibe, was what led me to want to be creative. It inspired me to make something more than a living. The first thing I think I started and finished, with an actual end product, was an issue for Juxtapose Art Magazine. I art-directed a couple of issues back then. I was super young and really into the SF music and art scene, so for me at that time it was a huge deal. I was really proud. Do you need to live in a constant state of chaos to be creative?


FW: I FUCKING HOPE NOT. I wonder what creativity is going to come out of this broken foot. The making of the album was actually a pretty calm and methodical process; Marcus saw to that. He made sure I had a schedule, a lunchtime, and I wasn’t allowed to use him as an agony aunt, because I came to him a pretty broken mess: heartbroken, hungover. I’m so grateful to him for giving me that structure, because the year before was pretty chaotic. I wrote a lot, but most of the songs are about wanting to be released from some kind of chaos, so its a self-perpetuating cycle.


I know we’ve talked a lot about Sam Shepard. One of his stories was the inspiration for the “Lover to Lover” video. What other authors inspire you, and where else do you find inspiration? Is it in things you see, or in conversations?


VH: William Burroughs has always been a huge inspiration for me—and T.S. Eliot and many others—but Sam’s is such a common man’s poetry. It really hits home for me, since I grew up in California in the dusty valleys of Salinas and beautiful shores of Big Sur. His words remind me of my childhood, teen- age years, and I still find tons of meaning in his stories today. One of my absolute favorite stories is by Jorge Luis Borges, titled “El Muerto.” I’ve been working on making it into a film.


FW: Dog Days was written after I saw an art installation by the artist Ugo Rondinone. Who is your favorite artist?


VH: I love a lot of Californian artists—Ed Ruscha and Raymond Pettibon, for example—but my true loves are Francis Bacon and the photographer William Gedney.


What does Odyssey mean to you?

Artwork by Florence Welch & Vincent Haycock | NeueJournal Issue 1

FW: I guess I felt like I needed to understand what I had been though to make this record. As so much of it was internal, I wanted to represent it visually in order to claim it, to understand and re-appropriate it. Otherwise it all just goes to waste. That’s where you come in. It’s a big undertaking working with an artist for a whole album. We’ve kind of kidnapped each other in a creative sense. What on earth made you agree to this?


VH: I’ve always believed in you and your music, and I trust you. You’re the first artist I’ve worked with that I would cast if I weren’t doing a music video for you. It’s so rare to be able to have this type of freedom and collaboration. I feel lucky to be a part of this, and I hope it never ends. Keep writing songs. Maybe the album could have, like, 40 B-sides. What’s your favorite part of our Odyssey so far?


FW: I don’t know. Maybe standing on that mountain in Scotland? It looked the way I imagine the gates of heaven would—from the underworld of what king, of what man. We’d made it to heaven. The Odyssey was real. We’ve been all over the world with this. What would be your dream location? As you know, I’m up for anything.


VH: The “door to hell.” It’s a natural gas opening near Turkmenistan. It’s a huge, mile-wide, fiery pit that suddenly opened up in the earth’s crust and revealed a fiery pit below.


FW: I think we should go there. For sure.