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ineffable is a literature & arts magazine that seeks to rouse and relish in the “unspeakable”: the erotic voice, the spiritual fever, the fiercely beautiful. We seek to provide established and up-and-coming artists with a medium for representation, displaying earnest work and creativity while withholding nothing. ineffable is an experiment in open identity and self-expression.

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Evan Isoline

Evan Isoline in a Portland-based visual artist who constructs colourfully grotesque installations exploring the themes of appropriation, fetishism, religiosity, materialism, consumer culture, glamour, body horror, psychosexuality, and excess. We had the opportunity to speak to Evan about his creative approach and his installation "Noctune Vulgaire," featured here, which was shown at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in November 2014. Read below for Evan's fascinating insights on chaos, human cruelty, and the crossroads of death and sexuality.

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Evan Isoline in a Portland-based visual artist who constructs colourfully grotesque installations exploring the themes of appropriation, fetishism, religiosity, materialism, consumer culture, glamour, body horror, psychosexuality, and excess. We had the opportunity to speak to Evan about his creative approach and his installation "Noctune Vulgaire," featured here, which was shown at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in November 2014. Read below for Evan's fascinating insights on chaos, human cruelty, and the crossroads of death and sexuality.

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Can you tell me about yourself—where you’re from, and when you began making your installations?

I am 29 years old and was born in Denver, CO. When I was around 3 or 4 my family moved to Pasadena, CA where we lived for just over 4 years. Sensually, I don’t remember much before moving to California. The polluted sunsets, the freeways like clogged blood vessels, the sequences of glamorous billboards, crowded beaches, cinema marquees, the washed-out neon clothing, pop music and MTV, sensational, horrifying news stories… these were some of my earliest memories… this was the early 90’s in Southern California. We moved back to Denver when I was 8 years old where life resumed at a slower pace. These early experiences had a profound effect upon my understanding of what it meant to be “American,” that is, being a part of a mass culture. Or cult. Sex, horror, hedonism, youth, spectacle, vampirism, production, consumption, glamour, design, ritual, madness… a biorhythm programmed to oscillate aberrantly between real and imagined capabilities of sexuality and death. My artwork comes out of this fractured relationship between imagistic and physical sensations, from a disquieting waltz of images and bodies. Beginning with two-dimensional media such as drawing, painting, and printmaking, it only seemed fitting to combine images and physical forms, to incorporate antithetical forms of space, folding them in on themselves.

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How would you define your style, and what/who are your main inspirations?

I think categories and genre are dangerous, anesthetic and limiting for everybody. I am more interested in crisis and the subsequent ambiguity, anonymity, and contradiction resulting in the breakdown of categories. However, a distinct influence of my work derives from an aesthetic lineage beginning with late 19th century French literature including Comte de Lautréamont, Arthur Rimbaud, and Charles Baudelaire, continuing through the work of the Surrealists, Dadaists, and Absurdists, and finally into rock n’ roll and punk. This radical and sudden burst of imagination that was built around the crisis of language, morality, and meaning, as well as the use of an unbridled bodily sensuality and eroticism as a subversive force—a political force—continues to inform my work. 

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There are recurring images of the body throughout your work—bodies disfigured and in disarray, littered and dismembered in ways that resemble both hedonism and violence. What core themes define your work when you’re exploring the body and its representation?

I always think that a piece of artwork ought to have multiple layers of meaning rather than a single meaning or no meaning. I use appropriated images and objects, i.e. bodies taken from glamour advertisements, pornography as well as store mannequins, and sex fetish items to highlight a tension between the commodity object and the human body. Within the mundane visual rhetoric and rituals of popular consumer culture is an occult force that promotes a sort of hedonism and violence. Shedding selves by buying new ones. However institutionalized, these processes share a base resemblance with orgasm and death. I am mimicking the theatrical ritual of the appropriation of identity. 

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We’re really interested in your “Nocturne Vulgaire” project. Can you tell me a bit more about this? What does it mean to scatter mannequin parts with magazine clippings, spray cans, and other cultural debris?

The installation "Nocturne Vulgaire" was staged in my studio at Pacific Northwest College of Art in November 2014. It was named after Rimbaud's poem of the same title meaning "Common Night," or "Mundane Night." The poem begins with the line:

"A gust opens operatic breaches in the walls – obscures the pivoting of shattered roofs – disperses the boundaries of hearths – eclipses the windows."

This elemental forthcoming of night, of chaos, of disaster... that's what this piece was to invoke. However, what the viewer experiences is something like a suspension within this moment, or a forensic, evidentiary disarray of its aftermath. The viewer happens upon something left over, material fragments of a "common" night that ironically may seem out of the ordinary, not so mundane, paranormal, psychotic, criminal. A carpet of torn out magazine advertisements, mannequins staged and objectified like life-sized toys, the walls painted in geometric sections of pastel colors, Egyptian cult symbols, a large glow in the dark wall decal of the full moon, tasteful books on design and architecture, a shopping cart, cans of spray paint, rulers, razor blades, simulacra, sex toys, squalor... squalor... squalor... a cast mold of a medical cadaver with a silk mask digitally printed with a nebula... What does the association of all these things in one space mean?... That it’s all interconnected. That the dream is also the nightmare.

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What was the viewer response to “Nocturne Vulgaire”—what sorts of impressions and/or emotions did its chaos-state inspire?

This piece was shown during an "open studios" event for my MFA program. Meaning a lot of people from the city of Portland came through my studio. What I found interesting was the element of the "artist’s studio" within the work. Historically, this makes a piece inherently about the “artist,” as an individual and as a body, the materials they use and the space they “work” in. Many of the reactions I received had to do with my own identity: aesthetic tastes in images, objects, and materials… sexual preferences and orientations, deviancies… However, I wanted to present a space where the artist was absent, where only a strange residue of materials seemed to have coagulated and arranged themselves.

Mannequins are often associated with the objectification of human bodies, consumerism, and idealized beauty standards. What commentaries on gender and sexuality are running through “Nocturne Vulgaire”?

More than commentaries on gender and sexuality I see my work as a deep, abstract investigation of human cruelty. In Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche said, “Almost everything that we call ‘high culture’ is based on the deepening and spiritualizing of cruelty—this is my tenet. The ‘wild beast’ has not been killed too at all, it lives and thrives, it has only made a divinity of itself.” In Will To Power he writes, “This faith in truth attains its ultimate conclusion in us—you know what it is: that if there is anything to be worshipped it is appearance that must be worshipped, that the lie—and not the truth—is divine!” "Nocturne Vulgaire" reveals the hyper-fragmentation and vestigial disarray of a world who worships the appearance over all else. The lie. This is also Fetishism in its most arcane form. Categories, names, designations, words, images, simulacra… used to cast spells, to control…

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At ineffable, we’re really interested in exploring the “unspeakable” aspects that resonate through contemporary art like yours. What would you say are the “unspeakable” energies that drive its beauty and chaos?

The revelation of the artifice behind truth, beauty, and meaning. The meticulous pre-construction and organization of everything that is to be taken literally. The strange doppleganger relationship between sexuality and death. The convulsive relationship between the body and its social conditionings. What came first: a body or a list of instructions?

Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions that we can look forward to?

Currently I am working on a polymorphous book of poetry, prose-poetry, and anti-philosophical essays that I plan on self-publishing and promoting. The working title is Elevator Musick. The title refers to states of anxiety and apprehension preceding a climax, or crisis. I hope to finish it by the end of the year.

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Visit Evan's website, Tumblr, and Facebook page to learn more about his fascinating works. 

Images © Evan Isoline, reproduced with permission.