scott-mendes

A CONVERSATION BETWEEN NATALIE SCOTT AND RALPH RUGOFF, WITH ELIJAH MENDES

RR: So Tasha, why don't you tell us a little about your project for the Biennale.

NS: Excited to. So you invited me, when was it, June of last year?

RR: Sounds about right.

NS: And I hadn't been to Venice since I was a teenager, so I visited in July. I walked around as much of the city as I could. It was hot.

RR: It sure was.

NS: You happened to be there. We watched the fireworks together. What's the name of that holiday, the plague one?

RR: Redentore I think. Something like that.

NS: Yeah that sounds right. So I'm walking around the city, sweating my arse off, and I come across this guy in Piazza San Stefano—Campo San Stefano, sorry. He was sitting against a building in the shade. He was working on some watercolors. The drawings were pretty damn good. Strange, surrealistic, something you might find on Deviant Art on a lucky day. Not lame at all, really peculiar. Not the style, but the content. So I started talking to him, and we talked for a while, and long story short, I found out he travels around the world, from city to city, doing these drawings, watercolors I mean. And the way he "does" them is by—and you guys know this is crazy stuff—he takes a sample of local pigeon shit, fresh local pigeon shit, and dilutes it with water and injects it into his arms or legs or what have you.

RR: I still can't believe how wild this is.

NS: Beyond wild. And Scott—oh right his name is Scott Mendes!—Scott injects the pigeon shit right before he goes to sleep. So he dreams a bunch and wakes up and speed-sketches out his dreams and then makes drawings of them over the next day or two. And he tries to sell them before going to the next destination.

RR: He's saying the pigeon shit makes him have trippy nocturnal visions.

NS: That's what he's saying! In any case, the drawings — dammit, watercolors — are something else. So I went back to London and I started to think some more about Scott Mendes. I started thinking about animating his drawings. I'd taken some photos of them.

EM: In exchange for a pack of cigarettes.

NS: Indeed. And I can draw, but I can't use AfterFX or Maya or anything like that. So I started thinking who I knew who was good with software and the third person who came to mind was Elijah, and then I was like HOLY SHIT, Elijah's name is Mendes. And it was just too good to be true!

RR: Pretty incredible.

NS: And I met with Elijah and he was immediately on board and then I wrote you to see if we could meet up, but you were in France by then.

RR: Also incredibly hot.

NS: London was very warm too as I remember.

RR: That’s right.

NS: And so we spoke a few days later and I pitched this mental idea and you chuckled a bit and said your soft-spoken "wow"s and then told me you needed to have a think about it. And...

RR: I had a think about it, it's true. And after a few days I thought "why not," and "it's something Tasha has never done before, but it's an idea that could complement a bunch of other works I have in mind for the show."

NS: And you gave me the go and I was elated, and also very nervous, and I told Elijah, and then I told my galleries and they got on board and so here we are five months later.

RR: With the Biennale opening in about four months.

NS: Yes, that feels too close, but Ralph, let me ask you something.

RR: Should I be scared?

NS: Yes.

RR: Oh great.

NS: What if Elijah and I were to work on this AR project—

EM: We are going to present Scott Mendes's images, or what have you, via an AR app for your phone.

NS: Thank you Elijah! I keep leaving out the important points! So Ralph, what if we were to work on the app throughout the Biennale and most of next year?

RR: Hmm, I don't know if that will work. Can you tell me a bit more?

NS: Of course. There's the app of Scott Mendes's visions animated and ready to experience for the opening in May. But we invite a gaggle of other artists to come up with 3D models and animation and all that. And over the course of the following twelve or so months we make Scott Mendes's world richer, weirder, more Biennale like, bringing other artists into the mix.

RR: This is a pretty wild idea Tasha. I’m not saying I don’t like it, but I think I'm going to have to get back to you.

NS: I knew you'd say that.

RR: Good. And what does Scott think of this?

NS: I still can't reach him. Three emails now.

EM: And no social media presence, right?

NS: Right, he told me about that when we spoke. Pretty dogmatic about it really. Not that I blame him.

RR: Tasha, how old is Scott Mendes?

NS: I'm guessing 40s?

RR: Does he support himself with his watercolors?

NS: I'm guessing he's got some money in the bank. His clothes are too nice.

RR: And would this Biennale you’re imagining be all around the city or in the traditional Biennale areas?

NS: All around the city for sure, right Elijah?

EM: Yes, my team and I are working on making that possible.

RR: Alright, let’s talk again in a couple weeks when I’m back from China.

NS: Sounds good. We’ll keep working!