LILY MCMENAMY &
LILY MCMENAMY: Unfortunately we can’t see each other. Do you have video on?
LINDSAY LAWSON: No, do you? Anyway, I’m in Berlin at home. Just hanging out, trying to not melt, you know?
LM: It’s so hot! Are you staying in Berlin for the summer?
LL: Yeah, I already did some traveling. I went to New Orleans. I’m from Mississippi.
LM: So you are a Southern girl.
LL: Sort of. Then I went to Greece for a week. And now I have to get to work.
LM: I was just visiting my family in Pennsylvania. It’s so strange being back at home in America.
LL: Did you grow up there?
LM: No, I didn’t stay there for very long. It seems kind of frozen in time.
LL: And you are in France now?
LM: Yeah, I’m on holiday in France but I also live in Berlin.
LL: It’s funny we haven’t met because we have so many friends in common.
LL: Yeah, I don’t think we met before though.
LM: I feel like this art-bubble in Berlin is kind of intense sometimes.
Lily McMenamy shot by Maxime Ballesteros, Look: Marni
Lily McMenamy shot by Maxime Ballesteros, Look: Marni
Lily McMenamy shot by Maxime Ballesteros, Dress: Emanuel Ungaro, Shoes: Christian Louboutin
Lily McMenamy shot by Maxime Ballesteros, T-Shirt and Trousers: Privat, Shoes: Christian Louboutin, Bag: Balenciaga, Socks: Wolford
Lily McMenamy shot by Maxime Ballesteros, Shoes: Christian Louboutin
Lily McMenamy shot by Maxime Ballesteros, Look: Balenciaga
LL: True, but there are enough different worlds within this bubble and you can not see somebody for a very long time, if you want to avoid them.
LM: Yes, there are a lot of subterranean roots between those different worlds. How long have you been there?
LL: I think I have been in Berlin around ten years.
LL: I know, it’s crazy.
LM: Why did you go there originally?
LL: It’s kind of a stupid story. I was just dating somebody that ran a gallery. It was when the financial housing market bubble burst, so the gallery never opened. But I moved here just to try it out.
LM: And you stayed with the guy?
LL: No, we broke up instantly.
LM: No way! And did he stay in Berlin?
LL: Yeah, a little while but then he left. I was just telling some friends the story that happened around a year after that: I used to live in LA back then when I got a message from this producer from the Valley telling me that they found some of my work. My work just disappeared after the gallery closed and the guy had a melt down. The guy who contacted me was a producer from the show ‘Storage Wars’ and they wanted to have my permission to show my work on their show.
LM: Isn’t ‘Storage Wars’ a show about hoarders?
LL: No, it is a show where people can bid money to buy all the contents of a storage unit. But the thing is that they don’t know what’s inside. So, it could be just a bunch of trash but also hidden treasures.
LL: Currently they are doing a New York edition and apparently they thought: let’s look into some art storages.
LM: That’s kind of how I got my job in Berlin. I did this video for ID Magazine where I was interviewing people at Frieze art fair and making fun of them. But when ID saw the video they thought it was to offensive and I was just being too rude to all the artists. But as you can see, I’m very friendly now! However one of the artists managed to get a copy of the video and showed it to my friends Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff that instantly wanted to make a play with me.
LL: I’m not into performing. I was a ballet dancer, pretty seriously. But then I stopped because I was not able to do it every day.
LM: Can you translate it into your work in a different way?
LL: In a sense yes. When I stopped dancing it was kind of transition into another form of art. And then I sort of, on a whim, thought I want to make films. So I started art school with the intention of doing film school after the primary year. But then I ended up falling in love with sculptures. Still I make films.
LM: Dance is like a moving sculpture. I read that one of your teachers was Andrea Fraser?
LL: Yeah, that was still in LA.
LM: I love her! What was she like as a teacher?
LL: She is super intelligent of course! But the thing I kind of liked about her is that it always seemed like she was maybe performing, you weren’t really sure. She gave a lecture about another artist once – I can’t even remember who it was. The topic was: why the artist’s work makes her cry. Back then she had a cold and kept sniffling during the lecture and it appeared as if she was crying. It was this weird transition where it wasn’t clear if it was the cold or if she was performing to cry or if she was actually crying. Afterwards I saw her in the bathroom and she was still a little sniffly but it was kind of a grey area because she was speaking in front of a crowd so she was performing. Do you spend much time in LA?
Lily McMenamy shot by Maxime Ballesteros, Look: Balenciaga, Art: Claudia Comte
Lily McMenamy shot by Maxime Ballesteros, Bag: Jacquemus
Lily McMenamy shot by Maxime Ballesteros, Look: Off-White
Lily McMenamy shot by Maxime Ballesteros
LL: Because it seems like you travel a lot for work.
LM: Yeah, I did a Saint Laurent show at the Hollywood Bowl. And it made me extremely depressed!
LL: Really? Was it because of LA or the Hollywood Bowl?
LM: I have a little sister and she is planning to move to LA, that’s why I’m being kind of the big sister like – whatever. I don’t know, it makes me all depressive. I am just reading Kim Gordon’s autobiography ‘Girl in a Band’ and she is talking about how everyone is going towards this glamour in LA but actually it is like a death instinct. It’s really creepy and interesting.
LL: LA is really dark. I really hated the idea of moving there. But I kind of like that there is something glamorous but at the same time trashy about this city. It’s a David Lynch kind of vibe. I went to a really basic gym next to the Chinese Theatre where you see movie premieres and big celebrities. And I am going to one of the shittiest gyms just next door. I think one time I saw Jodie Foster at one of these red carpet events. She just looked like she was doing her job, which wasn’t really fun. She didn’t really make an effort.
LL: Are you still in Berlin?
LM: I just finished my job at the Volksbühne – it was so fun. After Chris Dercons left everything was sort of closed. It was only supposed to be a one year thing. But we were allowed to stay until the end of the season. After his resignation there was a time of total anarchy at the theatre, there was no structure anymore. I think Chris is a really interesting man but the execution just didn’t fit which is a shame. Before that I was in Paris and got a degree in mime. But now that’s all over and I’m so low again.
LL: What are your further plans? Do you still want to act?
LM: Yes, acting and modelling. But I’m not really good at doing things in a serious way.
LL: Well that’s ok.
LM: I prefer things to be grotesque, satirical and strange. When I’m doing modelling or naturalistic acting it always just feels like I am sort of pretending. I can do it, it’s fine but it’s not where my heart is.
LL: I get it. But there must be so many projects where you can get involved creatively.
LM: For sure. I think theatre and art are the most accommodating. And some photographers and magazines I am working with understand.
LL: I just read a book about being a voice over actor. It was given to me as a birthday gift because I was asked to do a voice over. I thought that sounds kind of fun! So I did it and send them a little recording of my voice from my phone.
LM: ‘This is Lindsay …’
LL: I was supposed to say it with a smile.
LL: Yeah, I didn’t take it seriously but I got hired! And now I kind of want to do it as a hobby.
LM: Well, I was at mime school, which is quite ironic …
LM: Yeah, I thought I’m the coolest supermodel but then the others told me that they are making so much money, much more money than me! You just go there and talk for 20 minutes!
LL: Yes, it can be very well paid! I never thought I had very good control over my voice, the only thing that trained me was a lecture performance I do.
LM: What is the lecture performance?
LL: It is called ‘The Real Smiling Rock’ and it’s based on a rock I found on eBay. It’s a crystal that is cut in half with a smiley face. The guy who found it was trying to sell it for a million dollars and I was so fascinated by this thing. Especially the way the guy on eBay wrote about it. He gave the rock a personality. He is this country dude from Arkansas. So I started making work about this rock. What really intrigued me is that the guy would change the eBay listing to ‘Sexy Rock’ and just trying to sell it. So then I started thinking about this rock having an online life, even a sexuality and at some point I found out about objectum sexuality, which is people that have sexual and romantic feelings towards objects, sometimes relationships. So I ended up making all this work and this film, which is like a fictional version of a woman that falls in love with this rock she finds on eBay which sounds pretty close to me! But the lecture is basically where I explain everything that happened – with me and the rock. At some point the guy even let me borrow the rock and at first he was angry because he found out that I was doing work about it and film and all the stuff but then he was okay with the idea and liked the attention, so he let me borrow it for a show. But when I showed it the last time in the UK for an art festival the rock was lost.
LL: It probably got stolen because the box and the packing he sent arrived, the rock just wasn’t in it. So part of this work, that was really interesting to me, was the weird idea of value. He said it’s worth a million but no one has ever paid this much for this. There is no standard for ‘Smiling Rock’. So we always had to negotiate how much insurance coverage we purchased for shipping it and it always depended on how much budget we had. But the owner of the stone filled out everything wrong.
LM: He probably sent the box empty, so you feel responsible.
Lily McMenamy shot by Maxime Ballesteros, Dress: Alexander McQueen, Shoes: Christian Louboutin
Lily McMenamy shot by Maxime Ballesteros, Bracelet: Alexander McQueen, Bag: Jacquemus
Lily McMenamy shot by Maxime Ballesteros, Jacket: Nhu Duong
Lily McMenamy shot by Maxime Ballesteros, Jacket, Longsleeve and Hat: MISBHV, Shoes: Nike
Lily McMenamy shot by Maxime Ballesteros, Jacket, Longsleeve und Hat: MISBHV, Shoes: Nike
Lily McMenamy shot by Maxime Ballesteros, Look: Pallas Paris
LL: At one point he even asked me if I was married. But I don’t think he would ever take out the rock on purpose. He really liked getting the attention. And since the rock got stolen his little bit of celebrity disappeared. It’s tied to the rock.
LM: Oh my Gosh.
LL: We’ve never met personally, we’ve only written messages. There is this whole gap between having a real understanding of him. But of course I know a lot about him just from Facebook. But the lecture is basically me talking about me talking about the moment I found out about the rock until the last thing that happened. I keep changing it over the years, it’s been five years now. I just tell a story and show images.
LM: So this was just part of your performance?
LM: Is that how you get a lot of your ideas? In the whole of the internet?
LL: This was a really weird project because it sort of writes itself, you know? A lot of what I do has to do with virtual and physical stuff. I also make ceramics, it has something rudimentary. Just playing with mud.
LM: It’s funny how a random object can suddenly so powerful.
LL: Yeah, I got really interested in these shitty plastic chairs for the garden.
LM: Yeah, I saw a photo how you messed them all up!
LL: I reworked them all and gave them elements of the body or things people wear on their body. I was thinking about the way you would be strapped onto an electric chair. The cuffs over your hand, the writs resting on the chair. This chair has instead of the chains just two basic watches.
LM: I was at my therapist the other day and I told her that I just want to make a pink vase! How did I get this idea?
LL: The pink vase is pretty vaginal. That was my primary interest in the vase. The way it creates a negative space, it’s so simple. The object itself becomes the border.
LM: It’s really feminine.
LL: Have you ever been to Art Basel?
LM: No, I just went to Frieze art fair in New York. Is it fun?
LL: Yeah, I didn’t go this year. But last year I went and showed some works with Art Metropole from Canada, which is cool because they are specialized in editions and I brought some of my lamps I made over the years.
LM: So cool you make lamps! Can you switch them on and off?
LL: Yes, it is called ‘Hypothetical Lamp collection’. It’s just everyday objects turned into lamps, usually things that shouldn’t be lamps. There is also a glowing issue of Süddeutsche Zeitung.
LM: I’m so hot and sweaty! I keep thinking of things to say and ask and then I keep forgetting! But Lindsay, who is your biggest female inspiration at the moment?
LL: Female? I think at the moment it’s Nicole Wermers. I think she lives in London. But she is German.
LM: I remember the name.
LL: Yeah, she makes sculptures. One of her most famous works were her engraved chairs.
LM: Ah, I know exactly who you are talking about. I love them! And apparently she is really fun.
LL: I would love to meet her.
LM: The three of us could skype! But I just lost my phone on a Rolling Stones concert. So I’m stuck in the mountains of south France without Tinder or a computer. The nanny of my little brothers goes on Tinder dates everyday. And I’m dying. This is so unfair!
Journal: Joachim Bessing
Photography: Maxime Ballesteros
Styling: Vika Yukhymenko
Hair & Make-up: Natalia Soboleva
Thanks to Andreas Golder, Martin Eder, Claudia Comte, Joe Taylor and Grill Royal
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