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1 This work was part of NGV’s Melbourne Now Exhibition

2 Klose did a second iteration of this installation for Art Basel Hong Kong in 2014.

3 Click here for Anastasia Klose’s website.

Interview (2013)
~Anastasia Klose


Anastasia Klose’s most recent work The One-Stop Knock-Off Shop, on exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; explores That sense of status that makes an artist’s name a brand. The innocuous t-shirts, black with bold white lettering, mimic luxury brand tees but with an humorous twist. Just as knock-off bags have altered logos Klose misspells prestigious art world names. E.g. ‘Duchamp’ becomes ‘Dachump’, Jeff Koons becomes Jeff Kouns and so on. The One-Stop Knock-Off Shop functions like any other commercial venture, be it a gallery or fashion house. The wares are well displayed, priced and hang opposite a lurid, candid advertising campaign that falls somewhere between Terry Richardson and a sorority party girl’s Facebook page. The prima-ballerina pink pop-up shop is presided over by Klose, shadowed by her portrait gazing out behind her just like any other powerhouse CEO. I had the extreme pleasure of meeting up with her in the space to interview her about the work.

CE: Anastasia, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me this morning. I really want to focus on your current piece, ‘The One-Stop Knock-Off Shop’; not rehash all your previous work. However; I would like to touch on one piece- ‘Performance for Parlour Project at 13 Rooms’, in which you gave the audience 50 dollar notes, colloquially known as ‘pineapples’ here in Australia. Can you tell me a little about that one? …and was that fairly recent?

AK: Yea, that was maybe February of last year, 2013? I’ve always thought about using money as a material in art and I love the way money makes people feel. I really love the idea of getting lucky with money, not having to work for it and giving someone money just for no reason. I was really thinking about how wonderful it would be to receive money for no reason. To just to be given some money, just to be given fifty bucks from an artist is like the best thing you can do for someone. I wanted to create a sense of both goodwill and desperation amongst the audience. What I did was I had 500 dollars I think it was, or maybe it was more- maybe it was $800; and I divided the fifty dollar notes up. Half of them I put in front of a fan to let them flicker into the audience because I really wanted to see what would happen. Simultaneously I had a woman, an accomplice, go around the outskirts of the group and I said to her “pick people who aren't scuffling for the money, pick people who seem maybe unlikely, or who would look delighted to receive that kind of money”. And I said “Please go up to them and say ‘this is a gift from the artist Anastasia Klose’, just give them the $50 and if they try to give it back insist that its theirs and [to] spend it”. And so that was really beautiful when I did that. I really liked that part of the performance, the less visible part with just my friend Jodie going about going around giving fifty dollars out to random people. I think that work is just beginning, I’d like to extend that.

CE: It makes me wonder if you’re an avid lottery player. [laughter from both sides] so what strikes me as odd about that piece and your current one we’re sitting in, ‘The One-Stop Knock-Off Shop’ is how they differ stylistically from your approach in the past. Your work used to be stressed as ‘DIY’ , one that wasn’t slick. Now with your recent pieces you’ve branched into the opulence of “making it rain” and what boils down to launching your own T-shirt line. Would you say you’ve made a turn from your ‘lo-tech’ aesthetic?

AK: I definitely think my interest in money as a material and a subject matter has increased due to my own poverty. Really I don’t think, I think I’m still pretty DIY. Mainly that stems from that I don't know how to do anything slick. I just have an idea and I make it happen. I mean things take on a level of slick when exhibited in state institutions and big institutions because the install is impeccable. Other than that I don't think of my practice of my being slick or being DIY, I just kinda make what I make. So for me its a continuum, I don't really feel theres been much of a break. But, yeah- I’m definitely more interested in money both in its distribution and the arbitrary nature of money in the art world and the art market.

CE: So, in thinking about money how did you come up with this concept for the shop?

AK: I was visiting Art Basel Hong Kong last year and I was really fascinated by the big name artists and the prices they were fetching. I was thinking that they're just like designer labels. These artists names: Warhol and Monet and Van Gogh, these names come with a set of association and you can see why incredibly wealthy people want to have these names on their wall. Because its a sign of status, really high cultural capital and knowledge. Its a sign that you understand culture and you're in the club. I think thats fascinating. The knock-off business is thriving, selling these people these dreams for a billionth of a price- thats what i’m trying to do with these T-shirts. …What I really loved about doing it was playing with the names of the artists and making it my own and making the store a huge advertisement for myself. Turning my name into a brand and turn my name into a mantra. Its putting my name underneath these famous artists names, albeit they’re misspelled.

CE: How do you think that this piece, the installation of The One-Stop Knock-Off Shop fits into the rest of the exhibition of Melbourne Now?

AK: I like that I referenced Melbourne galleries, and I like that its kind of like a giant metaphor for artists trying to survive. Ya know, just sitting around waiting for things to happen and praying. Theres a kind of desperation inherent in the performance, if you want to call it a performance; of me sitting here each day trying to sell a shirt. And its just nice to be able to speak to an artist, I think people really like that that come through, I really like that, its social.

CE: Do you think it would have been the same kind of installation and performance had it been in a different gallery or even in a different city?

AK: The good thing about doing it at the [National Gallery of Victoria] is it has such a stream through of people and there is such a buzz for Melbourne Now. NGV did so many ads for Melbourne Now, so much advertising that they did all the advertising for me. I’m kind of parasitically riding off the advertising, all the money they've spent on the ads for Melbourne Now.

CE: Looking at the shirts I’m seeing a range from our art history books to ArtForum. How did you choose you’re, what we’ll call your subjects; for this piece?

AK: Well, I choose my favourite artists because I like to think they influenced me to become an artist and to become the artist I am. With the exception of Claude Monet who kind of hasn't had a direct role in my development as an artist. But they did have an exhibition of his last year so I did want to show that link.

CE: Now were there any other Other Australian artists in your t-shirts?

AK: Oh no! Because Australian artists, we don't even have Phaidon books written about us. Except for Ron Mueck, ya know [laughter from both]…Thats what the work is about. There is so many great Australian artists and I wish I could make t-shirts of our names but no one would know who it was, so what’s the point?

CE: Now the shirts in themselves are an art object of sorts, but they're also supposed to be ‘knock-offs’. How does the ‘knock-off’ theme fit into the work? Is it only the aesthetics of misspelled brands or are you also commentating on ethical fashion?

AK: Look. I don’t think theres much about fashion thats ethical at all. I mean its just the way it is, its the world we live in. Under capitalism, everyone and everything is exploited- unfortunately. The knock-off aspect I think comes from my own position of trying to rehash and insert myself into these famous artist’s orbit. Just trading off of the glamour really, and trying to use it for myself. The way the knock-off does, you know how there are those fabulous Louis Vuitton knock-offs with the strange words underneath? They're just trying to capitalise off the glamour and sell it to people for a tenth of the price. Thats what i’m trying to do as well.

CE: Now haven't you actually succeeded in doing that a little bit? Hasn't Ai WeiWei gotten one of your shirts, or…?

AK: I don’t think so. I think Takeshi Murakami has been given one by a collector, and Tracey Emin hopefully is going to be given one. Hopefully, I don’t know- we’ll see what happens. I’m taking it to Art Basel this year with a new line. That will definitely be interesting because there will be more of a chance of meeting these artists.

CE: The mugs were the other ‘art objects’ and when I first visited the exhibition I felt the mugs where a tad random. But, after doing my research on your previous work and past interviews… Are these your way to interjecting gender imbalance, sexism in the art world, and also continue your ‘aesthetic of the pathetic’?

AK: [chuckle] Kind of. That’s one take on it. Actually, I usually work in an office and in my office everyone has to have a coffee mug, so I thought I would design my own. Not everyone who comes to the show is going to get the t-shirts, but I think everyone can get the mugs. I just wanted to broaden my market a bit really, I think I think like a business person.

CE: A good capitalist!

AK: Yeh! It’s un-alienated labour. I've thought a lot about this. I look forward to coming to work here because I’m selling my work which is really rare and so its good.

CE: Your presentation of the shop, with these ‘Facebook-esque’ images. Is this a nod to what Alexie Glass described as the “omnipresent gaze of myriad media formats” or your angle to “…express[ing] different emotional states such as loneliness, misery, hope, joy and boredom.”?*

AK: Ya know, I was thinking about the ‘Terry Richardsons' and the kind of crappy fashion going on in the street, the grunge thing- I was thinking ‘I too have to sell young people the dream’. So I have to imitate and simultaneously I think I sort of parodied, badly; that aesthetic. This is a real shop, I’m trying to shift units here. I have to use visual cues that we use, that young people understand. Thats what its about, we all can recognise these images as these being associated to a certain trend, to a certain vibe, like as VICE magazine, that kind of feeling. I have to sell the people the dream - I'm in advertising here.

CE: It is a shop, but it’s also a performance piece. How do you think it’s fitting into your work?

AK: Um, I think it… I don’t know. I think thats for other people to write about. I really am intuitive with my work and am always thinking how my life can be improved by my own practice.

CE: You’ve said you like performance because of the immediacy and the room for the unknown to happen, and yet you approach each project with a a degree of calculation of the possible outcomes. what’s something thats happened that you was totally unexpected?

AK: I think when a guy went crazy at me. Got really angry at me, an audience member. It happened to me once at Sydney when I was doing that dancing performance, I don't know if you know that performance? [CE: Ah, yeh.] A guy came right up to the glass and glared at me for minutes on end, and I felt violated. It was really quite intense and I thought about Marina’s performance ‘The Artist is Present’. And thought God - that sort of energy- it really is energy. It’s very primitive when you don’t talk and you just look at someone, and I was very shaken by that. I think that happens every time. There’s always a random element in the public that is going to be annoyed and be able to vent. Anyway, a few months ago a guy came in and got really angry at me because he thought I was mocking artists. I was just so shocked because he just kept getting more and more angry that I couldn't think because he was yelling at me. I was like god, and ya know you actually start to panic and you cant think rationally. Now I think if that happens again I have to be prepared because some people are just hostile and I have to be able to yell back. It kind of was crazy, people where just standing staring.

CE: I… I can’t really imagine, I can’t imagine somebody doing that and here [at the NGV].

AK: Right? He was so offended! He was so affronted by what I was doing and he felt the right to tell me. I thought it was interesting that he felt he had the right to speak to me that way and his opinions were that important that he could put them on me that way. It was really aggressive.

CE: Wow. I’m sorry that happened, I really didn't expect that to be your answer to the question. So, uhhh… In your original development of your concept for The One-Stop Knock-Off Shop did you anticipate a role social media might play in the piece? For instance, did you anticipate some interest being reflected in Instagram?

AK: um…no?

CE: I mean I’m guilty. And last time I checked there were about 60 posts that had the hashtag ‘Anastasia Klose’…

AK: Isn't it great? I feel like everyone is doing my advertising for me. And thats the beauty of the internet. I think if you can make a strong graphic image that people relate to it can be Instagram-ed and people will immediately understand whats going on. I think that its really nice. Its like this big conversation everyone has. Everyone likes to Instagram and if they're on Instagram they'll tag me and I’ll get to see it, and its great. Look, it was kind of unintentional but it doesn't surprise me.

CE: So you’ve already said that for Art Basel you’re going to extend your line. So will it be new shirts or will it be line one and line two will be completely different…?

AK: I’ll bring the ‘team international’ and I’m doing my new line, my new season of super curators and super galleries. Looking at cultural gate keepers as it were. Gagosian, White Cube, and some curators whom I wont mention here. It will be a surprise, but it should be funny.

CE: Are you thinking accessories?

AK: You should come!

CE: I would love too!

AK: No, they'll be more T-shirts. But, um… a lot more word play and stuff.

CE: Thank you so much for your time Anastasia, this was fantastic!

AK: Thanks Caroline!

*Alexie Glass, “Extimacy: A new generation of feminism.” Art and Australia, Volume 47, Number 1, Spring 2009, page 135.