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friendship in process: true stories from an artful partnership

interview by julie farstad

Lora Lode, Public Ordinance Cups, solo cups, ink, various sizes, 1998. Courtesy the artist.

Kevin Kaempf, from the People Powered project Loop: Multi-purpose Coverall, quart can, printed label with essay, 100% post-consumer waste recycled paint, 5x4 in. each, 2003. Courtesy the artist.

Freitag, assorted tarpaulin carrier bags, Remix installation, I Space, 2001. Courtesy I Space, Chicago.

In my case, there's a particular set of projects expressing fascination and horror at the amount of information that's out there--and the way it exists, and where it exists. The cereal boxes being one of those projects, the laws being another: I'm really interested in the idea that these things supposedly curb or delineate or border behavior in our lives, yet they're so obscure. I mean, they're out there, they're accessible, but who the hell goes online and looks up the municipal codes for Chicago? And then when you see what they are--laws for how much of a breast can be exposed, or how much you can mask your face in public, or how many people can be on a train car--they're really kind of absurd things.
-lora lode

Lora Lode, General Mills, Kellogg, Post, Quaker, 75 sanded cereal boxes, 2000-01. Courtesy the artist.

Kevin Kaempf, from the People Powered project Soil Starter (detail), organza, printed tag with instructions, compost, 6x5 in. each, 2002. Courtesy the artist.

Temporary Services, Boutique, Puerto Rico, 2000. Courtesy Lora Lode.

I do think there's a rich history in Chicago of working outside gallery systems, because it's not a huge art market. Many times, when people are able to foster an artworld career, they really have to consider whether or not they are going to stay here. So in a way, there's a vacuum in Chicago; it doesn't support that type of work. But what it can support, because of its livability, are artists who are working on community-based projects. That tradition--of working like Temporary Services has--isn't really at the forefront of people's minds here, because it's not that very clear, commercial way of working. But I feel there is that sense of community, and there are instructors at the institutions in Chicago who are invested in that and include it in their pedagogy.
--kevin kaempf
 When did you meet?

Lora: I was doing my MFA at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and in my second year, Kevin had the studio next to mine.

Was it collaboration at first sight?

Lora: Oh, no. Tell her what you first thought of me.

Kevin: I thought you were loud. I remember one of our first discussions was in the sculpt yard. Lora's kids were there and they were stacking big pieces of metal--making teepees or something--while Lora was yapping at me. And I thought, "My god, how can this woman not be paying attention to those kids stacking all this rusted metal?!"

Lora, what was your first impression of Kevin?

Lora: I thought he was really bossy! I distinctly remember a moment when I really didn't want him to title a show we were all in, and he just went ahead and did it. I was so mad! And I didn't know how to say I was mad, so I kept my mouth shut.

Kevin: Actually, she didn't keep her mouth shut.

Lora: He would have none of my disagreement; he kept overruling me, really calmly. And the more calm and cool he was about his stance, the more pissed off I got, and the more I wanted to rattle him. Ultimately we had to reach a breaking point, and I was finally able to do that. I thought, "Yes! I finally got him mad!" That was the beginning of our friendship.

Kevin: One of the ways we really connected was that we were very interested in process. Although at the time, we were still really hung-up on objects.

Lora: Yeah, until we were each in our final year, probably.

Kevin: Then we realized we didn't need an object to talk about what we were interested in. The critique scenario always talked about the object and not the process, and we both seemed to be interested in bringing the process to the forefront.

I caught the tail end of your shared time at UIUC, and I especially remember your bread-dough pieces, Lora, and your interest in the process of expansion. Then I remember going to your studio, Kevin, where you'd applied transparent text to the wall that one could barely see. You also did a mapping piece made entirely of Post-it notes, and I remember in crit there was a lot of "But what am I looking at?" I still recall the frustration in your response--like, "Can't you see that I'm not asking you to get involved with the aesthetic properties of this Post-it note?!"

Kevin: Exactly.

Lora: I felt like we were the only two people in that graduate studio who were on a certain kind of a track. We were both readers--we read current art stuff, we read criticism. We fed each other because we didn't feel much coming to us from the faculty. So even though we didn't decide to work together until we were in Chicago, we were always collaborating, in some sense, without really calling it that. We bounced ideas off each other--

Kevin:--a lot.

Lora: I had really strong concepts, but I didn't always have strong ideas about how to finish them off or present them. Kevin is really good at that, and he helped me a lot in the final stages of the work, where I felt he had strengths I didn't have. I don't know if I helped him at all!

Let's introduce some of your individual projects first. For your People Powered project Soil Starter, Kevin, you had a community of people compost over a period of time. You then collected the compost and sewed it into giant "teabags," which you gave away in a gallery. But tell us about your latest work, Loop: Multi-purpose Coverall, which you exhibited at Gallery 400 in January and is still going on.

Kevin: I put out a call to collect household latex paint from people, and went around to their homes picking up their half-used gallons and stuff like that. I reprocessed it by straining it and mixing it all together, so that it made this warm-gray color, like gray cardboard. Then I repackaged it in quarts with a short essay on the label that talks about where the paint came from, and the notion of excess. I saw an opportunity to use this throwaway, lie-around-the-house material as a way to talk about the other types of materials that accumulate in our homes, and potential reuses for those materials. The paint was redistributed at the exhibition, along with a catalogue display of all the different colors collected to make up that color. I was also using it as an opportunity to figure out the practicalities of recycling household paint. If this process were to be continued or expanded, how might that happen? From trial and error, I think I figured how to accomplish this on a larger scale, and I'm hoping to do that in the fall.

What kind of feedback have you gotten from people? Did they take the paint?

Kevin: Oh yeah. I was wondering if, by making the production process transparent, could the process itself be seen as extremely valuable, and override aesthetic choice? Might people include this paint in their living space, regardless of what color it is--because that was determined by chance--just because it was recycled, which somehow made it valuable? It points to the larger question of whether there are other places in our lives where those choices might take place.

What about the piece you made with the cereal boxes, Lora? What was the title of that work?

Lora: It was called General Mills, Kellogg, Post, Quaker--the four big brand names. It was shown at NIU Art Gallery and then at the Evanston Art Center, although by that time it had gotten bigger because I kept finding new cereals. And you know, the grocery store is one of my favorite places to look for things to do! But like Kevin's piece, it's about excess. These boxes of grains that we're supposed to have in the morning for our nutrition take up one entire aisle. That's a lot of advertising space, with a lot of opportunities to target a demographic and reduce its identity to the information on that box. There's Smart Start--"harmony for women"--with an image of running shoes. So, OK: you're this smart woman who runs and does yoga, you probably live in the city, and you're young--we made this cereal just for you! Then there's Kaboom, because you're 5 years old and you like sugar. There are 30 boxes for those types. Then there are all the brown cereals on the top shelf for people who need to poop. So I got this great idea to sand all the information off, to remove all the advertising, and just present these white boxes. Which did two things: it reduced them to the size and the scope of the object, so they all become really similar--which is what they are, in a way--and then it also emphasized the excess of how many there are. You're not looking at the individual box and the material on it; you're looking at the scope of the materiality of the object. And there are 75 different kinds! Not including the stuff in bags--I don't know what I could do with those. Anyway, I saved the sanded-off material--which turned out to be this amazing, Martha Stewart-colored dust--and put it into gel-caps to make pills. I'm still working on it, because it's really hard to do, and I don't know how I'm going to present it, yet.

So you can either eat the cereal, or ingest the advertising.

Kevin: It's the same thing.

Lora: And I think pills and pharmaceuticals are the most fetishized things this culture has, at this point. Whether it's vitamins, or the advertising you see on TV for--

Kevin: depression.

Lora: Yeah. It's really interesting; we have so many different kinds of pills. It's sort of correlative to the cereal boxes--they're these supplements we need for our collective cultural neuroses. I know I use them; I've got a huge cabinet full of vitamins. I'm obsessed with looking younger and feeling good! (laughs) So in my case, there's a particular set of projects expressing fascination and horror at the amount of information that's out there--and the way it exists, and where it exists. The cereal boxes being one of those projects, the laws being another: I'm really interested in the idea that these things supposedly curb or delineate or border behavior in our lives, yet they're so obscure. I mean, they're out there, they're accessible, but who the hell goes online and looks up the municipal codes for Chicago? And then when you see what they are--laws for how much of a breast can be exposed, or how much you can mask your face in public, or how many people can be on a train car--they're really kind of absurd things. I'm interested in taking these obscure things and printing them on an oh-so-pervasive item, like a coffee cup or a java jacket. So that's the next project: taking all the legislation from all the House and Senate committee members of the state of Illinois, putting it on java jackets, and distributing it. It's very important that I do follow through on distributing these throughout the state, and not just in the city. Then Kevin had a notion of how we could work together to take it further, by putting these laws out on video on public-access CAN-TV. He'd taped their community bulletin boards for me once, and we were both fascinated by how weird they are. And he thought, what if we put this kind of information--

Kevin: in that familiar form of the video information kiosk, and reinfuse it with this other information that speaks about our community in a different way? And from that it'll probably end up being funkier than the usual boring stuff. Typically, there's a video image that encompasses the season--like a snowscape or autumn leaves--with this garish, bright text over it, and then the soundtrack of great contemporary jazz.... (laughs) So instead of trying to replicate that, we're contrasting text with banal imagery that relates in some way to the text, and reinforming it with an audio component that makes it stick out.

What was the first project you worked on together?

Lora: We co-curated the show Remix. That project actually began with our brainstorming about exhibitions happening in places that weren't just gallery spaces. We were really into contesting the idea of that, because of how it problematizes the ideas of the artwork.

Kevin: Because often it's being used to support the gallery or institution.

Lora: We curated it twice. The first time was in Summer 1998 at a raw space--a friend of mine had an empty loft-ish space that was just concrete--and the second time was in January 2001 at I Space. Since I Space is connected to a university, we tried to rethink Remix in that context, and present its educational or experimental aspects.

Kevin: We wanted to tap into in the university gallery as a laboratory space. The first time we did Remix, the show still had a lot of "artwork" in it; it felt more like a straightforward exhibition in an off-the-beaten-track place. We did play with that idea a little bit, but not to the fullest extent possible. Once we had the opportunity to remount the exhibition at I Space, we felt we wanted it to be more experimental, and not necessarily have all the conclusions in place about how the different types of work might respond to each other within that setting. So we thought of the concept of "remix" in terms of the cross-pollination of ideas and different aspects of culture--mostly manifesting itself in visual art, but also in music, design, and science.

Lora: Agriculture, and cyber culture.

Kevin: We wanted to get all these different modes of working together in an exhibition space, because we thought it was an appropriate display environment--there would be enough of a visual vocabulary in place that we didn't have to spell everything out. And the objects, ideas, and presentations could feed off each other.

Lora: Although we were skeptical at times about using the word "curating," because of how loaded term that is. There are two routes you could go: you could "curate" for the purposes of showing your own work. Or, we could be very honest that our ideas were formative of this exhibition; that intent/content was going to be way up in the forefront. I didn't think about being a curator--it wasn't like that. To me, it was just an extension of our own ideas--seeing people out there who were doing really interesting things and pulling them together. Also, our curatorial approach was atypical in that we were not conceiving of it as a gallery experience. I think we both felt the ideas could experience a certain kind of death if the work was put into a gallery space.

Kevin: It was also a critical response to grad school, where the program was really structured toward the straightforward gallery/museum-based route for developing visual art. We were so turned off by that. I always thought that art was about creativity, and creative thinking, and problem-solving. And to be in a program in the middle of fucking nowhere for three years, and have people address your work incorrectly and not be able to get over their own hang-ups, was like being in prison. On the plus side, it was really informative to come up with a counter-argument. But I also don't think you should be educated in grad school by default!

Did you face any unanticipated challenges when you were organizing Remix? What did that test in you?

Lora: Which Remix do you want to talk about? I think the first one went fairly smoothly; the second one was tough.

Kevin: It was specifically very tough because we wanted to work with the Department of Agriculture at UIUC. Since I Space was the university's gallery, we thought it was appropriate enough that they might be interested. And they expressed interest after a little bit of prodding, even though it really served no agenda of their own. They really agreed because it was a good PR thing.

Lora: And then they didn't do anything. They were lazy--they really didn't want to contribute, or make something for the exhibition, after that.

Kevin: In the end, they said, "Here's the visual text information, and here's a bunch of seeds. Do what you want." So the process was ultimately less collaborative than we'd wanted it to be.

Lora: We ended up putting it together for them. I remember calling them to ask about genetically modifying corn seeds, and they were scared to death because genetically modified organisms are such a hot topic, and they were working on GMO projects. They actually asked me, "Are there going to be protestors dressed like big ears of corn?" And I thought, "What a good idea--damn!" (laughs) But the GMOs were a perfect example of what Remix was trying to get at--and so was the Freitag thing.

What's Freitag?

Lora: It's this company that uses recycled truck materials like inner tubes, tarps, and seatbelts to make these super-fashionable bags. So they're taking the language of a really politically correct situation--environmental awareness--and using it to their advantage to create this ultra-hip consumer product. We were interested in criticizing that, and the idea of these two things in our culture--political correctness and a store--cross-pollinating as a means to use each other. And how the dialogue about environmental awareness doesn't ever really come up unless it's being used to sell something. But if Remix was a test of our working together, it was a pretty hard one. Anyone would have been tested by it, because the Agriculture people were very stubborn and gave me a really hard time. I felt very frustrated, because we had divvied up the people we were going to try to work with, and I happened to get the lemon! But it was also frustrating for Kevin, because I was trying to communicate stuff to him that was being communicated to me--and I would think I had things covered--and then I'd hit these challenges. Kevin ended up feeling like he had to fix it--and he did, because I didn't know what to do. I was frazzled.

Kevin: You were just burnt out over the whole relationship.

Is there ever a point where you have to choose between your friendship and a project?

Kevin: I think after Remix, we were like, "Let's not work on--

Lora: stuff together--

Kevin: for a little while."

Lora: "Let's just be friends; let's just hang out." Plus, we were also doing work with Temporary Services, and we were so busy with that stuff. There was a time when I was mixing together curating and friendship so much that I would tend to take things more personally. If Kevin was being critical, or just questioning why I was doing things a certain way, I would almost be like the stupid girl who cries. It's taken us a few rounds to figure it all out.

How did you get involved with Temporary Services?

Lora: I met Brett Bloom back in 1997, when I had an exhibition at I Space. I'd taken pieces of semi-frosted plastic--which looks really prophylactic and makes you think of hospitals and death--and sewed them into a giant leg shape that was about six feet long and stuffed it with bread dough, which oozed out the ends and plopped onto the floor. Brett saw picture of it in the Reader and came to see it, and he was on the floor practically smelling it and eating it. His response was so visceral, and I loved that. So we were instantly drawn to each other, in the way of big personalities. He invited me to be in an exhibition, and our friendship grew from this mutual respect for each other's ideas. Then he established the Temporary Services space on Milwaukee Avenue in 1998. Kevin and I had started working together, and he really liked what we were doing, so he invited us both to come on in and be part of the group.

Kevin: That was the fall of 1998--Brett did a full year of programming at Temporary Services on his own, and then he decided he wanted to open up the process of how things were developed. That's when Lora and I were invited to participate, because we were moving to Chicago, and talking about our ideas and our interests in working in different types of spaces and accessing different modes of communication. Marc Fischer, who organized Mobile Sign Systems at Temporary Services, was on the same page, and Lillian Martinez also came on board. So we were all developing a project for Zoo Gallery in France together, and thinking we would try to work in that mode for a while.

What was the philosophy behind your projects with them?

Lora: It's hard to define. At the most basic level, it was about being really experimental and open in how we came together with our ideas for exhibitions. We each had our own vision that we contributed to the group, but we didn't have a unified vision of every exhibition.

Kevin: We wanted to organize exhibitions in our office space on State Street, develop autonomous projects on the street, and develop exhibitions outside the city via a portable Temporary Services unit.

Lora: Another aspect that grew out of that time in Temporary Services--and which I think continues to be influential--was that we were starting to ask, "What is this project-based work even about? Where does it happen?" And we were pushing those boundaries further and further away from having the work happen in a space at all. So some of the projects became all about distribution--sticking things out there in a public space, or acting out in a certain public space. I was on a project that we did in October 2000 with M and M Proyectos in Puerto Rico. We ended up re-mounting a project we'd done earlier here in Chicago, called Boutique, in which we got free clothes from all our friends, set them out in a way that looked really, really nice, and gave them all away. It was like the Salvation Army, without any money being exchanged. So we got to Puerto Rico, and one morning Nancy Klehm--who joined us on this project--and I went out to the edge of the ocean with a pile of clothes under our arms, a rope, and some clothespins. We found these posts that we tied the rope around, and strung up the clothes. We tried to set them up in some aesthetic way, like, "Let's do all red shirts today." Then we turned and walked off, and they got given away. They were nice things--we weren't putting up crappy clothes--and sometimes people would criticize it in that way of: "Oh, look at the benevolence of the rich guy giving people clothes." But we thought it was hilarious. We weren't out to save the world; we just thought it would be funny to walk by a street and see all these clothes hanging up. A lot of our work with Temporary Services had a sense of humor.

Kevin: And a sense of pause within the everyday.

Lora: We gave away bags of stuff, too. We filled Ziploc bags with a bunch of different items--candy, crackers, socks, condoms, Band-Aids, matches. We would stick Velcro on the side of a wall and put up a line of these bags. Eventually, we saw people walking around holding these bags, like, in the grocery store. And we put them on a bus, and it drove away.... That's the fun thing about Temporary Services: it often gets really unwieldy, messy, big, and out of control. It's kind of lovely.

How has being in Temporary Services influenced your post-Temporary Services work?

Lora: It gave me an appreciation for collaborative processes, and made me not hesitant to walk out onto the street and just do something. That has really been powerful for me. It also gave me a fresh viewpoint on how Kevin and I work together; after working with other people, I could see our own strengths in a different light.

Kevin: Well, it directly influenced me in one way, because after I left Temporary Services I didn't do work for, like, a year.

Lora: It was like he got stung by 8 million bees.

Kevin: I needed to figure out how I wanted my work to function, and in what places I wanted it to function. So I thought about it for almost a year, and that was when I started to develop the conceptual framework for People Powered. Since there were so many people in Temporary Services, things were disseminated in far-reaching ways. That was one of the main influences that went into my current projects--thinking about multiple modes of distributing information, and how a specific project can be more far-reaching than an isolated exhibition, while being more concrete than something that's thrown out into the public sphere to maybe disappear.

You're both interested in process, and you also seem very concerned about creating a dialogue with the public. You're not interested in specifically art-educated audiences; you want to talk directly to everyone.

Kevin: We don't have a romanticized notion of what the public is. We're deliberately not didactic: when we put something in the public sphere, it's not so predetermined. We like it to be open-ended, so our intentions can be played with by whoever perceives it. We're not saying this would be a successful piece if the public responds a, b, or c--it's a little more experimental, in that we put it out there to see how people may respond to it. And maybe there's no response--

Lora: or a different response than we ever thought there would be.

Kevin: Right. But we'll be informed by how it's responded to, and that may require us to rethink our thinking. So in that way, I feel like it's a dialogue.

Both individually and in your collaborative works, your visual influences come not from art sources, but from things that exist in the public sphere.

Lora: Right: very common, everyday stuff. I go for materials that are already invested with meaning; I use this mechanism that is already in place, take it into my little studio lab, do something to it, and put it back.

How would you respond to the criticism that while a lot of your work addresses the public, you're using very intellectual ideas in a way most people won't understand? What audience are you aiming for?

Kevin: Well, I think we have a really open definition of the public, and the reason we utilize modes of communication from the public sphere is that it's an access point. There are different levels of engagement from which people can come to the project, whether they're really exploring all of the conceptual bases to it, or just noticing a slight disruption, something out of the ordinary, within the public sphere.

Lora: The idea of the public can be problematic, and I don't even like to address the word "public" at times, because there's a point at which one can be criticized as being too idealistic.

Kevin: Or for just having the audacity to address the public sphere. But corporations and advertisers do it, and nobody says, "What about the audacity of Marlboro, selling cigarettes to people?" So that's why artists can do it--there's a sense of entitlement. I'm a member of the public, and as a member of the public, I have the audacity to try to address different communities in the place I live.

Lora: For me, it's really important that the work is not threatening and or overly intellectualized. And it's free to fail; I'm totally up for that. If it gets ignored, noticed, stepped on, picked up, looked at--any of those options are fine. A lot of the forms we use--like paper cups or magnets--can go out into the world and just do whatever they do, because they'll always function in some basic way whether or not anyone gets the message. When you pick up a guy's pen with the name of his business on it, you either look at it or you don't. But you still have it in your hand, and it has a use.

Kevin: Another issue we've really tried to deal with is that artistic practice of addressing the public in some way, documenting it, and then bringing it back inside the gallery or institutional system--because it's really just a way to get all the kudos associated with that crap. Many times we won't do documentation; we'll let the work disappear in the public space. But then we're artists, and this is also a career--

Lora: and the gallery is a space we communicate in.

Kevin: So the challenge is to pursue your creative process within that realm, and then have that inform an art discussion in a way that's not exploiting those activities you do in the public space.

Lora: And I think Kevin's very good at that; he'll start something off in the gallery space, but he'll spend the whole next year finishing the project outside that space. Like the People Powered stuff he's been working on; he's been really successful with that. Now, because I know him, I've seen him working really hard, picking up people's compost every Saturday for two years. That's pretty worthy of an accolade, yet nobody really ever sees it. And I would have to say that if I were to talk about anyone who's been an influence I would say Kevin, because I really admire his ability to stick to a project and follow it through.

How do you see yourselves in the Chicago art world right now?

Kevin: Not even on the radar! I do think there's a rich history in Chicago of working outside gallery systems, because it's not a huge art market. Many times, when people are able to foster an artworld career, they really have to consider whether or not they are going to stay here. So in a way, there's a vacuum in Chicago; it doesn't support that type of work. But what it can support, because of its livability, are artists who are working on community-based projects. That tradition--of working like Temporary Services has--isn't really at the forefront of people's minds here, because it's not that very clear, commercial way of working. But I feel there is that sense of community, and there are instructors at the institutions in Chicago who are invested in that and include it in their pedagogy. One unfortunate thing is the lack of experimental venues where work like that can be shown in a higher-profile way, so that it can be discussed more. We haven't had those venues here for quite some time; the alternative spaces in Chicago now are just a sad excuse for an alternative mode of presentation, and it's a bit of a drag. But I feel like Gallery 400 and the Smart Museum have an opportunity to fill that void, and I think they've gradually been working to do that.

Lora: Lately, I see myself as not relating to a geographical place so much. I would say that I'm in the mode that maybe Kevin was in a few years ago, where I'm still trying to conceptualize how I see what I do and where I do it. And more and more I'm interested in, and influenced a lot by, information, information-based systems, and ways in which information is distributed. I'll do things locally, but I also see my work happening on the level of those java jackets: reaching farther and farther away from my home base. It's a really strange area in terms of things like authorship, because when I put that stuff out there, I'm not going to sign it. That's an interesting question in my head: how do you deal with that? But I think I conceive of projects done by Lora Lode the artist, which are in the gallery, and other projects that are done by somebody anonymous who put all this information on this stuff and gave it away. And it's OK with me to have a multiple personality in that world.

So Lora, tell us about Kevin's most compelling or puzzling works.

Lora: I always thought that his work with the newscasts was really great. Every night for a week, he taped newscasts from NBC, ABC, and CBS with Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather, and then edited out everything except words that started with their broadcasting letters. So with ABC, he extracted all the words that started with A, B, and C and put them in that order. It was a ton of work, and I thought it was an incredibly powerful strategy--first just to use the news, because it's so pervasive, and then to take these guys and screw with their speech. You have Peter Jennings saying, "Atlanta Baby Coil Are Boiling"--this crazy Beat poetry-sounding stuff--and the audio was choppy because the inflections of their voices would get messed up. It was also a good example of how Kevin's pieces were ill-received in grad school. They didn't see the criticality or the power; they only saw the poetics. And I was in the critique wanting to pull my hair out, thinking, "Do you guys not see how this critical it is?!" As for his most puzzling work, there was this one piece he made, also with newscasts, where he took out all the information and left in only the punctuation. So there was just this long, funny sheet of commas and periods and question marks.

Kevin: In that work, I was interested in the idea of the TelePrompTer, and how that informed the newscaster to disseminate information. I was thinking about how what's really informative is what is omitted from the news. So I got a week's worth of broadcast transcripts and removed all the words, and then printed it on a sheet of paper the width of the TelePrompTer and the length of the week.

Your turn, Kevin. Tell us about some of Lora's work that was puzzling, or intriguing--

Lora: or ridiculous!

Kevin: Well, there were many ridiculous works, but I do remember one of the comical ones. She had a piece at I Space where she printed public ordinances on paper cups, and then stacked them on the boardroom table with a pitcher of water. Then she wanted to demarcate the window, which was the division of the space between the interior and the exterior, because a lot of the language on the cups had to do with barriers and masking.

Is this the same project when Lora was trying to make curbs, and they looked like giant Cheetos?

Kevin: Yes, but she also got black tape, and spent all this time putting a line around the windows--

Lora: Because if you look in stores, their windows are lined with black tape. It looks like paint, but it's really tape. So I taped all the way around the I Space windows a half-inch away from the frame--

Kevin: ...and no one noticed.

Lora: And it's still there!

Kevin: Then she had these curbs. She fabricated an early version--

Lora: by myself. They were bad.

Kevin: And I was always pressing for her to have it done right--professionally. So she had these curbs made that ended up looking like giant parentheses, painted yellow. I remember Lora going to pick up the curbs for the exhibition, and they'd only made half the set! There was just one parenthesis. And she flipped out: "Was I not clear? Omigod, it cost $400 to have a curb made, and I thought I was getting both of them, and now it turns out it's $400 for half of one?"

Did they make the other one?

Lora: They made it--and I had to spray-paint them on the sidewalk in front of I Space just before the installation.

Kevin: I was always trying to reduce the material, and Lora was always building up the largeness of the material. She did this one project at Monk Parakeet, where she insulated the whole opened wall of this warehouse building with expanding bread dough.

Lora: A thousand pounds of flour. I had to bring a bread-dough mixer from Champaign on a trailer!

Kevin: That was one of her more baffling pieces.

What do you think makes you a good collaborative team? What do you each bring to the partnership?

Kevin: A lot of it is just that we have similar interests, and share similar values, in thinking about the roles art and creative communication play in our culture. We're also comfortable with putting this dialogue on the margin of mass communication, and with the smallness of that, at times. And...we're friends. At this point, we can totally argue, too.

Lora: We're alike enough, but we're also different enough--and that, I think, is the special ingredient. Kevin has a very particular way of conceptualizing that's usually really clear, while I have a million crazy ideas. Even if that presents us with certain problems at times, it's a really good mix; I think the way we respond to each other is an interesting way of getting results.

Kevin: Some may say that I'm a little bit too rigid, and Lora may be a little too flighty. (laughs) So I get challenged to loosen up, and Lora gets challenged to refine.

Kevin Kaempf is a Chicago-based artist. See www.peoplepowered.org for information on upcoming projects. Lora Lode is an artist living and working in Chicago. Upcoming projects include Legislation Re-distribution and Thrill III, a Joymore event, August 2-3, 2003. She can be contacted via spillmomentum@yahoo.com.