ISSUE 35 FALL/WINTER 2019/20 OUT NOW         ISSUE 35 FALL/WINTER 2019/20 OUT NOW    

Cali Thornhill Dewitt



Pairing provocative imagery culled from the Internet with wordplay lifted from news headlines, the LA-based multidisciplinary artist and eclectic instigator talks about the fast pace of language nowadays and the fun of decoding it through collaboration.


KALEIDOSCOPE  Re-thinking authorship and ownership of ideas seems to be the key to unlocking a relevant cultural discourse today. What’s your take on collaboration?

CALI THORNHILL DEWITT  I think that one of the main reasons you make anything is for communication, and so doing things with people, it’s part of the whole process. You can talk about what you’re doing, they can talk about what they’re doing, then you can put it together and it’s a new voice. I think language changes so fast nowadays that it’s fun to decode it with other people. For me, collaboration has been great and it’s been bad, but you learn from the times when it doesn’t work—why it doesn’t work—and so you can finesse it and figure out what to look for in a collaborator.

K  How does the notion of “collaboration” affect your own work?

CTD  The only way it really works for me is if I can connect with the person on a friendship level, because then it becomes fun and exciting. I don’t mind disagreeing with collaborators—that’s fine, because then you get to a different place—but I want to connect with them on another level, and I think that’s true for many people. I want to be able to smoke cigarettes with them in my front yard. I have a lot of friends who make work that I love, but I know their process is so different from mine that it wouldn’t work. It would be a recipe to end our relationship.

K  Would you be able to name three collaborations that you wish could become reality? What about three collaborations that you’ve already developed and that you’re proud of?

CTD  I would love to do something with Nan Golding. Also, Tremaine Emory—we are talking about doing something together, something unusual that wouldn’t have anything to do with clothes. And I’d say Martine Rose, because I’m a huge fan. Those are my choices.

Concerning my previous and ongoing collaborations, I like anything I do with Peter Sutherland. In a way, I did a collaboration with Martin Kippenberger beyond the grave: I just did an inkjet of one of his paintings and said we had a show together, even though he died in the ‘90s. I showed these works in New York at a place called The Porch Gallery that someone from Still House did. Most of all I like the poster, because it’s got mine and Kippenberger’s faces on it, next to each other. I’d also mention the ongoing collaboration that Brendan Fowler and I do called Some Ware—it’s easy, super rewarding and fun.

K  Building a shared network of influences and references is a major driver for collaboration. What’s the process behind choosing your collaborators?

CTD  The process is really based on relationships. For instance, just this weekend [Ed. Note: At Lafayette Anticipations in Paris, in the context of KALEIDOSCOPE Manifesto], I’m spending time face-to-face with Bill Kouligas, and I can see us doing something—I love what he does, I’m a fan. Now we’re connecting on more of a friendship level, so to me that makes sense. That’s really kind of it: if I like what you do, and we meet and it’s cool, then it becomes an honor to collaborate with you.

K  Do you think collaboration prompts a horizontal and multi-disciplinary approach to different creative fields?

CTD  I think it can work with anyone who does anything. It’s an obvious thing, because it happens often in my life, but it also hits me sometimes: “Oh, we should do something together!” So I don’t know how I would collaborate with an architect or a filmmaker, but I’d love to try. Just like with clothing: I had no aspirations to make clothing, and mostly it’s T-shirts, graphics, but I have gotten to do a lot of stuff in that area that I had no real idea how to do. I think that’s the best example for me, because I’ve actually traveled to China and Japan to do it. That’s interesting in itself, because they’re real life experiences, but they happen through collaborating.

Cali Thornhill Dewitt (Canadian, b. 1973) is an artist who lives and works in Los Angeles. His new poster installation Disaster Exercise was presented as part of Lafayette Anticipations x KALEIDOSCOPE MANIFESTO in Paris (17-18-19 May, 2019).
Portrait by Lukas Gansterer.
Installation views by Martin Argyroglo.

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