You come across an artifact and you’re not sure why but it speaks to you. It was the cover of artist Margaret Haines’s new book Coco x Love With Stranger that drew me in: a cover within a cover, a stranger’s hands that I could hold. I opened Coco and found its interior equally magnetic (Love With Stranger). With a narrative structure loosely borrowed from Don Quixote, the book explores tropes of female identity through three leads: Coco, a character from Haines’ forthcoming film (this book is one of several “trailers” for the film); the Los Angeles artist and cult figure, Cameron (1922-1995), famed for her role in Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome; and Haines’ herself.
Coco x Love With Stranger looks something like an 1980s teen pulp novel. Its visual collage of blond hair, nameplate necklaces, typographical puns, horses, and flashy nails beaconing to the strength or delicacy of a pair of hands — it resonated. The book inspired a contact. Would Margaret be interested in being profiled for our new column Who What Why Wear? You could tell just from that cover that the girl had style. Turns out Margaret is guest teaching at my alma mater in Montreal. That, though LA is home now, she was born Montreal, where I lived off and on for a decade. That she has collaborated with the only jewelry designer I buy from, Arielle de Pinto, a good friend of good friends. Margaret’s book is set to launch on December 19th at Ooga Booga, one of my favorite LA stores, recommended to me by Hedi at Semiotext(e), whom I had contacted through Drawn & Quarterly, from Montreal. The more you venture into the world, the smaller it becomes. The draw made sense.
Margaret agreed to the interview and so here we have her, talking about her upcoming film, her movie tie-in “scalped” scarf collection, a Lady Gaga headless horse, and middle school style. This is my first real introduction to Margaret as much as it is your’s. Let’s hope, for art’s sake, it’s our first of many.
What’s your A/S/L/Vocation?
If you were to define your work — not relying on old categories of material, like as a filmmaker or even as a ‘multimedia’ artist — but based on content, how would you? Would you be able to define an aesthetic or philosophical constant in your work?
A formal and layered approach to an individual’s negotiations, sacrifices and trials to ‘make it’, in a vague show-business sense. Where show business can mean trolling Facebook, watching Glee, or simply just be-ing.
What are you working on right now?
I’m finishing my film and preparing for a book launch in LA at this store – Oogabooga. I recently completed a book to accompany my film. The book contains a character study of the main character Coco, who is very girly, hysteric and into horses. This is accompanied by a diary about the artist and poet Cameron. I saw Cameron as the opposite, or at least a stirring answer to a girly hysteria, the kind pushed in a lot of fashion, music, and art. The sassy troubled surface very young girly girl perpetually in middle-school.
The film is very stylized and prop-heavy, in that it is supposed to mirror the main character’s psychedelic anguish. Anything I made in the last year is more or less a trailer, or gesture toward/about this character. For the release, I’m making these beautiful silk scarves, wrapped with images of the film and fringed with human and pony hair. It will be as if the film has been scalped.
I’m also writing about this large fiberglas discarded headless pony I found in LA, outside of a prop house. It used to be Lady Gaga’s. I’ve worked with this object a lot. It’s a perfect illustration of the leftover, the idea of the Warholian object. I’m also working on a screenplay adaptation of Anna Karenina, which I hope to have acted out by this college fraternity/sorority community in Southern California.
What was your style when you first started dressing yourself? How about in your teens?
I’ve always been more attracted to objects and textures – and then I wear them. As a kid, I wore a lot of bedding and even pillows. I modeled as a teenager, and in order to deal with fashion, I would make a point of constantly wearing the wrong thing. Like, dressing down when everyone dresses up, or the opposite. I still do this. I wanted to feel off and not in a cool way, or a freak way. Off in an awkward way. I think there is a lot of grace in the awkward moment.
What are your five most valued fashion items?
1. Anything by Arielle de Pinto.
2. The Italian corna (or, horns) to shun hexes.
3. This t-shirt my friend and the anthropologist Lesley Braun got in the Congo. It says ‘Coco,’ which is the title of my film.
4. These yellow Reebok running shoes my friend Lauren stole from an installation by James Franco.
How long does it take you to get dressed in the morning?
If you were forced to wear a uniform everyday, what would it be? Or would you revolt?
I would revolt.
Margaret Haines’ Coco x Love With Stranger was published in an edition of 500 by New Byzantium. The film and its soundtrack (composed by artist Patrick Dyer) will be released in Spring 2013 on a USB silicone necklace made in collaboration with jewelry designer Arielle de Pinto. The video trailer for her film can be viewed below…