Mariah Garnett

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What Is My Work About? 

I work primarily in film/video and my practice is rooted in re-interpreting found texts, using desire as an access point. Broadly defining ?text?, source material for my films and installations range from the written word to actual people. These works investigate both subjects and my relationship to them. The ultimate, inevitable failure of representation is always central. I mix documentary, narrative and experimental filmmaking practices to make work that accesses existing communities beyond my immediate experience. This tendency is often mirrored by formal mutations, and one project can occupy several ?bodies.? I am currently making a feature-length video about 21st Century war veterans. “Full Burn” follows the lives and work of U.S. War veterans who continue to test their physical limits as Hollywood stunt men. The lines between military service and Hollywood become blurred beyond recognition. A short version of ?Full Burn? premiered in June 2014 at The Hammer Museum’s Made in LA.


Artist Statement

I am an LA-based artist; film/video is my primary medium. My work exists in the intersection of appropriation, documentary and narrative fiction. I often orbit around a subject rather than try to directly represent it, employing multiple strategies and media. My interest lies less in the end goal of representation than in its process, which is often fraught with tension, affection and sometimes, even violence.

“Full Burn”, which premiered earlier this year at the Hammer Museum’s biennial exhibition, “Made in LA,” and my Calarts thesis film, “Picaresques” illustrate my ongoing dedication to using the medium as a means to access communities outside the scope of my immediate experience. “Full Burn” features US war veterans who continue to test their physical limits, three as stunt men and one as a body worker, in Hollywood. In “Picaresques”, an attempted historical adaptation of transgender conquistador’s memoirs turns into a portrait of my friendship with a 9-year-old tomboy from Santa Monica. In both films, the desire for connection is palpable, as is the ultimate, inevitable failure of the medium to reproduce “real” experience. Different kinds of relationships emerge –maker to subject and maker to the art object.

These tactics, at the center of my films, are often mirrored by formal gestures, and one project can occupy many different “bodies.” For example, my 2012 film “Encounters I May or May Not Have Had With Peter Berlin” exists both as a single channel 16mm film and as a large-scale installation involving two projectors sharing one strip of 16mm film and projecting off a disco ball. It originally exhibited in 2010 at Human Resources in Los Angeles, later traveling to Essen, Germany and San Francisco, where it showed along side work by Kevin Killian and featured text by Frank Smigiel, a curator at SFMOMA. The project deals with monumentality, narcissism, and the ways in which our heroes are manifested through the body. In the single channel version, there are two central figures, Peter Berlin (1970’s gay sex icon) and me; our identities merge, clash, and relax parallel, by degrees. The installation attempts to unify these two oppositional figures with an almost absurd sexual metaphor (the two facing projectors sharing one strip of film). The disrupted view of the performing body effectively collapses the two protagonists, while at the same time flagrantly claiming control over the viewer’s access.

In 2012 I installed “Piderman,” a 10-second 16mm loop, which gives physical shape to an Internet meme. Underlying this gesture is the fear that our bodies, once transformed into data and uploaded, can never be fully recovered. This, in turn, led me to make “Signal,” which attempts to narrativize a collection of SPAM emails culled over a three-year period. “Signal” was first exhibited at ltd los angeles in a two-person show with Anton Lieberman, and was accompanied by an essay by Karthik Pandian. Both “Signal” and “Piderman” exist as formal 16mm installations and both generated photographic prints, which were attached to the projects but not an iteration of the work, as in “Peter Berlin.”

While my earlier work exhibits a desire to situate myself in close proximity to significant, albeit under-recognized players in queer history, in the last year it has seen a shift towards the geo-political. “Full Burn” marks this transition, as questions about the longest running US war are raised through conversations with returning soldiers.

In 2015, I am producing new work that deals with my own family diaspora, wrought by political conflict. My father was raised Protestant in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and found himself at the center of “The Troubles” when the BBC publicly investigated his cross-denominational relationship with a Catholic girl. He was forced to leave the country due to threats from both sides (The IRA and the Loyalists) and has lived in Vienna for most of my life. I met him and his two children for the first time in 2007, and he is currently reconnecting with his Irish family for the first time since the early 1970’s. Using re-enactments featuring myself and my siblings, the found BBC footage, and straight documentary portrayals, this film deals with the potential of the medium to unite or divide on both the personal and the global scale, as well as to examine the ways in which memories and family legend are constructed.

Another big part of my practice is collaboration. Over the past 5 years I’ve worked with a wide-ranging group of LA-based artists on a variety of collaborative projects. I am currently making a film with Barry Johnston based on the myth of Orpheus, using reconstituted SPAM emails as the basis for our script, and am involved in an ongoing film project with Eve Fowler about female surfers called “Life is Torture,” for which we were selected as artists-in-residence at both Echo Park Film Center and Ship in the Woods. In 2013, I completed a collaboration with Guillermo Gómez-Peña titled “Mexercize,” which we describe as a series of exercises for “outsiders facing the 21st century,” outlining strategies for survival in the face of an aggressive police force and for navigating an often opaque art world. In addition to equal collaborations, I shoot film and video for other artists whenever possible. I’ve worked for Stanya Kahn, Zackary Drucker, Anna Sew Hoy, Karthik Pandian, Wu Tsang, and am shooting a film for Eve Fowler outside of “Life is Torture.” While my collaborative works often range in scope and content, once again I use the medium to push, explore and fortify the lines that describe my community.

My work is rooted in re-interpreting “found text,” using desire as an access point and often employing impersonation as a strategy. Broadly defining “text,” source material for my films and installations range from the written word to YouTube videos to actual people. The boundaries between genres are recklessly crossed and re-crossed as the circularity of my films investigates slippages in the language of cinema to locate and codify identity.




2011: M.F.A. California Institute of the Arts

2003: B.A. Brown University

Lives and works in Los Angeles



2014 “Mariah Garnett’s Picaresques,” Buenos Tiempos, Int., Brussels, BE

2013 “Encounters I May or May Not Have Had With Peter Berlin,” 16 mm film

installation, 2nd Floor Projects, San Francisco, CA

2012 “Common Era” with Anton Lieberman, ltd los angeles, Los Angeles, CA

2011 “G.L.O.W. (Grab Lunch Or Whatever)” with Math Bass, Commonwealth &

Council, Los Angeles, CA

2010 “Encounters I May Or May Not Have Had With Peter Berlin,” Human

Resources, Los Angeles, CA



2014  “Murder, She Wrote,” curated by Alberto García del Castillo, Nosbaum Reding

Projects, Luxembourg, LU

2014  “TL;DR,” curated by Michael Ned Holte, Artspace, Auckland, NZ

2014  “Made In LA,” curated by Connie Butler and Michael Ned Holte, The Hammer

Museum, Los Angeles, CA

2014   “Ecotone Lab” curated by Cory Mansfield. Actual Size Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

2014   “Artist Theater Program” curated by Erika Vogt. EMPAC Theater, Troy, NY

2013  “Within,” curated by Chlöe Flores, Cypress College, Cypress, CA

2012  “FUEL FOR THE FIRE,” organized by Dawn Kasper with Jay Sanders and David

Zwirner, A Temporary Space, New York, NY,

2012  “Herstory Inventory,” invited by Ulrike Müller, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn,


2012  “PST Reset,” curated by Dawn Kasper and Carol Ann Klonarides, Online and

Human Resources, Los Angeles, CA,

2012  “Once Emerging, Now Emerging: Open Network,” curated by Aaron Wrinkle,

Cirrus Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

2011  “Calarts Plays Itself,” curated by Chiara Giovando, PACT Zollverein, Essen DE

2011  “The White Woman With The Brown Skin With A White Name With A Gun In A

Horse,” curated by Kaucyila Brooke, Human Resources, Los Angeles, CA

2011  “Herstory Inventory,” curated by Ulrike Müller, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz,


2010  “Original Plumbing,” curated by Darin Klein, Workspace Gallery, Los Angeles,


2008 Collaboration with Zackary Drucker, Acuna Hansen Gallery, Los Angeles, CA



2015   “Encounters I May Or May Not Have Had With Peter Berlin” invited by

Patrick Staff, at Chisenhale Gallery, London, UK.

2015   “Garbage, The City, And Death” invited by Maggie Nelson, &Now Conference,

California Institute for the Arts, Valencia, CA

2014  “Full Burn” and “Encounters I May Or May Not Have Had With Peter Berlin” at

“A Club Called Animals,” organized by Rachelle Sawatsky, Model Projects,

Vancouver, CA

2014  “Picaresques” at “Moving Situations: Motion Pictures by Emily Mast, Mariah

Garnett and Danielle Dean”, The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA

2014  “Full Burn” at FIAC, ltd los angeles, Paris, FR

2014  “Signal” at “The Old Spaghetti Factory”, curated by Karthik Pandian, MOCAP,

Chicago IL

2013  “Encounters I May or May Not Have Had With Peter Berlin” at “Wild is the

Night”, curated by Martha Kirszenbaum, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, FR

2013  “Encounters I May or May Not Have Had With Peter Berlin,” curated by Jon

Davies, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Ann Arbor, MI

2013  “Picaresques,” Chicago Underground Film Festival, Chicago, IL

2013  “Encounters I May or May Not Have Had With Peter Berlin,” at “Queering Sex”

curated by KP Pepe, REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA

2013  “Encounters I May or May Not Have Had With Peter Berlin,” curated by

Bradford Nordeen and Dirty Looks, SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA

2012  “Encounters I May Or May Not Have Had With Peter Berlin” at “Dirty Looks”,

curated by Darin Klein and Bradford Nordeen Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA and Yale University, New Haven, CT

2012 “Picaresques” at “Breakout Binaries”, curated by Stille Storhile and Live Bugge,

presented by FRANK, Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, NO

2012  “Picaresques” at ”UpStream”, curated by Greta Orihuela, NADA Hudson,

Hudson, NY

2012  “Encounters I May or May Not Have Had With Peter Berlin” at MIX NYC 2, New

York, NY

2012  “Encounters I May or May Not Have Had With Peter Berlin” at “Yesterday Once

More”, White Columns, New York, NY

2011  “You Will Never Be A Woman…Venice Biennale” (Swiss Offsite Pavilion),

Venice, IT

2011  “Garbage, The City, And Death,” Outfest, Platinum Series, Los Angeles, CA

2011  “Garbage, The City, And Death,” Rencontres Internationales, Paris (FR),

London (UK), Madrid (SP), Beirut (LB), Berlin (DE)

2010  “Encounters I May Or May Not Have Had With Peter Berlin – PART 1,” at

“Broken Sleep”,curated by Karthik Pandian, Midway Contemporary Art,

Minneapolis, MN

2010  “You Will Never Be A Woman…,” BFI LONDON, London, UK

2010   “You Will Never Be A Woman…,” Rencontres Internationales, Paris (FR),

London (UK), Madrid (SP)



2014  “Reading Habits and Practices”, Pearce, Lance, eyecontactsite, Oct 24, 2014

2014  ‘Made in L.A.’ biennial art survey taps a social undercurrent, Knight,

Christopher, Los Angeles Times, June 19, 2014

2014  ‘Made in L.A.’ best in show: 5 must-see pieces at the Hammer Biennial,

Miranda, Carolina, Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2014

2014  “Hammer Museum’s “Made in L.A.” Biennial 2014: Our Preview,” Wagley,

Catherine, LA Weekly, June 5, 2014

2012  “Dirty Looks: A Monthly Platform for Queer Experimental Film and Video,”

Parry, Eve, The Brooklyn Rail. Nov 2012

2012  “5 Artsy Things to do this Week,” Wagley, Catherine, LA Weekly, Sept 26, 2012

“Collaborative and Solo, With a Certain Feminist Bent ‘Raw/Cooked, Ulrike

Müller’ at the Brooklyn Museum,” Schwendener, Martha, The New York Times, Sept 6, 2012

2010  “When I Say Image, That’s Different Than Me,” Wagley, Catherine, Daily

Serving, Oct 6, 2012



2015 International Artist in Residence, Digital Arts Studio, Belfast, UK

2014 California Community Fund Emerging Artist Fellow, Los Angeles, CA

2014 Artist in Residence, Headlands Center of the Arts, Fall 2014, San Francisco, CA

2014 Recipient, Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant, New York, NY

2014 Artist in residence, A Ship in the Woods. Summer 2014, Del Mar, CA

2013 Artist in Residence, LA AIR: Echo Park Film Center, Fall 2013, Los Angeles, CA

2013 Recipient, \aut\ FILM Award Best LGBT Film, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Ann

Arbor, MI