How Now Downward Dog?


From indulging in an illicit skinny dip at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Ennis House to inscribing Greek meander-inspired patterns in clay with an X-acto knife, the quirky practice of French artist Mélodie Mousset is documented in photographer Pauline Beaudemont's short film, Downward Dog.

Commissioned by curator Neville Wakefield to make a piece for the George Herms: Xenophilia exhibition at Los Angeles's Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) alongside next generation art stars like Nate Lowman, Ryan McGinley and Agathe Snow, Mousset’s organic sculpture took inspiration from Lloyd Wright’s Mayan Revivalist monument in Los Feliz. “It’s not the house, it’s the pattern,” the Los Angeles-based CalArts alum says. “I have this thing, like in Thomas Pynchon novels, where I see signs and I have to follow them—even if the signs are totally absurd. I saw the pattern and it felt like I was discovering it before anybody else.” Here Mousset reveals her risky business and love of the Golden State.

What is it about the west coast aesthetic that’s so appealing?
It’s very strange and free: crazy and tasteless and so juicy and fresh. I lived in London before, and you feel this tightness around you. Los Angeles you’re just like, “Aaaah!” You can explode. And it’s not scary.

Did George Herms give you any direction for your piece?
The first time I spoke to George I asked him, “Is there a theme? Any guidelines?” And he was like, “Shoot your best shot.” So I said, “Okay, so I just do whatever I’m doing and try to do it good?” And he was like “Yeah.”

What was the biggest challenge in constructing the sculpture?
At first nobody wanted to do it, because it was too complicated and there wasn’t a big enough kiln. I finally found a space, but there was like a ten per cent chance it would work and not crack or fall apart. So I had a plan B. But George told me, “No plan B. Anything happens, you stick to plan A. Even if it’s in a thousand pieces we’ll find a way to do something with it.”

In the film you seem very at home at the Ennis House—was that your first clandestine swim there?
I would go to the house on my own like a spy, but never go in the pool. And then I brought Pauline and we swam. After that, it became my private pool. I don’t know many people with swimming pools in LA, so I would be like, “Oh, I’m a little hot. Let’s go to the Ennis house.” But now it’s been bought [by billionaire magnate Ron Burkle], so I lost my pool.