Tara Subkoff and Milla Jovovich have a lot in common. Both were it-girls in the early 2000s, both are it-women of today, and each have had magical relationships with fashion, film, and art. In their collaborative effort with Italian design house Marella, under the collective name MarellaxTaraxMilla, they created Future/Perfect, a performance in which Jovovich sat in an enclosed area for six hours with nothing to do but shop online.
On May 28th, as part of the Venice Biennale, Subkoff closed Jovovich up into a plexi-glass structure adorned with devices connected to the internet. During the next six hours, Jovovich used only text messaging, Facebook, Skype, Instagram, and Twitter to interact with the outside world. She ordered dozens of artworks, some of which were by Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha, Yoko Ono, Barbara Kruger, Richard Phillips, Julian Schnabel, Karen Kilimnik, John Baldessari, Cecily Brown, and Rikrit Tiravanija. Becoming the “ultimate consumer,” she basically smothered herself with too many packages to fit in her tiny house.
V interviewed the two icons. Here’s a little background info on each:
Subkoff has acted in over 30 movies, including the now classic dystopian projection The Cell, and produced several short films, plus she’s headed some huge art endeavors, but she’s best known for co-founding the incomparable clothing line Imitation of Christ. IOC invented “up-cycling” (their transformation of vintage items into contemporary garments), which attracted it-girls Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, and Chloë Sevigny (the line’s creative director)—who all walked in shows. Since the label’s inception in 2000 (the same year The Cell came out), Subkoff has designed under her own name, too, and surprised her alternative cult following by collaborating with Easy Spirit and Bebe. Her art projects are as varying and multi-platformed as her fashion and acting careers.
Jovovich’s star rose with a sci-fi thriller, too. The Gaultier-costumed 1997 blockbuster The Fifth Element created “the fifith element” (a perfect person—Jovovich): Leeloo. Before this breakthrough role, Jovovich had begun her modeling career at age 11, and, a triple threat (looks, stunts and music), recorded her first album in 1995. From 2003 to 2008 she and fellow model Carmen Hawk ran the popular clothing line Jovovich-Hawk. Oh, and she’s the star of the billion-dollar videogame-to-movie franchise, Resident Evil.
How did you two meet?
Tara Subkoff: I met Milla when she was 17 and I thought she was incredible. And she just keeps getting better and better. She was perfect for this piece as she is the perfect cyber-futuristic woman. She Instagrams and Facebooks and connects with her over-one-million Twitter fans. Most celebrities have someone that does this for them. It was important to me for this not-so-distant future piece that I had a really talented actress who could understand what living in the future would be like in a real way. Milla completely embodies this. Plus she is a phenomenal talent! She fooled me and her closest friend and collaborator Chris Brenner into really being worried that she was having a meltdown in there.
Can you tell me more about the message you imagine this performance will provoke?
TS: I don't ever feel the need to build a narrative that dictates what we should or shouldn't do… Or what it should say… I don't really think in these terms. It's much different than that to me. I prefer to ask questions. All of my shows and performances are social experiments, to see what people pay attention to and how they respond to what is happening. I don't have any desired result or conclusion. This, for me, is why I create performance work. And it is very different, as it is live. Otherwise, if I had a desired narrative, I would make a film or a play.
What does it say about a consumer in today's hyper-connected society, and what does it say about the consuming of art?
TS: We are living in a world that is increasingly about advertising… Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Vine video and the next new contenders all make it more and more addictive to be living in anticipation. The what-is-next rather than the present moment. What is happening right in front of us may become obsolete. Many of us can remember what it was like before these inventions and can be conscious about the differences. This was a dream-like performance about what the not-so-distant future might look like. What would happen if we all lived in glass houses and only connected through technology? Would we be lonely? Would we order more stuff?
MJ: One thing that I feel is being forgotten by young people is the importance of educating oneself. When I hear that a kid is asking me advice on how to become an actor or a model even, I always say, first of all, educate yourself. There is nothing more appealing and interesting than intelligence. It is the light behind someone's eyes. It puts the edge and sparkle into one's conversation. When I think of all the incredible literature we have access to today, I find absolutely no excuse for boredom. That's actually something I am very strict about with my own daughter. When she would ever say, "Mommy, I'm bored" (which she never does anymore!), I would say to her, "There is no such thing as being bored, just being boring." She now says the same when other people say they are bored. Being bored is reserved for people who will never die and that doesn't include any of us!
You each have fluid relationships with multiple scenes in the art world. How are these different modes of expression related and how are they not?
MJ: I feel that every little bit I do as an artist/performer defines and makes me who I am. I am very lucky to be a part of the first female driven action franchise to go into its 5th installment, and not just because I love to do martial arts and fly around in harnesses! I feel that the success I have had in the world of action films has given me a worldwide value that can be monetized, which is wonderful because I can get small, independent films financed that allow me to experiment as an actress and try my hand playing parts I would never have thought about within the Hollywood system.
I noticed in the press release for this performance, the words "female" and "woman" are repeated a few times. How is this piece about femaleness?
TS: I am female. It is a very different experience from being male. It makes sense to make work that comes from a conscious female perspective.
You’re both considered muses. Do you have muses of your own?
MJ: When someone is a muse, it means they inspire us. They gently push us to do better than we would have done otherwise. In my personal world, my muses started with my mother, morphed into pop icons like Madonna and Kate Bush, came to life with personal friends like my design partner Carmen Hawk, who always oozed edgy, feminine eclecticism, to Sasha Pivovarova, who defines what a model/muse is because she brings so much more to the table than a pretty face—an artist through and through, she paints, illustrates, sews stuffed dolls over 6 ft. high, and has most recently started painting pottery, creating a full 12 piece dinner set since her daughter was born seven months ago! My friend Lou Doillon, who is not only a striking beauty and style icon, but one of the most educated women I know, a wildly talented painter, and just had her record go double platinum in France…
You have to be a muse if you want to survive in the entertainment industry! A pretty face will get you through the door, but it’s your mind that keeps you in the room. That's what my mother always told me. If you don't have a rich, interesting personal world, if you get bored all the time, well, I think people will get bored of you! It's the muses who have achieved longevity, have created careers for themselves as inspiring women who bring the best out of everyone they work with. Those are the women we fall in love with. And we are interested to see them grow, age, change. They don't disappear when the novelty of a "new face" wears off.
Women from Madame de Pompadour to Meryl Streep, Corine Roitfeld, Kate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, Kate Moss, Anaïs Nin, Billie Holiday, Twiggy, Penelope Tree, Marie Curie, Consuelo Vanderbilt… Wow, I mean, the list could go on and on.
TS: I'm grateful to Milla Jovovich, Marella and all the hard working women who work so hard over there, Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman, Ivan Mora, Elizabeth Lazan, Yvonne Force and Doreen Ramen of Art Production Fund, Daniel Subkoff, Isabel Adriani, Amanda Carter, Peter Knell, Oren Segal, Mark Polish and Urs Fischer—they are all my muses for this last performance/installation and I'm very grateful for all of their hard work and collaborative spirit.
Do you see a big difference in the way people react to a fashion show or a film or an art installation?
TS: I started Imitation of Christ as a collective that was a platform for artists to come in and out of since 2000. We made work from old pieces of clothing and fabric and it was very much a conscious project to recycle and make performance work. Fashion claimed it as fashion but it is very interesting, as many artists have continued to be inspired by this and repeat the initial concept and direct it more into art. K8 Hardy was in last year’s Whitney Biennial with a very interesting show, that was called a “fashion show,” made from all recycled thrift store findings.
It is always interesting to me to not call my work anything except what it is. How it is defined has nothing to do with the actual work. However, that I am able to continue it and keep it going is my main focus. Disguising performance as fashion shows was a great way of getting support and sponsorship and also a way of being able to do performance work on consumerism, which is a constant thread and theme in all of my work.
It is interesting to not define something. Once something is predefined for a viewer, they don't have to think about it or even look, as they already think that they know what it is. They can file it away and never think about it again. Or take a picture in front of it and Instagram that they were there and saw it.