The Gallery of Ingenious Inventions: An Interview with Marcel Dzama

Let’s talk about the Border Crossings cover. Are the figures recruits from The Foolish Song for Lorica?

The polka-dotted characters come from a drawing Picabia did for his 391 magazine. There was this little polka-dotted guy in the corner. I can’t remember exactly what he was doing, but he might have had an olive branch in his hand, which he was holding in the air in what was almost a Statue of Liberty pose. I remember drawing these masked figures because I wanted to reference Picabia. The work has been so violent in the last few years that I thought I’d move in a different direction. The figure feels like he could be sinister, but he could also be in some circus or a ballet.

Who is the figure in the centre?

He comes from Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet from the 1920s. It’s based on my memory of this figure. With his bubbly pants, he almost looks like the Michelin man. I wanted it to have a Bauhaus look, modern but also with a degree of intimacy. It’s like the other figures are introducing this new character on the cover of Border Crossings. He’s on a podium, and it’s as if he’s on a red carpet. The figures around him are excited to introduce this new character; one woman with the sword is even knighting him, and then there are people who are upset with his appearance, so they’re shooting arrows at him. I guess they’re the equivalent of the paparazzi. I was imagining his cape as a sort of ballet costume that would restrict any movements. It’s drawn on piano player paper, which is what explains the perforations on the left side of the page. The writing is a clumsy poem I wrote, which I wasn’t too sure about, so I translated it all into German. That way if anyone did read it, it won’t be too embarrassing because I can say it was lost in translation. Actually, I’m not sure how well it would translate anyway. I used a basic translation setting on my iPhone, the kind that doesn’t do masculine and feminine, so it makes no sense. It almost sounds like a crazy person.

It’s a sort of negative Exquisite Corpse work because instead of adding on meaning, it subtracts meaning.

Or adds to it in some interesting way. But that is a nice way of describing it.

To read BC’s interview with Marcel Dzama, pick up Issue 114 on newsstands now or subscribe.