on things MONUMENTAL, EPHEMERAL + frankly IRRELEVANT
story // kelly ernst
photography // ladd forde
NM Have you ever heard of the Race Street Mayors?
KE A band?
NM No, a gang. Well… my gang
KE Seriously? You were in a gang? Um, what did your gang do?
NM Oh, nothing. I mean, we smoked weed and made art collages.
Noah Manos is an artist. Local to Denver, he is a founder of a design-build company called PAPER AIRPLANE.
KE What song would play as you are being lowered into your grave?
NM How about that Death From Above, 1979 song. It’s like… duhnununuhduhnuh, you know?
KE Mmm, not really…
NM Or another, Timbre? I think they’re from Montreal. They have this real cool song called Hot Dreams. It is jazzy and culty and very sexy.
KE Nice, so speed metal… or occult jazz?
NM Yeah, basically.
We were interested in Noah because frankly, he is just heckin’ cool. We also weren’t so interested in the usual. We wanted thoughts on things monumental, ephemeral and occasionally irrelevant.
KE If you had to be an inanimate object for a month, which one would it be.
NM: A good friend and I have been talking a lot this summer about hourglasses—it’s an object that’s a beautiful metaphor. Obviously, my headspace has been thinking about time. I would be an hourglass.
I admit that was my irrelevant question, and I was expecting an answer equally as useless. Of course, it wasn’t.
Manos’ latest artwork is an installation called OUR HOUSE, a sculptural reflection on time, is on view outside of the convention center. The work is a part of a new exhibition series curated by Black Cube called Monumental. The artwork is a model of the artist’s house that he drew in CAD from memory. The house is a Denver Square, a style of house from the late 19th century found throughout Denver. The piece, made out of salt, slowly decays with time to reveal another sculpture within it. A raw contribution to the streets of Denver.
KE Any haunting questions of existence that you are grappling with right now? Any answers?
NM I would say the main thing that I have been trying to get a handle on right now is TIME. This is totally evident in OUR HOUSE. It’s a natural rite of passage of getting older. I find myself time traveling a lot, which wasn’t possible when I was younger. Maybe it’s something that comes with being a parent, too. I often find myself visualizing what it would be like at an Event Horizon, and just as often, I think we are all just holograms that exist forever as reflected light.
KE Any lasting emblems or monuments in Denver that are highly underrated?
NM There are so many that have been casualties of the urban infill and redevelopment of the last ten years, which is one of the underlying themes of OUR HOUSE. Culture erasure and shift are natural processes, but I think Denver has done little to protect its patrimony, a feature of it still being a very young city. I think what’s happening now is consistent with what happened in other eras’ dynamic change. I’ve really scrutinized my feelings of loss and resentment for how change has reshaped our city and tried to be as empirical as I can. I don’t see much value in sentimentality or nostalgia for the past, but I do very much miss some of Denver’s old feelings, flavors and spaces. I also love some of the new characteristics and sensibilities that are defining Denver. It feels so much more cosmopolitan, which is something that I really respond positively to. The general appetite of our community for design is wonderful. For me, a couple stalwart emblems of Denver are the Buckhorn and Riverside Cemetery.
KE I am curious to hear your opinion on the power of your personal creative presence and the relationship of that to historic roles of art and design?
NM Over many years, I’ve found a really rewarding balance between creative engagement in both art and design that is perfect for me. I’ve spent a lot of time unlearning being preoccupied with historic roles, responsibilities and normative paths in the fields and conventional definitions of ‘success.’ For me, creative engagement is the cornerstone of my life, and it is a practice that I choose every day.
KE Any Specifics?
NM Pragmatically, design has been a better outlet for me to explore a certain mode of creative thought that is really rewarding because it has such immediate efficacy, and everyone can easily understand and interact with it. Working in the field of the built environment is so fundamentally different because of the way it affects and enacts on the user.
KE What would you say is the role of art today, and how does your work fit into that?
NM Art functions in such a different way as both the maker and as a viewer. There is something so uniquely special about divorcing creative thought from a ‘functionalist’ agenda, that gives space for such a different form of expression.
I didn’t have a perspective about that as a younger person. Art has a much narrower channel for connecting to an audience. It’s always defaulting to leveraging itself as esoteric and rarefied, which I find annoying.
It’s hard for me not to be exceedingly cynical about the role of art in our culture today. Yet, I have a bonafide reverence for the way art, again and again, has the capacity to penetrate deep within me and lay me bare as a bride stripped by her bachelors.
“Yet, I have a bonafide reverence for the way art, again and again, has the capacity to penetrate deep within me and lay me bare as a bride stripped by her bachelors.”