The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Galerie Dennis Cooper presents … Marnie Weber *

* (Halloween countdown post #6)


‘You probably have at least one friend who is completely obsessed with the art of Marnie Weber. Her approach to creating the “total work of art” — which includes but is not limited to painting, sculpture, music, myth-making, live performance, film, video, photography, collage, set design, installation, costume, extreme makeup, excellent wigs, prosthetics, puppets, and witchcraft — has beguiled and piqued audiences for decades. Her dark, punk-infused humor, fearless embrace of eccentric feminine power archetypes from ghostly cowgirls to sorceresses of alchemy, and willingness to go, as they say, all the way there, combine in tropes of avant-garde theater and tableaux with gut-punch viscerality and a strange beauty that is anything but pretty.’ — LA Weekly

‘Marnie Weber’s centralizing embrace of the societal fringe mimics our globalized reassessment of the dominant point of view, debunking the old norm for a new model where the previously peripheral moves to center stage. Her world of freaky side-show circus characters, runaway waifs and mobile home denizens are counter-culture oddities recast as empowered models of defiantly capable heroes, or at least battered survivors. Unabashedly narrative in nature, these works maneuver like familiar storybook legends and fairy tale lore, insinuating themselves into our subconscious soup of primal fears and childhood nightmares. At first seeming to be eccentric cast-offs, these damaged personages soon reveal themselves to be stand-ins for us, fragile yet resilient, emotionally vulnerable human beings of merit and worth in search of acceptance and security. Through these surrogate misfits, we find compassion for ourselves.’ — PCC

‘Artist Marnie Weber was raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut, moving to Taiwan at age 10 after travelling through east Asia with her family. Eventually relocating to southern California, there Weber studied art at University of Southern California, later receiving a B.A. at University of California, Los Angeles, where she worked with the performance and installation artist Chris Burden, assemblage sculptor George Herms, and collagist Alexis Smith. Her multidisciplinary approach to art making is defined by the rich, mythological ideology she has created throughout a practice that encompasses performance, film, video, sculpture, collage, installation, costuming, and music.

‘Weber began as a musician, emerging into the heady punk music milieu of 1980s Los Angeles; she evolved into a solo performance artist. Driven by an interest in theatrical experimentation, her performances are amplified by a complex narrative structure and extravagant costuming that coalesces around a pastiche of memory and the subconscious, with related film work reflecting a technological restraint and visual candor.

‘Aspects of Weber’s performative work and film extend to her collage and sculpture practice, both of which are informed by the character development, symbolism, and dramatic content held within each tale. Conjuring elaborate allegories drawn from personal and cultural histories, fantasy, folklore, ritual, and a deeply eccentric sense of the spiritual, the stories remain liquid as they morph into various hybrids. Half-animal/half-human figures, dolls, clowns, and monsters recur in surreal fictions that touch on death, transformation, and catharsis. Her collage and sculptural works embrace a baroque sense of artifice, yielding only to the fantastical creatures and logic-defying sympathy, humor, and uneasiness they evoke.’ — The Artist Profile



Marnie Weber Site
MW @ Simon Lee Gallery
MW @ Instagram
Marnie Weber and Justin John Greene
Marnie Weber: The Nature of Time
Twisted Refrain: The Work of Marnie Weber
Marnie Weber-Girls Gone Wild
Oral history interview with Marnie Weber, 2016 February 10
Eyes Without a Face: Gillian Wearing and Marnie Weber
Marnie Weber on The Sea of Silence
Marnie Weber – The Night of Forevermore
Inside the L.A. Studio of Artist Marnie Weber
Marnie Weber brings whimsical world to Busan
Artist Marnie Weber Deploys a Multitude of Media To Create Dreamlike Realms
Marnie Weber: Send in the Clowns
Marnie Weber on Fairy Tales, Performance Art and Edward Kienholz
Caryn Coleman interviews artist Marnie Weber



Destiny and Blow Up Friends


The Sea of Silence

The Day of Forevermore (Trailer)




THE WHITE REVIEW — You once said using a handheld camera lends your work an awkwardness, a stumbling quality. Why do you use this technique? What are the aesthetic issues?

MARNIE WEBER — I intentionally try to have a humble, homemade look to my films; it feels more genuine to me. The camera works in combination with the characters’ movements, at times reflecting the consciousness of the character in vision, at times reflecting my consciousness, and at times the consciousness of the camera operator. Sometimes, if we are lucky, the camera works by finding the mystical union of all involved. Since I act in the films rather than hold the camera myself, I have to rely on the magical moments of everything working in unison.

I also think that this approach allows the viewer to enter emotionally into my work. For example, I can address life’s heavier issues, such as death, tragedy, birth without being so depressing. The film stock, the hand-held camera, the way of walking, the costumes, all of this combined with subtle humor, balances the dark and light. I like it when people say they don’t know if they should laugh or cry when they see my films. Charlie Chaplin was a genius at this. He was making films in a very dark time in human history but gave people an escape while at the same time broaching issues such as poverty, loneliness, abandonment and loss with a sense of humor. He was also exploring movement in unison with the camera as if it were a dancing partner. On a different level, when the film is finished I think the homemade quality is a way of hopefully inspiring other people to make creative work in a way slick productions cannot. The work becomes a labour of love rather than a product of a huge production team.

THE WHITE REVIEW — Spiritualism is important to your work. Where did your interest in it come from?

MARNIE WEBER — Spiritualism was an interesting development in American history. It was the first time people considered the possibility that God was within themselves, rather than a controlling being from above. It also grew during the same time, and in the same region of New York, as the women’s movement. It was the first time women were on stage and ‘given a voice’, so to speak, and the voices that came out were those of channeled spirits. Spiritualism was an empowering movement.

I’m very much interested in the parallel between spiritualism and entertainment, which may have come from my many years as a performance artist. The Spirit Girls is a work of fiction, a conceptual art piece of my own creation. The narrative is this: a group of girls have died tragically in their youth and then come back to earth as spirits to perform in a band and to communicate through music. We wear costumes, masks, wigs and have props, projections and other characters who join in to create a musical experience that is consciously visual. It started as a theatrical rock show inspired by the progressive rock shows of the Seventies, which I loved in my youth. I went to see bands like early Genesis, King Crimson, Yes, Bowie and the Spiders and I thought to myself, ‘Where are the women?’ So the Spirit Girls were a way to go back and fill that niche for me. I am the initiator and director but when we are playing the music, it develops into more of a collaboration.

THE WHITE REVIEW — Throughout your work, animals are portrayed as cohabiting with dolls/humans. Is this intended to be utopian in any way?

MARNIE WEBER — The animals act as alter egos, sometimes as spirit guides and also carry symbolism. Each animal represents something for me. For example, the bear is representative of power but also spirituality. In American Indian folklore, the bear is a symbol of spirituality and represents a delving into one’s unconscious because the bear hibernates all winter as if involved in introspection. The bunny is an interesting character because it is not only a victim figure, but also a symbol of birth and fertility.

THE WHITE REVIEW — Fairytales, circus themes and freak shows are a common feature of your work. What’s the attraction?

MARNIE WEBER — I see the characters that inhabit those worlds as challenging themselves through the exploration of the darkest realms of their subconscious. That is very heroic to me. It is a place of transformation rather than placid existence.

THE WHITE REVIEW — You once compared your work to an exercise in acting class in which you put on a mask to express a true emotion, saying that through costumes and artifice, you are able to reach far greater depths of emotion in your art than can be reached showing everyday reality. How does this tie in to your use of masks?

MARNIE WEBER — The current Spirit Girls masks are frightening because they don’t have any expression. You can’t read any emotions or what they are feeling. That way the audience has to create its own reading of the faces from within themselves, hopefully serving as a mirror. Humans need facial expression to feel comfortable and the faces seem strange and disturbing. You get used to it though.

THE WHITE REVIEW — And what about your use of clowns? Where did the interest start?

MARNIE WEBER — When I was a kid, I loved The Red Skelton Show. He performed as a poor downtrodden clown with a sad face. He would pull out his empty pockets and pretend to cry. This would in turn make me cry and say ‘Poor him!’ My mother would ask if she should turn it off but I would cry to have it stay on. It is this idea of simultaneous attraction and repulsion, but also the depth of emotion that clowns carry that appeals to me. Happy and sad clowns are like extensions of us. It is a cathartic release of our own pain to watch the humiliation of a clown. In my piece Giggle of Clowns, the group of clowns surrounds a flower-laden corpse, an effigy of the lead Spirit Girl. It is as if they lost their leader and were stuck in an existential quagmire of being cheerful. To be happy is a very dark journey.

THE WHITE REVIEW — You once said ‘I’m not afraid of cute’. What was it you meant by this exactly?

MARNIE WEBER — Cute, soppy, sentimental; they can all be extended, can make the work even darker in my opinion. It is as if one is saying ‘everything is alright’ while knowing it is not.

THE WHITE REVIEW — And what about camp? Is camp important to you?

MARNIE WEBER — Yes, I don’t really fear going overboard or having people feel that it is too much. I think there is a place for simple beautiful formal work but since my interest lies in what is theatrical, the work tends to be layer upon layer of information and backstory combined, which creates more of a baroque quality. It can be misinterpreted as naivety but it doesn’t bother me. At the core I know what is best for me and for my work.

THE WHITE REVIEW — Do you feel connected to the collage tradition?

MARNIE WEBER — Yes I do. I study other artists’ collages and I try to push the boundaries of what has been done in collage before. Art history is very important to me.

THE WHITE REVIEW — Barbara Kruger describes her work as ‘more about pleasure, desire only exists where there is absence’ and says that she is ‘not interested in the desire of the image… but in suggesting that we needn’t destroy difference.’ Do you feel similarly about your own work?

MARNIE WEBER — There is great power in longing. To raise questions with collage, create uncanny scenes that draw the viewer in, to make them wonder what is going on is much more powerful than to create an image that is complete, finalized or in essence ‘dead’. The act of contemplation when viewing of an artwork is a beautiful moment.

THE WHITE REVIEW — Are your collages ‘metaphors of fraternity‘ as Jean-Luc Godard puts it? Would you say they were metaphors of dependence, or a love encounter?

MARNIE WEBER — I would say they are closer to a love encounter. A labour of love.

THE WHITE REVIEW — Are your collages assonant or dissonant, do they have similar or antinomian associations?

MARNIE WEBER — Visually they have assonance and can be pleasing to look at but they are dissonant in that there feels like there is something not right. An uncanny strangeness. Antinomian.

THE WHITE REVIEW — Are your collages synecdoche?

MARNIE WEBER — Yes, they refer to a larger overall narrative.

THE WHITE REVIEW — Let’s move on to your use of the podium. What does it allow you to achieve, and what aesthetic forms are at stake when using such a form, such space?

MARNIE WEBER — I never use a simple white podium, it seems trivial and carries a false importance. It is ok if used ironically. If a work needs height I create my own base that works conceptually with the piece. For instance, the podiums for the large pull animals are meant to look like toys. The podium creates an artificial importance to the work, but it is also a practical tool.

THE WHITE REVIEW — The plinth, the pedestal, and the podium are areas of power, competition, emphasis and authority. Why do you use this typology? Can we move away from these principles?

MARNIE WEBER — I prefer to think of an installation as a theatrical set and a podium just becomes another prop thereby diminishing its power. It gives definition, but it is a false power.

THE WHITE REVIEW — How do you avoid fetishism and still work with the podium? Is it possible?

MARNIE WEBER — I think the way to avoid the fetishism is to not use square white cubes as a podiums but to consider different ways to present the work and make it all part of the piece.


Sculptures, installations & collages



















































p.s. Hey. ** Dominik, Hi!!! Oh, no, I’m so sorry to hear that about Anita and the job. It must not have been worthy of her. Damn, love really slacked off yesterday. He’s lucky he’s love, otherwise we might need to replace him with … uh … lust? Needless to say, if love manages to get his Poké Ball town design off the page and on the ground, my bags will be quickly packed. Love offering Anita the job of replacing Harry Styles in a One Direction reunion, G. ** Steve Erickson, ‘Saint Omer’ sounds super intriguing. On my radar, for sure. Boy, I sure hope the new Albert Serra is a lot better than his awful quasi-Sadeian last film. How was it? I feel like a lot of people I know are asexual these days. In certain communities it’s even very trendy from what I can see. So stand tall, I say. I’ve always thought sex is more productive in the mind, albeit with a few exceptions. I’m pretty sure McKay Manor is long since defunct. They were kicked out of San Diego some years ago then tried to make a go of it somewhere in the South, but I think they gave up entirely a year or two before Covid would have killed them off naturally. I think I need to search out that WalMart clerk. News to me. Huh. ** Jamie, Hi. Yes, Christopher was news to me until Andrew/11:11 hooked me up with his work. Excellent stuff. Ha ha, nincompoop, good word indeed. My mom to use that term casually in conversation when I was wee. It’d be nice if it made a comeback, but it’s hard to imagine influencers wielding it of their own volition. Oh, I’ll find the 2019 ‘Haunt’. Diametric opposition is almost always a goal in life perhaps. Or that sounds right in my head. Dude, last section of your novella! Awesome, congrats or else looming congrats depending on how you feel. Yes, 30,000 words is more than enough, for goodness sake. Granted I’m a weirdo, but the food googling and sex writing combo is only intriguing to me. Sex is only what we make it? Or … something? Probably shouldn’t ask me. Zac and I fucked up and the fete foraine art thing was closed when we got there, but the popup book store was sublime. I bought a semi-vintage ‘Wizard of Oz’ popup book that’s totally nuts. And our film-related meeting was excellent. Good day, iow. I agree that allowing Pollard on their stage briefly does not remove Pearl Jam from the pile of dreadfulness wherein they reside. I was just looking for the haystack in a needle. I hope your Wednesday makes every theoretical sad thought you could have play hooky. xo, moi. ** T, Hey! I’m of the firm opinion that submerging the ‘I’ is always a frontline experiment. Great, let’s do it: coffee + collab. Shoot me your freedom coordinates. What I wouldn’t give to be on acid maybe with an on/off switch today and maybe everyday, thank you! I hope your Wednesday is a holographic blast furnace. xo, D. ** Tea, I agree with you entirely. My last novel was nothing but that, or an attempt to make something that was nothing but that, at least. I also totally get the ‘owing’ thing. I mean, here I am a zillion years later still writing tributes to a long dead friend. Non-shabby Tuesday, excellent, I hope the rest of the day followed suit. I just want to eat one really good pastry today, and since I’m in Paris, that’s easy-peasy, so I think I’ll survive. May a really good pastry equivalent raise its lovely head in your Wednesday. ** Okay. I thought maybe a gallery show of Marnie Weber’s stuff might make a pleasant next step in the blog’s Halloween roll-out. See what you think, and see you tomorrow.


  1. Dominik


    I love Marnie Weber’s creepy art so much! I love that her pieces often look simple (to take in, not simple as in simplistic), but when you start exploring them, they’re full of details, and none of them are misplaced. Thank you for this day! My favorite Halloween countdown post this year.

    Yeah, it sucks about the job because Anita really wanted it. Some other way then. Although… replacing Harry in a One Direction reunion sounds like a position hard to beat, haha.

    (I think lust has been waiting for his chance to replace love for a long, long time!)

    Love planning to invite you to a picnic, but he’s too shy, so he just ends up leaving that lovely basket of strawberries from above on your doorstep, Od.

  2. David Ehrenstein


  3. Tea

    I like those rabbit pieces a lot. I love ’em. Wish they were more practical pets.

    ‘I Wished’ made me weep from the first page to the last. I still can’t pick it up and re-read bits of it without crying, and I don’t think I ever will. That is a compliment, of course. I don’t think a book, or any other media, has ever hit me that hard.

    I’ll think harder about dedication. I’d love to do it. It would likely take many words to explain the “why” to anybody else, but to you, I don’t think I need to say much. For now, I need to keep on practicing so that whatever I end up writing is the best it can be.

    I’m Celiac, so my pastry might be a bit more expensive than yours, ha. Okay, I think I’d like a bowl of strawberries for Wednesday.

  4. Steve Erickson

    Russ McKamey is the WalMart clerk I was referring to. That’s currently how he makes a living.

    I haven’t seen LIBERTE, but PACIFICTION is Serra’s most accessible film. It plays like a thriller whose director threw out 75% of the script. I feel like a philistine for thinking that the first two hours of its 160 minutes drag a bit, but the last third is excellent. Serra comes up with some stunning image/sound combinations – the soundtrack is full of dub-influenced IDM, a la Pole or Rhythm & Sound – and a string of standout scenes. WILL O’ THE WISP is next in my NYFF viewing.

    As far as I can tell, the communities where it’s hip to be asexual exist entirely online. I don’t know anyone in real life who identifies as asexual.

    I’m working on a song now, but when I finish it, I plan to listen to all the songs I’ve written in the last few months and see if there are enough good ones to release an album. Even if not, I plan to drop an album called THE BLOODSHOT EYE OF HORUS this fall.

  5. Jamie

    Hey Dennis.
    I’m intrigued by the popup book store. That sounds awesome. And you got a Wizard of Oz one too? Sweet. Ari has a few popup books and for a very brief period I thought I might look into how they’re made and try and construct one. This was curtailed when a koala in one of her books lost the ability to nod its head when the page was opened, I decided to fix it and was completely flummoxed by how even this tiny movement was engineered. Truly a good popup book is a thing of beauty.
    Great that you had an excellent movie meeting too. When do you think you’ll shoot it?
    How was your Wednesday? Mine was okay. I finished my novella draft, but with a definite place-holder final part. I’m pleased nonetheless.
    Marnie Weber’s art is great. Those sculptures and collages all have some quality that I can’t place, that makes them not creepy (to me anyway) but in no way failures for not being creepy. Better than creepy, I guess? A revelling in themselves? The rock-footed rabbit and the daisy-faced girl kill me, but they’re all excellent.
    Have a lovely day.
    Bollywood remake of Dr No love,

  6. Bill

    A lot of the sculptures and tableaus are so disorienting and subtly (and not so subtly) disturbing. Nice.

    Just saw Yann Gonzalez’s Hideous. Can’t say I’m as enthusiastic as my friends.


  7. Paul Curran

    Dennis, cool post for the continuing Halloween countdown! Also loved the Adachi post the other day. Fell into a research rabbit hole of red army stuff for my j-novel a while back and never got out…(Hijacking of JAL Flight 351,  Les Rallizes Dénudés, Lod Airport massacre, and Fusako Shigenobu, who was just released from prison this year).

    Things are good here, thanks! And big love back to you too! Slowly returning to normal. Gigs and travel starting to open up. Fewer restrictions. More international students around. Not sure if masks will ever leave the trains though. They were kind of popular anyway. Kiddo studying/being a teenager. Dog got attacked by another dog and nearly lost an eye, but is doing okay.

    Yes, the Infinity Land event looks like fun. Wish I could have got there, but start of uni teacher semester here. Thanks, yes, will probably get the video out later. 

    Speaking of hijacking, I was also wondering with the AP book if you’d mine me hijacking your blog for a kind of launch post if I can figure out what to put together. We’re looking at mid October. Just straight out. No review copies or presales. Would you be into that? No problem if you’ve got other things already lined up. I know you work a bit in advance. But Ben and I would love it if you were in on it too…

  8. Robert

    Ooh boy, I’m terrible with this kind of thing, all the mannequins and clowns and dolls really get to me. That circus monkey-thing on the wheeled pedestal is hilarious though. What do you think of Lawrence Durrell? I usually don’t like most English lit bit I just started Justine and it’s good so far.

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