1. What is your favorite tool?
My camera. I used to always carry a pen with me, but now I just take my camera. When I see a moment, I shoot. Later I reference the photo as my prompt in whatever I need to create: whether it’s a blog post or a strategy argument or a social media post.
2. What is your favorite story that is not your own?
Today is Jackson Pollock’s birthday. He would have been 104. My favorite Pollock story and probably my favorite story about an artist is my friend Donald’s story. He tells it better than I do, but here it goes:
Many years ago in Beverly Hills, he was invited over to his neighbor’s house who were throwing a party for Pollock and showing off his new painting. At a certain point in the party, the hosts gathered everyone together so they could ceremoniously unveil the painting. Afterwards, they turned to Pollock to ask what he thought of it. His response was, “It looks nice, even though you hung it upside down.”
3. Who is your favorite critic and why?
I never get enough of the work of New Yorker writer Lillian Ross. She’s been writing for the magazine long before I was born and her astute ability to accurately report complicated situations without recording them via tape I find amazing. She has a way of breaking down the awkward comedy of a social situation in the most graceful way. I find her body of work mesmerizing and a constant inspiration.
4. What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
My cat getting his face stuck in an empty carton of Siggi’s yogurt. I don’t know what he likes more: the yogurt or getting his face stuck in the container and walking around like a monster trying to get himself unstuck. I think he thinks the empty yogurt container is a yummy hide-and-go-seek game, and he is probably right.
5. What’s your favorite thing about modern life that you think will disappear in the near future?
I like writing letters and mailing them. As I was walking to the mailbox the other day, I thought that the way we communicate by hand will change in my lifetime. I don’t think mail will entirely disappear, but I think the nature of personal correspondence will soon be entirely digital. There won’t be many mailboxes to walk to anymore and I will miss that as I like a purpose to a wander and I also like receiving handwritten letters.
Occasionally, I think about the fact that when I got my first job, it was a marketable skill that I was a fast typist. Now the concept of typing as a skill is obsolete. Those that can’t type are considered almost illiterate. Those that can write neatly seem to have a new marketable skill as luxury calligraphers! It’s strange to think that this behavior change has occurred in such a short span of time, but culture moves quickly and we must adapt accordingly.
6. Coffee or tea?
Both. Depending on mood and location. You drink mint tea in Amsterdam, espresso in Milan, cold brew in LA. (Although I did recently see an artisanal water tasting…)
7. What’s your favorite piece of art now?
Walter De Maria’s “The Lightning Field” in Quemado, New Mexico. It’s a land art installation in the middle of nowhere. You’re not allowed to photograph it per the artist’s instructions. It consists of hundreds of metal rods on an open field. When lightning strikes, the rods ignite into a fiery display. Except most of the time there is no lightning. You can walk through the fields and marvel at this vast installation and the beautiful emptiness of the landscape. It’s art at its most participatory.
After spending so many years going to music festivals in rugged environments filled with tens of thousands of people, I found it meaningful to go to someplace enormous with few.
I have to thank the artist KAWS for telling me about it in passing during an interview. After the interview was over, I looked it up and then it took me a year to be able to organize the reservation (reservations for 2016 open Feb. 1st) and the trip and it’s the one of the best art trips I’ve gone on yet.
8. Why do you like the number 8?
About 10 years ago, I was going through a hard time. I went away to Hope Springs, this little motel in Desert Hot Springs that I started going to in the late 90s. It was one of the few places I felt comfortable with going alone. I always liked one room in back that had a view of the valley below. During this long day of thinking, I decided to write a short plan for the near future and the next 5 years. I had never done anything like it before.
It was ironic – spending all these years doing cultural planning work – and not planning my own life. But when I was done with this task, I looked up and saw the number 8. It seemed so perfect. I wrote, “I love ocho” on a piece of paper and took a picture and ever since then, I’ve collected 8’s around the world.
Obviously there is so much more to the history of this number, in regards to infinity and I love its resonance, but to me 8 began with that room in the desert and I continue my affection for the number with this series of 8 questions.
Carly Eiseman is a cultural brand strategist and photographer for hire. Email her at carlyogogo(at)gmail.com.