I barely interviewed Adam Milner for this article. I tend to believe that most modern interviews also go this way. We corresponded over email five or six times while he was in Florida for this year’s zombie art carnival, Art Basel Miami. Most of my information found on Milner was gleaned from the internet: artist bios, press releases, exhibition reviews, and his banal, yet hilariously thoughtful tumblr page (consisting of screenshots of spam, online surveys, text messages, grindr conversations, and interactions with Siri). This machine-like interaction with Milner ended up being incredibly appropriate in regards to the subject matter of this interview - his most recent exhibition, Talking Paper.
The title for this exhibition came from an interaction with a friend, where she pulled out a piece of paper and began to map out, draw, and take notes on their concurrent conversation. This visualization of conversation on paper became Milner’s inspiration. This woman’s father was where the activity originated; he called it “a piece of talking paper”.
Adam Milner’s background is in drawing, yet this is his first show of all works on paper. Though, his definition of drawing is fluid. It is traces and marks that are accidentally left behind. It is instances of everyday living. “We draw blood, guns, names out of hats. We also draw people near, if we’re lucky.” Drawing is physical. And Talking Paper explores the body and it’s interactions with both public and private spheres.
On the second floor of Bunker Projects, detritus of the body are laid out on thin, wooden tables, made to be the exact width of a standard sheet of printer paper, and the length of four. Hair, piled together on blue rectangles. Nail clippings secured under clear masking tape. Chewed gum catalogued in lines. Milner’s own blood, carefully dotted onto a perfect grid of graphite and a green background. All of these “drawings” are deeply personal reminders of how human Adam is, despite the machine-like patience required for this type of artistic practice. Many of his drawings are both physical and labor intensive, while following a strict set of rules. For one piece, he must trace every single fiber in the paper. For another, he catalogs cut outs of mouths from magazines, but only mouths that are open, showing the top set of teeth prominently, and facing toward the right.
Along with the conversation addressing being human and being machinelike, Milner also explores another juxtaposition of the private and the public moments that went into Talking Paper and how those moments can become blurred. This exhibition “combines a very social practice with a very personal and hermetic one, and it complicates that distinction.” He explains: “I set up a relationship with the periodicals department of a library so I could go through every single magazine they discarded - both a social activity and one of solitude.”
Milner’s collection of drawings and collages is a catalog that is both useless in its literal worth, but displayed as preciously as relics of memories and living. They are synecdoches for moments both private and public, for objects both personal and mass produced.
Adam Milner is an artist who rigorously collects digital and physical detritus left behind as he attempts to connect with other people. He received a BFA in Visual Art and a BS in Journalism from the University of Colorado - Boulder. He is currently an MFA candidate in the Carnegie Mellon School of Art in Pittsburgh.
Writer: Krista Wright