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Queer Artists in Their Own Words: Adam Milner Kept an Experimental Travelog on a Grindr Cruise Ship

LGBTQ Pride Month is now. Every day in June, we are celebrating the community by featuring one queer artist and letting them speak for themselves.

The month of June is a time to celebrate the LGBTQ community and reflect on the advances of queer people to strengthen civil liberties around the world, even in a moment of great political uncertainty. It’s also a good opportunity to spotlight the richness and diversity of culture we have within the community. Hyperallergic is commemorating Pride Month by featuring one contemporary queer artist per day on the website and letting them speak for themselves. Click here to participate.

Adam Milner arranges small carved stones on felted display panels in his studio (image courtesy the artist, photo by Colin Conces)

Adam Milner

Age: 31

Location: Brooklyn

Artistic Medium: Sculpture, Video, Drawing, Intervention, Writing

Who are you and what do you do?

My work ends up being so much about desire, and the relationship desire has to access, conquest, technology, the body, and institutional power.

Here are a few examples. Once, I went aboard a cruise ship hosted by the gay hookup app Grindr to make an experimental travelog. Another time, I worked with engineers at NASA to make sculptures with their new moon concrete technology. When I lived in Pittsburgh, I walked from my apartment to Moon, Pennsylvania; nine hours and 20 miles later, I ended up at the Google Maps pin to find a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). I regularly work with nurse friends to extract blood from my boyfriend and I to use as material. I mined the archives at the Warhol Museum in search of bodily fragments and discovered that Andy Warhol owned a mummified human foot, among other things. I exhibited these items to the public for the first time. Right now I’m working toward exhibitions with the Mattress Factory, the Everson Museum of Art, Black Cube Nomadic Museum, and a series of actions and essays for the Clyfford Still Museum.

What are the top three greatest influences on your work?

I’m influenced by how people deal with objects around them. So let’s say Marie Kondo and all systems of tidying, the reality television show Hoarders, and museum displays and cases.

Describe your coffee order.

A black coffee that I start drinking way too late in the day and proceed to slowly sip on for hours while it becomes lukewarm.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

My parents got together and had us in their teens. Attending university wasn’t an option for them and it certainly wasn’t a given for anyone in my community. But education was always considered a really important thing by my family, and now I somehow have a few degrees and have taught at prestigious universities. This is actually stunning to me.

What constitutes a perfect day?

Not oversleeping, biking around (the weather is warm but there’s a breeze), reading something nice, eating something nice, getting lots of work done, seeing people I like; maybe I have a crush.

On this perfect day, somehow I have health insurance! I see a deer or a fox, somehow, or maybe just a cardinal. Prisons are abolished; education is paid for by taxes on the rich; and public transportation is so good. Then I find something beautiful on the ground.

What was your favorite exhibition from last year?

I really liked getting to see Yuji Agematsu’s work at Lulu (Mexico City), Miguel Abreu (New York), and the Carnegie International (Pittsburgh) all within a few months of each other. I admire his sensitivity and awareness of the world around him. He has the ability to arrange and compile minutiae into tiny worlds; the personal systems he has created are all exciting to me.

What would your superpower be if you had one?

When I was a kid, I wished I could have taken things out of the TV, manifesting them physically by reaching into the screen. I would constantly wish for this power, especially while looking at jewelry and gemstones on the Home Shopping Network. So either that or shape-shifting.

What is one question you wish somebody would ask about your work?

Ask me about montage, then tell me about montage.

What is the greatest threat to humanity?

At the root of most of our problems is an inability to empathize and connect with each other. Climate change is another issue, but these things are all related.

What did you make when you first started making art?

As a kid, I was either drawing flowers or designing dream homes. But my first exhibition was a bedroom I made at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art with curator Petra Sertic. The room was available to visit and use at all hours of the day, shifting the museum protocol and accessibility. Someone slept with me one night.

Do you prefer spilling the tea or throwing shade?

Sleepytime Tea.

What is your all-time favorite work of art?

I often think about the ancient Greek mosaic of a trompe l’oeil “unswept floor.” I also think of “Altruism” (2011) by Iván Argote. I think of “Touch Sanitation” (1979-80) by Mierle Laderman Ukeles. I think of Constantin Brâncuși. I think of Louise Bourgeois and how she called her work confessional. I think of Felix Gonzalez-Torres and how he made work for his boyfriend. I think of Robert Gober and how the sinks he has made are sinks he has known.

What are your plans for pride month?

I’m at the University of Arkansas for the summer making a body of work in clay. The local gay newspaper is called The Gayly and every page has a ton of rainbow text and clip art. I work on top of these newspapers, and sometimes I read the ads and articles and contemplate attending these events, but haven’t yet. I made a gay friend here who has been helping me in the studio and that feels good.

What is the future of queerness?

Fluid and open.

Name one guilty pleasure.

More new socks.

Greatest queer icon of the internet: Babadook, Momo, or a pervading sense of existential angst?

A pervading sense of existential angst.

Is there enough support for queer artists where you live?

Of course not. Not anywhere, and not for artists in general.

How do you stay cool during the summer?

Listening to as much gay pop music as I can.

What is your favorite type of milk?

No.

“Queer Artists in Their Own Words” is an ongoing feature happening every day in the month of June. For prior posts in the series, please click here.

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