MYSTERY MEAT: AN INTERVIEW WITH HEATH FLAGTVEDT
This Saturday, Self Actualization is hosting “Mystery Meat,” a one-night-only exhibition by sculptural and conceptual artist Heath Flagtvedt. Held at the Imperial Linen Services building (3401 Harrisburg), this will be Flagtvedt’s fourth solo exhibition in Houston since the end of 2023.
I had the opportunity to ask a few questions to the Houston-born artist — who now resides in Portland — prior to this weekend’s exhibition.
FPH: Can you tell me about the title of your exhibition?
Heath Flagtvedt: Titles are always around phrases where meanings coalesce for me. They are never a one-for-one linear meaning conveyance. So, “Mystery Meat” was a phrase where several threads I was thinking about all met. My titles are intersections that way.
“Mystery meat” as a phrase originally hit my radar from a Madvillain song, or more specifically from Mos Def talking about a Madvillain song. There is this really great Frolab video of him just quoting [MF] Doom lyrics and talking to friends about how good he is.
As a way of differentiating Doom and why he is on another level from other rappers, he quotes Doom: “Every week its mystery meat.” Just the inventiveness and the unexpected.
So that stuck. That video is so good because it is how I think we should talk about art: With real shared pleasure. I have seen this video countless times and when I watch it again to find where he mentions mystery meat, I can’t turn it off. I just really love it.
Work by Heath Flagtvedt
FPH: What is the process in making your works?
Flagtvedt: That’s not a question I can quite answer that way. I am 43 now and have been making art for 25 years as a constant in my life. After that long, you develop — whether you do it intentionally or not — a practice that surrounds making work and the work just emerges from that practice as a step in the procedure.
I want to make work that is human and honest and forthcoming, which is actually really difficult. There are so many pitfalls. Things can easily fall into “overly clever” or just become luxury objects and seem opaque to most people, for instance. So that leads you to read and study. This is the place where critical theory for me has a place in art, which is how to avoid some of these pitfalls or address them directly if they come up.
I also spend a lot of time and energy concerned with how much of ourselves exists and exerts itself unconsciously and how to engage and shape our unconsciousness. So all of that goes together with what gets tits hard visually and materially and kind of fuses in ways that seem beyond my imagining.
I made color copies for years and for many of the same reasons I use plastic: limited control, not a formal art material, no direct sign of luxury. And they happen quickly and they are fully alive at the moment of creation, but with a great deal of work done prior.
FPH: Are these works a departure from your previous exhibitions?
Flagtvedt: Not really, no. It all feels largely the same to me. Each is different but they are iterations and stages or whatever of the same process. In a lot of ways, each show is a departure. I hope I am never one of those artists who make the same thing over and over and over, a la Lichtenstein. I would rather pump gas for a living.
“Mystery Meat” is a one-night-only event hosted by Self-Actualization on Saturday from 6 to 11 pm at Imperial Linen Services (3401 Harrisburg).