Elizabeth Cupich - Fine Art

Artist + Printmaker

You keep on knockin’ but you can’t come in

In spring of 2018, Rudy and I (COCHINANASTY) had three months until our MFA thesis show and no idea what to make. We assured the curators that our thesis was well on the way to completion. Privately, we panicked and generated increasingly stressful and complex ideas. Make hundreds more papier-mache Kim Kardashian and Spiderman masks for visitors to wear? Build an Allsups (New Mexico’s beloved gas station and convenience store chain) inside the gallery? Rent a soda machine and sell Big Gulps to recoup the expenses of graduate school? Scalp our own work on opening night? After two years of constant creative output, we were banging our heads against the wall trying to come up with a Magnum Opus. So headbanging it was.

On opening night, the heads crashed rhythmically against the wall every 15 minutes, to 24 songs and audio tracks, beginning with a lengthy recording of Roland Barthes essay “The Wrestler.” The heads are unmoving until the reading concludes, then smash their heads once in frustration. Other tracks included coyotes howling, New Mexican music, and Pink Elvis (Cheech and Chong’s band) singing “Earache my Eye.” The title of our thesis was taken from the legendary comedy duo Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong’s movie Up in Smoke. The two refuse to speak to a police officer from inside their smoky car:

We thought about the act of headbanging as frustration, the exhaustion of an artist’s labor and the limits of a gallery. Headbanging as a complete release, the headbanger drowned by sound and letting it all go, now a cliche gesture emptied of its edgy cache. The heads as partners, looking forward, dreaming, sleeping, or even dead. Knocking on someone else’s door, trying to truly connect. Knocking on doors that we can’t enter. Little Richard singing “Come back tomorrow night and try it again.” The artist as a celebrity, a performer, a jester, a troll.

We made molds of our heads and cast them in soft, lifelike silicone. The hair, beard, eyelashes and eyebrows are human hair punched into the silicone, strand by strand. Thin washes of color on the heads contributed to the heads’ uncannily lifelike appearance. Sunk into levers, the heads moved via machinery controlled by motherboards, hidden behind a false wall.

The full playlist of audio tracks used in the installation can be found here:


How did this get made?