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This Human Gummy Bear Plugs His Butt with a Fancy Haribo Dildo

Haribo is Carly Mark's favorite brand. For her first solo show, the artist brings advertising and consumerism to its logical conclusion by creating an apocalyptic advert starring Eric Wareheim as an anthropomorphic gummy.

Zach Sokol

Zach Sokol

All images courtesy of the artist

Haribo is Carly Mark's favorite brand. Over the last few years, the New York-based artist has built a substantial body of work that pays homage to the candy. After starting with still-life paintings of your average Goldbären package, Mark's work got sweeter and stranger with her gorgeous acrylic freakouts that mix and mash personal reference points with the flamboyant wrapping, such as Gold Bear bags featuring characters from films like Alien or Brazil and nods to art history like the postmodern architecture collective Memphis Group.

I like to think of the work as revisionist advertisements, and like any effective branding, it's getting harder and harder for me to think of Haribo without seeing Mark's paintings and their saccharine surrealness. And thanks to the 27-year-old artist's latest short film, it will now be impossible for me to think about the gummies without envisioning Eric Wareheim of Tim & Eric being frisky (for lack of a better term) with a butt plug.

For her first solo show, "Good Buy Human," open from June 23 to August 31 at The Breeder Gallery in Athens, Greece, Mark has created a hyperbolic effigy to commodification culture, with Haribo—once a luxury import with a literally-gilded surface—as her sacrificial lamb to burn in the pyre. Or, in the case of a video piece that'll be on view at the exhibition (and which you can watch above), an anthropomorphic Gold Bear played is offered up to the hellfire brought on by mass consumerism, capitalism, corn syrup, and other deliciously-evil stuff.

"I was obsessed with Haribo as a kid," Eric Wareheim told me over email. "Those images were burnt in my brain as this happy place. And it was so interesting to pervert those images and recall my experiences in this new format. Show the audience something they are comfortable with, then spin it in a new direction. The result is something sometimes quite disturbing... Also I needed a butt plug and Carly promised to give me a discount on the rainbow one."

The exhibition, as a whole, seems to suggest that as our culture is continually consumed by image-based advertising and social media, Mark feels compelled to create a new pictorial language, not unlike hieroglyphics, to document the resulting bricolage. While her exploration of themes like an apocalypse sparked by late capitalism is familiar territory, Mark's work stands out due to its unironic stoner/metal vibe and its jovial intimacy. Plus, the paintings and sculptures are genuinely nice to look at, which makes sense given that they're still candy wrappers.

I spoke to the artist about "Good Buy Human" in the days leading up to the exhibition's opening.

VICE: Can you start by giving me a little bit of background about the show at Breeder Gallery?
Carly Mark: This is my first solo show, so it will be a more comprehensive group of work than I've had the opportunity to display before. I'll be showing my bag paintings, which is the work most people know me for, but also sculptures, video, and wallpaper. I used Haribo as a starting point.

The idea behind "Good Buy Human" is demise via commodification culture, but also the concept of misinterpreted history. The words "Good Buy" can be looked at in this way—a play on words whose double meaning suggests something "positive" (I say this in quotes because it can either be read as positive reinforcement for an action or a sales pitch), but also references an exit when said out loud.

What were some ideas going through your head while creating the work featured in this show?
I was thinking about the loss of "human-ness" that is happening through self-commodification or our social selves. We're getting to this point where we are actually becoming what we project, and I'm not sure what that means. In a lot of ways, it feels like the end and commodification is at the root of it.

When I was making the work for the show, I thought of it as being seen by a post-human life form, and, as is often the case with history, things get misinterpreted. I spent a lot of time at the Museum of Natural History and The Met. My glass bear sculptures reference Zuni fetish objects and the crook and flails of Ancient Egypt. Instead of being sacred/spiritual objects mirroring the natural world, they mirror a commercialized food character and are simply meant to go in your butt.


I really like how your paintings have developed from being realist paintings to also including an array of personalized winks. Can you tell me about how you see all the various references congealing in this exhibition?
Everything interjected in the new paintings are things I like. You'll notice a pattern with the Brazil and Alien tropes—as in I'm very influenced by movies. I'm a fan of Terry Gilliam and Ridley Scott. Brazil's dystopian atmosphere reminds me of growing up in suburbs outside of Detroit. The constant underlying Christmas theme in the movie really does it for me. Giger's Alien is a female, which is cool. I think the intersecting happens naturally.

In the video piece, Eric's character says at one point, "I have a heart of gold...." before you reply, "...and it's very expensive," referencing Haribo's onetime status as a luxury good. Plus, there are all the apocalyptic themes in the video. Are you commenting on mass, global capitalism, and its relation to doom?
You're right on point, and you'll notice when that line is delivered I'm seemingly the one in control (I have my hand in his butt). I think power is a theme to think about while watching the video. The Candy Kong character represents a misinterpreted and hyper-sexualized "new feminism" model. Who is control? Gold-Bear or Candy? I want the video to evoke these types of questions.

I've always found your work funny, but what do you find most humorous about this exhibition, in particular?
Everything is a play on words, or has double meaning. That's what I find most funny. Everything is a joke, but if that in itself is misunderstood, I find that very funny as well.

I feel like most heads owe a lot to Tim & Eric, so it must be interesting to collaborate with someone like Eric, who we all idolize. How do you navigate making video art that's funny and stars Eric Wareheim, but is also your own vision?
It's not difficult because Eric and I have such a natural connection and he's basically my husband. It's one of those friendships where we just get each other. He's such an amazing and inspiring human. I believe in him and he believes in me, so working together is a no brainer.

Can you tell me about your relationship with Haribo, the brand? I remember an interview that said your interest came from New York "bodegas, filled with familiar food brands, became landmarks as she filled out her mental map of the city."
I think Haribo has the best snack food branding. It's consistant and international. People relate to it everywhere because it is everywhere. There's a lot of nostalgia connected to it. The mental map aspect is accurate, though my map has expanded now that I'm working in Greece. I had a layover in Istanbul and the first thing I saw when I got off the plane was a rack of Haribo bags. I got out of the cab in front of the gallery when I reached Athens, and the bodega on the corner sold Haribo. People tell me when they see Haribo, they think of me. It's following me, but at this point, I'm also following you.

"Good Buy Human" is on view through August 31 at the Breeder Gallery. For more information, visit the gallery website, as well as Carly Mark's website.

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