We join Cara Mills in London at Fiumano Projects, as she exhibits her first solo exhibition titled Machine: Part A, Part B, Part C & so on… Entering the gallery, a vigorous sound and surge of colour greets the viewer, as two kinetic sculptures consume the gallery space. The young artist, contingent on demystifying the allure of the ‘finished piece’, occupies the gallery as a space of production, putting to work both The Painting Machine, and The Labour of Ideas. Both machines perform in synergy, engaging with each other and the audience in questioning what it essentially means to be an artist and make art. 
What would you call your practice, and the mediums you work with? 
For me the labels on my work are not that important, as it’s more about what I can show to an audience. In such sense, I am very interested in the process being revealed to the audience and how the framing of a gallery or the framing of an exhibition can make the work build, and how an audience can come at a different times and see the work throughout the show, formulating a completely different experience. The works do fall into different categories, but I call them kinetic sculptures, or kinetic installations. Some people think they are more sculptural, while others see them as more performative, and as much as I do see them as very performative, I think the labelling at this point does not help the work as they conjure different feelings to each individual.
I think whats really interesting about your work is the notion of the machine, and how you detach yourself from the work, whilst the machine evades the role of the artist. Why did you allow this?
In some senses I don’t think about making machines, and for some reason my machines make sense to me as I have a lot of questions as a young artist about the works I want to make and how works work in a gallery. I was very aware that I don’t like the pressure of having to make a final piece, and it may sound strange as I have done that through a weird zig-zag way, but I like making things that do the work for me. For me the art-ness lies in the conception of the machine, the design of the machines, the labour of the machines and the making of the machines. As you see when you come into the show, it’s durational, so on day 1 one of the four canvases has paint on, whilst on day 7 two of four have paint. Therefore the machines do their own thing, the cogs are turning and this allows the audience to see the work being made and sets my position as an artist in a different place. I loose control and the machine does it for me, and whilst I am very aware of what the machines are doing, the art is being made as the show goes on.
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You are interested in duration and improbability. Could you maybe further expand on this?
I am very interested in the time scale of the exhibition days. I spoke a bit before about there being active hours, so the days that the gallery are open. I am very interested in what it means for something to be ‘realised’ or ‘finished’, asking questions such as, who decides the finished piece? Why is something finished? Can something be a work in progress? Why can an audience not be privy of that? Why do we need to see something slick and finished and complete and packaged? I got very frustrated as I found the process was lost in a lot of art I was seeing, especially in art which has had a lot of labour. You might see an eroded a painting, but I wanted to see the visceral activeness of the artist producing, not in an old fashioned way so I see the artists hand, but more because I think it is a pleasure to understand what is making the work happen. I also don’t see any hierarchy between the finished piece and the machine, and for me the sound of the machine is just as important as the colours it paints. In terms of probability, I like that the gallery can be a performative space, and that the works within are helping it to be realized by the exhibition’s time frame which serves both as a limit and also an opening. I like the surprise element and how as an artist I am creating my own work but am also not fully aware of the work and how it will appear at the end.
Could you expand on the importance of process? Do you think it’s something you will continue to revisit in your future work?
I think I get more out of the process than I do from the final piece. I think the process is what allows me to make new work, so for The Labour of Ideas, which is the shredder installation, what is being shredded are all the ideas I wanted to make in my final year at CSM, but didn’t know what it meant to realise those works and didn’t have the time or the money or capacity to make them. I liked that they are on time scale and the audience can see the cogs turning in my mind, and imagine how the works are going to look without them actually being finished when you come in. To answer your second question, I think I will continue to work with process just because I like seeing a process and find it isn’t shown enough today. It is kind of like a front-stage, backstage, and as much as I find the gallery a church-like space, encompassed by a white-wall, clean and pronounced aesthetic, I don’t understand why the studio side of it can't come in, or even the work in progress. It's about questioning what the final piece is, and how can two years of work be wrapped up in one object which you hope embodies all of your research. Why can’t you show more of that, and have that be the art, and have the same value.
Can you talk a bit more about The Labour of Ideas and how you realised it? 
I think everyone will understand that in the last year of your BA, you have this impending deadline of the degree show and it’s really frustrating as there is the pressure of having people see your work. It’s essentially the first real opportunity a young artist can have. As an artist, I get incredibly bored very quickly, dashing and darting between ideas, leaving some behind and others not. I thought there was something in this, something very personal to my practice, and that instead of neglecting and making half-hearted casual work, I needed to find a way to bring that into my work, and most importantly to accept I get incredibly bored and that it’s okay. So I started to document all my ideas, and then begun to ask myself what gives value to these ideas, and what makes me decide to go forward with an idea. Is it the financial? Is it the attention? Is it that other people may like it? All of these values and judgments were something I hadn’t explored, and so I found a literal way to show this by coming up with a rating system out of 10.
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How did it give birth to The Painting Machine?
I got approached to do the show and I thought it would be interesting to get back into painting. I got very obsessed in the making process of the painting and instead of questioning what I was doing I was getting very frustrated with not being able to make good paintings, and not having a language or discourse to know what painting was about. I thought “Hang on a minute, why am I getting frustrated with the end product, why don’t I just make something that makes these things for me?” Again it came from a place of real frustration, and for this show I tried to make a lot of paintings but they didn’t make sense, and didn’t come from a place from real thought. I then decided to eliminate these problems and came up with a painting machine which although still has variables (colour, canvas) takes the pressure is taken off.
How do both The Labour of Ideas and The Painting Machine work together?
I think time becomes really different, and the machines intertwine with each other, and become waves where they work simultaneously. They do very different things but there is the similar theme of input and output, production, reduction, duration, and time within them. But for me, whenever I show again, it won’t make sense to not show them together, and in every show I do from now I want one work to be exhibited from the last show as it formulates a clear direction for the new work. I work in a systematic way, and one thing bounces from another such that The Painting Machine was born from the Shredder work.
Is there something which really stands out to you about both works?
I think the sound is something really important, in such that the sound is a performative thing for me. There was something really important about the ancient aspect of the machines, and how right now as artists work in a very digital algorithmic way, my work is a very obvious u-turn from that. I am not interested in those processes as I don’t find them open and present enough, they’re too hidden and I don’t like work that is closed. I think as an artist, you need to bring people with you, with your work. I therefore like the old school aspect of the machine, of the cogs turning. You see the machine, and there is no hierarchy between the work and you. There are deeper levels where the work can take you, but again it may be that some people like the sound of it, and there are different elements and stages. Some people are more interested in the sound of the machine and the colours, whilst others just find the machine really striking, almost a piece of sculpture. The machines are kind of musical instruments, and I was very aware that the sound had to be as important as the visual aspect as well, but then again to not be solely seen as sound works, but for that to be all encompassing. I like how the Shredder is very guzzling and visceral, not something hidden or closed, meaning the viewer is aware of the actions as they happen, a live performance.
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How has the exhibition been set up, in terms of how you have structured the process from day 1 to the last day?
The show has been on for 3 weeks. It changes every time you enter the space. On the private view night there are 4 canvases. On the floor is another canvas that is collecting all the excess and residue from the paint machine – my floor painting. The sound is loud and visceral, and paint is being flicked from about a metre onto a blank canvas which builds and builds throughout the evening. Alongside it is the Shredder piece, which in a similar vain is building, like a factory, and is very apparent to the audience that it is time based and keeps building.
What are we expecting to see on day 21?
You will see four paintings from my Painting Machine series finished, and completely realised. You will also see a pink canvas which sets the backdrop for the shredder, another pink paper work and then you will a mound of shredded papers which will be all of my ideas shredded from my final year at CSM.
What are your next plans?
I am currently focusing on my Masters at the RCA, whilst also joint curating a show with another artist and of course continuing on my practice with an intention to show more work soon.
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