Not Random Art - Page 79

Hello Hollis and welcome to NotRandomArt. The current issue is revolving around the problem of identity. Is there any particular way you would describe your identity as an artist but also as a human being in dynamically changing, unstable times? In particular, does your cultural substratum/identity form your aesthetics?

Hey! Thanks so much for inviting me to be involved in NotRandomArt! Hmmm tough question right off the bat! Well, I identify as an artist that explores social ideologies (particularly gender performance) combined with style and design. There are definitely aspects to my art that are informed by intersects of my identity, like I am a queer cis-woman and I work a lot with masculinity and femininity through materiality and scale. Part of being an artist is to be fluid and to adapt to the world around you and with the influx of social media there is a wealth of information at our fingertips. I think that part of the idea that the world is changing and unstable is that there isn’t really an excuse for being ignorant anymore. Because I am white I have never had to think about how to identify as an artist, like my art is whatever I decide to tell people it’s about and it’s read as that. My art draws a lot from my experiences, I put myself and my emotions into the artworks but I try to remove myself from the reading of it. I think what I love about making art is being able to see how people can insert themselves into artworks. So that’s what I try to do with my art, make objects that are familiar yet distant enough that someone has to wonder or question why they are there and why they are experiencing the things that they are. The familiar is comfortable and is a reference point to something that is otherwise unknown.

Would you like to tell us something about your background? Could you talk a little about experiences that has influence the way you currently relate yourself to your artworks?

My background, well, I was born in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada and grew up in the Comox Valley, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. I played soccer and any other sport I possibly could all the way into University. I think that being an athlete has really contributed to my work ethic and process of making. Making art is kind of like a game, there is a goal/ objective and there are multiple strategies in order to complete that and sometimes you mess up, but you learn from it and keep working harder. I create ridiculous obstacles for myself, but of course that is the best part. Like a lot of other artists we create more work for ourselves and end up taking the longest, most tedious path to resolve the work. For myself the process is the most important because it is the most informative. I love handling the materials and getting to know how they react to my touch or how I can learn to manipulate them. I think that there is a lot to say about the small gestures that are hidden within the work. I recently completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Victoria in BC, Canada and I took quite a few gender studies classes. When I was a kid I was always confused why “men/boys” were allowed to do so much more than “girls/women,” even as a child I was so aware of where I “should be” and how I “should act” as a little girl. Like when I was in elementary school I had to wear a dress every Monday, and I HATED IT. It made playing soccer at recess really difficult… and I also worried about how the boys would act, sometimes they didn’t pick me for a team because of it. Growing up in a small town those idea’s of gender performance are still so prevalent, so moving away and going to school and learning about these kinds of “systems” that were born into was really important. I learned how to talk about it and I found it to be a really inspiring subject for art.

Could you identify a specific artwork that has influenced your artistic practice or has impacted the way you think about race and ethnic identity in visual culture?

Hmmm, I think I would have to say Doris Salcedos’ piece “Shibboleth”. It is so powerful and is a truly pivotal artwork. It was one of the first works of art that I encountered that confronted racism, colonialism and class. I’m from a small town, I’m white, I’m privileged, so this was really an eye opening piece for me. It was a really jarring and confusing time, for the first time I really understood how my privilege as a white person from “Canada” allowed me to be ignorant to such issues. In my own work I don’t focus on race politics but I think learning about this piece really inspired me to look at deconstructing other social constructs and using art as a means for conversation.

Roland Barthes stated: “For me the noise of Time is not sad: I love bells, clocks, watches — and I recall that at first photographic implements were related to techniques of cabinetmaking and the machinery of precision: cameras, in short, were clocks for seeing, and perhaps in me someone very old still hears in the photographic mechanism the living sound of the wood.”

The formal aspects of your installation seem to correspond with this image. Could you tell us more about your esthetical and formal search, leading you to achieve the fullest expression of your ideas?

is the human creative ideal put into action and made concrete. Whether it is the creator or the consumer, it has the power to immerse and transport our minds into reaches of the human psyche that may never have been revealed in such a way before. For me, regardless of how it’s abstracted, art is the direct reflection of the reality of human existence. Perhaps our ability to create art was the definitive evolutionary leap that solidified our current place as the dominant species on this planet. In terms of what makes art “contemporary”, I think that if it is a direct reflection of a current psycho\social context then it would be considered contemporary, regardless of the medium.

Would you like to tell us something about your artistical as well as life background? What inspired you to be in this artistical point in your life when you are now?

I grew up in rural western Canada in a loving and tolerant but tumultuous home. I lost a sibling when I was young and that event put our stable home life into a downward spiral filled with substance abuse, uncertainty and fear. I became very withdrawn and isolated often spending much of my time alone wandering the countryside. These circumstances led to me developing an acute anxiety disorder that went undiagnosed for most of my life increasing my sense of isolation and feelings of not being completely understood. I had so much to share with the world around me but never feeling like I could effectively do so. I have very poor eyesight which was not discovered until I reached school age. Unbeknownst to my young mind I could only see shape, color and light, which neurologically I believe programmed me to process those elements first when I look at something. A fact, as a photographer, that gives me a distinct advantage in framing a shot. Often when I am taking photos, I take my glasses off so that I can “see” my subject properly.

When I became a teen I discovered punk rock and within that culture I found belonging and a culture that accepted me and nurtured my strong sense of individuality in self expression. My whole family is creative as are most of my friends. I tried many forms of creative self expression – music, theatre, writing etc… all of which I was proficient at but I never felt like id quite found my voice in those mediums. Then in my late 20’s someone handed me a camera… and there it was!! Right in front of me where I couldn’t see it. A bad auto accident a few years ago imposed some physical limitations that ended my previous career in nursing and during my recovery turned more and more to photography as a means to escape the pain and keep my mind busy. As I honed my skills and received more and more positive feedback for my work, I joined the Broken Light Collective, run by editor Danielle Hark, out of NYC. From there, the opportunities began to grow exponentially. I became a regular contributor to the collective and was given the opportunity to develop photography programs for long term mental health and brain injury patients. Being part of both has gained me exposure through both the local and international press for my work in using photography as a therapeutic tool as well as a new medium of self expression for those that may challenges expressing themselves in other ways. To me that is proof that if you are open and true to yourself in terms of your self expression, you will find your voice and that voice will be heard by others.

Could you identify a specific artwork that has influenced your artistic practice or has impacted the way you think about your identity as a participant of the visual culture?

I think for me, the single work that has had the most profound influence on me both as an artist and as a person is “The False Mirror” by Magritte. To me, it depicts with stunning clarity the human perception of reality. The iconic Magritte sky and clouds floating through the iris tells us that the old saying is wrong. The eyes are not windows to the soul, they are but mirrors and false ones at that. Reality is a perception, a reflection of the neurological function of our brains, biological memory and the sum of personal experiences. Reality in its generalized form is as individual as a fingerprint and is a direct reflection of the individual experiencing it. For me that is what I try to convey through my photography, to capture for my viewers the truest possible representation of my experience of reality, even if it is only just for a split second. When I think a piece achieves this, I feel that I have communicated with my viewer at the most basic level, I’ve shared with them my complete experience of the world around me.

Is there any particular way you would describe your identity as an artist but also as a human being in dynamically changing, unstable times? In particular, does your cultural substratum/identity form your aesthetics?

At 43 years old, I’m able to look back on my life and see how the punk rock ideals of my youth have continued to influence me as an artist and a human being. The ideals of individuality, tenacity, resourcefulness and the concept of the individual having the power to influence change in both our inner and outer worlds has influenced me profoundly in both the way I approach my art and how I’ve chosen to live my life; That its okay to be or think differently... Its probably for the best if you do. We live our twenty first century lives at blinding speeds, so fast that our brains literally cannot keep up with the crushing flow of information being fed to us. We can however cause ripples in this flow by finding our voice and using it, by standing like a stone for something we believe in. The laws of physics state that ripples spread. I’m proud of who I am both good and bad. I’m one of the lucky ones… I’ve found a medium in which share with the world what its like to look through these eyes. At the more visceral level.. I think being an old punk has given me a taste for more of a raw esthetic. One that challenges and grabs you in its immediacy… other than minor corrections, I do not process my work. I feel that in order to truly capture my experience that “in your face “ immediacy needs to be present in my imagery.

I belong to a minority group in society and that identity is always a part of me and my work. I don’t believe my artworks are changing due to unstable times but that I'm working my way through a theme and a method over time. The content of my work is becoming more and more personal and I think that is because I dare to be more honest with myself. What I find interesting to work with is in my immediate presence. When I collaborate with stageartists, we often focus on a current political theme. In these collaborations I work more as an art activist and have a broader openess for the aesthetics. My work is then more experimental with research on different ways to develop live presentations in the space.

Could you identify a specific artwork that has influenced your artistic practice or has impacted the way you think about race

and ethnic identity in visual culture?

“Revolted by the Thought of Known Places… Sweeney Astray” by Joan Jonas was one of the first performance installations that really made a huge impact on me. I was living in Paris during this time, in the early 90s, with a lot of influences from different cultures. It became the starting point of my own work. Joan Jonas practice has explored ways of seeing, the rhythms of ritual, and the authority of objects and gestures. Jonas continues to find new layers of meanings in themes and questions of gender and identity that have fueled her art for over thirty years. She is a great inspiration still today.

It is impossible to avoid the topic of body consciousness, embodied emotions and the image of body and personal identity that we see in your practice. What is the function of the identity appearing in your artworks – is it a canvas used to present your ideas or rather the subject of the art? What inspired you to use this as a theme in your practice?

I have been developing my visual imagery since I began studying art and film - from conceptual thinking, composition, using light and colour in different ways, through all the different techniques I've utilised over the years in my work and in my collaborations with stage artists such as dancers, musicians and actors. My approach is always developing through exploring these things. Visual imagery in essence is your way of experiencing what you see and transforming it. This is my world that I want to share and express through my art. The body consciousness, embodied emotions and the image of body and personal identity is part of this visual imagery, the emotional essence in my practice. Always present and always developing in different themes and projects.

Marina Abramovic stated: You see, what is my purpose of performance artist is to stage certain difficulties and stage the fear the primordial fear of pain, of dying, all of

which we have in our lives, and then stage them in front of audience and go through them and tell the audience, 'I'm your mirror; if I can do this in my life, you can do it in yours.'Can you relate anyhow to these words?

de-identify myself, by losing my roots, my culture, I would be very happy. Unfortunately the human being does'nt choose the place where he is born. He grows up in a society that automatically identifies, through education, culture, family... More than ever I think it's more important to go on a way of self-knowledge with the aim to meet “the other”.. This other without which we can not exist. It's the same for the artist. It is more important for me to be focused on my practice than to try to define it according to esthetic criteria of identification. It's probably the reason i like to remember the painter Matisse who said or wrote that an artist must never be prisoner of himself, prisoner of a style, prisoner of a reputation.

Would you like to tell us something about your background? Could you talk a little about experiences that has influence the way you currently relate yourself to your artworks?

All my way is influenced by encounterings.

It began by the meeting with my professor of literature at school. More than giving French or Literature classes, she brought us to discover texts, movies, plays, visual artworks and to think about on what we saw or read.. Thanks to her that I met Pierre Vincke, a theatredirector who was worjink in the tradition of Grotowski ... Both of them have led me to go to theater school. In this school I had meetings. Meetings with artists but also and especially human beings that made me discover. I always need o discover rather than to master a practice. It's probably the reason my encounter with Monica Klingler and Boris Nieslony was decisive for me and led me on the path of Performance Art which is a form still difficult to define. Each performance artist has a different definition of what it is...

Could you identify a specific artwork that has influenced your artistic practice or has impacted the way you think about race and ethnic identity in visual culture?

No I don't have a specific artwork that has influenced my artistic practise but many.

I'm influenced by some philsophers as well as poets or musicians or dancers or visual artists but also by some places or landscapes or atmospheres ... For some years, I was used for example to go to India where I was used to follow some traditionnal muscians or to learn bharatanatyam and practice vipassana meditation... Of course this experience has impacted my art work.... This brought me to think and work differently... My experience in India brought me to discover traditionnal strong art and paradoxally to the way of Performance Art. But there I see one common point: to make no separation between art and life and to be here and now, without projection on the future.

It's difficult for me to speak about race and ethnic identity. But I can say that today we miss more and more this notion of “to be here and now” which is more present in some cultures ... By practising Performance Art, it's my way to be connected to this way of thinking. And even in this field actually it's more and more difficult. The society and the art world brings us more and more to plan in advance, to define our work, more than to do. Just to do. To do what we deeply need.

And of course, my encountering with Black Market International and later the notion of Open Source or Open session via PAErsche have also a big impact on my work. When we go on that, each of us perform by sharing time and space but without trying to convince each other on some common way. This is for me a wonderfull way how we can meet each other, regardless of our origin, our race or our “identity”...

Many of your works carry an autobiographical message. Since you transform your experiences into your artwork, we are curious, what is the role of memory in your artistic productions? We are particularly interested if you try to achieve a faithful translation of your previous experiences or if you rather use memory as starting point to create.

My memory is clearly a starting point to create. I don't have any autobiographical message. I use my personnal experience ( what I feel , what I see, what I learn, what I ear...) to work. It's a motor or a material. I'm not able to paint, so I can't do something with red or white or yellow or black colors. All I have is life, a body alive. And I need to do something with that...

My sensation about life sometimes is too intense then I need to transform this intensity in some action. Some artistic action... If people can take something from this action this is great... but I don't want to give them “a specific message” or to control the translation of my experience.