Not Random Art - Page 38

Hello Nick 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?

Thanks for the invitation to chat with you. I’m glad you used the words “the problem of…” I feel that we, as humans, focus much more energy than we need to on categorizing people, as if we are sorting mail placing it into bins based on zip codes and street names. People even kill others because they don’t fit into their identity classes. Think about Nazi Germany, Communist Europe, the caste system of India, Apartheid South Africa, and let’s not forget these world famous radical religious groups. What everyone seems to forget is the newborn baby in the maturity ward isn’t worried about the ethnicity of another newborn next to him (or her). The elderly person who is breathing their last several breaths isn’t thinking about the racial, religious identity of their hospice or doctors. I married an African American woman, and some members on both sides of our family had a few things to say about it. We have been married for 14.5 years now. I enjoy many cultures and outlooks on life, so I have used that to influence my work. I want all of humanity to dig what I’m doing. Where do I fit into this equation? To quote the late great Descartes, “I think, therefore I am.” (Are we tired of that statement yet?)

Could you talk a little about the intellecual background that has influence the way you currently relate yourself to your artworks?

I remember meeting with an owner of a gallery when I first started professionally displaying my arts. She asked the question, “Where are you in this piece?” That was the polite way of saying, “You need to tighten up your processes, and reveal yourself to the world.” Since then I peeled back the wrapping around my senses, and dug deep. The point is, I learned not to be scared of being vulnerable. I also pay attention to any and all responses to my artwork (both good and bad) in order to invent new ways to elevate my art.

Your artworks can be viewed as an imagination diary – your poems can be perceived as based of your inner travels as well as the explorations in the physical space. We would like to ask doest this travel have a particular aim? Is it therapeutic? What is the difference between the psychical and physical for you, the imagined and real? Are there any particular kind of stimuli you find especailly fascinating on the way?

Thank you for the amiable and accurate analysis of my work. The goal is to process and make sense of my surroundings, so you could say that it is therapeutic. In February of 2009 someone rather close to me had a complete system collapse, as we shall call it, and it really altered my perception of reality and consciousness. Throughout my life, other people close to me also had horrible health issues. And couple this with the fact that I was bullied intermittently during the course of my life. I cover much in the terms of health and stability in my work. I find the function of our bodies when interacting with our own consciousness, other beings, and the environment beyond fascinating.

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.

I really try not to dredge up too much memory into my work. I think that’s from personally knowing people who live their lives in the past, always lamenting that “those days were so much better.” Needless to say, these people are NOT happy. I feel memories can be treasures to hold onto, but memories can also be a hindrance. Of course I have been shaped by my travels, so memories do creep into my works (refer to answer 3), but I live in the present. What we did or didn’t do in the past can’t be redone, only fixed in the present and future – at best. Please understand I’m not downplaying the role of memory. I made successful artworks based off dreams that I had. But most of the time my artistic starting point comes from my travels or conversations that I overhear or engage in myself. Staying in the moment keeps my ideas fresh, original, and helps me to be aware of my environment.

Using a wide range of techniques is characteristic for your practice. Could you talk a bit more about the process of choosing the genre, adjusting it to the topic? Do you see ideas that come up on the meta-level of different artistic means?

I love every facet of art. I come from an artistic family, and they taught me to work hard and to always fuel a positive and active imagination. My dad worked on stained glass windows, and photography. He had his workshop / dark room in the basement where he would engage in his arts. You should have seen his stained glass work! It was amazing. Both stained glass and dark room photography are quite messy. Stained glass with lead solder and lead channel was not only messy, but is dangerous to your health. Photography had the same mess and health hazards, since he developed all the photos using an array of lovely smelling chemicals. My mom’s creative outlets were cake decorating, writing, and fashion design. She always tells me, “I wanted to go to fashion design school in New York, but I gave birth to you instead.” I always reply, “You should have gone to fashion design school.”

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.