TPT: Did your piece for Rough Trade II have a title?
CA: The sculpture is called “Ruddy Udder” for the performance piece “Ruddy Udder Dance.”
TPT: How did you decide on the form of the inflatable? What about color?
CA: I made it originally for ACRE in Steuben, WI, which is a very rural area with a lot of farms, dairy cows, and old farm machinery. So when I was making the piece I was thinking of the form as having a relationship to both a cow shape and the old rusted combine harvesters that dot the landscape there. The twelve performers inside the piece during the performance become the legs of the cow, or the wheels of the combine harvester, moving the piece through the field.
And the color was chosen straight from my palette of spray paint. I wasn’t terribly deliberate about my color choice but I had to paint this piece when it was deflated because of its scale compared to my studio so I like that the change in process made marks that are suggestive of aerial landscape imagery or topographical maps. It was a great discovery.
TPT: What was the process like for choosing the song and the dance? Is country line dancing one of your secret skills?’
CA: I decided on country music and line dancing again because of the relationship to rural farmland and performing in the landscape and I choose the specific song “good time” because it wasn’t about god or love but resonated more with my philosophy on life. And in a more general way it related more to my interest in high-energy, ecstatic dancing experience.
TPT: In your piece, you had 12 people country line dance inside of a large inflatable that you had made. You chose to be outside of the inflatable. How did this choice to actively witness instead of directly participating inform your piece?
CA: Good question! I think I’m always seeking visual pleasure. I am a formalist at heart, so I like to be able to see the complete visual and how it’s working as an experience when being danced in – I think it also helps me make the next piece when I know how it gets used. I like the more directorial role too.
TPT: Can you talk about the intention behind your piece? Did that intention change?
CA: My original intention was to create an absurdly playful visual in the landscape using extreme scale, abstraction, and energetic movement. And yes moving it to Boston and into an interior space changed things a lot and I’m not totally persuaded by my response to this different context (see below.)
TPT: You created this piece previously in another location. Why did you choose to create this piece in Boston?
CA: I was excited by the idea of travelling this moveable object with legs to the east coast. The history and context of Boston is something I wish I had had more time respond to for sure, but I do feel like I responded to my sense of heading back to the old country – which happens every time I come east – so in that respect I liked the idea of travelling across time and space and thinking of the origins of line dancing and America as a direct link to my country (Scotland) and ancestry as well. Travelling and moving people and luggage has been a recurring theme in my work over the years where I am thinking about forms that metaphorically contain and protect my kids as we move between Scotland and Chicago. I have made a number of pieces (most notably ‘Mobile Home’ from 2008 and ‘Hoose Haul’ from 2010) that grapple with this image/form. I think this piece “Ruddy Udder” exemplified my relationship to Scotland – a big clunky, colorful, plastic form energetically filling an old historically weighted, subtly colored context.
TPT: How did the context of the Pozen Center/Boston inform this version of the piece?
CA: I was excited about this space because of its immense scale and the idea of performing in, leaping about in, and filling a historically interesting interior space normally used for more theatrical events (as opposed to an exterior landscape as it was originally designed for.) I liked that there were lights and a sound system to play with.
TPT: Were there any moments that surprised you?
CA: It was a lovely surprise to be able to black light the piece and get an entirely different visual. I wish I had changed the music and the dance to get more of a dark internal club feel to achieve more of the high-energy ecstatic dancing experience I’ve been playing with lately – I’ll just have to come back and try another version.
TPT: What were some of your expectations/ hopes (if any) of your audience?
CA: I hoped that they were surprised by the performance after watching the lengthy period of inflation. I hope they were amused and able to pay appreciate both the absurdity of the activity and the beauty of the surface of the object. I was really happy when the audience got into the piece after the event to see what it looked like from inside.
TPT: You collaborate frequently. Can you share your thoughts on collaborative practices?
CA: Yes collaboration has become, over the last 5 years or so, an incredibly important aspect of my practice – in fact without collaboration I would not be making the more performance-based sculptural prop work I am today. I find that the problem solving implicit in collaboration transports me from my own internal headspace, extending my material knowledge and critical thinking in ways that I can never anticipate, only to be folded back into my individual practice at a later date. For example Mark Jeffery and Judd Morrissey assigned me the task of making large-scale sculptural props for a performance piece they were working on. The props had to be replicas of the “Winged Figures of the Republic” sculptures at the Hoover Dam and the wings had to attach to the performers body somehow. So this external problem forced me to consider inflatables as a lightweight sculptural prop that was attached to the body through a backpack. I love Rebecca Horns’ work but until that project I had not seriously considered making my own sculptural props for performance. Working with Mark has really changed that.
TPT: Can you talk about the role of absurdity in your work?
CA: Well it’s way more entertaining than abstraction! Life is short and art can often take itself way too seriously. I have always been interested in play and humor and have found it to be a great leveler – making the work available to a wider audience. However the specificity of absurdity is wonderful in that it is grounded in the odd and weird end of humor which I like – a little bit of a dark twist.
TPT: Your work explores the interstices of painting, sculpture, and performance art. Do you feel that this has made your work more or less accessible to certain audiences?
CA: More accessible in many ways I think. I find that the ‘high art’ abstraction I love to create is digested more easily when framed in playful or absurd ways. I also feel that there is a similar revealing to particular audiences of the possibilities for performance art and sculpture when framed in this layered way – again humor opens many doors.
However it also limits how I ‘fit’ in the art world. It means that certain ‘art’ doors are closed to me. I’m not necessarily seen as a painter, a sculptor, or a performer. And I sometimes think my interest in play and humor and the inflatable form is not seen as intellectually rigorous in certain circles. My work is thought of as too flamboyant or out there which is unfortunate.
TPT: Do you have an ideal context that you like to make work in?
CA: I guess I am most interested in spaces/places where the context really allows me to create a form that is responsive. But I like the gallery context as much as the exterior object in the landscape, or architecturally site-specific context – each one is it’s own challenge and I love a challenge!
TPT: How was performing in Boston different from making work in Chicago?
CA: Well it was hard to get a sense of that since we were there for such a short time, however, I did love meeting such an extraordinarily generous and welcoming performance community.
TPT: What imprints did Boston leave on you?
CA: Riding the ancient T. Watching the yachts and rowing teams on the Charles. Getting to know a small but very lively performance art scene
TPT: What is inspiring you at the moment?
CA: Wigs, hairpieces, bangs, moustaches, among other things!!
TPT: What are you studying?
CA: The architectural spaces of deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum and the Chicago Cultural Center galleries in order to build site specific architectural intervention pieces for both spaces.
TPT: Who/What is influencing your work presently?
CA: Katharina Grosse, Jessica Stockholder, Eva Hesse, Elizabeth Murray, Richard Tuttle, Gerhard Richter, Robert Rauschenberg is always an influence – not to mention wigs, hunks of meat, bodies, bugs, moustaches, houses, airbags, bounce houses, etc.
TPT: What’s next?
CA: I have a small show in Milwaukee at “Bahamas Biennial” in December and I’m preparing for a Salon Series show and lecture event in the spring here in Chicago (this is a dinner, exhibit, and lecture event with members of the public from all walks of life).
TPT: Any words of wisdom?
CA: Spend time experimenting. Spend time playing. Take the unknown path that may demand failure as much as success. It’s a longer road but one that gets your work to a place full of integrity and unexpected results.
DANIEL S. DeLUCA
TPT: You have an interesting process for making work. Can you describe it and specifically the process you went through for realizing this work?
DD: The work I did in Chicago was part of an ongoing project called the Roaming Kiosk for Semiotics Research and the Creation of New Language (RKSR+CNL). My first decision was to use the context of Chicago and Rough Trade II as an opportunity for developing this project. I also knew that I wanted to create the work in public then give a presentation about the process in the gallery. That was the basic structure that I followed.
One of the benefits of the project form is that it allows for multiple iterations and approaches to a subject. The RKSR+CNL has two distinct parts. The first invites the public to share experiences they feel are unique to contemporary life and creates a pictorial reference for them using tablet technology. The second part investigates tautology, interactivity and reflexivity, and the nature of signs through live actions and visual presentations. As a result, I felt like I had room to experiment in Chicago and I worked with both parts of the project.
TPT: Instead of using Defibrillator as the context for your work, you chose to take your piece all over Chicago. Can you talk about this choice?
DD: I have spent a fair amount of time implementing actions outside of the gallery context. It is what I enjoy and prefer to do, though I don’t disregard the gallery either, I see it as another context to consider. Typically, I use with the gallery as a place for presenting images and documents from actions, and as a venue for discussing ideas around the work. I enjoy seeing other artists make work in galleries, especially ones that have really developed their practice around it. However, I often wonder what most artists would do and how their work would be affected if they made it outside of a gallery context. I like to consider my options for working with spaces. I shop for context. The spaces within the city of Chicago as a whole create more opportunities for me than thinking within the frame of a single ‘gallery’. The world is a gallery!
Audience/viewers are also a consideration for me. I like audiences that are unsolicited. There is a different dynamic at play when you have an audience versus when you have viewers or witnesses. An audience comes with an expectation. A viewer in public has little to no expectation of what they happen upon. The former creates a pressure to ‘make art,’ while the latter positions the work as a question: what am I seeing? Is this art? It rests on the threshold between life and art. Currently, I prefer the latter. I’m also interested in having larger numbers of people see what I am doing. I like being in urban environments surrounded by people.
TPT: What was your favorite interaction from Chicago?
DD: The book stacks at the U.C Regenstein Library were particularly interesting. It was like searching through an analogue internet!
TPT: Do most of the experiences people share with you include experiences with technology? Any other common threads that you’ve noticed?
DD: Yes, many people gravitate towards contemporary technologies when they think of aspects of life that are unique today. I haven’t asked enough people to feel like there are trends I could identify. In fact, only two people shared their experiences with me while I was Chicago. Talk about terrible data collecting!!! The project has shifted from being focused on an aspect of ‘data collecting’ to illustrating a contrast in the relationship between questions, methods, and the practice of research. I like the idea of setting up methods for conducting research that nullify the perceived potential of the work.
TPT: Has RKSR+CNL illuminated specific ways in which language is being changed by technology?
DD: No, not directly. It is a great question to think about and I’m glad that the project at least points in that direction. I think it’s important to get people thinking about these kinds of things. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who are doing interesting research on the topic.
TPT: How do you feel wearing a piece of technology?
DD: It’s definitely an attention getter and it can be tiring to constantly have peoples’ attention. It would be nice if it was more seamlessly integrated into fashion and easier to control. I think it would take a little of the edge off of the social interaction. On the other hand it’s fun to see people react and to think about wearable technology. I’m interested in the potential of people communicating with others in their immediate environment, people that they don’t know but share a common interest with. Technology has the potential to be a great social mediator in that regard. It also shows us how much we fear social interaction in a public setting. I think it would be fun to see people interacting in their own bodies and voices in addition to the ones that they project through the internet.
TPT: Can you talk about how you felt when someone scanned you? Did you feel objectified? Does that bother you?
DD: No, I wanted to be scanned. It was a social litmus test. I have a fascination with wanting to know about people who I see on the street, wondering what they do, their interests and experiences. It stems from wanting to ask people questions I have about one subject or another. The Internet is a great source for information but human expression and facial recognition is also important for communication. Getting scanned was a highlight! For me it was a sign that people are open to communicating and interacting in new ways!
TPT: Can you talk about the intention behind your actions? Did that intention change once your were implementing the piece?
DD: The action at Millennium Park was simple: standing, photographing, and scrolling with my pinkie for 2 hours (one hour in two spots). The other part of my process was roaming through the city, photographing, and going inside public institutions or retail businesses. I didn’t want to solicit people into the work. I think it would have been off-putting for some people if I had tried to stop them and engage them in something they may or may not have wanted to be a part of. Personally, I think there are more creative ways to approach people and conversations.
No, my intention didn’t changed. I didn’t have a strict approach to it. I gave myself room and flexibility. I wanted to suggest things about technology, communication, and language. I’m pointing at them, trying to understand them through a common use of them.
TPT: During your presentation at Defibrillator, you included some digital collages of images that you have collected. This was new? Do you anticipate continuing in this direction?
DD: I’m starting to think more about how to utilize the images I capture in the process of making the work as a way to compliment the ideas that I’d like to express. Yes, it’s relatively new, and yes, I’ll continue to think about it.
TPT: What are some of your expectations/ hopes of your audience?
DD: It was important to me that viewers in Chicago saw me wearing a tablet computer and using it in a way that was completely different than what they were used to seeing. The people who read through the question on the tablet got something else from the experience. I would hope that they gave some thought to what they felt was an experience they have had that they think is unique to contemporary life. The audience at Defibrillator experienced my work through the presentation. In that situation the audience has an opportunity to better understand my process as well as some of the theory behind the subject.
TPT: Were there any moments that surprised you?
DD: I was surprised when I found Cloud Gate as the site for another action. It was too appropriate to pass up.
TPT: Why did you choose to create this work over the duration of 6 days? What is the role of repetition in this work?
DD: It was a way of gaining access to different situations and approaches. I feel like this project has been comprised of many sketches. I’ve given myself permission to experiment with how the content, and subject take form. The duration also gives more people access to the work.
TPT: What’s next?
DD: India and the Kumbh Mela!