Rough Trade II Interviews: Daniel S. DeLuca | Claire Ashley

CLAIRE ASHLEY

Claire Ashley 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

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.

Claire Ashley "Ruddy Udder Dance" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

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.

Claire Ashley "Ruddy Udder Dance" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

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.

Inside shot of Claire Ashley's "Ruddy Udder" sculpture 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

 

 

DANIEL S. DeLUCA

 RKSR+CNL

 

Daniel S. DeLuca RKSR CNL from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

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. 

 

from Daniel S. DeLuca's presentation on "RKSR+CNL" at Defibrillator Gallery 2012

Daniel S. DeLuca "RKSR+CNL" 2012

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. 

 

Daniel S. DeLuca "RKSR+CNL" 2012

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. 

 

Daniel S. DeLuca "RKSR+CNL" 2012

 

Daniel S. DeLuca "RKSR+CNL" 2012

 

Daniel S. DeLuca "RKSR+CNL" 2012

 

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! 

 

 

 

 

 

Rough Trade II Interviews: Marilyn Arsem | Meredith and Anna

MARILYN ARSEM

Marilyn Arsem “still.missing” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

TPT: How did you find performance art?  How did performance art find you?

MA: I think it found me…  I remember being completely taken by written accounts of Happenings when I was in high school, and as a result we created our own, a group of us collaborating and combining different media. I remember even then being interested in real time rather than in narratives, in actions with materials rather than in plots, in visual images rather than in characters, in engaging with the audience rather than building a fourth wall.  So it made sense to align myself with the visual and performance art and new media communities.

TPT: You have an interesting process for making work.  Can you describe it and specifically the process you went through for realizing this work? 

MA: I try to follow certain instructions to myself:…  to do something that I have never done before, to work with the specifics of the space, to consider the context of the event, to make use of what is easily available, to not make unreasonable demands on the institution hosting the work, to tread lightly and leave no marks, to operate from my current state of mind, to pay attention to what I am paying attention to, to not be afraid to fail.  I remind myself that I am not obligated to entertain the viewers, that I can ask questions rather than provide answers, and that all I can really do is respond to what I am encountering at that time, from where I am in that moment.  It is a conversation, an inquiry, a process of discovery, rather than a statement or position.

 

Marilyn Arsem "still.waiting" 2012 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

 

TPT: How did you arrive at the decision to work in Defibrillator’s windows?  How did this context inform your piece?

MA: I hadn’t expected that the windows would be available, since I understood from the website that they were curated separately.  So it was only when I arrived on Thursday night that I heard that it was possible to work in them.   I was especially interested in the fact that the audience moved in and out between the two windows; that there were actually two separate windows to use.

 

Marilyn Aresm "still.waiting" 2012 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

 

TPT: Can you talk about the flour?

MA: It was a practical choice – I wanted the floor to be as white as the walls – I suppose I was influenced as well by the floor of the gallery being so newly painted white.  But really I just wanted the visual of white.  Later I thought that it suggested snow or clouds.  And I knew that flour would be easy to get in quantity, as I was told that there was a grocery store nearby…  and finally, I knew that it would be relatively benign to lie in it.

TPT: Can you talk about the blue chair?

MA: The choice of a chair descending occurred in stages.  First I thought of something rising, but then decided that something descending would be a better choice.  I am not sure why I decided that, though I could say that I have done a number of works where some object has risen into the air, and so I thought doing the reverse might be interesting.    And it felt right…

Then the question was what should descend.   Fruit?  Shoes?  Nothing seemed right.  Sabri, an artist who used to live in Boston, but is currently studying in Chicago,  suggested ‘furniture,’ and then I thought – of course, a chair.  Choosing the color took longer, but then light blue seemed right.  Later I thought of it being a reverse sky…

A chair might be considered a body, or something waiting to hold another body…  Or the descending chair might be read as ‘Deus Ex Machina.’   However, when the chair arrives it is empty.  Still waiting.  Something is missing.

But these choices – white, flour, chair, blue, are really just intuitive choices.  My understanding of them, or explanation of them, comes hours or days later, and most often in reflection on the work, after the performance happens.

 

Marilyn Aresm "still.waiting" 2012 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

 

TPT:  Is there a relationship between these objects and the broader scope of your work?

MA: I am not sure how I might answer this question…  I have had chairs in performances before  – a small red chair high in a tree; a chair made of ice in which the audience sat; a red chair placed daily in the landscape to witness sunrise…   I consider an empty chair as a very interesting site – an offer, a place waiting to be occupied, or evidence of something or someone who is missing…

TPT: Can you talk about the intention behind the actions?  Did that intention change once your were in the piece?

MA: I don’t think that I have a way to talk about intention.  I had an image of myself lying face down, in white.  And so I created that.  I wanted to be lying down, not engaging with people.  But I did want something to change, to arrive, to offer some other possibility, even though it was unfulfilled.

TPT: What were you thinking about during your piece?

MA: Haha, well actually I was trying not to think about how painful it was, how I wished that I had made a test for myself about what might be a more comfortable position to occupy.  But, I also had wanted to simply land in the window, on the flour, as if I had fallen from the sky.  And so that is how I ended in that position – I more or less fell into it.

TPT: Where were you during your piece?

MA: Breathing.  Listening.  Lowering the chair.

 

Marilyn Aresm "still.waiting" 2012 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

 

TPT: What were some of your expectations/ hopes (if any) of your audience?

MA: In this context I had many fewer expectations of the audience than usual.  In my mind, I was simply an image that slowly transformed over time.  I wanted them to see me, to forget about me as they watched other performances, and then look again to see the chair slowly descending.

TPT: How was performing in Chicago different from making work in Boston?

MA: I rarely make work in Boston.  Being in Chicago was a pleasure, not the least being that I spoke the same language as the residents.  I could anticipate how they might view the image.   Oh, and I could find my materials more easily, negotiate paying for them with ease…

TPT: Can you talk about the process of titling your pieces?  Why/ how did you choose the title “Still, waiting”?

MA: still. waiting

My computer resists that title, trying to make the S and W capital, or change the period to a comma.  It resists, trying to follow rules…

But choosing a title happens for me after the work.  It is a way to give a clue to a way of thinking about or looking at the work.  More information.  And so in this case I am trying to accurately identify what was happening to me at the time, and attempting to name that experience, or at least suggest other information in order to have a more in depth reading of the work.

 

Marilyn Aresm "still.waiting" 2012 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

MEREDITH AND ANNA

Meredith And Anna 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

TPT: Did your piece have a title?

A: Part of our performance method is about reacting un-rehearsed to the situations that our actions create, so though our projects always have working titles that we use to discuss the piece previous to the performance – we don’t title the work until we show documentation of it.

M: The title of the piece is “Red Flag”.

TPT: How did you find performance art? How did performance art find you?

M: I signed up for Performance Art I thinking I was taking an acting class, I had been involved in a local improv group. My performance art professor Mat Wilson (Industry of the Ordinary) was quite dissatisfied with this historical perspective. Performance art found me when, once educated by Wilson) I started inserting my work into the public sphere and was uncharacteristically embraced by the public for the medium.

A: I’m pretty sure I have always made performance art. I just didn’t know what I was doing until I started working with Industry of the Ordinary. In high school I would do things like hook up a Karaoke machines in the car and drive around picking up people to sing with my friends Kyle and I. I went to art school as a painter until I found I could approach activities I already love, like singing Karaoke in the car, aesthetically and construct artistic experiences.

TPT: How did you meet? How long have you been making work together?

A: We met eating take-out from Sultans Market on the floor of the Happy Collaborationist Exhibition Space. Meredith was a part of Before Cake, After Dinner – a performance art group that we exhibiting showing at Happy C.

M: I feel like it’s important to note that I hate everyone upon first meeting them but in the same breath I am capable of falling in love. I fell in love with Anna and Hadley of the Happy Collaborationists … they also let me smoke inside.

A: Meredith joined the Happy Collaborationists curatorial collective three years ago and we have been collaborating on our artistic practice together for about a year.

TPT: Can you describe your process for collaborating?

A: Currently we are in a bar; this is admittedly an important element of our work.

M: I wouldn’t consider myself a possessive girlfriend, however, I “collaborate with”/contact Anna… how many times a day?

A: …Twenty or thirty, depending on what we have going on, considerably more often then my boyfriend. I think where you really see this in our work is with the lack of formality in relating to one another when performing, we laugh when things are funny, we openly discuss how to cope with situations that arise; constant communications is part of our relationships and our art practice.

TPT: Do you have individual practices? Can you talk about them?

M: We are currently concentrating on our collaborative practice; neither of us has made solo work in 3-5 years.

TPT: How did the context of the Pozen Center inform your work?

 

Meredith And Anna "Red Flag" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

M: We hated the Pozen Center. We were absolutely thrilled to be presenting work at Mass Arts and we were excited to be working in a space of such importance but found the space physically overwhelming.

A: I was terrified of the Pozen Center, as soon as we walked in. I was terrified of the stage and the grandeur. We usually work with actions that can insert themselves into a pre-existing context and the Pozen Center demanded that we make ourselves the center of attention.

M: If we had not been in the Pozen Center we would not have executed this piece this way, the scale of the room forced us to work with height, the insurance restrictions of the College forced us to change the structural formation of the piece and the theatrical lighting forced us to interact with set and audience in a way that we usually avoid. We now love the Pozen Center.

TPT: How did you communicate with one another in this piece?

M: When we are performing we do not take on any characters of personas. When we laugh its real, when we swear it’s real, when we fall its real.

A: When were perform we have fluid conversations, we work thought problems and make jokes, we pretty much discus things exactly the same way we would if we weren’t doing something ridiculous.  Anything else would be acting.

TPT: How did you decide on the actions and imagery in this piece?

M: I was on an OK Cupid date, and it was going great. The guy had been a curator or something in St. Louis, which gave me a false sense of security of what I could or could not talk about. Due to nerves I had skipped dinner and we were meeting for drinks … after a few cocktails things were going so well that we moved on to a restaurant. At some point I said “reality television is really important to me”, to which Jude said “You just said ‘reality television is really important to me’ RED FLAG.”  I assumed he was making a joke and continued to discus my love of all things high and low culture. I never heard from Jude again, but since then I have had many conversations of how I define Red Flags, as well discussions about all of the attributes that make me a red flag.

A: Meredith is one of the funniest people I have ever met and she tells this story really well, more importantly I have made her tell this story to so many people who are much more important than us, so for me the image of the red flag has shifted from a portrait of Meredith to a portrait of our ridiculous relationship. When we arrived at the Pozen center we found these poles that were used to hang lights, they were reminiscent of flag poles and I immediately climbed to the top of them. They were wonderful objects and it became pretty obvious that we needed to raise ourselves as red flags on them. We wanted to present a third pole in the piece, a place holder for the audience to physically or intellectually position themselves in and consider how they could stand beside us. The joined triangular structure was the result of us worrying the College, they wouldn’t let us do the piece without the brace which turned out to be a win/lose situation, we lost the direct reference to a flag pole but it the end it strengthened the sculptural footprint of the piece when we were not performing.

M: I also got that one guy to take off this shirt while he was building it.

TPT: Do you often use endurance actions in your work?

A: Often, it’s hard to end performance art and if a work doesn’t have a built in ending it’s the only decision that makes since, beyond that it connects directly to our life styles – we both work multiple jobs, run Happy Collaborationists and still try to make art. Our existence is a practice of endurance and we don’t quit anything until our bodies or minds give out.

M: Our practice is also based on a concept or idea of generosity. What can we give the audience? What can we give each other? It only makes sense to do any of these things for as long as humanly possible.

TPT:. Can you talk about the color red?

M: Red is a big color; it’s bold and demands attentions.

A: I don’t think we started working with red for the sake of aesthetics, rather we were interested in several objects in our culture that others had decided to make red: the red carpet, the red flag and the red solo cup. We selected aspects of everyday existence that we were interested in and they all happened to red, because of that I think we have started to really consider this color aesthetically. It took us about five hour of shopping to find the “right” red shirts for this piece

TPT: Can you talk about the intention behind the actions? Did that intention change once your were in the piece?

 M: Our intent with this piece was to fail. It was important to insert ourselves symbolically as a flag, but it was equally important to carry out an action that would ultimately become physically impossible.  Our intention did not change because we successfully failed.

 A: I believe that the in-time transformation of the piece happened in its second occurrence. When Meredith and I started, we were both already physically exhausted. After I helped her to the top of the pole, I could not quite reach the top myself. After we had both fallen, it because obvious that we could not continue to simultaneous execute this sculpture – so we decided to reformat the action and she began to lift me the top over and over again, until I was no longer physically able to grip the bar that was holding me up. She was still standing by me, but we had to combine our strengths to keep the sculpture alive.

 

Meredith And Anna "Red Flag" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

TPT: What is Happy Collaborationists?

M: Happy Collaborationists is our collaborative curatorial practice, we use it to support other artists working in performance, installation and media arts.

TPT: What are the blue wigs all about?

A: Everyone always asks about Happy C’s wigs, and that’s the point. They are goofy and approachable, we work with conceptual art, sculptural performance and a lot of other forms of artwork that make people uncomfortable about asking questions and engaging with us. The blue wigs started as a wacky stunt that had a lot to do with the fact the we all looked good in blue wigs, but they remained because over and over again someone who wants to ask a question about the artwork can’t do so until they are already having a conversation with us, and no one has ever been awkward about walking up and asking about the wigs, or asking to get their picture taken with us. It’s not a performance it’s more of a scheme.

TPT: What were some of your expectations/ hopes (if any) of your audience?

M: That they don’t feel trapped. I want our audience to make their own incredibly conscious decisions as to what the piece means to them, and how they chose or choose not to interact with a work. Ultimately I am a looking for acceptance.

A: I hope that an audience engages and interprets our actions from their own perspective, once you make a work it become autonomous and I believe that any individuals perspective on a piece that I do is equally valued to my own.

TPT: Were there any moments that surprised you?

A: Yes and no, we never know how our interaction will unfold in a work, so we never know exactly what to expect. When you don’t have precise expectations, it’s hard to be surprised.

 

Meredith And Anna "Red Flag" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

TPT: How was performing in Boston different from making work in Chicago?

M: We couldn’t find a liquor store anywhere.

TPT: What imprints did Boston leave on you?

M: This was our first time engaging in an artist exchange and we are grateful for the friendships we have made and are inspired by the work of these Boston based artists.  We are blown away by the generosity of the individuals we have met.

TPT: Can you talk about the duration of this work?

M: We waited until a crowd gathered and then reacted to our physical limitations.

A: We performed the work once and were exhausted. After a recovery period we felt as though we could continue the action, so we re-executed the piece. We performed until I could no longer grip the pole and we had to stop.

TPT: What is inspiring you at the moment?

M: The ability to laugh at ourselves and knowing when to laugh at each other. We make work about things we can confidently answer about one another lives and actions.

TPT: What’s next?

THE CALENDAR!

TPT: Any words of wisdom?

M: A Snickers in not a meal…

A: except when it is.

Rough Trade II Interviews: Mothergirl | Jeff Huckleberry

MOTHERGIRL

Mothergirl “What You Look Like, Too” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

TPT: How did you find performance art?  How did performance art find you?

M: We are both studied theatre in school, but when we started working as Mothergirl, our ideas started moving farther and farther away from the definition of traditional theatre, and we realized that we were doing something else completely.

TPT: How did you meet? How long have you been making work together?

M: We met in college in 2005. We started working together in a found space experimental theater company, Balls Deep Theatre Theater in 2007. It began as the most tentative friendship and transformed into the strongest one either of us has ever formed. We have tremendous power over each other.

TPT: Can you describe your process for collaborating?

M: Painstaking.

 

Mothergirl "What You Look Like Too" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

Our ideas evolve out of a lot of pointless discussion with occasional moments of clarity. We joke a lot, then we tell ourselves to get serious and make work. There is a long stage of building our objects and during that we have a lot of time to enhance and fine tune the idea. Frequently the objects we build inform the performance as much as the idea does. Most performances we do are the result of (at least) a month of gradual work.

TPT:  How did the context of the Pozen Center inform your work?

M: We had to consider what the piece could look like in a gallery setting and how to get isolated audience attention in that context. Something that was visually arresting from afar and from inside. The largeness of the room definitely affected the way that we were heard when we spoke.

TPT:  You had performed What You Look Like before for Out of Site Chicago.  Can you talk about this experience and how it informed the version created for Rough Trade II?

M: When we performed What You Look Like at Out of Site, the audience had to stick their head into a large freestanding box in a public place, one at a time, and we performed separately from each other (in two different boxes). In the context of a gallery, we didn’t think the boxes would be as effective as the viewers were already aware that it was a performance event. Mirrors and reflection are a big part of the piece so we decided to physically represent that theme. Audience risk and payoff is also very important to us. In the Out of Site performance, the audience had to risk their personal safety by sticking their head into some mysterious room, but in end their curiosity was rewarded. For the Pozen Center, the audience had to be the center of attention in the performance, and by doing that they got to sit on the pillow, hear what we were saying, etc. In both we found the pictures to be a big incentive.

TPT:  How did you decide on the words and images that you used in this piece?

M: We wanted to create a home for the characters, which is why we made the nest. We wanted the pillow so it was clear for the audience that they should sit. The words were chosen to be approachable and funny, like “woah” and “yeah”, but also to be sort of blank and contextless to further the naïve nature of the flower beasts.

TPT:  Your synchronized whispering was impressive!  Did you have to practice a lot?

M: Our work uses a lot of unity and synchronicity in different contexts, so we’re used to it. We are also quite familiar with each other’s speech patterns in daily life as well as in performance, so it was relatively easy to match cadence and tone. We tried to anticipate possible responses from the audience, so that we could react in unison, but there were a couple of instances where we were caught by surprise!

TPT:  Did you feel like you were the same flower creature when you were in the performance?

M: Yes. It felt a little like a trance.

TPT: Can you talk about the intention behind the actions?  Did that intention change once your were in the piece?

M: We were trying to channel the feeling of the moment when a person realizes that they are a subject, and that the rest of the world, including their own image, is impenetrable to them. It’s magical but also a little scary. Actually, the intention felt even stronger in performance than when we were just talking about it.

Mothergirl "What You Look Like Too" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

TPT: What were some of your expectations/ hopes (if any) of your audience?

M: We expected the audience to be patient, and to adopt the same pacing in their actions and thoughts as the Flower People. We expected people to follow the implied rules of the performance, (sit, speak nicely to the Flower People, etc.). These expectations weren’t set to control the audience member, but to guide them to the small revelation of self that we set up when they have to sit and watch their own image appear in the instant photographs.

TPT: Were there any moments that surprised you?

M: Because we were mirroring, we had to follow each other’s movements, which led to some fun discoveries, like fluffing the pillow, which looked amazing and we seriously could have done for hours.

TPT:  How was performing in Boston different from making work in Chicago?

M: We were struck by how so many of our experiences during our short time in Boston were affiliated with institutions of higher learning. Neither of us went to school in Chicago, and the majority of our performances there have been outside of colleges and universities.

TPT: What imprints did Boston leave on you?

Mothergirl "What You Look Like Too" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

M: It felt very safe, there was a great coop, really wonderful people.

TPT Why did you choose to create this work over the duration of 3 hours?

M: Only one audience member at a time can experience the work, and our goal is to encourage participation, so we stayed as long as there were people interested in participating.

TPT: What is inspiring you at the moment?

Katy: The house I just started renting, it is huge and falling apart. I keep relating it to those dreams where you are in a room or a place that you are very familiar with, but then you discover another room inside of it, and you’re like, “Oh! This room would be perfect for_______!”. I really like fashion blogs, and find them a bit more inspiring than art books, mostly because I think fashion shows are often about world creation and storyline. I am very into persona musicians, and the concept of persona in general—which is probably why I am also really into trashy two-dollar magazines and reality television.

Sophia: Social justice issues in urban education; online drag makeup tutorials; dada; nail art; Adam Rose; the Cauleen Smith: A Star Is A Seed exhibition that was recently at MCA Screen—it included a mirror maze; Real Housewives of anywhere; Twin Peaks/Blue Velvet (always); the Fall slip into dreary weather; Buckminster Fuller’s geometry of spheres; thinking about what I would say to Rahm Emmanuel if we got to talk; cats with human emotions.

TPT: What are you studying?

Katy: I am teaching myself the guitar, which I attempted once when I was very young and gave up too quickly. I am reading about psychedelic art and pairing that reading with novels that have some loose connection. Incidentally, I am studying household maintenance, which has a lot to do with the new house and my desire to take a warmish shower.

Sophia: Currently reading: The Transformative Power of Performance by Erika Fischerlichte; A Year From Monday By John Cage (on loan from Phil!); Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch; and The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore. Learning to speak Greek. I’m also making a bike generator, which is proving to be a steep learning curve in electronic components!

TPT: What’s next?

M: We’re doing a piece that will likely incorporate video at Happy Collaborationists in February.

TPT: Any words of wisdom?

M: We’ll share with you our personal collaboration mantra. It’s helped us through some rough times. Okay, here it is:

Hype up when you get down.

 

 

JEFF HUCKLEBERRY

Jeff Huckleberry “Fourth Rainbow” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

TPT: We’ve interviewed you before when you had a show at MEME, what’s happened in your work since then?

JH: I’m not sure. That was a few years ago so everything has changed and everything is more or less the same. Clowns are new, and so are making rainbows. Actually, I think all of the colors I am thinking about and using now come from that show.  

TPT: Why Rainbows?

JH: Again, I’m not really sure. These started when I went to Marseilles last year. On the way over, I started thinking about rainbows and the color wheel, and the pursuit of the unattainable. From the very first time I tried to make one (a rainbow) it hurt me; or at the very least it hurt to make it the way I was trying to make it, and I thought that that was really interesting and powerful. Of course I like the failure/success aspect of the attempt, and I am surprised each and every time I try to make one. I “made” two rainbow performances in Marseilles and the second one found a purpose. My location for performing was this big broken fountain in the middle of this really busy, small little square. I wanted to christen the fountain as the fountain of the artists, (the fountain didn’t work, which I thought was appropriate.) so I wanted to try to make it work again. I believed so hard in that piece, and in the power of each color, and in the end I think I got the fountain to work just a little. That was the first time I felt the alchemy of the rainbow, which intrigued me even more. As for what they mean, or “why” I am interested in making them, I don’t really want to know right now. It is a process of discovery, and each time I do a little research on rainbows it leads me down some other interesting performative path. I do like many things that have happened; like the little rainbows I made emerging from piles of dog shit on the street, or the way the one rainbow managed to eat the finish off of the floor at BU, and how funny the last one was in Chicago. That was really enjoyable. Funny is becoming more important as well.

Jeff Huckleberry "Fourth Rainbow" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

TPT: You used smaller planks in this performance, why?

JH: Shoulder shrug. Smaller than what? 

TPT: Do you feel that humor is an important part of your work and why?

JH: Yes! It has become more important lately, especially after a collaboration with my friend Julie Andree T. We did a performance together called Two clowns and a death, in which we tried to “die” in as many different ways as we could. I really got to be a clown for the first time and it was wonderful. It just made so much sense. My wife and I did a series of performances last fall that was using one color of the rainbow for each night of performance. It was amazing how each color really effected the actions we did and our relationship to each other. ( I think 3 people total saw those performances. Now that’s funny!) We both had a great time working together and the performances were very often funny, and we laughed at each other through many of them. I like the way it opens a door to and for the audience.  In fact in Chicago I was trying to ask audience members to go out on a date with me – like let’s get to know each other here, but this is completely awkward. After all, I am going to be naked in front of you, and I am going to compromise and embarrass myself so we are going to have to get to know each other pretty quickly in order for this to succeed.

TPT: What were you trying to do when you were writing on your body in this performance?

JH: In this instance I was trying to ask the audience out on a date.  In other performances it has been a one sided conversation with someone in particular; my uncle Douglas, some kid who went to the high school I taught at, my mom etc.

Jeff Huckleberry "Fourth Rainbow" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

TPT: Can you talk about the choice to have one empty chair that you treated as an audience member?

JH: That chair is for Bob Raymond. I might as well give him something to do, maybe he’s bored. 

TPT: Have you considered patenting your tightie whitie tool belt idea?
 
JH: Uh, there is a patent ©HUCK

TPT: That was a cool hammer. Not a question just saying.

TPT: Anything else you would like us to know about this piece?
 
JH: That would spoil the fun.

 

 

Rough Trade II Interviews: Philip Fryer | Elena Katsulis & Erin Peisert

 

ERIN PEISERT & ELENA KATSULIS

 

Elena Katsulis and Erin Peisert 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

TPT: How did you meet? How long have you been making work together?

E&E: We were once co-workers. We bonded over a mutual love for performance and decided that we should collaborate. We’ve been working together for about a year and a half.

 

TPT: Can you describe your process for collaborating?

E&E:  Most often, it starts with an interesting image, concept, or material that we’d like to explore. After some discussion, we realize that there is usually an implied subject to which we both relate; in a general way. Then we share our personal impressions and individual experiences in relation to the subject and these are what form the more specific intentions behind the piece. In terms of collaborating on durational work, we’ve discovered a previously unexperienced level of investment and accountability. It is very different from performing solo. As a duo, you find it’s necessary to find that general commonality and put your specific differences aside.

 

TPT:  Do you have individual practices? Can you talk about them?

Elena: I have done a few solo pieces, and also work with a performance trio called KEN. We use movement, music, hand-made objects and sculptural costumes. I also write.
Erin: I practice butoh dance, movement, some 2D visual stuff, and sounds.

 

Elena Katsulis & Erin Peisert 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

TPT:  How did the context of the Pozen Center inform your work?

E&E:  More than the Pozen Center itself, it was our relation to each other and those around us in the space that informed the piece. In the space of the Pozen Center, we decided to position ourselves in the front doorway; with intent to disrupt the expected pattern of foot traffic.

 

TPT: Why rope?

E&E: Physically, the rope functioned in binding us together; externally. It allowed for added dimension in negotiating our release. Aesthetically, it seemed like the simplest, most raw material. Visually this reminded us of a Chinese finger trap. Unable to successfully separate until both committed to doing so.

 

TPT:  How did you communicate through your piece?

E&E: We could sense subtle energetic and physical shifts; intuition. One would initiate and the other would agree.

 

Elena Katsulis & Erin Peisert 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

TPT:  The audience became concerned for you as the piece evolved. Elena was visibly cold and your fingers were turning blue. Some came over and touched you. How did this inform the work for you?

E&E: It definitely broke the traditional audience/performer unspoken boundaries. We were no longer just objects to be looked at. The fact that our physical well-being was a concern for those around us certainly brought a compassionate quality to the piece that we weren’t expecting. The viewers became actively invested. The people who came to warm our hands had the courage to step outside of, not just the traditional artist/viewer relationship, but possibly their own hesitation, in terms of breaking that barrier. That was particularly inspiring.

Elena Katsulis & Erin Peisert 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

TPT:  Can you talk about the intention behind the actions? Did that intention change once your were in the piece?

E&E:  We wanted to explore how two people relate to each other and how that relationship changes over time. One person’s actions and desires undeniably effect the other. When there is mutual investment, and over the course of time, one change will eventually effect the dynamic of the whole either by transformation or dissolution.
The intention didn’t change once we were in the piece, but once we were actually bound and laying on the floor, we became less focused on the intention behind the piece and more on the present situation. For me (elena), I had a hard time separating myself from the physical aspects of the action and surroundings. I was freezing, and shaking uncontrollably. When I could sense people standing over us and witnessing that, I started to shake even more. I became aware that people might be concerned about us.Visually this reminded us of a Chinese finger trap. Unable to successfully separate until both committed to doing so.

 

TPT: What were you thinking about during your piece?

Erin: I feel like my body-awareness is heightened when I’m at ground level. I try and be as present with every aspect of my physical condition as possible. I often think of Elena and how she’s doing. Sometimes I observed the space, the people in it, sounds, shapes, and light from a different perspective; the floor.

Elena: My mind was wandering. Like a graph that starts small, curves upwards, then slopes back down again. I was thinking about the smallest things: my toes, the temperature, etc., to observing the surroundings and what I could view of the people, to Erin and what she might be experiencing; and to larger concepts…then back down again.

 

TPT:  What were some of your expectations/ hopes (if any) of your audience?

E&E:  We didn’t have any expectations, but by obstructing the open doorway, we hoped that the audience would be engaged in a way that they weren’t expecting and that they might reconsider boundaries between audience and performer.

 

TPT:  Were there any moments that surprised you?

E&E:  Yes. One time was when we were treated us as, not art, but people through the warming of our hands. Another time, we both noticed that people had started to congregate around us; waiting patiently for what seemed like us to “do something”. After the piece ended, we talked about that moment and discovered that, while it it, we each had the initial impulse to move our bodies as if to satisfy a perceived desire for entertainment, but consciously resisted.

 

TPT: How was performing in Boston different from making work in Chicago?

E&E:  In Boston, most of the audience we performed for had very little preconception of our work as artists or of us personally. Elena was interested in how that informed their perceptions of the work, compared to some of our peers in Chicago who know us in a different way. We also noticed a great willingness by the Boston audience to wait out the duration.

TPT:  What imprints did Boston leave on you?

E&E:  In Boston there was a strong sense of community. It opened our eyes to a world of artists who initiate events; previously unknown to us.

 

TPT:  Why did you choose to create this work over the duration of 3 hours?

E&E:  We wanted to become part of the structured event as a whole more than an action to be watched from beginning to end. Even when we remain relatively still, as time goes by, there are many external variables which end up demonstrating that passing of time. By remaining for three hours, we hoped to show this change physically.

 

TPT:   What is the role of repetition in this work?

E&E:  Most often our performances do use very clear repetitive actions, however this happened to be one of our most static. Despite that, we did still experience similar changes in energy as we do in our more clearly repetitive work.

 

TPT:  What is inspiring you at the moment?

E&E:  Push/pull, initiate/allow, finding interest in the mundane, accepting not knowing the unknown, time, idiosyncrasies, reduction, bare essentials vs. excess, discipline (within reason) self-observation, ‘obstacles’

 

TPT:   What are you studying?

E&E:  Sincerity.

PHILIP FRYER

 

Philip Fryer “TREE/POOL/SKY” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

 

 

Sandrine Schaefer:  How did the context of Defibrillator impact this piece?

PF: Since sound is such an essential part of this performance, the noises I found within the space really dictated how the piece was performed. The movable walls and the metal attached to the wall helped to lay out how and where I did each action.

SS: What was your inspiration for this piece?

PF: The lyrics of a Mount Eerie song titled “Summons”. It’s about a pool of water formed by the roots of a tree being pulled out of the ground when it fell over, reflecting the image of the sky. The visual of this in my head made me think about how these things are seemingly separate, but at that moment are connected. I aim to do the same in this piece, to find hidden things within a space and imagine what else might lie behind walls or under the floor.

SS: This was the 3rd version of TREE/POOL/SKY. How has it evolved?

PF: The first version in Boston was much more paired down, partially because it was in a small space. It felt unfinished so I decided to perform it again. A few months later I was in Montreal, where it really took on a life of its own. Many actions were added in that version, including sounding the space, peering at audience member through the black portal,  and recording and playing a cassette loop live. I had anticipated doing the same actions as I did in Boston but once the performance started I felt the piece wanting to fill the space (which was enormous). The third version in Chicago didnt really see any actions added, but they certainly altered based on where I was and who I was with. Rather than interacting with audience members I didn’t know like I did in Montreal, I chose to acknowledge people I did know (Sandy Huckleberry and Marilyn Arsem). Marilyn was the first person to take the interaction a step further and put her hand through the portal and touched my lip. I can’t explain why, but this interaction makes me feel like this performance is now complete.

SS: Can you elaborate on the sound that was present?

PF:  I like to think of it as a heartbeat. A heartbeat generated by the space that is unique and omnipresent. It is one of a million possibilities. 

SS: Talk about portals…

PF:  This is a new element to my work that is yet to be really explored. I have a feeling that the next things I work on will delve further into what a portal is to me. In TREE/POOL/SKY, it is simply something that can swallow a being or alter its form. 

 

Phil Fryer "TREE/POOL/SKY" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

SS: Can you talk about the intention behind your actions? Did that intention change once your were implementing the piece?

No, the piece has stayed pretty true to what I set out to do. It’s the first time that I’ve had an idea that I’ve felt the need to explore until it feels completed by performing it several times. 

image

SS: Can you talk about the extension?

PF: The extension came to me more as a visual than as an idea. I really liked the image in my head of a body extension that erases identity and creates something that looks almost non-human.

SS: What did it feel like to engage in such an intimate action with the audience (eye contact through the portal) then to be cut off from them? When you couldn’t see or hear were you scared or did you feel that that first action cultivated a sense of safety in the space?

PF: I like the idea of an experience transforming over the course of time. Initially, this experience with the audience is an intimate one and only a few have it, which makes it kind of sweet. Later in the performance, the portal changes its tone and takes away my senses. It was very scary in this performance, however, I did a different piece titled “APOCRYPHA” there I stood on the edge of a shipping container for 3 hours wearing the extension. It was really scary because I was only a few feet away from a 10 foot drop, and the sensory deprivation made it so that I could tell how close I was to the edge. That was pretty scary. 

SS: Talk about Xfiles and John Cage.

PF: I recently came out of the closet as an x-files nerd. It’s really had a big impact on my work. I just really enjoy the fact that each episode is its own rhetorical question, and challenges the viewer to question things in our realities that we take at face value. I wish they had done an episode about John Cage, that would have been awesome.

SS: What are some of your expectations/ hopes of your audience?

PF: I really just hope that the audience gets something out of the performance. I hope what I’m trying to convey is coming across but I really like hearing interpretations as well. Marilyn push my expectations a bit because I don’t get a lot of unsolicited interactions with my work, and it was really nice to have that happen. It really makes you check in with yourself about what your doing and how your doing it. If someone is moved enough to interact in an unexpected way it forces you to evaluate why it happened. 

SS: How was performing in Chicago different from making work in Boston?

PF: It’s always something I think about when I don’t perform in Boston, that different cities have different influences and histories. Therefore, your work is going to be read via that lens. 

SS: What imprints did Chicago leave on you?

PF: The most American city I’ve ever been in. Looking at the Sears tower from an empty lot. Triumph and tragedy. 

SS: What is inspiring you at the moment?

PF: Lucky Dragons “Ouija Miore (A Wave That Interferes)” synthesizer. An interactive, sonic and visual synthesizer that utilizes both chaos and order. So. Fucking. Cool.

SS: What’s next?

PF: I’m searching for the “Tonybee Tiles” that are in Boston. These tiles are from some sort of bizarre personal mythology that led someone to embed into the streets and sidewalks. I’ve seen them before in other cities but didnt really take note until I say the documentary (Resurrect Dead) about them. They seem to be disappearing and deteriorating rapidly so they might not be viewable much longer. I love the idea of chasing a decaying idea and it feels important to what is coming next for me. 

SS: Any words of wisdom?

PF: “If you understood everything I said, you’d be me” -Miles Davis

Rough Trade II Interviews: Sandy Huckleberry | Adam Rose

The Present Tense is pleased to begin our series of extended interviews with artists who participated in our recent exchange between Boston and Chicago, ROUGH TRADE II!  To start us off, Sandy Huckleberry (Boston) and Adam Rose (Chicago) share their thoughts.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

SANDY HUCKLEBERRY

Sandy Huckleberry “Fishing” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

 

TPT:  Your last few performances have been collaborative but this one wasn’t, how does your work change when its just you?

 

SH: I think my response in collaboration is a little like when I’m talking to someone with a strong accent and I just can’t help but start falling into the rhythm of that speech and doing it myself a bit. Either that, or I become a little more intensely the opposite of whatever’s happening. When working with Jeff, for example, I tend to get a little butch. Working with Mari, I tend to react to her intensity and slowness by becoming very quick and flighty. Working with her recently brought this to my awareness. I was almost like a dog shaking off water, trying to get through the task of the performance so quickly.

When I first started performing, almost 30 years ago, I had such a self-assured sense of “presence” (from being a dancer, singer, actress, etc.) that it kind of annoyed me. It almost seemed hackneyed, or something, so I wanted to throw it away. I oriented my work toward doing tasks, and got used to talking to the audience as if I were chatting with guests in my kitchen while I cooked. Working with Mari, and then seeing your performance at Defibrillator, I realized that (in comparison to your sense of presence) I had thrown my own “presence” so far away that it had gotten lost and it almost seemed like I’ve been hurrying through performances to get them done, as if they were the slightly less interesting items on a long to-do list. What they really are is a sacred opportunity to come into communion with myself and others. So I wanted that back, and for this performance I decided to give myself the time to try, and quite possibly fail, to do something almost impossible.

When I’ve just been working with others, and then work with myself, I’m still resonating to a sense of challenging/emulating an “other”, and so I think I look for the “other” in myself. This particular performance, I was trying to figure out some aspects of a recent experience that were obscure to me. So I was searching (or “fishing”) for something to be learned, something I knew was there but I couldn’t figure out. 

 

TPT: You mentioned this performance came from a childhood ritual, can you tell us about that?

 

SH: When we were kids, my mom used to make this game for my sisters’ and my birthday parties. She would hang a sheet over the chin-up bar that spanned the doorway to our bedroom, and each kid would hold a “fishing rod” (a stick with a string attached) and “fish” over the sheet and pull over a little treat or toy of some kind that they could keep. 

 

Sandy Huckleberry "Fishing" 2012 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

 

TPT: It was quite a difficult task to catch an object, was it that difficult when you were young?

 

 SH: Not at all. My mom was on the other side, tying the treats onto the string!

 

TPT: You had two distinct parts of this performance, one part on the ground with your objects and one above. Can you tell us about why you chose to have two different approaches to the same action and what they symbolized to you?

 

SH: Well, I think this goes back to the sense of searching for something. I needed an alternate place to get a perspective on what I was searching for. I didn’t know whether the forest or the trees would be more helpful. In the end, it was the forest.

 

TPT: Many of the materials used in this piece were things you got while in Chicago, what went into the process of choosing what objects you wanted to use?

 

SH: Well, I went into the thrift shop open to what I might find. I was looking for things I might, or might not, be able to catch on my hook. (Practical.) Other than that I just found things that I might be interesting to look at, or catch the light. (Formal.) I also hoped there might be some things that would resonate with me ( I found some goblets that reminded me of my grandmother) and some things I really disliked (a detached, broken plastic holder for speaker wire with a bit of wire trailing off of it). (Content.)

For the stick and stones, I went foraging on a lovely walk in a park and around the neighborhood. That’s always a huge pleasure for me, and an important part of the performance. 

 I borrowed the string.

I purchased the wig (my one “souvenir”). 

“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” Good for weddings, good for performances…?

 

Sandy Huckleberry "Fishing" 2012 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

 

TPT: Why the blue wig?

 

SH: That was actually the first clear image I had for the performance. Although I brought the emotional content of the performance with me, I waited until I got to the space to figure out the particulars of the action. My eyes were drawn upward (such wonderous high ceilings) and I saw the corner of the partition, that looked like I could climb up there. I got an immediate picture in my head of wearing a blue wig and looking through binoculars down at the crowd. I liked the sense of distance the wig gave me… distance from the “other” me that was toiling down below. I guess the wig was “she” (the forest) and the one below was “me” (the trees).

 If I think about it now, where that image came from, I guess I think of two things. 

One is that the idea of being up above the crowd, on that little partition in the corner, makes me think about an experience I had when I was about 15. It must have been 1978 or 9 and I was at a club in New York with some friends. It might have even been called the Triangle club. It was a tiny little place, a loft in the shape of an isoceles triangle. 60 feet at its longest, with a teeny stage in the sharpest corner. We’d gone there to hear an electric violinist called “Nash the Slash”. I guess it was what would now be considered a hipster place, because I remember Debbie Harry was there (she threw up in the elevator, as I recall) and so was David Bowie. He took a turn with the DJ, who was perched in the dark above us all on a tiny little platform at the top of a very similar partition against one wall, and began spinning tunes of his own choice for us all to dance to. Great memory. (I loved to dance!)

Anyway, the second thing was that I saw “Moonrise Kingdom” this summer and the girl in it reminded me of me at that age. Really into dressing up and being somebody else, somebody who wouldn’t be caught dead in the time and place in which she actually found herself. 

So, yeah, I think that’s why the blue wig.

 

TPT: Is there anything else you’d like us to know about this piece?

 

SH: Jeez! I’ve already said a lot. I never write this much about a piece! Mostly, I just do them and then they’re done. I sometimes tell people about what happened, if they seem interested, but that’s it.

I will say that I was able to feel more present and less rushed than I have in a while. Maybe it was because Marilyn’s piece was durational and Daniel’s was brief and in a “lecture” format, that I felt I had the opportunity, or even the responsibility, to take my time and allow the piece to be a longer one. The crowd was very kind (by which I mean attentive and enthusiastic) and it was only after that I worried I might have bored some people. (That’s always a speed-inducing thought if it occurs in the middle of the performance.)

So maybe I did find some of the elusive stuff I was fishing for…

 

Sandy Huckleberry "Fishing" 2012 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

 

 

 

ADAM ROSE

 

Adam Rose “Neu Iconoclasts: Wig Party” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

TPT:  Your work explores the interstices of dance and performance art.  Do you feel that this has made your work more or less accessible to certain audiences?

 

AR:  Dance and Performance Art audiences tend to have different expectations, and I encounter different obstacles in each context.  Where as a dance audience might question my technique or level of training, or be confused and put off by the imagery I employ, a performance art audience might be disappointed by seeing something that’s ‘just a dance.’  

I think dance and performance art are two contemporary manifestations of a more primordial performance tradition that underlies them both.  I learn from performing in both contexts, and any confusion or misunderstandings that might arise are ultimately productive.  

 

TPT:  Do you have an ideal context that you like to make work in?

 

AR:  No, no context is ideal–not dance, not performance art, not butoh.  They each have their unique obstacles and expectations.  I enjoy the chance to perform in every context.

 

TPT: Can you talk about the role of personae in your work?

 

AR:  I don’t believe in the idea of a single self or single self-identity.  Anyway, I think it would be boring to perform as just me.  So I try to push self-expression to the point where the different aspects split off into separate characters with their own lives.  “My name is Legion, for we are many,” (Mark 5:9).  But basically I have two personas, a male persona and a female persona, Elena.

 

 

Adam Rose "Neu Iconoclasts: Wig Party" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

TPT:  Who is Elena?

 

AR:  Elena is my goth girl persona.  I’ve been performing as her since 2007.  She is a witch and acts as a channel for my more purely gothic obsessions.  She’s a little more than just a character though–I’ve had several dreams in which I was a woman, or looked in a mirror and saw a woman’s face.  So she definitely is a strong part of my psyche, and is with me even when I’m not performing in drag.

 

TPT:  In Neu Iconoclasts: Wig Party, you used sound in an interesting way.   Can you talk about this choice, how you created the pre-recorded sound pieces, and the choice to use your voice as you exited the space at the end of the piece?

 

AR: In dance performance it’s pretty standard to use pre-recorded sound coming from a single sound source–you have a moving body that’s very present, and then a kind of distant layer of sound that seems almost arbitrary.  That can be frustrating, so recently I’ve been trying to make the sound more embodied.  

In Neu Iconoclasts: Wig Party there’s the sound of Elena’s (my) voice coming from a portable speaker tied around my neck, guitar samples playing from a guitar amp, and the overhead in-house sound.  I distorted my voice for the vocal track using auto-tune software, and created the rest using samples and a MIDI keyboard.  

Using my own, live voice at the end of the piece was not the original plan.  The pre-recorded vocal track was supposed to continue till the end, but I had transferred the wrong file so it ended early.  I had to improvise and it seems to have actually worked out better that way.

 

TPT:  You used the majority of the space in this piece.  Even if your body wasn’t present in all of the nooks and crannies of the space, your shadow or sound was.  Was this intentional?

 

AR: The Pozen Center is such a big space, I was determined to not be overwhelmed by it and instead conquer it in some way.  I’ve also lately been working with imagery related to Nyx, the Goddess of the Night Sky. As the Night Sky, she is also the Goddess of Space.  She embodies what appears to be empty, and so using the totality of the space would be an aspect of her expression.

 

Adam Rose "Neu Iconoclasts: Wig Party" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

TPT:  Do you consider your work to be site-specific?

 

AR:  Not especially.  Although I do consciously plan and try to think about the space I’ll be performing in, and make last minute changes once I’m in it.  I’ve noticed that if I don’t consider the space enough, the piece is more likely to fail.  

 

TPT:  Something I was struck by was your use of facial expression in this piece.  Can you talk about this?

 

AR:  I naturally make facial expressions when I dance, and I wasn’t taught to suppress this in my dance training, like in more classical forms of dance where the face is not expressive.  Of course in Butoh, using the face as an element of the dance is very important.  I’ve learned to use my facial expressions more consciously, as organic masks, as a way to both engage or manipulate the audience.  

 

Adam Rose "Neu Iconoclasts: Wig Party" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

TPT:  What is Antibodycorp?

 

AR:  Antibody Corporation is a non-profit organization specializing in mind-body and occult research.  Antibody uses the specter of the Evil Corporation as one aspect of its sorcerous work.  Biotech is currently impacting our everyday lives in many ways, through the foods we eat, the drugs we take, expanding the range of mutations that are available to the species.  Antibody takes a DIY approach to epigenetic mutation, on the premise that the body may actually be able to mutate itself by mental effort alone.

 

TPT:  Can you talk about your use of goth imagery?

 

AR:  In terms of the classical dichotomies of light/dark, male/female, left/right, and day/night, Western civilization has almost exclusively favored the right, light, male, and solar.  In Western culture, darkness is represented by the Gothic.  Gothicism emphasizes everything on the lunar and left hand side of the equation, and that’s what makes it worth paying attention to.  

Horror and goth may be considered low and adolescent forms, but it’s also possible to consider horror as a discipline.  There’s a discipline involved in continually turning towards what horrifies.  The longer you stay in negative affective states like anger and fear, the less human you become.  This can be seen positively as an evolution towards the alien, the above-human.

 

TPT:  Can you talk about the intention behind your piece?  Did that intention change?

 

AR:  Neu Iconoclasts: Wig Destruction is part of an ongoing investigation into the mythology of Nyx and her children, including Nemesis, which was a piece I performed over the summer.  Since civilization has obliterated the night sky with light pollution, making the stars invisible, Nyx exists as a strong adversarial current, opposing everything light/male/solar and right.  It was my intention to align myself with her.

 

TPT: What were some of your expectations/ hopes (if any) of your audience? Were there any moments that surprised you?

 

AR:  I try not to have too many expectations regarding the audience, but I was pleasantly surprised when I heard people laughing during the performance.  I always like to hear people laugh.  My favorite audience reactions are fear and laughter.

 

TPT:  How was performing in Boston different from making work in Chicago?  What imprints did Boston leave on you?

 

AR:  If I were to compare Boston and Chicago, I would say that Boston has these winding streets and Chicago is built on a grid pattern.  So maybe Boston is a more intuitive and organic place than Chicago.  Chicago is a very rational and productivist city, and that makes it crazy.  

I will remember most the conversations I had with Boston artists and audience members.  The atmosphere in Boston was serious, but also open-minded, generous, and not cynical.  

 

TPT:  What is inspiring and influencing your work at the moment?  What’s next?

 

AR:  The entire Midwest is inspiring me right now.  What’s next is Mistake on the Lake, a project I’m undertaking with Antibody ally Andrea Peterson.  Mistake on the Lake is Antibody’s response to the Midwest–what happens when the midwest reflects on itself, turns it values and symbols back in on itself?  

There is a tremendous aggressive energy hidden there, barely hidden behind a polite reserve and friendly smile.  You might say we Midwesterners are Children of the Corn–something strange and terrible is being birthed from these fields.  Mistake on the Lake will be performed in Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, OH, and at Antioch College in November.  

What I’m studying right now in relation to this project is a book on Chicago’s history, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West by William Cronon.  I’m continuing my occult research with Lords of the Left Hand Path by Stephen E. Flowers, a comprehensive history of sinister occultism.  And I’m reading Artificial Hells by Claire Bishop to figure out why participatory art makes me so uncomfortable.

 

TPT: Any words of wisdom?

 

AR:  The World does not need to be saved, and neither does Dance.  Beware those who force Dance to Speech.  Beware the Word.

Adam Rose "Neu Iconoclasts: Wig Party" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

Chicago infiltrates Boston

Last weekend, artists from Chicago traveled to Boston to make work at Massachusetts College of Art and Design’s Pozen Center for ROUGH TRADE II; a Boston Chicago artist exchange.  This collaboration between The Present Tense and Defibrillator Gallery was a great success.  We are already talking about doing another exchange between the 2 cities next year.  We also are pleased to report that the project’s Kickstarter campaign was successfully funded!  Thanks to the following people for their support of this project:

Ernest Plowman, Coco Segaller, Steven Frost, Suzi G, Chelsea Lowrie, Jenny Magnus, Christine, Dubi Kaufman, Sarah Belknap, Montserrat Galleries, Pat Falco, Jen McChesney, Sarah Sulistio, Jessie Chouinard, VulcanMike, Mark J, Ethan Kiermaier, Vela Phelan, Emily Green, Laura Ferguson and Steve Tekosky, Ricardo De Lima, Eames McDermott Armstrong, Rosie Ranauro, Amy Ranauro, Michael Thomas, Kirk Amaral Snow, Jocelyn Hughes, Jeffery Byrd, Joseph Hennessy, Jamie McMurry, Evan Rose, Marcia Ferguson, Catherine Tutter, Leeanne Brennan, Zayde Buti, Maria Molteni, Matthew Girard, Bob DeLuca, Dana Moser, the SIM Department at MassArt, Alex Kennedy, Kerri Coburn, Bob Farrell, Monica Chiang, Maggie Cavallo, Leonie Bradbury, Lucas Spivey, Caitlin Gianniny, Alexis Avedisian, Christian Cruz, and to all of the participating artists who traveled the distance to share great work!  The artists also generously opened their homes to one another, fed one another, documented the live works, etc.  Rough Trade II exemplified the strength of the live art communities both in Boston and Chicago!

In the coming months, The Present Tense will be posting extended interviews with each artist, giving them the opportunity to talk about the intention behind their work, their experience with the exchange, share how the context informed their pieces, etc.  In the meantime, enjoy video documentation from the work Chicago artists made in Boston!

 

Elena Katsulis and Erin Peisert 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Mothergirl “What You Look Like, Too” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Meredith And Anna 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Adam Rose “Neu Iconoclasts: Wig Party” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Joseph Ravens “Mastication” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Claire Ashley 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Boston infiltrates Chicago

Last weekend, 6 artists from Boston traveled to Chicago to make work at Defibrillator Gallery as part of ROUGH TRADE II; a Boston Chicago artist exchange.  Here is video documentation of the pieces that they created.  In the coming months, The Present Tense will be posting extended interviews with each artist, giving them the opportunity to talk about the intention behind their work, their experience with the exchange, how the context informed their pieces, etc.  Stay tuned!

 

 

Philip Fryer “TREE/POOL/SKY” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Sandy Huckleberry “Fishing” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Marilyn Arsem “still, waiting” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Sandrine Schaefer “SecondSkin” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Daniel S. DeLuca RKSR CNL from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Jeff Huckleberry “Fourth Rainbow” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.