Releasing Control to Create
by Kathryn Baczeski, see her work in Vol. IV #7
In my performance art, in order for me to create, my process must be in constant flux—I must release control of my work, and I do that by collaborating, though not necessarily always with another person. It could be even with the weather, or most recently, animals.
My process then develops through conceptual conversation. I determine which elements are absolutely necessary to convey the essence of the work. Next, I begin the physical process with my collaborators, impacting and adjusting what is happening in a given situation. I am fascinated by live action where the outcomes are totally unpredictable. Generally, I only opt for control in the final stage of my work, in the actual editing of the video.
In my piece PUSH, I worked with Jeremy Pennington, a businessman from Wall Street. Together we discussed the metaphor of office work with farm labor tasks. I gave him little instruction. I merely placed him in the environment, supplied him with materials, and filmed the outcome. This resulted in hours of footage which I edited into a video that represented our experience in the field from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Another way I relinquish control is when I incorporate passersby. While at a residency in Denmark, a former cohort and I made a piece, Welcome, where we shook hands with people passing by at an art fair. We held clay in our hands and created a work from these moments of contact. The clay formed a shape and that piece of clay was placed along a path. Here, the element of unknown was whether or not the public chose to interact with us. We had to overcome the language barrier and try to explain our goal (to have people shake our hands) and then construct something from that.
My latest form of collaboration is working with animals—livestock and farm animals. In my piece What’s the speech all about? I wanted to put clay on the back of a donkey and distill this action down to shapes. The final product would be an abstract video of a strange moment in time. The donkey was the obstacle in this work because I did not know whether he would stand still long enough to let me cover part of him with clay. Working with animals has allowed me to get back in touch with simple movements and nonverbal communication, allowing my actions to speak for themselves no matter how simple and subtle.
Opening myself up to obstacles has been one of my greatest discoveries in the past year as an artist. I have been challenging myself to work with the unknown: with people and places and with times of day when the outcome is subject to change in any given moment. I think being uncomfortable while working is the greatest blessing that any artist could ever have.
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