SHIFT 2015/16 INTERVIEW: KERRY DOWNEY
Alex Lee & Nick Witchey (EFA Project Space Interns)
How did your work develop over the course of the residency?
I began with an interest in turning footage I had shot that spring into an experimental performance that I then workshopped several times during the SHIFT intensive before committing to it as a project. This performance became a video that in turn, re-informed the performance.
Conceptually, I developed a conversation between forms of mimesis/mimicry and what I’ve been referring to as “the feminist sublime,” which is an embodied form of relationality that celebrates the visceral, fluid-leaking qualities of self and other, while also calling for states of difference or differentiation. In other words, how the body is a container that leaks materially and psychologically.
Did the experience of working alongside the other SHIFT residents affect your approach and final work?
I was developing the performance and video in relationship to SHIFT feedback. I felt uneasy about the performance; at one point I felt that the video was clearer and more direct, while the performance was too messy and being overdetermined by my body. SHIFT folks encouraged me to pursue the performance and develop it as an important part of the project. Gathering both direct technical feedback and a sense of what the fuck the work was doing, in a supportive and non-competitive environment, was very fruitful.
How did you come to know Angela Dufresne and her work? How did the fishing trip come about?
I met Angela through the Queer Art Mentorship program a few years ago. She often referenced fishing when talking about art. I told her about my father, who also loves to fish. We were swiftly moving between subjects of alternative queer, chosen family, the real impact of childhood family, and our agencies in making new connections. She very openly invited me fishing – I admitted that I don’t actually like fishing, perhaps a rejection of my father. Instead, I offered to film her fishing, and referenced a show from the 90’s, “Fishing with John” – a boring, absurd show about guys fishing together. I wanted to make a feminist, queer version, taking on other kinds of thinking and being. I also shared with Angela my thinking about fishing as prosthesis, as extension of the body, as a kind of drawing. This was an idea we both shared and gravitated towards.
What was your relationship to fishing before the fishing trip with Angela? Is it different now?
My relationship to fishing has changed, including the way I think about my father and his interest in fishing. I can now access greater phenomenological approaches to the act of fishing, more dynamic ways of imagining the power relationship between fish and fisherperson, between fishing and other gestural histories, particularly those that utilize mimicry. I wonder if fishing, for some, is a really basic way to slow down and notice the world through direct observation, accessing multi-modal sensory stimulation, but without feeling over-stimulated or distracted; the concentration is focused on the clear expectation, or clear desire to catch a fish. One knows what they are doing, while simultaneously apprehending information with improvisation, types of uncertainty and play.
Can you tell us more about your integration of video projection with live action in the performance version of Fishing with Angela?
I’ve been experimenting with projection literally and conceptually, with an interest in how an apparatus is really an extension of our own psychological inclinations. We are so often projecting our ideas of what we want, who we are, how we do and do not want to be perceived onto others. Playing with projection allows me to animate these relationships by performing a dialogue with the medium, the past (when Angela and I were together having the dialogue in real time), and the present bodies in the room.
How do you see your art reflecting your experience as a teacher?
My teaching practice is concerned with many of the same questions as my art – how can the various ways we come in contact with each other help us understand ourselves and acknowledge the other? I am interested in exploring this question through phenomenologies—ways our bodies encounter and sense each other, objects, and spaces. Within this is a particular investment in intimacy, power, and notions of visibility. I’m exploring an eros or erotics of speaking, listening and responding through body and touch.
Which artist(s) or cultural producer(s) would you cite as a major influence for you?
I’m just going to answer for this artwork the ones that come to my conscious mind. There are so many unconscious influences, and certainly so many more that are not directly linked with this work but my practice at large.
Artists: Barbara Hammer, Sheila Pepe, Carrie Moyer, Emma Heddich,
Writers/Theorists: Karen Barad, Anne Carson, Jessica Benjamin, Jack Halberstein, Katy Siegel
Personal relationships: SHIFT, QAM, my parents, Dages Juvelier Keates, my relationship with my therapist
In what way is the title NO ATLAS reflected in your work?
In the beginning, Angela Dufresne is depicted as saying, “You start out with one narrative and you end up with another…it comes from outside of you.” I’m interested in the place where the outside influence meets an internal desire or conception of self. Or, put another way, a psychic map relates to preexisting approaches to seeing or naming a place. To have no atlas, to me feels like more than saying I’m without a map. The atlas feels like a reference to worlds or world-making. There’s something in this title about how we situate ourselves in relationship to maps, ideas, concepts that already exist, and how you get a thing to show up or become visible when there are no existing roads, waterways, satellites.