23 June 2007


Klaus Obermaier is a media artist, director, composer, and lecturer. Working in dance, music, theatre, new media and creating interactive installations, video art, web projects, computer music, radio plays, and large scale outdoor performances, his work has innovated, inspired, and has been well received by critics and spectators.

On Tuesday(26.6.07), Klaus with conductor Marin Alsop and the London Philharmonic Orchestra will perform a 21st century rendition of Igor Stravinsky's 'The Rite of Spring'(Le Sacre du Printemps) at the Southbank Centre, London. Dancer Julia Mach will perform within the virtual spaces created by Obermaier and interactive designers from the Ars Electronica Futurelab. Wearing 3D glasses, the audience will see Julia within the virtual world and her body itself will expand beyond reality.

I am extremely grateful to Klaus for sparing some time in the run up to this performance to answer my questions.

You have found ways to fuse and extend performers bodies. First, how do the performers themselves approach these fusions and how much control do they maintain in their performance? Second, is it important to you that the result looks natural(organic) and/or is an aesthetic of artifice an important part of the interpretation?

Both questions depend on each particular piece, as there is a big difference in the approach of for instance VIVISECTOR, APPARITION or Le Sacre du Printemps.

In Le Sacre du Printemps, I was doing the choreography and therefore was able to create my own kind of balance between real body (natural) and virtual. I was going for an aesthetic, where the human can interact with the digital environments generated in real time , in a very natural way. The dance should work on its own, but also seamlessly fuse and interact with the digital environment. There is plenty of space for improvisation, but also the more strictly choreographed parts don't restrict the dancer regarding her performance, not more than in any conventional piece. Julia Mach keeps control.

"I realized that I am able to 'think' in new technologies - in the same way as I can think in music/instruments as a composer"
There is a general perception that there is a separation between science (and mathematics in particular) and art. What have your experiences been with and what do you think of these proconceptions? And in working on the programming for your works, do you approach it in a manner that is unique to your perspective as an artist?
I never think about that particularly. But in the center of my work stands the interaction between humans and new technologies/virtual environments. As this is a question of our times and the future, I feel very natural in using and fusing these technologies with performance and hence research the consequences and possibilities that come out of that question.

In some of the more process intensive computer generated arts, is there a danger in becoming detached from the original vision while working for extended periods in the programming and/or construction?
APPARITION and Le Sacre du Printemps are very process intensive, but I usually have a very clear idea of what I want when I invent a new piece. And I know the limits or where we can push the limits of the technology which I use. In my talks with the developers and programmers of the ARS ELECTRONICA FUTURELAB, I always try to find out and clarify the aesthetic and technological framework at the beginning of the work. The original vision always worked out, but of course there are (and should) be interesting surprises while working.

I realized that I am able to think in new technologies - in the same way that I can think in music and instruments as a composer, or as a stage designer thinks the performance space ... That allows me to plan and combine the many different mediums I use in a very efficient way and straight forward way.

What do you feel about your work being described as “driven by technology”?
... and driven by human performance, and by music, and by stage design ...
That is how I feel about it.

But I understand that because I invented a lot of new technologies in performance art and people see that part first. It is just not the case for myself.

You have worked in a wide variety of mediums. Would you briefly tell us about the mediums for which you have worked and what you feel are their strong points in terms of expression?
I worked with music, which I think, by its abstract apparition, had a big influence on all my work with other mediums. Sounds and rhythms do not have any particular meaning, but are moving us a lot. Here I see similarities with dance, which is also a very abstract medium for me. Movements cannot really tell us something concrete, but like music, they can open new ways of perception and experience.

I worked with many visual mediums like video, web-projects, installations etc. But for me these are just variations or extensions of visual art. The same goes for dance: As a musician on stage I always was aware of the performing aspect. So it was a natural development to work with dancers/performers/actors.

In your performances, how would you describe the relationship between your work and the audience? Does the inclusion of 3D glasses as a worn object help make a connection? How does it compare to the relationship between audience and show in a more spartan setting?
Theatre is a way to combine my different interests - and that is very important for me. Without really thinking about it I realized that theatre/dance/performance pieces became my main focus.

I also enjoy the direct communication with an audience - which is not possible in a painting or web project.

In Le Sacre du Printemps, the stereoscopic projections (and the 3D glasses) create an immersive environment, which permits the audience to participate substantially more intimately to the communication between a performer and the digital environment than in traditional theatre settings.
"The most common mistake is to think too complicated..."
What do you think of the tendency to categorise art with labels like “high brow”, “low brow”, “street art”, or “outsider art”? And in general, are labels and gradations of art in any way beneficial?
Most of them I don't even know. I think if you are creating, you don't care about that.

Since 2006 you have been a visiting professor at the University IUAV of Venice teaching new media in dance, music and theatre performances. What have you learned from your time teaching and lecturing?
No idea what I have learned particularly, but it is a very interesting work.

And what would you say is the most common mistake or misconception among your students?
The most common mistake is to think too complicated, which never lets you come to a point. And I mean both: technological and contextual.

photo: Gabi Hauser

In regard to your work with the Kronos Quartet and Robert Spour, how did this collaboration develop and what was the impetus behind the The Cloned Sound and its genetic structures?
How to create rhythmic structures out of genetic patterns and the real time transformation of the natural sound of a string quartet. At that time, this was a very new thing.

Have you had time recently to work on new compositions?
I recently composed for another string quartet, the Balanescu Quartet. It was performed in 2005 in the Queen Elisabeth Hall.

At what age did you feel that art was your calling?
I think I was 12 when I realized I want to become an artist. A painter and a musician.
My father was painting for himself when he was a child. When I first heard the White Album of the Beatles I knew I wanted to make music.
"I have a special idea about a new technology which I hopefully will start to work on soon."
Would you choose a colour and explain the ideas and feelings it generates for you?
Sorry, but I like all and no colours.

Also, would you select an image that you feel is powerful and explain why it has an impact on you?
Same as above. The most powerful images are always the last ones I created.

Do you feel the art world is somewhat slow in adopting new technology?
I think this is going on a lot in art, adopting new technologies (and it always was).
New technologies are just one way to express yourself. But for me there is no difference to other (older) ways. It is just what you prefer.

Do you have any concepts for which you are waiting for the right technology?
Usually I try to develop the technology I need with collaborators like the Ars Electronica Futurelab, or Hirokazu Kato (Osaka University). I have a special idea about a new technology which I hopefully will start to work on soon.

And is D.A.V.E.(digital amplified video engine) an evolving program?
D.A.V.E. is not evolving, but because it was so new when it came out, there is still a lot of demand and buzz for the piece.

As well as the performance of 'Le Sacre du Printemps' on Tuesday (26.6.07) in London, a performance of 'Maria T' is scheduled for 13.7.07 at the El Espiritu Del Sur in Huesca, Spain. A new collection of Klaus' compositions from 1985 - 2005 is out now and available HERE.

Klaus Obermaier
Ars Electronica Futurelab
Conductor Marin Alsop
The Southbank Centre
The London Philharmonic Orchestra
Igor Stravinsky Wiki
The Balanescu Quartet
The Kronos Quartet
Hirokazu Kato's ArToolKit
University IUAV of Venice
Le Sacre du Printemps - biographies

** NOTE: All images link back to their source.

19 June 2007


Grant Barnhart's works are intricate orchestrations of fragments marrying contemporary, historical and mythical elements into cohesive narrative images. Being given the opportunity to interview Grant at this stage of his career has been a privilege as his work moves into uncharted territory.

In this interview he provides both abstract and practical insight into his work as well as his own observations on art in general.

How much planning and preparation goes into your work?
At times I feel like all I do is plan and prep for future projects. My house and studio are littered with random scribbles and notes that should guide me to the next painting or project, but at times look like nothing more than random notations and scribbles. On the quick end of things it can take a few days to comprise the ideas with my reference on hand.

And do you approach your personal works differently from commercial projects?
The commercial work is completely different. I get an assignment emailed to me and usually have 1-4 days to complete from start to finish. Most of the time is spent looking at low res. Images on my computer screen. The quality is so bad that it is pointless to print off because the ink will bleed together on the paper.

Your works seem to have strong narrative qualities. Is this deliberate and would you consider it part of your ‘style’?
Yes the narration in my work is extremely deliberate. I’m trying to form a conversation with an audience that may or may not even be there. I’m giving the viewer the opportunity probe inside my head and ask questions about what they are seeing.

And generally speaking, how would you characterise your works as a whole?
The idea of communication alone plays a major role in my work. I am the perfect example of modern isolated version of western culture. What limited interaction I have with people is either spent on a mobile phone or random emails throughout the day. I rarely leave my studio for days on end and form these rather strange conversations in my head that begin to grow in my paintings. The figures in my work usually stand-alone and form little to no bond with each other. I use graphite to define the sad and weighted space around my figures. Just when the space gets too melancholy I mix in subtle absurdities to poke fun at what I just created.

In my latest painting “Plan B: Proceed With Caution” there is a satellite falling from the top right corner. If one looks closely inside the satellite they will find the legs of my wife and I tumbling about during re-entry. Our legs are bare which leads me to explain we were making love in space until all hell broke loose. Hand-me-down versions of Batman and Spider-Man appear in my work too. This all forms into my “Amalgamation: The Over/Under Project”. Mixing graphite and oil on panel with a subtle absurdity on a relatively cold social commentary.

What tools and materials do you use and why?
Most of my work is graphite and oil on gessoed panel. I prefer the smooth surface to canvas.

"Every time I paint I run into new challenges..."
Selecting one of your own works, would you explain the development of the piece from conception to completion?
“Plan B: Proceed with Caution”

The initial concept was to base the basic design of the paintings around a Rauschenberg COBINE. I chose “Black Mail” (1958) for the basic foundation of the painting. Several sketches and concepts were formed on tracing paper. Writing notes and themes in a moleskin would help focus the ideas further. Once I had my ideas and the placement of my figures, I then researched detailed photo reference to base my drawings from.

After the drawing is complete I transferred the drawing to a clear acetate film and project the image on the 4’x6’ surface in my studio. I used an old elementary school projector given to me as a gift. My studio floor space is rather small so I have to manoeuvre around the projector with ease. It takes about a week to redraw the figures on the panel.

Once the line rendering is complete I spend another 2-3 days filling in the negative space with graphite pencils. After a long day with the graphite I tend to look like a coal miner coming out of the tunnel. I seal the drawing and get to work with thin oil washes. I build up transparent layers until I find the desired effect. Every time I paint I run into new challenges with the media and have to let the randomness of the washes take form.

How much of an influence has your environment/the Pacific Northwest been to you development in general and specifically in your work?
It has everything to do with my work. I’m supported by a group of friends and a gallerist that push me to think outside of the box even if the majority of the public don’t understand what I’m trying to accomplish just yet.

Most of the country looks to NYC and LA for hot contemporary art and living Seattle has allowed me to form this logistically poised bohemian movement with my gallery. Seattle is a great political town that encourages conversation through creative means. I think it is a matter of time before people start really talking about the Northwest and what it has to offer.

What would you say have been the most important things you’ve learned in regard to your work/self in the past few years? And what advice would you give other creatives?
Good advice to pass along is to be comfortable in one’s own skin and stand behind one’s ideas. Gut instinct is major too. Some of my hardest times in life were when I went against my gut instinct. It isn’t easy basing a career off being constantly judged and compared. It is okay to take risks and challenge yourself when pursuing a dream or a creative career.
"...one day you feel on top of the world and the next you feel you are climbing out of the sewer."
The bottom line is it takes a ton of work and effort and one day you feel on top of the world and the next you feel you are climbing out of the sewer. To be successful takes work and dedication. I will always work myself to the bone for my creation over working a stale corporate job.

Would you choose a colour (it doesn’t have to be a favourite) and explain the ideas and feelings it generates for you?
Gunmetal grey isn’t a colour but rather a value. To me it is a weight I carry on my shoulders. The soft yellow you find in aged paper says timeless to me.

What are your thoughts on the categorization of arts between “high brow”, “low brow”, “fine art”, and “outsider art”?
The main purpose is to give a large majority of people a comfort zone when viewing art. These labels are no different than class distinction. In a society of news flashes, fast food and porn we need to know rather quickly what the hell we are looking at so we can assess, judge and critic at a swift rate. On the other hand many artists use these varying labels to find a community or group to swim around with. Isn’t it really important to feel welcomed and loved?

Do you feel these labels serve any purpose?

Terms, classifications or labels are really important when it comes to writing. Art critics and analysis need rules to follow just like any other job. Are they good, sure, are they bad, of course. Regardless they will always be around.

Would you choose an image (by anyone aside from yourself) that you think is “great” and explain what makes it special for you?
I would have to say anything by Robert Rauschenberg. “State” (1958), “Warbler” (1957), and “Memorandum of Bids” (1957). I look at his work and see the ability to create freedom and redefine convention and thought. It seems so timeless and screams revolution.

Are there any other arts that you practice outside your usual work or that you want to learn?
I generally paint with my hands so sculpting would be a nice escape.

What are you working on now? And what are your aspirations for the future?
I am currently gearing up for my solo at OKOK Gallery in November 2007. My aspiration for the future is to get better at my craft.

Ideally, what will you be doing in 10 years?
In 10 years I see myself daydreaming and working through my ideas. Pushing myself to do better work. Wondering where the hell my hair went.

Grant Barnhart Studio
Grant Barnhart MySpace
OKOK Gallery
ArtistaDay Article
Spear Collective profile

16 June 2007


The Icelandic Love Corporation are enigmatic and their colourful, life affirming works are transient or anonymous. Because of this and having read numerous other interviews, I knew that this would be a challenge; a bit like catching smoke with a net or a scooping up the same piece of river more than once.

Their work spans a wide range of mediums including performance, sculpture, installations, music, film, television, painting, and literature. While certainly emotive, like their creators, the works are resistant to analysis. Trying to do so is rather pointless; a bit like trying to create a specific blueprint for how to run the rake through a Zen garden.

What I will say is that I find their work honest and refreshing with a seriousness that isn't cumbersome. As a whole, their body of work is like an ornate diary, a window into their own personal journeys with the most incredible, enlightening outlook.

In regards to the name of your group, would you explain the importance of the trio of words from which it is made: Icelandic, love, and corporation? And aside from the name itself, what changed between the group being known as Gjörningaklúbburinn and The Icelandic Love Corporation?
Well, we never thought about it as a trio of words, per se. When this name was first used, we were actually a quartet. Dóra Isleifsdóttir was a part of the group from 1996 - 2001. Why we chose those three exact words is both easy and hard to explain. Icelandic, well that's a fact. We are icelandic. Love. we like it. it is a strong idea. It is both a redeeming, creative and destructive element. but most of the time a very good thing. corporation.
"Some people seem to automatically connect the word love to something kitschy or childish. We really don't understand that."
Probably the megalomania in us back then was pretty strong. but also we thought it was funny. to be a corporation of four girls. We did not really sit around contemplating about this name for a very long time. it just seemed right. through the years we have thought about it from time to time and have grown to like it more and more. Some people seem to automatically connect the word love to something kitschy or childish. We really don't understand that. well partly we do, but we think that's unfair to love.

For us it's love for life and all that's in it, good and bad.

But the word Gjörningaklúbburinn literally translated means Performance Club. We didn't find that english version too exciting. In icelandic the word Gjörningaklúbburinn has various connotations or layers if you want to look for them. To magic and witchcraft (gjörningar) and to sewing circles (sauma "klúbbur").

So we just decided to pick a new name for the international conquering.

You have said before that you wish to remove your personalities from the work of the ILC and the words sterilise, empty, and white are a common thread through your interviews and write-ups.
Sterilise, empty, white.... to us that's the opposite of our work.

Can science and art mix?
It is going on all the time. And people should stop thinking that it isn't.

Does the manner in which you forge a relationship with an audience change with the setting or is it universal? And would you say this invisible relationship is your work rather than the performance, image, or object?
We never rehearse our performances and we very much expect something from the audience, otherwise there would be not point...but our work is our work. Some of it is created within a moment that cannot be done again and some of it is very long lasting. like Mother Earth for example. This piece will stay there for a long time and has no evidence of us in it.

Circus and truth?
Absurdity can point out the most obvious truth.

Would you say that there is anything particularly Icelandic about your work?
Us. And the fact that we work here in this space. We have been using icelandic heritage a bit, like sheepskin shoes and materials like wool and such , but also nylon and video.... I guess that we are not too afraid of nationalism..... but we mean it in a good way. We are hopefully not trying to be supericelandic.

But then we also belong to other groups, we are women, we were born in the seventies, we are white, pretty much healthy, we have all danced to a Dolly Parton song. So being icelandic is just one of these groups that humans belong to.
"...we absolutely don't want to know what exactly it is."
People here are trying to define what is icelandic. i was actually listening to a philosopher trying to do this the other day. I guess that it is futile. but there is something about being from an island, and also a small population. It has pros and cons.

Would you explain what part(if any) aesthetics play in your work? Is it the same as beauty? What is beauty?
We use that word a lot. Fallegt (beautiful) for all kinds of things. I think we are essentially trying to make something beautiful, but we absolutely don't want to know what exactly it is.

What do you think of finding meaning in coincidence?
there must be someone somewhere sitting at the switchboard.
"When we started doing things we were reacting against some boredom that comes with 'high brow' i guess."
What do you think about the way in which labels are applied in art such as “high brow”, “low brow”, “street art”, “fine art”, and “outsider art”? Do you feel labels serve any useful purpose in art?
Yes, in a way we think they do. Just like it is useful to have some kind of a language, even though it should not be taken for granted or written into some kind of a law, what is what. When we started doing things we were reacting against some boredom that comes with "high brow" i guess. but then we kind of sometimes are a part of "high brow"..... so it is very limiting to think that you belong to some specific department. All the departments kind of rely on each other in some ways. It would be no fun to react against something that wasn't there.

Would you continue from the following sentence?
While anticipating the sunrise, the polar bear… meditated, and then it sneezed.

Where do we go from here?
To where we belong.

Thank you.
Thank you!

Icelandic Love Corporation
ILC (Bjork.com special)
ILC - poetry
ILC - video

14 June 2007

Interview: NIKKI McCLURE

Another artist from my hometown of Olympia, Nikki McClure's works have a Zen simplicity that is both thought provoking and soothing. She is known for her intricate paper cuts painstakingly crafted with a knife as opposed to a brush or pencil. Community, motherhood, work, and nature play a prominent role in her work.

Her latest book 'Collect Raindrops' is a calming celebration of the little and important things in life and along with her other work is available at BuyOlympia.com.

What would you say is the influence of your environment and Olympia in general on your work?
It is the influence. Everything that I make is informed by the air I breathe and the trees and birds and soil. The physical environment is most important to me. And the human/built/cultural environment- this is important too, though less so now than in the past. Too many people I care about have moved away and I am so busy making my family strong and healthy that I have become a bit of a hermit.

And what reasons would you say lie behind the number of artists who are either from or who have settled in the area?
The foggy mornings and tidal smell and the feeling of co-operation and altruism.
"I like that I can't erase, that I have to find a solution that works with the mistake, rather than erasing it."
Would you tell us about your process of creating your paper cuts? And how would you say the process adds to your work?
I sketch ideas- from memories and photographs and staged photos of poses remembered by my muscles. Then I make a larger- to-size sketch, transfer this to black paper with pencil, and then start cutting. Make a mistake, fix it somehow, and keep cutting. The mistake part is very important. I like that I can't erase, that I have to find a solution that works with the mistake, rather than erasing it.

Also the flow of the blade, cutting is different than drawing. You can't draw a line over and over till you get it "right"- you just have to go for it with the knife in hand. There is a necessary confidence in the line.

Would you choose a color and explain the ideas and feelings it generates for you?
Color? I mostly work in black and white.
I am looking at color differently now. "Every thing has colors!", Finn, my 2 year old keeps exclaiming. Every color is made up of so many colors- it really is astounding.

Crows and motherhood appear quite a lot in your work. Is there a particular reason that these are manifest in your work?
I am a mother. We all are/were children.
I like crows because they are so smart and I want one to adopt me someday.

And in regards to the crow in particular, would you tell us about your interest in these birds both from a personal and artistic standpoint?
Hmmm...I want one to adopt me?
Sometimes it is easier to be a bird than a person in a picture.

What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages in being self-taught?
See above. It is just a crow! no bigger meaning!! The advantage is not knowing better and the disadvantage is not knowing better. Another advantage is that I could spend my college time studying the natural world: ornithology, botany, entomology.

And would you tell us about your journey as an artist?
Art was always there in my mind. I would dress up in fantastic outfits from my Grandmother's closet and draw all day. But I thought I would be a marine biologist as one couldn't really be an Artist. So I took natural history classes or made them up at The Evergreen State College. I made a book for my last quarter- a book of linocuts called "Wetlands" (still in print from the Washington State Dept. Of Ecology).

I graduated with a BS/BA and immediately went to work a one year internship at the Dept. of Ecology and didn't seek out state employment beyond that. I realized that I couldn't do 8-5 for 10, 20? 30 years? I did get really good at drawing ducks and cattails. I did this and that, small commercial jobs, for small amounts of money, then got a studio and started making paper cuts and really began a new journey: making the pictures and books that I wanted to make.

I just started one day and haven't stopped. I like the way it makes me feel.

What artists inspire you and why?
I am immersed in children's book illustrations now: Sendak and McCloskey. Sendak's ears and noses. McCloskey's watercolors in "Time of Wonder" sweep me away!

And do you practice any other arts outside imagery?
I wrote in college and then I moved on to singing-playing music or my body in front of other people around the country. I tried animation, but got 15 seconds after too many days in a windowless room= not me! For now I express myself visually.

Are there any skills which you would like to learn in future and why?
Knitting and more fabric printing techniques- for fashion ideas/personal wardrobe dreams. I will be making fabric designs for patagonia soon.

I would like to have a writing period again, perhaps when my hand and eyes give out.
"Art that moves people is what is important to me. I have no feelings on the categories."
What are your feelings about the classification of art into “high brow” and “low brow”?
Hmmm... another art question! inclusive/exclusive. exclusive/inclusive. Art that moves people is what is important to me. I have no feelings on the categories.

And what are your thoughts on digital art?
Digital art? go for it. I use computer to make the printed versions of my pictures...but I also use handcut text in a font that we made. I want it to be handmade without computer text as much as possible. Just like in nature how nothing is perfect. There are always holes in leaves, torn edges, no solid color. It is getting harder to see these things.

Do you feel that technology is incompatible with nature or is it possible for the two to exist in harmony?
I started to drift towards the answer to this above. Harmony is possible with caution, respect and humility.

How did Collect Raindrops develop?
I was asked by my editor, Eva Prinz , to make a book- we came upon the idea of a collection from the calendar series. I had been making paper cuts for 10 years. It is an important mark in time.

And what would you say is the central theme in the book and does it differ from your work in general?
Theme? the theme is: Things to Make and Do for the Next 1000 Years and How Humanity Must Focus on it's Postitive Attributes in Order to SURVIVE." It is the work that I have been doing for the past 10 years. I have done other projects, but the calendars are really my attempt to call out to the world.

Do you have any more books in development?
Yes!!! Very small beginnings and I am excited about them.
I am also finishing the 2008 calendar pictures right now (one more to go!)

What advice would you give parents to nurture their children’s artistic voice?
Observe, step back, follow, BE QUIET!
Have frequent contact with nature and dirt (parent and child- be a dirty example)
Finn is just starting to draw "things"- London Bridge to shooting stars. I'm just watching in awe.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the future?

To be able to watch in awe.

Thank you, Nikki. You are a diamond.

Nikki McClure
Buy Olympia - Nikki McClure
Fecal Face - Interview
WA State Dept. of Ecology - Wetlands
Nikki McClure Factsheet - Kill Rock Stars
Juxtapose Article
Rice Polak Gallery

01 June 2007

Interview: SUZY POLING

To me, Suzy Poling's photographic work is a refreshing blend of natural and man-made textures with obtuse narratives that hint at things both physically beyond the frame as well as chronologically outside the instant the image portrays. While there is a definite consistency in her work, it's hard to grasp with elements of the absurd, horrifying, and mysterious bundled in intriguing, sublime parcels.

I am very grateful for Suzy's participation and hope some of you might find the same kind of insight and inspiration that I have from her work. -Sioux

Working with Julia Solis on Fantastic Degradation and Wonderland of Decay/Imaginary Companions, how do you approach the collaborative effort and would you say your work is different when working in conjunction with another artist? And what have you learned while working with Julia?
In 2005, I found a picture of Julia’s in a magazine and then I looked up her site and was blown away. There was something about the way that she approached these places, namely hospitals, that was like an emotional preservation of some sort. I could see that she was looking a lot further into these rooms and hallways than most people. I was fascinated by her and noticed that she was using similar language about these kinds of places that I was using. I thought who is this person? So I emailed her out of the blue and we met once and it was total trust and we knew should work together.

"The purpose has been to channel energies and to play with remaining artifacts and forces in the space."

I had previously lived in an old theatre that I was really into and I had been seeking out abandoned amusement parks for a few years, she had responded to these photographs of mine. It made sense or seemed really organic that we would synch up and join forces or alliances to find many interesting things. I also had this project called Wonderland of Decay where the premise was about growth in decay and I had these mischievous characters covered in greens moving around and blending into this abandoned house. The project was absurd and kind of eerie.

Then Julia and I starting taking trips to more parks and hospitals and it was immediate magic. I brought in some costumes and material that fit the environments and it instantly felt like something was happening within our experiments as we moved around with the materials. The purpose has been to channel energies and to play with remaining artifacts and forces in the space. This is a shared experience has really only begun. The costumes and materials are only a bridge. Collaborating closely with someone who tunes into the same subtle vibrations of a place has been incredibly liberating and things like ego and control do not have any place.

Julia is also doing many things and has been organizing events and working on projects in hospitals for a while. Our collaborative work is called Fantastic Degradation and we have a site(darkpassage.com) and are finding ways to work on our stuff together as she is all the way in Brooklyn. It has felt like a fairly psychic relationship.

In regards to Transmutation Headquarters, you have said “Artefacts are activated to create scenarios inspired by science fiction film and found poltergeist photographs”. Would you explain how the project developed? And what science fiction films inspired this work and what do you mean by “found poltergeist photographs”? And what attracted you to these?
This project is such an unusual one to me. Part of it is about alienation and discomfort and then the other part is my attempt to make scenes like
Doctor Who. These photographs are inspired by Science Fiction movies by way of being these clunky and fairly awkward sets. The work was made in Michigan which is where I am from. The abandoned doctor’s office is this place where upon entrance it feels the exact same as always, it smells like old medicine and seems a bit dissonant.

As far the poltergeist photographs, I once saw this book of occurrences and there was one image where a pile of chairs was so deliberately placed against a wall as if someone wanted to climb the pile to the ceiling, it looked so violent and demonstrative. But it was all just happenstance. I was inspired by that type of interference with a place.

Wonderland of Decay and Imaginary Companions were created in five different mental institutions. Aside from the physical setting itself, what impact did the history of these places have on your work?
Well I don’t really indulge in the hard evidence of the hospitals as far as specifics of who the occupants were. My relationship with these places is much more surreal. I want to know how violent a place is but that is usually very clear as soon as we walk in the door. I am there to see how light moves in the space and through dark areas. I am there for the sounds and how the air moves through a place. I am looking at bits of evidence that could have represented attempts at providing happiness and escape in places that can feel so dark and full of pain. Sometimes a hallway appears as one long continuous composition with a dark end and beaming light with layers of texture in between like a cave. My interest lies in how a place can succumb to nature and how falling apart is an innate design. I guess you could say it’s a personal experience.....

"I am currently more interested in sculpture than most photographic work."

You also create costumes. Would you tell us about the importance of the costumes on your work? And is their design/sculpture stemmed from other non-photographic work you’ve done as an artist and how did this develop?
I am just using the costumes as a way to blend a figure into a space. It’s all about assimilation, mimicking and trying to combine textures of humans to textures of a deteriorated space. I am really into the
Vienna Actionists and their Material Action Manifestos. It’s about how all materials are the same. I plan to do more, more, more. I am currently more interested in sculpture than most photographic work.

Practically speaking, what have been the challenges of the environments in which you work and in what way did you overcome them? And how do you find and choose your locations?
Tons of research, driving, good navigation, clues from others and a good solid hunch. Well some of my work has entailed me to ask people nicely to get into a place or much of it is traveling and walking long distances. I usually have to overcome fatigue and some fear.

"I think of color as a potential psychological trigger in a photograph or an environment."

A lot of your collected works are created over long periods of time and at disparate locations. Is this an important aspect of these pieces? What do you feel the width of time/space adds to your work?
There has been this long period of time that expands a project. It’s usually due to rarity. I think it allows me to be patient and to think of these places as everlasting, even if they are going away fast. I have dreams about finding old amusement parks with giant wheels and tunnels that are decrepit with brightly colored spirals painted everywhere with rusted rides laying tilted in the middle of some interesting woods. For a while I had dreams about a place almost every night with kind of like the film
Carnival of Souls.

Would you tell us a little about your approach to colour and its importance to your photographs?
I think of color as a potential psychological trigger in a photograph or an environment. You are going to have a reaction if you walk down a bright pink hall vs. a blue one. In the movie
Three Women with Shelly Duval and Sissy Spacek, I appreciate how obsessed Shelly Duval’s character was with the color yellow. Everything was yellow in her life. Seeing so much yellow kind of set the emotional tone of the film. Besides, a room with everything colored yellow can be kind of disturbing.

Are there any other art forms which interest you outside of photography(and costume design) that you practice? Or alternatively, is there a discipline that you would like to learn?
Yes. I am very much into experimental sounds and noise music. I have a project called
Pod Blotz that I started in 2001. There has been a bunch of members. Mainly one person named Bobby. I would say that many of the places I have gone to inspire the music or vice versa. It’s all relative.

What non-photographic artists do you admire and/or inspire you?
As far as whom as I admire, well, where do I start? The
Dadaist, Russian Avante Garde, the Banana Splits, the Actionist, Yoko Ono, weird movies, Fluxus. As far as photographic work, Clarence John Laughlin played a huge roll in my work. His photographs of the plantation mansion in the 40's in New Orleans are completely eerie. He was said to be the Charles Baudelaire of photography. I am into Man Ray and Jeff Wall too.

What are the key events in the development of you as a photographer? And what first attracted you to the medium?
Well the reason I am attracted to photography because it is “real” and you can photograph things that look so potentially strange. The believability factor can be pushed in interesting ways. And I see photography as a great way to study something. Whether it is an experience, texture, light, etc.

Would you tell us about your work for the Snap program in Chicago and what you learned while working on the project?
This project was with city kids in Chicago where we put photography and words in a publication. I worked with all younger people my age and we all ran our own programs. It was all very raw, organic, antonymous and political. I like teaching and I also had worked with homeless teens. One of my students was dealing with schizophrenia and that was really intense and meaningful to me to try to communicate. I will be working with incarcerated youth this fall in San Francisco as well as potentially doing medical photography of the human eye with Ophthalmologists.

"The beached whale was by far the most psychedelic textured object that I have ever laid eyes on."

What do you think of the tendency to categorise art with labels like “high brow”, “low brow”, “street art”, or “outsider art”? And in general, are labels and gradations of art in any way useful?
I don’t really think about art or creativity in this way. I mean an ant farm or beehive is high art. I don’t believe in conformity, so whatever you can do to remain pure you should do. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to navigate and I believe in independence and free agents if you will. I just don’t get hung upon labels or restrictions.

What are your aspirations for the future and what are you working on now? When can we expect to see more work from Nature Mutation?
More sewing, more trips, music and video. I have a solo show this month in June at
Zg Gallery in Chicago. And Julia Solis and I are working on compiling work for Fantastic Degradation this summer. I will definitely be working more on Nature Mutation. That started with finding toxic oddities and with making swampy costumes with Loach Fillet who was a part of Pod Blotz. We did a book together and I have been inspired by his textured drawings of nature and configurations.

I am planning to get to Chernobyl and to continue exploring the coastline in California. That is where I found the whale. The beached whale was by far the most psychedelic textured object that I have ever laid eyes on. Nature Mutation is about nature assimilation as well as metaphorical ramblings about finding things. I also have a slime movie coming out soon with Carlos Gonzales. It’s all about mysteries of slime and scum. It’s taking my obsession with the color green a bit too far.

Thank you, Suzy. I can not wait to see what you do next.

suzypolingphoto.com (commercial)
Pod Blotz MySpace
ZG Gallery
Julia Solis Wiki
The Vienna Actionists
Loach Fillet