Sunday, February 28, 2016

Now here, nowhere: An Interview with Mike Calway-Fagen by Lisha Kirpalani

1. What experiences of collective vulnerability happens from the mobile stage installation in the exhibit? 
             The installation deals with how perceptual tools shape the world as it appears to us, individually and collectively. These tools are: sight as it picks apart imagery and the cognitive process of recognition, the subjective nature of taste, as in the "sour" grapefruit juice, language's ability to enable understanding and dislodge it through communication and through the text-video component of the installation, the exhibition platform/stage I've created and the dissolution of the third-wall which takes place when the viewer and performer discuss their individual sensations while drinking the juice. 

Through these various constructed modes each of us formulate our own understanding of the world. The installation asks us to individually shed these filtering and cognitive processes and arrive at a state where shared understanding necessitates shared vulnerability.
Mobile Stage Housing The Full Sight and The Remainder

2. What is the role/significance of the grapefruit in your performance? Why is the interaction with the audience important in this work?
I have found that grapefruits and grapefruit juice are some of the most contentious fruits/juices. On the friendlier end of the spectrum they've been deemed an "acquired taste" but other opinions are far more vitriolic. Ultimately, the contention lies in the fact that they are sour, an unorthodoxly appealing flavor. Sour is experienced in a purely subjective fashion and to try and convey sour as a quantifiable measure is pure conjecture and futile, similar to a doctor's pain-scale. Individuals discussing the nature of the flavor they're experiencing will never know whether they are on the same page or ships passing in the night. At best, they can only hope for a shared understanding that they will never truly comprehend the other and arrive at a space of restless empathy.
Performance making grapefruit juice on opening night

3.There seems to be a connection with the grapefruit and the ‘Honeydew Cantaloupe’ piece. Can you tell me more about this? 
Translation is dealt with in both works. Honeydew Cantaloupe employs a similar gesturing at a perfect facsimile or translation but ultimately is only as good as i can do. From the initial purchase of the loose pile of scrap to the welded object-pile a lot of information is misplaced, inadvertently altered, approximated, or left out completely. I attempted perfection by trying to recreate the original using documentation but ultimately fell short. The final translation lies in the art object's reentering the scrapyard and he flow of materials. It goes from trash to art back to trash and all that's left is the photographic trace which neither lies nor purports to tell the truth gaining, losing, and gaining value again during the process.
Honeydew Cantaloupe

4.Can you tell me more about the film Resurrecting Revolt that will be screened during the exhibition? 
There isn't a film. I never made one. Just the photos.

The project was very cinematic in nature as it exhumed a vital historical moment, a moment when groups of dispossessed Indigenous peoples, including members of the Cupeno Indians, rose up to assert their Native rights. The moment has been omitted from most mainstream historical narratives including its absence at the National Park in which it took place. The project was an attempt to resuscitate this effort and the leader of the Cupeno Indians, Chief Antonio Garra's brave and poetic attempt to assert his people's rights while ameliorating guilt, guilt that he positioned, humbly, as a human condition. He was killed, directly after speaking the phrase included in the project, by the American invaders.
Resurrecting Revolt

5.How is the sense of humor and play vital to your work? Is it always deliberate?
Humor and play directly influence how I formulate, conceptualize, and realize projects. I think of these tactics less as having a good time with the work and more so as vital survival and adaptive strategies for thinking about the world in a less linear fashion. Questions, which play, humor, and chance exercise, flex and bend customary thinking, normative behaviors, and cultural standards. This is art's role for me.
6.How do you come up with inspiration/ideas/concepts for your work?
I have a site-sensitive, site-responsive approach and I think about site in a very expansive sense. A site is a physical place, a site is an idea, a site is a body, a site is a historical moment. 
First and Last and Midst and without End

7.What does your studio look like? What is your studio routine?
It's a disaster and so am I. I have no routine. I work when I feel compelled to, which is usually all the time, but mostly in my head. 
8.What are some distractions in your studio?
Everything, but mostly love. Also, the longer I consider myself an artist the less I seem to be interested in a studio practice. I wouldn't call myself a post-studio artist but I do draw most energies and ideas from existing in a world that is external to the rarified space of the studio.
First and Last and Midst and without End-detail of Kidney Stones

9.When do you consider work finished? Is there a planned outcome?
I like to think of everything I do or think as provisional, as unfinished. Or maybe more accurately, as unfinished but resolved.
10.Has the interplay between your work and Tim Tozer’s painting affected how you view your work? What do you think of this juxtaposition? 
I'm not sure that it has affected how I produce my work but definitely for possibilities in how I think about it. I think the union of the two disparate bodies of work, Tim and mine, sets up a very interesting dialogue about space, frameworks for relationships, and provisional imagery that allows meaning to develop and grow.
Detail of Cast Bronze Ginseng

11.Does your experience as a professor influence the way you work? 
Absolutely. I entered academia thinking very seriously about how to shirk a lot of the baggage that academic spaces are saddled with; institutionalized critique, stylistic trends, market influence and maybe more importantly, authority and university hierarchies. I try and approach the classroom as a space of exchange, challenging my position as professor of ideas, opting instead for facilitation, question formulator, tool-giver, inspiration, and enabler.

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