Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Say hello (hello) to Gretchen Bennett

Dying Fawn

If I tried to sum up your work with one word, it would be reverberate.  Can you talk about that idea? 

I just finished a show with Matthew Offenbacher, Heide Hinrichs and Jenny Heishman, in which we talked about what it is to live in a place, given it's history, and make it our own.  Through my work with them and the Helm show, I was able to leave things quite open, so that the work still feels like its living and morphing. In the last year I've translated online digital footage of Nirvana into colored pencil drawings, preserving the visual noise. When I leave stickers on the street, it's an act of commemoration, it's never pointing to the present, actually. Because the viewer is always coming up on what I leave at least a moment later. The message is always: I was here, rather than, I am here. In this way, I am always aware of reverberation; of memory and landmarks.

Johnny Cash Died of a Broken Heart

Last year, Jen Graves said about you, “Her work is always about landscapes, and often about mapping, about being located somewhere and being absent from somewhere else.”  Have you resolved the longing to be where you are not? Are you feeling more rooted? 

I still want to place myself within a given landscape, to deconstruct those elements within a place that shape me. Absence is still a part of the work. However, I also want to explore light and pixelation, those qualities that cause something to fall apart, come back together in perception. This exploration has led me to new media, such as video and sound. Being in a community with Yann Novak, Garek Druss, Wyndel HuntDW Burnam, Dawn Cerny, I've been thinking of things in very aural and lateral terms, wanting to work more and more the way musicians and writers work. I've been taking piano lessons from Brant Campbell (Celebrity Orphans), in order to explore other (recording) artists' approach to creative output. I'm focusing on those artists, like Cat Power, Kurt Cobain and Gus Van Sant, who at times say what I want to say. By repeating them in specific ways, through drawings and recording, I am learning about structure, and I think this process of recitation and repetition is leading me to original creation, to output of my own in new ways. 

From Along the East River

Community is very important to you.  You frequently collaborate and influence.  How does this concept of community present itself in your work?

I really owe KAWS and other sticker makers quite a debt. They've been instructive and generous, and even though I haven't met a lot of them, I am engaged in a dialog with them, and with the culture they are pushing forward. I should make a sticker edition just for KAWS. The fact that someone like the Free Sheep Foundation chooses to bring people together is a model for me and has been generative. I was at an opening of theirs, which involved them serving dinner and red wine, a white elephant gift exchange and some spontaneous performance.

Black Bag

Thinking about your Helm Residency, your migration into film/music and your breakthrough drawings (five of which will be included in Michael Darling’s S.A.M. show, Kurt), you seem heavily influenced by Kurt Cobain.  Do you identify with him? 

Charles Mudede directed my attention to Alain Badiou and his concept of "the void". In the context of Charles Peterson's new book, Cypher, Charles Mudede went on to describe second wave break dancers and Nirvana as having created a space for new things to happen by creating a void, or nullifying certain key aspects of culture that had come before, such as Whitesnake and Def Leppard.  In a Stranger article he talks about flying bodies, in the context of the void. I've been thinking about Yves Klein, how his leap could be about falling or rising. These are all things that have given me a lot to think about. 


Your writing has become an increasingly important component of your art. The piece you wrote for La Especial Norte made my heart ache (in a good way). How does your writing relate to your artistic practice? 
I use the Alaska Way Viaduct as my umbrella on rainy days. It runs along the water till it disappears over the dirt cliff north of the Pike Place Market. It's my shelter from the rain, but not my compass. Going south, the mountains are on my right, moving north, they are on my left. If I am in the streets, I know where home is, because I am not at home. That fact is what keeps me moving.  There are landmarks I navigate by, but they all lead somewhere else; they all point homeward. One day I was waiting in line at a magazine kiosk to buy my paper. I mistook a vendor for a fellow customer and asked him, “Are you waiting?” “Yes,” he replied, “I work here and I’m waiting to go home.” Gretchen Bennett (excerpt, L.E.N. #1)
For the L.E.N. piece, I was writing based on "Two of Us", a Lennon/McCartney song. And, while, in the end, the song structure was all but invisible, it was really what I was thinking about the whole time, and just plugging in my own words and experience. I want to gather from observation, to literally take and reconfigure those things I encounter that speak to me. I can do this with words and sounds, as well as with found paper and collected street stickers. My collaborations with other artists, including you, have led me to new ways of expression. Part of my process is learning new materials and technology, in order to move the work forward, learning new methods as I go. I've started applying this to writing. Reading and reconfiguring is not new, I'm just noticing it, using it to my ends. 

Junk Dog (N. 3rd)

Supernature was one of my favorite shows last year.  Where did that come from?  Will we see more curation by you in the future? 

I wanted to rekindle and exchange with some artists, living for the most part on the east coast.  It was rewarding, even if I didn't have face to face contact with most of them. All who participated were generous. In the course of putting the show together, working pretty closely with Billy Howard, I became very interested in the framed image, the implications of what might be outside of the frame, and with painting. 

Mountain of Dirt

What’s next, Gretchen?

In the last year I've really been going back and forth between very formal drawings, made of digital information, and expanding into digital media and sound, in a very raw way. I'm also really in love with clay work. I'm working on an artist edition for Open Satellite that may take me back to felting. I should be writing more. I can't really sum it up, but it seems exciting.



sharon said...

So awesome, great interview. Gretchen really is a poet.

Dave said...

What a beautifully written interview. I didn't think it was possible to love Gretchen anymore. I was wrong. :)

Dave said...

..and of course by "anymore" I mean I didn't think it was possible to love her more than I already did.