+ David Hammons
Lisa Kirk, Backyard Adversaries (Ashes to Ashes),2011, archival pigment print on Hahnemuhle Fine Art paper,
shot and then burned, Sally Hanson "Ashes to Ashes" and "Ice Age" nail polish on linen, 59 x 74 cm, 59 x 59 cm.
Courtesy of the artist and Invisible-Exports.
David Hammons, Fly Jar, 1996, glass, twigs, steel clasps, wire cloth, 19 in diameter x 19 in high. Collection of Peter Norton.
Q+A: Lisa Kirk
How has the artist you chose influenced or inspired you?
Well, when I was asked to come up with an artist who has influenced me for this exhibition my first thought was David Hammons. The other two artists that came to mind were Cady Noland and Felix Gonzalez-Torres. These three artists really inspired me as a young art student at SVA, because their ideas seemed to radiate out from what is often the most overlooked. It was the perfect metaphor for a black man, a woman and a gay male to operate within. Through the re-appropriation of these common objects, they unveiled an intensity and personalness of material that somehow related to the body as a site for political intervention. That transformation of objects and their meaning is what really made me want to become an artist. That level of sublime alchemy, the act of making work that is not only inspiring, but is revolutionary.
In David Hammons' snowball project, for instance, he takes an object that would never have any longevity, a completely impermanent thing, and sells it on the street as an artwork. The collectors that bought the snowballs and stored them in their freezers got slammed years later with the reality of a blackout in 2007. There was sheer panic. I love this idea, taking something mundane and perhaps useless, but something that has a kind of personal resonance about where you come from,
referencing the autobiographical. And then there's this political transformation that happens when you make that thing it into a work of art. It becomes a pretty radical statement about your position and relationship to culture and the art world. It's powerful and empowering.
And in turn how have you influenced those around you?
I hope that my experience as a teacher has been influential. I have established some really great relationships with my students and I am very happy with the results of their work. It's interesting to see how one's own work can impart interesting and challenging ideas in another's practice. Perhaps, too, in another way, my contributions to the art world as an organizer/curator have also had some influence on a few artists' careers, which for me is a great yet unintentional reward—the best kind.
How has the audience, if at all, been influential?
I really try to make my work for a broad audience, it's really important to me that my ideas are not limited to just the art world. So with every project, I produce parts of it for a larger audience, so that a non-art public can enjoy it, participate in it, and sometimes-even help to make it. My newest work, Backyard Adversaries, 2011, is a four-channel surround sound video installation that will be screened in one of the federal buildings at Governors Island this summer. This venue is great as it hosts tens of thousands of visitors over the course of its season. But even better, the space also works as a perfect site-specific location, since the video's content challenges the history and influence of war and violence in America, and how that information is disseminated and absorbed by
young people today.
What does feminism mean to you? Does it influence your practice or the way you position your work? Some public figures have said we live in a post-gender condition, would you agree?
I can't relate to that at all. It just doesn't make any sense. Gay people still can't get married and transsexuals still don't have the same kind of rights that straight people have. Women get paid 25% less than men and admittedly art collectors don't buy as much work by women artists as they do by their male contenders. There's still violence and oppression against women, gays, blacks, poor people, Jews, people of the Middle East, etc…. I think that people, and even myself, are perhaps exhausted by isms. But denial is exactly why we need feminism, among the other isms. The problem is no one likes them….
The reason that I organized "Bonds of Love" in 2007, was exactly because of this double standard. No one says a peep about an all-guy show, it never ever gets labeled as a chauvinist show, however if you put a bunch of ladies together in a group show context—shazam, it's a feminist show. Its impossible to deny feminism, the validity and historical importance of it, however, it is a catch-22; one can't get ahead by essentializing or "othering" themselves. There are few perks in being the underdog in this world, and people don't like to have their power challenged. If you're lucky, someone might empathize with you if you market your "other" well, but it's highly unlikely that the people in power will ever fight for your rights or change theirs for you, they might just give you a little money
for what you can contribute to culture.