Performance Is Alive is in Miami for Miami Art Week 2015! We are thrilled to introduce Alexandra Hammond, our Miami Art Week performance correspondent. In true Performance Is Alive fashion, we interviewed Hammond to learn more about her background, thoughts on the art fair model and of course, performance art! Enjoy the interview below and stay tuned on our Facebook and Instagram page for live updates.
QUINN DUKES: Can you share a bit of your background?
ALEXANDRA HAMMOND: I'm an interdisciplinary artist, writer and designer. My art practice is rooted in painting, but is also involved with space. My paintings are optical and architectonic. They are about the body and stories. I grew up in Northern California and spent a lot of time out of doors and in imaginary worlds. This was my salvation from what was sometimes a painful reality. For me, art deals in what French philosopher Bernard Stiegler calls "primordial desire", which is the life-sustaining force of the gut. This desire can be difficult to locate in contemporary life. Making and dialogue about art is a place to maintain it.
QD: When was your first encounter with performance art?
AH: My first encounter with formalized performance art was my freshman year in NYU's studio art program. I remember learning about Carolee Schneeman's Interior Scroll and being blown away. My parents were activists in the 1960s and I have a cousin who was in the San Francisco Mime Troupe, so I was familiar with politically engaged theater and the Theater of the Oppressed, but the history of feminist performance was a whole new thing.
QD: What do you think about performance art in the context of a major art fair vs. a gallery?
AH: The art fair context seems antithetical to performance (and all art!) in the sense that it is generally overwhelming and an assault on the senses and all forms of contemplation. On the other hand, art fairs are a reality of the art market, and therefore, they draw the art community. Most performance that I have seen at art fairs has been focused on creating a hubbub or momentary spectacle, so it will be interesting to see how a broader range of performance holds up at Art Basel this year. As I mentioned, I think its just as hard to take in object-based forms as time-based forms in the art fair setting. Then again, galleries are rather strange settings as well. The difference between engaging with artworks at an art fair vs a gallery might be analogous to shopping at a giant mall vs a curated boutique.
QD: When did you start writing about art? What led you to it?
AH: I've always liked to write, but I started identifying as a writer during graduate school at SVA's MFA Art Practice department. I was the youngest by a lot in a family that talks a lot, so I grew up listening. I write by ear and as a way to think and clarify thinking. Writing adds rigor to thinking, it makes thoughts real, in a sense. My writing is, for the most part, separate from my art practice, although much of my art practice involves words, titles and stories. This is often where I start on a project, but it's very different from analytical or theoretical writing.
QD: Is there a difference between writing about live art vs. 2D/3D based work?
AH: I don't think there is a significant difference between writing about live art and 2D/3D art. As human animals, we encounter the world through our bodily senses. Recent neuropsychological research suggests that our understanding of metaphor is based on sensory perception. Therefore, looking at a painting from the Renaissance may engage the body just as much as a durational performance. I like to consider all artworks in the context of space and modes of display, so the only thing that would differ about a discussion of live or time-based art would be the potential for including a kind of play-by-play description of events. Depending on the performance, this may not be relevant. Likewise, some 2D and 3D shows unfold in a particular sequence for the viewer, in which case, the play-by-play description could also be relevant.
QD: Any shows happening during Miami Art Week that you are particularly excited to see?
AH: I'm excited to see Artist-Run, the Satellite Show at the Ocean Terrace Hotel. I'm a sucker for artworks installed in nontraditional or derelict settings, and of course I'm interested in artist-organized events that aren't so commercially driven and prohibitively expensive for exhibitors. I look forward to seeing what's there and how it compares to the slick commercial shows.