New to the Q&A series this year is the addition of staff members, many of whom GS students interact with on a regular basis. First up we have Siobhan Landry, who is the Education Assistant and TA Liaison as well as a working video artist.
Where are you from? Tell us a little bit about your background.
I’m from Massachusetts. I went to school in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It’s a beautiful place but it’s really in the middle of nowhere. I haven’t been back since I finished school. I had art history for undergrad, and then I was in Boston. Then I realized that I didn’t really like writing enough to be a professor, and I missed making art, so I took photo classes in Boston, went to grad school, and ended up making mostly video.
Could you tell us a little bit about your videos?
They’re kind of about how people relate to each other through objects. There’s one that I made about a table. I wasn’t even making work about my parents at the time; I was making work about a park in Connecticut, about how it was a non-place. I had read all these things about places, and was interested in that. The work really wasn’t going anywhere, and I was telling my parents about my work is always about this one thing that’s concrete, like we can agree that this is a table, and what its properties are–it’s made out of wood, or whatever, but everyone has different opinions on what it is and what it means. And my parents got into sort of an argument over it. As they were doing it, I was like “holy shit, I’m trying to make work over here, but they are actually doing it right in front of me.” So I went back and just had them do the conversation again. It’s like a three-hour conversation, so it’s way edited down. I took out all of the specifics and particulars–I want it to be a little bit more anonymous, and not located in a specific cultural context, to an extend.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on three projects. I want to work on longer projects, to go more deeply into subjects. So let’s see, I’m not working on three projects simultaneously, there are just three things going on. The one that I’m doing now is opening up at the Queens Musuem. They are reopening their museum and having a show. This project I started last June, I’ve been following around ghost hunters. I proposed a project, I wanted to do a fake ghost hunting reality show at a historic house, so I was gonna orchestrate it. I like historic houses because I think they invite imaginations, and they sort of construct stories or myths for different areas, but they so often cling to historical facts and some sort of authority, so basically I was getting in there to kind of mess with that. It was actually an aggressive proposal, which I wasn’t fully conscious of.
I proposed it to Queens Museum, and they said yes, and then I had to find a historical house that would let me do it. A couple of them told me no, but this one place said yes. Because this whole idea of ghost or hunting or the paranormal cult is all stuff that makes people think either it’s trashy, or they think it’ll undermine them in some way. But this one place said yes, and they were having an actual paranormal group come, so it was coincidence. I said obviously I should go and see what they do, and I ended up following them around all summer. And then the critique of historical societies sort of fell away, and I realized there was this sort of weird finite between me and the ghost hunting group, because they are actually photographers and videographers, you know? And what they are doing is sort of unnamable or impossible, which I feel like a lot of photographers have practices like that, so there is this funny sort of mirroring. And the video has all sorts of…it wasn’t even a trope, it was just the nature of what was happening–that it was a double camera. So I have my camera on them, and whatever is happening is always off-screen, which I realized happens a lot in reality shows.
Being a working artist, how do you feel like working at a place like ICP?
It definitely helps to be in a place where you are encouraged, even your casual conversations are about the things you are interested in, rather than if you are elsewhere, and you are talking something unrelated. Also, taking out equipment and using the facilities, it’s a big deal.
Siobhan is participating in Queens International 2013, part of the celebration of the re-opening of Queens Museum of Art this Saturday, Nov 9.