London, June 2009 - Artslant's writer, Ashley Vaughan, talked with Kate Hawkins about her varied and exciting work, collaborations and the eating of peas.
Ashley Vaughan: For your last exhibition at Bischoff Weiss, the gallery labeled you as a performance and video artist, yet you also work with painting and drawing. Where would you situate your practice?
Kate Hawkins: Perhaps somewhere in the middle? I try not to think about it too much although I would like to research more comprehensively in regards to how performance and painting might begin to sit alongside each other within my practice. I suspect this will come down to a question of display (or packaging) –which relates back to my current thinking around the cosmetic, ideas of self-design and empty brands that are synecdochically less than the sum of their parts: spaces to be filled.
AV: What brought about the transition from painting to video, and back again? Could you explain your process? Do you start with a concept or idea and define it through the medium that works best?
KH: In short yes. I suppose the transition from performance to painting occurred because my thinking became flatter and increasingly focused on the idea of facade as opposed to what was underlying it. The performances I was doing at the time were dealing a lot with surface but I was not! I quickly realized that painting was the only way forward. In that sense it was a new and terrifying challenge: I basically wanted to see if I could do it (I think I have also always subconsciously aspired in being ‘a painter’). Nowadays however the two ways of working exist much more in tandem - I think it’s a healthier balance.
AV: When describing some of your recent works, The Aesthetic Responsibility and the Untitled collages, you mention Boris Groys, Guy Debord, and the spectacles of consumer culture. Who or what else are you reading at the moment? What other philosophers/theorists are especially pertinent to your current work?
KH: I’m reading an awful lot of property brochures and mortgage literature: house specs, dims, floor-plans, mortgage promises and rates – it’s all fascinating stuff.
AV: You say that Untitled (Collages, 2009), is an attempt to reconcile your artistic practice with society's increasingly aestheticized and dishonest social and political spheres... 'Reconcile' is an interesting word choice. Could you explain that further?
KH: I think ‘reconcile’ in this context was a strategy to come to terms with the fact that society’s increasingly aestheticized and dishonest social and political spheres are as they are and are unlikely to be changed. This obviously jars horribly with my over-optimistic outlook and belief in sincerity.
AV: You have collaborated on several performance pieces with Eloise Fornieles. How does working with another artist change the dynamics of your work? How much planning, in a video sense, or practice, in a performance sense, happens for each piece?
KH: When I work with Eloise the gestation period is generally quite long. We probably realize (from beginning to end) about one performance a year and they tend to be quite highly choreographed. The rehearsal process is certainly intrinsic to our collaborative practice and tends to echo the concept: a lot of our work considers the ‘designed’ society we live in and the ways in which a certain self-awareness and self-design have become common currency. Rehearsal seems to be intrinsic to this kind of carefully considered social behavior.
Working with another artist of course changes the dynamics of the work but then that’s why we do it! Obviously you learn to compromise in the process, but I think you come out of it learning even more about yourself than about the other person. It’s extremely rewarding and probably quite good for someone like me who has been known to have a few control issues in the past! You just have to give it up and let things happen - the greatest moments in performance tend to be unplanned. Also I think Eloise and I start from two entirely different places so when we meet in the middle the magic happens!
AV: Whether you are painstakingly eating massive amounts of peas (Eternal Peas, 2005) or choreographing rhythmic, unnatural kisses (Please to Meet You, 2006), your work is very physical. What performance was the most challenging for you to perform?
KH: That’s a tricky one – I would probably say Eternal Peas because of the four hour endurance of eating peas one by one and very slowly but Mal Gusto and Please to Meet You were equally challenging in their own right. The latter was extremely emotionally draining and involved repeated physical and emotional transitions from a public sphere to a much more intimate one, and then back again. Mal Gusto’s physicality was also very demanding – we are not professional dancers but in that particular performance we took on the role of such.
ArtSlant would like to thank Kate Hawkins for her assistance in making this inteview possible.
(All Images Courtesy of the Artist)