This is 5 Questions. Each week, we send five questions to an artist featured in Under the Radar, our weekly email highlighting the best art on the ArtSlant network. This week we seek answers from Rana Siegel.
What are you trying to communicate with your work?
I don’t set out to communicate something in particular—it’s not so intentional or what directs my work; rather, communication/meaning grows out from an intuitive process of making that’s tactile and responsive. It emerges from an exchange, like a conversation; it’s somatic, being realized through the body, like dance or music. The work is a combination of the process, or the performance as I like to call it, and the “thing” that’s being made. I don’t delineate between the two as they have equal value. The process involved is inseparable from the content or the content arrives from the process. The interplay of movements between my hands and that which I am working with stimulate thought processes that lead to questions, urges, and curiosities that are then investigated and answered. Choices in arrangements and material combinations gain significance, even the slightest of acts become substantial.
The work is in a constant state of being/becoming; it’s not resolute. It is made in the moment and subject to change if made in the next. The sense of touch becomes very important, not only with how I engage with the work, but with how the materials and structures interact with each other. They aren’t fixed or bound, instead, they come together by balancing on each other, wrapping, falling, allowing gravity to take hold; they’re verbs. They are quite gestural, each having their behavioral qualities. Like characters, they can be precarious and at times vulnerable. They can be seen as visual narratives, where someone can supply their own meaning and connections. They are forever open to different possibilities. I think there is a beauty and realness in that.
What is an artist’s responsibility?
It may depend on the kind of artwork someone makes, but in general, I don’t think an artist has a responsibility.
Show us the greatest thing you ever made (art or not)?
Breadth, 2008, Smoke, paper
I don’t have the “greatest,” not yet, but this work taught me something of great value. This image is from an ongoing series called Breadth, which I started back in undergrad, in response to a simple request by my professor: make a drawing. I never sketched or did anything two-dimensional; I skipped over that first year of art school, bypassing all those tedious tasks, and jumped right into a Fiber department where I explored the dimensions of materiality and predominately made site-specific installations. Maybe she was curious to see what my type of drawing would look like, how I would approach that question, or maybe she wanted me to see something.
I am not sure how the process came to be, but I crafted this elaborate system that included smoke, stools, long planks of wood. I was lying on the ground and by controlling the suction of air, created these linear-type drawings. The process was very physical, and I was intrigued by my recipe of production. Each drawing was unique, a surprise, as I never saw the work until it was made. They were delicate, and over time you could start to see dust particles accumulate on the surface of the soot—they aged that way. They were very tactile—the whole process was—and that seemed very fitting with how I was already making work.
In that moment, I became aware of something important, something about how I operate; it was self-reflective. You can understand something about yourself when you leave the familiar and dive into different mediums, creative or not. It is similar to traveling somewhere new, when you leave your familiar backdrops and you're paired down to your essentials. As a student, this was a very good lesson; it was enlightening, still is.
Mini Monumental, 2016-2017, Stone, misc. ribbon
Tell us about a work you want to make but never will:
I actually have an idea that I hope could be a reality some day, but it also might be a little far-fetched, so it seems appropriate for this question. I want to compose a symphonic experience made in several movements, written for voice for a huge choir. I think of voices like threads and want them to circulate around a large vast space, the kind that amplifies and lifts sound. The bodies would be stationary and the collective sound would be what travels by way of the orchestration—alternating notes, volume, reverberation... something like that.
Who are three artists we should know but probably don’t?
This is hard, only three? So I am going to limit myself to Chicago and list the first three who come to mind, though they don’t need my praise, but I do admire them and think they add depth to our creative community: Atom-R (Anatomical Theaters of Mixed Realities), Karolina Gnatowski, and DFBRL8R, which is not a person, though it is run by the ever-talented Joseph Ravens, but a space for performance art.
—The ArtSlant Team
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(Image at top: Ravel, 2016, Slate, misc. fiber material)