Matthew Corcoran is a gem of a human being. An individual who sees and embraces the quirks and nuances of humans, and who is very of aware of the space we live in, whether that be in the concrete enclaves of the city, or the natural landscape of Minnesota, Washington, and beyond. These intrinsic parts of his character resonant in his photography. The juxtaposition of urban dwellings with nature, highlighting the human figure, and, in the process, creating images that produce an aesthetically beautiful interpretation of existence.
Matthew took a few moments to answer my questions, giving insight into his aesthetic. For more on Matthew and his work, take a moment to visit http://www.matthewandhiscamera.com/.
Tell me about your aesthetic?
My aesthetic changes a lot. I am constantly look for new ways of presenting subjects and landscapes. I work a lot with film and it leads to a lot of experimenting. But I always seem to have an overall goal of presenting an unfamiliar view of familiar scenes.
How did you arrive at your current aesthetic?
I am always trying new things. Most of it is experimentation. I like not knowing what I am going to get, which is why I still shoot a lot of film. Currently I am playing around with soaking my film. Using soaps, alchohols, etc. to manipulate the colors in my photos. Searching for ways to take a photo that makes it seem more like a memory. Unclear and dreamlike.
What do you seek to address with your photography?
I dont know if I seek to address anything specifically. I am always looking for something new and different. In this age of instagram and tumblr, its easy to consume a lot of images and its hard to find anything that you haven't seen before. I am always searching for something that will change my perspective.
What been a few of your favorite environments and images to capture?
Since I returned to Minnesota after living in Seattle, I have been trying to address the environment and culture of MN. I really miss a lot of the aesthetics of the PNW, but Minnesota offers a rich familiar environment. I am using photography to get reaquainted with my home state.
One thing that draws me to your work is the juxtaposition of rural and urban, nature woven together with the human constructed. Would this be a fair assessment and, if so, how has this changed between locales (Minneapolis and Seattle)?
That is a fair assesment. I think that a big change has been how I capture my subject. Instead of just shooting to create an environment, I have been focusing more on the subjects of the photo's and telling their story. More literary than atmospheric.
The first, and only, time that I used Kickstarter to fund a creative project was the winter of 2013. The project, A PerFarmance Project in Cloneen, Ireland, was a community-based performing arts residency that centered on food production and investigating the identity of a small farming village in County Tipperary. We were seeking to raise enough money to cover our costs ($1,300), and we succeeded in achieving this goal. In fact, we exceeded our goal by nearly $300 (most of which went right back to Kickstarter as part of the percentage they keep). I like to think the donors became collectors of performance - making a financial commitment to an ephemeral act and, in the process, collecting cultural capital.
While being a collector of performance may seem a tangible impossibility, I think it's an interesting notion to consider in light of the recent surge of on-line funding campaigns. Yes, one can not store performers and access their repertoire whenever they wish. And while film, photo, and written documentation is important for documenting performance, the very act of documenting performance makes it into something quite different. But the notion that intrigues me, and that should be pondered, is this:
A donor to performance is also a collector of performance.
A collector of performance may seem out of the question, but a thought that should be considered in an age of dwindling financial resources for the arts. It also highlights a more reciprocal relationship between performer and collector. The question fundraisers might ask is, "How does one sell stake in an ephemeral act?" Yes, as you scroll through on-line fundraising campaigns, you'll be presented with a plethora of gift packages associated to different donor levels. A $10 donation may procure for you a "Thank You" on the organizations Facebook page. A $50 donation may offer a personal letter of thanks to accompany a mass produced t-shirt. While a fine way of giving thanks, these acts do little to support the act of collecting cultural capital.
And people enjoy collecting. So why approach fundraising campaigns as an opportunity for collectors. According to Jean Baudrillard, "(e)nthusiasts will insist that they are 'crazy about (an) object, and without exception... they will maintain about their collection an aura of the clandestine, of confinement, secrecy and dissimulation, all of which give rise to the unmistakable impression of a guilty relationship" (9). However, what the collector is investing in is, as stated before, ephemeral. The objects Baudrillard speaks of are replaced by moments, and don't allow for the "confinement, secrecy and dissimulation" that a room of paintings or antiques might produce. But I would argue that an aura is placed around these moments by the collector. They may not be able to touch or view their collection whenever they please, but they enter into a relationship with the performer through the act of purchasing stake. Supporting the arts and, in doing so, procuring for themselves cultural capital.
However, I can feel I must resist a pull towards the altruistic. Despite the altruistic feel-good emotion cast by purchasing stake and supporting the arts, the collector will have an urge to connect with their ephemeral moment. As stated by the title character in Bruce Chatwin's 1988 novel Utz, "private ownership confers on the owner the right and the need to touch," and this need to touch goes far beyond the kitschy gift packages delivered to donors. There needs to be a more enriching approach, one that supports the liveness of performance. A method that can offer a shared moment between collector-donor and performer. But what steps does one take to produce a connection between the collector and the ephemeral moment? How does one produce a feeling of ownership for the collector? How does one give them the feeling that they, in a certain way, have become agents in archiving performance history, beyond clicking the donate button?
To answer this, we must ask the question, "How does one archive?" And I'll make the acknowledgement, this is a question that requires far more than the one paragraph I'm allotting to it. But I will go very micro and highlight the work of Steven Dietz, who cites the following steps when referencing the preservation of digital media, "museums and archives follow five steps to preserve their digital media works acquistions: (1) refresh; (2) migrate; (3) print out all possible supporting materials such as artists' statements and/or source code; (4) document the context in which the work was created and/or initially exhibited; and (5) participate in a network of new media archival institutions to share information and best practices" (97-99). In this break down, Dietz is referring to digital media, not live performance, and one can see that it would become very difficult to instill in the collector of ephemerality the archivist mentality. However, I think there are some ideas that can be gleaned from this break down to produce potential methods for supplemental material, which may produce more meaningful tokens of appreciation. I propose that performers conducting on-line fundraisers ask themselves the following questions:
1. Refresh - How do you create, and continually refresh, a connection between the collector and the performer?
2. Migrate - How does your information get passed along to the collector? Is there an on-line platform (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) for the sharing of documentation and thoughts?
3. Supporting materials - What supporting materials are you creating to support the performance? How can these be provided to the collector as a supplement to the ephemeral event they are holding stake in?
4. Document - How are you documenting the event? In which ways are you providing the context of the performance for the donor?
5. Participate - How can the collector participate in your process beyond given financial support? Is there a post-performance exhibition of the process? How can the collector be involved in a potential exhibition?
While my first venture into on-line fundraising was a success, there is much I reconsider in retrospect. Although A PerFarmance Project documented the performance and process, the dissemination of this documentation to the collectors was slow. In some cases, the documentation never reached the collectors at all. Although this was a missed opportunity to give the donor agency to collect and, in the process, create a personal archive of performance history, it provided a space for critical reflection. As previously state, consider thinking of a donor to performance is also a collector of performance. If acted upon through documentation, participation, and supporting materials, an opportunity to archive is give to the collector. And as the artist, you're giving your project sustenance that reaches far beyond the final performance.
Baudrillard, J. (1994). The system of collecting. In J. Elsner & R. Cardinal (Eds.), The cultures of collecting (pp. 7–24). (R. Cardinal, Trans.). London: Reaktion Books. (Original work published 1968)
Chatwin, B. (1988). Utz. London: Jonathan Cape.
Dietz, S. (2005). Collecting new-media art: Just like anything else, only different. In B. Altshuler (Ed.), Collecting the new: Museums and contemporary art (pp. 85–101). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Her fundraising campaign can be found at...
Can you describe for me the moment when you realized, "I'm going to write a book on film curation"?
Yes. It was during one of the classes in Curatorial Studies, held by prof. Branislav Dimitrijević at the University of Arts in Belgrade, within the MA in International Performance Research program I attended. During this particular lecture I was introduced to ONCURATING series of journals dedicated to the emerging field of curation and the problematic around it. I went through all of them, however, one in particular, dedicated to the Film Curation, has caught all of my attention. I am a great film buff so this title "Film Curation" has tackled my imagination and sparked the curiosity, since before that moment I had no idea what film curation is or what does it stand for so I decided to research more about it.
What did you find the most challenging about writing the book? What did you find to be the most rewarding?
The most challenging thing was that, as it turns out, no one really knows what film curation is. Everybody I read or talked to has a different opinion as to what film curation is, what does it do and what does it stand for or what it should stand for. And the main problem lies in the fact that these words are de facto in flux. Curator. Curate. Curation. Curatorial. Curatorship. All of these words have recently become ‘buzz words’ of the contemporary art world. A great deal has been debated around the term 'curating' and terminology associated with the field of curation in general. Is it a new artistic procedure? An avant-garde? What are the subjects and objects of curating, and to whom is it addressed? Who is a curator? And what is the difference between curation and curatorial? Are there 'works' 'curated' or is 'curating a 'work'? The field itself burgeoned and turned into possibly the most debated cultural field of activity that with its lack or excess in loose terminology use carries the potential threat of falling not into wrong hands, but into all hands. And when you add the word film to an already confusing field, things take a whole new turn since no one really knows how film should be understood in this constellation either. Is film considered as any type of video, recorded in analogue or digital technique, or is film considered as a feature fiction/documentary film we are used to seeing, under specific modes of viewing, in cinema? Or is it both? So the main problem was to find your own position within this field, take a stance and tell a story, which I tried to do and hopefully succeeded.
In what ways has your background in performance studies influenced the treatment of the case studies?
As you know, I am both a performance researcher and an architect, and I like to think that when you read my analysis of the chosen case studies you are able to feel and see the background in these disciplines. So, to answer your question, it influenced it a lot. The case studies I have chosen are not typical exhibitions, on contrary; one of them (more than the other) is not only a piece of art, an artifact, but also a performative event, devised and executed by the artist himself, and not the curator, which is what I took as my point of departure and most valuable argument. The gallery in which it was shown for the first time - Tramway in Glasgow, Scotland – stayed open after closing hours, for the duration of the entire piece. Anyone could come in, at any given time. The screen was placed in the middle of the room, so one could watch, depending on the preference or curiosity, either the right or the wrong side of the screen. Hitchcock's Psycho became a storyboard. The magic of cinema was utterly exposed. Every familiar detail gained a new peculiar meaning. The artist was Douglas Gordon. The piece was 24 Hours Psycho (1993). Ambiguity of this work, over the years, turned my curiosity into fascination. Is it art? Is it film curation? A film? A remake? It is still Hitchcock's Psycho; the characters are there, the fragments of the story as well yet the slowness of the frame rendered it unknown. Who is the author? These are the questions that served as my starting point and the road I took to get there was via prominent performance theories.
What projects are in the future for Monika Ponjavić?
Four years ago I wrote several short stories that talk about the post-war transitional state of society in Bosnia and Herzegovina, my homeland. Each story has a stereotypical character at its center that, in an unorthodox way, tells you his or her story. I have a tendency to write and stock pile my ideas, which is exactly what I did here. Few weeks ago I re-discovered these stories, after four years since I wrote them, and decided to share them with a fellow artist and architect, Marko Bilbija, who suggested we create single plate comic books for start and, since I planned and devised them as screenplays for short video portraits, having them filmed - in short, the future is something to look forward to. A part from that I am currently working on organizing the 4. edition of FLASTER Graffiti Jam, which will take place in Banja Luka, RS, BiH, during September this year.
Monika Ponjavić, architect, artist, writer, performance researcher. Born in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Yugoslavia, where she finished Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture and Civil Engineering with the project titled Transformation of Public Space for Film Festival with prof. Radivoje Dinulović: as her mentor.
Monika took part in Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space 2011 where she: (a) exhibited Body Never Lies, video work developed from a research in performative architecture; and (b) participated in PQ’s main workshop titled Open Spatial Lab, led by Dorita Hannah, Omar Khan, Andrew Todd and Jane Rendell. That same year Monika enrolled with MAIPR (MA in International Performance Research) joint studies at the University of Arts in Belgrade, University of Amsterdam, University of Warwick and University of Helsinki. During the course of these studies together with Arne Hendriks, Dutch/German artist and curator, Monika (as part of Amsterdam Partizan Publik) re-constructed Alexei Gastev’s Studio for Alternativa 2012: Materiality, an exhibition that took place in Gdansk, Poland; she participated in series of workshops and lectures led by Ong Keng Seng, Mark Fleishman, Ana Vujanović, Elin Diamond, and so forth; she took part in 46. BITEF Festival, MIKSER Festival, 54. October Salon, World Stage Design, Short Film Festival Kratkofil Puls, Kondenz, Sarajevo Winter, Sarajevo Film Festival; she published works and attended conferences…She is the co-author and co-curator of Unlisted Performance series, which she developed together with Christina Kruise and Ana Letunic. First installment, Twice in a lifetime, took place in Belgrade, Serbia in 2012, whilst the second, The Second Steel, took place in Pittsburgh, USA in 2013. The next one is planned for Montreal, Canada. She completed her MA in Performance Research with the thesis titled Film Curation: Deconstructing Cinema (mentors: Nevena Daković and Outi Lahtinen) in January of 2013. She currently works on developing a series of short stories.
Her fundraising campaign can be found at...
Performance practitioner and cultural researcher