LOW IMPACT: Interview with Jim Nolan and Linda Post[uds-billboard name="lowimpact"]Sasha Dela: One of the many things that has stayed with me in LOW IMPACT (RESISTANCE TO FLOW / THISISBOBDYLANTOME) SUBJECT TO CHANGE was the spatial arrangement of the exhibition. You refer to it in a segment of the title: RESISTANCE TO FLOW. At all the entrances and the exits, there are false walls and a maze of pedestals. There is a conference table mounted on the wall, and videos placed at many angles, where the viewer must adjust their body in an odd position to watch. All of the large sculptures and installations sit at the periphery of the space, while in the middle, almost vacant, there is a grid of mirrors. How did you decide upon this arrangement and how did you want the viewer to travel through it?
Jim Nolan: We are using Lawndale Art Center and the gallery space itself as subject and material, not just a place to display our work. That’s why Untitled (mirror) is in the middle of the space: it emphasizes the four central columns and it reflects the rest of the gallery. It also sets up a relationship between the columns and Untitled (pedestals).
Linda Post: We are interested in how we might influence how people move through the show. We want the pieces positioned at the three entrances to the room to require a bodily shift that might cause an enhanced awareness of both the space and the viewer’s movement within it. There is a media element in each of these works that invites the viewer to loop back and experience another point of view, whether that be a stage of production or a live-feed of the viewer from behind (a [Bruce] Nauman quote). On another level, RESISTANCE TO FLOW echoes the rebellious spirit of much of the historical art that inspired us.
SD: You worked with dancers Daniel Adame, Shanon Adams, Tina Sharifskull, and Prudence Sun to produce a performance that happened at the opening. Also throughout the installation, you made video of the process, which plays on multiple TVs in the exhibition. And there is a live feed monitor, which displays the movement of the viewer coming into the show, or leaving, which allows the viewer to watch themselves. Can you talk about the element of movement and performance in the show?
LP: I am interested in how a viewer’s movement through the installation constantly reframes the work and makes a specific time-based experience. We wanted to incorporate a performance element into the show. Dancers were the perfect choice for this project, as there is so much overlap between visual art and dance in the historic work we are relating to. An overlap between the location of the performance and the space the viewer inhabits allows for an interesting identification between the two.
SD: One of the focal points in the exhibition is the giant carpeted wedge, Untitled (ramp), which emanates loud vibrating music. Can you talk about the influences in this piece, as well as the sound element?
JN: While all of the work either points toward an artist or art movement, Untitled (ramp) is quoting a specific piece by Vito Acconci, Seedbed (1972). The idea started with wanting to make a piece that the performers could interact with. I decided to make a ramp and since we are referencing work, Seedbed came to mind. In the original piece, Acconci built a ramp in Sonnabend Gallery. Throughout the run of the show, he laid under the ramp, masturbating, while he broadcast his fantasies, over a loudspeaker, about the people who came into the gallery. We thought we would invert the idea by making a sound work that played underneath the ramp that was so loud it would turn into a giant vibrator, similar to a big sound system in a small car.
Thinking about the sound, I knew it would have to be bass-heavy to vibrate. I took a snippet of “Heavenless,” an obscure Dub track by Clevie & Danny. Then I was thinking, what’s more masturbatory than a guitar solo? The song “Graveyard” by the Butthole Surfers (from Texas) has one of my all-time favorite guitar solos, so I took a bit of that and mixed it with the “Heavenless” track.
SD: You both were interested in objects that Lawndale uses to make exhibitions happen, like the conference table and the pedestals, and you have resituated them in the exhibition space. You also mentioned the show’s relationship to the current and long-lasting economic downturn. What connections are you making here?
LP: That is part of LOW IMPACT. We wanted to make art with elements that go into the everyday operations of a non-profit like Lawndale, like decision making and presentation. We also wanted to use materials that are on hand and to use resources judiciously. The cardboard boxes are another example. We brought materials to the gallery with them. In the installation, they initially surround Untitled (mirror). We gave the dancers a set of instructions and then they made a sort of delegated sculpture with the boxes as part of the performance.
JN: Another aspect of LOW IMPACT came up when we talked about the circumstances that the work we were looking at was made under and how it parallels our current economic situation. I think at the time, people like Nauman, Acconci and [Joan] Jonas were questioning not only the value of the art object but art making itself and what it meant to be an artist. We felt it was important to the project to keep in mind that Lawndale is a non-profit and to work within that framework, do as much as we can with the resources we have, stretch every dollar.
SD: Knowing your work individually, both of you have somehow seamlessly made your ideas harmonize in this collaboration. Can you talk about your process working together?
LP: This is our first collaboration. While our work is different, our influences and approaches are similar. We put them all on the table and started building the idea from there. The title came first. The phrases are encapsulations of practical approaches and views that we have in common…and a quote from the Minutemen that exemplifies our attitude toward making work now, in our time, while looking back at historical precedents.
JN: This allowed us to equally contribute to each other’s ideas. While some things are more obviously mine or Linda’s, we each had a hand in everything here. We talked a lot, over a long period of time. The root of our approach was that I’ll make stuff and Linda will do something with it.
LOW IMPACT (RESISTANCE TO FLOW / THISISBOBDYLANTOME) SUBJECT TO CHANGE is on view at Lawndale Art Center, Houston, TX until April 14, 2012.
Images courtesy of the artists.