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Essays and Reviews

Read the interview here.

 

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David Krippendorff: Without wanting to sound naive, first and foremost I hope that my work has a strong emotional impact. Every initial idea I ever had for a piece always started with an emotional reaction to something, be it a film or a piece of music. Throughout the process, I then conceptualize it and parse out the various political subtexts and interpretive layers. I do think that all art is political, but I am also a great believer that art should be more visceral. We live in times in which nobody trusts their feelings anymore; our society is becoming increasingly cerebral. I think this is a very dangerous trend, because remaining in touch with one’s feelings is also the first step toward empathy. When we’re detached, it becomes much easier to turn a blind eye to injustice; we fail to see the humanity in a homeless person we pass by on the street. I strongly believe that the role of art should be to help people get in touch with their feelings. To me, this becomes political, and it’s the only way that it can have an impact and make a change. We have enough “interesting” art, but how often does somebody go to a show and say: “That was really moving,” or “That was beautiful”?

New essay up on 3QuarksDaily.

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“Letting You in on a Secret is a work that reflects on this very depletion of language and mass imagery, a work that proposes and articulates new and surprising ways to recalibrate our perception, to shake ourselves and our stunned senses awake. DeLuccia’s formal reference to Dada provides us with an important clue to the work’s subtly subversive nature: in citing a movement that would presage and then endure the advent of fascism, mass extermination, and world war, she is pointing to the necessity of encoding explosive cultural commentary in humor and visually appealing imagery, of going underground with it, as it were—both to protect one’s powers of perception and to counter the effects of the spellbinding that numbs us to the dangers facing us.”

A conversation with Patricia Thornley published on 3QuarksDaily

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From November 17, Patricia Thornley’s work The Western, part of her series THIS IS US, is on view as part of the group exhibition “Empathy” at Smack Mellon Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. The project is the latest in a seven-year series of installation and single-channel video works consisting of interviews and performances. Previous videos of the series are An American in Bavaria (2011), Don’t Cry for Me (2013), and Sang Real (2015). As a whole, THIS IS US  formulates multiple parallel inquiries into the collaborative fantasies Americans enact through popular media. In the current political climate, as the escalation of social and economic forces impacting millions of lives is cast into increasingly sharp relief, these fantasies take on new urgency and, in many cases, a new absurdity.

The Western’s cast of characters consists of these Civil War-era archetypes: Indian Scout, Beast of Burden, Frontiersman, Savage, Deserter, Justice, and Drifter. The work is conceived as a two-part installation in which the cinematic trope of the Western is used as a framework for inquiring into the American psyche. In the exhibition space, a projected “movie” is installed opposite a wall of screens playing a series of interviews with the seven participating characters.

Andrea Scrima: Patricia, a few years ago I conducted an interview with you about a previous work of yours, Sang Real (2015), for the online poetry magazine Lute & Drum. Now, with The Western, the overall structure of THIS IS US is coming more and more clearly into focus. The last time we spoke at length about your series was a year and a half before the last presidential election. How have recent changes on the political landscape affected your approach to the themes in your work?

Patricia Thornley: From the beginning in the THIS IS US series, one of the questions I asked in my interviews with the people who featured in the individual videos was “how do you feel about being an American?” Historically, there’s always been a certain political disconnect at play with Americans, due to less armed conflict on our own soil and a certain comfort level.

I didn’t ask this question because I was trying to be instructive, but because one of the most important aspects of my work is to observe opposing and conflicting states of consciousness and to create situations that attempt a kind of uncommon reconciliation of these states. So in terms of what has changed I would say that what I was perceiving as a state of unconsciousness (pre-Trump) has been pushed to the surface by outrage and fear.

Read the interview on 3QuarksDaily here

 

Read the interview here.

“The novel oscillates between mediated reflection, immediate perceptual state, and, later on, madness. This stage of perception does entirely without any sort of explanation. It’s about immediacy. The self is fully within it, there’s no help from without, no visible motive to reconstruct reflection a posteriori. That’s how it is with our perception. To my mind, when it comes to language, things start to get interesting. We trust reflection and reason so much more. Pure perception is trusted less, but insanity is never trusted. In the novel, we have an unreliable narrator telling the story after it’s already occurred. You might assume that the events were reflected upon and are now related through this conscious filter. But that’s not the case. Only in madness can you see what’s actually going on. The body itself speaks, unfiltered, directly. It’s a huge, profound immediacy that we can’t rationally grasp. It’s another language, like the language of dreams. You want to decode it, but there’s no code. In the novel, it presents as a primordial language, as opposed to a verbal one: a language of images that exerts its effect directly. It just does this, and the reader has to surrender to it to get any closer.”

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Ally Klein

Essay in der Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. 

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“Das amerikanische Narrativ ist ein Narrativ der Infantilisierung, ein Märchen für Kinder, in dem Liebe, Sex, Familie – eigentlich alles menschliche Streben – verkitscht, jeder Nuance und Mehrdeutigkeit und aller zum Leben gehörenden Widersprüche beraubt wird. Wir müssen alles ausbuchstabiert haben; wir sind eine Kultur mit kindlichen Vorstellungen, sogar von der Kindheit. Das amerikanische Denken scheint auf ein einziges übergeordnetes Narrativ geeicht. Es braucht einen good guy und einen bad guy; es braucht einen Traum und etwas, das diesem Traum im Wege steht. Es braucht unglückliche Umstände, die den Helden zu überwältigen drohen, so dass er sich ein Herz fassen, der Herausforderung stellen und siegen kann. Man beobachtet dies in Filmen, in der Politik, im Journalismus, in Lehrplänen, auf dem Baseballplatz, in TED-Talks, bei Preisverleihungen, Gerichtsverhandlungen und NGOs, in Cartoons und in der Art, wie wir über Krankheit und den Tod reden, überall dort, wo wir die kreierten Narrative von der eigenen Geschichte, unsere kollektiven Sehnsüchte, unsere Vorstellungen von uns selbst und dem, was wir sein wollen, inszenieren. Doch diesem Narrativ zu widersprechen, auch nur einen einzigen Aspekt dieser Loyalität in Frage zu stellen bedeutet, den eigenen Stamm zu verraten.

Ich versuche um alles in der Welt zu verstehen, wie die Fiktion darüber, wie dieses Land entstanden ist, sich in eine so bewusstseinsverändernde Kraft verwandelt hat, dass man nur von Massenhypnose oder einer Form kollektiver Psychose sprechen kann, in der die USA sich rätselhafterweise noch immer als ‘die größte Nation auf Erden’ sehen; in der jeder Hinterfragung dessen, was Amerika amerikanisch macht, nicht mit der Bereitschaft zu unparteiischer Analyse oder zur Überprüfung der eigenen Positionen, sondern mit ungehaltener, oft feindseliger Ablehnung begegnet wird. ‘Wir haben’, beobachtete Baldwin, ‘einen sehr merkwürdigen Realitätssinn – oder vielmehr (…) einen auffälligen Hang zur Irrealität.’ Sind wir wirklich so tapfer, wie wir zu sein glauben; sind wir so aufrichtig, so tatkräftig, so frei, wie wir zu sein glauben? Wir werden nicht mehr von aller Welt beneidet, schon seit langem nicht mehr, und auch wenn das vielleicht nicht zu dem Bild passt, das wir von uns haben, so ist es doch an der Zeit, uns mit der kognitiven Dissonanz zu befassen und nach innen zu schauen.”

Versuchen Sie es: Versuchen Sie einmal, über das Lesen zu sprechen, ohne thematisch dahin abzuschweifen, wie das Internet die Art unserer Informationsaufnahme verändert hat. Ich – und auch die Mehrheit der Menschen, die ich kenne, deren Lesegewohnheiten schon lange vor dem Aufkommen von digitalen Zeitschriften und Zeitungen, Google Books, Blogs, RSS-Feeds, Social Media und Kindle geprägt wurden – habe meist das Gefühl, dass ich nur dann wirklich lese, wenn ich ein Druckwerk vor mir habe, unter einer Leselampe, wenn Bildschirm und Telefon ausgeschaltet sind. Aber in Wirklichkeit lese ich sehr viel online.

Weiter hier. 

Try it: try talking about the subject of reading without drifting off into how the Internet has changed the way we absorb information. I, along with the majority of people I know whose reading habits were formed long before the advent of digital magazines and newspapers, Google Books, blogs, RSS feeds, social media, and Kindle, usually feel I’m only really reading when it’s printed matter, under a reading lamp, with the screen and phone turned off. But the reality is that I do a vast amount of reading online.

 

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