Sister Unn’s, 2011-2012
LD: A lot of your work seems to explore the transitional moments of adolescence into adulthood through sexual introductions like Dotyk and Waiting for Anne, as well as through sentimental mementos like the embroidered letterman jackets of Sister Jackets and even the webpage Dad’s Big Socks. With this type of memorialization, there’s also this recurring fascination with animals as self-identifying symbols: Bunny Rogers, Pones, A Very Young Rider, Lambslut, etc. I wonder where these animal identities intersect with this loss of naïve youth and what your relationship to them is within these transgressive adolescent shifts? Why concentrate on the prepubescent stage? What role do animals play within this shift?
BR: I am interested in deconstructing the comfort felt regarding how we view the transition from girlhood to adulthood. I do not think I concentrate on the prepubescent stage, at least in the biological sense of the word. When my work is categorized with that term it sets up a discussion of a socially-familiar understanding of what [female] prepubescence means, the definition of which is confusing and contradictory. We build value systems based on that understanding. These terms are applied in an assessment of my work and me. Some of my works try to make these terms unstable, by questioning how we arrive at them. The challenge is how to broaden the grounds on which these concepts are positioned as is evident by the limitations of phrasing we have even when trying to interpret the works investigating these concerns. I see a lot of overlap in mass culture’s sexualization and exploitation of children and animals.
This area of conversation (which the above videos are a part of) is one I want to expand upon.
LD: Since 2008 you’ve been using Twitter to archive every Facebook status update you’ve made, rendering your Twitter account as regurgitory. Twitter has a 140 limit while Facebook’s is 63,206. By archiving with Twitter you have to make a conscious decision on your Facebook to keep within this 140 limit. This works out for you as your updates are generally a word or a sentence long. How do your status updates inform or continue your process of performance? Are they related at all?
BR: I have never been able to consistently maintain an up-to-date private journal in the traditional way that I know them to be – physical or online, despite wanting to and believing in the relevance of personal recordkeeping. As a kid I enjoyed re-reading and analyzing old diary entries while entertaining the fantasy of dying young and leaving behind evidence of my perceived precociousness and unparalleled imagination. In this way there has always been an audience in mind. I still relate to these feelings but I have gained a desire to share and connect with greater immediacy. Building a public archive is one way in which I am able to realize aspects of these motivations.
LD: As a tribute to the Rego Park flower shop and homage to the two characters in the novel,”The Ice Palace”, by Tarjei Vesaas, Sister Unn’s was a flower shop run by you and Filip Olszewski in Forest Hills Queens. The shop seems to have caught much of the local resident’s attention, curious and confused about its purpose and intention. A gallery is always immediately recognized as a space for art, but with Sister Unn’s this context is obfuscated. What were some of your intentions surrounding this allegorical intervention?
BR: To build a house of worship
“True love is a rose behind glass
It’s locked and kept closed”
LD: Grieving over someone, something and someplace are central themes found throughout your body of work. Could you talk more about the process of mourning and what it means to make it a focal point in your work?
BR: I think some things you get over and some you do not. I disagree that mourning is a finite experience (the ‘mourning period’). There are beliefs that there is a correct way or length of time to grieve the death of a loved one, yet it is popular and accepted to say, “you never really get over your first love”. This is a telling convergence of values that has informed a number of my magical artistic creations.
LD: Your entire online identity seems to culminate in an ongoing performance and I wonder where you differentiate between acting and a more consolidated separate persona? I’m also wondering how your online and offline performances such as 9years and Dotyk allow for playful, childlike gender representation or to what degree they reinforce them?
BR: It is freeing to be able to have subtle shifts between doing online works, presenting documentation of work, and connecting with like-minded people. I really enjoy working online because I can interact with a variety of audiences that are not easily accessible otherwise.