This weekend, Public Functionary presents a multidisciplinary collaboration poised to create a space that not only ruminates on change, but illustrates it.
Inspired by scientific discoveries, the concept of mortality, earthly enigmas, and unconscious anxiety, installation artist Liz Miller and fellow collaborators have designed a mutable environment where each element is in direct response to another. The result, "In Which _____ and Others Discover the End," promises to be a stimulating and transformative experience of sound, movement, and visuals.
The Dressing Room caught up with artist Liz Miller to chat about what attendees can expect from Saturday's opening reception and the collaborative process.
For this exhibit, you've teamed up with performance collective Supergroup, experimental playwright Rachel Jendrzejewski, and art-rock band Brute Heart. What do you think each performer/artist adds to the exhibit?
I can't imagine the finished work without each and every collaborator. The great thing is that we've come together to create a cohesive whole while also retaining the characteristics that make each of us distinct as artists. In many ways we are quite different in our approaches, and this is what makes it work. It's not a case of collaboration where the group is trying to become one thing; we are all doing different things, responding to one another, and achieving something that takes our work to a new place, both collaboratively and individually.
Is this your first collaboration?
It really is. Up until this point, most of my work has been installations in traditional exhibition spaces, with me being the sole author of the work. It is exciting and challenging and inspiring to be working on a project with so many collaborators. It forces me to give up some control, which I think is a really useful thing for any artist to experience. It has expanded my thinking in many ways. I really see the value of collaboration, and hope I can continue to do more work like this in the future.
Tell us more about you seeing this collaboration as being in a stage of "continuous development."
Nothing in this work is static. The set changes in relation to the performers, the performers' movements change in relation to the set, the music inspires, interacts with, and responds to all of the elements. It's not like, 'OK, well, here's the set, now dance in front of it.' We are trying to achieve both cohesion and tension between all of the elements. Sometimes the result is harmonious, sometimes it's chaotic, but it's always changing.
Also, because my installation is up for several weeks prior to the performances, it will have several different lives, changing during the run of the exhibition as well as during the performances.
With so much variety in its program -- choreography, the thread of words, musical compositions -- how would you describe how your large-scale installation pieces link them all together?
My installation gives the music and performance a place to be, an environment, but I would hope it does much more than that. I want it to be something that enhances the movement and music, but which also creates a layer of contrast and even tension at times. I want the installation to create a world that is complex, pleasurable, and slightly disorienting. I suppose it helps set some kind of context or mood, using those terms broadly.
What can you tell us about the technical aspects behind your work? What is your overall process and what are the materials you use to assemble your installations?
Although I make large-scale, site-specific works, my process and materials are quite low-tech. I utilize flexible materials such as stiffened felt -- the primary component of this project -- to create sculptural forms. All of the forms are cut by hand with electric scissors and attached to one another with simple methods like nuts and bolts and spring clamps.
Because this installation will change during the month, it has to be adaptable to a variety of configurations, and this flexibility is built into the way I've installed the work. There are not many components which are truly permanent in the sense that they cannot easily be manipulated or adapted in some way.
Public Functionary as a space has become known for its ability to adapt and be malleable within the context of each individual exhibit. How are you approaching installation for this space?
One of the challenges of this installation is that it needs to function as an exhibition as well as a "set" of sorts for a series of events and performances throughout the month. My completed projects usually have one finished state, while this opportunity allowed me to consider several phases of the installation over the course of a month. I think the physical space of Public Functionary is really conducive to this. It's a beautiful, large space with an open ceiling structure that makes hanging components really easy.
IF YOU GO:
There will be an opening reception featuring Miller's work Saturday, March 7, from 7 p.m. to midnight, for a schedule of related performances, visit Public Functionary online.
1400 12th Ave. NE., Minneapolis