I would like to preface the dialogue by saying that this [Figure
Drawing Video] next to me was the piece presented at the exhibition.
I made it during the first week here this summer. This Onion Presentation
is pretty much the last piece I made here, so they bookmark my experience
this summer. From that I welcome questions, comments, feedback.
Bib: How come you didn’t cry?
It depends from onion to onion. I don’t know which onion will make
me cry or which won’t, it varies. Usually I thought red onion would,
but that’s not always the case.
Dur: Did you want to cry?
I wouldn’t mind if it happened.
Has: Why onion? Why cutting onions as opposed to carrots? Yesterday I
was doing some research, and I was looking at the word ‘drawing’,
and one of the words that came up was onion. So I was wondering.
Well, I started looking at onion because it is such a versatile ingredient
that I use almost every meal every day, I use it in so many different
ways, so it has that material flexibility that I see analogous to my practice
in the studio. So it’s not like onion has such meaning to me, it’s
just this mundane, most ordinary thing that allows itself to be so many
Nat: So it was important to you that you memorize the whole thing that
you have written? Do you allow yourself to think things as you go? Like
right now, would you invent more things?
I think as this piece gets presented in another time it may be different,
you know, my definitions of “seeing is” would probably different
again based on my experiences. And I might use another ingredient maybe
not onions next time, so I think it can always change.
Dur: Were you listening to the script and reciting it?
Yes, it was being prompted to me.
Bib: I was wondering if gender was part of this piece.
Can you expand on how you think gender might be a part of this piece?
Bib: I mean you thinking about you as a woman and the fact that you show
something that is of cooking, and demonstration that might be related
to cooking which would be associated with at least the first-wave feminist,
who would have associated to a woman’s work, and to a woman in a
domestic experience, or woman as a teacher. So I wonder if you were in
an understated way for making reference to that—a feminist perspective
Right. I certainly looked into what is cooking now as related to gender.
And certainly most of the cookbooks or cultural studies relating to food
studies point out a lot about gender issues decades ago, leading up to
probably now. But I think doing this now- I’m living in a world
where my partner, the guy, cooks for me, and we switch roles. I think
that’s a topic that’s been exhausted already back then by
other artists. I am aware of it, but it is not something I am trying to
pull into the conversation.
Mig: Can you talk about the categories, how those are related to each
other? Like the end is the recipes, the beginning is the definition of
seeing, and you talked about different types of onions, obviously there’s
some sort of relation. Can you talk about how those categories relate
to each other?
Yes. Basically I wanted to take you on a tour on… the onion’s
story. (laughs) Like the types of onions, I always use these two types
of onions, but there are lots of other types that I haven’t even
seen before. And of course what are the processes of growing that are
hidden to us. I remember Fritz making the comment in his thesis talk where
a little kid walked up to the chicken pen, and says “what is this
egg doing here? Don’t eggs come from supermarkets?” –
no, there’s a source to be point out, right? So for one thing I
was trying to point to sources and processes, and also through the recipes,
I am making reference to some potential things the onion has to offer.
Mig: Yes it sounds like you are really interested in using those sort
of metaphors, being part of something… finding the roots of something…
but it sounds like it was not as intentional.
My interest in metaphor? No. [But finding the roots of things, yes.]
Chr: It came up in the discussion already that you were listening to your
script, obviously you weren’t hiding it from us, because I saw you
turn it on, so I assumed that you were listening to yourself or to a voice.
Can you speak to that as a performance—that choice of listening
to a prompt? And is there any layering to that that you want us to infer?
There wasn’t another layer that I was trying to lead you to infer.
It was more for my convenience that I won’t have to memorize a script.
And you’re right I wasn’t trying to hide that.
Chr: Yes it was clear you were listening to something. It just made me
think it may make other connections to prompting, or being prompted, or
being told. But obviously that wasn’t part of your intention but
more a convenience.
It was more for my convenience, but on that note I’d like to add
that the first time I did this presentation, it was in a very intimate
room setting, very quiet. I was told that my prompting- since I played
it so loudly- people in the room actually heard sounds from my ear phones
and me repeating those phrases, and for them it created another aural
effect in the room, so that might be something I would look into next.
Tob: I really like this piece. I think it is such a great example of how
performance works as performance and can’t be duplicated in other
medium, if you did this on video it wouldn’t be the same at all.
So I guess my question is, where is this going to lead you next? Like
this experience of landing upon this. And the second part of my question
is- I guess this is the second thing I’ve seen you do where you
talk about being unaware of the metaphorical content of your work, the
first being the Anthem piece, and I think they both really have strong
metaphorical content. I am curious about that regarding your practice,
this sort of avoiding of metaphor? Or the accidental stumbling upon…
affective metaphor? Or are you tricking us by saying you are not thinking
about metaphor? I’m wondering about that.
I really don’t know what I feel about metaphors, to be honest. I
feel like I used it a lot in my older work, and that had to do with making
a formal piece where I drew symbols and metaphor to talk about something
that wasn’t in the picture. But I don’t see this piece as
Tob: But maybe not as a metaphor, are you purposefully feeing or guiding
us as to how you want us to ‘see’ the onion throughout the
course of the work?
SLK: I think that by naming so many categories,
like you can dice you can slice you can boil… It is open-ended enough
for you to pick what to take away from the experience, that I’m
not trying to lead or guide you in a very specific way or say that there
must be one way to ‘see’ an onion, more like 'there many ways
that you can see it and I going to try to tell you’.
Tob: I guess I see a political content, maybe I always try to bring that
to the work, but I wonder if that was purposeful. Even when people have
brought up your list, like Miguel brought up the list of categories, the
processes by which the onions were… was it the consumer use?
SLK: There was the farming, there was the consumer.
Tob: Yes, and how they are farmed, to me brings it very strongly to a
political context immediately.
SLK: And I did say that in the ‘seeing’
Tob: Yes, that seeing can be political.
SLK: I think all art is political.
Tob: So the metaphor might be accidental then, but the political imagery
SLK: Yes perhaps.
Chr: And the order in which you said the countries in which they are found,
I mean we have to think about the order in which you said that too. China,
India, Australia, United States… those are conscious decisions on
your part, right?
SLK: Yes, it was according to where was the most
exported leading to the less exported countries.
SLK: But Tobin I didn’t answer your question
of where this might go next. Although I frame it now here as a performance
piece, and I say performance as a more convenient term, but I think that
the performative aspect has been in my work from last year on especially,
such as the Lipsync National Anthem piece where I was performing
a certain role [of the student] in my piece; and in The Exchange
project where I’m out to asking people to teach me something and
to take part in that curriculum; and this [The Figure Drawing piece] again
is where performing was another to gain insight to my own work. So I think
this time it is a matter of bringing [the performative aspect] more to
the surface. I don’t think this piece is radically different from
the rest, but it definitely makes me conscious of how performance plays
into my work.
Bro: Hi. A couple of things. I’m wondering about the format that
you put us in, because as we were talking about ‘seeing’ I’m
struggling to see you [from the audience],
and I’m thinking about layers of onions. And the other part was
the format of what you were saying— how in the beginning you had
this phrase that you came back to repeating, and towards the end you just
started listing, it is interesting because at one point obviously I thought
you were cutting it like poetry, and then later you almost immediately
like… is there an aggession of some sort? Like when you were throwing
in all these different things? And it almost creeped me out, it was very
(laugh from audience)
SLK: Did you want me to respond to that? To my use
Bro: Yes- what you were saying, how you were saying.
SLK: Well the set up [of the chairs] is experimental.
The last time I tried this piece I did not set up the room in a very particular
way, this format today was me thinking, how can I make use of this space?
And throughout my struggle here this summer I have been trying to make
connection to the work that I’m doing with perception, and the work
I’ve been doing relating to education. So this was an experiment
to see what gets picked up, what gets lost, or what gets changed in the
process. I think my tone of voice might have been influenced by that aspect
[of thinking about being in a classroom].
Eri: Actually going along what she just said, in terms of the way you
were listing things from topic to topic, it reminded me of looking up
something on the Internet, and how we would go from one thing and jump
to another, from one relevant information to other relevant information,
and it goes in and out from mundane to political, sensitive to illogical…
you know, it’s just that weaving, that thought process is a very
new way of gathering information.
SLK: I would associate that with lateral thinking,
I don’t think there’s necessarily new, but probably because
of the format of the Internet, that you can branch into so many different
things but at the same time be on that same platform, to me is similar
to lateral thinking where we can surf from one thing to another, without
going much in depth either.
Cha: I think the reference to Wikipedia is a very good one, because you
were giving us all this information, presenting it as if it were factual,
but it’s really all very very subjective. I mean you chose what
to include in those lists, and probably this is just due to the space
but I couldn’t hear half of what you were saying. But I really feel
like you knew that and you were okay, so I’m wondering about it.
Obviously you put a lot of work into the text, but how important is it
that you communicate that and that we believe you. I don’t think
I believe some of what you said, but again, I think that’s okay.
So that kind of leaves it so open ended that aside from that good onion
smell, I’m not sure what else I’m getting out of it.
SLK: The sound part, it wasn’t my intention
for you not to hear me, when I realize that people were having trouble
hearing I tried to raise my voice, but I had to concentrate on the cutting
at the same time. So that got in the way along with the large space, the
Dav: What about using a mike?
SLK: I did think about that…
Dav: I think the tone of your voice is what lures us in. You getting your
volume up higher will take away from that nice tone, but people do miss
out on what you’re saying and it’s really important.
SLK: I totally agree with that and I really was
thinking of putting in a microphone, but I didn’t want it to look
Bib: You can hide it in a small mike.
Dav: That’s a technical issue, we can help you work that out.
Cha: Having a mike would seem more didactic to me.
Tob: This can be a performance for four people. You can dictate the environment.
You can say I’m doing a performance and have people come around
the table. Outside the crit environment, you know.
SLK: I do agree that if I can amplify the soft voice,
that would be more effective. So I do think that the technical part failed
me this time.
Cha: So how do you feel about people just disagreeing with what you’re
SLK: That is just fine.
Cha: There are white farmers.
Cha: I mean you didn’t just…. You said ‘seeing is this’,
‘seeing is that’, it’s very much like ‘I’m
telling you what seeing is’. Is that what you’re doing? Is
it a dialogue? Is it you telling us things? What do you want it to be?
Someone: Or are you demonstrating the way you observe?
SLK: The first part was more demonstrating what I have observed through
experience, and then the second part was attempting to expand to more
ways of looking through an onion. So that listing, because I can’t
cover everything, came across as more [difinitive and] didactic. I think
I do want to want to look at the recording of this performance because
I cannot be performing and be in your place at the same time, so it is
something that I’d like to evaluate and look at how it comes across
to the audience.
Fri: Seems that the first part going back and forth of how you see and
the rephrase as comparing aspects to one another, that to me sounds like
a very good definition of aspect perception, and I think might have stopped
right at the end of that. And I think everything after that sort of watered
downed what you have begun.
SLK: How do you think it can be different after
that first part?
Fri: Just stop there, or doing something entirely different. Because you
transition from that to less potent material.
Tob: Well that depends on the audience.
SLK: hm…. You think this didn’t…
Fri: I’m not saying that there wasn’t information there, we
were learning about onions. That probably can be done in a different way.
Seems like the first path was far more potent and interesting…
SLK: Okay, thank you for that.
Tob: But that’s very subjective. What’s more interesting to
one person is not necessarily more interesting to another.
SLK: Yes, that’s why I say thank you [for
the sharing the thought].
Tam: That was just my question. I’m really interested to hear your
consideration about- is this a demonstration? Are you framing it as a
performance? Is it a seminar? I know you did some previous work about
education, how we learn, I’m really intrigued by that because I
think how you frame this is partly how we are going to partly receive
this information. If you go to Wikipedia, there is a little disclaimer
that says ‘this information is subjective’, but if you go
to a dictionary you know it’s not. So I want to know how you frame
this work, what do you expect from the viewer?
SLK: Am I being authoritative- is that part of you’re
(Laugh from audience)
Tam: No, can you hear me?
SLK: Yeah, but you said a lot of things!
Tam: I’m just asking, do you see this as a seminar? Do you see this
as a performance? Do you see this as a demonstration?
SLK: Not a seminar, not a demonstration.
Tam: It’s a performance then?
Tam: So the subjectivity you’re okay with that?
Tob responding to Tam: Anything you hear might not be true! Absolutely
everything you hear can be a lie.
SLK: It can. The information that I pulled out of
a website might be a lie to me too.
Tam: But your previous work is about education, so I was just curious.
SLK: It is a performance and I am okay with subjectivity.
Tim: I couldn’t hear for one thing so this might have already been
said. What I am thinking about here is how universal it is, and
how essential it is to prepare food, and the kinds of actions
that one goes through in order to do that. That I think could be a really
interesting premise here. And the other thing that I think could be very
interesting is the running monologue. The possibility of some really short
tension between the expectations of watching someone prepare food, and
pretty much maybe a whole meal, and what’s going on in the monologue
could be a really really interesting from the political stand point. I
mean if you say you’re a political artist, I believe you, or if
you say all art is political, I’m not sure what to think about that.
But the idea of a political statement coming through by juxtaposing these
two things, these two modalities into a common place, but also through
the essential in a world that can’t feed itself, and what
you might say otherwise that is in form of this dialogue. I think in another
words it has a lot of really interesting potential as a format for a performance.
The other thing I was thinking about was Julia Child, because a lot of
times when she goes preparing food she would be talking about something
else, in a sort of goofy and funny and sometimes not, you know. I am not
suggesting that you use her as a model for this, but she was very interesting
that way. Actually she, there’s a lot more going on there than showing
us how to cook in a French manner.
SLK: Got it! Thank you.
Nat: So what are the set of beliefs that inform your work? Take us on
a tour around the set of belief system that you have.
SLK: I thought I just did that, didn’t I?
With the ‘seeing is’? By me telling you what I think ‘seeing’
can be, or what ‘seeing’ is, isn’t that already a belief
Nat: Okay. Can you, that second part where you make that list, the part
that the role that an onion goes through? Can you talk about those system
of beliefs in that?
SLK: No. No because,
Nat: I want to know the things you believe in as an artist that make you
do the performance piece that you’re doing right now.
SLK: You see,
Nat: And if you say you have explained that part it’s fine.
SLK: I would rather not comment directly about my,
are you talking about my political stance and where the farming and production
and [my stance] regarding the food process is?
Nat: I want to know why are you interested in making this work. What ideas
interest you that make you do this work?
SLK: I think that will go back to the big interest
of mine of looking into processes and to reveal processes. I would quote
Robert Smithson where he talks about the apparatus that we are being threaded
through, that is a huge interest of mine whether very obviously or not
obviously. Which is why I would refrain from commenting on what I think
on specific issues, but pointing you or revealing to you, you know, how
we can go about our own way of making conclusions, and everyone would
make their own conclusions. So I hope to provide an avenue for us to do
that. The first part of the performance was revealing some of my belief
through my experiences. Does that answer your question?
Bar: I sense the frustration in some of the audience that stems from subjectivity.
Have you read… I haven’t read this person’s work but
I’m going to, but have you looked at Perec?
SLK: Oh yes, all summer.
Bar: So that’s what I feel with it, from what I heard about that
is what he is doing.
SLK: Georges Perec. I have been looking at his work
from the beginning of the summer until the end of the summer.
Bar: He took us through a very exhaustive subjective approach to really
kind of see one thing.
Bar: I think the frustration in the audience is that it triggers our curiosity
about what this subject is of the onion, and we’re not getting into
it. It’s a one-way system for us. So that’s one thing to beware
of, I think. I don’t have an answer to how that could be remedied,
but that seems to be the source of some of that frustration.
SK: Okay, thank you.
Dur: I’ve been unable to formulate a coherent assessment, but some
of the thing I wanted to address with some of these issues are, you know,
there is a pedagogical aspect to what you are doing. In both cases the
video (Figure Drawing) and this, and you are the vehicle through which
knowledge is passing and interpretation, and some of our discomfort comes
from that very issue—the discomfort of… do we trust? You know,
is this body of knowledge trustworthy? I felt in somewhat I was being
inculcated into some kind of belief system. And there was a ceremonial
aspect to it, I mean you cut up, and then you pass out the knowledge in
this kind of ritual fashion, which was very interesting. I felt, you look
at this structure [pointing to the corner of the wall behind the ‘stage’]
you are at the apex of this triangle, right? We are all facing you, and
we sort of trickle back this way. So it is definitely hierarchical. And
then you have this tableau in front of you (pointing to the display of
onions) which is very much like European painting to me. You know, the
still life and all this kind of thing, there’s a sort of classicism
right? The thing that’s interesting is it’s sort of objective
observations about seeing and perception… all of these listings,
none of it which were individually objectionable, but somehow collectively
it sort of pulls us into this web of… I don't’ know, epistemology,
but this sense of structure. It was strange. It felt like we were being
pulled into something that is maybe… dangerous in some level. It
made me question the structures of, it made me start thinking about the
structure of education. I’m about to put my kid into a public school
in the fall, (laughs) and I’m telling you it freaks me out! I mean
we’re very involved in the school already, but the whole idea of
placing this five year-old child into this system for the next twelve
years… he’s going to get fucked up no matter what, you know?
Anyway so there’s something interesting like, sort of benign, the
calmness of your voice, you know because you are an attractive person,
and you have this have this, like, very elegant, seductive in a way. That
only added to the creepiness of it. (audience laugh)
SLK: I really like that actually. I totally like
Bib: May I?
Bib: Actually I have another point of view. With that subjectivity, I
got it from this afternoon, all these interesting questions about belief
systems, about politics, about education, the delivery of information…
I actually think that you have very intelligently and carefully have orchestrated
a question for us. You’re provoking this question this afternoon,
and I’m actually enjoying that. I enjoy art that is an open dialogue,
and that’s what you have presented to us today, I think you very
carefully orchestrated that. I was admiring how you very carefully constructed
this poem. I was reading it, or listening to it as a poem, and went from
macro to micro to what is seeing, I mean that is a huge thing. And then
you began to break it down into parts, and then you used the onion. Actually
I think the onion is a metaphor because an onion can be peeled in layers.
You were cutting very carefully all these layers while pulling apart what
seeing is, while interjecting all these other notions of politics. You
also went from geography/ places to people, and then from the people to
the onion again, and then from the onion to the different kinds of onions
and then to yourself. I think it is really interesting how you interjected
all these different things in there, and I actually responded very positively
to it and am enjoying it. Because it gets me to ask myself all these questions
that people are asking of themselves, and to look at all the different
responses and different answers to questions that people have delivered.
SLK: Thank you.
Jas: I agree with that. I had a subjective view to that as well, but it’s
such a simple item that seems to start breaking these boundaries down
in a way, it’s such a simple thing that became complex. But one
thing you have to write down is how Alison Knowles makes salad. She is
a Fluxus artist, she has a performance where she does make a salad.
SLK: Thank you.
SLK: A quick response to Bibiana. It was interesting
how this morning I was asking Joyce what her long term goals might be
as an artist. I was thinking, well what are mine? And I came up with my
goal as an artist is to use my questions to empower people and to create
possibilities for them. I absolutely see what you’re saying.
Bib: And I think very carefully orchestrated. And I think the degree of
didacticism that you implement in this piece is necessary for the question
that you want to ask.
SLK: Yes, thank you.
Jas: Let me finish that thought just now. That’s kind of similar
to what I’m interested in like, well we want to approach a piece
where we say, “oh ok, I know what that’s about along the way”,
or this complexity of this conversation that you’re talking about
where you evoke these conversations, you know, which is tough and takes
guts in my opinion.
SLK: Yup I’ve got the spotlight on me!
Mark: It seems like the line you were saying- ‘relating one aspect
to another’, you seem to be playing with inflection too, a little
bit? I’d say you push that more so you make it really obvious it
be by asking a question, or making a statement, push the inflection.
SK: Okay, thanks.
Bar: I think what Bibiana said was spot on, because that was my problem
and then I realized if you were to presented that way it wouldn’t
have opened a discussion, but that exactly answered the thing I was finding
difficult. Would you present this in a non-crit setting where people respond
in the end? Like say you were to do it in a gallery or museum or library
or wherever you would do it, would the audience then be encouraged to
have a dialogue afterwards?
SLK: Well especially after this experience I totally
think so. Yes. Because last time it was also helpful to talk afterwards.
JT: I’m wondering what you think having done this twice now think
of the space and context and how it affects the piece. I think how Mark(Dur)'s
description of this space and how it affected him was really powerful,
and really different from the first time you did it. The last time not
only was it a small space, but it was also very intimate because I think
someone had already rearranged the chairs, so it wasn’t like this
classroom arrangement at all and it was smaller, and people knew you very
very well, is that context something you want to control and play with
SK: It definitely something I want to play with,
because until I knew what space I was going to get today and how I would
want to put the chairs… it was only just now during the break that
I said to myself ‘let me play with the chairs’, and ‘ouu
I’m seeing something interesting in here, and I chose this corner
because I thought the sound might bounce a little better and there’s
no other distraction that you would start making other visual references
to, but I agree it is very different from last time. I think if I were
to do it again in this same setting but just jumbling up the chairs, I
think that would be a big enough change to the piece.
JT: Yeah, that entropic chair-arrangement that someone gave to you accidentally
SLK: No, I mean I looked at the chair-arrangement
that day I felt okay about it and then I went with it.
Jen: When I usually think about education I usually see the instructor
standing, so I’m just curious about your decision to keep this performance
SLK: Yes… Because there’s already so
much reference to cooking, that standing up to do this would be a bit
much. So I wanted to bring it back to the level of artists doing performances
in galleries- they sit down, or in classrooms- at least my teachers sit
down… So I didn’t want to do the high chair either which would
look a little too much like a cooking show. Thank you.
Ren: We’ve had this discussion about being subversive. I wonder
if it was something deliberate in this piece for you. That’s the
first question- whether you’re trying to deliberately be subversive-
yes or no? And the one is about our discussion on the ‘in between’,
your interest in the ‘in between’, and whether that’s
sort of the aspect in your work is what you wanted to include in this
SLK: Yes to part one [regarding my awareness of
that, but not exactly deliberate]. Part two- I think this ‘in betweeness’...
how it is folding out piece after piece as I make more artwork, is the
in-between the center and the periphery. I think I like to operate in
the boundary spaces of my interest in crossing disciplines, my interest
in using different media, and incorporating things that are not necessarily
art materials. So in between the center and the periphery is where I’m
interested in shifting some of the dynamics, bringing into spotlight this
one thing for a while, then picking another thing and to bring that into
the spotlight when I think not enough attention has been paid there.
Ren: I think I get what you mean.
SLK: I’ll think more about your question.
Dur: I don’t know for what reason I’m thinking about this
book called Conquest of America by Todorov, do you know him?
SLK: No but it sounds really packed.
Dur: Well basically it’s looking at the conquests of America through
the scrim of semiotics, he talks about the clash of language systems,
about what the European explorers were interested in, what they were engaged
in was what he calls an ‘extended act of nomination’, that
by naming and renaming that one claims power over symbol system. And back
to the other thing that Bibiana was asking you about earlier works. I
mean if you were going to talk about Alison Knowles, or referencing Alison
Knowles, and not referencing Martha Rosler’s Semiotics of the Kitchen,
which is naming and renaming, using language as a weapon. So I think you
might be doing something different and I agree that it is a different
time that we live in, but it would be impossible to do this piece and
not have some kind of reference to Martha Rosler’s piece and her
use of language as a kind of weapon.
SLK: Yes. Yes.
Bib: Another thing I was going to say, with regards to the context, not
only the place but the thing that you’re manipulating could change,
for example if you go to Lima, and you do this in Lima, you better peel
SLK: Ah, yes.
Bib: Because that’s where potatoes came from. It would be interesting
if you have all these different potato to begin with and you’re
peeling all these potatoes. That would take a very different global context
SLK: Yes! Who was that person who was talking about…
oh it was Obama.
Bib: Ah yeah.
SLK: He was traveling to Puerto Rico, he recently
went there, and had to light-heartedly throw out in his speech that something
on arroz (rice).
Bib: (making fun) Arruz con con gandules…!
SLK: haha. They highlight the fact that talking
about that whatever on rice (arroz) was so important, and getting the
right ingredient on rice correctly was so important.
Bib: But there was also this big worry about he sort of hesitated, he
kind of forgot the word and then he looked at his notes, going like ‘oh
ah aa… roz’, so they made a big issue out of that. That was
so fake! (audiences laugh)
SLK: Thank you everyone.