In the process of creating this post, the e-mail exchanges and conversation with Kendall were so much about the prescriptive and limiting nature of words. Kendall preferred a phone call interview be recorded, so we gave it a shot. Unfortunately, I am poorly lacking in live interview skills, and the recording was too conversational. I was too excitable and nervous – a terrible combination. I decided to transcribe some of her answers, but even in doing so, I would have had to apply some personal statements in order to contextualize her responses. Kendall’s answers to the above questions were off-the-cuff, and should be read as such. She is currently in the process of writing a new statement. I’ve never been so eager to read an artist statement, and that might be the case for some readers. I hope to update this post with Kendall’s statement when it is made available, and maybe by that time I’ll have done some crafty editing so I can include some of our phone call interview.
So without further ado, Project Dispatch presents…
You say in your bio that you left words behind, and much of your work is about the residue of the artistic (or any) endeavor. In your statement you describe this focus as “the shadows and the spaces in between, the gaps, the structures and processes just below the surface”. What incited this shift away from words and into the inexpressible and ephemeral? What have you learned about the “surface” by focusing on what lies beneath?
I think its all part of the longer intellectual journey that I’ve been on for as long as I can remember. After finishing my college degree in Theology, I was taking a nap in my cousin’s hammock and tearing up from exhaustion and the sunlight hit my eyelashes. I spent probably 20 minutes just opening and closing my eyes slowly and thinking, after all I’ve learned, THAT is what I want to make. I want to make images/videos/work like THAT. Of course it took me another 5 years to pursue art seriously and another couple before I felt comfortable calling myself an artist. It’s only now that I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that the work I make is inextricably linked to my earlier interest in religion. I can imagine that in another 10 years I will have evolved again and be able to more simply identify what I am doing. It seems like it becomes more and more clear the more and more I do.
Parsing things into “surface” and “underneath” makes for a dichotomy that I don’t think really exists. All levels of seeing are available at all times. Focusing on not the thing but a system or focusing on a minute detail allows me to see the thing more clearly– it doesn’t fall away. I call what I do primarily Drawing based. And some of categorizing it like that lets me talk in this way about seeing. When you draw a figure, you can’t focus only on a hand– you have to focus on the overall image and energetic flow and then drill down to the details. But it is the details that makes the drawing really have personality so they are equally important. I guess overall I’m more comfortable letting an image or an installation do its work without me having to describe it, than writing a poem and having to actually make grand pronouncements about my perspective. I hate being prescriptive. When you’re making work that’s really trying to talk about the big questions of life and the human experience, the words sound pompous and reduce the impact.
You have an “art alter ego” called Le Chien Sauvage. Can you tell us a little about her? How did she come into existence, and what role does she serve in your practice? Has she made any appearances lately? Have you and your alter ego ever made work together?
I love Le Chien Sauvage. Basically I have a ton of work and stuff that I do that doesn’t neatly fit into the categories that my main practice does. Given the stupid constraints of the art world and marketing, I have to have a concise way of describing who “KendallNordin” is when she makes work and what kind of work she might make. So I use other names to let me do other things. Le Chien Sauvage is basically an instigator. Like my 22-piece all women rock improv orchestra in Australia, PANIC. Or like super weird aggressive costumed performance pieces that have a bit of a political edge to them. Or protests about how artists are considered/treated/valued. Nothing’s been happening recently with that part of my practice– probably because I’m not really surrounded by the kinds of things that incite that work– art world events, other contemporary artists, collaborators to my instigations– where I live right now. I don’t think that we could make work together. I think Le Chien Sauvage would probably just get really annoyed by KendallNordin’s work. I’m looking forward to when I have enough time and energy to do it all again. If someone gave me a show as Chien Sauvage, I would crush it, but I just don’t have the time to work out those applications and do the necessary contact making in order to get the show.
You are a new mother. How has this impacted your process and your work?
I gave myself a 6 month window to not think about my art career and not feel bad. I was surprised by how little work I got done while I was pregnant while simultaneously feeling an extraordinary pressure to get a lot done since life was about to change. It has not changed my deep and abiding need to MAKE, but my resources are even more tapped out than before. I’m having to start again small– with what I can do. This current series of photos for PD has grown out of me driving around while the baby naps in the car. I thought I would want to make work about the baby– but right now, that’s not evident. Since I didn’t make work that was particularly biographical or personal before, I don’t know why it’s surprised me that I’m not super interested in doing it now.
What is your primary focus in your work right now?
Summers in Alaska are crazy. They’re very external. Now that the light is going and it’s getting cold, everything starts to get very internal. I imagine that the next few months will bring some good crystallized thinking about the next directions for my work. I am becoming more and more honest about the fact that I make secular nonsecular art. The words about that and how to get deeper into that will start to form. Since I don’t have a studio at the moment, I’m really only fantasizing and drafting installation work. I’ll be confined to a table and my computer (though I’m hoping I might manage to make some work outside at some point). So I imagine the next few months will bring more photography, video, some drawing, maybe some sound work, and (crossing my fingers) finishing a graphic journal I’ve had on hold for about a year.
Have you made any discoveries in your practice as a result of becoming a member of Project Dispatch and making work for subscriptions?
Yes! I’ve mentioned this in interviews before but I have had to really come to terms with what “commercial” work I can do and how deeply uncomfortable I am making a product just for sale. I have to think of the work as series, as focused, and as research for larger pieces. Though I think the past couple of years the work has ended up being its own resolved thing.
If you could pick three artists from the Project to subscribe to, who would they be?
Today I’d choose Frank Adams, Evan Hume, and Allison Long Hardy. Other days I would probably choose the random selection option.
To see more work by Kendall, visit KendallNordin.com.
Start your subscriptionto Kendall throughout the month of January to receive a 10% discount!