Q+A with Katie Rose Pipkin
Wed. August 19, 2015
Katie Rose Pipkin (B.F.A. in Studio Art, 2013) is a visual artist working across media. She answered questions by Assistant Professor Jeff Williams by email.
Jeff Williams: When I was in school, my video professor Tom Sherman gave us this great John Baldessari quote which I have not been able to find since, along the lines of: “Video will be something when it's as direct as drawing a line with your pencil.” My memory is terrible, so that quote is probably all messed up but the idea kept with me. As someone who uses drawing as the foundation for a multi-disciplinary practice, I wondered if you wouldn’t mind talking about the connection between your drawing and the gestures you make using digital formats?
Katie Rose Pipkin: I've spent years and years trying to mediate between what often looks like two practices that are at odds, even to me.
Often, the best I can do is to describe their function. I am interested in processes which act as ciphers or keys to a story much more vast. It is important here to consider what a drawing really is: a flattening of information. It is a compression of a time or concept or data structure into the technology of paper. Drawings, mostly, are excellent storage devices.
So much of my work lives on the edge of that vastness. Automating processes that, when run, will permute forever but left as code contain their entire possibility space, or curating a very particular side to YouTube, when /every second/ more content is uploaded than one person could watch in a lifetime. Or exploring and cataloging and constructing virtual worlds that follow enough reason to feel always familiar but never actually repeat.
No surprise, then, that I find myself drawn to systems for fixing down some elegant structure with which to decipher the world. I suppose the real question is why I still find it funny to enjoy working on paper.
JW: What interests you about working with computers, YouTube, Twitter, or websites as media?
KRP: There is a (relative) ease of access to digital (and particularly social) artwork that may not be available with more traditional formats. This isn't to say that there are not massive barriers in place to many in accessing internet spaces, but those are often not nearly as prohibitive as flying to Venice for the biennale, or New York City to see a new show at the Whitney, or, for some, even navigating a complex or inaccessible system to a local gallery. I could not make the argument that digital spaces are truly egalitarian any more, and perhaps never were—in many online environments, 'free to access' can as easily be called 'offset by selling ad revenue'. But they are relatively flat, allow for mostly unrestricted information exploration in any direction, and are available almost physically everywhere. And sometimes, the only capital we have to spend is that which doesn't come out of a paycheck.
This accessibility is true in its removal of need to physically or fiscally able to navigate to an art space, but also in the structure of how one approaches engaging with an artwork; online, there is perhaps less emphasis on ‘getting it" and more on being able to play with or take delight in a thing.
Some of this comes from the way we interact with internet spaces, which is to say mostly alone. I also suspect that the mentality of how digital spaces are considered comes into play here. We often still isolate them as somewhat non-real, or less important than physical spaces. Regardless, there is a certain amount of personal security to not being surrounded by others and by engaging in a low-stakes environment and this type of relaxed access can make for a very different set of experiences.
There is perhaps more room for testing, playing, failing, and laughing when there is no fear of doing these things wrong. I am grateful to a structure that allows my work to exist in browsable space, sandwiched intrinsically between Twitter notifications or YouTube playlists about otters or gardening videos. To be stumbled upon and interacted with as a novelty, or an inexplicable structure, or a thing of beauty, or a thing of humor without my explicit wall text—who could ask for anything more?
JW: How has poetry informed your practice? Who are you reading?
KRP: Gosh, so I'd be lying if I said I read even close to enough—poetry or otherwise. I subscribed to Poetry Magazine and Rattle a few years back and do my best to keep up with the monthly delivery (but the stack of unopened packages is towering). In general, I find a few pieces in those that resonate with me and quite a few others that don't settle in. But that doesn't mean it isn't a worthwhile practice to keep up.
Otherwise, I've been looking at concrete poets, computational poets, folks producing more within my medium. There is a really wonderful community of people working in this space, and often the best work I see is just someone self-publishing experiments out of Utah, or making language bots, or assembling generative text in videogames. I'm hoping to get through most of last year's NaNoGenMo (the generative text community's answer to NaNoWriMo, where one generates a novel in a month) before November rolls around again. I've been reading white papers in territory that I do not properly understand. Also, I've got a big creative crush on Chris Marker and often just read the transcriptions from his films when I need a good thinking head space. (Sidenote—did you know that he built a piece in Second Life that you can still visit?)
I have said before (and will continue to insist) that bots and algorithms are teaching me how to write all over again. They have such an interesting relationship to human language, which is to say a non-human relationship defined by human rules. All of their actions are mediated by a human conception of what is ideal here, but taken into a space beyond human scope of understanding. There are too many grammatical oddities and syntactical meanings to to ever perfectly account for. And (as it is so often is) the most interesting material seems to rise from these best-intention human systems working perfectly by their own rule sets—and breaking by human standards at the same time.
For example, in an effort to keep a source text from flavoring the meaning of a project too heavily, I recently decided that every time there was a very declarative sentiment, I should try to soften the absolutism somehow. "This is" should be "this is perhaps", etc. I ran some very very simple sentiment analysis over words I manually defined as 'strongly worded', with a variety of possible changes for different formats. What it spit back was 100 lines shaped like this:
-this is a sea. (or this is not a sea.)
-there is no answer to this order of reasoning, except to advise a little wider perception, and extension of the too narrow horizon of habitual ideas. (or there is an answer to this order of reasoning.)
-but in this well world there is no star to cheer the silver and cold solitude of the immense vacuum. (or there is a star to cheer.)
Which I absolutely did not program nor intend, but possesses a self-assurance that I may never have.
JW: Congratulations on your invitation to study at Carnegie Mellon, that is an incredible opportunity. I know you are probably just about to move to Pittsburgh, so this might be a bit unfair, but I am really curious if you already have ideas or projects you are looking forward to once you're settled?
KRP: I am excited to get back to curation and already have Big Plans about public creative space pt. whatever/forever. I'm interested in focusing more on digital/new media/internet enabled/computational work, and I'm pretty convinced there is a lot of interesting territory there with both new pieces and more archeological practice.
One of the benefits of being in a city that has a large university structure is that there is incredible amount of non-discipline-oriented information exchange and there are physical resources that go along with differentiated practice (see: robots, super computers, scanning electron microscopes, materials labs). There are also legacy machines still in working order, as well as people teaching who not only know how to use them, but were integral in designing their structure. Tech can have an disastrously short memory, and it is easy to forget that these tools have been used to create artwork as long as they have existed. It is important as someone working with code to remember that much of what is being produced now is merely an easier and more accessible implementation of work that has already been.
In general, I've a wealth of short-term projects (generated plays! a game! drawing machines! an esoteric programming language based on plants!) and a few longer term ones, but who knows where that'll all go. I'm taking coursework in computational biology, experimental motion capture, and machining in the fall, so that could be a rabbit hole. During my admission interview, I proposed a personal joy of a thesis project; basically emulated Hypercard for the browser; but we will probably have to see what three years brings.
Pipkin participated in The Contemporary Austin's 2015 Crit Group program which culminates in the exhibition, The Only Knowledge Worth Possessing. The exhibition will be on view through September 13, 2015 at grayDUCK Gallery.
Kathleen Vincent releases new publication
Mon. August 10, 2015
Kathleen Vincent (BFA in Studio Art, 1979) releases new issue of her therapy manual series entitled, "Self Care for Massage Therapists."