Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Conversation with Tania Kitchell

I am excited to present an interview with Tania Kitchell, whose work I saw at her September solo show at James Harris Gallery in Seattle. Kitchell, a Toronto-based artist, examines the weather and environment through photographs, text-based works, and an ongoing weather journal. Her past photographs include works like Snow Factory (2004), in which an impervious Kitchell hugs giant snowballs into shape while wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt, and her Air series (2004), photos of her white breath against a snow-studded night.

Snow Factory, 2004 © Tania Kitchell

The camera is a chicken and an egg in these works; the photographs document actions that were performed expressly to be photographed. In her new Sunshine series (2008), outdoor performances are replaced by arrangements of grass and flowers inside a run-down home. Are these new works tableaux photographs because the scene has been staged for the camera? Are they landscapes, since Kitchell assembles fragments of the landscape indoors, perhaps presenting an extension of the idea that "nature" only exists under the thumb of culture? The conscious arrangement of the plants seems to suggest a thoroughly domesticated role for nature, and yet the house itself is halfway to ruins- it's hard to tell who is winning. The idea of choreography strikes me in both past and present work. Although the grass and flowers in the Sunshine series do not literally move in the same way that Kitchell herself performs in her earlier work, the plants are growing and the camera has captured them at the height of their grand jeté, while the flowers are in bloom.

Living Room 1, 2008 © Tania Kitchell

Nymphoto: Tell us a little about yourself.

Tania Kitchell: I was born in Central Butte Saskatchewan and grew up in Toronto. I have never been back to Central Butte but my family’s stories of the harsh climate have long stayed with me. I survived the 80’s in Toronto before heading out to Parson’s School of Design in Paris. Many people do not know of this little branch of Parsons but it truly was a little gem a decade or so ago. Living in Paris and studying art with an international group of students gave me a refreshing perspective on art and other cultures. I lived in France for 6 years before returning to Toronto. Working as an artist in this city has it’s ups and downs just like the weather but like most I have a picture of an ideal place I would like to live but I don’t know if it exists.

NP: How did you discover photography?

TK: I am not someone who took hundreds of photos in my youth nor did I take photography in art school. My photographic works are only a part of my art practice as I also produce installations and text based works. I started working in photography around 2000 as a means of creating staged images that were performance based.

Air No. 3, 2004 © Tania Kitchell

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

TK: Looking out my kitchen window and walking has played a large role in my art practice. My work revolves around the on ongoing fascination with the weather and our environment, and more specifically our perceptions of it. I make the time to look at my world around me and try to take note of its’ subtle changes. My fascination with the weather dates back since I can remember, not always so consciously but for approximately the last 10 years it has been at the forefront of my art practice.

Kitchen 2, 2008 © Tania Kitchell

NP: How did this project come about?

TK: The previous series I was working on involved taking elements from nature and recreating them in a sculptural form and then placing them back into the environment in order to question our perceptions and ideas about nature. In this project as I wanted to do the opposite and take nature from outside and create mini gardens inside of my home. As the house was in the beginning of a house renovation and I wanted to dig up the garden and pull it inside creating these small moments where on looked at the relationship between the architecture and nature.

Bathroom, 2008 © Tania Kitchell

NP: What's next?

TK: I am currently working on a project that looks at how different species are migrating due to shifts in our climate. Flora and fauna are appearing in regions where they have never existed. Shifts in temperature are slowly changing the way we see our world. I would like to produce a series of works that show the transitioning the environment with the feeling of uncertainty and with a hint of absurdity.

NP: Thank you so much!

1 comment:

nina corvallo said...

Margot: thanks for introducing us to Tania's work! And thanks Tania for the interview.