Artist Profile: Kate Steciw

Anima, Animal, Beheaded, Candle, Chocolate, Cloak, Carnal, Darkness, Deity, Dreamlike, Gradient, Headless, Heparin, Ignite, Ignat, Lament, Occult, Partial, Pink, Smoke, Smokey, Smother  (Kate Steciw, 2012)

Your photography and sculptural installations use image manipulation, often resulting in disconcerting perspectives. What is it that draws you toward "making the photograph 'other'" as you write in your artist statement?

I guess this impulse comes from a drive to reevaluate the predominant media via which so much of our culture is produced and disseminated. The conceptual drive in the work both online and off, two dimensional and three, has a lot to do with the ways in which photography creates appetites for physical objects that are then fulfilled to varying degrees of success or failure by the objects themselves — in particular, commercially manufactured objects. In a way, I see the objects and materials I use in the sculptural work function as images themselves. Similar to the tools used in Photoshop or other editing software, many of the objects we interface with on a daily basis come with prescribed uses. I believe that hidden in these prescribed uses are assumed ideologies that through misuse, omission or recombination can be revealed, reconsidered, or at the very least, interrupted.  

Popular Options (Yellow Diamonds in the Night) at shows a Flash animation of the most searched Google items in 2011. Those searches offer a glimpse of zeitgeist. What in particular are you approaching with this montage?  

In Popular Options, my aim was to access a kind of snapshot of a culture via its preferences — a time capsule generated by the desires of a population rather than it's aspirations. I wanted to let what we were searching for coalesce into a singular audio/visual experience. While aesthetic decisions were made for the purposes of continuity or impact, much of the sequence was randomized and transitions were selected without much thought. 

I am also consistently amazed by the juxtapositions and transitions that occur naturally on the web and television — we are completely accustomed to seeing an image of Osama Bin Laden followed up by an ad for Pizza Hut or something similar. I wanted the piece to emulate that kind of flow of imagery that is, while visually unrelated, connected by unseen, commerce driven forces. 

How do the actions and journeys of virtual selves, as documented in Perenium Twist/The Sleeper Awakens, figure into your work?

I think virtual selves play a large part in all of our lives at this point with applications such as Second Life only presenting the most integrated or reflexive option. We are constantly formulating and presenting virtual selves, often as an extension of the multiple selves we present in our day-to-day lives — the selves we present to our parents, our co-workers, our friends. These virtual selves have different email addresses, tones of voice, etc. But, they also have different appetites and aptitudes, and I think the virtual world, from the simplest email interaction to the most developed avatar, provides a unique venue in which to explore these multiple and sometimes contradictory modes of self-actualization. That said, it is the impact of these virtual strategies on our physical world that most interests me. 

In general, I am interested in the collision between representation (mostly virtual or computer-mediated) and materialization which I think is so characteristic of contemporary experience. I am interested in the trust we continually place in representation and the ways in which representational schema have influenced physical phenomena. 

What contemporary experiences do you see exemplifying the collision between representation and materialization?  In regards to representational schema influencing the physical, how do you think the visual search for bounding lines and preconceived notions of form shapes the physical?  Do you think the same applies for the digital? 

I realize that this may come off as pessimistic, but I think that many of our interactions both with other people and the objects that surround us can fit into this characterization: online dating, for instance, buying anything (really!), and more specifically, anything online, Home Depot and DIY culture...We are inundated with and actively perpetuate false representations of ourselves, our potential, and our output. I think this has a lot to do with the shared trajectory of photography/digital imagery and consumer culture. That is, we take for granted the levels of abstraction in what we are presented with, both online and off, as it is more often than not delivered in the form of a photograph or some derivative thereof. That image is taken into the brain and logged as representational (regardless of how wary we are in our conscious minds). Connections are made between disparate or even obtuse images and reconfigured or perceived as ideology. I think the digital realm complicates this further by teaching us to expect or pre-empt even stranger visual configurations and approximations — again, mostly commerce driven. I guess in that way, I see elements of our physical world reflecting the inverse: a series of approximations and appropriations of structures or schema that originated in the form of an image.




Brooklyn, NY

How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start?

I consider all of my work regardless of media an interface with prevailing technological realities.

Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them?

My experience with the tools I use is similar across the board whether it be Photoshop or a hammer. I am interested in the emotional/psychic space of the user/consumer which is to me the predominant relationship we have to the tools available. In that sense, I try to maintain a level of distance from whatever tool I am using; eschewing any drive toward expertise or mastery. I find a lot of breakthroughs come to me in the form of misuse of tools both traditional and related to new media.

Where did you go to school? What did you study?

I went to Smith College for undergrad where I studied Sociology and Political Science then SAIC for my MFA.

What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?

I try not to differentiate between the two as I see all tools available to contemporary artists as technologically mediated and in that way in direct conversation with that mode of production. Anything is up for grabs in my practice.

Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?

I dabble in oils. 

What do you do for a living or what occupations have you held previously? Do you think this work relates to your art practice in a significant way?

I have worked a day job in or around the retouching industry for almost 10 years now and that has greatly influenced my practice. 

Who are your key artistic influences?

Knut Hamsun. For some reason, reading his work always gets me somewhere artistically. So, I guess rather than an influence, I'd call him an inspiration. 

Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?

I am currently building a fountain with my friend and studio mate Amelia Bauer. 

Do you actively study art history?

I do. 

Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you?

I do and it is something I feel really passionately about. I continually revisit the usual suspects; Weber, Marx, Bourdieu, Benjamin, Baudrillard, Deleuze, etc... Right now, I am really digging into Kracauer. 

Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?

I guess I am most concerned with a tendency of new media art to be ghettoized by both practitioners and curators — a practice that, at worst, I think limits the potential for transmedia dialogue and dissolves into a kind of technological showmanship.