Friday, August 15, 2014

Penny Arcade, Performance Artist - On Collaboration with NY- based Photographic Artist Jasmine Hirst

Performance artist Penny Arcade chats to artist Paul Andrew about the extraordinary coincidences at the heart of her collaboration with Australian-born New York based Photographic Artist Jasmine Hirst.

Penny tell me a little bit about your long-term collaboration with Artist Jasmine Hirst?

From my point of view all collaborations are a synchronistic merging and they occur on an intuitive level. I know that now 'collaboration' is taught as a process in Art School but to quote Oscar Wilde: "Nothing worth learning can be taught."

I met Jasmine Hirst in 1994 after one of my performances at Belvoir St Theatre in Sydney. I had noticed her and her girlfriend in the audience during the show; they stood out in black and white to me amid the general colourfulness of the large audience.

At the end of the night as I was exiting the theatre, I saw them sitting in the lobby, a bit expectantly I thought and I myself was surprised to see them there. I experienced an aura of inevitability and immediately went up to them and introduced myself which I suppose was a bit odd since they had been watching me on stage for two hours but I was eager and pleased to meet them. We talked and I felt very drawn to Jasmine who was a bit shy but very warm and generous about my work and I asked her about hers and she told me she was a photographer

We immediately exchanged addresses and wrote to one another when I returned to NY and she sent me some samples of her work which I was very impressed with. Within six months I was back in Sydney where I began a three month tour with five weeks in Sydney.

Jasmine and I arranged a photo session immediately and working with Jasmine was not only effortless, we seemed to not only communicate wordlessly but the word I would use was 'commune'.

By 1995 I had a very long history of being photographed. I should add here that photography is my favourite art form and I had been photographed by some of the greatest photographers in the world but I noticed with Jasmine I was willing to show aspects of myself to the camera that I had never felt comfortable revealing to any other photographer.

We worked quickly and effortlessly and the session yielded many exceptional photos but more than that it seemed we had together captured a secret visual story. I was in the process of creating my play Bad Reputation, an emotionally charged work about the co-optation of "the Bad Girl" image by the art and entertainment world, that sensationalizing the sufferings of women who are marginalized by society without ever bringing the content of their pain and suffering to a conscious level.

One photo in particular was so iconic, so revealing of strength in the face of isolation, and rejection, that I immediately recognized that it was the photograph that told the whole story of the play without words and that it must be the photo for the play's poster. Five months later I returned to Sydney to collaborate with Richard Tognetti, the famed violinist and creative director of The Australian Chamber Orchestra, who was composing music for on a new work commissioned by The Vienna Festival; Sisi Sings The Blues. 

I spent a lot of time with Jasmine and we set up a photo shoot. Once again an iconic photo emerged. One photo that told the whole story of the play that I was still in the midst of writing. Now it became obvious to me that Jasmine and I had tapped into some subterranean emotional stream that she was somehow capable of capturing on film. This photo too would become the image for Sissi Sings The Blues, featured in the catalogue for that prestigious theatre festival, The Vienna Festival being one of the world's most important theatre festivals.

I returned to Sydney again six months later and Jasmine introduced me to Artspace where Jasmine was currently having a big exhibition of her black and white self portraits which were very deeply moving for me. Artspace immediately gave me a residency with a studio in which to collaborate with Jasmine as I started to work on Bad Reputation in earnest.

Unbeknownst to me at the time Jasmine was working on her film about the American Serial killer Aileen Wuornos and unbeknownst to Jasmine, Aileen Wuornos and her story were already a pivotal part of my play.

Jasmine and I spent the next two and one half months in deep conversation about all the elements in the play and at the end of the period I presented a public performance of the work I created and Jasmine photographed it. I returned to NY and stayed in touch with Jasmine as we tried to future out how we could continue to work together.

A few years later Jasmine had the opportunity to get a travel grant to further her career and I became her sponsor in NY and I offered her a residency in my studio. Jasmine and I then embarked on a full time collaborative relationship that has included video as well as photography. Jasmine has become over the past two decades an integral part of my work and of my artistic team.  

I am not aware of any two artists from different métiers who work together as Jasmine and I do, but then that is the nature of collaboration. Jasmine and my collaboration continues. People are always in stunned disbelief by our ability to work quickly and succinctly, all our shoots are done in less than two hours and they are always marked by the same organic, intuitive and holistic communication that we have had from the very beginning. 

During the more than a decade that Jasmine has worked in NY she has become part of the fabric of downtown NY's art scene fusing her own aesthetic with that of a long lineage of national and international artists who make up what is called The New York Art Scene. Jasmine's work and her unflinching commitment to her work is hugely admired and influential in NY and her film and photography work plays an important role in the artistic dialogue of NY. As Jasmine enters her mid-career period, her personal artistic vision has matured and integrated into a visual voice of great purity and power. 

Penny Arcade NYC August 12, 2014

Photo: Penny Arcade by Jasmine Hirst

Read about Jasmine Hirst's amazing biodiverse career here... 

Read Penny Arcade here....