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Meredith Leigh Crowe speaks with Jordana Bragg

Jordana Bragg is one of Wellington’s emerging contemporary artists.  Her work ranges from film and media to installation and performance.  Just the other week her works This Is For You and We Are Okay featured in The Performance Arcade, the mini-festival in shipping containers on the Wellington Waterfront each year.  Much of Bragg’s work engages us with media art, and media artists in a way that in unexpected, powerful, and personal.  Her works take on characters and nuances that we expect from people, not screens.  Photographer Pat and I caught up with Jordana at Nikau Café to talk about her increasingly impressive portfolio, she is one to keep an eye on!

Meredith – How did you come to art school?

Jordana – I just kept doing art through high school, I became more and more art focused.  Actually friend of mine and I were the only students in our school to want to do classics, and we had to literally skype in a teacher from Marsden every session.  To learn art history.

M – That’s quite cool really, because your work is really focused around media and screen, maybe that art history skyping was where it all started?

J – haha yes through skype!  Art through screens just seemed so natural right from the beginning.  We didn’t really know how to use the media, and we would spend the majority of the class being like, uh, oh, wait, I cant see you, but I can hear you, yup, ok, we are ok, no wait.

M – Tell me about having work in The Performance Arcade?

J – The performance arcade was cool!  My works was called We Are Ok, and This Is For You.  At the time I was reading that Humans of New York thing on Facebook, and they always ask people the question ‘What would you say if you were given the opportunity to say something to a large audience”?  And it made me think, isn’t that exactly the opportunity I’ve been given?

These works came out of wanting to communicate something directly; kind of offering the works up as some kind of sad consolation prize if you will.  It was just a really simple way of saying, ‘this is for you and no one else.’  Obviously that is a bit contradictory though because everyone saw it.

M – I like the Performance Arcade because it is for those middle bits, in-between spaces, genres, in-between the gallery and performance, it’s a neat… space I guess.  So I think its kind of fitting really that your work was kind of the in-between of knowing someone and not knowing someone, and has that contradiction of being for everyone and just for you.

J – And lots of people… well maybe 5… said that it really fitted the ethos, but at the same time it didn’t really fit in.

M –  Yeah your recent show in Christchurch’s First Thursdays Lost In Space does that follow along from some of this work?

J – In a way, yeah.  First Thursdays is a public art event, similar to The Performance Arcade; but Christchurch’s version I guess.  The first time I showed at First Thursdays the theme was Hollywood In Its Heyday.  All of their themes are like, year twelve ball themes and I completely love that.

The proposal I put in for this year, Lost In Space, was the most ridiculous things I’ve ever done.  I think once you get accepted once, you feel like you can push the boundary a bit more. I tried to discuss space in all of its multi-faceted dimensions, so galactic space, cyber space, public space, and private space.  I dressed up like an astronaut and had a selfie-stick, was Facetiming a laptop which hooked up to a large flat screen TV that was set up outside DEAD SET Tattoo Parlour, who were doing space themed flash tattoos.

Just think about that for a second! My audience was people lining up to get spaceaman flash tattoos!  I did a two-hour walk to the Cathedral and back.  A lot of people were like, ‘is that live?  Is that person really out there doing that?’ And I really was.  And it was ridiculous.  It kind of spun into this crazy David Atinborough meets art meets girl dressed as an astronaut.

M – Could you hear them?  The audience at the tattoo parlour?

J – Yes we could both hear each other.

M – Did they tell you to do things around the city?

J – Yeah I asked for directions, and they just lead me astray.  And I was like, ‘screw you guys’, and they were just like, ‘well you are meant to be lost!’ Can’t really argue with that.

For the first couple of minutes when I was walking around inside the event it was awesome, everyone was like ‘yay space man, this is an art event, I get it!’  But once I got more than ten meters away it was like breaking this barrier.  All of a sudden no one knows what you are doing, they don’t know its being streamed anywhere, they just think you are very strange.  But I never broke character and if someone tried to joke with me I was like, ‘this is no joke!  This is art!’

M –The spacesuit was perfect, like you had left the safety of the shuttle where your team was.and gone out onto the moon or something.

J – That’s how I pitched the work, as an ‘intrepid journey into the unknown’ or something.  And it was scary because it was live, and I was worried that someone was going to do something really stupid.

M – Its interesting that you say that because live feedback and live art is something that New Zealand hasn’t really taken up yet, it seems like we are very nervous about letting people immediately have input into what we are making.  Do you think you will do more?

J – Yeah definitely, and I am interested in looking more into live documentation as a form of performance as opposed to performing live in a single space to an audience.

M – What is the next work you have coming up in Christchurch?

J – Eighteen Easy Pieces, borrowed from the title Seven Easy Pieces which was performed in the Guggenheim in New York by Marina Abramovic where she took on seven already established art works and re-performed them.  My work Eighteen Easy Pieces in Christchurch is going to develop over my year at Uni, and be shown as a retrospective at Massey’s Exposure.

Its sort of in contrast to This Is For You where I was giving to the audience, and really respectful and wanting to open up for them; this is completely closed, and egotistical, and narcissistic, and I’m taking rather than giving.  I’m also going to be posting everything online as I go, just to add to the narcissism.

M – It seems like lots of contemporary work is now based over a long period of time, one that goes beyond the time spent in the gallery; artists make and present work over a year rather than slaving away in their studios and then revealing it all at the end.

J – I made the choice to do this work because I have the internet as a means of publication, but I feel like even without the internet this project would have happened in some form.  I would just have to talk about it on paper; books and posters and spam.  Everywhere.  That would still happen.  But yeah the internet makes that part of the job easier.

M – Its definitely the perfect platform for narcissism.

J – Absolutely, and it kind of started in Lost In Space with the selfie-stick, you could never not see my face.  Just owning that selfie-stick I feel like is the first stepping-stone into the narcissistic process.

M – Its really interesting that those screens, and media, and digital communication have come with you this whole way, from skyping the teacher from Marsden.

J – Yes!  Funnily enough, I came into arts school wanting to be a painter!  And I’m not really sure how it happened but somewhere along the line there my practice just became very screen based.

M – It really suits the things you want to talk about though.

J – Definitely, its perfect.  Lately I have been trying to integrate my art onto Facebook, and it has been really really confusing for people.  I think its because Facebook is just Facebook, and where should I draw the line, where does my practice end.  Ive been making and uploading these little videos, and people are like, ‘I really don’t know what to do with this.’  But its great, I’m really enjoying finding out.

Meredith Leigh Crowe

01Jordana_BannerPhoto courtesy: Pat Crowe-Rishworth

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