Alex McKenzie

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ALEX MCKENZIE

Exhibition Artist

 
 

About the Artist

 
 

Alex McKenzie is a visual artist based in Knoxville, Tennesse.

 

2017 Summer Exhibition
2012–2013 Winter Residency

 
 
 

 
 
 

Interview

with Lucy Commoner, May 2017
 

What is your history of involvement with the Wassaic Project? How did your experiences with the Wassaic Project impact your artwork?

I first became involved with the Wassaic Project in the winter of 2012–2013 when I participated as both an artist in residence as well as an education fellow at Webutuck High School. Wassaic was my first time experiencing a studio based residency program. It influenced my practice through its encouragement of material experimentation, including durational performance, which defined my practice for a number of years after I left Wassaic. The residency was also extremely instrumental from a professional perspective, allowing me to form working relationships with New York based gallerists and curators.


Some of your art practice involves community connections and social interactions. What led you to integrate this type of engagement into your work?

In 2011–2012 my artistic interests/influences made a dramatic shift from painters towards social practitioners and participatory performance artists. People like Francis Alys, Jon Rubin, and Harrell Fletcher helped shape a new direction in my work. In an effort to diversify my practice and engage in conversations outside of a studio art context, I started working more collaboratively and often times in public. I don’t think it’s the responsibility of an artist to make “universal” artwork, but I do believe we should maintain varied enough practices that our decision making and interests don’t become overly idiosyncratic. One of the best ways to have someone understand you practice is to include them in it. These factors and an eagerness for art to have a more immediate impact sparked this shift in my practice.


There is a quiet playfulness in much of your artwork that runs along with your interest in ritual, repetition, and the passage of time. Can you elaborate on these aspects of your work?

Broadly, I ask my practice to answer some pretty large questions. Looking for rituals, ways of being, and deconstructing my own beliefs are at the core of a number of the projects I have created over the past several years. The playfulness is a way of communicating some doubt in the process, to say maybe this isn’t so serious, or maybe if it is serious — is an art practice the right way to address these issues? It’s also a way of letting people into the work.


Your practice is very varied and includes painting, prints, performance pieces (including musical performances) and video work. How do you view these two video pieces, Moon Mountain and Cessna fitting into your practice in general?

Process tethers these videos to my previous works. Each one is constructed as a response to walks I regularly take in Knoxville, Tennessee. I am always looking for loose structures that act as a framework to create work within, whether that is through highly controlled systems or something as simple as saying “take a walk — make a video.” This type of rule based approach is consistent throughout much of what I do. I am not the type of artist that works towards a specific end, I try to let the project (the process) lead me. My practice is learning based in this regard. I create an experience to teach myself something just as much as to communicate it to the audience.


What insights/feelings would you like an observer to take away from your videos in this installation?

“Doing something doing nothing.” Though these videos are not necessarily screensavers themselves, the loop and lack of narrative/discernable content is a reference to an aestheticized disuse. I like to think of these videos as a resting space, a break from the never-ending data stream of the digital world, as a reflection on the passage of time, and perhaps as just a way to kill time. I can’t think of a better show title (Vagabond Time Killers) to frame them within.

 
 

I don’t think it’s the responsibility of an artist to make “universal” artwork, but I do believe we should maintain varied enough practices that our decision making and interests don’t become overly idiosyncratic.
— Alex McKenzie
 
 

Photo by Verónica González Mayoral