Katie Hubbell

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KATIE HUBBELL

Artist-in-Residence

 
 

About the Artist

 
 

The tensions and anxieties manifested within the dichotomy of comfort and unease are subjects of my investigation. Through the use of immersive installations, video and objects, the work orchestrates experiences of empathy and connectivity through reciprocal physicality. I am interested in how the viewer becomes keenly aware of their own body through these haptic experiences.

My work is centred on the exploration of visceral materials in relation to the body. As I question ideals, beauty and the gaze, I explore ways of analysing psychological friction inherent in the everyday by pushing banal or innocent actions and materials to the point of absurdity. As the viewer attempts to engage the materials they suddenly unravel, become tangled, abstracted and abject. They are invited to a dialogue between sensuality and repulsion, boredom and flirtation, consumption and anxiety.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Interview

with D. K. Broderick, June 2018
 

Let's start with the “pseudo,” specifically the pseudo-scientific. You've expressed that you are influenced by your family's relationship to science — both your parents work as science professionals. Can you talk a bit about the role that science and pseudo-science plays in your work?

I grew up helping my dad paint watercolor images for presentations he used to give. For some reasons just looking at that imagery as a kid has had an impact on me. I was also very influenced by the abundance and presence of my parents’ science magazines. It's something that I think about a lot but not something that I necessarily understand or want to understand either. It really has more to do with the material of it than the beliefs.


Do you think of your work as offering any criticisms of the scientific field or are you simply drawing on its research and materials?

I don't know, maybe. I'm always interested in the ways that definites are a little bit unstable. I feel like science is continuously changing and shifting. That's something that's interesting to me and that I try to address in different ways in my work.


I studied Ecology and Conservation Biology in undergraduate. It was interesting to observe the ways in which the scientific field evolves and how rapidly its moving edges advance. At the same time, it proclaims objective truth and static stability. In your work there is a certain type of movement — an oozing subjectivity if you will — that undermines some of the claims that scientific disciplines and practices continuously stake.

That's not necessarily an observation that I set out to engage with or visualize in my work. But it's definitely something that I've become aware of and arrived at through my working methods overtime as well as through the materials that I incorporate.


What kinds of materials are you working with and how are you thinking about them in relationship to bodies?

I use a lot of foodstuffs and cosmetics in my work. I'm especially interested in using sweet and pretty materials in an abject way but not seriously abject. For example, bubble gum as a cheesy abject.


I'm not sure I follow. Are you speaking about the abject in relationship to theatricality?

Yeah, I'm not using things that are actually disgusting but I am using things in a disgusting way.


I’m still not sure I understand. Why is it important to you to use “desirable” materials to construct “off-putting” sensorial environments? Do the qualities of the materials provide specific entry points into the work while connoting specific thoughts and feelings in viewers?

Yeah, as I just said, these are just materials that I like using, bubble gum is a favorite of mine.


In an earlier conversation you mentioned self-help lingo and motivational advertisement as of interest to you and your practice. How do these two sources show up in your work?

I've explored self-help lingo and motivational advertisement in a number of ways in a number of pieces. In a video work called "20 Life Hacks to Cure Loneliness" I combine tiny bits of advice that kind of contradict themselves over the course of the video. The text and spoken word components of the video make use of these sources. I'm especially interested in the ways that advice can fall on itself and can become totally absurd and feel unstable depending on the context.


Recently you’ve taken up meditation as a practice. But only after making a work about meditation as a practice. We all absorb things in different ways at different rates but I'm very curious to hear a little bit more about this specific instance and the ways in which your engagement with meditation changed from an interest of your work to a practice in your life.

It was a really interesting process. It took a long time for me to incorporate meditation into my being. It was one of those things that people had been telling me I should do for years. You know, "You should do this, you should do that, you should do yoga, you should meditate." That's actually why I wanted to make a piece about it to begin with, because everyone around me was telling me that I should meditate. But also to use that as a tool to have a certain impact on the viewer. After watching a million and one meditation videos in preparation for the piece I was making, a lot of them were pretty bad, I figured why not incorporate it into my life as well. This happened maybe a year later. I guess it takes a while for me to absorb things.


Where's the line for you, assuming there is a line, between ironic and sincere engagement?

Woah. That's a good question. Um… [Long Pause]


Please don't feel like you have to answer.

I don't know.

 
 

I’m always interested in the ways that definites are a little bit unstable.
— Katie Hubbell
 
 
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It seems like your work walks a very fine line between offering a certain perspective on something and actually embodying that something. Which brings us back to the abject. I eat myself up, I purge myself out. Maybe what we are really getting at is a question of healing, of the ways that one heals.

Yeah, it's definitely cathartic. Or it can be. To exorcise oneself. Since you're being persistent, I've always been drawn to the abject since I started making art. The ways in which it can be appealing and threatening at the same time. That is the line that I'm interested in and that I try to play with in the work in general. I guess for me it's also really about the ways in which one can question the boundaries of the self.


How long have you been making work that deals in and with these types of issues?

It was there from the beginning, when I started with painting. I have always been acutely aware of it and have tried to express it in my work. It's also where I see my work going in the future as well. It will always be there.


If the underlying concerns of your practice have remained the same over time, what, if anything, has shifted as you've moved through painting and sculpture into video and installation?

You know, it's funny because the more work I make the more threads I see leading back to the early work I did in undergraduate. Which is interesting for me to acknowledge the ways in which certain ideas resurface over and over again. That said, while they may resurface I have completely different ways of addressing them. I got bored with painting after a while and the same with sculpture. For me it just felt limiting to work within one discipline. As my ideas have gotten a lot more complex they have required different outlets and expressions.


What are you working through or working towards at the moment?

I don't really know what I'm doing and I'm okay with that. I often start out with not knowing and go from there. Generally I start with surfaces and textures and build depth and shape from there. Recently I've been thinking a lot about wanting to make a piece on acupuncture. Which means I want to go get acupuncture. Which means it might just end with me getting acupuncture.

I was thinking about fashion and the body and connective tissue while reading about this discovery that was just made. Like there's this other space in the skin, it's this fluid layer that you can't see in a dead body but that you can see in a live body. And they were talking about the ways in which acupuncture's connection to this fluid layer of the skin is what makes it successful. So I was interested in exploring this kind of system in the body.


That's an interesting example in the sense that it illustrates the limits of scientific knowledge. Ancient-contemporary practices that have been implemented successfully for thousands of years still cannot be entirely understood or explained away by "science."

Yeah, I guess I'm more interested in the body and its surfaces than in what has or is being done to it. Like especially the skin of the body and the nets of the body. My mother was recently telling me about the relationship between fats and fasciae in the body. But I'm not sure if that's been accepted as common knowledge yet. You know, you hear all sorts of different things.


Whether or not you're thinking about or making a surface, the treatment of surfaces in your work seems to be an important aspect of your visual language. What is it about surfaces that you're interested in?

For me surfaces act as backdrops and as sets in my work. Surfaces can act as structures, too. A lot of the work's surfaces have been treated similarly, in a kind of goopy way. I think in part it has to do with incorporating different aspects of painting and sculpture into the work I've been making. I don't want to call them paintings and I don't want to call them sculptures either. The surfaces have become a way to unify different actions and materials.


As a way of concluding our conversation perhaps we can discuss your work in relationship to the work of others, are there any particular art historical lineages and/or constellations of influence you’d like to speak to or address?

Oh, um... [Long Pause]


We don't have to situate your practice in relationship to others if you don't want to.

I don't really wanna situate my practice within anywhere, anything, or anyone. Sure there are certain people and certain work that I get a lot from. But I don't really want to put my work in any particular lineage and I don't want to say who those people are. It's always kinda like "look but don't look" for me with other people.

 
 

Surfaces can act as structures, too.
— Katie Hubbell
 
 
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Photos by Walker Esner