Kalan Sherrard Interview
From Sea Weed Special
Kalan Sherrard, called “NYC’s Most Avant-Garde Nihilist Subway Performer” by NYMag is a multidisciplinary artist living in New York City. His performance-based work involves arrangements of found objects, loaded text, hybrid sound, and offbeat costumes. His puppet shows, which have been described as “better than Tim Burton,” utilize the deformed creations of combined objects. He also draws, collages, creates installations, and directs photography projects.
SM: Are you in love with anybody?
KS: Yesterday I got so sad about this. What is beyond suicide when suicide is not enough, she asked herself.
SM: Do you believe in anarchy?
KS: Not really. Or not in That Way. I am fascinated with and cosmically inspired by anarchist ideology and historiography and “ethics” and a lot of that is tacit and de facto in the socius. The word literally means Against Archons. She used to call herself a Philosophical Anarchist. That could mean anything. So-called “Chaos” is so obviously an impossible tautology, and in actuality just different kinds of order - and insofar as anarchism suggests a rhizomatic social or semiotic model outside of pyramidal hierarchy, yes of course. It’s funny to call myself an anarchist because when other people introduce themselves to me as anarchists my internal response is usually ‘hah that’s stupid and naive, you must be a very dogmatic puppy.’
I could talk about this for a long time. There’s actually a Anarchism 101 Syllabus on my website. (enormousface.com/syllabi.html) I have been planning a series of interviews with ex-anarchist for some time now, so if you know anybody who fits the bill send them my way.
SM: What is your work about?
KS: Am I supposed to say it’s De centering, A-Centrifugal, Borrowing Onto A Milieu Of Otherness, Valorizing Communities Of Difference? I am against this question. Yesterday a good friend told me what she valued in the work was the inscrutability or its mapping, the way I weave together Cosmic Nihilism and Dental Hygiene and Object Oriented Non-Philosophy. I do what I would want to see, largely because I’ve been looking for a long time and haven’t seen it. I do write a lot about it. This is a secret page about the Cart: http://enormousface.com/performancecart/pressrelease.html - which is an homage to William Pope L and Deleuze. It’s an urban blip, an anomaly of being. I like to loose the references of the work in it’s About-Ness, to offer it as an open map, so usually I have a list or itinerary of conceptual possibilities people can bounce around, off of, in between…
SM: Why do you perform underground?
KS: Isn’t it ironic, or actualized, or fitting? Weather. Jeffrey Lewis’ song “Cult Boyfriend”… New York’s public transit system is the perfect situation for my work in every respect. Street work doesn’t oblige anyone anything, it loosens the rules of engagement and is a much more permeable sphere of “producer-consumer” relationships.
SM: Do you ever get depressed down there performing underground in the subway station?
KS: All the time. I hardly know of a more complete emotional roller coaster. It’s so easy to feel really used and objectified in the worst way. Something about reciprocation… It’s so regular that I get a huge crowd of people who are loving what I’m doing, even moved and surprised and touched, and then everyone takes pictures and cold-shoulders me. I make a pittance on the subway and live on maybe two or three hundred dollars a month that I make from doing those puppet shows, and money isn’t the only way to show appreciation for somebody, but I am perpetually floored by the callousness of, actually especially just young white people. This is largely where my distaste of photography came from viscerally, so many people take a picture and use it as a way to avoid interaction or encapsulate an Other walled away from themselves and then take that person or thing for granted. I am so affected by the way people look at me after they take photos.
SM: What kind of music do you like?
KS: Ostensibly, my favorite band is Les Georges Leningrad. Pop music is getting really good now though. My favorite song right now is OG Bobby Johnson. I like a lot of no wave. Crollo Nervoso. Michael Jackson. Public Enemy. I only like the best music. I mean I have incredible taste in music. Actually I don’t like music at all. I grew up going to hardcore shows every day at second avenue pizza in Seattle, and people used to get really into it, and I think because what I do is pretty multi-sensory, I need that kind of stimulation too and I get often get really bored and disaffected at normal concerts - there has to be a visual element or some kind of bodily violence or else I’d prefer to just have music as a background thing. Caroliner and Sleepytime Gorrilla Musuem do good live sets. Recently I’ve been slowing down music a lot. Riot Grrrl (Huggy Bear), Queer Rap (Le1f), Contemporary Classical (David Tudor)… Grauzome, Crass, Windir…
SM: Where do you get the ideas for all your weird puppets and stuff?
KS: “Thoughts are like smells that come off of your feelings” // A lot of them do actually come from literary theory and philosophy. I’ve been trying to make a field of anuses/penises/vaginas for a while. Also I think my tactility is such that I can sort of see objects extending and retracting through time. I work with what I have, with what I find, and try to stay open to possibilities, so I’ll envision something morphing or changing and then create that. Also actualizing drawings.
SM: You recently said that you believe in violence. Why? Is that in line with some nihilistic, punk philosophy or something? I’ve seen you throw a chair across the room because somebody whispered about God in your ear during a performance. Have you ever been in a fight? Are there any limits for you when you are performing, or in life? It seems you often take things to the extreme.
KS: Ha hah extreme violence, huh. Sure, i guess/I hope. That chair…. came up in another interview about chauvinist norms. I’m not sure if that guy deserved it or not, I think I was actually a guest in someone else’s bit that night. I definitely eschew moderation. I used to organize fight clubs. Apparently there’s queer fight club somewhere in NYC. I wonder if it’s able-ist though. I’ve learned so much more about oppression and exclusion in this society since breaking my leg.
"Are there any limits"? Historiographically, philosophically? In terms of Nietzsche-an norms? We owe so much to the futurists too. I think my interest in violence has to do with liberalism. This kind of gentle alienation that it seems like people are socialized into approaching the world through. In Spanish there’s a word, "choquar," which basically means, "impact," and I think it’s important to do that with the world, to assert life, vitality, etc. There’s a difference graceful nuance and suave indifference…Also I’m really against almost everything in society (and maybe thermodynamics?) and politically, I’m much more Malcolm thank martin… #thickness #messiness
SM: Have you ever hurt anybody during a performance, has anybody ever hurt you?
KS: Yes. It used to happen more. Often people destroy my things. I don’t think anyone other than me as ever gotten really hurt in a ‘performance.’ Once a person broke their thumb in one of those fight clubs I organized, and i got weird in a mosh pit once with these porcelain dolls that shattered by accident and a few people and I got cut and I felt really bad about it. But I try to be actually very careful and gentle with people, and I think am usually pretty good with consent things. I try my best anyways.
SM: What is your favorite performance by you?
KS: In Florida we did this thing a couple years ago at a dump.fm show where we tried to Make The Internet Understand Itself: we put an only TV on top of an old typewriter to make a kind of analog computer and tied strings from its brain to all the audience, and distributed the printed text of the HTML text of the Wikipedia article describing the internet, and had everyone type it into the chat room and the typewriter and yell it out while we projected it onto ourselves naked in strange costumes and did penitential obeisance by rubbing wet dirt we later found out to be dog shit on ourselves while all these little totemic fetishist props and balloons flopped around everywhere. Everyone got really into it and it got really Dionysian, and there was a synergistic moment where it actually did seems like the internet was beginning to come into some kind of demonic life self-awareness of huge evil power despite our couching and aiming of the piece as a failure. There’s a decent video of it somewhere.
KS: Speaking of Florida, I’ve been invited to do a big art show with James Concannon in Miami during Basel this December at Space Mountain Gallery in Little Haiti. Here’s a foretaste:
AOS International presents “Fold The Black Flag,” an entre into Revolutionary Nihilist Pataphysics. The exposition features an historical ‘Folding’ of Dadaist, Anarchist, and Post-Deconstructionist Non-Philosophies. Bodies in varying states of medical dissonance and decay (More Dead White Men) stand as analog reflections of capitalist collapse paradigms, a series of Death Marches through the organs of the beast, the construction and installation of hypertextualized totems throughout the urban landscape, a serialized Noise Opera. The paintings, intervened items, text assemblages and combines of the polycephalous AOS body simultaneously desacralize and reify the crumbling detritus of self-cannibalizing refuse-culture into a phoenix of asocial third gender euphoria. Anti-Object, Anti-Art, Anti-AOS.
SM: Do you consider yourself a performance artist?
KS: There’s some kind of balancing act that has to happen between gravitas and humor that can be hard to strike. I think that’s what keeps me interested and engaged, it navigating this space between the horrifying and the absurd, and what’s successful when it is successful. People are constantly describing me as a performance artist and while I understand it as an explanatory genre word, or a communicative means, it’s a term I really deeply reject. For me, it’s similar to screaming “faggot” as a derogatory, but less direct… I actually really disdain most “performance art” and want nothing to do with it. Maybe I’m an anti-performance artist. That sounds too stupid too. Part of the reason why I describe what I do as not-happenings. I’m working on this page about it, with a sort of itinerized poem and all this amazing footage my friend Sergio put together. He’s a genius: http://enormousface.com/Not-Happenings.html (the Ebola video is there too)
SM: Why are you singing about Ebola? Do you think it’s funny or annoying that everyone is talking about Ebola? Everyone in such fear about Ebola…
KS: I am so interested in Ebola. We have drawn a mystical/anti-semiotic holy trinity between Ebola-Isis-Ferguson. We did a huge Ebola performance in Times Square Saturday. I was terrified Thursday after that man died vomiting on the flight from Lagos to JFK and they let the 150 other people on the flight go out into the city. Totally terrified. It’s probably a racist disease, or a fear that abets racism and settler-colonialism at best. A lot of people in Times Square were terrified. A lot of people thought it was hilarious. It seems like most of society behaves in this kind of perpetual suspended disbelief and it’s strange to force people to make up their minds about something - if this thing happens, how do you behave, do you laugh and keep living, or become terrified. Or what is terrorism… I decided after that that if a huge plague does erupt here, I’m going to stay in the thick of it and get really weird.
Here is a link to a still-secret page about Kalan Sherrards not-happenings: http://enormousface.com/Not-Happenings.html