LARRY KRONE [on] BUZZ SLUTZKY

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Dirty Sticker Party {2013} Buzz Slutzky.

Larry Krone (aside as intro): {Below is a record of what transpired between Buzz Slutzky’s and my computers on Thursday, April 10, 2014 from 8:51 – 11:20 PM in an interview done exclusively for Uncompromising Tang. While the chat format was great for spontaneity and easy transcribe-ability, the result in its pure form lacked in readability and flow.  Changes have been made to correct grammar and improve continuity, and some responses were enhanced after the fact. Most chit-chatty bloopers have been edited out, but in the interest of your reading pleasure, my embarrassing misunderstanding of Buzz’s reference to “Kinko’s” remains in its entirety. Enjoy! }

LK: Hello, Buzz Slutzky!  I’ve been thinking about this interview all day, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I may have gotten my expectations a little high about what we can accomplish here.  I’ve been excited to talk to you formally, because I’m so drawn to your work, and also because you seem immersed in a queer/transgender art dialogue that I’ve been exposed to and even included in yet still struggle to understand. I am putting it on record that I aspire to learn and write more about the bigger queer/trans picture specifically, but today let’s just do our Google messaging and see where the conversation leads.

Sent at 8:51 PM on Thursday

LK: We were in a show together, and that’s how I first saw your work. The show was John Chaich’s Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York City this past January 17 thru March 16. Can you talk a little about the pieces you had in the show?

Sent at 8:52 PM on Thursday

BS: The work I had in Queer Threads were three small pieces in a series called Body Party. Each piece is made from collected fabrics, which are sewn into the form of abstracted body parts.

Sent at 9:00 PM on Thursday

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Body Party (Ghost Boobs) {2013} Buzz Slutzky.

BS: Each body part is imaginary to some degree. Ghost Boobs is my response to the phantom pains and itches I felt in my chest after having FTM top surgery. I used a shoulder pad to represent a breast form with displaced skin, the feeling of dislocation. Wiggle Pants is made from two different cousins’ discarded garments. My former roommate, as well as cousin, Alexa Newman is a textile and costume designer, and she had given me a scrap from a sweater she was making on a knitting machine. So that is the pink and green fabric you see. The form of the scrap was so strange, since it was probably the top strip of the shirt, with a little bit of sleeve? I’m not sure, but I ended up making it into something that resembled half-pants (since they would only cover the front of your legs.)

Sent at 9:04 PM on Thursday 

Body Party (Wiggle Pants) {2013} Buzz Slutzky.

Body Party (Wiggle Pants) {2013} Buzz Slutzky.

LK: Can I comment on Ghost Boobs and Wiggle Pants?  I think it’s worth describing what they look like a little more.  They are such crazy looking pieces!

BS: Sure! I’d love your feedback.

Sent at 9:07 PM on Thursday

LK: The look of these pieces is so scrappy and ephemeral. Ghost Boobs has curly plastic gift-wrapping ribbon hanging off it, and Wiggle Pants is shredded and frayed in a way that seems wild and likely to get messed up further over time.  To me, this gives the work a disarming funny quality and also a sense of mystery as to what the person is like who made it and how they made their formal decisions.  I know part of the content of the work is about your body and your gender transition.  Is the unstable nature of the materials intentional as a means to convey change?

Sent at 9:16 PM on Thursday

BS: Yes, I think so. The fun thing about using sewing in such a simple way, just joining two fabrics together, is that it is so mutable. The process requires trying it so many different ways… which I suppose is a lot like my experience of my body. The series is working with an idea of the body as a found object, which can be repurposed as well as altered.

Sent at 9:20 PM on Thursday

LK: Cool. I think a lot of people don’t see their body that way. This work could be a good way to show people about transgenderism and its connection with the body as opposed to being ALL about the body.

Sent at 9:23 PM on Thursday 

BS: What do you mean?  Like what a possible trans experience is like?

Sent at 9:25 PM on Thursday

LK: Yes. I think many people see their body as unchangeable except for maybe diet and exercise. The idea of changing one’s body in the way you describe could be eye opening for them. How important it is to you to inform people about your trans experience? Do you want to educate people in a political way?

Sent at 9:30 PM on Thursday

BS: I would love to have a positive effect in terms of trans acceptance, but I can also only make work from my own experience. I can’t speak for all trans people. But if people come away from my work knowing what the word “cisgender” means, that gives people the language to talk about gender identity at all. (Cisgender is the opposite of transgender; someone who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth.)

LK: Oh I know all about cisgender!

Sent at 9:37 PM on Thursday

BS: I think my work with Pop-Up Museum was more intentionally political. I was involved for the first two years of the project. The goal was to encourage queer people to educate ourselves about our own history through art, since it’s not included in school curricula. Also Pop-Up wanted to make that history codified collectively, so that it doesn’t end up whitewashed or masculinized. For example it’s really important for any curriculum about queer history to emphasize the work of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, instead of acting like Stonewall was some sort of white gay man thing.

Sent at 9:41 PM on Thursday

BS: That’s awesome that you know about cisgenderness!

LK: This could be a good time to plug your video. I think it’s a good example of this educating idea mixed with art.  And regardless of the art aspect, it’s really good at explaining how to deal with the pronouns!

Sent at 9:44 PM on Thursday

LK: I’m trying to figure out the question I want to ask about audience for the Pop-Up Museum.

BS: OK.

Sent at 9:50 PM on Thursday

LK: This is what I’m thinking, and it relates what you said about the Pop-Up Museum, your video, my personal relationships with transgender people in my life, pronouns, queer things, and all of that:

Sent at 9:53 PM on Thursday

LK: Your video argues a good case for the pronouns, specifically to not be that much of a problem to use naturally in conversation. I had been tormented by that issue, and I was happy to have some support. I felt so much more optimistic about getting it right after watching. But who besides me and a handful of LGBTQ people and their families care enough to even be concerned? I started to focus on trying harder when I realized that I was in the smaller group of people who really should get it right. I thought about this when you talked about the collectively codified history for the Pop-Up Museum. Of course it has to be collectively codified–there is no way to justify whitewashing or masculinizing history–but isn’t it frustrating that in being so responsible, you making it more difficult, thus possibly alienating your most built in target audience?

Sent at 10:03 PM on Thursday

BS: Well, I have an issue with the idea of a “target audience,” as if trans people are trying to sell something to cis people. To respect a trans person has everything to do with seeing the person as the identity they self-determine. Mispronouning is very disrespectful for this reason. I made the pronouns video very selfishly: to inform my colleagues of how to be respectful towards me and the other trans people in the department. It comes from a place of assuming good intentions, and trusting that your friends, family, and coworkers want to know how to respect you. The “art” part is in the way I communicate those ideas.

Sent at 10:10 PM on Thursday

LK: I get the assumption of good intentions from the video. I think that’s one reason it is so effective. That and all of the sample scenarios using your objects as the subjects!

BS: I wanted to use objects as the “people” I was practicing pronoun etiquette on. It hopefully shows the viewer how to alter their perceptions, by taking the intensity of personal interaction out of the scenario. But also it has to do with questions I have about objecthood in general; I am interested in the fact that in English, we don’t give objects genders, but in many languages, most words have a feminine and a masculine form.

Sent at 10:13 PM on Thursday

BS: I’m an MFA student right now, and many of my classmates are international and English is not their first language. So it makes it a lot more difficult for gender-neutral pronouns to catch on.

LK: I’m sure!  And particularly “they,” I’d imagine, because of the confusion of it sounding like a plural.

Sent at 10:15 PM on Thursday

BS: Right. And a lot of people who use “they” as their pronoun welcome that multiplicity of having multiple genders. It’s an idea I am drawn to conceptually, but I don’t actually identify as multiple people. (Although one professor mistakenly thought I did.) Actually, the singular “they” used to be very common, and there are examples in literature. It was pushed out of use by a mean-spirited schoolteacher.

Sent at 10:17 PM on Thursday

LK: What about how writers used to use “he” as interchangeable with “one”?

BS: That’s a different thing altogether. That has more to do with patriarchy, and male-normativity.

LK: I want you to finish your thought, but I also want to shift gears a little bit. I’m curious about your art beginnings

BS: Art beginnings!

Sent at 10:21 PM on Thursday

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Suit Yourself: The George Sand Story in C Major (Arcana) {2012} Buzz Slutzky.

BS: I was always “drawn” to drawing. My learning style is pretty non-visual, so drawing from direct observation was a way to train my brain to take in visual information, learn how to “word” it so that I could represent images on paper or canvas. I learned to draw from life, but also did a lot of drawing from images, for example of Britney Spears photo shoots I liked the set decoration on. I had an art teacher who frowned upon drawing found images, since he thought it was uncreative to copy a pre-made composition. So I ended up returning to that practice and developing it as a core principle in the work, to draw from images, e.g. on the internet. I like to mix two different image sources in one drawing, since they have to pass through a perceptual layer; but the perception thing also is enough for me as far as bringing new content to an already existing image. And it feels rebellious, at least to my old art teacher.

I was very encouraged to draw as a child because my Grandma Syb was an artist. I remember her drawing an eye on one side of the page, and then asking me to draw the other eye as if it were reflected across a vertical line. My mom used to be a graphic designer, and still makes photography and installation work.

Sent at 10:25 PM on Thursday

BS: My Grandpa Jerry had a hilarious narrative sensibility with home movies, and in his retirement was always making zines at Kinko’s, although he didn’t call them that. Zines, that is. He called it Kinko’s. I mean, he called Kinko’s “Kinko’s.”

LK: That’s what I call it, but I put an apostrophe “s” on everything.  I thought that was a St. Louis thing.

BS: Well my parents met in St. Louis!

LK: Of course they did. Where did you grow up?

BS: My dad is from Omaha, Nebraska, my mom is from Fort Worth, Texas, and my brother and I were born in Kansas City. I grew up in New Jersey though. We moved there before I was a year old. So any Midwestern characteristics I have are second hand.

LK: Well, you have them!

BS: You think so?

LK: Kinko’s is all the proof I need

BS: I never know what of my parents’ speech patterns are just their weirdnesses. When is it a speech pattern and when is it an accent, you know? With anyone.

Sent at 10:30 PM on Thursday

LK: Yes that does get mixed up! Back to the drawing. I see a contrast between how rendered and realized your drawings are as compared to your 3-dimensional work and videos. I do see the aesthetics coming together in your doily drawings like in the Trinkets series and videos such as Villanelle for Daters and Internet Dating with Buzz Slutzky. Did the sculptures such as Quilted Arc come after the drawing?

Sent at 10:35 PM on Thursday

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TRINKETS (more of a gayboy every day). 21 ink drawings on 6.5″ doilies. {2013} Buzz Slutzky.

LK: I guess my question is about whether you deliberately exercised a different kind of freedom when you started making sculpture, if they came after.

BS: Oh.

LK: Unless you can find a more interesting question in there.

Sent at 10:37 PM on Thursday

BS: I suppose sculpture and video do feel freer. I’ve been heavily trained in painting/drawing more than any other medium, so my relationship to it is quite different than my work in sculpture or video, which I’ve only been practicing since 2008 and 2009, respectively. Drawing has always been a way for me to trace my perception of the world, but at a certain point my ideas felt too contained in it. Sculpture allows me to simplify forms by using the materials’ already existing content. Video allows me to pack a ton of content into a simultaneous audio/visual experience. Despite what medium I’m using, the act of making is more fun for me if I am engaging language in some way. At times the work is verbal first and visual second. That approach is really foreign to some people. Making an artwork from a pun. But I guess in my mind, I will do anything for a laugh.

LK: Oh that’s a great lead in to your performance!

BS: Awesome!

Sent at 10:42 PM on Thursday 

BS: Right, because it’s interesting that we both perform as well as make things.

Sent at 10:44 PM on Thursday

LK: You are an entertainer! It’s in your visual work– the humor and comfortableness of your references and materials like stickers, paper towels, and textiles. But you also actually perform in a wholehearted way. What can you say about your performance work and its relationship to your objects and other visual work?

BS: Thank you!

Sent at 10:45 PM on Thursday

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Double Incision. metal, paper towel, thread, felt, studs. {2014} Buzz Slutzky.

LK: (By the way I just Googled Kinko’s and that is the correct spelling.  Your Grandpa was right and I can’t claim it as a St. Louis thing!)

BS: Hahahaha! There goes that discussion!

Sent at 10:48 PM on Thursday

BS: It took me a long time go come around to performance actually. I’ve always been a jokester or “class clown” in small groups, but I was cursed with stage fright after forgetting my lines onstage. So all that performative, comedic, dramatic energy went into the visual work. Doing performance video helped me gain comfort performing in front of a camera, without the social pressure of being in front of people, and I could control the output. This led to performing the audio live during my video screenings, so that I could be present without being onstage. This is how I learned that I could memorize my own material. And of course, the visual aesthetics I’d already developed in my visual work came into the video, and has from there extended into my costumes (like the teddy bears inside of my stuffed bunny suit, in my recent performance Teddy Poems: The Unstuffing (2013).

Video editing has given me so much joy in exploring comic timing. While my visual work has elements of humor, but there is something about time-based work that engages laughter in a new way as a mechanism of connecting with an audience. With video I can also engage the visual elements of video and even combine it with other mediums. It started happening with Internet Dating (2009), since that piece came out of a drawing series I did about online voyeurism and dating profile images. I didn’t fully engage drawing within video until Chatroulette: Serial Terror (2010) where I played with layering images and video to get at the tension between flatness and depth in online spaces of interaction. As for drawing and video, I’m not as interested in the illusion of movement, which is why I don’t call it animation per se. Villanelle for Daters (2012) was so fun for me to make, since I was able to combine most of the mediums I like to use– drawing, poetry, performance, and video. And I suppose sculpture, since I am drawing on found objects (doilies).

Sent at 10:57 PM on Thursday

BS: There’s something really fun to me about using such a traditional form like the Villanelle to talk about things like Grindr and cruising. It gets back to the themes of sentimentality and irreverence in my work. (Is irreverence a theme or an attitude?)

Sent at 10:59 PM on Thursday

LK: Yes, that’s a really good piece. As with a lot of your other work, you can sense your joy behind it. The contrast of contemporary sex stuff with old fashioned-ness does not get heavy-handed, which could be a real danger and make it much less funny and engaging. (I think, at least.)

Sent at 11:01 PM on Thursday

LK: I was thinking about how the video and performance work is this weird mix of indelible documentation and an illustration of change and fluidity at the same time. In the early videos we see your body before your top surgery and in later videos your physical transformation is apparent. I wouldn’t have thought that video could create an ephemeral effect like that. To me, it relates directly to your Body Party work. In fact, I think that is a connection throughout: a feeling of solidity together with the sense that everything can change.

Sent at 11:09 PM on Thursday

BS: Hmm! That’s interesting. Making work is almost like keeping a diary of what you are like at any particular moment. It can be fun to look back at old work and see how I am the same person, but notice the ways I have changed. It’s also notable how gender identity can change over time…  at one point I really did identify as a girl.

LK: It must be satisfying to see that consistency of your character no matter what was going on with the rest of everything else.

Sent at 11:14 PM on Thursday 

LK: Our comments overlapped…saying kind of the same thing.  Maybe we can end here?  It could be a nice note if I can edit it well.

BS: Sure!

Sent at 11:20 PM on Thursday

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Dirty Sticker Party. found childhood stickers {2013} Buzz Slutzky.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Larry Krone: Born in Chicago, IL in 1970, Krone was raised in St. Louis, MO and now lives and works in New York City’s East Village. He has exhibited work since the early 1990s, most recently at Pierogi (Brooklyn) with an accompanying performance at Joe’s Pub (New York) and notably at The Contemporary Baltimore, The Museum of Contemporary Craft in conjunction with Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (Portland, OR), The Whitney Museum of American Art Philip Morris Branch (New York), The New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York), the Drawing Center (New York), and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, which, in 2006 presented “Larry Krone: Artist/Entertainer,” a ten-year retrospective of his visual and performance work.

Buzz Slutzky: A Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary artist, writer, and curator. Buzz works in a range of media, particularly in drawing, video, and performance. They are a former Curator of the Pop-Up Museum of Queer History, and currently work as a student and Research Assistant in the Parsons MFA Fine Arts program. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Buzz’s work has been shown at La Mama’s SQUIRTS: New Voices in Queer Performance, The MIX NYC Queer Experimental Film Festival, Dixon Place, and Ed. Varie Gallery. Their projects have been written about by Artforum.com, The Huffington Post, TimeOut NY, and NEXT Magazine. Buzz’s collaboration with LJ Roberts The Queer Houses of Brooklyn is the permanent collection of the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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