Into Visibility: An Interview with Linda Tegg

August 25, 2016 · Print This Article

Linda Tegg, Cameratrap, contact. Archival Inkjet Print, 2015.

Linda Tegg, Cameratrap, contact. Archival Inkjet Print, 2015.

Linda Tegg is an Australian photographer and filmmaker based out of Chicago. Using those tools, she carves out uncanny situations along the borderland of Nature and Culture. Sheep inhabit galleries; a goat stands on a white pinnacle appearing to be in digital space until it finally steps off its peak and trots away; often the human figure is camouflaged, whether by green screens or proper hunting attire, illustrating the deliberate and often painstaking efforts humanity makes to separate itself from its environment. In the following interview, Tegg and I discuss those borders and how her interest in grass cultivation further errodes delineations between subject and object, background and foreground.

Caroline Picard: You’ve talked about how you’re interested in looking at “nature” as a social construct. Can you say a little more about what you mean by that? 

Linda Tegg: I am interested in how ideas of the natural are formed and manifest in our interactions. This interest began with interpersonal relationships and has expanded to include those generally not considered persons.

Wildlife documentaries, popular science, religious education, almost anything considered non-fiction is of interest to me. From the museum of natural history, to the eco-safari, to YouTube, interest in animals can rest largely on the surface. Through a recent work I call cameratrap, I consider adaptations that humans make to their own surface appearance when attempting to embed themselves in a so-called “natural” environment. I wonder what the hunter achieves when their prey doesn’t show up; or what we understand natural behaviour to be when the when the wildlife documentary doesn’t play out as we expect.

CP: How do the mediums of photography and video differ for you? 

LT: In my work they speak the same language. Sure, they are by no means identical, but they hinge on the same relationships. It’s difficult for me to think about my photographs and videos in isolation of their environment, viewing conditions are so integral to how I make and experience art.

CP: How do you use those mediums to explore (and blur) the nature/culture binary?

LT: I see my photographs and videos as participants in an ecology of images through which we understand and orient ourselves. I seek moments in mediation where categorical shirts can occur, and find focus where illusion meets embodiment, animal actors for example.

Linda Tegg,  Sheep Study, Gallery, Video Still, 2010.

Linda Tegg,  Sheep Study, Gallery, Video Still, 2010.

CP:What do you mean by “animal actors”?

LT: I mean animals that have been trained for the film and television industry. Animals who perform our idea of their natural behaviour for the camera. I once encountered Holliwolves, wolf dog hybrids who are trained to move like wolves.

CP: What made you want to start working with grass? Is there a way that you compare it to a photographic process?

LT: My interest in grass was sparked by a local concern. I was curious to explore what the State Library of Victoria replaced in its founding. What other life forms occupied the grounds of that building? I learned that a grassy plain woodland had once stretched across the site and wanted to see if those plants could somehow grow back there again, and if conditions could be found where those same grasses might co-exist with the State’s collection of cultural artifacts. Had the Library been built on a former rainforest I would be working with completely different plant community. That said, it is no co-incidence that Melbourne was built on grassy terrain.

Linda Tegg, Grasslands, Installation View. Photo by Matthew Stanton, 2012.

Linda Tegg, Grasslands,
Installation View. Photo by Matthew Stanton, 2012.

CP:Why do you say that?

LT: Working and thinking with grasslands led me to consider how humanity approaches the world-for-itself (or us); the impulses, instruments, and frameworks of colonization are at play everywhere. The camera is certainly in line with that same mentality and I constantly wrestle with that awareness in my work. Working with grassland plants prompted me to shift my focus to the background.

CP: How might privileging a background (or grassland) influence your experience of art history?

LT: Looking into the background of 19th century paintings of early Melbourne wasn’t exactly informative in terms of which plants were growing on the site. Enormous complexity rendered by a green brushstroke, something to slide right past. In one sense I felt that researching and growing the grasses was illuminating a blind spot. I was drawing that blur into high resolution, so much so that it shifted into another order entirely. Seeking that kind of clarity is very much a photographic instinct.

CP: At the same time, once you shift that interest, wouldn’t you suddenly just turn grassland—in this case—into a kind of foreground subject? I feel like I’m inadvertently asking you about photography again…

LT: As an artist who thinks through photography I can’t help but draw endless analogies—a tray of seedlings appears as a selection of pixels. Eventually, as I understand more about the plants, my interest in the surface subsides and I can see them differently. Before working with plants I understood more about the chemical processes involved in the development of a roll of film into a photograph than the development of a seed into a plant. This allowed me to understand the seed as a latent image. The growth of the plant was imbued with the magic of an image appearing in the darkroom. Of course they’re not just images, they’re living beings.

Linda Tegg, Grasslands,

Linda Tegg, Grasslands, Documentation during protest, 2012.

CP: How do you consider your grass installations in relation to your photographic interests?

LT: I see the installations as a complex of ecology and illusion. I arrange the regular containers of grasses and plants  into forms that resemble landscapes. The rigidity of the containers persist, advancing and receding in counterpoint to the volume of the plants. Despite my Romantic aspirations of verdant hillsides the grid pattern is a constant reminder that the plants are drawn through an anthropocentric structure. The illusion of “nature” can break apart, the same way that a film’s continuity shatters when it’s slowed down.

CP: What is it like producing grass installation outdoor in/situ (as with Grasslands) for instance, versus producing indoor installations, like Terrain?

LT: My first inclination was to bring the plants indoors, so that they could be in direct proximity to the State Library of Victoria’s picture collection. There were many beautiful gestures to be made in bringing a grassland into the Victorian-era gallery. However, the head of conservation (who, at least in theory, entertained my ideas) calculated how many months each of the paintings would need to be rested if exposed to the same light the grasses required for just one day, and after likening the impact to a natural disaster, vetoed the idea. Eventually the grassland was allowed to occupy the Library’s front steps and lawn. As far as the plants were concerned outside was the right choice. They thrive in the sun and open air.

I remained curious about the quarantine room in the library—the evidence they had collected of bookworm, the oriental rat flea they found in a manuscript, the illustrations of silverfish life cycles on the wall.

CP: I can’t believe I didn’t think about how strange it is to cultivate plants indoors! That seems like a really significant aspect, and maybe also ties into the nature/culture binary…

LT: The indoor installations are a struggle for survival. The plants I grow are not the kind of plants that are suited for indoor conditions. They are spouted from the supermarket, usually grains, that require full sun. As a result I race to keep up with their needs and constantly fail. Changes in the building’s heating have huge impacts. Plants’ also impact their surroundings; the air quality surrounding them improves.

Within most institutional building’s plants are imposters, let alone the other life forms they bring forth. I grew my last installation in a large plastic bubble nested into my studio. Psychologically, I wrestled with it as a self-imposed form of restraint but in the end was happy to share in the plants’ containment.

CP: I was wondering if you would speak a bit more about the significance of the Whole Foods’ bulk bin aisle as the source of your seeds and grasses in Terrain? I feel like there are so many nuances of networks and economies at play, things that become strangely invisible when one is faced with the gallery installation of your work. 

LT: In one sense it was a direct way for me to overcome some of the alienation I feel in the supermarket, a marvel of modernism if you will, where everything is on hand, ripe for consumption. By spoiling the grains they’re able to grow into plants—suddenly they can’t be moved so easily, they can’t be traded as they were, and they shift categorically.

The process also disrupts the order of the bulk section, where plexiglass silos emphasize the diversity and division between varieties. Where every variety is represented by a Product Look Up Number that ensures a uniformity across stores. I seek to undo this, to unknow them as food and understand them as plants, as beings with a potential beyond my consumption. I consider them a community, a manifestation of the various human and non-human networks that brought the grains and legumes together in the bulk aisle, as a kind of reflection of our co-evolution.

Linda Tegg, One World Rice Pilaff, Terrain, Prairie Grass, Installation View, 2015.

Linda Tegg, One World Rice Pilaff, Terrain, Prairie Grass, Installation View,
2015.

CP: The way that the blatant economic/trade relationships becomes so quickly invisible feels important, maybe because it reflects how all of the world’s “natural” landscapes are similarly tied up in economic systems. In your installations, I don’t even recognize the individual types of plants, but am struck instead by a general green clump—maybe that’s like the 19th century green brush stroke, again.

LT: It is not surprising that this complexity is evasive. I must admit that I didn’t have a clue what a garbanzo bean plant looked like until I grew one. The plants in their plurality easily become generic grass a ground for human action and expansion. Even in a gallery installation where every convention would invite one to look closely, to consider the plants. They slide so easily into symbolism, into an image of rolling green hills, another image of prosperity.

I chose Whole Foods as it caters particularly well to people who want more from their food. I think about the reversionist fantasies behind the Paleo diet, that our bodies are more in tune with a pre-agricultural diet. That we can indeed buy a nine dollar packet of Paleonola Maple Pancake Flavored Grain Free Granola and be better for it.

CP:  What about care? As someone who worked with you as a curator, I feel like the way that you have to maintain and grow the grasses mostly invisible to a public, but also essential to the underpinnings of your work. I’m wondering how you think about that in relation to the artistic act or gesture…

LT: As the caretaker and orchestrator I am flat out in the midst of this operation. I grow the plants in regular modular containers and rearrange them throughout the exhibition. Indoors it really is a fight for survival.

When working with the grasslands project I thought a lot about what stays and what goes. The care that goes into preserving the State’s cultural heritage and the recurring acts of violence I saw inflicted on Grasslands. Everywhere I looked I saw them giving way. Even the artwork was pulled up one night by the Library’s own contractors to accommodate a display of BMW’s eco friendly vehicles.

Caring put me into a specific and active relationship to the plants; in some ways we’re in it together. The act of caring creates the potential for us to influence each other. We’re co-constituted. I also think that care bring things into visibility. I remember coming across a grassland restoration group weeding an embankment. To see them on their hands and knees, fighting the tide like that, really stuck with me.




Episode 223: Jonathan Watkins

December 6, 2009 · Print This Article

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This week, another in the series of interviews Duncan and Christian did at the Banff Centre while they were on art vacation, Jonathan Watkins!

Jonathan Watkins (born 1957) is an English curator, and is currently Director of the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham. Watkins emigrated to Australia with his family in 1969 and studied Philosophy and History of Art at the University of Sydney, where he later taught. He was curator of the Chisenhale Gallery in London during which period this relatively small local gallery became an internationally known centre of excellence – many of the Artists shown at that time later going on to major acclaim including a number of Turner Prize winners, Watkins later moved to the Serpentine Gallery from 1995 to 1997 and worked in a freelance capacity as curator of the Biennale of Sydney in 1998. Watkins now lives in Birmingham, England. He currently directs the Ikon Gallery, and recently unveiled plans for a new museum of modern art in Birmingham. Read more




Top 5? Well…not quite, but…

October 23, 2009 · Print This Article

OK, so here’s the deal for right now. Every week (well almost every week) I do a pick of shows that I think are most likely worth seeing (I am often wrong). The problem is that I sometimes don’t get to go to all the shows on my list (I generally see art on the weekend and usually just go to openings, I don’t have the “it’s so crowded in here, I can’t see the art” issue, I just shove my way through and look, but I digress). So this week I am giving y’all a list of where exactly I am going. I chose this route because I noticed something odd this weekend, there are seven apartment gallery show openings and closings in the next three days. I figured, what the hell, I’m going to be out, some of these places I like, some of them I don’t really like, some of them I’ve never visited, why not make a circuit of them all, a selection of this Chicago art institution known as the “Apartment Gallery” and see the “State of the Apartment” so to speak. And (this was added after the list was mostly done), I like openings that go till 10 or 11 at night, you can cram a lot more in that way.

APARTMENT GALLERY OPENINGS (AND CLOSINGS) THIS WEEKEND:

1. Australia at Concertina Gallery

Aron Gent, detail from Australia (Hugh Jackman & Nicole Kidman) 2009

Aron Gent, detail from Australia (Hugh Jackman & Nicole Kidman) 2009

And I quote, “Acting as a springboard for works by both Anthea Behm and Aron Gent, Baz Luhrmann’s 2008 movie Australia provides loaded content for each artist to pick apart and reconstruct. Though the artists work off the same source material, they diverge in form and intention. Triggering questions of cultural ownership and responsibility, Behm and Gent address the cultural transmission between those represented and those representing.” This is how the gallery describes the show. I’m most interested in going to see Anthea’s work, she’s a friend of mine and I’m curious to see what she’s been doing.

Concertina Gallery is located at 2351 N. Milwaukee Avenue, 2nd Floor. Opening Reception: Friday 7-10pm

2. Double Fantasy at Noble & Superior Projects

 

The card-announcement-thingie for Double Fantasy (why this? no other pics on their blog, that's why)

 

So this place is brand-spankin’-new. I don’t even know if it is actually an apartment gallery, though all indicators point to that (especially the directions that once you get to the address, “Rear House, Through The Gate!!!”). As you can see by the ever-so-informative card-announcement-thingie, the show features the work of Ivan Lozano and Kate Brock. I can’t find a website for Kate Brock, guess you’ll just have to go to the show.

Noble & Superior Projects is located at 1418 W. Superior St. #2R. Opening Reception: Friday 6-10pm

3. 2-for-1: After Effects at secondBEDROOM and Side Effects at Medicine Cabinet.

A two for one in Bridgeport. For those of you who haven’t been there, these two “galleries” are both part of the same apartment, secondBEDROOM located in, you guessed it…and Medicine Cabinet is the name for the installation space/bathroom.

Thad Kellstadt "what we do is a secret" (2009)

Thad Kellstadt “what we do is a secret” (2009)

In the secondBEDROOM: “Thad Kellstadt’s After Effects attempts to explore the possible afterlife of objects, once dependent on human touch, now neglected but possessing a new presence. Some believe that the breaking of a mirror brings a lengthy stint of bad luck due to the soul confiscating power of the mirrors reflective surface.” Yep.

Side Effects by Jesse Mclean

Side Effects by Jesse Mclean

and in the Medicine Cabinet: “Pharmaceutical marketing strategies and scenic nature photography combine to serve up a warning: Don’t get too comfortable on that plateau. While the view is spectacular there are other forces at work, just out of earshot and bubbling their way toward the placid peaks.” Uh huh.

secondBEDROOM and Medicine Cabinet are located at 3216 S. Morgan Street Apt. 4R. Opening Reception: Saturday 7-11pm.

4. The Trunk Show at Barbara and Barbara

The Trunk Show at Barbara and Barbara

The Trunk Show at Barbara and Barbara

Barbara and Barbara do love you, as their web address so astutely says. For this round the Barbara-ganza is putting on a show dealing with the idea of travel.The show includes the work of a crap-load of people, incuding: Sierra Berquist, Ben Bontempo, Peter McLean-Browne, Evan Burrows, Pete Cuba, Fred Frederick, Julia V. Hendrickson, Landon Manucci, Colin Nusbaum, Emma Powell, Scott Reinhard, David Schalliol, Elizabeth Stoutamire, Christopher Sykora, Sean Sykora, Jessie Vogel, Kelly Wallis, Rustél Weiss, Hannah Zurko

Barbara and Barbara is located at 1021 N. Western Ave. Opening Reception: Saturday 7-10pm.

5. Exhibition 2. 10242009 at MVSEVM

Exhibition 2.10242009 at MVSEVM

Exhibition 2.10242009 at MVSEVM

Ok, so I’m a bit confused as to who exactly MVSEVM are and whether or not there are two of them. So, instead of linking to the blog that seems like it might be theirs but says they are on vacation, I’m linking y’all to the On The Make (another wonderful site) page about the show and gallery. And I quote, “For its second exhibition MVSEVM invites eight diverse artists to contribute site specific works and installations that address the ambiguity of the space as both domestic and professional, private and public, as well as external concerns. In Exhibition 2.10242009 these inquiries manifest in an interrogation of social paradigms, raising questions pertaining to human relationships filtered through biological and technological themes.” Artists in the show: David Brooks, Joe Cruz, Chris Cuellar, Szu-Han Ho, Jesse Vogler, Gabriel Martinez, T UM’, Andrew Yang and Harley Young.

MVSEVM is located at 1626 N California Ave. #2. Opening Reception: Saturday 6-10pm.

6. Deedee Davis and Casey Roberts at Home Gallery

Deedee Davis and Casey Roberts - Works and Collaborative Works

Deedee Davis and Casey Roberts – Works and Collaborative Works

Less of an apartment gallery and more of, well, a home (go figure), Home Gallery is located down in Hyde Park and run by Laura Shaeffer. For this round of exhibitions, Home will be featuring the work of Deedee Davis and Casey Roberts.

Home Gallery is located at 1407 E. 54th Pl. Opening Reception: Saturday 6-9pm.

7. Marginal Waters at Golden Gallery

Doug Ischar "MW 22"

Doug Ischar “MW 22”

So, this isn’t and opening, it’s a closing. Golden is also, like Home, on the edge of the “apartment gallery” definition, but what the hell. For this round of Golden-tastic-atude, they are closing out Marginal Waters, work from the 80s by Doug Ischar. And I quote, yet again, “Ischar will exhibit a body of photographs from 1985, never before seen in its entirety, taken on the now defunct Belmont Rocks in the city of Chicago, and a new single-channel video work.” The closing is also rolled together with the catalog release, and there’ll be an interview with John Neff.

Home Gallery is located at 816 W. Newport. Reception/Catalog Release: Sunday 3-6pm.




Attempted Murder of Australian Painter Cameron Sparks

June 3, 2009 · Print This Article

Cameron Sparks

Sydney artist Cameron Sparks, 78, is being operated on in Royal North Shore Hospital after his 41-year-old neighbour allegedly attacked him in the backyard of one of their houses at Waverton. The latest reports are that his alleged attacker Peter Grayson, 41, was refused bail at Manly Local Court and has claimed to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the attack.

Mr. Sparks is in critical care and has recently gotten out of the OR.

Mr Sparks regularly showed his watercolours at the prestigious Macquarie Galleries, which has since closed. He also compiled a catalogue of the work of Australian artist David Davies.

Read more here & here




Photographer Bill Henson’s Work Seized

May 27, 2008 · Print This Article

Bill Henson
This is an ongoing story that I will barely scratch the surface of but Bill Henson an artist/photographer living in Australia has over the last few days/week been having his work of 25+ years seized, closed down and put into legal doubt.

His work is largely inky black desaturated figurative photos of individuals in minimal or distant urban environments wearing either loose clothing or nude. The catch is that there are also nude teen age models included. Read more