Agathe Snow Interview
Agathe Snow is an artist. Her mediums are detritus, broken machines, lights, earth, cloth dancing, paint, metal, video, zip ties, food and other people. With these materials she explores ideas of decay and dissolution, the constant motion of living, of leaving a mark, universality, defining and blurring, exhaustion, endurance and anticipation. Snow is from Corsica originally, but she is a downtown New York artist through and through, even if she has moved to the countryside. It was in New York that she recognized herself as an artist, and it was New York that first recognized her. Snow’s first solo show "No Need To Worry, the Apocalypse has already Happened…when it couldn't get any worse, it just got a little better", was at the James Fuentes gallery in New York in 2007. In it she explored an imagined Manhattan destroyed by a catastrophic flood. Nothing left but a whale carcass and a few survivors. Snow was making art long before this, merging art and gastronomy with The Chop Shop, invasion dinner parties, and creating other performance works, often involving pushing her body past the point of fatigue, looking for the moment when there is a collapse in habitual thought. Reoccurring themes in Snow’s work are the forces of nature and their effects on humanity, communication or the lack thereof between nature and humanity, and the perpetual drive to exist. In the last few years Snow has been working with frenetic energy, exhibiting around the world, creating pieces that permeate the space they hold, concocting new landscapes and throwing out endless questions. Agathe Snow is a force of nature.
Clementine Widdowson - de Pressigny: It wasn’t very long ago that you said you had started to actually call yourself an artist. What is it that made you feel like you had reached that point?
Agathe Snow: In retrospect, that’s how the whole thing came about, first I had been given the opportunity to be an artist, make art and have a show and that I knew, I always understood the act of making things creating and saying "it's art", but I had to see the finished product to call myself an artist, it took a certain maturity and a desire to understand who I was and what I had to say. It happened gradually but the main event was on the night my show opened at Peres Projects in Berlin, "I don’t know but I've been told, Eskimo pussy is mighty cold", I just sat there in the installation and looked around and somehow I understood I had never really fucked with anyone or myself and that I was a good enough person to entertain having a voice and so it made sense to define myself to be more approachable. I wasn't scared anymore.
CMWDP: You stopped making art for three years prior to 2007. Can you tell me about why you chose to do this, and what made you ready to start creating again?
AS: That's not entirely right, I just changed my focus to more ephemeral creations. Instead of making things I could let go of and leave behind in your living room, I invaded your living room with a bunch of friends, an idea, and some food for a few hours and then all was packed up, broken up and back at their own place. In short, I created moments. For years I couldn’t really decipher where the line was, where I was and where my art began. I thought myself strong enough to face the world and yet my creation, my remains, I didn't think were themselves strong enough to stare back and be ok, that is what I had to learn, to detach myself and let go and finish and forget. Not be afraid to leave a mark or some extra weight on the planet, and so, I chose to use materials that exist already and are doomed to never serve again and so to linger waiting for dismantling or destruction and prolonged their use beyond function.
CMWDP: You have been an incredibly prolific artist in the last few years, what is that drives you to keep creating - where do your influences and inspiration come from?
AS: Once I realized that’s what I was supposed to do, I had so much to say, and still do and I enjoy every bit of it. I am learning to say no nowadays but I still feel so blessed to be asked to make things that it is hard to slow down. I get inspired by everything around me, I simply ask questions, I look for conversations with the elements the materials moving about around me, the now and how it all connects.
CMWDP: You have explored the idea of mythology and fantasy in your work, what do you think about the myth of the artist – of creating a certain public persona, or having one thrust on you?
AS: I thought about it constantly for a long time. I really enjoy the places where the lines get blurry where fact and fiction meet and also where the desire for truth and that for fantasy meet and battle. I have always thought that the artist had to be a public persona and so had to find a way to protect him or herself by coming up with a character for themselves. One that is based very strictly on personal facts but that can be looser on the edges, told in different way, with another accent... but somewhere along the way, if you’re lucky as I have been, you lose control of your story and your own personal way of presenting yourself and you actually become public property. So while I think I was open to the possibility and even looked forward to it, at some point I realized there was absolutely no reason for me to be in the picture in the first place and now I've moved out to the country side and it is much harder to get to me and I’d like my art to do all the talking. I wish that's what people spoke about instead of the sensational or the gossip, but hey, it's still a pretty amazing deal and I don't have much to hide.
CMWDP: Community figures strongly in your work, from your performance pieces to getting kids to help you create sculptures. Why is this important to you?
AS: Community is important as mass, first. It makes noise, in numbers. But also as place to find one’s individuality in comparison and again lose individuality in repetition and community. In the past, I've often invited every member to partake in a common activity and to do so until exhaustion. I realized it helps see what is universal, shared in one and all. I also really enjoyed the connections that form among people, the way they are defined and are drawn to one another. It is a small replica of the world at large, a world beyond frontiers and difference, and humans as part of nature.
CMWDP: The recent group exhibition at the Saatchi gallery in London, entitled “Abstract America: New Painting and Sculpture”, of which you were a part, received mostly negative reviews from the British newspapers. Do you pay any attention to the reviews, and what is your feeling on the role of these critics — who make decisions on what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ — in the art world today, if any?
AS: First, I want to say I’ve always been terrified by the British Art World in all its parts all together. Afraid to do a show, well really afraid of the response, so now I can surely say, it is a purely British phenomenon, critics are critical, rough and most often than not very negative.
Still I do pay attention to the critics since I want to entertain a communication, an exchange with them.
Any attention is still positive for me, as for a long time I felt a need to be recognized by the critical world to ascertain my position as an artist, no matter the evaluation, if they mentioned me then I was really an artist.
I eventually did find recognition but nothing said has made me change my practice or the way I work.
I am still looking for that one critic that would help me move forward because ultimately I want to keep on moving and come closer to Truth, to a certain excellence, timeless, sexless and universal.
CMWDP: So many of your pieces give the sense of being artefacts of our time that have been left behind for people in the future to discover – what do you think they would make of us?
AS: If found by future peoples, I'd say my sculptures would make us users of things, makers of things and constant researchers, always trying to better our lives, to make them easier with the help of technology. I think that no matter where they find themselves whether half decimated or fully accomplished and happy, I do hope that they would see themselves in my work and still see it as an example of freedom and versatility, a part of a heritage, a lineage. As for myself I hope that one day I will have the balls to face this constant idea of forward motion, forward always with history repeating itself, individuals repeating themselves, faces, characters and iconoclasts repeating themselves and yet this ever desire to keep on moving and always wonder unsatisfied why we are here, where do we come from and for what reason and where do we go on to. As long as we keep asking we will go on, maybe humanity has shown all of its shapes yet it hasn’t come up with any definite answer. Drive and doom to life, to die, to reproduce, to leave a mark, to make a difference, to play your part, to take a stand, to deal with the other, to define oneself, to deal, to live with and make sense of, to stay alive, to survive.
Clementine Widdowson - de Pressigny
Words - Clementine Widdowson - de Pressigny