What do you wish people would ask you about your work? Or, what’s the one thing you want people to know about what you do?
Edwards: I’m deep in the process of existing as an artist. I wish people would ask me: What does process have to do with my performance work? What does presence in day-to-day life have to do with who you are as an artist? Who are you when you are not performing? In what ways do you blur the line between process/presence and performance?
I'm a young working artist, 27 years old. I am remembering how to live creatively instead of just making creatively. In remembering that, it's been so clear to me that I love living creatively, navigating conflict, creating a home space that feels juicy and aligned, falling in and out of new routines, and staying sober. This is a significant part of my process in making. I've kind of redesigned what making work looks like for me—my presence toward myself as my process, as my art making. I think I have to ask, what is performance? I'm still figuring that out for myself. Maybe I am always performing? Maybe there's always a glimmer of glamour in the things I do and also mundanity? That could be why I feel so blurred around process/presence/performance: my performances are becoming more conversational, casual, and intense. My performances derive from dance sessions in my bedroom and notes from my notes app. I take the art of selfie-taking very seriously.
Tatarsky: I want people to know that the work is about unmaking, undoing, collapsing, rotting: narrative, language, structures, matter. I want people to know that I’m starting a firm called Harlequin Scraps Compost Consultants (or maybe it’s called Clown Dreams Rot Co.) and I will happily come to your house and talk with you about setting up an at-home composting system. I want to help us welcome decay and disintegration into our lives, to find intimacy and enjoyment with the falling apart. I am trying to do this myself, though it is often very hard.
Kosoko: The work is very personal and intimate and is a way for me to understand something about being transient, always moving in between states and categories. I am trying to constantly open up new pathways to engage in research and community.
Is there a question you’d like to ask your fellow artists about their practices?
Edwards: What’s keeping you anchored and rooted in creative practice in the midst of the challenges the world is experiencing right now?
Kosoko: Making sure that I continue to create time for rest, focusing on my creative vision for my practice, and practicing loving partnership and collaborations help me to feel grounded.
Tatarsky: Mostly my answer is: oof! It's rough. But as I get older, I find that my faith or belief or whatever in art-making actually grows. The other day I guess I was ranting and someone said to me, “Why don't you become a lawyer so you can actually do something about the things that get you so upset?” And I was surprised by the feelings that came up for me. No disrespect to lawyers—I think their work is so vital and fascinating and also a form of creative practice! But I was just like WHAT?! You think artists (or, in my case, clowns) are not out here actually doing something about the things that get us so upset? Our work is doing something! I surprised myself with my own conviction that art powerfully shifts and shapes paradigms and realities. So I've been holding onto that reaction to remember that I do really believe in this life. Also, baths.
Kosoko: How do you know when an idea is strong enough to push forward in research? How do you know when it’s done?
Tatarsky: I must confess that I'm never sure an idea is strong enough, and the research never feels done! But maybe those two things are related? If the research still doesn't feel done, then that means I must still be interested, and that means maybe the idea is strong? If the research feels done then...I'm over it. The idea no longer feels alive and itchy and begging to be dealt with. But I am curious to push back a bit on this idea of strong ideas in the first place. I'm not quite sure that a piece for me is about an idea or in pursuit of ideas. There are lots of ideas in it! But more often, I find the grist of it is coming from somewhere else: the groin, the heart, the belly—more than the head. And not to say these things are so separate! One can think, I think, with the pelvis, the chest, the gut. But your question makes me think maybe I'm interested in sloppy ideas, wet ideas, ideas that don't make sense or don't work or lead one in spirals. Weak ideas.
Edwards: Maybe I have a strategy of being with an idea, not pushing or pulling it, and perhaps it will accelerate on its own? Maybe the idea gains strength concerning where we are in our lives? Maybe an idea is finished or dies when it is ready? I think I'm trying to say that my ideas are autonomous in some ways, and with that framing, I give myself less pressure to move an idea in any direction. I also believe that all my little works and ideas are somehow related and that they're coming out and waiting to be pieced together to become stronger and more evident as a collective piece of work, each piece acting as research for the other? And maybe in that way, it's never complete? I check in on ideas that feel more dormant, give them some water and snacks, and wait until I feel a hunger to feed them fully. I trust in the timing of the idea.
Tatarsky: How do you deal with the void? Like, what are some methods, tools, tricks, techniques you’ve developed for finding and following the impulses that might become a piece?
Edwards: I am still very in this process. So my first and immediate response is patience. Reframing the space between knowing how a piece will come forward and its completion as a rest stop, a field of flowers you should smell and sit by? I don't know; I've had to offer myself so much grace in the not-knowing/flailing I've felt these last few years as a performance artist. Redefinition and self-determination are daily practices. It's patience and making my bed in the morning, and when something comes, I let it through, I don't edit much, I stay up late if I have to, I let it be finished rough, I let my impulse be the act of precise listening and channeling, as opposed to a sort of precision of making. I make messy things, and that's a strategy for finding and following impulses that become a piece. Or at least that messy thing is a generous starting place for a piece to derive.
Kosoko: I simply start the work. Everything else that follows is instinctual.
Where to See the Artists' Work
Kosoko curated the exhibition Portal For(e) the Ephemeral Passage, on view at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, OH, through August 14, a series of “installations and interconnected events building on Black feminist knowledge, queer theory, and sacred rituals of intimacy and wellness.” Earlier this year, they published Black Body Amnesia: Poems and Other Speech Acts, which “mixes personal history, biography, and mythology to tell a complex narrative rooted in a queer, Black, self-defined, and feminist imagination.”
Tatarsky will perform their newest piece, DIRT TRIP, as part of Cannonball Festival at Icebox Project Space on September 4, 10, and 11. They describe the work as “a lecture/diatribe/dance on clowns and compost and American fears of both, exploring the anxiety around in-between, ambiguous, or breaking-down states.”
Edwards is pursuing study and not currently planning to perform publicly in the next year.