Words Daniel Challis
All images and videos courtesy of Collin Lloyd
MA Fine Art graduate Collin Lloyd makes work exploring gender and identity construction
What would you do if you could be, sort-of, invisible for a day? Which strings would you pull, what spaces will you explore, how would you make yourself (un)seen? How about time-travel, ever thought of that? American Central Saint Martins MA Fine Art graduate Collin Lloyd did both and masterfully captured his related performances on tape. Maybe with a little digital manipulation, who knows? Before moving to London, Collin completed his BFA in Louisville, where he explored sculpture, drawing and painting, before realising that actually, it carries a lot of weight, literally. While realising it’s impractical to move everything around the world, he turned to performance instead. In his lighter, more portable work, he does use weighty topics however, and looks into ideas of feminism and identity construction in children. Now the real question is: if he were to succeed building the time machine he speaks about, how would he fundamentally change patriarchy?
You studied for your BFA in Louisville, where your practice was much more sculptural, could you talk a bit about that early work?
As a young artist I focused exclusively on drawing and photography until I reached college and finally discovered sculpture; it was the dimension I’d been missing, and the material playground I’d been longing for. From there I found glass: the most difficult material, but also the most enjoyable. Glass taught me to think and move differently, and how to get out all the physical frustration I’d previously had sitting still in front of a canvas. It taught me how to collaborate and contribute, how to work through stress and how to see process from beginning to end.
Then, an excellent professor showed me that concept could go deeper than I’d ever imagined. I began integrating themes from all of my favorite subjects including archeology, physics, mathematics, and human sexuality (which quickly became the foundation for almost everything I made). At the completion of my BFA, my work was reminiscent of ancient statues and gestures while I categorically manipulated sections of the human body. I loved the old gods of fertility and the ‘first women’ theology — all of which further solidified my way into feminist theory.
Your later works move into performance and video, how impactful was starting your masters in this progression?
The move from the US to the UK made one thing very clear: objects weigh a lot and take up space. I’d already been wanting to try out performance, but was always a little frightened by it. After the masters finished, my wife and I knew we’d be forced to move back to America soon. As my studio was now in our bedroom, I thought making more ‘objects’ seemed unwise — it just felt like the right time to bite the bullet and dive headfirst into film and performance. It was certainly a practical decision, but ultimately it had a profound impact on my practice and offered a sense of unrestricted freedom I hadn’t felt before.
“I BEGAN TO EXPLORE THE DESTRUCTIVE NATURE OF PATRIARCHY ON MASCULINITY; I AM A FIRM BELIEVER THAT THE WAY WE SOCIALIZE CHILDREN TO UNDERSTAND THE CONFINES OF GENDER AND MASCULINITY ONLY FURTHER LEGITIMIZES THE PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY WE LIVE IN, AND SETS UP OTHER GENDERS TO BE UNDERSTOOD AS SECONDARY OR LESS.”
What are the relationships you draw between sculpture, performance and video?
Sculpture for me was always a way to convey the body. Each piece was something of an homage or joke about a body part and the way it’s seen in a traditionally ‘Western’ eye, so moving on to performance with my own body seemed like a natural progression. Filming performances allowed a kind of ‘visual playground’ I had been trying to find all this time with my sculpture, but in a way that was short and sweet. I still haven’t found the best way to present video, so it doesn’t feel static or stagnant to me, but that’s part of the learning process and I want to start leaning back on my ‘sculptural instincts’ for future installations.
When did you begin to be concerned with feminist theory?
Undergraduate is when I studied feminist theory, but I’ve always been concerned with it. I was raised by women and I was friends with women and in all cases the double standard of life was blindingly apparent. There is a lot of important discourse being shared by women right now, and my male voice isn’t going to contribute anything new to that discussion. With that framework in mind, I wanted to focus on an area I was more qualified to interpret: the masculine.
I began to explore the destructive nature of patriarchy on masculinity; I am a firm believer that the way we socialize children to understand the confines of gender and masculinity only further legitimizes the patriarchal society we live in, and sets up other genders to be understood as secondary or less. Any gender being blockaded by a system of abuse and control should not and cannot be ignored.
Since getting your Masters you’ve set up your own production house Language&Logic with your wife Alexia? What exactly do you do?
A big part of our artistic practice has always involved collaboration, public participation and community outreach — and volunteering was always a natural extension of that. When we moved to London we got involved with some really great non-profits, and were especially involved with a fantastic organization called Counterpoints Arts whose mission is to support, produce and promote the arts by and about migrants and refugees. Both Alexia and I were getting more involved in art film and sound-based work around the same time that we were helping Counterpoints shoot video for a few events and projects. Eventually we collaborated on bigger and more documentary-style films and at one point we just sort of looked at each other and understood that we could really do this. Language&Logic became us putting our money where our mouth was, and serves as another (perhaps less egocentric) way to share stories outside of our art. Now that we’re located in Kentucky, we’ve just finished principal photography on another documentary for a local arts nonprofit called Louisville Visual Art, on a project pairing high schoolers with established artists over a period of 6 months.
“MY ARTS COLLECTIVE (GROUP OF CSM ALUMNI AND MYSELF) WANT TO COME TOGETHER TO FOCUS ON INTENTIONAL FAILURE, AND ARE HOPING (TO FAIL AT) BUILDING A TIME MACHINE IN THE NETHERLANDS.”
Are you both continuing to work on your art practice?
Absolutely, but there are a lot of creative ideas that are all vying for my attention at the moment; recently I’ve been working on a play, writing fiction and recording music in lieu of having a studio space. My artistic projects have become about repetition and physical movement with groups of people — I’ve gotten really interested in group movement and synchronized dance.
My wife on the other hand has followed her work from audience participation – an attempt to see life outside of her self – into the world of conflict and culture. She studied cultural policy during her masters and is currently applying to PHD programs to research post-conflict cultural policy. She still makes work, but at a much slower pace – her main project is a 5 year endeavor that should complete in 2018.
What’s next for you?
I’m at a bit of a loss at how to answer this really, but that’s usually how I prefer it. My wife’s been looking for PHD’s all over the globe so there may be another big move in our future, but in the meantime I’ve been teaching art through a local non-profit. I teach students whose grammar schools can’t afford arts education (this is quite a poor state) and next semester will start teaching experimental sculpture for a place called The Academy here in Louisville. I enjoy teaching immensely and would eventually like to teach at the collegiate level, but I’m just learning the ropes while I’ve been learning to program and fundraise for my next projects. There is an engineer/pilot that I’m collaborating with and we’re trying to host a summer 2016 class where we build a rudimentary airplane together, and another project where my arts collective (group of CSM alumni and myself) want to come together to focus on intentional failure, and are hoping (to fail at) building a Time Machine in the Netherlands. All good things.