Kentucky is known for a lot of things, but, let’s face it, contemporary art isn’t really one of them. That is rapidly changing. I will introduce you to artists with Kentucky roots who are dedicated to performance and are helping to shape the dialogue far beyond the borders of the Bluegrass state.
Meet Anya Liftig (say hey y’all). Anya’s work has been featured at TATE Modern, Highways Performance Space, Exit Art, [performance space] london, Performmer Stammtisch Berlin, Dimanche Rouge Paris, Roves and Roams and OVADA Oxford UK, Chashama, Month of Performance Art Berlin, Eyedrum, Grace Exhibition Space, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Galapagos, The Flea, Performance Art Institute–San Francisco, Chez Bushwick, Socrates Sculpture Park, Yale University, Center for Performance Research, Lock Up Performance Art London, Debrillator Gallery, INCUBATEChicago, University of Wisconsin, University of Chicago, Vaudeville Park, Mess Hall, Joyce Soho and many other venues.
Her work, “The Anxiety of Influence,” was an intervention into Marina Abramovic’s “The Artist is Present” retrospective at MOMA. Liftig dressed as the elder artist and sat across from her all day.Her work has been published and written about in The New York Times Magazine, Bomb, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue Italia, Marie Claire Italia, Heeb, Public Culture, Art Papers, X-tra, ArtNews, The L Magazine, The Other Journal, Jewcy, Mix Magazine, Katalog, Next Magazine, Now and Then, Stay Thirsty, New York Magazine, Gothamist, Jezebel, Animal New York, I Love You, Art Animal, Hyperallergic, Burnaway and many others.
She is a graduate of Yale University and Georgia State University and has received grant and residency support from the MacDowell Colony, The Field, Vermont Studio Center, University of Antioquia, Casa Tres Patios-Medellin, Colombia, and Flux Projects, Atlanta.
Find out more about Anya – www.anyaliftig.com
TE: A very infamous and famous performance artist friend always says that there is a fine line between untreated mental illness and great performance art. What do you think about that?
AL: There is a reason why mental illness is fascinating. Abnormal Psychology is always one of the most popular courses in universities around the country. Often the mentally ill inhabit subjective worlds of their own construction. The best performance art also involves agitating alternate realities and possibilities.
TE: Everything we taste, touch, see or experience changes a piece of us. What influence has Kentucky had on your art?
AL: As a kid, I spent the school year in suburban Connecticut and my summers with my extended family in the mountains of East Kentucky. I had to learn how to reconcile the sometimes strange and stark differences between these regions. Kentucky is the place where I first understood the importance of food and tradition in my life. My Mamaw made everything from scratch and mealtimes, especially breakfast, were a very special ritual. I also spent time with all sorts of animals during the summers. Watching beloved pets give birth to litters of puppies and kittens was my first exposure to the birds and the bees. A love of animals was central to the relationships I built with my cousins and my younger sister. Today my work draws heavily on these two early influences in my life.
TE: For you, is performance more sacred or secular? Why?
AL: Performance is a way to make the secular sacred. It can elevate the mundane.
TE: What, if any, is the main differentiating factor that defines a work as “performance art” versus “theatre”? Or, do you believe that it is a distinction without meaning?
AL: I really am not interested in that distinction. I am more interested in the juncture between modern dance and performance art. Frequently, I want to just call what I do “uncoordinated choreography” and call my pieces scatterbrained dance. I am curious about how that shift in distinction would change my artistic life. One practical factor is that there is much more funding for theater and dance than for performance art. Which is totally foolish.
TE: What are you working on right now?
AL: Right now I am heading to the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire for a month-long fellowship to make some new work. I am planning on continuing my exploration of interspecies communication and I am especially excited to work with the emotions of plants.