Heather Kapplow, United States

Residency Period: 1 February 2015 - 31 July 2015


Heather Kapplow is a self-trained conceptual artist based in the United States. She creates engagement experiences that elicit unexpected intimacies using objects, alternative interpretations of existing environments, installation, performance, writing, audio and video. Her work has received government and private grants and has been included in galleries, film and performance festivals in the US and internationally.

URL: www.heatherkapplow.com

On-hiatus Proposal Summary

As a self taught artist who works conceptually, Heather sometimes struggles to identify when she is making art and when she is doing something else. During her residency at RFAOH, she wants to spend time exploring the boundary between making art and not making art and will be documenting her experiences. She hopes to get a clearer sense of what is and isn't an art practice for her, and to uncover or more deeply connect to the truth of what she is working at when making art. (She is also curious whether it is actually possible for her to "not make art.")

During her residency, she may also experiment with creative practices that fall outside of her repertoire to see if these feel the same or different from what she thinks of as art making. Possibilities include trying to make perfume, playing music, or writing fiction -- all areas where she has no previous experience.

Final Report

In my last posting on the RFAOH website, I said a good deal of what I feel should be said here, but now that I've had a month or so of "making art" "again" (is it art? did I ever stop?) maybe I'll say it in a different way.

When I applied to RFAOH, I was essentially proposing a challenge to the RFAOAH project itself. It looked to me as if everyone else who had done the residency before me had been on a hiatus for reasons more or less beyond their control, so I thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if someone took an intentional hiatus just to do the residency. Though at the time I applied I was hoping to also experiment with some creative forms that I had not experimented with before, my real goals for the residency were to investigate my own nature as a creator and to get feedback and mentorship for a practice that I feel I have developed for myself almost entirely out of thin air. My starting point was that I was calling myself an artist but was having difficulty knowing the boundaries between my life and my art-making, and my hope was to discover them by trying to eliminate the activities in my life that I typically call art-making and seeing what else was there when they were subtracted.

What happened was that each time I subtracted something from the pile of activities in my life that I defined as art-related, something else jumped right into its place. During the period of the residency I went from being an artist who made a (meager) living doing commercial work unrelated to the arts, to being a non-artist, making a (meager) living that involved more or less complete immersion in the arts. Now I am (in a very month-to-month way) making a (meager) living that is all arts-related, and I am making art (which actually doesn't feel like art anymore!)

That what I'm doing doesn't feel like art anymore is important and gets at the kernal of what I was trying to uncover within RFAOH. I was in many ways looking for this sparkling moment that I have every once in a while where I know for one second that what I'm doing is magical. It doesn't happen often, but I had hoped to find where it lived--where it secretly hid out within my practices--and then to sharpen my awareness of its workings so that I could bring it to the surface more often and easily. I never found it. Or maybe the answer to that quest is just that if more of my life's time gets devoted to art, more opportunities will arise for that thing to emerge. But meanwhile, the activities of my "art making" feel more mundane than they ever have. They've become just the literal series of actions and steps involved in making nothing into something.

In the "works" that I am in the midst of, I can't see the magic part that I'm hoping will be in the final product. I can only see the all of the pieces (and of course the fear that they will all be in the same place at the same time and people will look at them and say "what are all of those pieces doing there?")

This is not a complaint though. It's actually kind of exciting. It's like becoming a surfer and then, after getting over the awe of being able to stand on water, getting really into the minutia of the mechanics involved in doing so.

Am I answering the questions?

As I said at the end of my last blog post, now that I understand how the RFOAH works (in both the nitty gritty way and the magic way, since it actually does both,) I think I would like to do it again someday in a completely different (but knowing me, not entirely different) way. I would like to try to not only not make art, but also to try to isolate myself from exposure to art as much as possible. I suspect, if the process were to work as it did this time, that by the end of a second RFAOH, I wouldn't be able to see anything in the world around me as artless...




recent comments

Just a Thought: Maybe I´m Not Not Doing Art Properly

Just thinking today about Tehching Hsieh, whom I know is advising on this project, and of his “No Art Piece”….Even while not making (my own) art, I have not been in any way abstaining from contact with art or thinking (almost obsessively) about art. It can’t be this month because I have already committed to many of the things I outlined in the last post during the next 30 days or so, but I hereby commit to finding a solid week before this residency is up where I abstain from all contact with all art—including, music, film, everything I find artful. I’ll fill all of those little voids with something that is not art. Nature if possible. Or maybe just whatever I can find that seems the most opposed to art. (Balancing my checkbook? Reorganizing files?) I think it might be really useful for me to not just not make art, but actually subtract art in my efforts to identify the things I am trying to identify here. I wonder if it will even be possible though–my work and my social life all involve almost constant exposure to art in the next few months…. We’ll see. When I do it, I’ll write in here the whole time. Oh, except this is (at the larger scale) an artwork too, so I guess I will have to stay away from here too….

Another, different thought, but maybe related. Many times, in many contexts—mostly in residency applications—I have proposed doing an artwork called “Do Nothing” which explores the conflicting ideas in this culture around doing nothing, and also explores what kind of physical infrastructure would be required in order to do as little as humanly possible for a longish duration. This proposal has constantly been met with fear, concern and even ridicule when I’ve submitted it to curators, but I still stand behind it is an intensely artistic (and scary, scary) exploration. Then I saw a medical study that paid you to do nothing for 90 days, and at first I thought “Yes! That’s the residency I’ve been looking for for all of these years!” I was going to apply and do my project in that context. But after reading a report from someone who did it I was deeply horrified. Just a rhetorical question here I guess: why does essentially the same action horrify me when it is a medical study, but fill me to the brim with inspiration when it’s art making?

Leave a Comment (2)

shinobu wrote on May 16:

And who decides that and how -- and more importantly, who gets affected by that definition? Affected how? Emotionally? Financially? Socially? How are YOU doing or feeling as a resident at RFAOH, Mary? -- I think you are doing great!

Mary Kroetsch wrote on May 11:

Yah! Laying in bed for 8 weeks is a bit insane. Although Freda certainly could paint from this position. I don't think there is a right way to stop making art. Our creativity comes from so many places within ourselves. I just invented a new left over meat recipe. Is that making art because it certainly satisfied my creative senses. I too find everything around me to be artful. Just walking for an hour gets my creative thought processes going. And while I am a visual artist like you, I do enjoy writing which is another type of artform. So I am guessing at this point in my Hiatus, that we are all trying to come up with a definition for WHAT IS NOT MAKING ART? So to our hosts - how are we doing so far?

PS. Thanks for the Elsewhere link. Loved it and will dialogue with them soon. Would love to photograph all that choas.