October 29, 2018
Interview: Artist in Residence Violet Dennison
Violet Dennison is currently in Stavanger as the second Kunsthall Stavanger resident in 2018. Below, Dennison tell us more about her background, the impetus behind her work, and how artwork might serve as a prompt for other people’s imaginations.
You're originally from Bridgeport, CT and currently based in New York. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what led you to create artwork?
My grandparents took care of me a lot as a child while my parents worked. They shaped much of who I am. My grandfather was a priest, studying forestry and also a hobby artist. He taught me a lot about spirituality and how to draw. My grandmother was an artist in her own way as well. We would sew a lot of things together like curtains and quilts. She’d make me do books of math problems instead of play. They both loved to learn.
Your work has been described as largely sculptural, but more than any specific media, it's the overarching concerns with anxiety and the revelation and subversion of systems that more accurately characterize your work. From deteriorating eco-systems to mistrust of governmental bodies, your work brings into question everyday assumptions and points to the frailty or breakdown of the systems by which we live. Understanding that each work is unique in itself, can you describe the main driving factors behind your artistic practice?
Its hard for me to summarize it all but generally I could say for me it’s a spiritual gesture to become connected to invisible infrastructure, like radio frequency waves or devices communicating without our knowledge. We share every moment with these things, why not build a relationship with them? Everything is sentient and intelligent in its own way. I feel the individual does not have much control of these large external forces affecting our lives, so breaking these systems down, hacking them, it is a way of communicating with them and it gives me some sort of agency in the world.
In an interview you did with Mousse Magazine last march, you said "I like to think of art as a prompt for other people’s imaginations." Can you tell us more about this idea, and how it functions in your work?
Well, in a way it's simple idea. An example of how that could function is if a work’s title reveals or suggests more than the visual. Then from there it’s the viewers interpretation of the linguistics, how deep their imagination is, and how much they trust me to continue the digestion of the piece.
You're here at the Kunsthall Stavanger residency until November 2. What are you working on while you are here?
I am mainly doing a lot of research and tests pertaining to translation, frequency and communication. I have been thinking a lot about a memory of my great uncle Peter. I watched him play chess over morse code with his friends from the war. I am also trying to explore the city and learn more about its history.
Can you tell us about any new artworks in development, or upcoming projects?
I am working on a few different things right now but focusing on pieces for the Kunsthall and for Kunstverein Freiburg.
In her work, Dennison investigates paranoia, power, and self expression, while exploring our relationship to the ecologically and technologically unstable world. Vast systems become fragile or hacked, and small parts of the whole such as code, DNA and bacteria become principal actors, questioning the role of infrastructure and its ability to shape human behavior and language. Violet Dennison's most recent exhibitions include Triennial: Songs for Sabotage, New Museum, New York; Abracadabra, Main Project of the 6th Moscow International Biennale for Young Art, Moscow; and Schau 5, Kunsthaus Kollitsch, Klagenfurt. Learn more about the artist on her website, here.
The Kunsthall Stavanger Residency is co-founded by Aud Cuniberti and managed by Kunsthall Stavanger. Residency Coordinator: Liv Cuniberti.