Konrad Ross & LANDBREAKERS
Some questions to Konrad Ross about "Floating Mindscapes", his solo show at GAD in 2021
VGL : your show in GAD featured several paintings that, although different, seem to question your identity. How do your life and history impact your pictorial practice?
KR : I suppose identity is fluid, growing up in South Africa I thought I was someone and then moving to Germany I discovered I was someone else, or better seen as someone else. All depends on the perspective and interactions. I have however found my fix point in museums, a recurring theme of sculptures and paintings that are similar but not, and steeped in centuries of art history. I identify with these images on a personal level, almost nostalgic, and in my work I include myself or insert my portrait into these images to become part of the vast pantheon that is in a way our collective identity. I often use my own image but I could be anyone, conveniently I represent all of my contemporaries. My pictorial practice; be it drawing or painting; includes repetition of figurative elements, although the narrative presented is different. The constant in most of my work is the insertion of myself; as a portrait or body fragments in my drawings and paintings; into a narrative that uses anthropology and historical images. This in itself is a nod to history constantly repeating itself.
VGL : Recently, you started the group the Landbreakers with Ashley Wright and Thomas Bradley. Would you tell us how this collaboration started and which were your goals?
KR : LANDBREAKERS started as an idea on Instagram. Ashley Wright discovered my work and suggested we collaborate. I have enjoyed dance and performing arts forever, so working together was a beautiful opportunity for both of us, and soon included Thomas Bradley with his expertise in garment design besides his movement practice. In early LANDBREAKER discussions and then our first rehearsals we were quite clear that our mission was to create a landscape involving our individual expertise, but to negate this with performative work on the theme of emancipation from artistic convention, involving dance, painting, speech, sound and garment design expertise. In intuitive, subconscious dimensions of flow. Our further investigations aimed to reveal how we could apply a similar state of transdisciplinary awareness to artistic action. As we the artists responded to spontaneous sensory impulses and impressions from both within and surrounding us, our role is accentuated as subservient and subordinate to the process of creation.This facilitates the emergence of surrender that locates the artists within a dance of unpredictability. Adherence to such a process affirms the artists’ non-commitment to any conceptual pretense usually associated with the general understanding of live performance, and thus mandates an acceptance of ‘failure’. ‘Non-commitment’ is an openness in seeing the infinite possibilities available and suggests another mode of decision-making. Thereupon, the embodied language of LANDBREAKERS becomes gloriously irresponsible: each artist has a call to action without a care for consequence. VGL : Would you tell us about your long performance in GAD with the dancer and costume designer Thomas Bradley, how you planned it and how it finally developed?
KR : The basis of LANDBREAKERS and our performance duo in GAD is spontaneity and embracing the environment. More than creating something structured we created a skeleton wherein anything was possible. Over the course of 5 days with performances of 3-4 hours everyday we embellished the paper covering the floor with drawings and marks, we discovered props from Venice and built structures inspired by the city. Thomas and I are driven by a ventured de-conditioning, merging disciplines in a craze of collective vulnerability, joy, struggle, humor & chaos. Scenes emerge from impressions bringing the body and sensuality of perception to the fore of the heuristic happening, exposing the ‘process of creation’ as the concept itself. Contrary to the name, LANDBREAKERS goes beyond form identity, that which defines the artists as successful professionals, into the realm of Being. We witness an acute attention to ‘working out’ or ‘making things work’ which, ironically, often means ‘letting go’ or the acceptance of something as it is; ideas that are supported and refined by the literary research into the work of Thomas Nichols Death of Expertise; The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters and Julietta Singh Unthinking Mastery.
This outflow of Being into Doing is what connects the seemingly separate disciplines and in turn opens us as performers and viewers alike to new ways of understanding and participating in the world. There is a willing engagement with established cultural and artistic value systems to assess contemporary concepts of virtuosity, ingenuity, production and spirituality; know the rules to break them. Large rolls of white paper were used during the exhibition at GAD. These large sheets cover the exhibition space creating a crisp, architectural base for the performance to take place. With their glistening presence, these sheets have several roles within performance as scenography, costume and documentation. Using oil pastels, tape, knives, balloons, and a multitude of other props, much of the live performance is left as traces upon the surfaces, as a lingering ode to the preceding artistic action. As such, the performance documents itself in two ways, as a live ephemeral experience and the resulting artwork laid out on the paper, which over the course of 5 days performing becomes an ever evolving landscape, eventually changing the space and original exhibition.