Human Resources: Interview with the Organizers

Opening reception for Qualia at Human
Resources, May 22, 2010

Human Resources, a new space in Chinatown devoted to performative art practices, opened on May 1 this year with much fanfare. The five organizers—Dawn Kasper, Eric Kim, Kathleen Kim, Devin McNulty and Giles Miller—were kind enough to consent to an email interview for this blog.

Who is Human Resources?

Human Resources is a collaborative collective of creative individuals who support the experimental performative arts through programming, archiving, and outreach. Dawn is a performance and mixed-media artist actively exploring the woven web of questions that fuel the quest for answers into the meaning of life and death. Eric, a longtime friend and supporter of the art community, has an academic background in philosophy and a professional background in health informatics, software design, and public health. He’s lived in Los Angeles for 6 years and HR is his first community arts project. Eric’s sister Kathleen is a professor and civil rights attorney focusing on the advancement of immigrants’ rights; she is also a violinist who explores experimental composition and improvisation. Devin is a musician and composer. Giles works as an investigator in the business world and has maintained a practice as a musician and performer for many years; he is a founding member of the experimental ensemble LA Fog, along with Devin and Kathleen. We also have a close working relationship with our neighbor gallerist, Francois Ghebaly.

What is each of your relationship to performance art?

Eric: I am primarily a supporter who answered a call to action by starting HR. My interest in performance and experimental video began when I assisted Kate Hers with a performance project in Detroit in 2003. I’ve had some level of active relationship with performance ever since.

Kathleen: I am an appreciator, interested in the connections between all art forms that are “non-static,” conceptual, and experimental, including music, performance art, video/film, and theater.

Devin: To me, performance art is an attempt to distill and amplify a very delicate nuance of successful performance as a whole. When there is a solid connection between any kind of performer and spectator there is a fragile accord that relies on openness and trust. In most performances this relationship is consequential, however when the undertaking is to address and augment this very relationship, it opens up different levels of active spectatorship. To be in a space with a rather engaging performance artist, and have something seemingly unrelated give me pangs of the same kind of excited, anticipatory, and anxious discomfort as I felt on such vaporous occasions as for example my first day of school, first kiss, or the first time I tried Indian food is one of the richest and most fulfilling experiences I can think of. Performance is especially potent when these reminders are less tangible, and allow you to remember things through the feeling that the relationship arouses.

Giles: I have always been drawn to the potential for the arts to act as a catalyst for psycho-social change and renewal. For me, what distinguishes performance art from performance is a willful transcendence of the social norms and codes of performance to achieve honest human communication/artistic expression.

How did you come together to form this project?

Giles: All of us have worked together before, including hosting and promoting art events in our homes and studios. The five of us are friends and collaborators. Eric had the idea of opening a space and we thought it was a good idea.

Kathleen: Our friend, Francois Ghebaly, approached us with the opportunity to occupy the gallery space next to his. We brainstormed about utilizing it in a way that was both innovative and that served a need in the LA art community. We came up with a space that departed from the traditional visual art gallery to support the expression of experimental art performers.

What is your programming strategy?

Kathleen: We program the performative arts, broadly conceived—we want our programs to be interesting and compelling for both artist and audience, and to generate a sense of community and elevated appreciation for the experimental performative arts.

Eric: We want to provide support and build a relationship of trust with artists and with the larger community.

Giles: So far, we have been programming organically, with each participant developing ideas with friends and collaborators, introducing them to the group, and throwing them on the wall to see what sticks.

What do you see as the most compelling aspects of the LA performance art scene?

Eric: Anything goes! There is a lot of interesting activity in performance right now, perhaps due to the economic downturn and perhaps due to there being more widespread attention. People seem to be hungry to put work out there. I also think the depth and diversity of the music community here informs and prompts experimentation in a way that is unique to LA.

Giles: There is an amazing history and plenty of wise practitioners of performance art in LA. LA is a place where there is always plenty of space for new things to happen. It is relatively easy to ignore the “world” and focus on your community and the development of your work here.

Tell me about something you would like to see happen in the performance art community that has not happened yet.

Giles: Well, something like HR. Something that exists to support and document great performative artists. A space that will serve to build community, without the market as its center of gravity.

Kathleen: I would like to see a full-scale theater performance with live music, costumes, stage art, etc.

Eric: I personally look forward to the growth in exposure for performative and experimental practices. Perhaps this will culminate in more formal events, emphasizing LA’s unique position between performance and mainstream culture and politics.

NOTE: The version of this interview originally published on June 16 contained some errors with regards to attributions of quotes to the various members. These errors have now been corrected.

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