Eve Sussman

Arts & CultureOctober 24, 2016
Eve Sussman

According to the greatest influencer of post-war art Lazslo Moholy Nagy, “To be a user of machines is to be of the spirit of this century.” As technology progresses contemporary art takes off with it. Artists like Eve Sussman hop on the wagon to explore the infinite possibilities the camera creates in altering the way we see the world.

How did the camera step into your life?

I’ve been using cameras since I was a young kid. My father had quite a collection of cameras including some amazing 1960’s spy cameras. He was actually a pretty great photographer. When he was in charge of us as kids he would take us to the university darkroom and let us play around so we wouldn’t bother him. I still find antiquated cameras and old CCTV systems enticing.

Considering from production to the end result, what part of the creative process excites you the most?

Production! Since we work in such an improvisational way, everything that you never imagined as well as the things you plan happen during production simultaneously.

Born in London, studied in Robert College in Istanbul, now living and working in Brooklyn. How do these three cultures merge?

I never lived in London — so I don’t think of that as culturally significant for me. Istanbul, on the other hand, profoundly affected my view of the world, since I lived that at a very formative age, from 15 – 16, during high school.

I wouldn’t say the cultures “merge,” but I certainly came to understand privilege and in-equality.

From picturing women in historical spaces to reconstructing narratives on socio-economic issues, your work has explored different themes over time. How would you say you evolved as an artist?

I am not an “issue” artist. I’m not sure my work evolves as much as circumnavigates certain themes that are more about structure and psychological perception, than any given social or political issue. I started as an installation artist, making interventions that attempted to make viewers look more closely at the space they were in — these pieces used S8 film or surveillance video, but they most certainly were not films. When I made ’89 seconds…’ I began to imply narrative through filmic gesture and “choreography.” Many of my pieces since then have played with giving just enough information for the viewer to assume a narrative, without a complete story actually being there. The theme that keeps re-appearing is the question of how meaning is implied and assumed. How do we mess with the conventions of story?

What draws you to a project? Where do you usually start from?

Sometimes it’s just an image — like in the case of “89 seconds…” or “Car Wash Incident” (the project that Simon Lee and I produced with Jack+Leigh Ruby).

Other times it’s more the act of going on an expedition, which is what happened with the making of “whiteonwhite:algorithmicnoir.” In that case we really started with the expedition.

İşleriniz oldukça espirili ve nükteli. Bu nereden geliyor? Çocukluğunuz hayata bakışınızı etkiledi mi?

Bence herkesin çocukluğu hayata bakışını etkiliyordur. Bence bunun olmaması imkansız. Keşke işlerim daha komik olsaydı. Ben pek komik biri değilim. Bunun üstünde çalışacağım.

Your works are quite humorous and witty. Where would you say you got this from? Has your childhood affect your take on life?

I think everyone’s childhood effects their take on life. I think it’s an impossibility for that not to happen. I wish the work was funnier. I’m not really a funny person. I’ll work on that.

Your latest work No Food No Money No Jewels is a collaboration with Simon Lee. You also founded a collaborative team called the Rufus Corporation in 2003. How does the creative process work when artists with various inspirations and ideas come together for one project?

Inevitably you get better ideas when more heads are together. The process is organic. In the case of No Food No Money No Jewels Simon and I as directors came up with basic themes (a factory, the need for food and money) and “channellings” for the actors to carry out (they channelled the likes of: Princess Diana, Richard Nixon, Charlie Watts, Jimmy Hoffa, Janis Joplin, Lance Loud, Julia Childs, to name a few). Once the tasks were clear the actors were free to take liberties with the material and take it where they thought it should go, creating scenes, characters and situations we never would have come up with on our own. The whole collaborative experience can be rich if you let it be.

Allusions to art history and other cultural references are prominent in your work. What is the power of appropriation and privilege in terms of getting the message across?

Appropriation is a slippery slope. I’m drawn to it, but have kind of a love/hate relationship with it. But really, all art is based on something that went before it.

When you create an artwork, how important to you is the input of your viewer?

I care that the viewer is able to take something away with them. That we are able to leave some lasting impression. I’m interested in how people are affected by a work and what works for them and what doesn’t.

How does non-linear storytelling add to the viewing experience?

It allows the viewer to take part. You get to actively invent a part of the story and decide what you think is going on… Which is what we actually do in real life anyway every time we walk down the street. We make assumptions, which is a way of inventing the story of what’s going on around is.

How do you think the camera as a tool is evolving, and how would that affect the perspectives on art?

The camera is ubiquitous, but it has actually been pretty ubiquitous for the last half century. There is more and more art being made with cameras. There are feature films being shot on the iPhone. It’s a good thing. Everyone can do it and everyone should.

Any new projects in the horizon?

Simon Lee and I are continuing to develop the installation and cinematic versions of “No Food No Money No Jewels”, we are also planning a new production with the ex-con artists, Jack+Leigh Ruby, which whom we made “Car Wash Incident.”

Author: Defne Çağlar