Kathryn Cornelius

Washington, D.C. | by May 24, 2010

It was a brisk April morn­ing as I made my way to Kathryn’s home stu­dio. I was happy to know that we were rel­a­tively close to one another in NW DC and was able to visit her stu­dio on foot. Twenty min­utes later I was at her door. I stood on her front porch and pushed the door bell. No answer. After a cou­ple more pushes with no answer, I leaned over the rail­ing to ask the elderly woman sit­ting on the porch next door if this is where a woman with dark brown hair lives. She shook her head and said she had no idea.

I thought I had the wrong house or even the wrong street, but just as I was about to make one last call, the door swung open and Kathryn calmly greeted me and led me through her cozy house into her bright kitchen. The aroma of French pressed cof­fee filled the kitchen and was a wel­come sight after the chilly morn­ing walk. Cof­fees in hand, we chit chat­ted about the house, the neigh­bor­hood and neigh­bors. The sto­ries all seemed famil­iar and par­al­lel in a neigh­bor­hood that is slowly being gen­tri­fied. After shar­ing more sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences, she led me down to her stu­dio space.

My first reac­tion was how orga­nized and spa­cious her base­ment stu­dio is for a rel­a­tively small square footage. Two walls are lined with equip­ment and book­shelves while another wall is anchored by a large desk where all her com­puter equip­ment is. “This is where I spend the major­ity of my time” she said point­ing to the desk. This makes sense as Cor­nelius’ work, in addi­tion to per­for­mance, is pri­mar­ily video based. Her work is dri­ven by ideas and method­olog­i­cal con­cepts from var­i­ous philoso­phers and writ­ers includ­ing Fou­cault and Bourdieu.

“My prac­tice is largely project-​​based, sit­u­ated in research and my inter­dis­ci­pli­nary back­ground, informed by method­olo­gies from Bour­dieuian soci­ol­ogy, lin­guis­tics, cul­tural anthro­pol­ogy, social net­work the­ory, and Human Com­puter Inter­ac­tion & Design.” Quoted from her artist statement.

Her work has com­mented on var­i­ous socio-​​political issues includ­ing the cri­tique of the art fair and the posh par­ties that revolve around the art fair. A related per­for­mance took place at the one time DC Art Fair of 2007 at the Wash­ing­ton Con­ven­tion Cen­ter. Cor­nelius’ piece enti­tled “Recog­ni­tion” was not just a cri­tique on the art fair, but a cri­tique on per­for­mance itself. “I exag­ger­ated the enter­tain­ment value of per­for­mance art by stag­ing a Hollywood-​​style affair and chal­lenged the con­cept of live­ness in tech­nol­ogy and performance.”

She’s cer­tainly inter­ested in issues of power and per­sona — between the viewer and the per­former, the enter­tainer and the enter­tained, the sub­ject and the other. Although the con­tent of her work has shifted to being more per­sonal, her approach and inter­est still seems couched in cre­at­ing an expe­ri­ence for the viewer where it puts them in a posi­tion of power– or at least in a posi­tion to ques­tion it: the power and posi­tion to cre­ate ones own narrative.

Her process of map­ping out the frame­work for each video work is akin to the story board in film­mak­ing. Drawn by hand, she visu­ally pieces together a sequence of lit­tle rec­tan­gles to rep­re­sent time. They reminded me of music notes on a staff or draw­ings by Louise Bour­geois. After show­ing me around the space, she reached for her “granny sweater” for a bit of authen­tic­ity. “This is what I always wear when I’m work­ing”. She snapped on her head­phones and went to work.

Kathryn cur­rently serves as a mem­ber of the Board of Direc­tors at the Arling­ton Arts Cen­ter and is rep­re­sented by Curator’s Office here in D.C. Her new show “The Feel­ing of What Hap­pens” is up through June 17.

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1 Comment

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