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Interview Methods of an Artist

Crossing Disciplines: Art and Anthropology

Carrie Ida Edinger

Casual and formal interview methods are research techniques shared by artists and anthropologists. The conversation from these interviews becomes a resource for the development of knowledge and is used in a myriad of ways between the two disciplines.

Artist Maryann Worrell is investigating art and ecology. Worrell was interested in studying participatory artwork and wanted to shift her own studio practice from being an object maker that specialized in small metals and sculpture. Her interview methods have evolved from the stages of her participatory project as well as the specific environment that each portion of the project was created in. Worrell’s current ecological and art-based research is with the Crisis Farm project.

The project began in Ballyvaughan, Ireland during Worrell’s graduate studies. In the beginning of her studies, she knew she wanted to create art-related projects that benefited the environment and the community in some way. Worrell’s research in Ireland was concentrated on the portable garden concept and food resources. She narrowed down this research into three groupings: seed, soil, and water. In 2014, the first phase of the research formed Crisis Farm: Lab. The installation was a portable garden and an exhibition that examined the plight of natural food producers. Worrell’s informal interviews with the residents of Ballyvaughan influenced the concepts concerning how participants would be engaged within a gallery space and how the limitations of resources would be presented.

Worrell describes these informal interviews as conversations that she had while living in the rural village of Ballyvaughan that has a population of approximately 250 people. These conversations considered the subjects of sustainability and food resources. The knowledge gained from these informal conversations was the basis for the creation of the crisis farm kit that was featured in the Crisis Farm: Lab exhibition.

Crisis Farm: Lab 2014 Exhibition in Ballyvaughan, Ireland Photo Courtesy Robert Ellis

Worrell’s one-on-one conversations and activities that pertained to the portable garden are conveyed with the opportunities she gave to the gallery participants. Gallery participants could collect small quantities of resources for individual sustainability as seen in the accompanying image of the gentleman filling a mini envelope with seeds. I view the interaction that the participants had with the small seed dispensers and vials of water as an entry point to begin their own inquiry with food resources and the illusion that resources are unlimited.

Within a year’s time, the Crisis Farm project has been extended from the original concept. Crisis Farm: Seed to Table is a gallery and outdoor installation at Street Road Artists Space in Cochranville, Pennsylvania. Worrell collaborated with artist Doug Mott for the Street Road Artists Space installation. Worrell and Mott have been working together on sculpture projects since 2008. Worrell mentioned that even though Crisis Farm originated from her own personal research, collaborating with Mott ranged from engineering the objects for the installation to the conceptualization of the project as a whole.

The interview methods took on a more formal approach for the development of the gallery installation of Crisis Farm: Seed to Table. An internet questionnaire linked to the Street Road Artists Space webpage begins the interview process. The recent United States interviews that Worrell conducted are included as part of the art installation. A segment of the interview can be heard on Worrell’s webpage. This choice of presentation allows the local farmer’s perspective to be heard by the gallery viewers. The progression of Worrell’s interview methods is demonstrated by the artwork in the gallery space.

While both Ireland and the United States are installation style presentations, the Ireland exhibition, Crisis Farm: Lab, offered the physical activity of engagement through gathering resources. The United States exhibition, Crisis Farm: Seed to Table, is a passive engagement with the illusion of a serene environment. As time is spent observing the complex pattern of lines on the gallery walls that represent development and the audio component of a farmer’s perspective of their daily life, the visual and audio portions of the installation represent the disruption of ideals from rural culture.

The video included with this text is intended to visually represent the activities from the opening of Crisis Farm: Seed to Table. The video segment includes Worrell describing her interview methods and Emily Artinian, the Founder and Director of the Street Road Artists Space, remarking how Crisis Farm fits with the Street Road mission.

Crisis Farm: Seed to Table is on exhibit through the 2015 summer growing season with a harvesting event and community meal at the beginning of August. Please visit the Street Road Artists Space webpage for more information on the installation and upcoming Crisis Farm: Seed to Table events. If you are in the Mid-Atlantic area of the United States, Street Road Artists Space is open from 10:00am to 4:00pm every Friday and Saturday or call/ email to make an appointment for a visit.

Carrie Ida Edinger’s interest with interdisciplinary practice is in expanding the current dialog of contemporary projects. Some of her focus is based on research methods and the presentation of content within a physical space and the use of media. Carrie maintains a blog documenting her investigations with art-based research.

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