Amy Ball 2021 Finalist
Amy Ball is a visual artist born in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada in 1987. After completing a Meistershülerin from the Staatlich Hoschschüle fur Bildende Künste Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in the class of prof. Douglas Gordon, and prior to that a BFA at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, she returned to Dawson City in 2018. She works in a variety of mediums including performance, installation, text, print making and film making. She is a founding member of the community arts collective Local Field School and the studio collective Jimmy’s Place and she is employed at the Yukon School of Visual Arts. Recent exhibitions and projects have included the satirical take-over of Dawson City’s newspaper entitled THE SUN for the Yukon Riverside Arts Festival (2020), a solo exhibition energy at Neu Alte Brücke, Frankfurt, Germany (2019), the performance and solo exhibition women as part of ASSEMBLE at Haus Am Lützoplatz, Berlin, Germany (2018), and the solo show powers at Künstverein Göttingen, Germany (2018). In 2018 she published a graphic novel, provenance, in collaboration with Künstverein Göttingen and Broken Dimanche Press, Berlin, Germany.
Amy Ball’s artistic practice takes a critical and insightful look at the social architectures that shape the way we live, often using humour to scrutinize institutions and infrastructures emblematic of greater social dilemmas. Writing is a fundamental part of her practice; her narrative and persuasive essays inspire her installations, short films, performances, and two and three-dimensional works.
In her performance practice, Amy Ball explores the feminization of architectural space. She plays the part of the performer and delivers her writing in a variety of situational choreographies that respond directly to the architecture in which she is performing. Her written, installation, film, sculptural and graphic work engage with fictional and non-fictional niche communities; she is particularly interested in communities that pose alternative ways of living to those widely accepted as the norm. Amy works across a variety of media as she perpetually develops her own language of engagement. Most of the work she has produced since relocating back to Dawson City in 2018 has been community oriented. After living overseas for nearly a decade, returning to the Yukon and returning to her community has allowed her to fulfill a desire to work more collaboratively and socially.
Neu Alte Brücke, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 2019
5 framed mono-prints on paper (18×24″), acrylic window painting, essay and looped animation.
Photo documentation: Mark Dickenson, Neu Alte Brücke
Energy was first as foremost an exploration of capitalist infrastructure. Our culture’s obsession with energy; with a lack of if, with a constant striving for more of it both internally: human, and externally: environmental, is at the centre of the project. The need for that energy is then commodified in a classic neo-liberal way of selling back to us what we think we need, and Red Bull is the perfect example of that as it not only sold us energy but created as entire industry that made selling energy to our bodies possible in the first place. The exhibition consisted of a large scale window painting that you could see from the street, 5 framed monoprints each of a single sleeping character that was taken from the original ad campaigns for Red Bull in Europe – the moment before they tasted Red Bull and miraculously awoke, the original essay that viewers could take home with them, and a short looped animation of a similar character looped on the subway and unable to wake up.
Sample from the essay:
“What is so remarkable about Red Bull’s© history, is that in 4 the years that proceed 1982 when Dietrich and Chaleo first shook hands and threw their heads back in simultaneously anticipatory gay bouts of laughter at their then forthcoming and invariably successful collaboration, and the first partially rebranded aluminum can hitting the shelves in Austria in 1987, is that Red Bull© created both the supply and the demand: it was the golden egg, a perfect union, all three sections of the evenly distributed Venn diagram. Red Bull© was pure potential. Before it, there was coffee and there was tea and there was coca-cola, and before that there was cocaine; before it all there may have been some abstract rural rituals of testing out different consumables picked out of the ground to see how they’d make you feel, some of which may have been energy boosting, but soon Red Bull© would burst through the glass ceiling, paving the way for an endless stream of competitors, none of which to this day, have surpassed the ground breaking hard rock base jumping skydiving reality that is Red Bull©. It was not only such a success because it dominated a market, but because it invented it, initiating an entire product category, and founding a market which to this day continues along on a path of healthy and consistent growth, filling Red Bull©’s neighbouring shelves with your Monsters©, your Rock Stars©, your Full Throttles©, your Amps©’ and your os’©; and, arguably soon after your healthier branded alternatives, your Club Mates’© and your Matchas’.
But where did this demand come from? Humans have experimented and relied on an incomprehensible variety of consumable assistants at keeping them awake or making them more alert or altering their outlook in someway, but why now, has there been an energy deficit for 31 years that took 75+ billion cans to fill? The Red Bull© can soon became synonymous with pubs, clubs, and bars of all kind; with late night driving, with long haul transport, with epic study benders in university libraries, with meeting deadlines in cramped cubicles, with high school gym classes, with family barbecues, with smokers, with non smokers, with mountain bike rides, with beach vacations, with chess tournaments, with online poker, with getting ready to go out, with deciding to stay in; it is 355mL that goes hand in hand with nearly every cultural event from skydiving to fashion shows, from music festivals to art exhibitions. Since it his the ground running in 1982, Red Bull©, true to form, has been like an energetic kid, hungry for airtime and not old enough to feel shame about it. Red Bull© was willing to associate itself with any need for energy, even when no energy was needed at all.”
Exhibition view & performance documentation:
“Women” as part of ASSEMBLE at Haus Am Lützoplatz,
Berlin, Germany, 2018
4 channel video projection & audio installation
Link to clip from performance:
Photo documentation: Frank Sperling
Performance documentation: Frank Sperling
Performance documentation editing: Amy Ball
Women was an exhibition and a performance. The space was blacked out, lit only by the sporadic choreography of projections turning on an off on 4 of the galleries walls. The projections themselves make no sound, but in the middle of one of the rooms is an amplifier and loop pedal, playing sound that was created in the performance: myself trying to create a live soundtrack for the images being projected. The moving images are of two women riding dirt bikes through a serene Yukon landscape, and the soundtrack is me trying to create the sound of their dirt bikes. During the performance, after building up the backing track, I recited a text that was based on the idea of a contemporary privileged male explorer/traveller. The motivation behind this project was to impose these women on a landscape that has been romanticized through the male gaze for generations, and then to re-impose that male voice as a parody during the performance.
“powers”, at Künstverein Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany, 2018
2 ceramic tiled benches, one filled with non-perishable goods and the other with camping supplies, and sound installation.
Photo documentation: Viviana Abelson
The overall exhibition “powers” consisted the above mentioned works as well as two large scale video projections, a light installation, and a window installation, but I’ve chosen to focus on the ceramic benches and the sound installation for the purposed of this application. This exhibition was born out of research into pre-apocalyptic prepper communities, and the benches are the most representational of that. Their stability, almost architectural feeling, is meant to exist in stark contrast with the instability their contents represent. After extensive research one thing all of the prepper communities I was following had in common was their almost excitement at the potential for the world to end in whatever way, the want to embrace the instability of the future, and of course in a very predictable way to be the men that help form the new society that will most certainly serve them best. In contrast to the benches was the sound installation entitled “Without Rule of Law” that is my voice reciting a sort of mantra that repeats “I am an man, I’m a strong man, I’m a very strong man” and so on, in a sort of defeated attempt to convince the audience or herself that she is ready for anything.
"To Kill a Chicken"
5 mins, digital video, projected on a loop
Photo documentation of installation: Viviana Abelson
Cinematography: Holly Maclean, Amy Ball
This video was made during the same time as I was researching the prepper communities for the exhibition “powers”. I was living in Glasgow, Scotland and practicing Brazilian Jujitsu, and I was struck by the intense brutality of the martial art but that it looks nothing like brutality, in fact it looks tender. I wanted to create a video which confused these two things: pain and pleasure. I worked with two semi professional fighters, and filmed them in an empty domestic space which confused their actions even further. The two move together between this very practiced dance of sparring, and the camera moves in and out and around their movements, creating a picture that confuses passion and tenderness and anger and restraint. There’s a tension to this video that I am very proud of.
"Without Rule of Law"
Künstverein Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany, 2018
15 minute performance
See full documentation here: https://vimeo.com/255547854
Photo documentation: Viviana Abelson
Performance documentation: Viviana Abelson
This performance took place on the opening evening of the exhibition “powers” (represented in Artwork 3 of this application). Viewers are invited out of the exhibition space and into the cellar in the historic building, where they are confronted with this person on a dirt bike, fully clad, who is back lit and pushing themselves around the cramped space by foot. There is a microphone jammed into their helmet and as they begin to pant at the effort of navigating this small space, they begin to recite a similar mantra to the one playing upstairs “I am a man, I am a strong man, I am a very strong man.” The motivation (as with the sound installation mentioned in Artwork 3) is to depict the absurdity of this male protagonist pumping himself up for the end of the world. By having this performer push themselves around in a tight space on a bike that isn’t on, I hoped to highlight that tension: the inaction of now due to the anticipation of action in the future.
72 page graphic novel ISBN: 978-3-943196-72-6
Co-published by: Broken Dimanche Press and Kunstverein Göttingen, 2018
Photo documentation: Amy Ball
Publication: Broken Dimanche Press & Kunstverein Göttingen
“provenance” depicts two alternative communities that have each withdrawn from society in different ways. They are unwittingly drawn together by the protagonist, a gender-less trader of goods who forges a tragic connection between them.
"Don't Be a Stranger"
KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany, 2017
Performance documentation: Camillo Brau
Don’t be a Stranger was a series of performances collaboratively done with the artist Filippa Petersson between 2016-2017. We developed a methodology to create these performances that would end up looking and sounding different completely dependant upon the spaces each was performed in. We were interested in feminizing architecture space by adding narratives of space that tend to go unheard (just as feminine experience of space tends to go unheard). Filippa and I developed a method where we would arrange site visits to the proposed locations and ask for tours of the entire building, everywhere from exhibition rooms to storage facilities to offices. These tours were usually offered to us from characters who really knew the place, often more akin to janitors as opposed to curators; therefore, giving us access to a less public knowledge of the buildings. The spoken content of our performances was both directly and indirectly derived from these tours. This gesture shone a light on minor histories and experiences of space that have remained hidden; this is directly related for me to the gesture of feminizing space, as the female role in architecture (both in industry, but also in use-of-space) is generally a hidden one.
Filippa was a visual centre point for the performances – she would be the focal point of the audience, and she would be performing the task of playing and intervening with audio that was coming from me, as I physically navigated the entire building. At times Filippa would be running mic cables out widows, or covering speakers with ceramic to turn the volume down if it was too loud as son on, while I recited the stories from around the building within the spaces we heard them.
"This Situation is Excellent"
Städelschule Rundgang, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 2016
Ceramic masks, hemp rope, copper tubing, video installation, sound installation, framed photograph.
Photo documentation: Amy Ball
This work feels quite far away from where I am at now, but at the time, I wanted to create a completely immersive installation that interacted completely with the studio I was working out of. I did everything from painting the walls a slightly different white, or sanding portions of the concrete floor to suggest where people should stand for best viewing situations. The installation itself grew out of the text, by the same name, which was playing over the speakers that were hanging from the same hemp rope that hung everything else. I wanted everything to feel connected despite the variety of mediums being shown, and achieved that through using one rope to hang everything, making it feel as if everything was physically connected and possibly in motion. Despite feeling like I’m quite far from this work now, I like to include it because I think it showcases my interest and ability to work with physical materials and connect them to narratives and more temporal projects such as sound.