Dialog in Common

Rebecca Klobucher:
On Art, Audience & Lived Realities

Rebecca Klobucher [RK] is an interdisciplinary painter, sculptor and graphic artist based in Saugatuck, MI.
pressTranscript from telephone interview with Markuz Wernli Saitô [MWS] on Nov. 7, 2005.

The Line

The Line (2005): Rebecca Klobucher I drew for months on her hands and knees along the cracks of the sidewalk a colored line with charcoal, connecting to very different neighborhoods from the ground up.

What kind of work do you do?
RK: What I do for my art, is whatever it takes. For practical purposes I call myself a painter. It makes things easier, except when someone makes their next question, "Oh, landscapes or portraits?" I like to stretch definitions used in the art world. My last painting was projected on 16mm film, and the one prior happened in sidewalk cracks. What I call painting, others labeled as "film" and "performance." What many call "intervention," I now call gesture.

Can you talk about the importance of audience in your work?
RK: Art for me is communication. This comprises audience and intent. You can have more than one audience in a piece of art. In San Francisco I did a project called The Line, where I drew on my hands and knees along the cracks of the sidewalk a colored line with charcoal, connecting to very different neighborhoods from the ground up. First I was my own audience (and maybe so was God). Then there were neighbors and passers-by. This shows that audience is always in flux and correlation. The intention to do art can be just a desire to do it, to take action. People learn by example, and doing informs knowledge.

How do you connect to the audience?
RK: Purely conceptional art is tricky, because what's the point of living if you don't do it? The Line project is something I just started without using instructions. I don't like to set things up in order to trigger others do something. The more interventionist approach (like a script or performance) has elements of intrusion, pretense or even arrogance. I rather do my things and see what happens. What works for me is building a reputation among the public where I connect to the place by working and enduring it for an extended time. People on the sidewalks of San Francisco often asked me what I was doing while drawing The Line. They were interested in finding an answer, their answer. This shows that if we communicated more effectively we could live more fully. When people approach me (not prompted, out of free will) they start to inquire, show kindness, grace, they laugh and reveal humanity.

I enjoy building a reputation among the public where I connect to a place by working and enduring the activity for an extended time. I am like a "working class artist." I even see these people (who are my audience at times) on the bus and at the market. Most cannot understand why one would work so hard at something with no promise of pay. Of course there is great reward, if one knows what is valuable.

What do you think about the "gap of art and life?"
RK: Recently I did a shift of consciousness on this. Instead of living to make art, I make art to learn how to live. I realized that I am not going after the big epiphany but looking for a cyclical way. When you are learning how to live, making art is part of that ongoing journey. If I am open as an artist naturally others become an essential part of that process and I get more form others than I could ever give. It is important to open up preconceived ideas around the term of "art". But we can't deny the galleries and institutions, because these are places which need the dialog, too.

What are your thoughts on documentation?
RK: Documentation is an issue, because it turns art into a product. This commodification is particularly problematic for the experiential and situational art because it is foremost in our hearts. Stories are probably the most honoring way to convey what happened. It's the narratives which link peoples lives and communities. My work usually begins with an idea to do something. From there I observe, learn, refine, change. Any good story should allow you to enter at any point and follow along. I know it is an oxymoron, but imagine what challenge a preservationist of such conceptual and imaginary art is facing...

Can you talk about your relationship to the audience?
RK: My projects can have two different starting points. Either I see a need or gap and then I try to fill it. Or I have questions and ask myself if the issue really speaks to what I value. Questions like 'does the pursuit of happiness include play and imagination?'. Or 'we are created equal, but what how do we carry this all the way through?'. In my project The Line I couldn't understand the stereotyping of neighborhoods in San Francisco. So I literally started to fill in the cracks in the sidewalk on my hands and knees but I can't recollect in detail how it really started.

The effort and process in the street brought me in touch with people I would have otherwise never been in a relationship. Art can be a way to initiate relationships without talking. it is like poetry which creates a sense and a space for sharing. The influence of the audience is always unknown. In case of no response and no audience there is always the experience which dictates that I learn. I know that the state of not knowing and uncertainty makes many people uncomfortable. The absence of things is not nothing, it still has meaning.

My art is a responsibility. I am responsible for where I am, what my place is and to understand the locations I go. By locating myself I become a part of the city. I feel like I don't have the right to just put things out into the public, because I don't like the faceless, Big-Brother-type of communication. For me art is not like a cake mix. It is always in a direct context and continuum.

While you say lives can change art making, do you believe art changes lives?
RK: I often wonder if art has much influence. For one project, I asked security guards working in art galleries this question. I thought if anyone is to be changed by art, it would be them as they are exposed to it day after day. The results were, most seemed indifferent to it. However, one woman said a Murakami grew on her after two weeks, while she watched children enjoying the painting. Another man explained that the art in his house were mostly landscapes that reminded him of home. I started to wonder why one would rather be reminded of "home" in his home than watch a cool Pippilotti Rist video. More inquiries yielded side-tracked responses (and reminders of gallery policies). So, while my question remains unanswered, I did add to my collection of great stories.

What is your reasoning of art and audience?
RK: It's the stories which I consider the true art part in my work. In the best case it is the people who give me the stories and I am the vehicle for making them seen. If the story tellers are the artists, then I am the audience. Successful pieces of art allow all participants to play all the roles. It is this cyclical aspect and endurance which transcend our borders. Imagine if we wouldn't stereotype people and got rid of labels. If you can be all the parts you are, simply a person, for living, for coexisting, and for being joyful. But we find ourselves often set back in a reality of mere practicality and commodification. Does art change our lives? I asked this question a number of guards working in art galleries. It turns out that even though they are around art day in and out, they seem to be indifferent to it. That's why I believe that we have to go out and stretch the boundaries of art and its categories. If art is static it becomes an artifact and is dead.

Do you have anything else to add?
I think one thing missing from the conversation is the aesthetic quality of the art. This, along with documentation was a topic while in San Francosco. It is maintained that an art piece, even being conceptual, still has an aesthetic quality, and this must be a consideration. In A Line, people were drawn to its beauty. It almost "glowed," and somehow remained after many rains. Perhaps they were drawn to it, not me. I am sure of it in some cases.

Rebecca Klobucher is a painter who redefines what a painting can be. Painting for her is a gesture, a move. It is neither static nor self-absorbed. Which is why Rebecca embraces chance in her practice through exposure in the public and with various media. She is interested to look at things in a spiritual way, at transforming energies and emphasizing the positive.