joy tirade [Interview]

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interview with joy tirade


MHM: How do you choose your imagery?

JT: The imagery I choose for my video work is very formally specific to the project I am working on. The project I have shared with Mineral House Media this summer  is one part of a larger project called The Lovers, a thirteen channel HD video, sound, faux-fur, vintage TV,  and neon installation. All of the work I make in some ways relates to my artistic interest in the metaphysics of love and human emotion. 

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In Fictional Desires, the video pieces that I shared with you, although concerned with the larger themes of love and passion is in this iteration are specifically centered in the rural South. This area of the country holds a lot of meaning for me. It’s like a time capsule. I moved to rural Virginia when I was a young girl to live with my grandparents. Before then I had only lived in cities. I remember my first impression of the region as being wild, lush, overgrown with trees and brush, and feral. Some places had old buildings overgrown with kudzu vines which appeared to pull apart old boards and return the buildings to the earth. The night sky was so bright with stars it would make me ache while I stared up at it. The noises of the region are loud with birds and cicadas. The air in the summer smells of that metallic screen-door smell you sense right before a storm. This is the place, this landscape, is the location where I came of age, where I first found love and also lost that love. When I returned to this region almost a decade later I found the memories there waiting for me in the soil, in the trees, in the foliage and the rain. So, site is a very important consideration for me for the meaning of the work. Currently, all of my footage is shot in Virginia and North Carolina.  

Some of it is logical and formal but the other part of the decision is more emotional. I like to film a scene that when I look at it makes me ache a little. I had a brilliant photography teacher who would talk about Barthes concept of “punctum” something in the image that pricks you or jumps out at you. I have to believe that something also existed for the photographer not just the viewer. I think the site I am looking for has a certain amount of “punctum.”

MHM: Describe your work in 10 words.

JT: Pulsing, Mystical, Fur-Pelted, Full-Moon. Magnetic-field, Neon, Unrequited, Walls-of-Sound, Femme-fatal. Flame-in-the-cave-of-your-heart. 

MHM: What is your process like and what inspires it? 

JT: All of my work begins with a fair amount of reading, research, and writing about the work. After this there is a long gathering phase too. The, when I am finally immersed in the actual creation of the work, it is non-stop and obsessive. But I feel like art making is so integrated into my life. I have a hard time separating the two things. 

Before going to art school I had a pretty serious daily morning writing habit and I wrote the first draft of a novel. I also had a radio show called “Starlight Motel.” Around this time I transitioned to being a self taught painter. This early experience with writing, radio, and painting influences my way of structuring and approaching my video work.  

The work for my video trilogy, The Lovers, parts of which I shared during my Mineral House Media residency, required a great deal of planning and careful decision making. But it also had a ton of reading and gathering footage. This work grew into a thirteen-channel video, sound, and neon installation that premiered all together at LUMP Projects in Raleigh, NC last June 2018. One part of this piece involves seven vintage television sets all playing a different channel of the work. I wanted to time them in a way that they would always be playing a different sequence. 

I am always sure of how I want the light to look in the space that I am filming. I become a little bit obsessed with the light and the color of a work. The filming and editing is meticulously scheduled but there is plenty of room for spontaneity in this process. For instance, while the work is being filmed, sometimes I slip, or make a mistake, or a bird’s shadow drags across the bedspread in a window scene in a bedroom. Then I have to decide if that accidental moment is necessary, like a drip in painting, some moments are perfect and some you have to make over again. 

MHM: What fascinates you the most about tarot cards? Do you have a favorite? 

JT: I like to be able to ask about the mysteries of life and then over analyze the results. 

I have two favorite cards. The High Priestess and The Lovers. 

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MHM: Why are you drawn to video and technology as a medium? 

JT: I answer this a little bit in another part of the interview but for me while painting and working in graduate school I began to feel like I needed a different way to make a work a way that could tell a non-linear story. I still consider my video work to be an extension of my painting practice though. 

MHM: What does “post-human” mean to you, in filmmaking and in art more broadly? 

JT: I am very inspired by the words of American filmmaker, Nathaniel Dorsky, he writes,  “In film, there are two ways of including human beings. One is depicting human beings. Another is to create a film form which, in itself, has all the qualities of being human: tenderness, observation, fear, relaxation, the sense of stepping into the world and pulling back, expansion, contraction, changing, softening, tenderness of heart. The first is a form of theater and the latter is a form of poetry.”

In many of my works, especially the larger full-sized projections, the viewer is the one who begins to feel present in the space I am depicting. There are no actors and no visible human bodies present in my work. My videos implicate the body without having an actor, because I am trying to recreate a simulation of sensuality, the sense of being right there. I want the viewer to enter my feelings, or maybe even think that the work is about their own life. The imagery becomes like a dream or a memory for the viewer. 

The way I am thinking about the idea of post-human specifically in this body of work is that there are no bodies visible in the work. I am trying to depict that qualities of being human instead and shifting the gaze to the viewer. 

MHM: Why do you use neon in your work?

JT: For me light is the bridge between my painting practice and my video practice. I included the neon piece, Five-to-Seven Years Depending on Use, neon 2017 because I was thinking about the gallery space of Lump in Raleigh, NC.  In my mind’s eye I could see the space glowing with this pink light which would refract through the fog of the fog machine. In this case it was a little bit site specific but I will continue to use neon now in my work. 

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MHM: In your artist statement you talk about the effects of life altering choices. What are some choices you have made in your life that affect or feed into your art and process?

JT: As an artist, I have gone from writing and zine making, to painting, to finally land on experimental video. This trajectory brought the lessons of each medium with it. 

As a beginning artist I was first drawn to painting and drawing. Even though looking back at my early experiences I wasn’t introduced to fine art but I was exposed to cinema, then light art, and finally painting. I think what I am truly obsessed with is color and light and how these properties act on our emotions.In graduate school I started to feel the limits of what painting can express. Yes, I am still a painter, and yes, I still very much enjoy painting’s materiality; but a few things were shifting for me artistically as I began to work with video

At the time I began to work with video I was reading a few very influential texts, Mira Schorr’s A Decade of Negative Thinking and Rosalind Krauss’s essays, particularly her essay on Sculpture in The Expanded Field. Schorr’s book had me questioning my place in the lineage of women making art, She highlights this very interesting break around the time of Women House where some female artists were leaving painting behind to work with performance. This had me questioning the limits of painting for self expression but also thinking specifically about just what painting can truly express. And to be clear, I still believe painting can express a great deal. 

During this time I was also pondering Krauss’s article about Sculpture and its many nuanced expressions. This underscored my thinking about how some mediums are better suited to express what I'm intending, depending the context. Now I feel very strongly that the content, the medium, the materials and the message all must align. I teach this to my students too: the importance of the alignment of material to subject. 

MHM: How do you want to viewers to feel when they experience your work?

JT: I want them to remember the first time they fell in love. To experience time as moving in a somewhat non-linear fashion in order to highlight the idiosyncratic nature of pure experience. To feel ecstatic.  

MHM: Do you believe it is possible to create love?

JT: I used to make love spells in my treehouse as a kid, so I do think you can conjure love.

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As an artist, this is a fascinating question and one I ask a lot while researching my work. What is love? What are its cultural markers? In my work I maintain a critical eye about love. In my research, I examine the messages we receive about love from literature and the media and play with these elements in my artwork. I want my viewer to ponder the meaning and existence of love.  

MHM: Do you have any favorite myths or stories that inspire your work?

JT: Each body of work begins with its own discrete research. My father is a science fiction writer. I originally wanted to be a writer as a child so, as a result, I am very inspired by literature and a lot of fiction writing has played a part in my work. My thesis show in graduate school was named Persuasion after the Jane Austen Novel. Also, another piece of mine is called Story of An Hour, borrows its name from the Kate Chopin short story and is very influential in this immersive, two-channel, video and sound piece. 

MHM: If you had 1 million dollars what would you make?

JT: I would make a community. I would build an artist residency with tiny houses for all of my artist friends. I would also adopt some rescue pugs. 

MHM: How do you spend the perfect sunday?

JT: Eating gingerbread pancakes served with homemade lemon curd and then going back to bed is the most ideal. But more typically my perfect Sunday includes fresh fruit, coffee, and time to work on writing for proposals. I also like to prepare for the week.

I work all week from 8am to 8pm, Monday through Saturday, teaching art and/or on my studio art practice. 

MHM: What’s next in the studio?

JT: I have a solo show about to open at The Horace Williams House in Chapel Hill, NC. It runs September 2019. The opening reception is Sunday, September 8, 2pm-4pm. Come see me and say hello. I am researching light right now and writing about it. This will result in a big new series of paintings,  a type of combine painting, which will involve paint, light, and video. I plan to begin painting these in spring 2020. 

Artist Statement:

“In film, there are two ways of including human beings. One is depicting human beings. Another is to create a film form which, in itself, has all the qualities of being human: tenderness, observation, fear, relaxation, the sense of stepping into the world and pulling back, expansion, contraction, changing, softening, tenderness of heart. The first is a form of theater and the latter is a form of poetry.” —Nathaniel Dorsky

Fictional Desires is part of a larger body of work presented as a show called The Lovers, which premiered at Lump Projects in May 2017. The Lovers, is a post-human, thirteen-channel, non-linear, video trilogy in which I meditate on the ways that we form our individual and often life-altering choices. The title of the project takes its name from the sixth card of the traditional Smith-Waite tarot deck. This card is commonly thought of as a card that informs the reader about sensuality but it is also a card about choice and how choice is shaped by our perceptions.

Fictional Desires, 2018, a nine-channel video and neon installation, interacts with the ways in which we question love’s existence. It plays with the social and societal constructs of love and romance. Dually commenting on our difficulty with the translation of love while pondering the tarot and television as two forms of pictorial yet antiquated forms of myth making. -joy tirade


Photo Credit: elin o’hara slavick

Photo Credit: elin o’hara slavick

joy tirade's artistic practice spans painting, experimental video, installation, and zine making. tirade's work creates connections between the history of painting, phenomenology, and feminist theory to explore the metaphysics of human emotion. tirade is also the founding member of the all-female, lens-based, artist collective, Neu Collective. @collective.neu 

tirade holds an MFA in Studio Arts from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Previously, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from University of Virginia, with Distinction and holds a BA in Studio Art and Art History.

tirade is an internationally exhibited artist having shown at the Kamloops Art Gallery, in British Columbia, at Universitet i Oslo, Norway, Vilnius Academy of Arts, Lithuania and Ideas Block LT, Lithuania and CICA Museum in South Korea. 

Regionally her work has been at The Mint Museum, The Ackland Art Museum, CAM, The Carrack, and LUMP projects in North Carolina. In Virginia, at The Garage, The Bridge PAI, WTVF/Radio IQ Gallery, New City Arts, Art Works Gallery, The IX Building, and Ruffin Gallery at University of Virginia.

Her work has also appeared at The Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center in Covington, Kentucky, Red Ink Studios in San Francisco, and at LACDA in Los Angeles.

tirade resides in the Research Triangle Area where she teaches art.

Mineral House