Briefly describe the work you do.
My work investigates how the body can be shaped, sensed, relied upon, or distrusted. Through performance and video I execute varied physical challenges that reveal personal limitations, vulnerability, and clumsiness. Working with forms of physical comedy and slapstick, I draw attention to the overlap between the simultaneous assertion and loss of control inherent in pratfall, and to the body teetering between informed action and childish impotence.
Though a pratfall stunt appears as happenstance to the viewer it is carefully calculated, choreographed and executed to incur the minimal risk of injury. While danger is analyzed and reduced it is still present; the skilled act even when perfected is latent with uncertainty and potential injury. The work evokes the unknown, halts the release of comedic tension, and alludes to the failure of self-discipline and composure.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I have a background in dance, including ballet, modern, improvisation, and various forms of dance and movement therapies. These experiences influence the ways that I approach performance and inform my use of the body as an instrument to reveal veracity through movement and presence.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My studio practice varies a lot. I maintain dedicated studio hours, but these may not be spent in my actual studio. I may be driving around scouting locations, researching in the library, or working in a wood shop to make props for a piece. The diverse activities in my practice keep me engaged; I enjoy learning new mediums and experimenting with how to integrate them into my practice. I am currently working with clay for the first time, and making objects that I plan to incorporate in an installation with my videos.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Recently the production of my work has taken on a slightly larger scale. I find myself occupying the role of a director, working with hired actors, and multiple video assistants. Previously I preferred to work alone and manage all aspects of video production myself. However as my work has shifted directions I have needed the skills and assistance of other professionals in order to manifest my ideas. Working with others challenges me to let go of controlling every aspect of production; I have to trust that whomever is working the camera understands what I am trying to do and what I want in the shot. Bringing others into my work has also opened me up to new ways of looking at what I’m doing and to receiving invaluable feedback during the process of making.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I usually set aside certain days/times of the week for the studio. The regularity helps me to focus and to be more productive.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
My work has changed quite a bit over the last five years. In May I received my MFA from the University of Arizona; I entered graduate school working solely in photography, however I used the time in school to experiment and work in different mediums. During this time my work shifted into primarily performance and video, and a little bit of sculpture. Working in these mediums aided the focus of my work and integrated my experience with dance, photography, and self-portraiture. My work is continuing to grow and I am currently working towards incorporating objects and video into installations.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
My dad is a photographer and a collector, so I was introduced to art and particularly photography at a young age. As a kid I accompanied him on many of his shoots; he was primarily a nature photographer so we frequented national parks, beaches, nature reserves, and animal sanctuaries. This taught me a way of seeing beauty by means of the photographic and responding to the environment and to experience through the potential of what can be manifested in the lens. These early experiences played a major role in my desire, need, and decision to become an artist. It has also helped to have a family and partner who support my work and are engaged in my artistic process.
There are numerous other people, writers, artists, etc. who impact and influence my work. I am constantly looking at art, reading, and watching films all of which filter into the way I think about and approach what I’m doing in the studio. Most recently I have been watching a lot of silent and slapstick comedies by Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers, and Charlie Chaplin. I consider it research, albeit extremely fun research, for my current work that deals with physical comedy and pratfall. I also recently read Simon Critchley’s On Humor, which connected for me the way that physical comedy, mediates the experience of being a body and having a body, bridges the physical and metaphysical.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
Right now it’s always changing, but I teach and/or do freelance work for video and photography.
Anna Garner (b. 1982) is a multi-media artist whose practice encompasses photography, video, performance, and sculpture. Anna received her B.A. in Liberal Arts from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA and her MFA at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. Her work is based in performances that explore the awareness of personal limitations and self-control, focusing on physical challenges that investigate how the body can be shaped, sensed, relied upon or distrusted. Recent shows include video screenings at Trestle Gallery in Brooklyn, NY and Northwest Film Forum in Seattle, WA and a small group exhibition at Sala degli Archi in Livorno, Italy. In 2014 Anna was awarded residencies at The Showhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and Anderson Ranch Art Center.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.