Briefly describe the work you do.
My work becomes as static as my self-exploration into a queer identification. My work looks at mainstream notions that define desire, behavior and personal constitution. I look at google mainframes, hate speech, and other modes of communication that exist as ready-made information. My work reclaims aspects of cultural behavior that have become an oddity in my own life. By retorting the information, I twist and reconnect ways of re-imaging capitalist, normative and heterosexual lifestyles.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
Growing up with divorced parents, I never lived in an idealized perception of domesticity. Currently I have lived in as many homes as my current age, 23. That fragmentation of my upbringing has reflected in my artwork as a young adult, challenging unrealistic notions of the valued idea of American heteronormativity.
Recently my studio practice has been heavily reflective of queer theory. I have begun looking into authors such as Judith Butler, Jack Halberstam and Georges Bataille; these authors and theorists look closely at established notions of gender, sexuality and cultural normalities. As an artist, I am not interested in creating objects that already exist but finding ways to shift perspectives and draw attention to established notions of being.
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.”
A large portion of my studio time is spend at coffee shops reading, searching google and brainstorming project ideas that heavily involve being outside the typical studio environment. Part of my studio practice involves a strong photographic practice that documents alternative environmental spaces here in Milwaukee as well as outside my community. For example, I recently finished a photographic series while accompanying two musicians playing shows across the East Coast. The culminating series, Domestics (http://bretterichsuemnicht.com/Domestics) documents underground musical spaces, all age’s venues, and punk houses showcasing interiors abundant in DIY musical cultural. Another series I have been working on over the past few years is DIY: MKE (http://bretterichsuemnicht.com/DIY-MKE-Series). This project documents the DIY music scene in the Riverwest Neighborhood of Milwaukee. DIY: MKE includes a series of photographs, artist books and zines, and catalogs the fluid nature of underground spaces.
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?
After graduating from MIAD this past spring, my work has taken a huge shift. I have begun looking at issues surrounding LGBTQI lifestyles. As a queer identified person, I fall outside the traditional roles of homosexual/heterosexual identification. Through embracing my constitution as queer, I stand for embracing fluidity in the way I function by resisting aspects of culture that stand in the way of being an “outsider”. I look at my own lifestyle, as well as other queer identified individuals’ lifestyles, examining ways of expanding possibilities of resisting aspects of normative culture that go unquestioned.
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?
My professor at MIAD, Rina Yoon, gave me the best advice. She told me if I put as little as 20 minutes aside a day to focus on my work, it would be enough to keep me motivated in my artistic practice. This is a habit that I follow every day.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
Five years ago I wouldn’t have considered myself an artist; today I do.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
I am continually motivated by fellow artists and musicians I know and work with, especially here in the Midwest. I am surrounded by people who make work without the straightforward goal of just making a bunch of money, but rather working with this strong intuition or impulse to create their own culture. Last year, I sat in on a talk by LA Art Coordinator of MKE: LAX (http://www.mke-lax.org), Sara Daleiden, who referred to artists in the Midwest as artistic laborers. That term has really stuck with me. It made me reflect on some of the reasons why I love being an artist working in a post-industrial city such as Milwaukee.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
Both my parents are social workers and growing up I was introduced to different aspects of public services. I think I would be somewhere in the non-profit sector of public services working with grassroots organizations. I couldn’t imagine not being involved in some facet of cultural production or activism.
Brett Suemnicht is a visual artist living and working in Milwaukee, Wi. They hold a BFA in Printmaking from the Milwaukee institute of Art and Design. Their photographic work has been showcased onfreatureshoot.com and lenscranch.com. They have shown in numerous galleries in the Milwaukee area including juried and group exhibitions.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.