Briefly describe the work you do.
My work explores the intersection of identity, technology, language and pop culture. I create electronic and time-based works, installations, mixed media, drawings, and performances which examine how technology has altered and influenced communication. I view the convergence of technology and the body as an extension and interruption. Technology extends our physical capabilities and reach, while it interrupts facets of speech language, narrative and communication. My research branches in multiple directions. Lately my research focuses on exploring parallels between myth and technological phenomena. For instance, the disembodiment of the voice through early media devices such as the telephone and the phonograph, are the inspiration for my work“Ether and the Voice: an Electronic Media Opera”. Another work, “iLook, iSeek, iAm”explores the Narcissus and Echo myth, and compares the hypnosis of the young Narcissus to the numbing mechanism of personal media and modern technology.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I grew up just north of Boston, Massachusetts, and attend the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. I enrolled in the school’s studio art program and quickly gravitated to the video, sound, and performance areas. A lot has happened since then. After school, I lived in Chicago for more than a decade, and for much of that time was exclusively focused on performing, writing, and recording music. I formed a band with a great group of musicians and had a blast playing around the city and making music with them. Bands have a limited shelf life, and after we broke up I decided to go back to school. I did my MFA at Alfred University in New York. This was a significant turning point for me. During the two year program I distilled my years of experience working in different media, and deepened my practice and research. On a more personal note – it’s all my varied life experiences, and the people I’ve come in contact with throughout my life that have influenced me and the work I make.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
“Being in the studio” takes on various shapes for me depending on what I’m working on and trying to accomplish. Being in the studio means total freedom to explore and create without a specific agenda.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Counselor, confidant, cheerleader, critic, therapist, savior, warrior, engineer, diplomat, promoter, technician, and politician. In no particular order.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I like to write in the morning and draw in the evening. Drawing relaxes me.
I think about making every day, whether or not the act takes place.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
Sometimes I feel as if I am creating the same piece over and over again – just dressing it up differently. I think many artists can identify with this. Explorations of identity and persona are recurring themes. Performative practices motivate much of what I create. I have a need to embody the work somehow – and a frequent vehicle for me is voice. These ideas have stayed with me from the beginning.
My work has definitely changed in scale and form, and my research has gotten more precise over the years. I’ve started to do animation which is a completely new territory for me.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
I discovered a lot of good artists in the early nineties. I went to an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA of artist and avant garde theater director, Robert Wilson. The show blew my mind. It was a large scale installation that included objects, video, and sound. It was the first time I had experienced such an extended orchestrated environment. What struck me most, was the presentation of the work. It was like walking through a piece of theater, a drama which I became part of by virtue of interacting with the space. Another mind blowing show was seeing Penny Arcade perform her seminal work “Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!” at Mass College of Art. Around this time I also discovered David Lynch and Laurie Anderson’s work, and I saw the band Bongwater perform at a club called the Channel in Boston. Ann Magnuson is fabulous. I loved the way she morphed into different characters and personas on stage. In all of these artists I saw a type of risk taking and stepping outside the norm which appealed to me and gave me permission to do the same.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I have so many interests! I could have easily been a therapist, clothing designer, poet, or lighthouse keeper. Writing and poetry are still a significant part of my practice.
Colleen Keough is a Trans-Disciplinary / Intermedia artist working in lens and time based media, performance, installation, and hybrid art forms. Keough’s research explores the intersection of pop culture, identity, myth and technology. Her works investigate the voice, and fragmentation of identity and language, through electronic modes of imaging, communication, and identification. Her works have examined subject matter such as bioelectric communication, archetypal embodiments of the female voice, media as a vehicle of vocal disembodiment, classical mythos and technological phenomena, and natural and sonic phenomena. Her works have been included in national and international exhibitions and festivals including the Athens Video Art Festival, Athens, Greece /Galway International Arts Festival, Galway Ireland / Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY / Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space Prague, Czech Republic /Yan Gerber International Arts Festival Weichang County, China / Athens International Film and Video Festival, Athens, OH / Glitch Festival, Dublin, Ireland / Loop Video Art Festival, Barcelona, Spain / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA / Institute for Humanities Research, Arizona State University, and the E-Poetry Festival, London / Kingston Upon the Thames, UK. Keough earned an MFA in Electronic Integrated Arts from NYSCC Alfred University, and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor Trans-Disciplinary Art at Ohio University in Athens, OH.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.