Briefly describe the work you do.
I use every-day objects to elicit feelings of phenomenological experience, my work physically takes the form of video, projection, installation, sound, and still images. I often use tactics like fracturing, layering, and looping to obscure information and use quotidian materials like plastic sheeting, mirror, tinfoil, and plexiglass are used to collapse the distance and blur the boundaries between the familiar and the foreign. I am primarily interested in the moments where emotion mixes with language, where expectations are met or let down, where suddenly the every day becomes unfamiliar, and, how these shifts affect the interpretation and implementation of functioning systems.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I grew up on the east coast surrounded by a very small (in numbers) yet big (in presence) family. There were always lots of characters around, and people were always telling stories. I remember knowing at a very young age that the most important thing would be to have stories to tell. The first experience that really set all of this into motion was a year in Hong Kong in 2005; that time really made clear my relationship to language and the emotional vs. structural components of communication. It was an exciting, confusing, wonderful, and really solitary time; and really connected me to the East, and to a truer version of myself.
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.”
Having a lot of stuff overwhelms me. Being surrounded by things, clutter, objects, papers, totally weighs on me and becomes a burden both physically and emotionally. And, I move around a lot. These two elements have probably been the biggest shapers of my work and methodologies. I don’t consider myself to have a traditional studio practice in that more often than not I don’t actually have a studio, or really any designated place to make my work other than on my computer. Depending on what I’m working on I will manipulate the spaces and materials around me, because of this my work has become really responsive to the environments I’m in. Research is also a big component of my work so I do tend to spend a lot of time developing relationships with people either over the phone, through email, or in person to learn about new techniques, theories, etc. For me these times (sitting together with doctors, physicists, alternative medical practitioners, etc) are often the most important part of the process for me as they set the path. Then usually the making aspect just kind of falls in line once the path has been established. However, when I do have a studio— a designated space to expand, explore, and really work through variations and iterations of ideas— it’s a real treat.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I’ve always had a pretty open idea of what my life would be and where it would take me, so, it’s pretty fair to say that I’ve never really envisioned any of the roles that I’ve played (and that I have yet to play). I’ve never really excluded anything, and feel like for me this has opened up incredible opportunities, and really is at times equal parts exciting and terrifying.
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?
It’s really hard for me to set aside specific time for making because my day-to-day schedule is so erratic. I really like being up early and feel like I have the most clarity first thing in the morning. I tend to go thru spurts where I will work on a specific project or body of work for a concentrated period of time and once it’s done or in a holding pattern I tend to back off. I am definitely very cyclical, it’s just the length of the cycles that varies. I can go for weeks or months researching a project— whether it be because of spatial restraints or just lack of clarity for how to move forward.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My work has changed dramatically in the past five years. I went back to school for my MFA 3 years ago because I really needed to get back to the roots of why I was making, and not having a studio was really taking its toll on me. At the heart of it all, my work is really driven by human emotion and the need to connect and communicate. Five years ago the work was very directly driven by nuances of language, physically taking the form of of social sculpture/relational experiences. Now the work is much more linked to the notion of awe, the relationship between hope and fear, and the idea of the frontier. It also now exists mainly as video installation or constructed still-image.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
I am for sure a sponge. Everything around me influences the way I am and make. I am totally seduced by the history of old things, the way new things are incorporated into the fold, the dazzle and glow of shiny things, the stillness, the almost-missed subtle things…Tacita Dean is one of my favorite artists for her relationship to time and the interplay of fact and fiction. I am fascinated by how science filters into popular culture through movies, fashion, and religion. I really love to scan thru articles online and then pour over every word of the passively- impassioned debates in the comments sections. It is less of a specific moment or specific person and more about the collective of moments and people and places that shape my work.
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 different interests but have never really considered them separate from my work as an artist. Constantly moving thru places is vital, and within that I am really interested in language/linguistics, eastern philosophy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the impact of unseen forces. Learning how people exist in and move thru the world. For me it all counts.
Zazenski holds a BFA from the Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and an MFA in Sculpture from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. She has participated in international artist residencies such as Red Gate Gallery in Beijing, China, and Arteles Creative Center in Haukijarvi, Finland, as well as domestically at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT, the Fountainhead in Miami, FL, Honfleur Gallery in Washington, DC, and The Museum of New Art in Detroit, MI. Zazenski has shared her work in group shows and experimental projects internationally, including TransXpress, a group exhibition that took place on the Trans Siberian Railroad in the summer of 2012. Zazenski’s work has also been featured in two-person shows with Carol Jazzar Contemporary in Miami, at STUDIO 371 in Jersey City, Honfleur Gallery, and Hillyer Art Space, both in Washington, DC. Most recently, her work has been curated into Systems, an exhibition at the IMC Gallery in Urbana, IL and the forthcoming Magic Lantern experimental cinema platform at the Fringe Arts Festival in Bath, UK.
Zazenski’s most current work has connected her with physicists, astronomers, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners, and healers in the U.S., Poland, and China. She has recently presented elements of this project, focusing on the relationship between science and spirituality, at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Marcia Powell Conference on Religion and Art. Zazenski will be continuing this work as a Fulbright Scholar to Poland beginning in the fall of 2015.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.