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MEET: Spencer Stucky


October 8, 2015
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Spencer Stucky.

Current location and where you come from?

I live and work in Chicago, IL. I teach at the Art Institute of Chicago and am in the BOLT Residency Program. I am from Oakland, CA.

What do you do?

I am an artist who calls on a broad range of disciplines in order for my work to come together. Sculpture, film, photography, installation, whatever.

How long have you been doing what you do? Why did you start?

Well I suppose the “fine art” practice began with photography. I was a skate rat running around San Francisco as a kid and taking photos of my friends skateboarding. Eventually the camera started pointing to the periphery of the action, and a photographic obsession followed. In university I began to make objects, and their presence has grown steadily in my work.

Where is your favorite place to go for inspiration and why?

Honestly, there is not a single or steady place I go to for inspiration. I am always looking and trying to be receptive to a circumstance or narrative that might be inspiring. I think it is more of a quest of curiosity, and a follow-through of that initial question, rather than an inspirational moment. Sometimes this happens when I am just walking around, when I encounter an object, or I hear of something peculiar. It could be the sidewalk, YouTube, or within an institution. I really never know.

What ideas, books, people, films, artists, etc are inspiring you personally or informing your work right now? 

Recently I worked on a film that examines a connection of photography, avant garde dance, and architecture in Stockholm during the 1930s. I have been using the social and familial ties of three figures from this period as a narrative framework: architect Eskil Sundahl, Eskil’s son and architectural photographer Sune Sundahl, and dancer Birgit Åkesson. The work of all three have been overwhelmingly influential, and some of their philosophies dictated how I made the film.

The project also surrounds a notion of history as fluid, or non-static. What I mean by that, is an examination of what we call “history,” or the “historical act,” and attempting to think about this as a past or moment that continues to be contextualized and recontextualized. Objects can be an embodiment of this idea, as their physical properties remain somewhat constant, despite the ability of their meanings, political implications, and personal significance to be renegotiated. I love Ken Kesey’s writing for having the ability to demonstrate this idea, most notably in Sometimes a Great Notion. I am also looking at the poetry of Joel Felix, and the way he works non-poetic material into his poetry – specifically methods of empowering language through a recategorization of a text.

Who are your favorite people to collaborate with and what does collaboration bring to your work?

Frankly, I have not really had a lot of experience with total collaboration, as I tend to want to be in complete control of what I am making. However, while shooting the film I previously mentioned, my friend, filmmaker Jem Goulding, worked with me in the closest capacity I have had so far. I have a methodical approach to image making, one that (for better or for worse) is very accepting of the construction of images and really tries to lean on an awareness of that construction to produce exactly what I want. Every photograph I make has been sketched out, tested, and mocked up ahead of time. Jem, on the other hand, works in a really fluid and immediate way. She walks into a space, or scenario, and instantly begins to investigate what she is interested in through the use of the camera. This way of using the camera as a probe vs. my use of the camera as a receptacle is something I find really beautiful. Having her working side by side with me during the entire shoot, and also shooting a ton herself, really expanded the visual potential of the film. It simply would not be the same without our styles meeting in the middle like it did.

Do you have any rituals or practices that help you get into the creative zone? 

Coffee, food, a walk, and a good record really help boost my productivity. If I hit a low point in the studio, dancing will go down. It’s really the best way to re-energise.

If you could collaborate with anyone in the world (living or dead), who would it be and what would you do together?

Emperor Gaozu of Han or Billie Holliday. I would make video work with them both.

What’s been your career highlight?

Last year I was fortunate enough to show some work in a museum space designed by Mies Van Der Rohe. The work I displayed was pulling from a reference of a building designed by architect Alvar Aalto. I had previously shown the work in a gallery designed by Louis Sullivan, whose use of windows influenced Aalto’s work, and subsequently Aalto’s work influenced the work of Van Der Rohe. This network of influence was very much a part of my research, so being able to situate the work I had made as a result, within each of these spaces, closed a kind of temporal loop for me. It was really exciting to be able to use the history of the architecture of the exhibition space as a part of a conceptual scaffold.

What do you think our generation’s creative legacy will be?

Well, that’s a big one. I think we are in the latter part of a pendulum swing now, where language surrounding Culture, Art, and Aesthetics has expanded to encompass a larger set of fields, borrowing on associations and ideologies (sometimes in a glorified sense) of art and art practice. I think there is a similar push in the adoption of scientific terminology and approach into the space of artistic thinking and production. I still can’t decide if these movements are derived from validational desires, or perhaps it really is a restaging of our language and therefore presents new possibilities of communication between fields. I suppose answering those questions would be a big step.

What’s the most memorable dream you’ve had recently?

I was with my roommate’s cat, and we were hanging out. Just doing buddy stuff. He was a cat, but was also a human. He could talk, make moves, handle his own business, and was generally just as much of a presence as a human. Sounds simple, but trust me, it was dope.

Where are your favorite places to eat, drink, visit, or hang out in your city?

These would change widely based on the season, as winter in Chicago is truly a game-changer. In the summer, beers and a barbeque would have to be my favorite. My apartment is just across the street from Humboldt Park, a vast and gorgeous late 19th century park, and a large portion of my summer will most surely be spent hanging out there. The dollar store across from me is great, and so is Rosie’s, our local bakery. The Graham Foundation is one of my favorite spaces in the city. The building is so beautiful, it always cheers me up, and the trip across town is long enough to make it feel like a treat. If I’m in a low mood, I go early to a bar called The Two Way. When it rains, water drips down through the ceiling into your beer. Its great.

What’s something that you haven’t experienced yet that you want to? 

Win a radio station call-in contest. I want to be caller number 94.

Tell us a secret.

Last week I ate a whole tub of guacamole in one sitting. Alone.

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