Unedited conversations between artist in a productive critique discovering thesis and processes behind the work.
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Caitlin Rose Sweet
Snake In The Grass, 2016
RAMOS: hi - so happy we made this work
thank you for joining us
Thanks for inviting me.
RAMOS: i am looking at your website
and trying to figure out where to start
i remember reading about you in an article that compare you to Hieronymus Bosch
i think it was in the Huffington Post
SWEET: Snake in the Grass which was my solo show that opened in March
RAMOS: yeah i remember the paper mag article talking about queerness
so queerness and Hieronymus Bosch
SWEET: My root and artistic process is deeply rooted in queerness
RAMOS: what does that mean exactly?
SWEET: Well I'm queer. I have for years lived in radical queer communities, bubbles, and houses.
I have organized queer art shows.
My work is about queerness.
I want to make space that speaks to queer people and also function as a place for people to encounter queerness.
I think of my installations as habitats
RAMOS: I feel like I'm out of the loop here - i've had countless of conversations about "queerness" but i can't seem to really grasp what it means.
what makes a person queer?
Well I think being a queer person and talking about queerness Is different things
There is the material reality of being a queer person, there is queer culture, queer theory, and queerness at large in the world.
RAMOS: how do i know if i'm a queer person or not?
SWEET: Um well that varies from person to person
I'm a cisgender woman who dates queer people of a variety of genders and sexualities
i've never heard that term
SWEET: Cisgender= I am a female assigned at birth person who identifies as a woman. I am not a trans person.
RAMOS: you are as you were born
i still don't fully understand what queer is but maybe that's ok
SWEET: Sure that's one way of looking at it
RAMOS: i'll move on and hope that one day i'll get it
so the Hieronymus Bosch comparison - did that come from you?
SWEET: I have been a Bosch fan for years. It was an instinctive decision to make a piece about Garden of Earthly Delights
RAMOS: ohh i see - I always make sure to visit that piece when I am in Madrid
SWEET: I would love to see it in person. For me it's interesting because I think it not in the terms of a painting but it feels more like an object to me.
RAMOS: well it encompasses a great deal of humanity
so it is like holding a body in a way - that represents all that we are
but you actually made it into an object
SWEET: There's some interesting moments in it that has vessels in it.
There is so much about containment and the failure of that.
RAMOS: there's also a distortion or deformation that's very clear in both Bosch's projection of humanity and the vessels you made
SWEET: I like to think of it more as transformation than deformation.
RAMOS: i guess transformation is more positive
but for me Bosch is more about distortion
SWEET: Having a body is such a heavy thing. So complicated. So messy. So amazing. Bosch's figures speak to that for me.
It's funny I never find his figures disturbing. The hell panel is soothing to me.
RAMOS: when i think of messy bodies and the weight of them and the complications i think more of Francis Bacon
SWEET: And funny! Like he really had a thing about butts!!!
RAMOS: for me Bosch is more about the psyche
the distorted mind
and yes butts have everything to do with that
SWEET: True. But bacon is generally about a single figure. Bosch is a systems of bodies.
RAMOS: i can see that - but i also see Bosch's piece as if it was one person and their many mental states
SWEET: I can see that. For me it feels really different which what I like about art, everyone has such different relationships to single work. I see it as this dense ecology of people being together and how that feels. It can feel really good or really bad.
RAMOS: yeah - and good and bad is relative which is also reflected there
so tell me about your latest show
Snake in the Grass
SWEET: Well it was an installation that was divided into 3 sections, it was all textiles and ceramics. It was my response piece to garden of earthly delights.
RAMOS: glad we talked about the garden first then
how was it a response?
SWEET: It was me thinking and making through the themes that the painting talked about. It gave me a frame work and focus for the show.
My main subject matter of my work is about having a body, what it means, how it feels, and how it fails. I'm interested in how queer desire crafts different understandings of what a body can and should do.
Though I love Bosch there were things that I wanted to explore and twist into new meanings.
RAMOS: why do you think you have a body?
SWEET: I have no clue! Why do we have bodies? The human struggle. As a queer person I live in a culture who has some really set ideas of what makes a valuable body, in some ways my queerness makes me less valuable. Same with being a woman. I'm defined by lack.
So my work is about exposing what I think is bullshit ideas about bodies.
RAMOS: queerness and woman makes you less valuable?
the body of a woman is the most magical thing - it makes life itself
how can you say that?
SWEET: Well I don't think that women are less valuable nor do I think my value is based on one of the functions one of my organs does. I'm saying that in the ruling culture of patriarchy that women are treated as less.
Like no equal pay...
RAMOS: i see
i'm not sure i understand what the ruling culture is - what do they rule?
SWEET: Um you know like mainstream culture
RAMOS: i'm not sure if the government is a culture - but mainstream culture is only alive for those who look at it
i don't feel victimized by mainstream culture
SWEET: I think it's pretty offensive and actually hurts people.
RAMOS: i don't want to deny that - but don't you think those hurt by it are those who want to be a part of it?
RAMOS: you can only hurt me if i let you - no?
Oppression exists and its violent. It's unavoidable
RAMOS: i am in gratitude that today i don't feel oppressed - and i was born in a country that had political oppression and in contrast mainstream oppression just don't feel like much to me - today, maybe not as a teenager - just today
i am not totally blind or ignorant and can see the effects of it in younger generations
SWEET: Oppression takes many forms. Sometimes it's the government and sometimes it's been treated like shit everyday because you are different.
RAMOS: yes i understand - maybe not in the same way you do - there are prejudice against me and it hurt but i try to have a strong practice of compassion and forgiveness
i try to think of it as their problem not mine
and that gives me a lot of freedom
SWEET: I guess that's one approach, im a pretty free person. But I see a lot harm being done and I'm not into using my energy to forgive but more into tending to those who are getting injured. Emotionally and physically