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Bodies in a space--interacting and reacting to each other, moving, perceiving, welcoming vulnerability and shifting perspectives--some driven by technology, some by their own intrinsic energy; these are all things you’re likely to encounter in the experience of a piece by movement and media artist, Megan Young. Young’s foundation as a dancer, tech developer and activist provide her with a unique approach to her identity as a visual artist, “I still dance, but it feels very different from what I do as an individual artist.” The body (her own and others’) is largely the primary vehicle for Young’s work. But in the realm of the interdisciplinary artist, bodies, performance and movement don’t always equal dance.
Young describes a great majority of her work as “pervious” or something that is enterable or changeable, “I like having my work manipulated by other people and creating the framework that others add to or change.” This concept certainly has roots in her knowledge and expertise in creative coding, as she explains, open-source approaches invite anyone to contribute to, modify, and distribute the original code.
Thematically speaking, Young’s unabashed outspokenness and natural inclination toward politically-charged work has led her to develop a truly socially-engaged practice. “I didn’t set out to do social practice work,” she says. But with pieces like Unsuccessful Wrestling (http://www.meglouise.info/unsuccessful-wrestling/) and Longest Walk (http://www.meglouise.info/longest-walk/), installed at this year’s RNC, she challenges viewer notions of our current political and social climate.
The curious link between coding and social engagement lies in the function of both systems. “The open source community wants everyone to learn these programming languages and play with them and tinker and make things, because it makes the languages more valuable. I feel like social practice is the same thing - artists and activists are trying to make frameworks that people can pick up. The goals are really similar. On its most basic level, it has to try to reach the most people possible.” See her newest work at SPACES The First 100+ Days exhibition https://www.spacescle.org/exhibitions/2017/05/05/the-first-100-days, responses to the initial phase of Trump’s term, opening May 5th.
Describe briefly the work that you do.
I work in the disciplines of choreography, video, and new media although I take a decidedly interdisciplinary approach. I create live performance events, installation art, experimental films, and other body based works.
How did you get introduced to your craft?
I studied modern dance choreography at Ohio University, did costume design for theater, and really pulled my interests together while pursuing my MFA in interdisciplinary art and new media at Columbia College Chicago. That was where I began experiments in creative coding, place-making, and social practice adventures.
Do you have any long-standing influences?
My first influence is my own body, memory, and kinesthetic experience. I always work with women or gender fluid bodies and my pieces expand the conversation around feminist art and womanist perspectives. When I’m lost, I research philosophy and performance studies movements.
Describe your idea of artistic success.
I constantly re-define my idea of artistic success and that has helped drive my career through many different stages. There was a time when I based success on the number of exhibitions and performances, or the name recognition of exhibition presenters. Lately, I’ve shifted to find success in how deeply I can invest in a few core concepts.
What is your process for generating new ideas?
My body of work over the past several years has driven ever further into core concepts: critical race, gender and sexuality studies, identity, performance of identity, agency (in action and inaction) and social systems. When I begin a new performance or visual arts project, I consider how it investigates or furthers my research in those areas. I consider how to activate viewers in meaningful ways and how to strip away unnecessary trappings of formalism or disciplinary pre-sets.
How do you feel your work affects your audience? (and/or) How do you want your work to affect your audience?
In some cases, the experience might be vulnerability or discomfort. But, freedom of choice, action and responsibility are quite extraordinary that way. The pieces strip away all pre-sets or pre-conceived ideas and keep asking, “what if?” and “what about?” incessantly until breaking into something new. I do expect that model of awareness and questioning to persist beyond the experience of my work.
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