September 2008, Volume 8, Number 1


A Conversation With Alisa J. Pitchenik

Alisa J. Pitchenik

Alisa J. Pitchenik is professor of fine/applied visual arts and director of the Electronic Intermedia BFA in the New World School of the Arts (NWSA). She was the recipient of the Congresswoman Carrie Meek Endowed Teaching Chair award.

Q. You graduated from the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City with a concentration in multimedia performance and installation. Which performance artists move you? Is there a particular artist with whom you would love to collaborate?

A. As a student, I was strongly influenced by the work of Matthew Barney. Right now, I admire Miranda July’s directness; she segued successfully from being a fine artist into a filmmaker and creates pseudo-biographies, really, extensions of self-portraits. I would love to collaborate with her.

Q. You earned your BFA from the University of Miami in painting and art history. Are you currently painting?

A. Currently I am working on what I call ‘video-painting.’ It involves a rotoscoping technique; I paint on exported still-frames. I have also been curating extensively. I am particularly proud of Fortune and Freedom, an exhibition at SOHO Studios that included the work of 23 different artists in 23 different mediums, and Projected Visions, an exhibition of NWSA students’ recent work.

Q. Projected Visions was an intriguing mix of political and cultural taboos. What was your overall theme for the show?

A. I selected pieces that either played with or manipulated the viewer’s eye. Most of the pieces were by electronic media students and all were current. I wanted this to be a show of fresh work from underrepresented artists. The subject matter challenges aspects of the viewer’s gaze.

Q. Let’s move on to your work. Your performance art piece, Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain, Now What? seemingly connects your performance art and painting as the cake frosting appears like paint squeezed from a tube. Was this a deliberate effort?

A. It was a deliberate effort; the icing references action painters. Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain, Now What? is a video loop that explores the psychological state when a relationship is on the brink. It is also a nostalgic reference to the song MacArthur Park where the cake is a metaphor for a troubled relationship. In this piece, the cake is in a hurricane and the metaphor is darker. The pose is reminiscent of the famous scene in From Here to Eternity except the girl is bored and the hero never arrives. It’s a dark parody in Technicolor.

I have also created a companion piece using a composite of stills from the performance and this is featured in the book Miami Contemporary Artists, which was released during 2007 Art Basel Miami Beach.

Q. Tell me about Hands Across the Ocean: The Lost Chord, which won the inaugural Peoria Prize for creativity.

A. Internet 2, a faster version of the Internet, allowed us to create Hands Across the Ocean: The Lost Chord, a revolutionary international music and dance collaboration. The project was spearheaded by James Oliveira from the University of Florida and Danny Lewis, dean of the dance division at NWSA. We orchestrated a simultaneous real-time performance with musicians and dancers in five countries across the globe. The performance was filmed and edited in real time and aired on the BBC in London.

Q. Do you see any downfall to the marriage of art and technology?

A. In the hands of the best creative types, technology is a powerful tool for visual communication and expression on a personal and global level. There is a developing collective language that artists are starting to tap into.

Q. As technology continues to advance, what do you envision the next generation of electronic media artists will create?

A. I envision the next generation of artists will create art that has a more direct physical interaction with the viewer. There will be more integration between input and output at the sculptural level. Artists will more readily create chaotic interaction in virtual environments that are more encompassing physically and psychologically and engage a myriad of senses. In film, storytelling will become more three-dimensional.

— Katherine Joss

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