Interview with Mary Mattingly

Recently the ICP-Bard MFA first years were able to spend some time with Mary Mattingly in her New York studio. She welcomed us into her space and gave us a comprehensive view of her ongoing project and a brief history of her work and the issues she addresses. Recently the ICP-Bard MFA first years were able to spend some time with artist Mary Mattingly in her New York studio just before she headed to Havana to participate in the 12th Havana Biennial.

  1.  Environmental issues seem to be the forefront of your artistic focus. Why is this an important topic to you?

Well, oftentimes it’s not an immediate concern for people (although more and more it is) but it’s a long view, and one of the most important ones. If we can live together in a way that is less harmful to our environments, ourselves, and each other, we can actually begin to reimagine our future, in a long view. Right now I can’t imagine that future. Since I make art that’s largely about living, it’s one of the topics I can’t avoid if I wanted to. It also has to do with growing up in a town with environmental problems, most notably surrounding toxic drinking water.

  1.  We noticed that a solution you had was self-sustainability. Do you believe your goal is to teach people what to do in a potential post-apocalyptic world or do you want to show these images as an attempt to persuade us to change our ways before we need to take such drastic actions?

I believe in interdependent sustainability more than self-sustainability but they do go hand-in-hand. Yes, I think it’s important to always be learning from each other, and hope self-reflection is a part of that and change is a part of that.

  1.  You work extensively with collaborators. How much does that affect your work as compared to work you do alone?

Working with collaborators many times becomes the subject of a collaborative work – the process is inextricably linked to the outcome. It’s about compromise and chance. While working alone I’m still compromising, but with materials, with equipment. The work I do alone is also about coming to terms with how I occupy space inside of a social, political, and even art-world apparatus. I spend a lot of time thinking about how we can be understood and heard.

  1.  How different is working with unfamiliar and foreign communities as compared to your own?

While many places are foreign including my own communities, I still find myself becoming part of many networks inside of each place, even if it is the network that brings me to a foreign place (whether it’s a museum or another entity). Because I’m usually operating within these different structures to some extent, there is always a foreign and familiar or even familial level to a place. People drawn to participate in the projects I do in NYC can be strangers just as much as people I’m working with in Havana. It’s as much a learning experience to navigate barter in Havana as it is to navigate the world of New York’s waterfront. They are both equally intriguing proposals.

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