Stories from the Inside

Mac Kenzie 150x150

An Interview with MFA Student Kera MacKenzie

Body Doubles, the first in a series of MFA thesis exhibitions taking place at Gallery 400, includes the work of Kera MacKenzie. With an interest in perception and the ways people make sense of the world around them, MacKenzie seeks to make connections and construct meanings through her art. MacKenzie was interviewed by Rachel Thompson. 

Rachel Thompson: Could you describe some of the work you’re showing in Body Doubles?

Kera MacKenzie: The main piece that I’m showing is some of the carpet that has been with me for like two years now…that carpet is going to come back, but it no longer has all the props that existed on it before, but has imprints from the table and you can see there’s three sets of imprints…even though [the carpet’s] empty, it has traces of all the things that have happened on it.

1 Lake Mead Hoover Dam
Image: Still from Lake Mead - Hoover Dam: The Story Behind the Scenery, 2012.

RT: How are you drawn to, or how do you come across your inspirations?

KM: I think that actually some of the work that I have been doing has been asking that very question.

I’m interested in the process of being inspired by something and then trying to, almost like a detective, try to go in and figure out, why am I drawn to this thing?. . . I think that’s the line of questioning that I’ve been going down with a lot of the work that I’ve been making. Having objects around us and trying to gain access to their history even though objects are pretty mute. We can’t literally ask them where they come from. . . How do I make sense of the history of these objects and my relationship to them? And why do they come into my life at the moments they do?

So, I think I’m still trying to figure out an answer to your question, but I think a lot of my work is about trying to find answers for things that maybe don’t have answers. . . What happens when there is no way to find answers and then, in those moments, just making it up and playing with fiction and saying, okay, well what’s the most interesting story I could construct for this object, because I don’t really have access to the facts.

5 From Across The Other Way
Image: Still from Abductive Object II: from across the other way, video installation, 2013.

RT: How do you view an audience’s experience? 

KM: I think a lot of these works ask the audience to do something that can be really frustrating. . . it asks them to fill in the blanks, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation, it leaves a lot of holes. A part of the reason why I do that…I’m really interested in work that tries to present, almost like a mirror, a work that tries to present the way that you’re thinking about the work as the work.

How do I, as an artist, play with this idea that you’ll have images in your own mind that I don’t have access to? Instead of giving you a really specific image to implant in your mind, how do I instead just ask you to conjure your own images?

RT: How has your work changed or developed as an MFA student?

KM: I think actually some of the way that my work has developed is surprising to me. When I came into school, I felt really stuck with what I was doing. I felt like I needed to put myself into the work a little bit more. I felt like I needed to take some more risks and have it be slightly more uncomfortable for me.

Also, I think the other thing that I’ve thought a lot more about in school is that the experience of making something for me is really different than the experience of viewing something as a viewer. I think I’ve considered or tried to imagine the audience’s perspective way more than I was [doing] before school. Which is, really, an interesting process of trying to think from someone else’s perspective…of saying that I have this association with the images and the objects or the things that I’m playing with and there’s this one experience that I have as a maker, but that experience for other people is going to be so, so different. I think being in grad school has kind of forced me to make something, but then step back after making it and try to see it from outside the little world of making.

RT: Could you discuss the role of randomization in your work?

KM: Randomization is something that I am always playing with, specifically in terms of the process of making meaning. Part of the video that’s going to be on the monitor [in the thesis exhibition], the large monitor that you’ll be able to watch from the carpet, the ordering system that I have constructed for that footage, is very random.

2 Carpet
Image: Still from Control Group, video installation (inside the focus group room), 2012.

KM: I’ve been calling the whole installation Abductive Objects. Specifically, I’m using that word in the sense of the process of abductive reasoning, the type of reasoning that a detective would use. Where you walk into a space and you’ve got all of these objects and you have to come up with a scenario in which it would make sense for all of these objects to be where they are. So, again, asking the viewer to do some work, to help me make sense of why all of these things are here. What I’m doing is not actually totally random. I’m on the edge of it and playing with it. I’ve done some of the work; there are connections to be found. I think that there’s a fine line I’ve been trying to find, where there is some sense of randomness, but there are enough connections that someone would want to investigate.

There’s got to be enough clues that make you believe that something happened there. I think that’s what I’m trying to play with. It’s not necessarily complete randomness, but something that’s kind of between order and chaos.

Rachel Thompson is a student in the Museum and Exhibition Studies program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.