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Kirsty Kross holds a Bachelor Degree in Art History from University of Queensland and a Masters of Art in Context from the Berlin University of the Arts. Her work has been featured in Bedfellows at Tate Modern London, The Bergen Assembly, Østlandsutstillingen, Tenthaus and PINK CUBE in Oslo as well as in Berlin at Parkhaus Projekts, Galerie Crystal Ball and Galerie Walden. From 2000-2010 Kirsty Kross co-created and performed in the music/performance group, Team Plastique and toured extensively across Europe and Australia and performed at events such as Glastonbury and Kunstsalon Berlin.

Kirsty Kross’ work combines performance, drawing, music and installation and deals with the human condition in relationship to the attention economy and ecological problems such as climate change. Kirsty Kross has been based in Oslo from 2015 and is a board member of Performance Art Oslo.

Kirsty Kross. Coral Trout Portrait, 2012, Photo: Miguel Lopes
Kirsty Kross. Coral Trout Portrait, 2012, Photo: Miguel Lopes

Kirsty Kross, interviewed by Terese Longva & Kurt Johannessen

You often work with time-based art. Do have any thoughts about that, in comparison with, for example, art that is more object-based?

I love that I am making time-based art that is not so reliant on the production of objects. I feel light and transportable and flexible. I am also not weighed down by having to store objects in a space. I feel this is also important with all the current ecological problems we are facing in that humanity, or more particularly the capitalist societies, need to be less materialistic. I also love that each performance I make is unique and responsive to the audience, space and context. I feel that this is special as so much performance is choreographed, edited, programmed whereas my performances embrace mistakes and also the various interactions which may occur.

Are you working with any particular themes or issues in your practice at this time?

My work has always been about the human condition. I like to challenge the notions of appropriate behaviour in galleries and other social spaces. I feel that my work has a very strong element of play, improvisation and imperfection. I feel that this changes the way in which the audience responds to me and also to each other. I like to break down the often stiff, quite pretentious atmosphere that permeates many art and social events.

My latest works have been about the attention economy which has developed due to social media and the internet and how that has created a certain narcissism in individuals. At the same time, we have the rise of very disturbing ecological problems, not to mention the equally terrifying re-emergence of oligarchical political and economic structures. In many ways, people are constantly distracted by the internet and unable to pay attention to what is important. I dress as a coral trout from the Great Barrier Reef which is a symbol of my personal identity (I am from Queensland, Australia- the home of the Great Barrier Reef) that connects to the plight of the oceans and diminishing fish stocks. I create ridiculous attention seeking stunts in the costume which is further enhanced by me revealing one or both of my breasts. The performances have an ambiguous message- it is unclear whether I am gaining attention for an environmental cause or for myself as an artist. I feel this is very indicative of the times as many artists and individuals care, but also care primarily about themselves.

Can you share thoughts about your participation in «History Will Be …»? Did this project open up a new mode of investigation for you, or was it already part of your methodology? To be more specific, the project has a very concrete problematic, is this a new way of working for you?

I will be creating a piece comparing the meaning of the fish symbol in Ancient civilisations to the way the fish has been used in Christian ideology. When I created my coral trout costume, I was unaware that fish have always been connected with spirituality, not just in Christianity. How the fish has been interpreted and represented through the various civilisations and belief systems is very reflective of how humans relate or have interacted with the environment.  Although symbols may just seem very simple, they are actually very powerful and I believe they deeply root certain ideas and beliefs which effect the way we see the world.

Many of the ideas from “The Mysteries of the Fish and other Secrets of the Deep” were presented in the performance “The Spirit” which took place in May 2018 during the Sunday church service at Sagene Church in Oslo. The performance was part of the “Kunstnerprekene” series curated by the artist, Liv Kristin Holmberg. It was an amazing experience to perform during a Sunday church service and I feel that performing the same ideas in a gallery space will feel very different. So I guess my challenge will be how to contextualise these ideas again. I had a lot of restrictions in what I could do in the church (for example I did not show my breast as I felt that that would overshadow the entire meaning of the performance) plus churches are probably the least neutral spaces to perform in. So I feel that I will have a lot more freedom presenting these ideas in a gallery space, but that will also have other challenges such as maintaining the audience’s attention, using the space as best as I can and also making sure that I create a great atmosphere in which I can get my point across to the audience. As I never know what the audience will be like or what problems/situations could arise before and during the show, I need to be very flexible and hyper aware of what is going on. This means I normally need to get very “Zen” and quiet before the show, so I am focused in the right way.