Meet a NYFA Artist: Shaun Irons and Lauren Petty

Meet a NYFA Artist: Shaun Irons and Lauren Petty

NYFA speaks with 2002 and 206 Video Fellows in Architecture/Environmental Structures, and Fiscally Sponsored Artists since 2006, Shaun Irons and Lauren Petty.

NYFA: Hi Lauren and Shaun, what are you working on and/or what’s coming up for you?

SI/LP: Revolving Twilight is a room size, immersive, multiple-channel video/sound installation inspired in part by tales from nautical lore, notions of optical phenomena and illusion, light particles, ghost ships and the reveries of a drowning victim. Engaging minimal yet evocative images/sound, dance, and sculptural elements, the piece is in development and like all of our work, constantly evolving and transforming over time. We are also working to complete a feature length, experimental documentary focusing on The Wooster Group’s production of Hamlet.

NYFA: How do you balance your work and your life?

SI/LP: The trick has always been to find a way to let them be interchangeable. Life is work and work is life. The continual search that is “work” doesn’t ever really stop, it just takes on different forms, even when dreaming…maybe especially when dreaming.

NYFA: What skill or techniques do you wish you could master?

SI/LP: It’s an ever expanding and changing list born out of an endless curiosity; right now some things are architecture design, building and construction skills, drawing, animation, musical composition, and perhaps the unfamiliar yet unfortunately necessary terrain of PR, marketing, and the art of self promotion.

NYFA: How has your practice changed in the past year?

SI/LP: Over the last couple years, we have begun actively collaborating more with theater, dance and musical artists, creating real-time interactive images and sounds in conjunction with live performance. These experiences have redirected and reinvigorated our studio practice, where we have begun incorporating more real-time processed and manipulated images into our multiple-channel and single-channel projects. This method of working not only allows for newfound immediacy and energy, but also increases the potential for beautiful and unexpected accidents.

NYFA: What is your favorite thing that anyone has said or written about your work?

SI/LP: Although we have received words of praise from well known curators as well as critics and other artists, our current favorite would have to be the comments of an 11 years old boy made at a recent opening of our work. He said that our piece “had more imagination” than anything he had seen and that he hoped to someday be an artist and make work like ours. Another viewer later said of the same piece that “it’s like being in a beautiful, disturbing, bad dream that I don’t want to wake up from.”

NYFA: What role, if any, does theory play in your work?

SI/LP: Not much, although theory is of intellectual interest, it functions as more of a departure point. We work from an intuitive and organic place continually searching for new and unexpected ways to interpret and connect with mystery, beauty, chaos and violence and the process of transformation. Our work often starts with a loosely connected series of ideas, interests, narratives, and themes, and then grows exponentially in layers, almost as one would construct a dance or theater piece, where images, movement, colors and sounds connect, collide and converge, building in complexity over time.

NYFA: What kinds of resources are you most in need of right now as an artist?

SI/LP: The age old ones – money, space and time for thinking, dreaming, traveling and working. Also, the endless need for access to current new media technology, as digital tools help to alter and expand our working process and are a means of advancing our visual and aural language.

NYFA: How have the Fellowships affected you?

SI/LP: We have been very fortunate to receive two fellowships. Both times it was an incredible, eye-opening boost of confidence – blasting a hole in the wall which says “you can’t do this for a living”. And of course, the monetary award offered freedoms, which enabled us to push the boundaries of our aesthetic as well as technical range.

For more information on Shaun Irons and Lauren Petty, visit their website.

Amy Aronoff
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