Amy Bassin & Mark Blickley talk about embodiment
and the creation of Dream Streams
Please describe your journey toward making this collaborative work of art. Did you both work on the text and the photos or was one person primarily responsible for each? What was it like to generate a collaborative artifact?
MB: Four years ago Amy and I began our text-based art collaboration because we wanted to get into Three Rooms Press annual international journal of contemporary Dada writing & art, Maintenant. We were thrilled by their acceptance (our work has appeared in the past 5 issues). Amy is an interdisciplinary visual artist who at the time was focusing on her fine arts photography. I insisted on photoshopping drones flying out of her image’s mouth. Amy hated the idea, but we did get “The Language of Love Parts 1&2” published. The success of our first collaboration in such a prestigious venue inspired us to attempt more of these text-based art experiments. After we published and exhibited our first half-dozen pieces, we decided to name this new series Dream Streams. Our art and video collaborations are never smooth sailing affairs. We constantly battle over the content, but in the end we’ve been pretty successful with our final projects. Our arguments are often heated, but always rooted in respect for each other as artists. I’m primarily responsible for the writing and Amy for the images. Most often Amy’s images inspire my text, but we do have pieces in the series where the text inspired Amy’s visual work. Amy is completely responsible for each Dream Streams layout presentation.
In your intro you mention you were inspired by Man Ray and Dada. More specifically, how has the process of producing work for Dream Streams been influenced by the Dada movement and/or surrealism?
MB: Our inspiration from Man Ray and Dada/Surrealism isn’t so much about embracing any kind of strict visual or textural association with this artist or the two groups he was an integral part of, but more with their philosophy of an unbridled freedom of expression where the driving force for creation is so firmly rooted in subconscious free association. Reading about and viewing the collaborations between Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp were particularly inspiring, as so many of them were born from such a sense of serious play. The humor embedded within Man Ray and the Dadaists/Surrealists had a huge influence on our work and allowed us to move away from our beginnings of strictly intense, stream of consciousness texts to create pieces that weren't exclusively internally driven. We began to augment caustic laments with more playful and upbeat visions.
You mention that the characters within Dream Streams are “ethereal night watchers.” Which character would you most like to be stuck in a dream with?
AB: I want to be in a dream with the character in “Terminal Blue,” as the blue tape slowly unravels when she twirls and twirls in a dance of self-liberation.
MB: The character I would most like to be stuck in a dream with would be the “Screaming Mime.” This piece is an example of Amy creating an image based on my text. I want to pull the mime into a dream of repentance, to undo the guilt I felt after I witnessed this mime plying his craft outside of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I want this dream to give me the opportunity to applaud his performance, protect him and drop money into his hat instead of remaining silent except to laugh along with the horrible verbal assaults pedestrians screamed at him while he performed for donations. I got caught up in a group mentality and enjoyed the nasty things shouted at this poor guy. A few blocks after I walked away from his performance, I was seized with shame. I had participated in a crowd’s disrespectful attack of a serious artist. That night I wrote the poem in penance, trying to image how this poor man must’ve suffered from all the vulgar taunts that I supported by my laughing membership in a cruel sidewalk crowd.
Please share with our readers a list of 5-10 books and/or artists you think we should read right now.
Elsa Hildegard Baroness von Freytag-Loringhoven
The Guerrilla Girls
Self-Portrait: Man Ray
Some Rogue Agent fans are just beginning to explore what making art about the body would look like for them. What advice would you give to someone just starting down the path?
cut, tear, hammer, collage, glue.
scream, ream, dream.
fry, cry, sigh and fly.
shrink, drink, wink, think.
claw, thaw, straw, draw.
saint, taint, paint.
run, fun, done.
I studied academic figure drawing for years when I was painting, but this is not the only way to explore making art about the body. When I branched out into photography, I worked with ‘my body’ and created a series called Selfie Fictions. The photograph used in “Terminal Blue,” as well as numerous other self-portraits sprinkled throughout Dream Streams is from that series. In essence, I see them as anti-selfies, because they are fictional self-portraits.
One day I photographed myself after I covered my entire face in blue tape with only one eye exposed to communicate how I often don’t feel heard, how I often inhibit myself and don’t trust my gut reactions. In contrast, I did figure drawings from a model, and created a series called, No Head, No Pain, where I drew the models without any heads. I was struggling with depression and wishfully thought if I didn’t draw the heads, my pain would go away. In Rogue Agent Journal Issue 52 there are a few of my collages from a recent series, “Cut-outs” where I incorporate images of female figures sourced from the Internet and magazines with drawing.
Many artists use their bodies as canvas including: Hannah Wilke, Ana Mendieta and Yves Klein. Hannah Wilke shaped chewing gum into vaginas and photographed them after she placed them on her face and torso. Mendieta, known for her ‘earth-body’ pieces created female silhouettes using nature and her body as both her canvas and her medium and exhibited the work as photographs.
New York interdisciplinary artist Amy Bassin and writer Mark Blickley work together on text-based art collaborations and videos. Their video, Widow's Peek: The Kiss of Death, was selected to the 2018 International Festival of Experimental Video and Film at Bilbao, Spain. In 2018 their video collaboration, Speaking In Bootongue, was nominated for ‘Best Experimental Film’ award at City University of New York 10th Annual Film Festival, and toured internationally as part of the Seattle based Exquisite Corpse film, The Space Between Cities. They also published a text-based art chapbook,' Weathered Reports: Trump Surrogate Quotes From the Underground' (Moria Books, Chicago). Bassin is co-founder of the international artists cooperative, Urban Dialogues. Blickley is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center. Their text-based art book, Dream Streams, was just published by Clare Songbird Publishing House (New York). Find more at www.amybassin.com and www.markblickley.com .