PHOTOGRAPHY CHRISTELLE DE CASTRO
STYLIST JULIE BROOKE WILLIAMS
LEGACY RUSSELL IS MANY THINGS, AND SHE'LL TELL YOU ABOUT ALL OF THEM. V SPOKE WITH HER DURING HER LATEST TRIP TO LONDON BEFORE HER SCHEDULED PERFORMANCES AT THE MUSEUM OF ART AND DESIGN (TONIGHT AND TOMORROW). CHECK BACK NEXT WEEK FOR AN EXCLUSIVE PHOTOSHOOT FOR VMAGAZINE.COM
You really have a handle on multitasking. You’re an editor for BOMB, you’re a writer, you’re an actor, a visual artist, a performance artist, a curator… Am I leaving anything out?
LR I’ve worked at several different museums, with Creative Time, and spent some incredible years producing projects with The Bruce High Quality Foundation. With BOMB, and with things I have written for other publications, I have the chance to give voice to artists and producers who are really the harbingers for what I believe to be a more humane, astute, intellectual, and genuinely more complex art world. The opportunity to collaborate and co-conspire with some of the best artists, curators, producers, writers in the world, emerging and established alike—this is what I am interested in most.
How do you do it?
LR To be honest, I think what keeps me going is the fact that I absolutely love what I do. Writing, producing, creating, these are things that I have honed in on, a sort of three-tiered approach to existing in the world that acknowledges the various facets of who I am.
I wake up thinking, “What will I bring to the table today? How to expand the limits of the platforms provided for creative practitioners?” and often go to bed musing, “Who will I be when I wake up tomorrow?” There is a real freedom found in making room for these different skills, ideas, and projects to collide. The more I have embraced each aspect—each “face”, per se—instead of essentializing myself, or allowing others to essentialize me, the more I have found greater ease with my stride as I move throughout the world. Each day is unique for this reason, which does not always make getting everything done easy, but it does make it joyful, which, above all, is most important when it comes to anything one does, right?
Besides that, my ammo for maintaining, put simply: surrounding myself with good friends, good ideas, and good wine. If you have got booze and awesome boys and babes to keep you company, it makes the balancing of work and play much more fluid.
Does this balance come naturally to you, or do you ever have to slow yourself down?
LR I do, sometimes. In months when working on a creative project, I may not write as much. When curating, I sometimes give pause to my active art-making. It is all about making sure that each project is properly executed. Above all, I am an artist, always, first and foremost, with everything that I do. So the artist perspective does imbue how I see the world, who I advocate for, and the inquiries I choose to make when making investigations into new realms. When I really need to chill out, I turn off my phone. Then I go out dancing. Or I make new work. Or I have sex. Or I sit on my stoop in New York—or on my balcony here in London—and have a sip and sup with my friends. All of these things are releases for me, and they inspire me. So, I might slow down and unplug, but as long as I am alive and conscious of what is around me, I am en route toward making.
This brings up the question of the title “multimedia artist.” Do you have feelings about this?
LR Yes. “Multimedia artist” can be used pejoratively, smugly even, by people who do not understand creative practice. It also can be used as a means to classify someone who cannot be categorized with ease. I always smile a little when people use the word “multimedia” to describe me. It means many different things, and each meaning is defined by who is using the term. Sure, one word—“multimedia”—escapes the mouth faster than three, but three is more specific, and isn’t specificity more delicious? I am an artist, a writer, and a creative producer. I say “creative producer” because it allows me to have more wiggle room in what I take on, than saying “curator”. There is an art to producing projects, and an art to writing, and an art to making, in general. I strongly believe that every person who creates things is, by definition, “multimedia”. Why? Because no human being exists in a vacuum.
I think of O’Hara’s “Why I Am Not A Painter”...he starts the poem with the intention of making it clear that he’s not a painter, he’s a poet. But then he goes on and proceeds to make his argument in defense of his chosen medium in the most painterly way, which makes it obvious that the dude has clearly been looking at other forms of art—painting, even—in order to figure out how to use language, how to see the world. If you look solely at your own practice, you ghettoize yourself, you blind yourself to the vast and gorgeous potentiality of what it means to make.
Influences are what fuel production and act as a catalyst for new ideas and departures. So if being “multimedia” is the best way to acknowledge that, so be it. However, I am of the school of encouraging people toward their ultimate polymath identities. It is only within more recent history that people have been increasingly pressured to decide their entire lives and selves early on. This acceptance of sameness, of homogeneity, it is a sort of globalizing of our very existences, a mirroring of what is taking place in the world at large. The more we limit ourselves, the more we come into conflict with the reality that a human being inevitably transforms into many different selves throughout the span of a lifetime.
I say, let’s bring back the Renaissance approach—the O.G. of “multimedia.” I have been writing a lot about a term—“glitch”—that I think perfectly captures this essence. “Glitch” comes from the Yiddish glitsch, which means “a slip.” That slipping and sliding, that liminal space, that is where I want to be. I like to say these days that I am a Glitch Feminist and a liminal artist. I am a body in transition, and the things I write, or make, or produce, are for other bodies out in the world who are also excited about undergoing different types of transformation, too. For me, arrival is commensurate with finality, and that is the kiss of death. It is the intermixing of processes that keeps my gears turning.
What would be your ideal title?
Russell performs December 20th and 21st at the Museum of Art and Design at 7:30pm. The show is 21 minutes long and loops twice.
Hair Alex Andrade Makeup William Murphy (Joe Management) stylist's assistant Julie Simon