Artist preview: Michelle Ellsworth

Fri 30 Aug 2013

michelle-salt-cropPictured: Michelle Ellsworth performing The Monkey Saddle and Other Religious Artifacts.

When Michelle Ellsworth’s involvement in this year’s Abandon Normal Devices was first mooted it was easy to get carried away imagining what she might conjure up.

You only have to watch some of the videos on her website The Burger Foundation – disbelief shifting to joy as, for example, a slender figure in a red dress dances funeral rites at a burger burial – to understand why the New York Times described her as “virtuosic” and “completely, winningly ridiculous”.

So what is it to be when Michelle arrives for her performance at AND’s opening night? Will she be continuing to shake up the stagnant relationship between humans and hamburgers, so topical in a time when £215,000 synthetic patties are confusing the tastebuds of gourmets with deep pockets?

Dare we say a rare thing for works of art, the clue is in the title of her proposed piece: Three Optimal Solutions. Progressing the Ellsworth tradition of ‘performable websites’ and multimedia motivational talks, Michelle will be committing to solve problems in the material, religious, interpersonal and virtual worlds. You name it: fanatical followers, the marginalization of dance, male gaze deprivation. Michelle has it covered.

She was kind enough to answer a few questions to give AND audiences an insight into her work and personality.

Who in the world do you think would most benefit from some of your motivational advice?

My motivational videos are based on my observation that most people already know exactly what they want to hear when they ask others for support and advice. So I started making motivational videos for myself in attempt to: 1) Be efficient and 2) Take other humans (who often seem to be trouble) out of my loop.

I suspect I would still benefit most from my own motivational advice. Today, I would say…

“Ellsworth, don’t spend so much time in the wooden box in your living room. It’s not cool or funny that you drink soda in there and then pee in your empty soda bottle – just so you don’t have to leave it.”

Yikes, sorry you had to hear that. Maybe instead I would say, “Ellsworth, when someone asks you a question – try and lie more.”

If I were to make a motivational video for someone else that might benefit from them, I might attempt one for drone pilots in Nevada. I don’t know what I would say for content – I’m pre-verbal on that one.

If the Y chromosome disappeared, what would you miss most?

I made the piece Preparation for the Obsolescene of the Y Chromosome when my dad was dying of cancer. I intended the piece to work on a macro level (for all men that might eventually become extinct) and on a micro level (for an individual man that dies or leaves).

So, regrettably, I actually miss one particular Y chromosome – my father. I miss his hands and his ability to explain everything from how to make homemade soda to the salinity of the oceans.

Can you describe your first memory of dance?

My first memory of dance was seeing the Ernest Flat Dancers on the Carol Burnett show when I was very young. Carol would do comedy sketches that occasionally incorporated dance or had dance segues in-between bits.

I remember telling my mother, “that dancing they are doing on TV is exactly what I want to do when I grow up.” It is funny that after 15 years of straight-up classical dance training, my work actually incorporates many of the elements that Carol employed on her show – technology, language, outfits, text, and humor.

We’re showing Sharknado on 05 Oct, a film where a freak weather system rains predatory fish on Los Angeles. What would be your solution to being attacked by a shark?

I am not fond of my answer to this question. I wish, for the purpose of answering this question, I was a different person – with a different answer. But here is my honest and uncensored first reaction to the question.

I would try to poke the shark’s eyes out and then thread dental floss through her eye cavities to make a rein and then try and get her back and ride her “down to hell” while singing the Mormon hymn Count Your Many Blessings. I would try and take photos and audio recordings throughout the procedure/experience so that after it was over I could reconstruct the accident.

Michelle Ellsworth performs Three Optimal Solutions at the AND opening night on Thu 03 Oct, alongside the launch of new work by Mark Boulos, Nicolas Maigret and a host of others.

If you’d like to receive an invite / itinerary for our opening night, please sign up to our email list.

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