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Alyssa Taylor Wendt

What is something that I would be surprised to find in your space?
I am generally a fairly dark and mercurial individual so things that you would be surprised to find in another’s space seem absolutely expected in mine: antique books on water witching, death customs and slang dictionaries from the 30’s; bags of porcelain human teeth, sorted by type; magic lantern slides of Sears and Moses; and boxes of Icelandic horse hair, with the purest equine DNA in the world. Conversely, people are surprised to come across more ethereal ephemera in my workspace such as: bound collections of (love) letters from estate sales; super organized lists of tasks to do; useless and beautiful tools from my deceased father’s workbench; miniature objects for dollhouses that I look at when I’m too dark- a banana peel, a six pack, a traffic cone; and a bone shaped fleece dog bed for my Italian greyhound, Mercy.

Describe your ideal workspace in three words…
Enormous. Crumbling. Church.

Does the space you work in have an interesting story?
At the moment, I work at Pump Projects in Austin, TX, where I live half of the year when I’m not in Detroit. I have a small but beautiful space with natural light in a thriving and driven community of artists there. I moved there after losing two previous studio spaces to greedy developers in East Austin who I tried to fight with legal council and attending city planning meetings. All that happened was that I lost my spaces regardless and became a little “Lenny Bruce” about the whole thing. You know, how he was put on trial for censorship and couldn’t talk about anything else for awhile and got a little crazed?

Do you work and live in the same space, if so how does that affect your work?
I have tried to do this and profoundly failed. Some people can manage to combine their life and their practice, but I have to isolate myself inside a bubble of focused energy to lose my connection to the rational world and free myself of preconceptions and judgment.

What are you most proud of in the space?
Besides whatever work has made it through my critical eye? My flat files, which I have dragged there from NYC, my books which I obsessively value, my Sheets of Aluminum system that I put my photographs upon with magnets to study and edit and a large glass vitrine that lights up and that my body fits perfectly inside like a glass display coffin.

How would you describe your neighborhood?
The lovely East Austin, where I also live. It used to be Austin’s best-kept secret. On a street called Shady Lane, I always feel like I’m going to do something undercover and clandestine when I go to work.

What can you see outside your windows? Trees, light, sky, emptiness.

Describe a real life mundane situation that inspires you!
Nightmares; Thrift store exploring; Driving around the ruins of Detroit; the randomness of subway rides; Coincidence; the cinema.
What themes do you pursue in your work?
Ruins vs. Monuments; death; song cycles; history and truth; animism; vulnerability; the body in relation to architecture; cosmic absurdity.

What is your dream project?
Exactly what I’m doing now, finishing my three channel epic video installation, HAINT. Everyone asks me what I will do when I finally complete this project that I’ve been working on for four years. My answer is always the same: “Start the next one!”

Favourite song/band podcast while working?
At this point, I strictly listen to drone metal and Buddha Machines. A few years ago, my best friend and collaborator from grad school Jennifer Rodewald and I realized that drone metal was the best for delving deeply into your shadow self. There are rarely lyrics, so you are not distracted with words, and the songs swirl and moan forever, they are so long and beautifully relentless. You can go really deep into the work with OM, Earth, Sunn O))), Sleep, some Boris and Ascend, among others. Buddha Machines are little plastic drone boxes with a choice of loops and pitch control that you can just play for hours and get lost in the repetition, I bring them in my bag when I travel to lands unknown.

What's the best advice you've been given and from whom?
Nayland Blake, a wonderful artist and the Chair of my MFA Program through Bard, once told me to remember that you are always working, not simply when you are in your studio, but all the time. I think he meant that the beauty of being an artist was transposing the world around you into a creative form is a full time job and not to feel like you’re not in the process if you’re just moving through the world or having a less materially productive period in your work.

What is your most important artist's tool?
My weird brain and its endless pool of ideas. I have learned over the years to embrace the output and trust it, no matter how eccentric or absurd or challenging the inspiration seems. My spirit funnels all the material it processes through my mind in the form of new projects and I am so grateful for this gift, every fucking day.

What mindset/mood do you make your best art/work?
In the midst of chaos! Unfortunately I am one of those artists that work best under pressure, with a deadline. I think that this is the result of having a project-based practice, where I am driven by the work. I thrive under pressure and have an uncanny ability to make something out of nothing, which is a talent but not conducive to a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

When you day dream in your space and just lose yourself in thought, what are you thinking or worrying about?
I am rarely worried about the work. When I daydream, I am usually imagining what the current projects or ideas would look like with an endless amount of funding behind them. I have worked with the constriction of little to no budget for so long, I can’t imagine what will happen when I have that huge financial support, perhaps my workflow will be paralyzed by freedom and opportunity.


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