Kate Crash is a multi-media performance artist and musician, whose work focuses on alternative ways of promoting proactive positive change. She is heavily influenced by her mother’s work in the field of civil rights, the philanthropic grassroots approach of EZTV, and the generosity of the Armory Center for the Arts (for providing her free art classes and supplies throughout high school).
She received her BFA in Photography & Media from California Institute of the Arts.
She is currently finishing up a project with EZTV which is a documentary and web database of women in the arts in Los Angeles called L.A. Woman. It will premier as part of 18th Street Art Center participation in the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time.
Crash’s feminist DIY approach to production allows her to collaborate with many different types of artists, and has led to her understanding of the important contributions of the interviewees in this project. She hopes to inspire others out of apathy into action by the example of these women.
Crash has just been signed by Joan Jett to Blackheart Records.
Interview with Kate Crash by Tiffany Trenda
Where were you born?
When did you first know you were going to be an artist?
I knew right away. As a child, I had severe social problems and decided to create costumes and worlds of my own to deal with all the darkness. I felt powerless to adults and therefore I could control this by making the content and the characters in my world. I was considered a freak so looking different made it easier and less of an attack on my character. I remember having the feeling that no one understood me, but when I listened to music or experienced art, these things transcended all the isolation. In making art, you are free to express what you want while most things in life contain censorship.
What childhood memories transpired in to your work?
My mother was a civil rights lawyer, so I was interested in studying the Civil Rights Movement and seeing ways of changing oppression in society. I related to this by the feeling of not having a voice. My mom is an amazing woman. I hope to inspire and awaken [others] because people are neither completely dark nor light. They always contain both. Everyone has the potential to be a person of good character, but turn a wrong corner. I saw a lot of this growing up.
Describe your work.
My main interest is to entertain with a message. I think that the global corporate takeover, and the general encouragement of suppressing free will, is something I am interested in and is revealed in my work. I’m not into accusing anyone, as we all are in a world where we can’t help but hurt the environment and each other. I live in Los Angeles, I drive, I pay taxes, so I’m guilty. I like to grab people at the heart of human emotions, to tell a story, to reveal what is underneath. Also, collective consciousness, even what some call “evil” people, can just be misunderstood. I like to come up with solutions and also encourage people to challenge their belief systems and ask themselves why they believe in these constructs. Is this because of the way you were raised, or what the television says to you? There are always contradictions in your belief system so do your research.
Which artists were influential to your work?
EZTV. Michael Masucci of EZTV has helped me on numerous projects. This organization [is] dedicated to giving a voice to the unrepresented while maintaining a super avant-garde edge to the work.
Art with a message is essential. I also really admire S. Pearl Sharp, Kate Johnson — also from EZTV and one of the most amazing multi-disciplinary artists and filmmakers I have ever met. Barbara T Smith; Sue Dakin; my mom; Iggy Pop; David Bowie; Tom Waits; Jim Jarmusch; Van Gogh; Nick Launay, my producer; Eric Erlandson; Pablo Neruda; Li Young Lee; Henry Miller; Anais Nin; Patti Smith; Grace Jones; Leonard Cohen. This list could go on forever.
Are there any movements that inspired you?
Punk Rock, Dadaism, the Riot Grrrl movement.
How would you define performance art?
I’ll leave that to Barbara T. Smith. Her definition is best and she’s the mother of it all.
How do you use your body as a medium?
My body expresses emotion. I use movement to paint pictures. Anything can be a medium but it depends on your intentions.
How has working in different mediums affected your work and process?
I chose the medium that best gets my emotion/story/message across. I don’t automatically say, “I’m going to write poetry now,” or ” I’m going to do draw now.” I just create. I’ve been working with different mediums since I was a kid by writing, painting, taking photos, and playing guitar. Whatever moves and inspires me at that moment is a precursor to what medium I chose. The different mediums help me stay open-minded and create challenges for me to learn new things and break through self-doubt. Therefore, everything in life informs what you end up doing. People set their own limitations and are restrained by the chains they create. I like to feel limitless and break those boundaries.
There has been a lot of controversy over Lady Gaga claiming to be a performance artist. The term “performance artist” has been constantly defined and redefined. You are a musician yourself and an artist. Do you think pop singers can be performance artists? Why or why not?
I think Iggy Pop and David Bowie are performance artists. Go to one of their shows or watch some videos and it’s hard to disagree. But they don’t make pop music. They are pioneering artists as they go out into the world with the characters they have created. Rock & roll is performance art.
Is there a difference between performers like Lady Gaga and performance artists?
Um…this is a tricky subject. What one should consider is, who was first to do a particular performance and who is taking the credit? But I don’t like to make divisions in the world. I have no authority.
What projects are you working on at this moment?
Currently, I’m working on an album, a piece of music for a new film, and creating a stage show. I’m also, in the process of designing a website for my documentary and creating visual art with poetry for an upcoming art show. I’m always working on multiple projects at once. But I always [take] time out to help and collaborate with friends. We should always contribute in helping people however possible.
Tell us about the LA Woman Documentary. What is it about?
LA Woman is a documentary about emerging to ground-breaking female artists, social entrepreneurs, and philosophers expressing art in their own words.
Where did the idea of the LA Woman the documentary come from? Any inspirations?
It was actually first a multimedia documentary project with a website on female performance artists. I got the idea from hanging around EZTV at 18th Street Arts Center, where one will see the most amazing legendary and unknown female performance artists. I realized that hearing the ideologies and inspirations was so far from my experience with the academics at Cal Arts. We usually read about critics’ and historians’ versions of what happened, not the artists who created it. I wanted to document these woman artists in their own words without the institution. Why do universities and colleges obscure the genuine art making of these artists and pay more attention to less fashionable or less business-inclined artists, I’ll never know. They seem to get left out.
When is the next showing of LA Woman?
You’ll be able to see it on the website soon. Each woman has her own page with video clips, bios, etc. So even if you can’t come to a screening in Los Angeles, you can watch it anywhere in the world.
Which direction do you see your work going? Documentary? Visual Art? Music?
The melding of all of the above.
Kate Crash’s Documentary “LA Woman” was screened at EZTV’s “Hacking the Timeline v2.0” at 18th Street Arts Center as part of the PST Events.