BWW Interviews: Conversations with Artists - Kurt Perschke of the Redball Project
As an artist who works in public space, collage, sculpture, and video, Kurt Perschke is a busy man. However, he took some time between working and traveling around the world to allow me to pick his brain about he's acclaimed Redball Project. What is the Redball Project you ask? Well settle down and he'll tell you.
How did Redball the Project came into fruition?
Well it started as an interest in working in public space--working with a public audience. The project originated while I was in St. Louis and it started in the very beginning as a commission to do a piece in public space. Then it got its first international launch and that was also the first time I was able to perform it--the way it really has existed ever since, in Barcelona. It worked the way it works now which is it moves between a series of sites as a performance, so its both a sculptural piece. It operates very much in a city as a performance, in the sense that its in each site only a day and the sites are all selected by me and curated by myself during a site visit six months or a year ahead of time.
The piece, which is fifteen feet high and two hundred and fifty pounds, isn't something that you can throw in the backseat. Though it is inflated into the site, it leaves the onlooker wondering--how the heck did that get there?
I've seen the size of the ball, how do you get it from place to place? I'm assuming that's not you driving it around in a car.
The piece is inflatable, so we actually inflate it into each site and in every location it's secured into the site, actually by the pressure of the air and thats also important because the piece is very much about playing with the architecture of the city.
I found it interesting you also put it in spaces that are unnoticed, maybe not as popular as the Eiffel Tower. Is there a correlation that you want to bring to the interactions to places people normally wouldn't be?
Well, what I go through to find the sites for the projects. I always hope for a mix of sites that are local and well known. What mean is that you always want a few sites that are the places where you expect to see it, but sometimes the best sites, the most interesting sites--particularly for locals--are the sites that are total surprises. I look for sort of a combination. The interaction with a project really happens, almost at every site, but for all of us it depends on the nature of the piece. Whether its above or below or down in an alley it is basically what people feel invited to do. The site plays into that a lot which, is part of the process of finding them. In different environments they behave differently--they react differently as an audience really, so choosing the site is part of that. It's not just about finding these places for a ball, but finding places where the piece and the audience are able to have a relationship.
Is it still that same experience now? You've been doing this for a while, do you still have that 'self discovery'?
One of the things about the piece is that it's always sort of moving forward to new cities. Every time I head to a city it's new to me and so I'm sort of creating the work for each city. It's very interesting and I fly all around and get to look and basically explore, which is best when making the piece. I find that process as fantastic for me as an artist, which is really about seeing. In terms of the audience engagement there are certain patterns, but its always in a new city with a new audience. It's interesting because the piece has existed for a while and has a history to it, but it only happens three or four times a year at the most. Depending on how you look at it--like compared to a broadway show, it doesn't happen often at all. It's all perceptive. It has been interesting for me. There is this sort of performance model which is different from being on tour. I've learned things from that certainly.
How do you react to situations where you may put the Redball and people approach it or approach you and they say 'this isn't art, this is just a big red ball'?
I'm not always there on site--this is an interesting question because there is a difference between an object--a ball--and the action of it. For me the project is very much about the action of it and the experience of it. It is absolutely a ball--its huge and yeah, that's what it is, and yeah, thats actually all it's supposed to be. I think that the piece is really made alive by the sites and the finding the sites--the selection of them and finding an audience. It doesn't live without an audience and that's the nature of the piece. It's a very different experience then what people expect when they go into a gallery or museum. They expect to be an observer and they're only going to observe and then partake maybe or maybe not, and this piece doesn't work that way. Sometimes I think people have the wrong model in their head. It's a street art piece and its out there to be engaged with and it's open for that.
I wanted to ask when is it coming to New York and is that something that will happen?
I really want to bring the piece to New York. Actually, I have some sort of schemes and plans, but its a probably a little ways off--it's still in the 'hope to put it together' stage. New York is a tricky place, so I want make sure I have the right way to make it happen.
Till then, we'll be waiting and watching. Redballproject.com. (Photo Courtesy Kurt Perschke).