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I'm starting a new section on the blog featuring interviews with some of the awfully talented people that I'm lucky enough to know.
This week I kick it off with the wonderful Mary Coble. I first learned of Mary when she did a lecture at one of my classes, The Body in Photography with Regina Deluise. Mary is a fantastic artists but I've come to learn from friends who've had her as a teacher that she is also a genuinely exceptional person and teacher. Every interaction I've had with Mary has been so pleasant -she's such a cool chick! Mary is represented by Conner Contemporary Art in Washington, DC.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Lets get started!

1. In your statement, you say "The seriousness of intolerance that I see in our society is one of the driving forces that leads me to create work." Was there ever a specific event or instance that lead you to address these issues in your work?

There wasn’t a specific instance or event that I can look back to and say that was the moment that I decided to starting making work like I do. It was more that at some point I had the recognition of the desire to question social injustices that I saw occurring over and over. Through my art I also realized that I had the power and vehicle to highlight issues that I felt were crucial to discuss and consider but were being overlooked.
2. The majority of your work consists of performances; some require interaction with the public and almost all are performed in front of some sort of audience. How important is it to you that there is an audience? Does the audience ever inform or shape the piece?

I’ve done both live performance and performance for video that doesn’t involve a live audience at all. The importance of having a live audience, for me, is dependant conceptually upon the piece itself.

There are certain pieces that need to be performed live. The audience can shape the environment surrounding the piece-the overall mood and “vibe” of the space. When audience participation is asked for their willingness to, in a way, become apart of the piece may effect the final outcome. For example in the piece “Marker” where I asked the viewers to write derogatory words on my body—their interaction and participation really shaped the piece itself.

I enjoy live performance because there is always an aspect of an audience that can quite be controlled. If it’s nothing but their reactions to the piece-that is something that I can’t plan for in advance but may effect, at least my mental state during the piece. It’s a very interesting position to be in-in front of a live audience.

3. I've always thought of you as a photographer, even though much of your work is performance-based. Many times you use photography and video to document your live performances and display them. What role does photography/video play in your work? What is the difference between the performance itself and the documentation of it? Can you elaborate on any thoughts you may have regarding this topic?

There is nothing comparable to experiencing a live performance-seeing the “action” in person along side a community of other viewers and sharing in the sights, sounds and smells that can inform the experience is a very unique opportunity.

There are some performance artists who do not believe in documenting the performance. If the piece is not seen live then it is not experienced in any other form. I do understand and respect those preferences however for my own work I enjoy the fact that a piece can have two separate iterations based around the same content.

The photographs and videos that I create and gather from my performances serve to extend the life of the piece in a way but should also be viewed differently than the performance. They allow the concepts of the piece to still be experienced but are not a substitute for viewing the live piece.
The serve to offer post performance insight into the ideas and a second hand visual experience of what may have occurred.


4.What's next for Mary Coble?

There are a few concepts that continue to reappear in my thought processes and consistently seem to engage me such as my interaction and relationship to my neighborhood within DC, the issues surrounding gay marriage and the lack of basic human rights that I see occurring around the world.

I usually have several ideas that I’m thinking about at any given time, some of which come to fruition while others remain just ideas that maybe be worked on later. So, I’m not really sure what will happen next-I’m anxious to see!


5. What are you currently obsessed with?

I seem to always be obsessed with something and it changes very often. As of now it’s: the Art House Co-op, the Skowhegan Artist Residency Program, community based art practices, origami, vacuuming, orange cinnamon buns and staying warm when biking.