SLOW YOUTH: Nicole Reber interviewed by Anthony Cudahy after the publishing of their collaborative zine, Our Time on the Moon.
AC: In this zine you wrote several essays and poems under the theme of the moon, that vary greatly in subject matter. While we were working on the project, you showed me a long association list you made, following strains of thought like objects that had the “shape” of the moon or other works of art with moon in their title. Do you work well in this mode: setting up a structure for yourself and then making connections as you go? What did you learn by connecting these disparate pieces?
NR: I tend to over-research when it comes to the art that I’m working on. I feel like I can’t really make art about something unless I feel like I can speak confidently about the topic, which usually means reading a ton of articles, and spending a lot of time muck raking around whatever I’m currently obsessed with. I usually come at topics that I have only a base knowledge of and then start going crazy. Making charts also helps to find connections between disparate topics, and generally go in some unexpected places with the writing. It should never be this easy: ???? With a spider chart, you can also build variety of subject which I always try to implement in the work I’m doing, probably because I have attention issues and I’m of the bigger your net, the wider your reach when it comes to making things.
AC: You play around with “high” and “low” cultural references in your work, but is this even a distinction you’re trying to compare and contrast? Or are you just genuinely working through your inspirations?
NR: I don’t really notice the difference between the two. I think I’m more aware of things that are generally popular common knowledge vs more specialized interest. I try to find elements in those more obscure inspirations that can appeal to general interests. It’s a challenge to get people to care about things they don’t know about, but that offers the opportunity to incorporate interesting visuals and wordplay to get someone into your message.
AC: I’m interested in how you decide where a poem is to be presented. Are some poems only meant to be read loudly in front of an audience? Are some only objects (your mood board series)? Are some only quiet, to be read in a chapbook?
NR: I might have the problem of thinking about my audience too much. My writing practice is oddly parallel to my lucid dreaming practice.I usually work in broad long poems that are pretty stream of consciousness, kind of how a long lucid dream can have a lot of different plot points, some that you can control, others that come from the subconscious more. Sometimes I leave the writings as one long poem, other times certain passages stick out and feel like they should be working on their own. Maybe I have this inherent fear that people don’t care about writing as much as they do other art forms so I feel like a lot of my visual practice has been trying to trick people to read. Kind of like hiding a pill in applesauce. There are certain kinds of poems that sometimes can’t translate in a reading, usually the kind that have a lot of the word breaks interacting with each other, causing multiple meanings. When you see a poem on paper, it should illuminate the multiplicity of the definitions of the words being used. I like that feeling of confusion and trying to deduce what the author wants me to think about their work.
AC: What has your collage practice taught you about writing?
NR: The collages all interact with each other. The eyes usually point to another person in the piece, creating a relationship between the two objects, and as with all relationships, there is a plot behind them. Words are the same way, they should illuminate the image, make a joke, or make you think about the visual in an abject way.
AC: Why do you think you’re so drawn to the trivia of people? You’re an avid student of the artists who inspire you, unearthing obscure details and information.
NR: I’m always looking for guidance. Listening to other people talk about their passions not only ignites my own but makes me competitive as well. I need that motivation. I also think that it’s important to learn about the history of people before you so that you can honor what has already happened and build on that with a sense of respect. For me learning about my favorite artists and celebrities is about paying my dues in a way, some sort of penance to the art god’s to send me some of their inspiration and talent so I can do my thing a little bit better.