Thursday, January 22, 2009

Taylor Mac is Reminding Audiences of Their Humanity. An interview with Taylor Mac about arts & the economy by Greg Walloch

Does the flailing economy have you down? Can you no longer afford your morning cup of joe? Don't be sad. The lovely and talented performance artist Taylor Mac has some words of wisdom to fill your cup.

(Excerpts from this interview originally appeared in Jan/Feb 2009 Volume 3 Issue 3 of Artillery Magazine.)

Fact or fiction: Do hard times fuel the creative process and produce more meaningful and innovative work?
Depends on the hard times. Having your entire family shot to pieces and loosing all your limbs may just traumatize you to the point where you can't be creative anymore. Still being able to buy your brand name coffee in the morning while you complain about how bad the economy is -- I don't see that as a hard time. I'm not trying to suggest that everyone is in the same position as most of the New Yorkers I see but let's keep our notion of what a hard time is in perspective. Good and bad times inspire work. Living life inspires work. If you can't find anything to inspire your work in good and bad times than you're not really paying attention.

What is your artist's survival tip for weathering bad financial times?
I was living under the poverty line before the the economy started to dive and now I have more money than I've ever had and feel pretty great about my financial situation. The kicker is I'm still considered under the poverty line. It's ridiculous. People need to get rid of their shit. I live a fantastic life doing nothing but making my art partly because I have no debt and very little crap.

The stock market crashes, captains of industry fall, but does the economy at large actually affect your creative life and livelihood in a meaningful way?

When people stop being multi-millionaires they tend to go to cheaper theater. I make the $20 ticket kind of theater so my audiences tend to get bigger in "hard times". But I believe money is often the excuse but never really the reason. What I'm seeing right now in America is a lot of excuse making: "I can't do that because of the economy". If I let money tell me how to live my life I'd still be making no money cleaning toilets at the Drama Bookshop.

Is necessity the mother of invention? How do you use what you have? How does that inform your work?
I've always created work based on what I have and my love for theatricality. If I want a helicopter to fly on stage but I don't have the money for a helicopter than I get some popsicle sticks and make little helicopter and call it theatrical. It's way more fun to work that way and expresses our humanity as opposed to technology.

Would money change everything? If money was no object, how would your work change?

Not much. I would still want to strip theater down to it's bare essentials: people in a room reminding audiences of their humanity.

Tell me about an upcoming project you are working on that you'd like folks to know about.
My epic extravaganza "The Lily's Revenge" is the exact opposite of the kind of play that should be going on during "hard times". And yet we're doing it. It opens in October '09 in New York City, has a cast of over 40 people, and last five-hours. It's all about a flower that goes on a quest to destroy Nostalgia.