Patrick Michael Ballard lives and works at a cabin on the edge of the Angeles National Forest just outside of Los Angeles, CA. His work ranges across media including immersive theater, sculpture, performance, installation, drawing, writing, and sound composition.
Hello Patrick, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I grew up in a suburb. The environment was pretty uninspiring, but my parents really cultivated a sense of learning in me and my brother. My parents divorced when I was very young. My mother went back to school to become a board certified music therapist, and my father gave up archaeology to work at a fortune 500 company. Despite this move on his part, he still stayed very connected to objects, finding crazy deals at garage sales, estate sales, and antique malls so that he could run his own little antique spaces on the side. He would collect and trade anything from old manuscripts to tiki mugs to Edo period Japanese fire chests to Maori war clubs, rare succulents, orchids, etc. I was always to curious to see the passage of different objects and histories through his hands. There were so many different kinds of time and intention in all of the things he collected. On the other end of things, my mom was a cantor for Catholic mass. She would get up in front of the entire parish and raise her hand, and hundreds of people would sing what she wanted them to sing. It was the most powerful thing I took from the church experience; the power of a stage; the power of an alter.
Parallel to my mom and dad, my stepmom played a big influence in my life as well. She is just so good at picking up an art process and mastering it. She would crochet metal wire and make sculptures out of resin lacing beads and ephemera from the neighborhood in them. Sometimes lizard skeletons, nails, and spray paint--other times it might be a mirrored lens wrapped in string dipped in resin, swirling its tendrils around a collection of heart shaped rocks. I would sit at the kitchen table with her after school when I would stay with my father. She might share a story about something she read that day, or at times she would be wax sculpting her newest jewelry piece, or painting a new oil commission. It was really special to have another adult in my life who was passionate about creating in the home.
I was always very inspired by the interests that my parents cultivated. It felt so distinct in relation to the cultural landscape of where I grew up. It also made me realize that interesting things can happen despite everything working against that possibility. At some point I realized that without a cultural context to "be interesting" I needed to cultivate a deeper inner process, and so I became obsessed with both music, as it was a form of art I could download and have a firsthand experience with in gross amounts due to the budding Limewire/torrent world at the time, and I also became very obsessed with the concept of the "outsider". It wasn't anything really novel to begin with. I think there were a lot of other people around me who could say that their foray into "creativity" began this way as well. I dyed my hair black and started wearing tight jeans. I found myspace and began agglomerating thousands of friends just like the music I was downloading. Before I made this transition I would draw images of how I wanted to look. I called this avatar Elmer, and I would live out these fantasies as Elmer in my drawings. I got a Xanga and started writing tons of teenage poetry; incomplete metaphors and really tragic symbolic evocations. Maybe 2 people read them? It wasn't internally interesting at all. In a way I think I am very drawn to cliches because of how they connect us all, even in their irony at times, we can see them as conventions we understand within a particular cultural context, and then choose how to assimilate them into our sense of self. I've certainly embodied many cliches. I feel like I have a closeness with them as a temporary home for my spirit. I couldn't ever really stay in one too long though, I just have a very manic and compulsive kind of brain, and so I think no matter what kind of environment I was put in, or what cliches were available as a starting point, I would really dig into myself to make something novel happen.
When I was young, elementary school age, I began by making detailed maps inside of which I would have other children play imaginary games. It was strange because looking back I can now see that I have always felt a distance between myself and any one particular social group, but constructing experiences was just this way that I realized I could relate to people. So much of my work now is about revealing these emotional choreographies and patterns in myself, and using them as physical choreographies or guiding principles toward the form that an idea might take. I've returned to a lot of these concepts that I practiced at different points of my formative years in my adult work. I wrote a performance work about Elmer, and my relationship to the aesthetics of teenage angst. Similarly, I created the premise of a fantasy world and built, choreographed, and composed an entire escape room/immersive theater piece around it; echoing the games I once made as a child for others to play.
I have an 8 year old son named Milo. He really transformed my creative process. There is an insanely scope opening relationship that I had with his entrance and existence in this world. I was making these really tightly controlled almost performatively, work-intensive sculptures and performances, and as soon as he came, I was making sculptures with theater sets in them, and film quality wigs of my own hair. Albeit, the work he inspired was also work intensive, but the scope of what it was reaching for was on some other scales in the powers of ten. He really exposed me to the ether of life and how creative it is in-and-of-itself. There was something cosmic about his baby state. Sometimes I would just look at the afternoon sun glow through his hair and get lost in the echo of time and the way it multiplies us. He taught me to just humble myself before the goings-on of a day. The ideas he brings to me through his actions and thoughts are beyond what I can get from anything else.
Now, I live just outside of Los Angeles, in a cabin on the edge of the Angeles National forest. I have spent a lot of time working in education at different levels, the most recent of which is an AMI Montessori School in Altadena. This job and the wonderful cabin I get to occupy has offered me some nice distance from the city as well as a place to reflect on community, pedagogy, and the importance that the construct of "nature" plays to my process. It's really important to me to be able to be a contributing member of a community, and to find a place for all of my energy within it.
What are the main concepts and ideas behind you work? 3. What is your process like?
First off, I would like to combine the questions of ideas and process. I find them entirely inseparable, and integral to one another, especially since I work in time based mediums.
The driving pulse behind my work is seeking an ethical imaginative excess. I seek to build and encapsulate entire worlds in every piece, attempting to reach into as many directions of experience as possible. A tipping point in a lot of critical discourse for me is around ideas of fantasy and world building. Throughout my education I hit this point where my preoccupation with narrative, theater, and fantastical forms hit a kind of indoctrinated wall. The creative freedoms of representation within fantasy are so often associated with escapism that ones ethics are frequently questioned as a result of building worlds for others to become immersed in. In the process of building worlds and indulging fantasy, I think about the ethics of the kinds of labor within a world and the experiences that are tethered to them. There is a deeply philosophical nature to constructing a new set of parameters through which we can imagine the formation of life and culture. It seems imperative at this moment that we engage whole heartedly in the kind of fantasy that might help us redefine the values at the core of our crumbling foundations.
When I go back to this question of labor within a fantasy context I think especially about Willy Wonka. He is this wonderful and amazing figure, yet he is also a total capitalist. He is the dream that capitalism promises us, but not without issue. The foundation of Western civilization is built from the exploitation of the people, nature, and abstraction itself. We are so addicted to abstract thought. I am addicted to it. But how can we subvert this addiction that Western society has given to us? How can we reimagine the ethics of a world through fantasy where a white male has built a fantastical factory through the labor of tiny orange men and women, through exploitations built on defunct racist representations. What would it look like if Willy Wonka ran his factory all by himself, or rather, what does it mean to be Willy Wonka and the Oompa Loompa at the same time? There is pathos in combining roles which our culture has routinely divided, and in the pathos of these condensations is absurdity, humor, and the horror of abstraction itself. Fantasy offers a space to recast the theater of our life; the theater of our world. Art sometimes gets so mired in its own conversation around aesthetics that it can't even see how instrumental, as a material, movement, and potentially time based medium, it could be in the realm of fantasy; in "pure imagination." Thankfully there are so many mediums that art can encompass. Literature is really great at doing this. We expect to take time with a book, and with that as a foundational agreement between the reader and the author, it allows the author a lot of room to develop the world in which their characters exist as well as how that world, as well as other conditions, shape the self of each character. It really spans so many different scales of activity. It's for this reason that I spend a lot of time writing and telling stories as a way of creating a genesis chamber for the agglomerations of form in my work.
Drawing on this idea of how these agglomerations exist in the world, I touch on a lot of different kinds of media and subcultural objects, styles, and the way they get expressed in social spaces. From FX prosthetic production, to tabletop gaming, immersive theater, and contemporary spectacle, I find myself trying to augment or abstract the typical ways in which we experience these appendages of total immersion. I navigate through a lot of territory that crosses into popular culture and spectacle, and thus temporal abstraction is a key component to allowing a viewer space for deeper introspection. This involves building blocks of "uncanny time." In order to do this, the scale, depth, and time requirements of each piece become immense. The idea around "uncanny time" is that one needs to experience something, in this case culture, at a different rate than it is normally experienced in order to question the orchestration, ethics, and purpose of its normalized flow. This might mean that I work for months to produce an opera scaled performance that only lasts for 1-3 minutes. If the audience is not prompt, or even turns away for a second, they might miss a considerable amount of the performance, or perhaps even the entire thing.
So much of how I make work is counterintuitive to the general temporal demands of an artist, and this is methodical and deliberate. I take a very long time to build homespun fantasy worlds, mythologies, and overarching cosmological ties between the various planes/bodies of my work. While this seems more of a structural principle, I see it as integral to the ideas. Just as the ethics of a composer's music is rooted in the way they structure sonic events in time, I see that the pacing and relay of an idea in any aesthetic realm is a part of the "concept". I think about this not only within each piece, but also from piece to piece. I question the spectacle of art itself and the expectations it puts on us as individuals when it comes to planning the timeline of my own work. I really don't believe that time is linear whatsoever. Sometimes people say "I really love this new work!" When in reality the work stems from an idea thats older than the last body of work that I made. Nonetheless, I definitely consider the scale, scope, and pace of what I make, and how that is perceived from work to work.
Sometimes I have to spend 7 years making a single object, only to realize that it is not meant for anyone but myself; a tool for me to relate to the world and myself inside of it. Thus my process is filled with contradictions, self-deprecation, healing, self understanding, dead ends that end up being spring boards into entirely new directions later on, and a lot of different entrance points. I have never wanted to make art that I could easily consume, but rather something that I could gnaw away at forever, and, while revealing kaleidoscopic caverns of content in myself and the world, still not quite understand it. If we can agree that everything is changing all of the time, then we can agree that knowledge is not fixed. I simply want to make work that embodies this agreement, and even pushes it to temporally challenging places. I feel like this has always given me a great deal of space to consider the world and the people around me and how it can become a part of the work.
Another huge part of my work is my musical output. I use music as a way of engaging with different parts of my brain. It doesn't have to be good music, really, but sometimes I really enjoy it, and other times it actually makes it out of my sound diary and into an installation or a performance. I play music often with my musical collaborator, drummer and keyboardist Dan Bruinooge. I've been playing piano since I was 4, but I retaught myself when I was in college. I strongly recommend that everyone reteaches themselves their instrument at some point if they have any formal training. Other than that I make a lot of different kinds of music. I have a musical entity I call BAD DAZE. Tingo Tongo Tapes put out a long tape of my last two full albums as myself and as BAD DAZE: Loser Trax, Coded Posts, and Distance Charms, as well as the album with just the title FOREVERHOUSE. It was a precursor to Return to FOREVERHOUSE. A lot of people don't know that the first iteration of FOREVERHOUSE was my attempt to represent an unrepresentable concept in sound. It didn't work out and that has lead me to some of my current work, but I'll get to that later on.
Can you tell us more about your performative installation "Return to FOREVERHOUSE"?
Return to FOREVERHOUSE is an immersive theater piece built around the concept of a "maze room" or "escape room". It ran at the now closed space, Machine Project in Los Angeles, and was up for 2 very full months. When I conceived of the idea I was trying to find a way to get the audience to agree to be a part of the narratives in my work and even be the driving agents to a performance. I was looking for a context in which the audience could not stay an audience, where they would find their role as a part of this group ritual over the course of its duration, and have to relate to other people, strangers, objects, and an unfamiliar space through the process. It was also my desire to examine states of immersion as they relate to contemporary media, but do it through analog means. This is a common thread in my work. I always have thought about films and video games, and how these forms of time based narrative relate to performance itself. How can I create the effect of a cinematic montage or a video game cut scene as a physical body in front of an audience member? For me the answer in this work was architecture.
As a part of this piece I was also looking at the construct of the mystic figure as a sole purveyor or even prophet of the great beyond. I thought a lot about the Wizard of Oz, and his gig behind the curtain. I didn't want to just be sitting there spewing jargon while other people did all the work. I always resented the Wizard for being so lazy with his role. If I had a position like that I think I would want to be very generous to my audience. So here, in Return to FOREVERHOUSE, I wanted to be somehow massochistically trying to uphold this world, running from trapdoor to porthole behind the set in order to play 3 characters at once, changing costumes between each, and then triggering some foley artist apparatus with my foot along the way to really confound the perception of how many people were involved. I wanted to create my own instrument and then become a virtuoso of it so that it might feel like an orchestra's worth of musicians playing from behind the wall. This idea is connected to the notion I mentioned earlier of conflating the roles within a fantasy world and the work required of them to maintain the world itself. The beauty of the maze room apparatus was that it let me make interactive sculptures that required time to perform their function. This accomplished another of my major goals: to make the difference between actor, audience, set, and prop very hard to distinguish. At some point in each run of the performance, we would all become apart of the same aesthetic organism, and being able to be a physical and embodied facilitator to that process was very revelatory for me. It really forced me to learn how to respond to the snap decisions of different people and the minds they brought to the organism. They changed the piece every single time. I changed it with them. I began introducing new elements into the piece throughout its run. Had it gone on longer it might have reached the critical mass of excess that I think I want in a work of art, but it ended up having to come down. It was so exhausting, but I'm a glutton for punishment, so I'm still thirsty for more.
On that note: unconsciously keeping with this desire for labor intensive fantasy, I created the schedule for the run of this piece in such a way that I would perform it for 8 hours straight each day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with maybe a 5 minute moment to eat a burrito or teach myself to play the jaw harp in-between each new audience. The piece would run for an hour, and then it would require nearly an hour to find all of the objects and reset all of the mechanisms. There were so many moving parts to it. One of the sculptures was a tiny present no bigger than the end of a baby's pinky finger. It was hidden inside of an object called The Emptystone. I loved the idea that when you picked up The Emptystone, you would hear a rattle in it. Sometimes the present dropped out very easily, but other times the people would be rattling that thing around for a good long while before it popped out. Every time it did I was worried they would lose it before they got to the point in the narrative where they needed to use it. I made multiples of the smaller sculptures in case we ever lost one. It was so important not to lose one though, because then a group of participants might find it out of place, and it could put a disjuncture into the narrative in terms of the symbolic location of the objects in relation to one another. Thankfully I never really had to replace any of the props entirely, only fix them as they got worn down. There is really so much to say about this piece. I spent 24 hours a week literally performing it for 2 months on that schedule. I spent 2 years preparing for it, making the objects and characters, music and diagrams for the choreography. It was such an involved endeavor.
Who are the artists that have influenced you the most, and how?
Most of my influence is taken from composers and musicians. There are certainly artists who have been instrumental to how I think about the organizational scale and scope of my work, but I am such a musical thinker that I can just get so much from understanding the directness of how the rhythm of thought can transfer into aesthetics in music. Equally, the atmosphere then created, being totally separate from that mind, really opens itself up to different contexts, allowing me to access it at key moments in my life. When I was living in Long Beach, I was working on an installation that involved making the same shape slightly differently over and over again everyday all day long for two years. I was thinking a lot about permutation, alphabets, and the extent to which you could push the nuances and complexities of a "set" and still use it as a tool for differentiation. I was obsessed with Morton Feldman for this reason. He kind of opened me up to this idea. I remember a key moment where I was listening to his Piano and String Quartet as I was driving through an enormous fog bank that descended on this long strip of highway between two sections of a navel weapons station. It was the only road for a few miles that cut through this enormous space filled with missile silos, and in the fog, this meant that the only light on the street was from the intermittent streetlights that peppered this one strip. As I drove, and the subtle waves of harmonic content unfurled bit by bit, the street lights seemed to be in complete synchronicity with the music. This moment felt so synchronistic for me that it became about so much more than the music itself, it became about this kind of ownership I could take over an experience with the compositional principles of the music, and how I could see them manifesting in my own life. I would go on to listen to this piece of music and only this piece of music all day every day when possible as I worked on the concurrent project. It allowed me to really descend into something that mutated the original starting point, and became a filter and a barometer through which all of my experiences were gauged. When I decided to stop listening to the piece, I also was done with the project, and had made thousands of these small red shapes. It felt like I woke up from a dream.
I really just take in everything around me as an influence. Every single object I see in every store; every single little stick I can visually separate from the landscape; every work of art that offers even some tiny new aspect to my understanding of what an artwork can be; every new combination of flavors I've never thought to try; they all make their way into my work. For this reason, the pozole place my friend took me to last week is as influential to me and my work as the Owl that hoots out my window every night, my stepmom Michele Caruso's paintings and jewelry, or my former roommate and good friend Sam Shoemaker, and his evolving art practice. I take most inspiration from things I can have a relationship with, or watch evolve over a period of time. This is why I love watching fruit and vegetables rot. It's something that reveals something new to me every day--something I can tend to.
Of all of the artworks that have had a major impact on me within the last 5 years or so, I would say that Asher Hartman's plays have been very inspiring. I had the opportunity to make some puppets for his piece Purple Electric Play! (PEP!) and watching that piece unfurl was very special. Asher's understanding of theatrical conventions and his ability to weave deep histories with such a wide array of aesthetics and ensembles of people has taught me a lot. I also had the chance to perform in a festival in Switzerland and see Dana Michel's Yellow Towel. That piece was fantastic. Her command of her body and the shifting frames through which she sees herself as a performer really unfold in a way that I felt a kinship with. The piece itself as it is happening, seemed to continue to present objects and ideas that I didn't realize could fit into one another. Also, working for Matt Sheridan Smith was an incredible experience. I loved how he would go down these really deep rabbit holes of research and personal interests and share them with me. His studio practice was so rich and full, and he was so generous with his conversations about the current direction of his mind. The friendships and personal relationships I find with people through art are what give me so much inspiration and energy to keep making work.
Do you have any bad habits, do they effect your art practice?
I have all kinds of bad habits. The worst of my bad habits is some kind of addiction to games of all kinds. My mind just has this unceasing thirst for solving problems that are disconnected from the most practical of tasks. I don't know if you have ever seen those images of "shitty battle stations", but I can relate to them in some ways. I just become so focused on one thing that I let everything else go to shit. I have learned strategies for tempering it. I have gotten really good at recognizing what types of games are a problem for me. I have to sometimes prepare myself for unstructured time, and make sure I don't just go down a dark hole of online fantasy gaming. Now, of course, sometimes I bring a lot back with me from these places that were especially designed for total and prolonged immersion. I mean, a great deal of my work is somehow tethered to contemporary fantasy culture, so it's hard not to investigate a little. I often can't tell if I'm just making excuses for it or not, though, and this might lead me to cut it out entirely and force myself to just draw or write; have time to reflect. I don't ever want a system to have total control over me. This is why I even continuously try to break the mold of my own practice and reinvent the kinds of projects and platforms I seek as an artist. Maybe it can be a bit insane to reinvent the wheel at every turn, but I really enjoy it. It keeps my mind elastic within the work.
I think we all probably have these underlying immaterial vice totems in our life that we pray to unconsciously. Sometimes we make a ritual sacrifice and engage in the activities that have compulsively built our totem, ie. playing those damned ol' games. And sometimes we revere iour totems and give them that holy distance we need to respect their power. Art is a great place to reflect on all of this for me. I've learned to see my shortcomings as an integral part of my life and process. In the end, it's all useful.
What books have you read recently you find inspirational?
László Krasznahorkai's novel "Seiobo There Below" really blew me away. I got really into the particular section in it about the dismantling of a Buddha statue for the purposes of restoration, and all of the rites, rituals, and processes that were required for this one act to happen. It was a meticulous and beautiful shimmering palindrome that just really encapsulated a very human and yet very cosmic perspective. It takes me a really long time to process a book. I note sections and come back to them over and over again. I like to cite and share them with my friends. Passages like this one in "Seiobo There Below" just synthesize so much of what is beautiful about literature that I can't read anything else until I've finished milking every last drop of inspiration out of it.
Also, a book that really stuck with me, and one that I think about a lot is Aase Berg's book of poetry, "Transfer Fat." Her ability to add complexity to our noun based world makes fluid everything about the fixity of language that drove me away from being a writer and into art. She totally reclaims language as a slippery and transitory thing for me, and I absolutely love the blending of biological and symbolic relationships within it. When I read it, it makes an ectoplasmic cinema in my mind of suggestive forms and images that are constantly writhing as though subjected to the underlying biostructure of the creature from John Carpenter's The Thing. I get really excited about the difficulty of translating it as well. So many of the nouns in the work can take on different meanings and she plans for this phenomena accordingly and exploits it to great end.
Are you working on any new projects these days?
First, I just finished an ongoing performance with the triple title: "ENDBRINGER / HEAVEN AS HIGH AS THIS / PRESSING A FLOWER BETWEEN PLANES." It's a piece that is set at the end of a possible universe, when all of the conditions necessary have clicked into place, and the Endbringer has come awake to bring about the ultimate end of everything. In the moments just after the Endbringer has carried out the task of decimating everything, leaving just a whirling pile of dust, siphoning itself into the absence of time, the Endbringer recognizes that it has set into motion the conditions for its own total death. In this moment, the "remains of the universe" are represented by a small statured obelisk on the ground with all of the dust from the space swept around it. If one were to get very close, they would see that the obelisk is constructed from thousands of tiny skulls, not one of them larger than 1/16th of an inch.
Having filled out its purpose, and with this one brief moment to reflect on what is left of its destruction, the piece begins. The creature enters, it's body under duress, falling apart and deconstructing. From there it becomes a monologue set to the musical composition of my collaborator Eli Klausner. The creature, and the costume representing it, begins falling a part and even breaking as the entity thrashes around, attempting to feel its own existence before it too is cast into nothingness. This piece was my attempt to focus all of my efforts, all of the complexity of an installation into a single object that unfolds in front of the audience. The drama of the work comes from the text coupled with the inevitable destruction of this character, and this clearly time intensive object. Chunks break off, icepacks fall out from odd places, limbs fall to the floor and are reclaimed as cane-like supports as the entity struggles to hold itself upright. Eventually, the creature crawls outdoors from whatever space it began in, and the second act begins.
For this second part of the performance I collaborated with two wonderful musicians, and again, had Eli compose the music for it. Melissa Achten-Klausner on harp, and Dan Bruinooge on drums play over a minimal synth loop in front of the dead carcass of the Endbringer, as well as the "remains of the universe" now set on a pedestal before them under the night sky. As the work intensifies in sonic exuberance, the sculpture of the universe's remains is set on fire with a barbecue lighter by Eli, and the work erupts into a momentary blaze of whitish, pink flame, like a flare, and then, as the cloud of smoke dissipates, the music follows suit, and this is the end.
I want to perform this piece multiple times. I want to not only have the mending of the object be apart of this process, but also the addition of new limbs and appendages. I wanted to make an object that has this aggregation-like process to it eventually resulting in a C'thulian mass of appendages and additions and an amalgam of cultural references.
The Second series of projects in the works right now are a three tiered series of literary and partnered illustration works that are all interconnected. This body of works ultimately synthesizes the narratives behind a lot of my other pieces in some way, but also offers me a platform to generate an entirely new world, and one that runs deeper into the particularities of myth and world building. It will ultimately result in two series and a stand alone piece of short fiction: a series of fantasy fictions, a series of allegories set in a concurrent metaphysical plane to the first series, and then lastly a single short story that is about a concept truly inexplicable, but one that governs the other two bodies of work. The series of allegories will manifest as both literary works as well as short films and performances. The last piece will be a single page bound into a sculptural tome. I am really enjoying the process of building this work, as it has enriched my everyday life and even some of my non-art interests.
Lastly, and really the most obtusely, I have an ongoing project that is probably decades from being finished. I conceived of it when I was in graduate school, and had to table it until after I graduated. These kinds of very long very invested projects are what I crave, but are very hard to communicate or even display within a single studio visit or interview. I want to make work that lets me, and thus the viewer, have an invitation to descend into something where the boundaries are unknowable; something that unleashes this uncanny sense of a life, completely interwoven with fantasy, compressed into dense harmonies of truth and absurdity. It's a theater work couched inside of a single sculpture, and it is an endurance opera of absurd proportions. In its length, investment, and process, it will obscure my own limits, and the boundaries between object, self, and site. It is forever ongoing, and it would really require another space and another time to discuss, but it is called Natural Wonders, and will hopefully encapsulate actual pieces of, as well as mutations of, all of my other projects as well as piece specific objects and moments. It's my hyper condenser, inner personal black hole repair station, aesthetic atom smasher, etc. I think I included a photograph of a few different studio iterations that were apart of some works within the work.
Anything else we should know about you and your work?
As I finished reading over what I wrote for this interview, I realized everything I do is a project within a project within a project within a project. I think I'm just trying to build something I can get lost in. At the end of the day there is a huge part of my work that is engaged in metaphysical exploration and my ideas about spirituality. I think constructing ones own existential identity from the molecular to the cosmic level is integral to harmonizing with the process of our life, and feeling that embodied sense of confidence in our work from day to day. I don't really go into these subjects much in the context of "talking about my art," but I'd be happy to chat about it more in a more intimate setting with only those people that seek a conversation around my more "out there" beliefs. Honestly, a lot of what compels me to make work I can't even share with my closest friends. I've read enough to cover myself in a language that others will understand. I don't need to share everything with everyone. I like knowing there are unspoken personal truths embedded in the details of something.
Anyways,besides my cryptic sense of self in my work, I just love talking to people. I love people of all kinds--understanding why they think what they think and why they do what they do. I often work out at coffee shops, writing and drawing up diagrams, or mapping out relationships between characters / worlds / works. It offers me a space to possibly stumble into a conversation about what I'm working on. I always loved finding a total weirdo in a common place, and descending down a rabbit hole in their presence. I hope to be that weirdo someday for someone else who seeks that kind of connection or reverberation. In those moments I can feel the aperture of social ether around me and that person just contract to a single point, pulling the gravity of attentiveness right to the forefront of my excitement. A favorite little adage I picked up somewhere along the way is that the etymology of where the word weird came from, wyrd, means "that which alters the course of destiny." I really dig this idea. It can happen at anytime in any place; at the hands of something completely overwhelming just as well as something just barely noticeable. Just something that emerges at its own speed, and exerts strain on our ability to easily assimilate it into our categorized consciousness.
Having a home studio, I often toggle between using my home as a place to blend my process and other aspects of my life. I was roommates with another artist, Sam Shoemaker, and we would throw these relatively elaborate parties. They became this collaborative process that didn't need to be art, but certainly was all about producing an aesthetic and social space. I loved that some of my artworks might find a home in a context like that, and I loved that the context of our home could transform into a different kind of context entirely.
Sometimes I really just need a public place to descend into my work without disruption though, too. When I really want to be left alone in a public place while I work, I will go to Taco Bell or Denny's. It's a secret I figured out about late night food places, is that they are also just great work spaces. You have temperature control, the possibility of ordering food or coffee if needed, and a restroom. It's a great place to tuck yourself away. It feels oddly therapeutic.
Deep down, art is a form of metaphysical therapy for me. I have a totally integrated conversation with it around my life and my work. I mostly work out of my home studio, and many of the objects I consider to be a part of my "work" are also things I wear to my day job, or use in everyday scenarios to bring a little bit of joy and wonder to a situation. I love being able to repurpose an object, or even lend a performance object to a friend so that it can have another life without me. When I get the opportunity, I make special objects for the children to use as tracking charts in the classroom where I work. I would love to see my work allow itself the freedom to be apart of someone else's narrative; it makes the work feel more like this collective dream of which all art is a part.
For more of Patrick Michael Ballard: https://www.patrickmichaelballard.com