Interview: Kelly Keenan

Below is an interview with performer Kelly Keenan on the topic of her participation
in the performance We can make this work



AK: First of all, I wonder if you could just tell me what made you decide to
participate in We can make this work?

KK: As a friend and colleague, I was already inclined to participate but essentially
your writing on the website, which helped me to understand your motivation in
more depth, excited me to accept this invitation to perform with you. I wrote the
cheque immediately.

AK: When you decided to participate, did you find it difficult to resolve to
actually send money?

KK: Yes, not because of lack of trust but because of my account being deflated and I
was waiting for pay to come in. If you remember, I told you to wait for my “cue” to
cash the cheque.

AK: What was it like to participate?

KK: It was fun. I made a sub-performance out of it where I filmed the writing of the
cheque from photobooth. Photobooth (Mac Software) films backwards so it then
became funny to me that the cheque I wrote appeared to be for $001. In any case
the amount seemed irrelevant. The participation, action and transaction seemed
to be the important matter.

AK: I assume that you frequently send money to various people. Did this
instance of sending money seem or feel different? Why?

KK: It was different in the sense that I knew that 99% would come back and I don’t
normally get money back after I send it unless I request a refund. The return of
the money, the collaboration, was in fact what I was purchasing.

AK: Describe the feeling of receiving the return cheque. Did it feel different from
a normal instance of receiving money?

KK: There is a certain pleasure in receiving a cheque. It’s like getting a
postcard or a tax credit you forgot about in the mail. It’s a pleasant moment in the day.
There is another pleasure in cashing a cheque. As a resourceful person I see a
lot of potential in $99. I did nothing extraordinary with the return cheque. I must
have paid a bill and the rest got lumped with my previous account balance. In
retrospect I wish I had done something a little special with this cheque.

It’s art isn’t it? Should I have framed it? You are very likely to be famous one
day. Maybe that cheque would be worth $9900 in my lifetime.

It was a unique and special exchange with a dear friend. Maybe I should have
put it in my box of mementos.

Not cashing it would have maintained my cheque as a donation to your artistic
practice which in turn is my profit as I enjoy your work so much.
Or perhaps it would enable you to engage collaborators like me. However, I cashed
it, and like a dance, the choreography ended and is now in the archives of
reminiscent memory in the ephemeral.

AK: Has your participation had any lasting effects?

KK: Hydro Quebec still likes me.

AK: Do you feel that trust was an integral part of the piece? Why or why not?

KK: I already trusted you and had no doubt of your reliability. However, this existing
trust was already based on your performance in our previous interactions. I
imagine for those that don’t know you there would be more consideration of
whether you were trustworthy, whether the 99% would actually be returned. In
that case, are your collaborators participating for the thrill of risk entailed? Or
jumping at the invitation to trust others?

To be honest, had I not known you, given the low balance of my bank account at
that time, I likely would not have participated. There are appropriate and
inappropriate times to gamble.

AK: Part of the idea of we can make this work is to rob money of its
performative power—that is, its power to create social reality. Can you
reflect on this intention having participated in the piece?

KK: In my role of giving you a cheque was an act to willfully engage in a creative
social proposition and exchange. In your case, the invitation actively seeks social
exchange with a limitless and indiscriminate number of participants. Maintaining
your performed promise by handing me a return cheque of 99% was an act that
affirmed your social credibility and reliability from my perspective and, I presume,
also of the other collaborators whom you honored your agreement to.
So, I am not yet convinced the money was robbed of its power to create social

Can it be that “we can make this work” in fact suggests a social reality? A positive
and creative social reality encouraging exchange, honorability and no one
gravely loses.

Can it be that “we can make this work” infact builds your personal social reality?
However, in the sense that due to the almost exact equal amount exchanged the
transaction becomes trivial and thus, yes, powerless.

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Posthumous Philanthropy

I would like to fund my work with the money of the dead.

We have an idea of freedom. But in the arts there is very little freedom. And perhaps one reason for this is that we all need to eke out an existence, begging, fundraising, applying. We look to those with money – institutions, individuals, businesses – to raise funds, and we are presented with two problems: first, through the concrete social interaction that is the exchange of money, we enter into a political system; and second, through the exchange of money we enter into relationships that persist over time, inhibiting our ability to alter identities.

At the nexus between the individual and the society-at-large, the exchange of money is a particularly political site – and this is the primary problem. Only without money and without a need for money can we approach something like an apolitical existence. Money is what ties us to each other and what ties us to a hierarchical funding system in the arts. Art is political too. More specifically, its creator moves in the direction of the apolitical (above, smooth) and the work (object or experience) moves in the direction of the political-poetic. It is embedded in politics through and through, though it is slippery until society settles on what it means, and owns it. Artists create objects, histories and experiences that can enter politics (ambiguously) on their behalf, precisely so they don’t have to. That the artist is tied to politics through money is an unavoidable problem. Just as we hope our works never have a settled meaning, so we wish that we did not have to be in politics to make art. Unfortunately, there is no escape. Society consumes us and owns our work.

The second problem concerns the temporal aspect of politics and funding. We find a source of funds and through this exchange we develop a relationship that persists over time. The course of this relationship shapes and stabilizes our identity. We build loyalties. A stable identity is more efficient than an unstable one. Loyalty, in this way, always constructs continuity and aims at the boring side of progress. Conservative identities in the arts are killing us, and killing art. It’s not “out with the old,” it’s out with relationship that makes you old, that turns you old right before your eyes, just because you have a mistaken conception that being an artist is also a possible career path.

I propose that we fund our work with the money of the dead. I propose that we source our project-funds from those living, on the premise that the work will only be made public after the person who gave money is dead. The terminally ill can give money knowing that there is no chance they will see the final production. Healthy people could give money knowing they are investing in a distant future they will never know and not be a part of. This bridge between life and death may be the only place where money can exit politics.

But we have loyalties with the dead just as we do with the living, you say. Yes, but there is an important different between loyalty relationships with dead and political relationships with the living. Loyalty with the dead is productive, it is poetic, it enables change, it is smooth and adaptable. We move on, and they stay dead. Our relationship with the dead cannot be political, it can only be poetic.

We used to nurture relationships with the dead. The dead would be present to us, aiding us, guiding us, ambiguously. That we cannot sustain a relationship with the dead is a sign of how literal, how unpoetic we’ve become.

It would be best if we found money on the ground and picking it up, thought, “This money belongs to no one, apparently. Perhaps I should make art with it as a way of sublimating it, using it produce ambiguity and to make the world more complicated, more beautiful. Perhaps with this money I can be free to create, not out of duty, but as a return gift to an entity I will never know.” This will never happen, save the odd $20 bill. But perhaps one could convince a living person to give money knowing that this money will enable life and art after her death. I would like to think so.

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I don’t know

Exploring what we know and what we don’t know with a software instrument that anyone can play.

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I’m Faking It – Full Version

I’m Faking It, from a performance at OFFTA 2013.
The website I speak of is

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Many of the questions that inform my work arise from the difficulty of linking the notion of art-making with the notion of making an honest living.

Today the sun is shining in the studio and I’ve decided something that seems important.

Many of the questions that inform my work arise from the difficulty of linking the notion of art-making with the notion of making an honest living.

Likewise, many of the anxieties I have about artwork originate in an uneasy translation of ‘artwork’ into ‘livelihood.’ There’s a basic dilemma, I think, between the superfluous production of the artworld and the notion of global precarity. How do artists navigate this? And then, how can the work itself address this dilemma and provide some kind of solution?

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Performance Lecture

Performance Lecture from Adam Kinner on Vimeo.

From a show at Concordia University in December 2012. Video by Yves Gigon.

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It’s Cody Again

Hey Adam,
It’s Cody again. Today, I thought, with better reception, I could tell you something important. And that is that I’ve been listening to that Marathon album and not only do I really enjoy it, but I feel like I’m shopping at the thrift store of music history. And I’m finding these bizarre, beautiful items, and they’re cheap and they’re like way better than the ones that you can get commercially, normally. But they’re weird and they function differently, and they’re not like I’m used to. And I like them but they make me feel somewhat embarrassed while being inspired, almost embarrassed by being inspired. And that’s why I like Marathon…this time. Okay.

[A phone message left by Cody. You can listen to and buy the Marathon album here, or at Cafe Resonance on February 1st.]



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