Last month, Cassandra Troyan held a food fight at the ROYGBIV gallery in the Short North. A few weeks later she was spotted shouting into a bullhorn from the rooftop of a building Downtown. While these are not your typical acrylic-on-canvas art pieces, she is certainly making a growing contribution to the local creative landscape.
We recently caught up with Cassandra over the phone to find out more about her performance art, her video work, and what motivates her.
Q: Some artists tend to limit themselves to one particular medium, but you seem to have multiple foci. Is there any certainly way you typically describe what you do?
A: If anything, I consider myself to be a multi-disciplinary artist. What I sometimes like to say is ‘cultural producer’, which means that you think of yourself in terms of the type of ideas and culture that that one can instigate or create rather than the physical production of objects. So, I do video and I do performance work, but I also do things like lectures or panel discussions or hold food fights or parades or other sorts of happenings. I think there are certain ideas that are better explored through certain mediums, so it’s all about finding the particular outlet for each position.
Q: In a culture largely dominated by traditional visual art, can that sometimes be hard to explain, or difficult for people to understand?
A: It’s easy for some people to understand, but for others it can be interesting on multiple levels. Or at least that’s what I hope it to be. I think my work is something that I can talk to my grandmother about. She can understand the appeal in holding a food fight… but at the same time, for people who are more invested in what art means, it’s also provoking the questions of “Is this art and what’s the purpose of doing it in this space?” So yeah, I think it maybe can be confusing, but I’d rather think of it as something that can challenging people’s expectations.
Q: You publish a lot of your video work online, which presents your work in a very global space. What sort of feedback or reactions do you get online, and how does it differ from a more localized exhibition?
A: For me, some of my videos have gone a bit viral and I’ve connected with other video artists and people who are working with experimental video throughout the world. Finding people and building a community that way has been interesting for me. I think it’s also really important that my work remains visible and it’s displayed in an egalitarian manner and that it’s not something that is limited and restricted to people of a certain class or certain geographic location. Online video is also beneficial due to the different ways you can collaborate or create your own venues for exposure. Some artists can get caught up in the idea of needing a show to be able to have people see their paintings, but there’s other ways that you can create discourse and share your ideas beyond the context of a gallery.
Q: What sort of education, training or experiences have shaped you as an artist?
A: I received my BA from OSU and I actually studied the history of art and film studies… but at the same time I was also studying French and German and film and philosophy and taking art seminars. I had a very personally crafted education. For me, things get interesting when you combine different assets. All of it has shaped and broadened my perspective. I originally got interested in video because I was studying and writing about it, and I’m still interested in the act of writing itself. Through the process of writing, you can better understand the crux of your work. I feel that artists are able to develop much more vibrantly if you’re able to articulate what you want to say beyond what the painting or project says for you.
Q: According to your website, you live and work between Berlin and Columbus. What’s the connection with Berlin?
A: My partner lives in Berlin… he’s German and an architect and so he’s moved back and forth. I was living there for awhile and I’m about to go back next month. There’s an artist I’ve met there who looks at art collectives and is working on a project where she’s talking to American artists who live in Berlin. There’s a lot of interesting things going on in Berlin for American artists, and she’s looking at what is so significant about Berlin. Right now I think there’s a really burgeoning art community there that’s based in the collective actions of people who come together to form these new spaces that provide more opportunity and a good sense of community. It’s difficult to find these sort of space or venues in places like New York. So I think that’s one of the allures of Berlin for many people, and certainly is for me.
Q: How do you think that compares with Columbus? Do you see similar instances of openness or community within the arts scene here?
A: I think the art scene in Columbus is definitely changing, and in a good way. If Wonderland goes through in the way that they want it to, that will really be a great thing. If anything though, I’m guilty of falling into the whole “hating Columbus mindset” just because I was born and raised here. It’s nothing against Columbus… but there is the necessity of moving to different places and expanding. I do think there are definitely many people who are dedicated to Columbus though, and I think that’s really fantastic. This city does have possibilities.
Q: Well… the reason I got in touch with you for this feature, is due to a recommendation from a friend who knew that you were recently mentioned on CU as the “Crazy girl on the roof on Gay Street“…
A: (laughs) That’s so funny! I saw that on the messageboard right after it happened. I was with Justin Luna the Gallery Director of ROYGBIV… he was on the roof with me, and then afterward he was posting something on CU about the panel discussion event and so he saw that and showed it to me. It was literally right after it happened, and I was like “Oh my god… I’m the crazy girl on the roof!” (laughs)
Q: So that was a performance piece up there I take it?
A: Yeah. I found the thread really interesting… especially that some people were making claims that I was either drunk or high… or making assumptions about what I was saying. But yeah, it was really interesting to see people asking what was going on, because it wasn’t presented like that… it was just sort of a happening. Some people happened to see or hear it and didn’t know what it was, so people were trying to interpret what it could possibly be.
Q: Do you have any other events or exhibitions coming up soon?
A: I’m actually in Chicago right now. There’s a video trilogy that I’ve been working on with one of my video collaborators, Stacy Sells, and the premiere screening is here in Chicago. So, that’s happening on March 16th, but that’s not really for people in Columbus. But yeah… I have some other unannounced actions planned, but at the moment nothing that’s going to be announced in advance. The things that I have happening will just happen, and people will discover it for themselves.
More information about Cassandra can be found at CassandraTroyan.com.