Biggs, Janet.

lives and works in New York, USA
1983-1984 Graduate Studies, Rhode Island School of Design
1979-1982 B.F.A., Moore College of Art, Philadelphia
1977-1978 Experiment in International Living, Basel, Switzerland



Winkleman Gallery, New York City (February 2011)
No Limit: Janet Biggs, Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, Florida  (Fall 2011).
VantagePoint IX: Janet Biggs, Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC. (November 2010).
No One Rides For Free, Conner Contemporary Art, Washington, DC.
Vanishing Point, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas.

Vanishing Point

Date: 2009
Length: 10:32 min.
Format:  16:9
Specification: Colour, Sound


Janet Biggs’ Video „Vanishing Point“, das den gleichnamigen Titel von Richard Sarafins Road Movie aus dem Jahr 1971 trägt, verwebt zwei in ihrer Bildsprache sehr unterschiedliche Szenen miteinander: Leslie Porterfield, die 2007 bei einem Motorradunfall in der US-amerikanischen Bonneville-Salzwüste schwer verunglückte, kehrte ein Jahr später zum Rennsport zurück und brach daraufhin drei Weltrekorde, einen davon mit der Höchstgeschwindigkeit von 376 Kilometern pro Stunde. Janet Biggs filmte die Rennfahrerin dabei und begleitete gleichzeitig das Sportevent. Die Profilaufnahmen von Porterfield und ihres Motorrads verwandeln die extrem rasante, lebensgefährliche Fahrt in einen scheinbar statischen Moment, denn dem Auge fehlen vor dem schneeweißen, glatten Wüstengrund und dem klarblauen Horizont der Salzwüste jegliche Fixationspunkte.
Die andere Szene zeigt die Aufführung eines Liedes, das Biggs eigens verfasst hat, vorgetragen vom ARC Gospel Chor, einer Initiative des Harlem's Addicts Rehabilitation Center. Biggs behandelt im Text Fragen zur Identität und möchte wissen: „Wann sind wir nicht mehr wir selbst?“. Isolation und Selbstverlust, vergegenwärtigt durch schwere Einschnitte im Leben, stellen eine Folie dar, die Biggs zum Anlass nimmt, sich mit der Frage auseinanderzusetzen, wie die Grenzen unserer Identität gesetzt werden und wann das, was uns zu dem macht, was wir sind, möglicherweise verschwindet (engl. vanish).







► 1. Your video has been chosen among over 1700 festival entries to participate in Videonale 13. How central is the video medium to your overall artistic production? Is it complimentary to other media you use or do you work exclusively with video?

I’ve been working primarily in video and video installations for the past fifteen years, but it is the concept that drives my projects, not the medium. I continue to use video because at this time it is the most concrete way to express my ideas.

I've always been interested in the immersive experience. Even when I was producing paintings and sculpture, I would combine objects and/or images to make installations. Video provided a great economy of means. I could create something phenomenological out of projected light. The immersive nature of video and video installation has been satisfying and has kept me excited about the medium.


► 2. Is there a particular theme, concept or problem your art addresses the most?

I tend to choose grand stories, global crises, and heroic events as my point of departure, and then slide sideways into the small gesture or esoteric task as seen from deeply personal perspectives. I seek out people who are dedicated to the pursuit of precision and perfection, from world class athletes to Arctic explorers. I fixate on the concentration, expectation and rigor of people deep in their personal zone. I examine the details in a quest to understand self-knowledge, control, and desire. I emphasize images of repetitive or ritualized movement, creating otherworldly scenarios and landscapes as a way of acknowledging that these incidental, small moments are as wondrous as setting world records.


► 3. What artists do you relate to or find significant for your own art-making?

I am drawn to those who have the determination to define and defend their identity in all fields, not just the visual arts. My work is informed by people like Linda Norberg, a woman coal miner who is working in one of the Earth's most extreme environments. She begins her days by descending miles into the darkness beneath the frozen Arctic, excelling in one of the most inaccessible and dangerous places imaginable.

I find performance artist and counter tenor John Kelly compelling in his exceptional ability to use both his posture and face with as much fluency as his voice. He alters his appearance in a search to find meaning within the body's immutable condition.

The Addicts Rehabilitation Center Gospel Choir inspires me with their effort and open struggle to forge and sustain a sense of personal integration while fighting addiction.
Motorcycle racer Leslie Porterfield survived a devastating crash in Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats in 2007, only to return to competition there the following year and set a world speed record of 234 miles per hours. Her intense focus when everything is stripped away except for her desire to be the fastest in the world motivates my work.

► 4. Do you think the video medium can address social or political issues better than other art media?

While many people around the world access moving images for information, be it television or on line, I believe that it is the content and how it is framed rather than a specific medium that can best address social or political issues. The spoken word, a written passage, or compelling image all can hold the power to inform, inspire, enlighten, and alter opinion.


► 5. Art can be seen as a mirror that registers and reflects life or as a tool that transforms it. Which of the two positions is close to your own art-making philosophy?

My interest is not in high drama or dazzling spectacle. My references include people who undertake extreme levels of discipline to make something difficult seem effortless. I focus on challenges presented by the unknown that are reflected in the details. Loss and change are implicit in the human condition, but loss and change can lead to transformation or transcendence.


► 6. How do you understand success in an art-making career?

There are so many models of success as an artist. I judge success by the level of dialogue that my work provokes. I am interested in a shared authorship, where the viewer's history becomes an element in the final reception of the work. By expanding my audience, the work continues to grow. I also see the ability to pursue new challenges, both physically, and conceptually as a mark of success.


► 7. What is the most difficult and the most rewarding thing about making art / being an artist?

Both my most rewarding and the most difficult moment in art making is when a project has reached a point where I feel as if the project itself, rather than me as the artist, dictates decisions about the direction taken. This is a rare and sometimes terrifying moment where control is relinquished to passion.


► 8. What are your upcoming projects?

I am continuing to explore the struggle to define and defend a sense of self in environments where assumptions about self and reality are radically altered, both through video and performance. This work will be exhibited in my mid-career survey at the Tampa Museum of Art in the fall of 2011.


► 9. What do you do when you don't make art?

I explore, research, and investigate actions and locations that I find compelling.


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