An Interview with Carali McCall
We first encountered London-based artist Carali McCall’s work in 2012 when she participated in an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery called Again and Again and Again: Serial Formats and Repetitive Actions. For this show, Carali and fellow artist Jane Grisewood created a monumental graphite drawing, which is part of their Line Dialogues series, directly on the gallery wall by crossing each other’s paths repeatedly with crayons in hand. Their Herculean effort, which extended over more than two hours on opening night captivated audiences who were treated to the making of this work. A hybrid between drawing and performance, their piece quite literally traced the physicality of mark-making and through their corporeal process, transformed the traditionally static media of drawing into a dynamic one. Currently a PhD candidate at the Central Saint Martins, University of Arts London, Carali’s practice uses the body as a vehicle through which to explore movement, time and energy. We caught up with Carali to discuss her fascinating practice and learn more about the way her practice conceives of drawing and the way it intersects with her idea of the body.
Here and Elsewhere: You have stated that your focus as an artist is “running as drawing” – can you explain what you mean by that?
Carali McCall: My emphasis on “running as drawing” is a way of thinking. It helps to define drawing as a concept of movement and helps bring together notions around the body expending energy that evokes the possibility of marking without a visual trace.
To put it in context a bit, the issues and concerns I have in my practice have been based on the body and its physical limits. I have been informed and inspired by philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty and his concepts in phenomenology and have been looking at the structures of consciousness through bodily movements. I’m interested in finding methods and strategies that explore both running and drawing processes, questioning when does drawing become running and when does running become drawing, as experienced through and of the body.
My focus on “running as drawing” began when I started to question notions of endurance in both these processes. Through repetitive and exhaustible processes that were long in duration, I became interested in what my limits were, but more importantly how the role of my body shaped my experience. While considering the body as a material of both time and energy within my practice, I began testing and investigating a structure through repetitive yet progressive systems – running provided a structure that helped support how I experience drawing through and of the body, and drawing opened up questions and a way of thinking about the body; through these endurance processes, “running as drawing” has become a way of ‘being’.
HE: We’re interested in your idea of “marking without a visual trace” – can you expand on that? Does this mean you feel it’s possible to “draw” without leaving a mark?
CM: I feel it is possible to draw without leaving a visible mark or trace in a tangible sense. However, by “marking” I mean the conscious act of drawing; so to draw and mark is part of the invisible process of drawing.
In my investigation into drawing, the act of drawing becomes a means of exploring notions of how the body operates as a tool to measure movement and transformation.
For example, I am marking when I am running; visually engaging with the objects in front of me in the landscape, drawing invisible lines and conceptually thinking about how my body is drawing. And when I am performing in Line Dialogues, I am marking – that is, I am engaging with the spatial relationships between my body moving and the space and time, and others around me.
I mark, like the points on a map, my different conscious thoughts.
I am concerned with demonstrating the involvement of the body in drawing and our conscious thoughts to help move drawing beyond the limits of vision. Marking in this way, is a conscious act and I do not draw without marking; I use the idea of marking to inform what drawing is, what it can do, or be.
HE: When you discuss drawing as a “concept of movement” are you challenging the traditional idea of a drawing as a finished, static object?
CM: Yes, definitely. The conventional idea that a drawing is a finished static object is very much challenged. Although, it’s not to say I have not been influenced by the visual aspects that graphite and paper produce, or the temporality or sense of movement of something drawn. But perhaps what is more important is the ‘image’ of the doing, or the imaginary sense of the line being drawn that is important. I am questioning what is drawing, what is the experience of drawing and how does that make me feel human?
Based on the idea that drawing is connected to movement, I am proposing at this time in my practice that the body is a tool to draw and it helps develop the way in which I measure and experience distance, speed and time.
HE: Your drawing practice is very much about the experience of the body and the expending of its energy – are you consciously differentiating between the body and mind in the way you create and discuss your works?
CM: Recently, either by running or drawing, I have been exploring how to define states of consciousness and describe some experiences of my body while expending high amounts of energy. By this, my drawing practice tests my physical body’s limits and considers the body in movement integral to the drawing process.
In returning to concepts of phenomenology and constantly trying to battle the mind/body problem, I wouldn’t say that I am differentiating between the body and mind in a way to create and discuss my work. However, by describing ‘experience’ derived of and through the body, it has been problematic that there is only a binary sense of embodiment and disembodiment; the body as an object or subject , or mind or body etc.
At the root of phenomenology, I would argue that the body is both and at the same time ‘mind and body’. To escape the Cartesian notion of the duality of the body, I am trying to marry these two differentiating notions of body and mind and to describe our being or perhaps prove that that body is both the body and mind as we know it.
HE: Can you tell us some artists whose work has been of interest to you and perhaps influential on your practice?
CM: Artists such as Vito Acconci, Janine Antoni, Matthew Barney, Janet Cardiff, Martin Creed, Bruce Nauman, Robert Smithson, Barry Le Va, Robert Morris, Carolee Schneemann, and Jana Sterbak, (to name only a few) have been influential to my studies and have helped develop my interest in making work.
Through various artworks based in performance, video and sculpture I am influenced by how these artists have used the human figure as a media through which to alter and question the role of the body in art.
Perhaps most important has been the historical ideas of how we think about the body; stemming from the Futurist and Cubist artists whose interests were in energy and change in real time and space, I have been captivated by the way the body has been developed to construct and represent a way of movement.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, drawing has increasingly been described by movement; the exhibition, On Line, (2010) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, presents some great examples of this and describes the history of drawing through a shift from a reliance on paper to the involvement of the body as an extension of the mark.
HE: Thank you so much Carali for discussing your work with us!