Interview with Elizabeth Kane

As we begin our new cycle of A POSSIBLE PRACTICE, we welcome our nine featured artists to reflect on how the world keeps ending, and the world goes on. In this series of interviews, we’ll discover more about each artist’s work, their practices, and what it means to be making art during this time of intense global change. Elizabeth Kane is an artist living in Waterville, ME. Their work has appeared in The River, 30North, and Wanderlust Journal, and they were Alice James Books’ first ever Director’s Chair Fellow.

Rainbow, 2018. | rebirth, 2019.

When we selected Franny Choi’s poem “The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On” in December 2019, we could not have envisioned the ways we would each be asked to accept new levels of grief and apocalypse into our daily lives. What initially drew you to this poem? How has your understanding of the poem changed since then? What elements / images / phrases strike you most now? 

My initial thoughts were that the poem was deceptively accessible and I liked that. I could understand every reference and how each reference got to the next one, and still it gave me that feeling you get when you read great literature: there’s so much here! Choi’s broad definition of apocalypse, which you begin to gather as you read, is world-defining and beautiful. Since my initial read of the poem, a lot has changed in the world. We’re a couple weeks into a stay at home order. My job shut down for the time being. I don’t get a stimulus check because my parents claimed me as a dependent. My partner was deemed an essential worker, so I have to worry about her going out into the world everyday. But there is still art to be made. In the beginning, the poem felt real on a mental/emotional level, but now there’s this physical threat we’re all experiencing in one way or another. And “our dear, beloved apocalypse” kept on, along with the world. My favorite line is: “By the time the apocalypse began, the world had already / ended.” It gave me the inspiration for my piece. 

What are you planning to create for this cycle? How does your work relate to the themes in “The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On”?

My initial plan was to build an app, but it’s really impossible to do that for little-to-no money (because I don’t want to exclude anyone and publishing to the Apple Store alone costs $$$), so I think I’m moving back to the Twine engine and I’m going to format for mobile a fortune-telling game. My rationale is this: how do we stop the world from ending? Or at least slow it down? That wasn’t really the point of the poem, but in thinking about it in the context of A CLEARING and the work around identity I did last cycle, I came back to the concept that the future, and thus the fate of the world, is something we build ourselves. (To a point, of course. There are factors like systematic racism, white supremacy, and other oppressive social structures and institutions that prohibit fair access. And, we also see the power of this world building happening in real time right before our eyes.) For this project, I want to make an interactive piece that might change someone’s outlook on the world for just one day, might change how their interactions go, might create a small “apocalypse.” The original meaning for apocalypse, coming from apokalyptein, Greek for “uncover, disclose, reveal,” is “revelation,” meaning everytime your worldview is changed, your world is ending and becoming anew.

…the original meaning for apocalypse, coming from apokalyptein, Greek for “uncover, disclose, reveal,” is “revelation,” meaning every time your worldview is changed, your world is ending and becoming a new one.

We are living through a time in history where the fault lines in our infrastructures are increasingly more visible and unignorable. How do you envision your practice of giving the audience agency in your artwork as a way tool for building new futures? What types of feelings / conversations do you hope your work will spark? 

One of my biggest focuses in my work to date is making sure the audience has agency in everything I make. My artwork, both physical and digital, is designed to be played with, entered, experienced, because I feel like so many people look at a piece of art and think wow that’s cool/beautiful/inspiring but they don’t have the background to be able to take what’s cool/beautiful/inspiring about a piece and transfer that to their own lives. So by making my work interactive, I hope for it to become a physical/mental/emotional memory that can be drawn upon more than “that painting I saw one time,” etc. Everything you take into your body, whether that’s through your eyes, ears, nose, hands, etc., becomes a part of you. I hope that people will take my fortunes into their eyes and heads and use them to create new futures using new patterns of thinking. The feelings/conversations I hope that inspires would be ones of slowing down and understanding rather than reacting. Really just, taking a moment to choose actively a different future than the one we’re angling toward now. 

How does your practice engage with processing personal and/or collective grief through art?

A lot of the interactivity and connectivity of my work is geared toward the idea of cultivating process/processing in general. It should be designed to help the player/user/audience/etc. through personal grief/apocalypse into a kind of not clarity but serious meditation. To get past the feeling and into the thinking. To use the feelings of grief to understand/predict the future. 

What are you listening to / reading / looking at right now?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Daughter, Ada Rook, and Purity Ring recently. Purity Ring’s new album Womb is amazingggg. And I can’t wait for Rook’s next album 2020 Knives to come out soon. 

I’ve been reading the poetry books that have rapidly collected on my shelves. Just finished reading Anna Rose Welch’s We the Almighty Fires, which was really inspiring for me as someone who struggles with the concept of almighty. 

I’ve gotten into art journaling, so I’ve been looking at a lot of people practicing that and just practicing the art of putting stuff on the page even when I don’t want to. It’s something I’m good at with writing but not so much with visual art so I’d like to get better. Julie Fei-Fan Balzer is a great resource for this. 

Plus, I’m playing Animal Crossing like everyone else. My town is called Coquelicot, French for poppy and also a color name for the specific color of red that poppies are. I’m sure you can guess what my favorite flower and color are. 

Describe your practice space.

Messy! 

What is one important thing you’ve done for your creative practice / general nourishment lately?

Art journaling/journaling in general, plus I’ve been doing a poem everyday in April challenge for National Poetry Month. Some of the poems are really really bad but a select few have already been worthy of a “maybe we’ll come back to this,” so it’s been a good mixture of draining and nourishing. 

What is currently inspiring you?

It might be obvious, but for this piece I was inspired by the fortune cookie. It’s not predicting, but instead providing a tool for you to carry on in deciding your own fate.  ✽


Elizabeth Kane is an artist living in Waterville, ME. Their work has appeared in The River30North, and Wanderlust Journal, and they were Alice James Books’ first ever Director’s Chair Fellow.

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