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From the vault: Jess Perlitz’s interactive work

Canadian sculpture artist Jess Perlitz recently opened "Chorus," a moving audio work comprised of recordings of incarcerated men and women throughout the U.S. She asked them, “If you could sing one song, and have that song heard, what would it be?” She layers the results into a "choir" triggered by a visitor's arrival into a cell at Eastern State Penitentiary. We interviewed Jess a couple of years ago about the emotions and processes that inform her work, and why it is that you can so often interact with her pieces.


Jess Perlitz makes work that you can interact with. Sometimes there is a crank that will sound an air raid siren; sometimes there are steps to climb up to the top of a fortress lookout. Occasionally, she wears a costume and you interact with her. She sees her work as coming out of childhood play, where everything is “real” and important. And she’s very interested in your reaction.  Will you climb the steps, crank the crank…or not?

Jess is interested in the voice of the individual in a community. She’s a Tyler MFA, and her works have been shown at a variety of alternative spaces in Philadelphia. She left Philadelphia last month [in July 2013] to take over the reins of the Sculpture Program at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR. We were pleased to get some time with her before she left. We talked with her in her studio in the 915 Spring Garden building on July 10, 2013, shortly before she left town. See her website for pictures of her work. And to see more photos from our studio visit, check Libby and Roberta’s Flickr sets here and here.

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