Trulee Hall. Rejoicing in opera of beauty and grotesque
Video Still: Water Dance for the Country Queen, 2018 (on author's background)
The joyous art of Trulee Hall is as full and juicy and beautiful and as grotesque as it is elusive. Put somewhere between archetypal dreams and nightmares, it feels like a punk fairytale. Its grotesque beauty brings forth questions of beauty, otherness and acceptance.
From the first encounter with her work at the Zabludowicz Collection, I knew I wanted to write about it. It was such a fun exhibition. It happened within all the misery of the pandemic and so, to have this show full of such a predominant sense of very camp, very kitsch fun set inside of a church, which in a sense, quite a repressive space and context, was such an uplifting experience. It just felt so liberating only and voluminously joyous.
Redefinition of the category of beauty is at heart Hall’s practice, practice,turningturning control and repression dictated by male gaze into celebration of recognition of female self in pleasure and abundance. It is positive and empowering, non- hierarchical and non-judgemental, all interwoven in the work.
Hall created a whole world, where the eclectic character of work employs different mediums in order to specifically describe particular aspects of it, building together a comprehensive mythology. It is almost as if the practice manifests an archetypal world of affirmation of the female and fertility parallel to reality, yet interwoven with it and simultaneously liminal.
Moving between animation, puppetry, and live action, work in paint, sculpture and music, It is set on extremes, on darkness and liminal, hidden things and a jouissance, layering of both playfulness and sinister darkness. It is about childhood fears, night terrors and distorted images of the female. Works are fun and fleshy, discerning and camp. Viscerality, fleshless which is mythical and tangible at the same time. It is joyous and erogenous; where phallic is not as much phallic as it is priapic. Bad girls, embracing of sexuality, flesh, body itself, deciding on body image. The spiritual here is bound to soil, it lies in the dream of the animalistic power of nature and the natural, and yet it belongs to the contemporary world of technology. Like chthonic dreams of a new world.
Video Still: Tongues Duel the Corn Whores, An Opera, 2020
Trulee Hall: Hi, nice to see you.
Discrete Life of Infrathin: Hi, It’s so good to see in person. Thank you again for agreeing to do this!
Production still: Ladies’ Lair Lake, 2021/2022
DLoI: I would like to start with a question focusing on one specific quality in your work which strikes me as particularly powerful. Ever since my first experience of it, I felt there is a form of synergy which binds all different media you employ. You combine different traditions and times, cultures, sites’ or historical references and personal stories. You use different languages; there's music, there’s animation, there's tactility. There's a sense of performance, live and recorded, there is opera. And the way you put all this together, is almost like building a model of the universe. As if each of the medium or each of the parts of this unified language pinpoints a specific spot and anchors it. Each is a different layer, acting as various descriptive thread of the proposed cosmic system, expressed through deeply personal mythology. Each is a view from a different angle, like of building a spatial model, where as a result a 3 dimensional representation emerges.
The way I understand it is that your creative process, way of working, is equal to the work itself. The emergent universe consists equally of artwork and of the working process. In other words, the way you work, work’s content and appearance are inwoven in complete synergy of languages. Mix of media, materials, scales and techniques create one seamless synergic unity anchored in a method of communication and at the same time inexplicably bound to what it communicates. I was wondering how your practice built up to that point of creating your own unique aesthetics and this sense of unified multi-media method?
TH: I think that I have in mind creating total artwork, so the experience is also in the room and site-specific nature of the paintings or the colour of the floor, et cetera. The videos I make are not just the videos. The videos are really about video, of the medium itself. It's about the tactile nature of video that's almost like video sculpture. And then the paintings are also about painting. I frequently use contrasting styles. I'll have something that's really fast and messy and then something that's more delicately rendered put together on the same painting. I love playing with those versatile styles and approaches. For instance, my Claymation looks really homemade. You can almost see the fingerprints and then the CGI animation is really cold looking, robotic. I love having those kinds of contrasts. Your brain has to sew them together and this equation creates a third, fourth, fifth world that exists only in your mind. This type of situation takes an active viewer to complete the process, to put it all together. I really like when people are engaged. When they're pulling from work. It is just as much about the medium, like you pointed out, as it is about the content to me. Viewer creates the work and their experience internally. For example, when you read a book, a really good novel, you have to put it together, create a whole story. You picture what the characters look like in your mind, string together the sentences. It is just the same with my work. I like to engage that part of the viewer, where they have to take the different parts and sew them together into a whole. Process occurs in your own mind and of course everyone's gonna have their own version of what they respond to and how they interpret it just as in any other artwork.
I love having these different elements. For instance with Claymation, I feel as if I can do something really juicy with it. It defies gravity. I don't have to stick with reality. Also CGI, I can make things grow and change more. So I pick and choose, the medium is based on what I'm trying to convey. It's a huge amount of freedom for me. I can just decide on what conveys the picture best in my mind from whatever I want to. It's really fun.
Video Still: The Blue Fertile, 2018
DLoI: The other impression I have is the sense of tactility within the works, again, quality present across all media. You speak about it, for example when it comes to plasticine animation, but it happens everywhere; sculptures, video, opera. There is a sense of something that's tactile, but it's not exactly tangible. A quality which is referenced to the body, but impossible to really touch. You're supposed to see it, sense it, as you said before, in your mind. It's almost like dreams and nightmares. Something that refers to two things that you can touch, but it's not possible to be touched. A different form of threshold.
TH: Absolutely. I love to have visible workings of the medium. For instance, in live action, you can see the crinkles in the backdrop. In videos, you can see the makeup on the actors. You can tell they wear wigs. I'm not trying to fool anybody into some fantasy world. For example, when you watch a movie, the aesthetics are to try really hard to make it look realistic . To fool the eye. Let's say you watch the “Hobbit” or something like that and all the costumes and the characters are supposed to look real. I do the opposite. I'm not trying to make anything look real. I'm embracing the handmade “homeyness” of it. I aim to show the medium, the technique. So you can also see the creation, the process of making the work as part of it. The transparency of the working method.
Installation view: Tongues Duel the Coren Whores, An Opera, 2020
Zabludowicz Collection, 2020
Aesthetics of voluptuousness and redefinition of beauty.
DLoI: You said that what you do is also about the media that you use. For example, videos are also about the video. So I suppose that sense of transparency of the method of process itself and tactility leads me to another question. I wanted to talk about a specific aesthetic category, an underlying rule, a grid on which this special universe you have created, is organised. I was trying to pinpoint it and what I came up with was voluptuousness. I don’t see it as a term purely relating to the body, but while still assigned to and signifying the body, underlining all aspects of your work, of this mythological system of your artistic=aesthetic universe. To me it is a category of self-affirmation, fullness and potency.
So works are notations, attempts at describing a multidimensional universe of myths and transformations, expressions of self-image that are positive in a way which embraces ALL. It is not only about the Other(ness) but about diversity of life in all its shapes and manifestations. It’s fleshy, visceral, erotic, but in a way which alludes erotic only peripherally, in a way relating to senses, like really good cake. It makes me think of sensual pleasure awaiting in a really good patisserie. It’s an erotism of gourmet sensorial feast.
The aesthetic of voluptuousness I proposed, despite the frequent presence of a darkness in the work, is this overall sense that is not even body affirming or not even image of the body affirmation, but at the core, life affirming. And while it addresses the female under control and restriction of social constructs, liberation is under the sign of all differences searching to be freed in affirmation. Like it really has the sense of, you mentioned once I think somewhere a Horn of Plenty, fertility. Voluptuous poetics is not exactly bodily and it's not exactly erotic, but it's more about a potential of life when you're okay with it.
Detail view of Golden Corn Entryway with Boob Fountain, 2018
Zabludowicz Collection, London 2020
I wanted to talk about this empowerment found in embracing the difference. And connection in your work between the spiritual, the self and flesh/viscera and body/sex? About aesthetics as the ruling category of your particular vision.
T: I'm so glad that you picked on it. In my recent show, one that I just put up, there are 14 videos and it's full setting, painting, sculpture, things hanging, things spinning. It is an immersive environment, a haunted house that you can walk through. Each room has its own video and its own kind of environment.* I think it's the most joyous piece I've ever made. And it's very much about the female, female body and her relationship to nature. It's very clearly lesbian in content,there's so much joy in the work and the relationships between females and the way they’re shown and all their different body types are part of what the work is about. We're so used to seeing just model-like skinny women and my women, my characters, they're all so different, their body types are all across the spectrum. Also, they're completely natural. They don’t seem self-insecure at all. They're simply very happy with who they are. It's funny how rare that is to see something so simple. We have some heavy women or curvy or slim, all different shapes, textures and ages and they’re all ok with their bodies, with their looks, with themselves.
*Ladies’ Lair Lake, 2021/2022
Production still: Ladies’ Lair Lake, 2021/2022
DLoI: One of the things I kind of picked up with the way you use opera as form, is the re- definition of what is beautiful. What is beautiful, how we can see beauty, is in a sense in the centre of your work. And the truth is that everything is beautiful. The cold, rigid animation is beautiful and the plasticine that is not exactly finished and refined is beautiful. And the woman who is bigger is also beautiful. And even though, don't get me wrong, I pick up all those queer elements and they there for a reason, it almost feels as if they also are to channel the acceptance for everything that's other. That is where the empowerment dominating the work resides. And that's why I came up with the category of “voluptuousness”, because to me it entails a sense of how we get the world that is beautiful and accept it through accepting ourselves, but also through accepting all the difference. That's how it feels to me. And it goes through those different mediums, through the different languages, different systems of communication. It all sort of filters through to that final message that pretty much everything is okay.
TH: Wonderful. I've never heard it described like that, but yeah, absolutely. It's definitely how I try to see the world. For example, let's say you're hot. We were talking about when you're uncomfortable, because it's too hot, and you just can't accept it. And you know, there are certain things you can do, pour water on your head or take your clothes off.
So at the core lies acceptance about, even the unhappy parts of life. Acceptance that it is what it is.Without judgement, the bad dream and the good dream, are both equal. I think a lot of times we try to curate our life so much that we put away what we don't want to see. We pretend it doesn't exist. I tried to be like you said, that everything is okay. And being whoever and whatever you are in whatever state you are, is also okay. That's a radical idea though. It's funny. Like “You're okay. I'm okay.” But it is a radical idea.
Production stills: Ladies’ Lair Lake, 2021/2022
DLoI: It is in a sense, but also I think it comes from such a strong focus on embracing the difference. It's about accepting the different, the other and opening yourself onto someone different than you and something different than you in equal measure. I had this sensation that although this aesthetic is created specifically in order to say this, it is also for people to come out of the exhibition and have the sense of possibility of using it in a daily life. That this is how they can look at the world from now on.
TH: I try to think about how important it is for me to inspire, especially younger women, to create their own worlds and not accept limitations. “You can do whatever you want, you can make your reality however you want it to be. It's an empowerment too. For instance, when you see the process of how I made something, then it's like, “Oh well, that's not that hard to do. I could paint a backdrop, I could put a wig on”. It's just giving people a kind of opportunity to think in their own mind. Allowing them to be the creator of their own universe. And invitation to investigate, to see how that would look. I try to inspire people in that way too, that it's possible to do.
DLoI: I think the conversation about women and the images of women, it's always quite potent. Well, we both know how it is. I mean, I have had this all my life, this sort of sense that my body or the way it's perceived does not belong to me. I was trained to understand that it belongs to men first and foremost. This is really how children are raised, girls. It's always repressive in a sense. And when you learn to voice your own desires and make your own representation and when you claim your self-image for yourself, that usually is an act of rebellion. It's something that leads to something positive, but it goes through a violent process, because there's so much of that going on. With you, it sort of happens through fun, which is pretty brilliant, you know? There is darkness and there are nightmares sometimes right next to dreams. Everything can be positive in the sense that what in life isn’t good, is not exactly bad. You can just get on with it, you just need to accept that as part of your existence. In the case of your work, it really is joyful, a methodology that this way works free of pain .
TH: I think I tried to put in a sort of welcome mat for everyone. It’s an invitation to communicate that I want people to be more open to accepting and getting into new ideas. And if they have fun doing it too, they can play with something shiny then it's enticing. It says “Come in”. So I try to make the work as an experience of fun and it's fun for me too. I have a great time making it and I want that to be conveyed when people are viewing each piece. And they can think, “This artist clearly was having fun making this”.
DLoI: It's almost partisan, in a really good sense of that word.
TH: My family was very conservative, very religious. Growing up my family and my dad wanted me to be a real girly girl, cheerleader, and all those sorts of stereotypes which claim to represent perfect female, but I was always a tomboy, always a weirdo, always doing my own thing. But, even as a kid, I thought it was just fine. I was aware I was different, but that was fine. I like being different. It was never something I felt bad about, if that makes sense. Even though society and family try to make you feel bad for being different. What I am saying is that, I always thought. “No, that's just me. I'm just different. And that's good. That's a good thing.” So it was just lucky I think, that I had that kind of self confidence even as a kid. I've maintained that and to me, it's more important to be interesting than it is to be pretty or perfect or what society expects. Who cares really, you know, that's boring.
* Eves’ Mime Menage, 2019, Oil, acrylic and collage on board, 72 x 124 inches
DLoI: You know, prettiness, beauty really does come from the inside. I've met people in my life who were very beautiful to look at, but once you got to know them, they weren't that beautiful at all. And the other way around works the same. Beauty is the whole package, not only what is commonly accepted as the norm of what is pretty, what is ideal or what is beautiful.
I genuinely do believe that you created your own mythology. There is lots of Western culture, there's lots of Ovid, there's lots of transformation, so to speak, but also there is Corn which in the Americas is such a potent symbol of fertility. Additionally you use opera as one of the mediums and the opera is this funny little medium, because of course it comes from the Baroque, so the big, the dramatic and the shiny are definitely there.
Installation view: Golden Corn Entryway with Boob Fountain, 2018, Zabludowicz Collection, 2020
DLoI: Opera is the form of art where unity of media is an operative method. You have performance, music, costumes, painting and stage. It's also quite kitsch or potentially can be such. When I experience your work it reminds me a little bit of Greek comedy as well. The way drama is mixed with this very specific form of laughter and the way you use masks and costumes and props and actors playing multiple characters, you know? It's like a Partisan Allegory.
I want to talk about how you created your mythology and visual language to create a very individual universe expressed in opera and influences you would list as crucial for your practice? And you do also have musical education, you do music yourself, but how would that end up that this particular art form?
TH: Previously I always wrote the music for my videos, but there wasn't any singing. It was just instrumentation. So it was more of a mood set, like a soundtrack for a movie. The Zabludowicz Collection, they were the ones who actually started the whole thing, because they were planning an opera series and asked me, if I would like to do an opera? And I said, “Yes, I would love to do an opera”, but it was their idea. So that's what started the whole thing.But then it got so elaborate and so long that it became a major part of the show. And all their available budget went to the opera. But everyone loved it. It was totally worth it. At the same time it was very rushed (because the budget was really small). We only had five days to rehearse. It was very intense. We had such a small window to do everything. To memorise the music, learn the dancing and do the rehearsals. It was complicated too, because a lot of the actors played characters on both sides. They would play the Gold Side. And then the Holy Ladies. They had the gold outfits underneath the robes because they had to take them on and off in each scene and it was really hectic, but everyone was super into it and we were like family after, because of the intensity of the process. It was very bonding and that was what made it really fun for me. It was the first time I had live music played with classical instruments, like violin or cello. It was exciting for me to have something I wrote on the computer and then having played live. I felt it was so fancy. It was exciting to be in a live audience when the opera was performed. It was hard to believe that that was real. In a film you kind of forget about that. It just seems like magic. And as soon as I walked in the room to see that church chapel, it all kind of came to me, the characters I wanted to have.
Installation views including: Golden Corn Entryway with Boob Fountain, Tongues Duel the Coren Whores, An Opera, Zabludowicz Collection, 2020
Holy Ladies were sort of on the more religious side. And in contrast were the Ladies in Gold, it all just flew into my mind immediately, even the identities of the upstairs and the downstairs levels of the space. I could just see the whole thing. It was very effortless. Once I entered the building and once they asked me to do an opera, it all just channelled in. It's a different kind of experience to see a theatre play or opera live, just to feel the amount of talent, ushering out of these women's voices. It sounded great. And it inspired me so much that my show right now is a musical. So I did the same thing, but it's even more elaborate this time, with more characters. The opera was performed live so it could only have so many scene changes and so many costume changes and so many characters, because it was just a small stage. In the case of the musical, there are no such limitations as it's a film. So there's a ton of different scenes, 50 or so characters and really elaborate sets and costumes and body paint. I took it to the next level and I love the way the music integrates with the film.
* Tongues Duel the Corn Whores, An Opera, 2020
DLoI: Which is quite a funny coincidence because the way you work, opera seems such a logical solution, solution,asas the way things that come together in work, they also come this way in opera traditionally. So it's almost a perfect form for you to work with. You have created a unique mythology that goes simultaneously across visuals and content and the way of working. Literally everything is in a complete synergy. The same happens in opera.
What really struck me, especially in the case of the Golden Ladies, the gold costumes were so revealing and God forbid, you didn't look like Claudia Schiffer. They really were revealing all the imperfections that we are trained to hide, but in your work the actors felt so comfortable in them and the performance was so very beautiful.And I think that's where the whole thinking about it started, about a category that sounds overall like one single narrative going through everything and just revealing itself in different ways, different times and all the different plains, a category that rules all Trulee Hall poetics.
TH: It's hard in a way to inspire people just to be natural. To pre-program it. You just feel it, being there in the moment. When I was auditioning the actors it was really important for me to choose the right characters so there was that confidence they could convey the energy I was trying to portray. if they were embarrassed or something, it wouldn't have worked. It's very important to choose the right people.
Production still: Ladies’ Lair Lake, 2021/2022
Monsters and beauties. Nightmares and dreams.
DLoI: So this question is about monsters and beauties and nightmares and dreams. We sort of covered it a little bit, but I found this really gorgeous quote from Helene Cisoux (it's in one of the texts actually on your work) when she says that that woman cuts herself out of a paper penis in order to create, before saying that while men invest too much power in one body part, the female libido is cosmic. To me, this is sort of what you do, because although I find your work so positive and fun, there is also a presence of darkness in it. It’s like it’s built in equal measures out of dreams and nightmares. Simultaneously phallic and feminine, adult, dark and serious, and a bit like childhood stories, silly, made-up and terrifying.
I especially remember the video with two women, who were almost like witches and there was a sense of transformation.* There were snakes. And so there is a potential of the type of myth that Greeks used to describe as chthonic, something that's underneath, that's hidden that it's off the soil. It comes from the very origins and therefore it's dark. But in your case, it's quite harmless in a way. Or perhaps it's not the strongest thing in the whole content. It's a danger that you dream, a danger that is not exactly real, like something darkly remembered. The spiritual here is bound to the corporeal. You use darkness as a source of life, emergence of the new. Symbolic violence is an action necessary to move out of stasis. It belongs to life, it is a force of the universe, fertile and potent.
I really wanted you to talk a bit about your paper monsters. I wanted you to talk about the darkness in your work. . About dreams and nightmares, myths and fairytales you tell.
*The Serpent Dance for the Red Witches, 2018
* taken from one of reviews of your work ( Carla Wagley, trulee-halls-untamed-magic) Hélène Cixous, Keith Cohen, and Paula Cohen, “The Laugh of the Medusa,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 1, no. 4 (Summer, 1976), 875-893.
Video Stills: The Serpent Dance for the Red Witches, 2018
TH: It is kind of metaphysical, separated from reality. I've had sort of a difficult life, but I've always been really positive about it. Things happen, but you just get through it and try to learn from it and move on to the next thing. Some people dwell on the bad things and they stay in that place forever and it's as if they can never move past. I think I have a kind of unusual
ability to transform even the bad things into something good. And to be able to reach out to the next phase of my life, to be able to say: “Okay, I move on. What's next?” I have an ability to transform those bad things into a learning experience, take out of them by believing to be true that you can learn from bad things and integrate them into yourself, into a way that makes you stronger and so you can move on and to change them into something that can become rewarding. I think a lot of times, I love the word ‘transformation’ that you keep using, because I do think it is a creative process, almost like an alchemy. Or process where you take these elements and turn them into something positive.
I'm not religious, but I have a really strong spiritual side and a lot of that is communicated in my work. I feel as if I talked to other dimensions in my dreams. I almost think of myself as a bit of a witch. And, since that realisation happened, I feel empowered in my life to create things based on my intentions and my thoughts. I'm like a happy good witch. I also think of the creative potential we have as women specifically. I think we're very powerful. I recognise the creative potential of a woman who's really focused on something as it's really strong.
DLoI: The reason why it struck me so much is because of two things that came to my mind. One is that the way you've created this world is almost like the native Australian concept of dreaming. A spirit world that it's separate, but which continuously exists also in our real plain. The membrane between realms is soft and porous, so it's all connected, but it's not available to everyone. It's almost like this undercurrent going everywhere, an undercurrent that consists of the world and also is crucial for its existence. But it’s also like all those little moments when you have nightmares. In your work the representation of the nightmare or representation of potential danger, of violence almost feels like a fairy tale, a dream of innocence, like how a child would be scared of something. That it's a memory of a child that was scared of a witch in a bad, big gingerbread house somewhere in a forest or how the kid can imagine that the piece of sock on the floor is actually a snake and that's why it looks a little bit like a made out of paper mache.
TH: I'm not trying to make something that's actually scary and I'm not trying to make something to look realistic. I don’t aim for a pretence of reality. I could use real snakes if I wanted, and that would be very scary. Or at least to some people. I'm not trying to actually be scary, but eliciting the ideas that are symbolic based on the collective unconscious. I think we all have these kinds of symbolic relationships to different objects or colours or mythological figures. Sometimes these are things I pull from art history or from what I've read, for example Ovid you previously mentioned.
But a lot of times it just comes from the inside of me, some abstract place in my human psyche, which originates maybe from our ancestors or maybe is coded in my DNA, but in truth, I just pull these ideas and symbols, intended to be abstract, not supposed to be real.
Installation views: Tongues Duel the Coren Whores, An Opera, Zabludowicz Collection, 2020
DLoI: I think in a sense it is like this, because essentially fairytales are in reality a form of primal dreams from shared consciousness, but also primal fears from the shared consciousness..
When I visited the palace in Knossos, the woman who was the tour guide mentioned that the snake was a sacred animal because it touched the earth with its belly all the time. So it's continuously connected to the soil and the ground, to the very origin of our being. Apparently that's why almost all the cultures consider it something that potentially belongs to the underworld, because it's right there on the ground, at the foundations of darkness and nature, it never lifts itself up and disconnects, which I think is fascinating.
But I also like the way you use this language, almost as if you create a mirror image of the contemporary culture. Quite a lot of people mentioned Mike Kelley when it comes to your influences, which I think is spot on, but there is this very ironic look at the tangibility and simultaneously at digitalisation of our life, in what you do. It touches upon how we live in those old worlds and it attempts to recall semi-forgotten nightmares and myths and also how we migrate into digital. So you have this technology as well that as you said yourself, quite cold and analytical, but at the same time we use them continuously. We use all the materials and all those forms of language which you use in your work pretty much on a daily basis. For example kids still do plasticine figures they play with and they still dream of a witch who's going to scare them. But at the same time, like us, we look at our fears in different way as well. The same way we look at beauty in different ways, I suppose.
TH: Absolutely. It's fascinating. I love when you're talking about the dreaming. In our world, the Western world, we don't have anything quite like what you describe. It's a state of the simultaneous existence of other worlds that in some ways are more real than this reality that we're looking at.
But I've always felt, even as a kid, that I have a relationship with these other worlds as well. Of course that's also can be scary, because in there all rules are off. We understand how to manipulate and work within this world, but the world without the kind of reality laws or gravity is challenging and scary. Like in dreams, where you can be a type of a shape-shifter as one character changes to another and things disappear and grow. This set of new rules just defies all reality. I'm pretty comfortable in that abstract world. It's almost as if I am in a positive relationship with all these other beings, influences and spirits around us. I feel like they tell me something. For instance, when I have an important dream. I dream lucidly a lot. I remember my dreams and I'm active in my dreams. Every day when I wake up, I remember them, and that's like a gift to me. I take it seriously. I like to dwell in those more mysterious, abstract worlds. It's fun and liberating. Maybe it's escapism.
DLoI: I kind of think, like it is the unknown, the different proposal of reality or maybe not reality but the realm of existence.
TH: I suppose you can say that. Because that's really a dream as well as it's something that's a little bit scary and seductive and exciting in equal measures. It's a little bit like going under the water. There is a shark who's going to eat me up, but at the same time, there are those great fishes that I can interact with and I feel different while I do it
Production still: Ladies’ Lair Lake, 2021/2022
DLoI: I decided to ask this question to all interviewees in the project.
You see, I have been thinking about the notion of practice. When practice is discussed with artists, the assumption is that it is the creative practice that is always the focus of investigation. But there are many practises and many ways of practising things. They frequently mix and cross-over.
Multiplicity of media you employ in each of your productions makes working with other artists and professionals an integral part of your creative process.Your practice is so collaborative but also it's a collective experience in a sense, it doesn't happen solely through you. It happens with everyone who works with you, who performs, it kind of goes on and on and on. I wanted to ask you how to integrate collaboration in this context?
TH: I really like being alone and I cherish those times. In truth, that is the time when ideas really flow through me. But I'm also a really good manager of people. A lot of times I'll have six people working at the studio and it's like a well oiled machine. My art studio is very collaborative in this sense. Some of the things I build are giant. There's no way I could do them by myself. And then often I have deadlines. I'm very ambitious. So we got to finish the project. I become the manager on top of this machine that's human beings. But they are also people that I form really close relationships with. I can't have bad vibes around my art. That'll throw me off. I have to be intuitive in my decision-making and I have to be in the moment and frequently I have to make so many decisions in one day. It's exhausting. But as long as I'm having fun and everyone else is having fun, then the environment is really great for all people and the process of making work.
I think people who worked on my last art show and the opening, they were just as happy, they felt just as great a sense of accomplishment as I do. Because it is a collaboration. And like I said, a lot of times, I do all my own music. I do all my own editing. I do all the painting.
Sometimes it depends on my budget and my deadline. For example, I love doing Claymation, but it's very, very time-consuming. Night is when I feel most creative. So a lot of times, when I was working on the musical, I was sleeping two hours a night, because I would be up all night writing the music and editing. And then during the day the assistants come in. Each of these times activates different versions of my brain. You know, when I'm in the manager’s role, that's a certain way of being, and then when I'm in the intuitive mode of just writing music, I just sit down. It just flows out of me really effortlessly.
So that's another kind of fun way of being and now after the musical, I'm really excited to be by myself for a while. So I'm going to do paintings. I'm going to make big paintings and just do things I can do alone because it was a little too much to be the manager every day.
Like I said, I'm naturally more of an introvert, I need to have that time to maintain internal balance. For example, with film shooting it's completely up to me to be the manager of every single thing. And that's also exhausting. So I run around like a crazy person trying to direct everything. But it is really fun. The film shoot days are the best days of my life, because all these ideas and notions I have come to life at that time. It's so exciting. It's like your dreams become a reality right before your eyes and when it's clicking and it's working, I'm so excited. I feel really lucky that I have that level of excitement and fulfilment and still, it keeps me very motivated.
Production still: Ladies’ Lair Lake, 2021/2022
DLoI: But you also curated exhibitions. And how do you find it? Is that similar or somehow different?
TH: I'd say that's different. It's interesting. Um, like working with actors for instance. I try to choose people that are going to fit the role. If I want a golf character, I find someone who actually can play it. So it's not like they're having to pretend they're an actual person that fits that role perfectly in my mind. And when you're curating something you don't even have to have a relationship with the work like you would with a human being.
It's almost like you're curating a dinner party and I need to make sure everything is ready for my guests’ arrival and just have them only think of pleasant things. So if you're running around and you're trying to cook and everything is messy, it's going to be a bad dinner party. So this is very much kind of curating the experience for the actors as well, to make sure that the vibe is good and everyone's in a good mood. But in case of curating an exhibition, you pick the pieces that are going to fit. It’s almost like what you were saying at the beginning about building models. When I curate my own art shows, I build a little model out of foam and then make miniatures of the work. And that's how I do it. I set it up ahead of time and you can move things around. like, “Oh, let's try this over here…”.
I'm like a giant looking down on the little universe and that's very satisfying and fun too. I feel like they're a bit of the opposite process. Also with Claymation, you're like a giant, you have these little figures and you can make them do anything you want. It's like being the ultimate God. Like I'm the God of this universe that I created.
I know there's a lot of things that we just touched on, for instance, you asked about influences from pop culture. I think as a kid, just growing up around television, you just absorb so much of the language of just whatever's on TV.
DLoI: There is a media image of California that I refer to. You come from Georgia, which I think is completely different in terms of state, far more cautious and conservative. Do you think these two aesthetics of those two different worlds like Los Angeles as the city being a product of the culture that created it together with your background specifically, count in your visuals? I have a feeling that it does, but I'm not sure how correct I am in, asking this, you know?
Installation view of Polkadot Bedroom, Nightmare Set (Girl/Monster),2018
Zabludowicz Collection, London, 2020
TH: I've always liked fake things. I love miniatures, little things. Something inside of me gets excited, I love fake plants or big representations of ideals, like Jeff Koons, how he's into the kitschiness of American culture. I love to do things that are kind of grotesque or cute little decorative things. I've always loved things like that. And my dad was a decorator. It was at our whole place, full of little kitschy decorations and the wallpaper and couch, everything matched perfectly. So I had this aesthetic from the life that was very prevalent.
I just love that kind of over the top immersive feeling when you're in a room and it's like, “Whoa”. That's kind of how I first learned about art, through decoration. And that to me it is the background for the action. It's basically a very intense, curated environment.
When I became older, I loved fake things even more. I love what they say about humans, that we make so many fake things, we rely more and more on these fake symbols of nature rather than on the reality of nature. When I moved to LA, I didn't think I would like it very much. Honestly, I came here to go to CalArts. The version I had in my mind was like Hollywood, with fake people in a bad way, but it's actually not like that at all. LA is huge and so different. In fact half the population is Latino. Sure, maybe from an outside perspective, you only think about Hollywood. But Hollywood is like a tiny three mile radius, it's not even part of your normal life. I guess I would say that I am influenced by Los Angeles. Something I was already doing, were sets and props in Atlanta, when I was in my early twenties. I learned how to make things for theatre and create environments. They were one of my first real jobs other than working in a restaurant. I love Los Angeles and that there's so many talented people here. There are amazing dancers, amazing artists, amazing singers, amazing actors. There are so many great people here and I know how to build and paint and it's just incredible, the amount of talent. It's a great place to be creative.
Video Still: Tongues Duel the Corn Whores, An Opera, 2020
DLoI: I was thinking about your influences, because I've mentioned a few myself, like Kelley, but I would like you to say if you actually have anyone's work or any form of language that you really looked up to when you were building methods of your practice?
TH: Absolutely. I mean, it's a funny thing because I can answer that question in so many different ways depending on who I was really into whether I was in high school or different periods of my life. Cindy Sherman was a big influence on me early on. I love how she was the author of her own work and herself in it in that way, that was very expansive to me. And also it was commenting on how she was using herself and her voice to comment on things that she was representing, like the “Film stills”, for instance. I also love really grotesque pieces she went through a phase of abject works.
DLoI: Yeah, that is quite amazing because they are almost too difficult to look at them, not only because they are abject, but also because they indicate so much violence against women. But they were really smart and like we've discussed, she comments on the field itself, but she also comments on the representation of a woman in the film. On how you are gazed upon, on how you expected to look in order to be gazed upon, you know?
TH: In school, I loved Phillip Guston's work a lot and he was probably one of my favourite painters. When I was really young, like in high school, I loved Basquiat. I love the kind of free lines and messy art that's both symbolic, but also the combination of an abstract style with juiciness. Philip Guston's work, to me, is really juicy, all these bright colours, pink, but then he has heavy subject matter too. The combination is very freeing to me. As a consequence of the experience of their work I realised I can be a painter in whatever way I want to be. It doesn't have to be obviously realistic or purely abstract, it can be a combination of abstract and realism. It's more symbolic thinking that was a big deal to me.
I like a sexual work too, grotesque sexual work to me was hard to look at, like you're saying with Cindy Sherman, but also very intriguing. With her work it was like mannequins and doll parts and it was obviously fake. I really liked the fakeness of that.
I was really influenced, later by Mike Kelley. Paul McCarthy was a big one for me because his work is even more edgy.I was like, “Oh, can you do that? Oh my gosh”. It was very freeing to me, the possibility to explore this whole range of emotions and sexuality and aesthetics of grotesque. It was very freeing for me to feel I could be, I guess, more explicit and illicit and push the boundaries in my subject matter. Being from a very religious family, I always felt kind of guilty, afraid to use nudity or do anything that was too edgy.
DLoI: Trulee, thank you for this great conversation.
Trulee Hall, Frieze Art Fair, 2019
Trulee's creative practice spans video, sculpture, painting, audio composition, and choreographed dance. Hall integrates these mediums into immersive installations. These vignettes offer multiple representations of a non-narrative visual subject, replayed through painting, sculpture, and video amalgams of CGI, claymation, and live action performance.
Hall received her BFA from the Atlanta College of Art in 1999 and her MFA from CalArts in 2006. Her work has been shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Rubell Family Collection, the Hammer Museum, Deitch Projects, The Armory Show, Paramount Studios for Frieze Art Fair, Redcat, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), Los Angeles Nomadic Division (LAND), Barrick Museum of Art, Maccarone Los Angeles, Michael Benevento Gallery, and the Billy Wilder Theatre, among numerous other exhibitions and film screenings internationally.
The artist recently had solo exhibitions at Zabludowicz Collection, London, Villa Schöningen, Potsdam, and Los Angeles Nomadic Division.