Studio Visit: SKOTE
Hymns of shame (and fart noises)
Three years have passed since performance artist and personae collector Jill Pangallo last performed in Austin; after being twice-honored with an Austin Critics Table award, first for "Outstanding Artist" in 2008 and then for "Outstanding Work of Art" in 2009, Pangallo left for New York City. Perhaps none of her efforts are more flummoxing or refreshing than her collaboration with Alex P White (New York-based performance artist and musician) as SKOTE. SKOTE reveals itself as a congealed collective (there is no Jill or Alex in this interview, only SKOTE) highly interested in movement research, a contemporary mode of dance that privileges the intersection of everyday movement and various forms of technology. It was Austin where SKOTE first debuted, at the scrappy, now-defunct MASS gallery in 2006. On the occasion of SKOTE's latest performance, Glands 5.0, at La MaMa La Galleria in New York at the tail end of June, we decided to play a little catch-up. Here, the collaborative discusses its beginnings, the power of shame, and fart noises.
Austin Chronicle: What initially bonded SKOTE together?
SKOTE: We had a lot of shame. And this was before Kalup Linzy and similar artists who harness shame as a way to make work came onto the scene. We weren't really understood by our friends – there wasn't anything yet to latch onto in that regard.
AC: So what's the shame about?
SKOTE: Well, it's embarrassing. To have fun and enjoy making what we do. Separately, both our practices engage with queer shame, confident shame. We identify with that shame. Our collaboration is a soap opera and a long-distance love affair. Our collaboration is a lot like a marriage; in the beginning, we grappled through communication issues, just as rewarding to work through as a romantic relationship. We divide and conquer. Each of us has strength – one does video, one does audio, we both do content. A lot of our studio practice is just hanging out – or taking notes, meeting "skotes." We also love chicken wings.
AC: How did you develop Glands? And what does your studio practice look like?
SKOTE: It's related to shame. We have in our mission statement a line about "laughter through tears," so we try to tap into things like the idea of your body betraying you. Biochemical bodies: the connection of bodies, chemistry, and emotions. We ease into new works, but we develop five or six projects at once, and one becomes more important. You could think of Glands as a bubbling zit. We're costume artists – as twins, we blend into each other, male and female. And that's always been a part of our practice, paying homage to folks like Genesis P-Orridge. In a nightclub, in a gallery, on the street. Glands was an opportunity to perform for a dance community – to see if we could take ourselves seriously. It was – and still is – horrifying. The first time we performed it at Judson Church, everyone on the bill was a serious dancer. We were last. We were using whoopee cushions for our sound effects, and we looked quite sophisticated with our props. After the show, a couple people came up to us and said, "That was intriguing." They didn't even have to tell us it was "good" ... that was enough for us to keep going. When we performed it at a queer film festival, we were hit on by a straight couple – and that's a kind of success. We had arrived.
AC: How do you find the awkwardness, the shame, that is your engine?
SKOTE: We wake up in the morning, and it's there.
For more information, visit www.skoteshine.com.