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INTERVIEW: At The Reception

At The Reception is a collaboration between Kiersten Holden-Ada, Michael McCormack and Zak Miller-Ada.

Where are you visiting St. John's from? Where is your home base?

K’jipuktuk/Halifax, NS.

When you're not making art, what are three things you might be found doing?

M: thinking about dancing, forgetting to practice piano, and trying to play basketball.

K: ruckussing about with kiddos, showing up, processing big feels while putting fire to metal.

Z: building, looking at my phone while sitting on the toilet, spending time with my friends (most of whom are under 8)

Do you have any secret talents?

Between the three of us (you'll have to guess which is whose): there's a dance move called "the rowboat" that I invented with my sibling, I am particularly skilled at nit-picking (literally), and I may have some headstand/headstand prowess to boast.

If you could choose any artist to collaborate on a project with - alive or dead - who would you choose?

Probably our kids.

What are you looking forward to most about visiting St. John's and participating in HOLD FAST festival?

M: St. John's is full of so many wonderful and creative people who I have been so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with as an artist, administrator and curator over the past several years. The A1C is densely populated by artists, critical thinkers and inspiring people of all walks of life. There is a tenacity and perseverance to the people, the landscape and the culture here. It's beautiful, and captivating and I look forward to coming back to St. John's every time.

I have visited Newfoundland as an artist three times before, once as an exhibitor at Eastern Edge Gallery, another time as a participant in the Art Marathon Festival, and as an artist-in resident at Landfall Trust in Brigus, NL. Hold Fast Festival is the perfect scale and brings together a mix of visiting artists while maintaining strong local connections. It fosters strong relationships between artists and the community of St. John's through workshops, 'fancy' artist talks, and programming that encourages further community growth.

Z: I've only ever been to NFLD once...had my 10th birthday on Marble Mountian. So, it's been a while. I've talked to lots of people about Newfoundland, and nobody has ever said anything other than "you'll love it, whoa, I love it, it's incredible, you'll love it!". Hold Fast sounds like a really great place to meet and connect with folks who live in Newfoundland, and I'm excited about that.

K: I have never been to NFLD and have wanted to get there for so long, so am super thrilled to be heading to St. John's to participate in HOLD FAST this year. While I am looking forward to being amidst the action, meeting all the other festival artists/organizers and getting a feel for what folks are up to on the ground there, I am a sucker for rocks and ocean coastlines and wild forests so I'm hoping to find some time to wander to the wildness.

Could you describe your creative practice in 50 words or less?

At the Reception explores communicative and archival media using interactive audio installation to activate people and spaces. In so doing, we aim to initiate conversation around techniques of centralized media distribution through architecture, cinema, and performance. We disrupt patterns of mainstream media circulation and the sensorial hierarchy through creating alternative communication methods, jamming signals, and utilizing resistance techniques that question authority while encouraging play.

How did your collaboration start?

Our collaboration started through a series of unplanned conversations based on an appreciation for each others work as artists, activists, musicians, parents, and creative people. Perhaps the push towards working together came from a realization that our work intersected through recognizing patterns of community collaboration and an interest in nurturing a platform to involve participatory audiences in the public sphere. Kiersten and Zak's project Parked (2010) was the main source of inspiration for us to move forward collaboratively, but we were all fueled by a desire to learn from each other and work progressively as a team towards realizing installation works in public spaces.

How do your individual practices relate to or differ from your collaborative work?

Our individual work varies to a great extent. Kiersten is a trained metalsmith and intermedia artist and has done community arts facilitation with kids/youth and incarcerated adults, Michael has worked as a curator, arts administrator, teacher, and as an audio, video, and installation artist, and Zak is a musician with audio engineering experience, carpenter, and installation artist. Our collaborative work may be treated as a way to divert, reassure, explore, and problem solve all at the same time.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your HOLD FAST project?

ENSEMBLE is an interactive multimedia installation that uses broadcast media technology to project the sounds of a traditional pit orchestra within the setting of a drive-in movie theatre. The project encourages what might normally be a passive, non-participatory, viewing public into active engagement by using their car radios as interactive audio components of the work. The orchestral component was recored by Halifax Music Coop musicians: John Bogardus, James Shaw, Amy O'Neill, Addison Sowery-Quinn, Liz Nagel, David Brister, Nadia Pona, Steve MacNeil, Chelsea Alexi, Michelle Footz, Blythe Haywood, Greg Jones.

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