Studio Visit: Autumn Knight
Autumn Knight’s love of performance began as a child involved in theatre, although she admits that she never loved reading plays. It wasn’t until she discovered artist Adrian Piper and the world of performance art that Knight thought, “Oh, yes, that’s my tribe!” Although Knight has not been in a play in years, her theatre training is evident in the whimsical nature and production of spectacle in her performance work.
Prior to her residency at the Studio Museum, Knight completed a Master’s program at New York University in Drama Therapy. Her thesis was about performance art as a drama therapy treatment method. “I think on a really meta level that my continuation of performance is a continued examination of [drama therapy.] How do we work out things within the self or with other people through performance?"
Although she has lived in New York before, Knight is living in Harlem for the first time while at the Studio Museum. The residency has changed her perspective on both Harlem and the fascinating activity of 125th Street. Overlooking 125th Street from her studio, Knight remarks, "[125th Street] is like a stage meant to lure people towards the action.” Living on a more residential block in the neighborhood has created a much deeper appreciation of Harlem: both culturally, and as a place to call home.
Knight’s most recent work, Sanity TV, mirrors how she views Harlem. While spectacular on the surface, a deeper investigation of our own sanity (and insanity) remains central to the performance. “I can put together my favorite parts of performance, which are improvisation, humor, and absurdity. But it’s also a mind exercise—getting to something deeper by taking an indirect route.” Knight has a true skill for creating this "route," and for bringing the audience along for the ride. Unlike most visual artists, who never have to engage directly with those who view their work, her performances are directly dependent on the challenge of the audience. “The audience can shift the mood of the space if you allow it; I get excited by the challenge of who’s in the room and how I can break down those walls.”
See Autumn Knight’s work on view in We Go as They: Artists in Residence 2016–17 from September 14, 2017 to January 7, 2018. Check our calendar for details on Knight's Sanity TV performances throughout the season.