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Queer Artists in Their Own Words: Savannah Knoop Is an Intimacy Hound

LGBTQ Pride Month is now. Every day in June, we are celebrating the community by featuring one queer artist and letting them speak for themselves.

The month of June is a time to celebrate the LGBTQ community and reflect on the advances of queer people to strengthen civil liberties around the world, even in a moment of great political uncertainty. It’s also a good opportunity to spotlight the richness and diversity of culture we have within the community. Hyperallergic is commemorating Pride Month by featuring one contemporary queer artist per day on the website and letting them speak for themselves. Click here to participate.

Savannah Knoop, “Tripod Sweep, for Essex Flowers Festival” (2018); the artist is at the top of the image (photo by Maxwell Runko, courtesy the artist)

Savannah Knoop

Age: 38

Location: New York City

Artistic Medium: Interdisciplinary

Who are you and what do you do?

I am an intimacy hound. My practice is based in defining that particular feeling that can occasionally be achieved with another.  If you touch something enough your body will start to develop memory around an object and if you go to a place often enough, you start to know where everything is, potentially learn to unlock some of the social codes, and know whether you can fit into them or not. With people, it’s a whole other puzzle. In my opinion to be truly close to another person is difficult, rare, and special. One way to shortcut this is through relating to another as a body. In the space — between someone noticing another’s gesture and that person translating it into who that other person might be — lies a whole fertile field of unknowing and imagination. From August 7–14, I will occupy Leslie-Lohman’s Fritz Lohman Gallery for Arch with the ongoing performance project titled “Tripod Sweep” (2014–19). It’s an interactive, durational performance that grapples with defining power, conflict, and intimacy within a set of given terms. The game is based on action, reaction, and rest; it revolves around free choice, connectivity, and the legibility and invisibility of assumptions in a public sphere in 2019.

What are the top three greatest influences on your work?

Buster Keaton, Simone Forti (who I had the honor of working with last year at the Museum of Modern Art’s Judson Dance exhibition), and Pope L.

Describe your coffee order.

Cold brew, black, with no ice. Then, heated up without boiling it. It’s the miso soup of the coffee world.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Living as an artist in New York, holding on with a white knuckle grip. Making a film with Justin Kelly of my experiences of playing JT LeRoy. I guess the answer is in fact, holding on with a white knuckle grip.

What constitutes a perfect day?

Writing, thinking, and reading in the morning. Breakfast with my baby, training a double class at Marcelo Garcia, and going to the studio until later evening.

What was your favorite exhibition from last year?

Bodys Isek Kingelez at MoMA.

What would your superpower be if you had one?

To ingest all knowledge with as much pleasure as usual but with more speed. In other words, time manipulation.

Tell us a lie about yourself.

When I was studying Chinese at age 19, I was offered a job as a spy but turned it down to be JT Leroy’s body. I would rather work with artists than the state or corporate entities.

What is one question you wish somebody would ask about your work?

How all the seemingly disparate parts — making clothes, body training, scuplting, scoring, choreographing, embodying a fictional character, throwing parties (WOAHMONE), translating experiences into writing and film (JT Leroy, “SCREENS, a project about ‘community'”) — fit together into one wholistic practice.

What is the greatest threat to humanity?

Humans who believe they are separate from the rest of the animal kingdom.

What did you make when you first started making art?

Stop-motion animation Lego epics with all characters dressed in toilet paper costumes.

Do you prefer spilling the tea or throwing shade?

Spilling the tea, of course!

What is your all-time favorite work of art?

I think it’s crazy to pick one. Some of my absolute favorites are Tino Sehgal’s “This is Progress,” Lee Lozano’s journal pieces, Jacques Tati’s films Playtime and Monsieur Hulot On Holiday, Vito Acconci’s “Following” and “Theme Song,” Kanzi the Bonobo’s communication board made by Sue Savage Rumbaugh, Harmony Hammond’s “Wrappings,” and the book on Elaine Sturtevant by Bruce Hainley.

What are your plans for pride month?

Trans Day of Visibility, Drag March, and Dirty Dancing.

What is the future of queerness?

Structural integration into hegemony.

Back in my day…

I was climbing a tree.

Name one guilty pleasure.

The Mission Impossible movie franchise.

Greatest queer icon of the internet: Babadook, Momo, or a pervading sense of existential angst?

A pervading sense of existential angst.

Is there enough support for queer artists where you live?

Of course not!

How do you stay cool during the summer?

Cold buckets of water.

What is your favorite type of milk?

Oatly where you can get it, or whole milk (grass-fed) when possible.

“Queer Artists in Their Own Words” is an ongoing feature happening every day in the month of June. For prior posts in the series, please click here.

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