Interview: video artist Kathryn Elkin on new project Mutatis Mutandis
'The film is trying to “unbinarise” things we normally think of as binary. I like awkward things'
Kathryn Elkin doesn’t want to say too much about Mutatis Mutandis, her new video installation that forms part of the Collective Gallery’s Satellites programme. As well as keeping cards close to her chest, the Belfast-born purveyor of performance, video and text-based work has also been rummaging through the BBC archives. She is one of six artists in Scotland to have been given access to a treasure trove of sound and vision with a view to creating new work from it.
That Elkin has the time to explore such a major undertaking may in part be down to the fact that Mutatis Mutandis is a standalone work that doesn’t require her physical presence. ‘It’s the first time I’ve really had to do a straightforward exhibition,’ says Elkin, who, as well as her own film and performance work, has presented and curated events at the CCA and elsewhere. ‘I’m not going to do any live work, but neither is it a film documenting a performance. Performance can be very fragile. It’s all to do with how you connect with somebody or not.’
Far from being evasive, Elkin is effusive about Mutatis Mutandis, peppering her conversation with references that include the composer Erik Satie, novelist Philip Roth, radical psychoanalyst Theodor Reik and the recently deceased avant-garde theatre and opera composer Robert Ashley. ‘Reik wrote about female masochism, and the differences between male and female masochism,’ Elkin explains. ‘So in a way, the film is trying to “unbinarise” things we normally think of as binary. I like awkward things. I like things that are half one way, half the other, but it’s also good to have someone put your hand behind your back and make you do things a certain way. I suppose, in that way I’m a female masochist.’
Collective Gallery, Edinburgh, Sat 29 Mar–Sun 11 May.