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The Last Word

Trisha Donnelly, artist
Trisha Donnelly likes to surprise people. She galloped into a New York gallery on a white horse, dressed as a Napoleonic courier, read out a message of surrender, and rode out again. If you werent there you wont ever know what it looked like, because Donnelly never photographs her performances. Some of them cant be photographed at all: theyre pure sound. In her visual works, Donnelly herself becomes the material; the Guggenhein has a video installation of her jumping up and down on a trampoline.
Donnelly is now presenting herself and her work at the Moscow Biennale.
By Brian Droitcour

The rumour is youre planning an installation at the Vorobyovy Gory metro station. Can you give something away?

That piece was cut! It was going to be a sound piece. People would hear the howl of a wolf as the train comes out of the tunnel. The organizers thought it would be too frightening for passengers.

What are you going to do instead?

People will still be able to hear the cry of a wolf coming from the security boxes in the elevator shafts at the Lenin Museum. There will also be another piece that youll accidentally encounter. I cant tell you what it is or it wouldnt be worth anything.

Why did you want to put the wolf cry in the metro?

I think that the sound of a train is similar to the cry of a wolf. Wolves speak to each other, and often if they hear a single cry, they try to match that same note. Ive always thought that trains, ambulances, and police cars mimic the sound of a cry. The noise communicates sadness; animals understand, but were not aware of it. 

Does your choice of the wolf cry have anything to do with your ideas of the Russian wilderness?

No, the wolves I listen to live in the Sierra Nevadas! But Im interested in any conflict between nature and cities, the motion from what we think of as the chaotic into what we think of as an ordered place.

The title of the main project at the Biennale is Dialectic of Hope. Is this something you took into consideration when choosing your piece?

No. I think that any time a person makes a work of art theres already a lot of baggage of that sort. I think Dialectic of Hope is better described as the natural way artists work, always thinking, I hope it turns out OK [laughs]. 

Youre visiting Russia for the first time. What do you expect to find here?

Its been my lifelong dream to come to Russia, especially Moscow, but Id also love to travel to Siberia and all the outlying regions of Russia. Years and years of books and poems have built Russia in my mind.

Who are your favorite Russian writers and artists?

Anna Akhmatova.

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