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Working with virtually every major downtown performance artist—including Richard Foreman, Jay Scheib and Lisa D'Amour—the sculptor and designer (with a theatrical design masters from CalArts) has developed a daring and distinctive aesthetic that effectively turns shows inside out, revealing unexpected tensions and textures. Ksander often accomplishes this quite literally, deploying cameras, TVs and live video projections to create compounding experiences of live spectatorship. This year he went from way Off-Off Broadway gigs at the Kitchen and Chocolate Factory to collaborating with Kara Walker on the sets for Lincoln Center's On The Levee. See his work on Sheila Callahan's Roadkill Confidential this month at 3LD.
The L: Your production designs often incorporate video projections, screens and multiple performance areas; to what extent is this fairly consistent aesthetic informed by your interests, those of the actors and directors with whom you collaborate, or dictated by the demands of the text with which you're working?
Peter: I think that the use of media in performance is prevalent in the conversation right now. So it's the times we live in that dictates how much of it is present in my work. We as a society are trying to work out what our relationship to media is. Sure it's been around for a century but the balance of how much of it we consume on a daily basis and how much of our time is consumed by it has changed radically in the last few years. I think that performance is responding by flirting with, embracing, rejecting and investigating that shift. The technology has almost become affordable and so there are more and more people exploring it. I'm not really a media or video designer but am interested in how they impact the spaces we inhabit.
The L: You've frequently incorporated live video into your production designs, offering audiences different and otherwise impossible vantage points onto the action on stage, strategies that call to mind not only cinema and television but also online video; how do you use such technological mediations to change the nature of live performance?
Peter: I think it puts into relief what is important about what it means to be live... For me the cornerstone of performance is the audience-performer relationship and to include a live feed is a kind of realtime cubism, allowing for multiple perspectives at the same time. I'm interested in the rhythm of picture with picture or that live feed act as a counterpoint to the live action.
The L: You're also a sculptor; could you describe that work? To what degree is your visual art informed by your work in scenic design, and vice-versa? Your design work for the stage seems very conscious—arguably more so than most other designers—of the expectations and vision of the audience; how do the very different conditions of art spectatorship inform your sculptural work?
Peter: Sculpture is the forming or arranging of masses in space, right? So in my sculptural work I arrange in service of my own taste and interests and on stage the arrangements still follow things I'm interested in of course, but also are influenced by the particular needs of the event being made, the other artists involved and the script at hand. The core ideas remain the same, my taste doesn't change from set to sculpture, but maybe I become more selfish when I'm not working in the theater. I'm not concerned about the audience for the visual art whereas in performance the audience-stage space relationship is everything.
The L: What are you working on next, and how do you see your career changing over the next five years?
Peter: I'm working on several new plays, some old plays and an opera. In the next few years I'm hoping to find a way to work on bigger and on fewer projects simultaneously. It's a contradiction I want to solve. I want the time to commit more fully to fewer projects. It ends up being boring and economic.
The L: If you could collaborate with any other New York City artist (living or dead), who would it be, why, and what would you create together?
Peter: Manray, (who's from Williamsburg, naturally,) who could be seen as the patron saint of working artists/technicians. He always thought of himself as a painter, but made his living (as well as more art) as a photographer, even going so far as to keep both a painting studio and a darkroom at different addresses while in Paris, but we know him almost exclusively for his photography and his messing about with the process of processing photos. Maybe we could have coffee and then mis-use some technology and see what happened.