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What neighborhood do you live in?
I’ve been living in Bushwick for the past nine months and I love it. When I moved to New York almost three years ago I was pretty against the idea of living in Bushwick because I can be this stubborn contrarian person who doesn’t want to do what everyone else is doing. To be another Bushwick hipster... what a terrible fate. But I don’t really care anymore. Most of my art friends have found their way to this neighborhood over time, and even though I’ve mainly been staying in and watching Pretty Little Liars recently, I still enjoy being part of a community. So being a Bushwick performance artist is one stereotype I accept about myself.
How much time do you spend on a webcam every day?
Currently, I spend very little time on my webcam. Maybe an hour a month. But it wasn’t always like that. In 2008 it was probably an hour a day when I was working on The Scandalishious Project. Five years ago the Internet was a much more anonymous place for me. I barely Facebooked, had no Twitter, Instagram, etc. If you Googled me, nothing would come up. I felt like I could really be someone else and I pushed that as much as I was able to. Being Scandalishious allowed me to perform my sexuality in a way I never felt able to before. Smart Jewish girls like me weren’t supposed to appear sexual. It was very freeing in some ways, but it also took its toll on me, as I dealt with throwing myself into the attention economy.
As I was watching your dance performances and reality show video, I kept thinking about how Marisa Olson, when talking about her well-followed American Idol Blog, said she thought there was no difference between art and pop culture. You often take on characters, but the line between art and general culture seems vague regardless. Where do you locate the art in your work?
I love blurring that line. That’s the exciting part of making art. When people ask me how I figure what I do is art, I often refer to Cindy Sherman’s Centerfolds. These were originally commissioned by Artforum but were edited out because the magazine thought people would confuse them with real magazine centerfolds and no one would know they were actually “art.” That’s a huge reason why Sherman is so influential for me—because she wasn’t interested in parody or satire, she was interested in duplicating and mirroring existing tropes as a way to point them out to her audience. In entering into fields of pop culture and reflecting back what I find there, that is my hope as well.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Yes. I guess some people think that “feminism” is a dated concept and I really wish it was, but despite the gains women have made throughout the years, there is still a long way to go. I’ve used my role as a performance artist to explore these inequalities in media culture and the Internet. Before I went on a reality TV dating show, I really believed the women on these shows were moronic sluts. That’s how they were portrayed. But after being on the show I realized they are just normal women, who, like all of us, are trapped by societal standards that dictate their worth and create a desire to fill those standards. Once I realized this, my goal as a contestant on the show was to disrupt this power by taking back control of the character that the producers had tried to fit me into. I needed to be the one to determine my own storyline. This ended up taking the form of me singing a dirty rap song to the bachelor’s parents, denying both the producers and the audience at home their expectations of who they thought sweet, innocent Annie was. My hope was that this reveal would then make viewers at home question their assumptions about the other women they see on reality television.
Do you ever make objects?
Sometimes. Do DVDs count?
Is there an artist or exhibition that’s had an especially significant impact recently on your development?
Meeting Jill Magid when I was finishing up grad school was pretty important for me. During a studio visit, she pointed out that we’ve essentially done the same thing. We both entered into systems of power, often with no agenda and found ourselves caught up in them. She does it with the governments/political systems and I have done it within pop culture.
After grad school I got more interested in live performance, specifically in a gallery setting. Seeing my contemporaries perform, artists like Anya Liftig and Jake Dibeler, has inspired me to work more in the tradition of performance art, exclusively using my body as a medium.
Is there another medium or style of work that you’d like to explore or have started to experiment with?
I’m working on some photographic prints and images printed on foamcore to accompany a project based on a romantic online relationship I had when I was 12 with a 27-year-old man. The piece will also have video and performance elements, but I feel like some parts of the narrative can be better explained through these 2D objects.
How do you describe your work to your parents?
Oh lord. I try to avoid the subject as much as possible. First, let me say they are very supportive of me being an artist, and even though they don’t know that much about art, they “get it.” However, I’m not just making paintings or sculptures here, although I’m jealous of artists who can do that. I often use my body in my work or willingly humiliate myself publicly, so it’s not like I’m “making the family proud.” It’s pretty awkward.
I haven’t gotten around to telling them about the new project I discussed earlier, about my cyber relationship with an older man. I’m trying to explore the complexities of my simultaneous exploitation and complicity in what most people would deem a predatory relationship. I’m kind of hoping they’ll just never find out about it. I mean, I’m sure they’ll still love me and all but... well...
Brooklyn Art Stars: Ann Hirsch