Words: Luke Letourneau
The familiar story of 2020 involves galleries closing doors and adapting programs to digital-only experiences. Assuming you have reliable access to the internet, there hasn’t been much problem looking at art this year. However, looking at art, especially looking on a phone or computer, shouldn’t be the beginning and end for all art experiences.
Katy B Plummer is a true multi-disciplinary installation artist. Her practice imbeds video among theatrical installations featuring song, textile, costume, light and sculpture. Her works ask questions about how we perpetuate political narratives of what is normal and decent, and considers poetry, violence and witchcraft as legitimate strategies for revolution. These ideas are transformed through anthropomorphised animals, gangly-fingered ghosts and other combinations at the far reaches of her imagination. Her works are wickedly funny, tender, haunting and politically shrewd.
However, this has not exactly been a generous year for installation artists. And so, early on Plummer pivoted her practice to a mail art project, producing a new artwork every month and exhibiting it as a zine delivered directly to audiences through their letterbox.
She started out making a short run of zines for a bushfire recovery fundraiser, but later received a major boost of support through Australia Council’s 2020 Resilience Fund. The zines vary in theme and mediums; many of the artworks are produced using watercolour but others feature photography and text. She has also incorporated QR codes to deliver companion soundtracks or videos allowing audiences to experience her works as mini-installations in their homes.
This process of adapting to the challenges of 2020 has allowed Plummer to foster a greater relationship directly with her audience. Many people find out about the project through a recipient sharing the works on their Instagram feed, and the artist often invites new subscribers to DM her through her own account. This personal process allows Plummer’s audience to grow through direct contact between artist and audience.
As the 2020 Resilience Fund support wound down in December 2020, Plummer remained committed to direct-to-audience delivery by inviting audiences into a Patreon subscription model. The Patreon provides a tiered fee structure to allow a range of additional experiences for audiences who wish to continue to receive mail artworks.
Plummer has been incredibly adaptable to the challenges of 2020 and has been rewarded for it. Many have had to compromise or scale down their ambitions in 2020, but for Plummer the year’s restrictions have only led to new growth and renewed energy in her practice.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 95, January to March 2021.
Image: Katy B Plummer, THE SEA AND THE SHAPE, 2020. Courtesy: the artist.