Lyn Corelle / by Altered Esthetics

Lyn Corelle lives in Minneapolis. They make art across a number of mediums.

Still from  Altar//Unindividual , 2018

Still from Altar//Unindividual, 2018

Tell me about your work. What are you currently working on?

Haha, I was afraid you’d ask that. I make short films, longer films, collages, and occasionally I write things too.

Let’s see, I don’t mean to do some obnoxious fake coy thing, as I really am grateful that you asked me to talk about what I do and I’m very excited about what I've been making lately. I just don’t like to say much about my work before people experience it. I hope to weave in exactly as much context as I think is necessary, and then afterwards I love talking with people and hearing about their experiences with the work and telling them about mine.

Yesterday though someone asked me a question which I had an interesting time trying to answer so maybe I’ll riff on that. Their question was if I could identify a thread that ran through all my work. I had to laugh at myself cause all I could think of to say was that I really like images, specifically photographic images, moving or still. I like looking at them and thinking about how they relate to other images they might be paired with, or other images I’ve seen throughout my life. I like thinking about how they relate to the actual experience of seeing the objects they depict.

So as I said I laughed at myself because as a filmmaker that’s a ridiculous thing to say, but I really don’t get the sense that there is that fascination at the root of most of the images we see on a daily basis. Regardless of whether or not the images are visually striking, the image itself is secondary, the focus is the narrative or the argument or the product. Which is fine if that’s what you like, but I’m a big reader so if I want a story or some theory to chew on or to dig into some unfamiliar history a book is where I turn. Images are unique and interesting and so I try to explore what makes them unique and interesting.

Collage from  Satan’s Gilded Mire , 2018

Collage from Satan’s Gilded Mire, 2018

The other main thread that I guess runs through what I do is a somewhat analogous fascination with language, with how we use language to make meaning and relate to each other and with how and when language falls apart, proves inadequate for what we hope to do with it. Worming myself into those cracks, as well as into the cracks between what is seen and what is said, is really exciting for me.

Having said all that, though, I definitely don’t take a completely abstract art for art’s sake approach. I just try to let the images and language come first, and then have the meanings or messages follow. After all, the images and words that I use come from my life, and so everything I deal with eventually ends up as grist for the mill, from the terror of environmental collapse to the joys and pains of living outside the restrictive bounds of gender as it’s conventionally imagined to the challenges of how best to support friends when they’re deep in their shit. Hopefully letting those concerns filter through more obliquely prompts people to engage in a deeper way with their own thoughts and feelings about all of that hard or wonderful stuff, rather than just making them listen to what I think.

Still from  Attainable//Unindividua l, 2018

Still from Attainable//Unindividual, 2018

So that’s me telling you about my work. As for what I’m working on, too much. I’m currently in the midst of a series of short experimental videos with what I worry are overly-obtuse names like Altar//Unindividual and Attainable//Unindividual that explore some of the terrain outlined above. I also recently made a half-hour long abstract movie with the South Carolina-based musician Persona La Ave, in which I set footage to his recent ambient album Themes From a Window. He’s a really amazing artist and I am super excited to be working on a follow-up in which we will explore some similar emotions, but with slightly more of a narrative shell wrapped around it.

I am also chipping away at a full-length film that weaves together footage and journal scraps I’ve collected over the past many years in a way that I hope will appear more straight-forward or non-fiction at first glance, but then still turn out interesting and weird, just at a different pace and in a different manner than the shorts.

Then I have a few little zine projects involving photography and collage and writing for which I’m hoping to set aside time to crank out soon.

Oh and I’m always taking and sharing photos to Instagram as a way to keep my photographic eye honed, and cause it's fun and I know there are a few people specifically who look forward to seeing them.

Untitled Instagram Photo, 2019

Untitled Instagram Photo, 2019

I’m most familiar with your recently published book, Bodybuilding Basics: A Field Guide for Young Naturalists. Could you talk more about the process behind creating the book? Is it a one-off thing or do you see yourself creating more similar projects?

Bodybuilding Basics came about when Haley Ryan had the idea to collage together images from a color collection of nature landscapes and a black-and-white bodybuilding manual. We made a few such collages together and then she graciously let me run with the idea, not with any intention but just because it was fun. Eventually though I had over 30 that I really loved, and I started thinking about collecting them together to share with friends. So I did what any person would do in that situation and wrote a series of poems and prose pieces pondering the weird world of these images and the bodybuilders who inhabited it.

As far as creating other similar projects, I’m not sure. Probably no more bodybuilder content for a while. I’m always making collages so definitely more collections of those at some point. One thing I would really like to do one day is write an actual kid’s book. Originally the frame around the bodybuilder images was going to be more of a children’s story, but as I was writing a drier absurdist tone took over and it seems dry humor is hit-or-miss with kids.

Making a real kid’s book, though, and actually publishing it with a real publisher who could get it out into the hands of children would be a dream. Kid’s books are powerful magic. Kids take books really seriously, they read them again and again and really interrogate what is going on within them in a way that adults don’t always do. But so many kid’s books are really bad, just bland or toxic or lacking sympathy for the ways in which kid’s lives are so constrained and difficult. So yeah, I think I could do it and do it better but that’s probably far down the line.

Spread from  Bodybuilding Basics: A Field Guide for Young Naturalists , 2018

Spread from Bodybuilding Basics: A Field Guide for Young Naturalists, 2018

Who are some of the Twin Cities artists and makers you enjoy?

Lately so many amazing people have been inspiring me to really do the thing, to take myself less seriously while taking the work more seriously in its potential to open meaningful space for reflection, joy, healing, grief, levity, confusion, or whatever. In no particular order, some of them are:

Molly Parker Stuart (Ae’s Festival Director), who codes her own abstract digital animations from scratch. I’m really not much of an animation fan so I mean it when I say her stuff is next level mind-blowing.

Haley Ryan, who makes amazing work in a ton of mediums. Her videos make my brain tingle, like I can feel new connections sprouting between different parts of my mind in real-time as I watch, so fingers crossed for more video from her in the future. She’s also mining really cool territory with her music/performance/exercise/self-help project, Sport Haley, so keep your eyes peeled for future performances.

Devohn Bland, a spectacular comedian who also works in film, poetry, music and painting. He runs the Vector 9 Variety Show and the Uproar Open Mic alongside the multi-talented Xochi de la Luna. The space they cultivate has been so energizing for me and I know for many others as well. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how tending ground from which weird communities can blossom is as much an art and a skill as putting words together or making interesting images, but one which is largely devalued and written out of histories and conversations surrounding art. This is how we end up with rooms full of dudes wanting to be the star and spending more time tearing each other down than actually doing the thing itself. It’s invigorating to see people changing that.

On that note, I have to shout out to Maret Polzine (Ae’s Assistant Festival Director), who makes really cool experimental animations as well as running Video Variant, which hosts screenings and discussions of local queer experimental videos and runs workshops for youth and adults. Showing work at Video Variant has really made me feel very strongly that making the art I want to make is worth the time, that there will be people excited to watch it and talk about it with me. In the past I’ve often fallen in a hole of feeling like only I want to see these weird slow videos where not much happens, so I either let them waste away on my hard drive or stop making them all together. So here’s to Video Variant and everyone who comes out and makes it the special community it is.

This has gotten long and I could make it much longer, but I’ll just end by saying that these are some other people doing stuff so amazing that I can’t do this interview without seizing the opportunity to point you their way: Free Music, Comrade Tripp, Material, Lynn Avery/Iceblink, Izell Pyramid, and Gisell Calderón.

Drawing of the artist by Haley Ryan

Drawing of the artist by Haley Ryan

Do you have any exhibits to promote in the near future?

Yes! On May 31st I’ll be showing an excerpt from Themes From a Window at the aforementioned Vector 9 Variety Show, hosted by Devohn Bland and Xochi de la Luna and also featuring videos by Maret Polzine and Gisell Calderón and a performance by Comrade Tripp, amazing artists you’ve definitely heard of somewhere before. On June 29th I’ll be showing a new short, Restive//Unindividual, and maybe some other stuff as part of a Video Variant showcase happening in conjunction with a screening of Screaming Queens, a film by groundbreaking trans historian Susan Stryker about the Compton’s Cafeteria riots. Needless to say, I am beyond humbled and excited to be taking part in that. Lastly, from July to September I will be doing a show of the collages from Bodybuilding Basics alongside some work by Haley Ryan at beloved Southside institution, May Day Cafe, so that’s gonna be a blast too. Until then interested readers can pick up a copy at Boneshaker Books on Franklin Ave.

You can follow Lyn on Facebook and Instagram at @lyncorelle

Check out Lyn’s work at these events:

Altered Esthetics News:

Are you a film/ video artist looking to show your work? Ae seeks to exhibit short-form experimental film and video art at a length 12 minutes or shorter for our Annual Film Festival. Submit your work on our Film Freeway page. The submissions deadline is 5/31 with a late deadline of 7/15.

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All images courtesy of the artist.

Interview conducted by Sophie Buchmueller.