Unnatural Urges

Photo Credit:  Francisco Cortez

At the heart of Heyd Fontenot’s artwork is a protest of dominant cultural perceptions concerning sexual responsiveness and the human machine. He recognizes that mass media exploitations and religious dogmas are designed to manipulate the public by provoking anxiety and encouraging shame. The concerted efforts of both corporations and churches effectively create a false sense of value and morality and Fontenot responds to these damaging effects with humor, empathy and “defiantly gleeful” images. Fontenot is represented by Conduit Gallery in Dallas and by Inman Gallery in Houston. 

HOW DO YOU PLAN TO UTILIZE THE SPACE AFTER THE EXHIBITION OPENS? 

I will continue to work in the space after the exhibition opens and use it as a film set. The process of building-out the environment is like stretching a canvas in preparation for making a painting. When the installation is complete and in working order, the filming process can begin. It’s an active, creative space until the exhibition closes and the installation will be disassembled.

YOU’RE MOSTLY KNOWN FOR YOUR DRAWINGS. WHY DID YOU MAKE A FILM?

The project I’m doing at Artpace is interdisciplinary. It involves a large sculptural environment that also serves as a film set. Within the environment are pieces made specifically to support themes in the film, everything from the wall coverings to the art, taxidermy, and furniture. I’m also using the environment to engage in more improvisational work with non-actors who will eventually be filmed. 

WHAT ROLE DOES PERFORMANCE PLAY IN YOUR ARTPACE PROJECT? 

In my work I often have performers present in an exhibition because I feel they lend context by inhabiting the space and inhabiting a character. This is something I refer to as an “occupied or peopled installation,” which includes elements of “performance.” This is about helping the audience to see more fully my intention with the environment, but I wouldn’t call it performance. I have worked in film and theater, but I’m trying to find a new way of working. Because of the economic constraints of commercial filmmaking (which are massive), the process for working with large crews and staying on-budget is very streamlined. While this is effective for the Hollywood system, it is immensely restrictive and makes spontaneity in the creative process impossible. In some ways this system is killing cinema. So my approach to making this film is purposefully very different. I’ve been shooting scenes for the last six years, and I refuse to have a deadline, which is an indulgence and a kindness for the creativity of the project.