INTERVIEW: Yasmina Chavez

Danielle Kelly is an artist and writer based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Kelly’s project-based practice ranges from installation to performance and has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Portland. Kelly’s writing has appeared in such regional publications as Las Vegas Weekly and Desert Companion. Kelly is the Executive Director and Curator of the Neon Museum. She has done a series of interviews with artists with ties to Las Vegas for celebration of our music issue.


1) What is your relationship to sound in the studio?

Sound is in every part of my work from composing to listening and everything in between including sound installations, music videos, video scores, etc.  Most recently I made a piece working with woodblock prints and sound waves and I also started an online sound project called the Helen Keller Experience.

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2) What is your relationship to music in the studio?

Music is always in my ears unless I’m editing sound and/or music or listening to some lecture or podcast or reading.

3) What, if anything, is in heavy rotation in your studio right now?

Looking at my audio devices, this is what they say: Four Tet, Caribou, Kim Hiorthoy, Imaginary Landscapes: New Electronic Music, Donnacha Dennehy, Bonobo, Swans, Roomful of Teeth, Arturas Bumsteinas, Robert Ashley, Clap! Clap!, Calvin Harris

4) What would be your desert island studio record?

Oh geez, I don’t think I could make that decision. If I absolutely had to jump ship, I would just grab blindly at my case of records (assuming for some reason I had them with me) and hope that I didn’t grab one of the 99cent records that I’ve bought on impulse in the hopes of using sound excerpts from it someday.  No, you know what, I’m going to commit on this one.  I would pick William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops.  I can listen to it on and on and maybe I could watch it disintegrate before my eyes while on this island, complete the circle of the loops before my eyes (so cheesy haha, but I mean it).

5) Something that really attracts me to your work is the sense of the experimental, exploratory. It is raw and collage-like in the sense that it demands a reconsideration of the images, stories and sounds cobbled together. Urgent and exhilarating like I, the viewer, am barreling through these revelations with you without a safety net.

I suppose that’s where that sense of fearlessness comes from. I think that when art is so imbedded in theory and thought it becomes boring and hence ineffective. The role of an artist is exploration and so the art should seem exploratory. The artist comes in and has to make thoughtful decisions on what works from an objective viewpoint. When they can do that then you see effective work. I have come to have confidence in my process, which is usually based on wanting to experience something myself. In my mind I think, “OH, what if this or that?” And so the process starts.

Although I have been influenced and have used sound for a long time in my work, I feel that I am barely beginning to critically explore it’s effects. I’m very excited for where this could lead. I don’t consider my work collage at all but my process for construction is very collage like. I gather things out of reality; I’m like a scavenger or treasure seeker trying who tries to create sense or dissolve sensical ideology from the cultural detritus. I don’t really feel I need to make something new. I don’t want to add things to this complicated life I just have an urges to break cycles of understanding.

6) Within this context, the video for Breath was shocking in its’ lack of sound.

Yeah, I can see that. Lack of intensity, speed, and amplitude can be just as intense of an experience as listening to Merzbow at full blast in a strange dark room. In this piece, I think the calming flowing watery sounds layered with the binaural tones set a mood of uncertainty and the feeling of time passing. The idea of time passing without action can be unnerving. Time passing is always seen within the context of death approaching.

7) Can you talk a little bit about your Helen Keller Experience project? How did you develop the idea? What is the vision (or, notably, lack thereof)?

I’ve been considering the meaning of things, acts, everything, and their origins. How does the conception of a place transform through an interchange of experience constructed via sound. It’s an experiment. It’s almost as if i took the sound from one household and put it in another, but with an artistic twist. It was very important to invite many artist to participate, to get a wide sample of locations and aesthetics. I invited artist who I felt have worked with the idea of space in their practice, very few of them had actually extensively worked with sound, but I didn’t think that was necessary. Because in fact it’s more about the transgression of sound in, as your first question mentions, headspace. I love what came out of it. The work turned out great even if the experiment didn’t yield many results. But I’m also in this place right now where I want to pull art out from the isolation of the art world. With that mindset, I wanted to create a project that would be accessible to anyone and much more than that, it would be an art experience in the privacy of your own home. The completion and experience of this project has nothing to do with the artist who created it. It’s all about the listener’s application of it, in a way they become an artist too.


Yasmina Chavez is a resident of Las Vegas currently located in Alfred Station, New York while studying for her MFA at Alfred University. Read the rest of her interview in our upcoming music issue.

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