Interview by Michael Bullock
Image courtesy of Creative Time
Published in Weekly Modern
Can you tell me about your name?
Laser is a german last name that was cut short at Elis Island. It was originally something like Lazaravich. It was shortened before the laser was invented so it was not a double meaning at the time. The Magic my father just threw in. I think he wanted me to be a rock star.
I thought it was an invented artist persona?
No, it’s my birth name. Perhaps there is something about my name that hints towards the less serious, then my work ends up being much more serious then people expect. Although I do use a good deal of humor in my work.
How did you begin to use performance as your medium?
My mother is a choreographer (Wendy Osserman) and I grew up in a loft with her dance company rehearsing. I was first and foremost a photographer. I always kept a distance from live performance because it was something I was immersed in growing up but I would always make photographs for the dancers. Five years ago I started creating situations to photograph and I quickly found there were moments I was interested in that couldn’t be captured in a still image.
What do you think is behind the current renaissance of performance art?
I think the economic downturn is a component. I mean perhaps monumental sculpture is not going to be funded in the same way right now. Also as NY changes people keep looking to the 70’s as a period of vitality. The perception is that it was a playground for artists, with tons of empty warehouse space and lots of freedom.
Is there a freedom in not being tied to object based work?
Even in this time where performance is being celebrated there is still a demand for product. That’s the odd place that we are in right now with performance work. I think people turn to it because of the economic conditions but then its also quickly reified packaged and sold. Using contracts they have found ways to make the ephemeral a product. This recent turn toward the law is something I’m interested in. Now ownership of the piece is a written agreement.
What is your relationship to your audience?
Using actors I try to instigate an antagonistic intense yet playful interaction with strangers. I’m interested in both the art specific audience and a larger audience, so I have done projects in bank vestibules, and the subway. Right now I’m working on a project in Time Square where we will be in contact with so many different types of people. We will be rehearsing on location there for a month and the goals is to let the interactions we have with people shape the work and reformulate the script.
What is the difference between performance (entertainment), and performance art?
Context, that’s the only distinction, if it’s in art space then its performance art. Context means the actual physical space and the type of audience. The aims of performance artist are quite varied in the same way that the aims of film directors are quite varied.