We had the good fortune of connecting with Silas Ruesler and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Silas, what role has risk played in your life or career?
My experience as an artist has always included risk. I look at risk as something inevitable and beautiful. That’s the whole thing as an artist, especially a performance artist, you never know if what you’re doing will work out or be perceived in the way you want it to. Specifically with performance art, you have no control over your audience or your environment a lot of time. And it’s up to you as the artist to adapt and stay true to your work no matter what gets thrown at you. Because most of my performance work involves the queer, gender non-conforming, and afab (assigned female at birth) experience, I’m constantly being physically and emotionally vulnerable with my audience. I want to spark critical conversations about gender, bodies, and intimacy, and that often means performing in public spaces. When living in San Luis Obispo and attending Cal Poly, I would perform for a predominantly conservative audience, just hoping that the work reached at least a few people the it could resonate with. I would be standing on the lawn with my chest bound surrounded by frat boys and engineers walking to class, it was very uncomfortable but also felt great. Taking these risks has allowed me to grow as an artist and made my work stronger. I think risk is something we all benefit from, whether it’s me taking physical risks in order to connect with my audience, or strangers risking comfort to be vulnerable with me; it’s important to allow ourselves to have these experiences.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I originally went to school for biology, but immediately started the switch to art. I went through a year long process of trying to change my major and right as I got accepted into the studio art program, I had to drop out of school because I ran out of money. So I moved back to LA and worked as a barista to save up. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to even go back to school, I tried to do art on my own. I was doing a lot of collages, had my work in a few diy art shows, but I felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. So I returned to school to try to give myself some direction. My whole experience with school helped me realize that there’s no use doing something you don’t care about. I definitely struggled in school because I was working full-time, it was really hard to put in studio time.That’s why I feel like I’m still in this period of exploration in my practice. I’m doing a lot of different work, but they’re all tied together by the use of my body in some way. Whether it’s physically performing, filming myself, or making genital casts, I am always present in my work. I think that comes from a place of wanting to give myself to the audience, I really want to establish some intimacy and repertoire with people. My first performances were centered on identity and my experience as a non-binary person, trying to translate some of my frustrations about my body and the way it is perceived. I approach my work with a bit of a sense of humor, like making a pet goldfish out of a vaginal cast so I could put it in a fish tank. But it’s all a method to have critical conversations about binary thought and how society consumes bodies. Now my work is focusing more on the role of white working class masculinity, in my own life and in American society. I’m looking inward and thinking about familial trauma and working on methods to reconcile my queerness with this romanticized, problematic, and specifically American idea of masculinity. I just want to challenge people’s perceptions about bodies and traditional roles and reach out to those who share similar experiences. My work will keep developing as I and the world grow, but I always want to maintain that connection and vulnerability with the audience.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I grew up taking the metro to The Smell for shows all the time, so the night life would definitely involve seeing a show and walking around the allies of downtown for fun. I’d also probably take them on a spooky tour of LA, going to the Devil’s Gate Dam in Pasadena, Hotel Cecil (which is now called something trendy), and end it with the Museum of Death. Then we’d definitely have to go to Venice and get coffee at my old work and walk around, see who we run into at the boardwalk. There’d have to be thrifting too. And eating elote on the grass in Echo Park. And a lot of walking. Then we’d cap everything off with either 3am pancakes at the Norm’s on La Cienega (the best Norm’s) or cherry pie and french fries at House of Pies.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would not be the artist I am today without the guidance and mentorship of Elizabeth Folk and Emma and Cynthia of the Inverse Performance Festival and Residency. These amazing women and artists taught me that there is so much more to art than possessing technical skill. They introduced me to the world of performance art and encouraged me to keep working conceptually, finding the mediums that work for what I want to do rather than squeezing myself into the box of sculptor, painter, or collage artist.