Art Historian & Queer Theorist Robert Summers PhD in conversation with Ron Kibble.
RS: In your artworks that are on Balaclava.Q, you have blocked the face, which disrupts any clear representation or identification—for instance, one cannot tell who it is behind the gas or medical mask or the make-up—why is this? Is this a commentary specifically about gay or queer “identity” or a sexual fetish? anti-representation, (non-)identity, or un-becoming an identity? Is this a visual tactic that is political—or is it simply aesthetic, or both? Could one call it a queer aesthetic tactic?
RK: Hopefully I don’t simplify things too much, but I have hidden myself in my art from the beginning. For me art is a safe place in which I can always say: “That’s just my art, and it is not me!”
But, I have used concealment for other reasons, such as symbolizing protection from emotions and emotionally toxic environments, which doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with sexuality, sensuality, or fetishes. In fact, I don’t find my work erotic, but I know many others do. I should state that when I did performance art I would cover my face or just completely disappear and leave without talking to anyone after the event. It is complex.
I like the recognition that I receive from my work, but I also like the distance between my work and me. The things and ideas I express in my work can be contradictory. I think this is why many people seem to not know how to take me, or my work, because of the concealments, divisions and contradictions.
RS: You say, and I quote, “many people seem to not know how to take me, or my work, because of the concealments, divisions and contradictions.” One thing I would like to bring up are the depictions of “violence” (in varying degrees) and the scenes of “perversity” – which don’t seem to add up to the “Ron Kibble” who I know. So, what of the violence?
Also, I would state that the colors and line work are very anxious, uneasy, and, even, again, violent: one can almost feel them cut the body. Finally, would you say that your work might disclose a suppressed side of you that is allowed to come out via art, as Freud argued?
RK: Like anyone I am the sum of all my life events, as well as feelings of connectivity of energies. Some would call this connectivity psychic. To get personal, I have experienced some child abuse, and I had hardly any human contact the first five years of my life. Now, having years of therapy under my belt, I can look back without it disrupting my life. Now, with all that said my artworks come from all the various parts of me: the past and present – and, perhaps, the future.
You asked about my mark making and the colors. My mark making is just my mark I don’t put any concrete thought into it, and as for the colors I use, it’s much the same thing. I do think about the psychological effects. It just comes out.
RS: When did you start to make art? Also, was it a way of coping – for example, with abuse and neglect? In other words, was art making a cathartic process, given your childhood?
RK: I have always found different forms of creativity useful for one reason or another. When I was young my imagination was an escape. In college it was cathartic. Now it is a crucial part of who I am. I cannot imagine my life without art of one kind or another. It has become a large and crucial part of who I am.
RS: How do you interpret the project of Balaclava.Q—how does it, if it does, resonate with your work, or aspects of your work—and what do you think of the covering of the face? Do you see this in political terms? aesthetic terms? both?
RK: I can’t speak for other artists, but I cover all or part of the human face almost all the time—it’s like hiding. I use to use sunglasses all the time to hide behind. I seem to always be hiding a different part of myself to different people. No single person ever knows the whole me — but for me that’s human nature.
RS: May you explain the so-called “blasphemous” use of Christian iconography in your artwork? What are you attempting to say politically? Is this a punk aesthetic? a queer aesthetic tactic?
RK: I believe religion is an evil that is used to control people and give power to others—especially Christianity. I believe people use religion to do far more bad than good.
Now, that said, I do not believe I am showing blasphemy to any god; rather, I highlight his/her wicked followers. I do believe that the entirety of the universe is one great god, and we are all part of that god; I do not believe god and the devil are separate, but rather one in the same.
RS: But, may you discuss the violence? Or, is this purely my reading?
RK: For me any violence in my images is not physical violence but emotional violence: emotionally raping or being raped. With that said, even physical violence is emotional as well. Also, I think a lot of people use god as an excuse or reason, like a rapist’s gun to skull fuck others.
RS: Can you expand on this highly charged topic a bit more? It really plays out in a lot of your work. You’re like the Georges Bataille of non-surrealist art — or perhaps the Hans Belmer of painting perversion, sexualities, religions, violence, and more — but never in a sexist way.
RK: I have always had this pull to higher power and the supernatural I have had experiences with energies — for example, ghosts/spirits/aliens — and once with an energy that was so powerful I believe it may have been “god.” I have Astor-projected to the end of the universe where everything is absolute; nothing. I don’t talk about these things much because people tend not to believe me, and I’m not out to convince anyone of anything; we are all on our own journey.
As a little boy, I used to make up my own religions. And, my life experiences are the only ones that I know; it’s difficult for me to put myself in another person’s shoes and to see myself as they do, and part of this comes from the fact that I reveal very little of myself in a concrete way. I express myself best in the abstract. I would like to say that “reality is a delusion” or “delirium is the purest of truth” or “everything is nothingness, nothingness is everything.”
RS: What artist and/or artworks are you drawn to? Do they influence your own work? In other words, is your work in dialog with art history, or an artist, or an artwork/s? Like Picasso feeling the need to overcome Cezanne, but still admiring him and being influenced by him, for example.
RK: I admire Joseph Beuys, Laurie Anderson and William Burroughs. Also, I am drawn to so-called “primitive art,” cave art, and Leonardo Da Vinci—especially his inventions and anatomy drawings.
RS: Finally, for this interview, and given you just mentioned Burroughs, tell me about your poetry, and if and/or how it relates to your visual work. Is there a separation? A connection?
RK: My writing is separate from my painting. It is a different way of communicating. I’m a big fan of the beatnik philosophy: first thought best thought. I never rewrite: what comes out comes out — and it’s done.
RS: Thank you, Ron. You have been very generous with your answers.