Caitlin Berrigan

I met Caitlin in her studio at Akademie Schloss Solitude in the last month of her three-month residency. It was our first talk face-to-face. The interview should have taken between 10 and 15 minutes, but we started to have a long conversation about our lives and stories. The common part of sharing stories was to talk about Beirut, a city that Caitlin had visited several times and I visited for the first time in December 2015. It was nice talking about similar cafes and bars we went to and spending time with friends.

Caitlin is a visual artist. She works with different media: video, performance, etc. And through her work, she does a lot of investigation into politics, capitalism, feminism, science, and biopolitics. The project she worked on during her Akademie Schloss Solitude residency, which is a long-term project, is a science fiction film about a group of feminist geologists who conspired to set off volcanoes simultaneously and plot an elaborate revenge plot. It incorporates ideas of remote sensing and mineral analysis and large-scale earth energy, which includes different ideas of the physiology and biology of trauma. The project is a link between the body of geologists and the body of the planet. This activated this functional space.

Rasha: What do you feel about this space and meeting people from different cultures from around the world?

Caitlin: I’ve been pretty unsocial since I arrived here because I was so exhausted from moving to New York from Berlin. I just needed to come back for my work and also sleep and read and be alone. So I was working so hard and haven’t really linked into Solitude social situations. But what’s nice about that is that it’s a very different experience of residency than I had in other places, where people are very curious and open and just want to know who you are. Other residences can have a sort of cult environment that I don’t experience here, which is very nice. And also that everybody is so international. People say that about New York, but that wasn’t actually my daily experience. Yes it’s international, but North Americans from the USA are the majority, and it’s like I am not the majority here. It feels very nice. There is sort of a comfort of not being the dominant culture.

Rasha: Is there a story that touched you in Solitude? Or something you would like to share?

Caitlin: There was a group of fellows, a Lithuanian collective. I just really liked their energy. They had children with them, which actually made this place feel very lively in a different way during the day. But it was a sort of spirit, a very playful and collective form of strong women. And they all have very weird minds and they found each other. It was inspiring to see them work individually and see them work collectively because they are very strong artists, as individuals and as a collective.

Sometimes visual art can be very lonely field. I often desire more collective space, and it was very inspiring to see people doing that really well.

Rasha: What you will take from here with you? What thoughts and feelings?

Caitlin: I have really loved being in the forest. It was very wonderful. I grew up in the forest, so the first time I would say that beside other residencies that I had. There is something about this forest which reminds me more about the forest that I grew up in in northern California. There is a landscape energy that’s really very nice to re-connect with and these big snails that I totally fell in love with. I collected three of them and brought them to my studio for a few days and did a really weird elaborate video shoot with them. They are sort of spirit animal characters, which I will definitely take with me. And I love the photos that I shot with them, so I have to do something with them. So, that’s sort of a place-based kind of thing, less social more animal.”