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Student Profile: Bryce Heesacker, MFA Expanded Media

Friday, January 19, 2018

Humphrey, Nebraska

What are you studying?
Master of Fine Arts in Expanded Media

What brought you to KU?
I had a choice between KU and two other strong programs. I chose Kansas because the curriculum, students and faculty were more diverse than the other programs. I wanted a program that would push me out of my comfort zone, and I have found that in the Expanded Media program. I was also hired as a Research Fellow for the Arts Research Initiative in the Spencer Museum of Art. I knew this position would give me the opportunity to learn more about interdisciplinary practice, which I think is increasingly important. 

When did you know you wanted to pursue visual art?

I did my undergrad in music composition. For my junior recital, I had spent months composing and rehearsing an intricate 20-minute song cycle for tenor, electric guitar and piano. Two weeks before my recital, I realized that I needed another 10 minutes of material. I checked out a GoPro from the media lab and spent a couple weeks making a short video piece to fill the time requirement. After the recital, everyone told me how much they liked the video piece, and no one said anything about the song cycle. I felt that I could be more effective and relevant by using visuals in my work, so I turned my focus toward experimental film and audiovisual art.

What advice would you give to students just starting their path to an arts degree?

Do not conform to academia. What would people who aren’t in art school say about your work? Look at how much bigger that audience is.

Which of your projects has had the most profound impact on you or others?

A personal highlight for me was having a short film played at a festival in India. It was my second experimental film, and it was the first time I had a work premiered outside of the United States. This work has had a lot of success, and I was happy to have it shown at a small theater in a country like India.  

How do the arts have an impact on your daily life outside of the classroom?

I think I notice artistic intention more often. I instinctively look for stylistic choices in films, clothing, cars, food, electronics, advertisements, book covers, liquor bottles, furniture, video games and everything else. I also feel that being immersed in art pushes me to explore new things. I am not content with blockbuster movies, mainstream music and old ideas. I am always trying to find something new and innovative.

Why do you think the arts are important?

Art gives people the chance to communicate in a unique way. Art spaces activate human interaction and conversation.

What is your creative process like?

It starts with a single idea. Sometimes that idea is just something I want to see or hear happen. Right now, for example, I am in my studio recording the sounds of a guitar being destroyed. After I have recorded the strings being scraped, crackling lacquer and bubbling plastic, I will find a way to create drama by combining these sounds with other sounds, visuals and technologies. I have absolutely no clue what this piece will look like when it is finished. I don’t even know what genre it will belong to. It could end up as an interactive work. Perhaps I will turn the mangled guitar into a sound sculpture. Maybe I will save the sounds for a totally different project. I often work in this exploratory fashion, not knowing exactly where I am going until I have discovered it.

Who is your biggest inspiration either personally, professionally or both?

My partner, Maggie, is an art history grad and has been exceptionally valuable to me, both personally and professionally. Through her, I have learned quite a bit about art history, an area that I haven’t studied very much. We have long conversations about art and feed off one another’s excitement. Sometimes I second-guess my ideas and she will provide insight or historic context that reassures my decisions, improves my ideas and instills a confidence I otherwise would not have. 

What message do you hope to communicate through your work?

I am concerned with message, but I am even more concerned with what my works do. I want to make works that do something more than just hang on a wall or sit on a pedestal. I want to disrupt passive art-viewing. I want it to be an experience.

Website:  www.fczuke.com


Someone Must Look (2017), interactive audiovisual, https://vimeo.com/250527345

The Drink You Drink (2016), experimental film, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRwpKd6zgo0

Graveyard Shift (2015), experimental film, https://vimeo.com/131047393