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AUSTRALIAN ARTISTS / INTERVIEWS / PERFORMANCE / PHOTOGRAPHY

Suspended Between Surrender & Control: An Interview with Garth Knight

Garth Knight is a multi-disciplinary, multi-dimensional creator – his work exists, suspended, in the spaces in-between. A beautiful tension is present in each of his pieces; it is inherent in the materiality of the rope, and it is present in the connection he creates with his models and those bearing witness to the unfolding of each piece. Garth’s pieces move between power and vulnerability, bind and release, creation and destruction. Each performance, each knot and every captured moment adds to his infinitely unfolding, and yet, singular body of work – a perpetual exploration of what it means to be a soul, existing within a human form, journeying on this earth.

Trained in the tradition of Shibari rope tying, he works with models to create elaborate performances and sculptural installations. Each installation is captured and forever suspended within his photographic images, living on past the live performance.

Garth Knight’s body of work viscerally expresses the powerful duality of the human experience- we are as bound as we are free; to this earth, to our souls and to our physical forms. We are as strong and powerful as we are fragile and vulnerable, we are as alone and separate as we are together and connected.

Garth Knight shibari rope bondage

Rocks for me represent the physicality of the world. Something exists outside of ourselves, something that we sense and interact with and presents itself as “reality”.

The rope structures you create, in and of themselves are beautiful and intricate- for you, what is the significance of the addition of a human form to the work?

Because it is about actual human experience, I don’t really think of it as the addition of a human form to the work; the human form is central and integral to the work. When I create my installations I am very aware of trying to create something beautiful to behold, the beauty as a representation of the awe and wonder that I see in the world around me, in the relationships and intricacies and the awareness that each of us has of the world that we live in. But we are all individual beings, with individual perceptions of existence. The human form in the works are presented as both existing as part of the whole, while also being creators of this world. At the most fundamental level all that really exists for each of us is our own perception.

Some of your earlier work did not contain rocks- can you discuss how the rocks came to be a feature of your work and what meaning they bring to your work?

Rocks for me represent the physicality of the world. Something exists outside of ourselves, something that we sense and interact with and presents itself as “reality”. This reality is the connection of our minds with our physicality, the grounding of our being with the earth and the physical being that our senses present us with. For surely a rock is there, and exists truly, does it not?

This is the question I am asking.

The most important part of my art is the act and process of making. This is where the transformation takes place, this is when the magic happens.

How do you feel the multi-faceted meaning of the word ‘tension’ plays out in your work?

Tension is an integral part of the physicality of rope, without it there is no structure or cohesion to the sculptures that I build. It is also indicative of the connection between the two halves of the many complimentary forces that form our world – chaos and order, dark and light, creation and destruction. Everything exists within a space between these two opposing states, and this desire for both things causes a tension, and it is this tension in trying to resolve these conflicting desires that is the energy source for creating our lives.

Garth Knight Shibari rope suspension surreal nude photography

How important is the performative element to the work?

The most important part of my art is the act and process of making. This is where the transformation takes place, this is when the magic happens. The photographs are not just illustrations, they are a recording of real, lived experience, not just abstracted, theoretical ideas. When I perform I am able to step completely into this lived experience myself and become part of it. Being witnessed by an audience means they get drawn into and take part in this process also, their experience of this adds to and becomes part of the performance. All those involved in the making of these works, including the viewer, commit to both physical and psychological challenges, presenting themselves as both vulnerable and powerful to each other.

Every journey has a beginning, a middle and an ending. During the binding, fears are faced, physical difficulties are overcome and the glorious releasing of our beings to the beyond occurs. The unbinding is a time where we come back into ourselves.

How important is the connection you have with the models? How do you build that connection and trust?

One of the most important aspects of the work is the connection and trust. On a fundamental level this is actually one of the main things the work is about. Trust comes with honest discussion, being open and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Peoples limits and levels of consent are always discussed beforehand. I always check in with them during the process, and we have signals and methods for communicating that things are ok. One of the most interesting and exciting things about these performances, and bondage play in general, is the power exchange and the giving and receiving of responsibility for someone. It is understood however, beyond question, that this is done with consent and this control at anytime may be returned. Having said that we are all aware that we are taking part in a risky endeavour and everyone is responsible for themselves and each other at all times. We care for each other.

Garth Knight shibari rope bondage

How significant is the process of ‘setting the model free’ to the performance and work?

Every journey has a beginning, a middle and an ending. During the binding, fears are faced, physical difficulties are overcome and the glorious releasing of our beings to the beyond occurs. The unbinding is a time where we come back into ourselves. This is the time that we are returning to the world, our souls which have been flying free are returning to our bodies and the crushing weight of reality comes to bear on us again. It is a time of great delicacy, where emotions are closest to the surface and we may be flooded with relief, sadness, elation or joy. It is often the most beautiful and poignant part of the whole journey.

Garth Knight shibari rope bondage

I have stumbled into pieces that discuss the process of your work as a shamanic practice, noting your work contains a spiritual element- What are your thoughts on this view?

My own involvement brings out, for me, the shamanic element of what I do: the lengthy preparation and execution, the trance like states brought about by intricate and repetitive movements, the personal commitment (and strain) of both myself and the other performers, and the concentration and focus can make it profound. This allows us to transcend and lift ourselves out of the everyday-ness of life, the mundane functional world of phenomena, and to forget time for a moment, connecting with something greater and wonderful.

The webs represent the complete interconnected infrastructure of the universe.

How important is connection and spirituality to you when creating work?

Incredibly important. This is why I make the works. To connect with something greater, with myself, the people I work with and the audience. It is my way of adding to the spiritual momentum of the universe.

Nudity is a key element in your work, drawing on the shibari tradition; this element of your work feels like it is about vulnerability and beauty and is not necessarily, inherently, sexual. I have noted several articles on your work stating it contains connotations and themes of sexuality; what are your thoughts on this?

Working with rope and binding people is about connection, trust and empathy between those involved. This can manifest as sensual and erotic, but it is often also predominantly or exclusively about the exploration and deepening of the relationships of the participants on many other levels. It can be about holding space, directing and containing energy, working within a sanctified, ritualised environment, and creating meditative or trance like psychological states and out of body experiences. In this sense, the whole practice is a very spiritual one.

Your iconic series using rocks, paired with red & blue rope is called Blood Consciousness… can you unpack what the title means for you and how it relates to the work?

In my series, The Enchanted Forest, I worked with the idea that everything is consciousness, and it flows in an unending cycle from the universal collective consciousness above to the collective subconscious below, like water and oxygen through the branches and roots of trees. Our individual beings are just the temporary coalescing of this flow, like the trunk of the tree. In the same way blood flows through every part our body, and comes together at one point, our heart. This heart, the driving force of life, represents love, which is the driving force behind all creation and life.

Garth Knight shibari rope bondage

A recurring theme in some of your previous photo manipulation works and of course the ropes, is the motif of spiders and webs; can you discuss your attraction to these themes and what you feel they mean within the work?

The webs represent the complete interconnected infrastructure of the universe. The spider is the universal creator and each morning they spin their web anew, in the same way that every moment we create ourselves and the universe anew.

Along our creative path, as artists, while experimenting with different techniques and materials, we each often tell and retell the same narrative. What do you feel is the overarching narrative you are telling with your work?

Connection. Unraveling the mystery of consciousness and the boundary between our physical and emotional beings, the body and mind connection. I try to work intuitively in a way that defies rational discussion. I like to produce something beautiful while at the same time being somewhat confronting, which can allow a deeper response in consequence.

Garth Knight Social Media Accounts

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