Michael Ned Holte: When I visited your studio a few years ago, I remember being amazed by the filing system on your computer and your vast archive of images. A few weeks ago you told me you keep a file of screengrabs of your desktop. Why do you keep track of those?
Amanda Ross-Ho: The desktop is an extension of the studio wall, which I look at and appropriate gestures from regularly. Collecting screengrabs is one in a series of ways that I attempt to freeze moments within spaces of constant fluctuation. Like the collage works that I make on sheetrock fragments, these images capture a handful of disparate, fugitive elements as they are temporarily contextualized beside one another. I also see the screengrabs as nostalgic snapshots, outlining narratives of workflow and moments of excessive disorder caused by the dragging and dropping of images off of websites as well as the production of my writing and images.
MNH: What’s on your desktop now?
AR-H: Right now my wallpaper is a found image of one of my works — an eight-foot tall, tie-dyed t-shirt that says “LEAVE ME ALONE,” being looked at by a child with a mohawk. Someone shot this image while viewing the piece in a gallery and posted it on their blog. I stole it back. So it is a found image that happens to contain something I made in it. Also my desktop has an aggregate of sticky notes so deep that they almost entirely obscure this image.
MNH: Your own image — mostly in photographs of you as a child — has appeared in several of your works. Other subjects you return to (macramé craft objects, hip hop, used studio detritus) also imply a personal investment. Do you think of your work as autobiographical?
AR-H: I’m interested in testing the limitations and reversibility of structures. I don’t think of my work as autobiographical, but I am invested in performing maneuvers within the designated space of autobiography. I actually came to start repurposing personal photographs after an extended period of looking at generic source material. It was an intentional inversion. I come from a family containing many commercial photographers, so my personal images are strange because they have the veneer of high production yet are essentially baby pictures. They are about slippery simultaneity.
MNH: When we first met you were obsessed with “everything,” and your work was notable for its cornucopia-like abundance of objects and images. It seems like “Somebody Stop Me,” your recent New York debut, reflected the opposite: a sense of restraint. Is that an accurate assessment, and if so, what accounts for the shift in strategy?
AR-H: Those are both true assessments. I still am obsessed with everything, and my New York show was a shift in strategy. The work leading up to it was primarily installation, and much of the vocabulary I had established sought to elaborately describe connectivity within a sprawling totality. But, I wanted to challenge myself to suggest rigorous connection between forms without literally illustrating it. For me, the result was something that trafficked in the expectation of viewing art in a rarified space but also one that resisted singularity by establishing invisible connective tissue between the works.