DALLAS SEITZ, BFA, 1996, SCULPTURE
ALUMNI DISCOVERY INITIATIVE INTERVIEW BY JENNIE ALVES, AUGUST 2015
JENNIE ALVES: How could you imagine ACAD supporting its alumni?
DALLAS SEITZ: I think it means a lot to come from the College and I loved my time there. They could do alumni shows; they could do an alumni exhibition to bring people back. They could ask alumni to come in as guest speakers.
We had AA Bronson, the Guerrilla Girls, Jenny Holzer and Karin Finely, we had these great speakers while I was there but the College could also use alumni more perhaps, to make the link to students.
ALVES: What do you feel is the role of ACAD and our alumni in shaping our cultural and economic prosperity?
SEITZ: There is a great deal of interest in young art and youth culture. I remember going to MACBA in Barcelona and there were all these skaters out front, all the skateboarders took it over, there’s this thing of using architecture. This is their version of the Museum of Modern Art in New York you know? I asked one of the curators… “I’m surprised you didn’t shoo them off” and she said “Why would I do that? I encourage them! Of course, this is fantastic, to have the youth hanging out in front of an art gallery.”
ALVES: If you were invited back (to ACAD) to have a show would you?
SEITZ: Of course I would, of course I would!
ALVES: What can you remember of the community atmosphere of ACAD?
SEITZ: It was a bit like the Breakfast Club… the nerdy girl ended up being the one everybody loved, and the popular boy was the one everybody ended up questioning… you broke down all these barriers. We had great studios and it was a very social atmosphere. Everyone just met at the College and worked. And all our work was quite different in a way… but I remember being quite happy about seeing their new work… and I think they were about mine too. When you came up with a new thing, you were very excited about showing it, discussing it and looking at.
The Sculpture course was very conceptual but also very practical, we had to learn carving, casting, mold making. They made us weld. We had to go to SAIT and learn how to weld… I don’t think that went down well with everyone. There was one girl, now she was dangerous… I actually feared for our lives. She was setting things on fire. These were big SAIT men and they treated us like the builders they had as their students… most of us had never even thought of welding. It was very exciting!
I loved ACAD. It was the best time of my life. More so then doing my Master's at Chelsea, that seemed very serious… but ACAD was fun.
ALVES: You were at Julliard prior to coming to ACAD, can you tell me about that?
SEITZ: What do you want to know about Julliard? It was tough, it was one of the toughest years of my life, going from Strathmore, Alberta to New York. People were very competitive and I was very young, I was only 17. I think I was probably very cocky coming into ACAD, I went to Julliard and that doesn’t mean that much really, in the grand scheme of things.
ALVES: What were factors that caused you to move away from Calgary, and move to London?
SEITZ: I didn’t want to be in Calgary anymore. I did a residency at the Banff Centre where I met Sarah Diamond. The Banff Centre is a great thing for Canadian arts and international contacts. I met some British artists and thought I would try it out for a while. I got a Professional Art Dealers of Canada grant for a year to research for them in London art markets and one year turned into 18.
ALVES: How was your experience moving to London as an artist? (Did you find the community a welcoming one?)
SEITZ: I like the eccentricity of London. Some people don’t. When you look at the exhibitions and the finance that happen here (London) I think this is where art is happening at the moment. Or at least one of the major centers of the world where it’s happening.
I loved that you could go to the British Museum every day, I loved that all of my friends were sort of quirky and weird; you don’t meet that many Londoners who were actually born and raised in London. So the art world is very diverse and everyone is very inclusive but you have to put yourself out there as well and be involved.
ALVES: How much do you think that actually plays a part? How much does that play into success as an artist?
SEITZ: Somebodies got to show it. You can’t just sit at home and make it. You have to be involved and active. The building of a network is an important part of being an artist… very important.
ALVES: For young artists moving there now, what is your advice?
SEITZ: Don’t. It’s a tough city. And it’s expensive. Super expensive – No, I think as an artist one should try new places and meet new art scenes even if it is for short periods of time. That is why residencies or studying abroad are great ideas for younger artists.
ALVES: Can you tell me a little bit about the 1,000,000 MPH project space?
SEITZ: That’s a story that I need a cigarette for.
Kate and I were at Chelsea together, I ran this thing out of my studio; the “One White Wall”. That was taken from an ACAD professor Mary Scott; she used to run “One White Wall” in her basement.
So I had a studio at Chelsea with one white wall, then Kate and I wanted to continue on. From 2001 to 2007, for 6 years it ran, though Kate left halfway through because she wanted to make money, so she became a lawyer, because she said she wanted expensive shoes. I understood this and I invited Esther Windsor to come in and curate with me. It wasn’t a commercial space, we didn’t sell work, we didn’t take commission off work, it was just about showing art we were interested in. Also it was for selfish reasons, I wanted people to know who I was and what I was interested in. It was an interesting way to meet new artists and it was part of a group of young galleries happening at the time that were getting a lot of attention.
But I was a starting to get known as a curator, not an artist. People were starting to say “You’re the guy that runs 1,000,000 MPH. Give me show.” I was spending more time helping other artists than helping myself so I closed the doors in 2007, but it’s still a historical footnote in East London which is nice.
ALVES: How do you find the dynamic between being both a teacher and practicing artist? (2004-2014. Senior Lecturer in BA Photography, MA Photography, BA Sound Arts and Design, University of the Arts London, London College of Communications.)
SEITZ: I feel like it’s about giving back. Sharing information with younger artists… because it is tough. It’s nice if someone older can share some of what they’ve been through. Be honest with you. Teachers were a big influence on my work. I was influenced by all of them.
ALVES: Given your experience, what advice would you give to a student when it comes to establishing a creative career?
SEITZ: Sometimes we have to look at what is successful and what people respond to, because they’re our audience… and then follow that, research your art community and figure out where your work fits or where you want it to fit. Someone once told me “I have the secret to being a successful artist.” I said “What is it? Tell me!” and they said “Make good work.” Make good work.
ALVES: How do you gauge your success? Is that different from how others do?
SEITZ: My big goal is to be respected as an artist, and I am getting respect as an artist. I am still making and showing work, being asked to talk about my work and teach in Universities because of the work I do… so to me that is enough success.