Cass Bird's Bedroom
In a sentence, what is this show about?
It’s work that has been produced over the last 17 years that I connected to in some way.
It seems you have a strong connection with your family. Is that something that has always been in your roots?
No, I had a really difficult childhood. I think family and home is important for everyone, regardless of where you come from. I don't take my home life for granted. I don't know if my kid's will, because they have a much different experience than I did…but, with my perspective, I am able to experience – in parallel – what my reality is like today versus what it was like growing up. It's rich with material I guess. It does not at all resemble the childhood I experienced.
And family isn't decided by blood either.
We have our 'blood family,' and then we have our 'heart family.' And our heart family can be blood, but in most cases, it's not blood.
So this show is going to mostly consist of a modge podge of blood and heart family?
Yup, you said it.
The show is titled 'In Bed.' How did you come up with it?
My friend Bramble and my wife Ali - we're not technically married, I just don't know how else to refer to her - were brainstorming and Bramble suggested, "What about it bed?" And then Ali said, "Oh my god, that's great." I asked my friend how she thought of it. She said, 'Whenever I think of you guys, I think about being in bed with you.' We have people over a lot, and we always end up in our bed talking; being cozy.
If you could come outside of yourself and photograph yourself in bed for this series, what would that photo look like?
I'd probably be the little spoon in front of Ali in our bed.
I understand this exhibit will have some nudity, and I also understand your work has an interesting play on sensuality and intimacy. Is there a certain way in which you photograph nude subjects that encompasses this belief?
I think I grapple, like any parent – not even a parent, but any human – with what the message is and what I'm reinforcing when I put images out into the world. I make a conscious effort to explore sensuality, and I don't try to explicitly pursue sexuality. Being in bed, it gives a sexual connotation that we all take away. In my own experience, 80% of me being in bed is completely void of sexual energy or behavior. It's where you rest, contemplate, imagine, have talks with your friends, have long phone conversations, read a book...the bed really is a platform for all of your internal life to be explored.
So the process for shooting nudity is organic?
As far as nudity goes, experiencing my children and models in a physical form that isn't layered with signifiers is more of a place in which I'm curious, rather than just getting someone to take their clothes off. I'm not comfortable with asking people to take their clothes off, and I'm not comfortable when people ask me to photograph them nude. I get terrified of that idea, because it's different. Nudity is beautiful, and I'm down to explore it, photograph it, engage with it, but I don't think my work is explicit or sexual. It's more about gender exploration, than it is about actual sexuality in a performative way.
People often conflate gender and sexuality identity, when they're two very separate entities.
Exactly. They can be explored in the same space, but they actually occupy different parts of your brain. And then there's intimacy, right? And then there is also intimacy you have with people that is completely void of desire.
People interpret your work differently. Does this contribute to your process?
There is a lot of sitting with feelings, and asking myself questions. What are my motivations? What could be the outcome? How can this be interpreted? All of that is part of my process. It gives me a lot of opportunity to sit with uncomfortable feelings.
So discomfort is a key figure in your practice?
Absolutely, I'm never comfortable when I'm shooting.
I guess you never should be, when it comes to creating art...but enough about discomfort. What would be your ideal bed?
Oh my god...really soft sheets.
No mattress preference?
I mean, right now we have a Haastens, which is, like...duh.
You’re living large.
Yeah, I need a lot of sleep. I'm one of those people that needs a lot of sleep. Like, a minimum of 8 hours.
Well, that's great for your health so kudos to you. What's the ideal activity you'd be doing in this ideal bed?
Well, I would put my fucking phone down, and probably read a book. But ideally...my partner Ali would be reading a book to me. She has a really nice voice.
Do you have a favorite in the show?
That's not fair, but I have a few favorites. The picture that's on the invitation of Ali lying in bed. That was shot in 2000, so to me that's really special. She still looks exactly the same and I can still take that picture today – in my mind or literally – 20 years later.
How has your work evolved from when you started? Where is it going?
I have a deep respect and admiration for the young photographer who has a strong voice. That was not my experience. It took me a long time to understand what my picture was, and that's still unfolding for me. I started off and I had zero aesthetic understanding, and that's just the truth. And over the last 25 years, I've just tried to study, and keep my eyes open.