I Make Faces
my name is: Kate Berlant
i make: People laugh.
what inspires me about the getty: I’ve always tried to burst through any and all moments by making some grotesque face or gesture. I remember coming to the Getty to see the James Ensor exhibition, and I was so drawn to his works. I felt so connected to all of those grotesque faces, so funny, and yet unbearable to look at in certain ways.
I find “the grotesque” to be interesting, as I can’t really separate it from being a woman, wanting to be pretty, and using a hideous face to disrupt that feeling. I remember being maybe fifteen and I would do these faces, and my mom was like, “Is that voluntary?” She was worried that it was an involuntary tick. And I was like, no. I’m deliberately trying to interrupt how you consume me. It is a way to desexualize oneself in our culture.
to me, inspiration is: I’ve been thinking about the Chuck Close quote “Inspiration is for amateurs.” I like this quote a lot in relation to stand-up comedy in particular. I’m inspired by the idea of committing to performance—repetition inevitably breeds difference, and so doing stand-up constantly you are destined to see yourself change, hopefully for the better. Repeating the action even when it feels painful is liberating.