The Soul as Body – Kris Canavan

Kris Canavan Born in Northern Ireland, raised in Exmoor and now living in Newcastle, artist Kris Canavan performs body-based aktions which often involve the insertion of hooks and suspension cords into his body. Canavan explains he undertakes ‘a great deal of mental preparation’ before a performance and tells Dazed more about his intriguing artistic practice.



Since 2001 he has been making performance work that centres on the theme of mythology, unity, tragedy, romance and the body politic.Kris describes his body as a tool that helps him to connect to the surroundings. The Red Right Hand is one of his important projects, which is described in terms of greed, conflict and was born from Irish legend. In 2006 the Irish aktion artist started collaborating with his (future) wife Nicola Canavan under the banner Anatomy of. Since October 10, he has been an AMINO associate artist.


Emaho : What led to the start of your aktionist career?

I started using my body as a site to create images for performance when I was 20. Prior to that I was doing paintings and modelling for a couple of amateur photographer friends… It was only after a period of frustration with paint and revisiting artworks/artists from art history, that I reminded myself of the ideal that anything is possible, the only limitations are those I impose upon myself. I don’t think that there is a defining ‘moment’ or ‘start of my career’ as an Aktionist… There are many moments within my short [32 years] existence that have led me to this process.

Action(2) Flower Scream

Emaho : Did life in Exmoor influence you to understand this kind of art form?

Exmoor has an influence upon my work in the same way that my wife, son and unborn child have influence and in the same way that my life experiences until now have shaped me and informed my practice also.

Performance for camera

Emaho : Love, mythology, tragedy! The desire to connect to NOW. Can you elaborate?

Love; All works of art are born from Love. Mythology; continually a source of inspiration for me, in every definition of the word. Tragedy; from tales of suffering [mythology] to first hand experience, like Love, this directly influences my practice. The desire to connect to NOW; I believe in the finality of death and as a direct consequence of this, that the here and now is of the upmost importance – life is what you make it. The here and now, is also directed to being present when performing ‘live’; there is nothing worse than watching performers who are vacant or have no desire to be performing, in front of those who have taken the time to come and bear witness.

Love remains

You use body to show the common man about life, its desires and pain. Are you satisfied with its language to communicate or you still looking for some other means?

 I am never satisfied with language, I am continually learning, shifting and evolving. I am hungry to create new images in different mediums as well as hungry to push myself within the mediums I have worked within…

Emaho : Does the red right hand project, done with an intention to make people conscious about greed and conflict, which is actually hampering the people?

The Red Right Hand is very much a work in progress. One presentation has been made of this work so far. I am currently working on further developments of this piece, and currently feel that a film rather than live aktion would be the best way to move this work forward. You are quite right in your synopsis; greed and conflict are of no use in moving humanity forward, they are tools of oppression.


Red Right Hand

Emaho : There is a strong sagacity to each project, which somewhere brings realization among people. What is your take on that?

Although I set out with intent for each piece I make, I don’t like the idea of imposing, preaching or spelling out every last detail. Something has to remain for those who view or witness to discover and interpret in their own way. If my work, or the work I make with others, helps individuals process the world around them and understand more then that is amazing, but Im not going to stand on a soap box and preach.

Love is        

Emaho : Each collaboration needs a lot of understanding and admiration for each other s work. How well is it with Nicola Canavan?

Before working with Nicola I collaborated with photographers and a couple of other performers, I learned a lot form those experiences before working with her. Essentially, everyone I have made an artwork with I love, I have friendships, respect and admiration with all of my collaborators, past and present… Working with Nicola will always be different to the others, because our relationship is much more personal, as husband and wife, as a Father and Mother, because we spend so much time together. All these things impact…  We came together and became more of a solid unit because of our explorations of our own, and each others, bodies through live performance.

Emaho : What are your future projects?

Future projects include more collaborations with Nicola, the arrival of our second child and continued nurturing of child number one, more works with the New Aktionist Kitchen, ongoing development of the Red Right Hand and another film entitled “Thirteen” – pay attention to for news…

Gold Digger

 Art & Culture Interviewed by Hemanshi Jain  

 Art work by Kris Canavan

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