Your work often occurs in series. How do you select a theme for your work? The theme of my series comes first; typically I do research and put together a plan for a body of works. However, my plans are not rigid, and often my series will change organically over time.

Why do you feature yourself as the subject in your work? I really can’t imagine anyone else as the performer in my videos. I think I would feel completely cheated if I didn’t get to become a katydid or transform my body into a measurement apparatus! Also, I am an available, affordable, and reliable actor who is completely invested in the work.

How has your upbringing factored into your work? I was raised in a rural town in western Maryland; my father is a physicist and cyclist, and my mother, who didn’t work when I was growing up, is a woods-walker extraordinaire, a rock enthusiast, and a major animal lover. There weren’t very many other children to play with in my neighborhood when I was very small, so most of my memories of this time are of exploring the woods and streams with my mother, my little sister, and the pack of dogs that lived with us. When my father got home from work, he’d show me stars and planets through a telescope, tell me long, winding tales about the interactions of my internal organs, or take nighttime walks with us in the field. I remember getting goose bumps when he’d tell me about the edges of the universe and black holes, and I remember feeling comforted by his declaration that after I die, I’ll be eaten by some of my favorite animals, like vultures and worms and coyotes, and will be returned to the earth that way.

Science was in the background of my everyday life, but at the same time, there was no pressure for me to pursue science in my studies. I’m sure it was apparent to my parents from the time I was able to first pick up a crayon that I was wild about drawing. I loved drawing animals and plants in particular, and over the years I pursued art as my primary passion.

What are you working on now? I’m focusing on a series of videos exploring the realm of physics. I’m collaborating with two physicists, experimentalist Eric Corwin and theorist Maxime Clusel. I’m also in the early stages of collaboration with my father. I love the idea of working on something with him, my childhood hero and inspiration.

Have you ever experimented with other mediums? I make small drawings as a way of reflecting upon my video works, and I make photos during my video shoots that capture a different aspect of the performance. Recently I’ve also been writing. I’m hoping to generate more complicated narratives in future works and I think my writing will feed into this.

How do you feel your performance pieces translate into stills? Time-based work and still images behave so differently; it’s hard for me to compare them! In my videos, I’m relying on my viewers’ willingness to watch and listen for several minutes and follow the narrative I’m laying out. The photos that I create in conjunction with my videos are fragments of that larger story and are a little more mysterious. I like the way these images can freeze a strange movement that the body could never hold for more than a fraction of a second, or capture the blurry, green streak of an apple as it succumbs to gravity.

What obstacles has your medium of choice presented for you, if any? Working with video continues to be exciting because the technology changes so rapidly. It can be tricky to keep up to date and wrangle the appropriate equipment for exhibitions. However, researching and upgrading equipment is a fun kind of challenge, and I like dreaming about how my visual language will change as the technology gets better and better over time.

When you’re not working on an artistic project, what else do you enjoy doing? I like to hike and walk whenever I can, I dance a little bit every day, and I enjoy playing tunes on my tin whistle. I am an enthusiastic pen pal and love writing and receiving letters. I’m also learning French right now, which has been challenging and fun. I’d like to learn how to yodel really well.

Which other artists do you admire or find have influenced your own work? I have always loved Nina Katchadourian’s playful and smart approach to nature as a subject matter. Her series of photographs, "The Mended Spiderwebs" (1998), in which she repaired damaged webs with red thread, are beautiful and suggest a harmonious relationship between the artist and spider.

Why is Art+Culture Editions exciting for you? Art+Culture Editions makes art available to a wider range of art lovers and collectors, and at the same time it supports artists by providing a source of income through sales. Making a living will always be a challenge for folks in creative fields, and this model for selling work moves toward something more sustainable than what the traditional art market offers.

Interview by Amanda Tait Brower

Still want to know more about Julia? Check out this video of her talking about her work in 2009 by Art In General.

Julia Oldham Interview from Art in General on Vimeo.