Camille Altay


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Camille Altay received her MFA from Yale in 2018 and BFA from Concordia University in Montreal in 2008. She grew up in Chicago’s rave culture of the 90’s, which allowed for a type of ego-formation around androgyny to be seen as a possible condition for alternate futurities. Camille is a member of a collaborative experimental sound project called Birds of Prey, with vinyl and digital releases on Kathexis Records and a forthcoming album on Mysteries of the Deep. At Yale she was a Graduate Fellow at the Center for Collaborative Arts and Media (2016) where she taught workshops in audio mixing, the basics of analog electronics and how to use copper nanoparticles as a conductive painting material. Before graduate school, Camille spent 7 years as a scenic artist for theme park rides, leading crews of artists across the US and Asia. Years of touching-up facades culminated in reading Simulations on her lunch break while working on the Transformers ride in Hollywood. This experience lead to increasing skepticism of both permanence and virtuality, and a desire to embrace failure as a necessary facet of the changing states of matter. Whether the work is a record or an instrument of change, it’s driven to decompose, auto-destruct, leak, feedback, puncture, sag, drain or otherwise transubstantiate. In failure is proof of the real. Camille is the most recent recipient of the Blair Dickinson Memorial Prize (2018), presented to an artist who “demonstrates a developing consciousness, personal vision and spirit of search.” She lives and works in New Haven, Connecticut.


I want to understand my relationship to death and the dead, reconcile my dis-orientation to history, queerness, futurity and the experience of a haunted present. I wake up everyday and experience myself as having agency; I perform my life as a series of choices. I experience the sensation of control, in the same way I experience the sensation of time. I believe the notion of a better future is a fiction steeped in dangerous nostalgic pitfalls, and that the dead have more to tell us than we give them credit for. My father was killed in an accident on the day I started graduate school. After his death, it felt like a ridiculous endeavor to make any static thing which mimicked or attempted to approach the real, or perform actions which assumed I had any control. I became deeply skeptical of my own technical ability to use painting to (mis)direct attention and simulate reality while hiding a deeper structure. Instead of painting, I filled containers with liquid and powdered minerals and watched them float, coalesce, and break apart like ice flows. These became conditions for reading, like tea leaves. After a year of mourning the death of my father, The Nine of Cups was the first painting I made in a series of vertical 4 x 8' panels. I found my way back to painting by considering it as a way to unravel my unconscious and my impulse to self-edit. Painting can be a way of knowing that begins without knowledge, a measurement of presence. I outlined my own body and dug away at indexical marks of myself. The horizon of the work is my arm’s reach. It leans because the work is an instrument in the present, like a divining rod or a tarot card, after which the work is named.

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