Meet Patrick Michael Ballard
When people ask me this question I have often given two answers. One of them often focuses on my mother and father’s role in my creative upbringing, my mother a music therapist and ceremonial cantor for Catholic mass, and my father an archaeologist and object-anthropologist. Both of them offered these different time scales for watching how time plays through the weave of human ritual, history, and performance of symbolic objects. I could talk on and on about these two, but today I’d like to highlight two other very important figures in my life that continue to influence and bring me to where I am.
First, my brother from a very young age was a prolific object maker, designer, and map-maker. At the age of 6 or 7 he was using construction paper, tape, and colored pencils to make exact replicas of chair designs from the Itallian Renaissance, full scale mini-palm trees, as well as taking on self directed projects like mapping all of the bird species in the Amazon rainforest. I had no frame of reference at the time, but looking back on it now he had this unbridled enthusiasm for making that was truly prolific. He and I have maintained a creative dialog over the years through our own creative fields.
Second, my step mother was a tremendous inspiration to me. She was constantly collecting ephemera from her life: old crystals she found on the side of the road, dead lizards, beach glass, heart shaped stones. She would incorporate them into a sculptural process that autopoetically redesigned many of the spaces around the house. Chimes of her making hang in the garden, sculptures and paintings on the walls, her jewelry around her neck, and most recently her turn towards the fiber arts mean she is often wearing her artwork. This fibers endeavor even lead to a collaboration between us on a full-body rainbow onesie: a costume that I use for passive public interventions. It didn’t dawn on me until recently as we’ve taken on a much larger collaborative quilting prop together for my new theaterworld, that the way in which she manners her frame of reality is through this compulsive artistic endeavor of encrusting the “normal” everyday objects of a home and life with her own aesthetic gestures. This living breathing replacement of the familiar with the strange is something I play out on the daily. She lives in her art and surrounds herself and those closest to her with it. I grew up in a household encrusted with objects of highly personal significance.
Another answer I give for how I got to where I am today is one which is much more metaphysical. I began this lifetime as a fool, and I continue to stumble through life trying to ingrate the particulars of what it means to be human into a broader network of presence within the cosmological framework of the universe. I don’t personally believe that the spirit I posses has always had this form. On a regular basis I have memories of other lifetimes. Many of my peers have a hard time acknowledging this as a “truth,” but I’ve never been concerned with truth. I have always been more concerned with the form that our knowledge takes, the stories we tell, and the ethics that underlie them. I take time to listen to the stories often overlooked. I am willing to consider experiences as they laugh in the face of all most immediate or convenient definitions of “truth.” I am always incapable of being absolute. To say it is a paradox, but to acknowledge it in how I act is what defines my way. It is from channeling such stories and paradoxes that I am able to bring useful ideas to my students and meaningful experiences to my audience as an artist. So when asked “how did I get to where I am today?” One could look just as deeply into my words as they do into the constantly changing creative expression of the Earth over stretches and flows of deep time and the way it has expressed itself in such radically different ways over eons. You will find just as much of my personal history in the dirt as you do on any resume I could write.
One of my greatest struggles is against the paradigms of thought produced by Western ideology, its Cartesian models for making things abstract and distinct; always seeking a bottom line. I think in webs of time that extend beyond even a single lifetime. I collaborate with materials instead of using them. Most of what I do is difficult to talk about in a 3-minute elevator-pitch. I have gone through different periods of my life where I have opportunities staring me in the face, yet, unwilling to compromise the tiniest aspect of the most delicate nuance of what I do, will let them blow by me in the breeze as I stand like an unfliching stone; all of my loved ones cringing at my choices. This has run through my mind as both idiotic as well as courageous. We find another paradox at the crux of meaning. These paradoxes are something I seek in my life. If I were to live a life constantly sublimating my wishes for how this world could be, then eventually I would lose the connective tissue that bonds the fiber of my spirit to the fiber of my being. I truly believe that humans have been drawing lines around things far too long in a world where symbiotic acknowledgement and flowing passage of resources is more the governing factor than the linear borders that separate states, separate countries, and separate other human inventions like “ideologies.” These are the greatest forces that have acted against me. These are the greatest forces that have acted against the importance of real equality, systemic creativity and planetary (even interspecies) collaboration since the beginning of land ownership.
I am a storyteller. My specializations lie in my capacity to render experience into artworks, songs, and stories. I am most known currently for my multi-media performance work as an artist that integrates theater, sculpture, costume design, music composition, and creative writing into often interactive or immersive environments. One of the larger projects that I did was an immersive escape-room-theater-work titled “Return to FOREVERHOUSE.” I wrote a feature length fantasy narrative and then built a series of immersive puzzle-rooms where participants bought tickets in small audience groups and then had to interact with a series of performed characters as they progressed through the narrative and the game. What most participants did not know is that I designed every aspect of the labyrinth, made every object and puzzle, and also performed all of the characters. Utilizing puppetry, costuming, architectural intervention, and foley artistry behind the walls, I was often able to play three characters at the same time. My dedication to expressing myself through absurdist theater-machines of my own design has always been a large part of my work. I want to engage my audience in ways that synthesize and activate the mystery at the core of our spirit, reawakening our inner fool, our inner student of the world, so that they can feel truly a part of the stories I tell.
It wouldn’t be for me to say what sets me apart from others. I change everyday, yet still render meaning into the world. I can only speak to my own truth and when I look in the mirror I see a cloud that is constantly changing shape. Most of the time, for me, it is less about “what” sets anything apart from anything, and more “how” does anything become another. I’d rather be like everything than be apart from anything.
Success is transmitting something truly useful to another; something that allows them to more deeply connect to the world around them. Success is helping others identify the role they can play to offer something meaningful to the world. Success is helping others acknowledge that there are so many that support us on a daily basis to which we pay no thanks: the beings that have been dwelling on this spinning cosmic fantasy of a planet for millions of years before us. Success is putting into perspective the difference between what a human is and what a human has been or could be: currently a being with opposable thumbs that can mine earth metals, extract ores, and synthesize new materials at the cost of the greater picture. Success is when there is more time to stop and be thoughtful about why I think my place in the universe is defined by the current stories I use to tell it so. Success is helping everyone realize that they have gifts to give to the world. Success is when everyone has what they need to give the fullest expression of their gifts to the world. Success is when compassion and understanding are more important than success itself.