- Manal Abu-Shaheen
- Vahap Avşar
- Jesus Benavente and Felipe Castelblanco
- Brian Caverly
- Kerry Downey
- Magali Duzant
- Golnaz Esmaili
- Mohammed Fayaz
- Kate Gilmore
- Jonah Groeneboer
- Bang Geul Han and Minna Pöllänen
- Dave Hardy
- Sylvia Hardy
- Shadi Harouni
- Janks Archive
- Robin Kang
- Kristin Lucas
- Carl Marin
- Eileen Maxson
- Melanie McLain
- Shane Mecklenburger
- Lawrence Mesich
- Freya Powell
- Xiaoshi Vivian Vivian Qin
- Alan Ruiz
- Samita Sinha and Brian Chase
- Barb Smith
- Monika Sziladi
- Alina Tenser
- Trans-Pecos with 8 Ball Community, E.S.P. TV, and Chillin Island
- Mark Tribe
- Sam Vernon
- Max Warsh
- Jennifer Williams
- An Itinerary with Notes
- Exhibition Views
- A Distant Memory Being Recalled (Queens Teens Respond)
- Overhead: A Response to Kerry Downey’s Fishing with Angela
- Sweat, Leaks, Holes: Crossing the Threshold
- PULSE: On Jonah Groeneboer’s The Potential in Waves Colliding
- Interview: Melanie McLain and Alina Tenser
- Personal Space
- Data, the Social Being, and the Social Network
- Responses from Mechanical Turk
- MAPS, DNA, AND SPAM
- Queens Internacional 2016
- Uneven Development: On Beirut and Plein Air
- A Crisis of Context
- Return to Sender
- Interview: Vahap Avşar and Shadi Harouni
- Mining Through History: The Contemporary Practices of Vahap Avşar and Shadi Harouni
- A Conversation with Shadi Harouni's The Lightest of Stones
- Directions to a Gravel Quarry
- Walk This Way
- Interview: Brian Caverly and Barb Smith
- "I drew the one that has the teeth marks..."
- BEAT IT! (Queens Teens respond)
- Lawn Furniture
- In Between Difference, Repetition, and Original Use
- Interview: Dave Hardy and Max Warsh
- Again—and again: on the recent work of Alan Ruiz
- City of Tomorrow
- Noticing This Space
- NO PLACE FOR A MAP
- The History of the World Was with Me That Night
- What You Don't See (Queens Teens Respond)
- Interview: Allison Davis and Sam Vernon
- When You’re Smiling…The Many Faces Behind the Mask
- Interview: Jesus Benavente and Carl Marin
- The Eternal Insult
- Janking Off
- Queens Theatricality
Excerpted from a conversation between Jesus Benavente and Carl Marin, participating artists in Queens International 2016
So maybe we can start with the question of, "Who's your audience?" Last time we met we spoke about this balance between pleasure and challenge in encountering our works.
It's true, I really made the work in the Queens International – Chasing Waterfalls (2016) – because I wanted to be someone that is sincerely curious about investigating. And that is the viewer that I'm asking for, the curious explorer. I put a lot of work into translating the experience of encountering these waterfalls back into an image that was not so easily seen or understood. The goal was to recreate how sometimes you're in a moment, and for a while you can’t see it going anywhere, but then all of a sudden it leads to something really surprising and rewarding.
Curious explorer, I like that. I’ve also been trying to find ways to tie who you are into this interview. Knowing you personally, I think a lot about your biking practice, which is not your art practice. You're someone who fixes and puts together bikes for yourself, and then you, using those tools, go out and challenge yourself...I don't want to use the word "extreme biking", but you go out there.
Yeah, I was really into mountain biking for a while, and still am. I used to design / fabricate my own bicycle frames, and compete in 100 mile mountain bike races.
The bike making is kind of a metaphor for how you think, or how you engage your art practice: you create these systems, and then you try and challenge, push, and bend them, to see how far you can go.
I could see that. I often feel like an engineer in my art practice, and my experience designing and fabricating bike frames has definitely influenced how I approach making art. I like to think about what I want to experience and then try to reach that experience through technical problem solving.
Now to tie it in with the Chasing Waterfalls piece. There's this reward a viewer may find at the end of the journey, of locating the hidden image. They're getting to feel what you feel.
I definitely want the experience to be pleasurable. I started with the idea of the waterfall as the primary image because a waterfall hidden in a Magic Eye Poster sounds like a perfect transition. When I was visiting the waterfalls in the Catskills, I felt connected to this history of city-dwellers escaping New York City for the countryside, as well as an art historical trajectory of Hudson River School painters that frequented the same locations.
So coming back to this engineered part of your process: you go up to the waterfalls, you're taking video, you're recording audio. But the images that are actually hidden in the random dot autostereoscopic (or Magic Eye illusion) video works are these clay models and digital renderings.
Chasing Waterfalls came together in a way that I didn't expect it to. To figure out how to get this image of the waterfall into a Magic Eye illusion, I looked into a number of different methods. I thought it was so funny that it came down to me actually sculpting the images out of clay. I was originally trying to use the newest technology but to make a really old form of technology (the autostereogram). It's funny that I ended up sculpting out of clay because I felt tied to the history of sculpture in a way that I hadn't felt before because I usually work with photographs. I felt I was using clay in a way that a painter uses paint. This is actually the medium that makes sense to visualize something out of nothing and control every aspect of it. One of the impetuses for translating the waterfalls into a Magic Eye is the fact that I felt like it was so hard to capture the physicality of them in person. I thought it was interesting with clay, because it felt so blind. It took me a month to make each clay sculpture and it felt like a battle to get it down, because I was just looking at it with different photographs at different angles.
But switching over to your practice Jesus, I actually wanted to ask you about one of your older works titled Accent Reduction (2012).
Oh god. That one I haven't figured out.
At first upon seeing the title, since I know identity politics is a big influence on your work, I thought the video was going to involve your roots in Texas and trying to adapt into a new environment on the East Coast. Then I saw that the video actually followed Kevin, a student from Eastern Pennsylvania who was seeing a speech therapist from the Jersey Shore, who had a really intense New Jersey accent. While you were in the video narrating, I was thrown off because I was wondering what your relationship to Kevin was.
Kevin Travers and I went to graduate school together. The impetus for the video was a really intense flyer I had come across. It was advertising accent reduction classes claiming that if "you're an immigrant living in America and you're trying to get a good job, people aren't going to give you a job because you have this terrible accent.” On one level that's really messed up, since an accent has nothing to do with one’s suitability for employment. But then there's also a certain level of truth to that. If you're coming into a certain job and the employer claims that people won't be able to understand you, or won't be able to relate to you, it is plausible to assume that they will not offer you the job. On one level, these accent reduction services are such terrible things, but it's also probably an essential thing for many people. I was thinking about how my grandparents, and my parents, my mother specifically, often did this thing when someone would say something to them in English and they're eyes would glaze over. They knew what the person was saying, but they lacked a confidence...
To speak it back.
To speak it back or to acknowledge that they understood. Especially where I'm from in San Antonio. If you're there you probably understand both Spanish and English. Most kids will talk to their parents in English and their parents will speak to them in Spanish, and they'd get each other. But when they're in a public space ...
They're self-conscious about it.
It's self-conscious, but it's also this weird class move where you're deferring to the person who's supposed to be in charge.
You're not the equal in the situation, you're the dumb Mexican that's expected to clean the toilets or whatever.
I was wondering, in the video, why you chose Kevin.
I chose Kevin because Kevin is someone who doesn't really need accent reduction and you don't expect him to need accent reduction. He still has an Eastern Pennsylvania sound to him, but that's considered “acceptable”. That's an acceptable accent.
I thought the collaborative Accent Reduction piece, could be an interesting tie in to your Queens International project Las Reinas (2016) with Felipe Castelblanco. You’ve worked with Felipe to bring together these two Mariachi bands, one that’s located here in Queens, Mariachi Real de Mexico, and the other is an all-female Mariachi band, Mariachi Imperial, based in Bogotá, Colombia. There’s almost a sense of competition between them, as if you’re pitting them against one another but also asking them to collaborate on a new song. In your work your often locating points of contention between people that you might think would see more eye-to-eye.
That's actually the exciting thing for me. There's certainly a level of competition between them. Mariachi is a hyper-masculine practice and is also considered a very Mexican thing. It’s really weird how Latinx people outside of the culture reduce it. If you’re Puerto Rican and someone would ask you to play some Mariachi music, they might correct that person by saying Mariachi music wasn’t part of their culture. But at the same time, Mariachi is a sound that ends up transcending origins and cultural borders.
People are mashing many of these traditions together, and not actually seeing the cultural distinctions between each one.
Right. Especially because Mariachi is a very touristy practice that you often see in restaurants or at certain types of parties.
Another question I had about your work is: why is your character in the performance and video work so hyper-masculine? And how does this relate to the way you work with Mariachi bands?
For me Mariachi is definitely this weird contradiction of traditional masculinity and traditional femininity within Latin culture. For me it’s about winning and losing. There’s this bravado, "I have strength. I can do this". But then the music also laments in the end, "But I fail, and I'm the result of being unable to overcome these invaders." Part of it is, as a Latino, coming to terms with the mix of cultures that are at stake when we talk about Mariachi, the histories of indigenous people who were colonized by Europeans in Latin America. Mariachi music is this art form that's very proud and brave, but still has a resonance with a time when the continent was subjugated. Their existence is a result of that subjugation.
At first i didn't realize the sensitivity to those politics in your work, but I've been noticing it. Definitely more so with this piece where the Mariachi band that started as a part of your work Covenant Ritual (2013), in which the band was literally standing in the background of your performance in that work, has now become the foreground in this new piece with Felipe Castelblanco, Las Reinas at the Queens Museum. Yet what is consistent throughout your participatory work is that there is a great deal of collaboration and a certain power you relinquish to the participants to determine the trajectory of the piece. There is a conversation around this interaction that's happening, and everything is fair in the sense that everyone's agreed, everyone's consensual, and everyone's ...
Definitely. I feel this is true throughout your work. You actually lay the groundwork, and then the collaborator is invited in. They actually have so much say over what the end message is, but it feels like a power struggle, in a way. I think that's interesting because I think artists can be such...
Ego-maniacs. I'm not saying you're an ego-maniac.
No, I am. It's fine. Part of it is I want things to be a certain way, and I have this idea of how it should be, but when you're working collaboratively, I know it's important to give the other person a voice, and a sense of ownership over the work.
Tying this all together, and going back to your work, I feel like a similarity between us is that we create these systems, and then we test the limits of those systems.
I agree. The effort we put into creating the right parameters for our work is an exciting part.