Eagle Woman Poems, Co-Lab Project Space, July 2011
Photo by Alberto Jimenez
Natalie Goodnow is a nationally recognized teatrista, teaching artist, and cultural activist from Austin, Texas. She performs, directs, and writes; she's been practicing some combination of these forms for seventeen years, and began teaching about and through them 8 years ago. She specializes in the creation of original works of performance, as a solo artist and also in collaboration with other performers and writers, both youth and adults. Goodnow explores the relationships between people and places, in terms of relationships to community, to the Earth, and to our own bodies. Her work asks tricky questions, and probes tough contradictions. Natalie's solo play "Mud Offerings" is the 2011 winner of the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award, and has been presented nationally at festivals and conferences in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., and throughout Texas. She is an Artistic Associate of Theatre Action Project and a member of The Austin Project. See her website and/or blog for more:www.nataliegoodnow.com, makinggoodnow.blogspot.com
Interview by Josh T Franco
Your work brings up questions of tradition in contemporary settings. But even stating it like that, I’ve already fallen into one of the traps I think you’re trying to avoid: tradition isn’t “back there”, but neither is it the same today, for most, as it was a hundred years ago, or a thousand for that matter. I should say the traditions I’m talking about are both pre-colonial indigenous American ones and post-colonial Catholic ones. And in your work, all of them are radically questioned through Chicanaand Women of Color feminist frameworks. At the same time, there’s clearly a deep reverence. But what exactly is the nature of this reverence, as it is far from typical?
Hmmm... ok. Well. I’ve been thinking about what it means to be indigenous. And whatindigeneity means, or could mean. And although one response might be to reproduce everything that was a thousand years ago, in the here and now, or to try to do so (because of course it isn’t quite possible to really reproduce what was, nor would we necessarily want to), I’d like to try another definition of indigeneity on for size. Let’s say it’s this: to live in relationship with the land, in the here and now. That means that, as a Chicana in central Texas, although I believe that the lessons of the Mexica (what the Aztec called themselves) are incredibly important, it’s a little silly for me to really and truly try and apply them directly to my life, without any critical examinations or alterations. And this is partly because there are lots of ways in which the Mexica society was just as flawed as any other (patriarchal, militaristic, imperialistic), and also because the Mexica weren’t really living in relationship with the land that I’m at now. They were nearby, if we consider this on a global scale, but still not quite here.
However, all that being said (and I think this is where I start to actually answer your question), I still think that there is wisdom in tradition. Especially in the traditions of folks who, at one point in time, knew how to live with the land. We don’t know how to do that now. I’m not sure I even really need to explain why... The “go green” movement is so huge... “Avatar” was such a hit... it’s in the zeitgeist. Something has to change. The way we’re treating the earth isn’t working. It’s not working at all. And yet, in our histories, we find peoples and communities who were better at this than we are now. And it’s not just about reducing/reusing/recycling... it’s about the way we treat each other, the way we talk to one another... we create systems that abuse and misuse the Earth’s resources when we feel entitled, when we believe we have no obligation to share what we have.
So, I take the things that I’ve learned with my contact with indigenous spiritual traditions seriously; reciprocity - no one should take without also giving. And, it sounds so simple, but, sharing - you don’t show up to an event with a bag full of snacks, or a thermos full of tea, and not offer some to everyone, even if all you’ve got is a little bit. And, you don’t assume that youhave the right to speak whenever you want, whatever you want, or even to know whatever you want, whenever you want. You must ask permission. You must acknowledge the knowledge of those who have come before you. That all may seem very distinct from “environmental” concerns, but I don’t think it is. Our elders have been here. They know how to live in harmony with all that has also been here. I think if we had all adopted, or, remembered to honor these sorts of values a long time ago, we wouldn’t be in the pickle we’re in now. And, all that being said, let me just acknowledge out loud/in print, that everything I’ve just said is very hard to do, and I struggle with it constantly in my everyday life.
All_Over (exhibition view)
Photo: Madison Morals
Ben Brandt’s life is currently in flux—lucky for us, he paused just long enough for a zingchat. Recently graduated from theMFA program at UT Austin, his studio (and the rest of his life) is now in New York City. Brandt has held residencies at Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, NY and Vermont Studio Center. A few of the venues where his work has been shown include Second Bedroom Project Space and Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago, Fort Worth Contemporary, and Champion Contemporary in Austin. Brandt was also included in the 2011 15 to Watch: New Art in Austin at Austin Museum of Art. We spoke following his farewell to Texas, his solo show at Co-Lab Project Space, All_Over.
Interview by Josh T. Franco
I was not expecting to discuss clothing following your recent show at Co-Lab, but now I can not stop thinking about those peeks of plaid and some comments you made about the role of clothing. More broadly, something about texture and material as a “screen” between us and the world. An odd thing to end up thinking about in an immersive environment of pulp-coated objects. With such a powerfully monochrome space you created, why those two or three dusty plaid accents?
There’s a number of reasons that may seem obscure if we keep in mind that the primary impulse to expose those items was relatively intuitive and also formal. I like contrast, and I wanted a different kind of break in the monotony of the surfaces in the space. But more importantly, I was thinking about the relationship between buildings and bodies and the sort of primal need to stay warm (not an issue that comes to the fore in a place like Texas, but I grew up in the Midwest); the way we retain heat energy with clothing and a layer of body fat -- an inner and outer layer of insulation that is mirrored in the mise-en-scene of the installation. Except that here, the insulation that is normally found on the interior of a building’s structure is being presented on the surface of everything. Part of my project is to draw out the relationship between bodies and buildings; the systems and structures they share. So you’ve got the plaid flannel shirt and the plaid “canvas” that is a kind of skin, and then the two-by-four wrapped in plaid is a kind of progression of “clothing” the building.
I think, really, what those items do, is to become the “middle” period in the history of this building’s sort of fictional timeline, as if those were the last items to end up in this room as it slowly accumulated years’ worth of sediment before the final intervention of the supposed present day, with the painted poles and lighting.
Alison Kuo is a Texas native. She received her BA from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. Her blog Accidental Chinese Hipsters has been featured in Vice Magazine. Currently, she is in her first year of the MFA program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. We talked in early January, following her solo show Colorful Food at Eleven Seventeen in Austin, Texas.
Interview by Josh T Franco
I am back in New York, just a few days after Colorful Food. I am thinking back to the night; there’s a room with four walls bearing your large format photographs. Some are of food, some are of food abstracted beyond recognition, and some are arbitrary shots, in which the shapes, colors, dimensions echo those of other photographs. These photographs are the only For Sale items, according to the price list at the door. Your food-cart inspired offerings and performance are free. (If we can get free food, why would we pay for photos of it? Oh yes, because this is the art world.)
I'm writing you from my studio back home where I’m surrounded by half-reconfigured snack machines, bags of gummy candies, chips and chili peppers, illustrated cook books, and an overflowing unpacked suitcase filled with plastic fruit serving dishes and shiny vinyl letters. There’s a lot to think about after these two public showings of my new work, and in the runaway train that is a two year MFA program I’ve got to try to fix my eyes on the moving landscape to see where I’ve been, guess at where I am now, and also look to the future without getting too dizzy. Having you as a fellow traveler, one that I often encounter here (New York) or there (Texas), helps me to orient myself, and for that I am grateful. That you’ve responded to my deepest, perhaps concealed, intentions for this rather silly performance is wonderful.
Photo by Dieter Hartwig
Fabian Barba was born in Quito in 1982. He began studying modern dance at the age of 12 in Ecuador. From 2004 to 2008 he studied at PARTS school for Professional Training in Contemporary Dance in Brussels, where he works and resides today. Recently, he was invited to perform his solo work A Mary Wigman Dance at MoMA in conjunction with the exhibitionInventing Abstraction, 1910 - 1925.
Interview by Josh T. Franco
We met in the context of the collective Modernity / Coloniality / Decoloniality (MCD). The particular occasion was a two-week Summer course convened by Walter Mignoloin Middelburg, Netherlands. You were searching for company in thinking about particular questions you had of your discipline, dance, that you had not yet found. Did you find what you were looking for in Middelburg?
During the last three or four years I’ve been trying to make sense of my experience as a dancer who first trained in Quito (Ecuador) and then continued studying dance and working as a dancer in Brussels (Belgium.) In a way I see myself as someone who, through training, came to belong to two different dance traditions, two dance traditions that are not completely foreign to each other but that have established very complex and puzzling relations or non-relations.
During the summer course special attention was dedicated to the question of “decolonizing aesthetics,” a conversation that put into my horizon questions I had not even considered and that I could suddenly discuss with artists coming from different disciplinary and cultural backgrounds. To be immersed in that dialogue was an extremely exciting experience that I haven’t finished assimilating; a very disturbing experience as well, because it further upset the already shaken ground I was and am standing on.
And yet, it was not only finding a common interpretive frame for thinking about different though related experiences that produced my disturbing excitement. It was also the sensation that my personal experience and the personal experiences of the people I met were placed first. We were talking theory, but only because in different ways we need that theory to make sense of our disparate yet related stories.
When I met María Lugones, I met a person first, a person whose voice was present later that summer when I read her Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes, a book that I’m sure won’t leave my thinking untouched. When I met you and you told me the story of Marfita, I was just amazed because even though our life experiences are quite distinct, I could somehow recognize in your story something like my dislocation working in Brussels, trying to make sense of two different and seemingly unrelated worlds. Then I also remember talking with Rolando Vazquez in María’s hotel room, telling him about my struggles to establish a relation with past and history that wouldn’t deny my former experience as a dancer in Quito, and he saying with his kind smile “so funny, I’ve been writing about it for a while now and here you come with this,” then of course I got to read what he was writing and that brought into my practice a perspective I haven’t been managed to articulate, a perspective that carries the kindness of his smile, a kindness that dissolves the discomfort that often accompanies the word “colonialism” when it appears in conversation with my colleagues in Brussels. Then there’s also the sensation of understanding something of the political commitment of Walter and his project of decolonizing epistemology, a political project that involves him fully as a person.
So yes, I think I found the company I was looking for. A very warm company. And yet a very disturbing company for the questions it raised. For example, what does it imply to “decolonize aesthetics”? We certainly didn’t have the time to get to the bottom of that.
The San Antonio based Más Rudas Collective [MRC] is Ruth Leonela Buentello, Sarah Castillo, Kristin Gamez, and Mari Hernandez. “Más rudas” resists English translation. Instead, a demonstration: the four artists were recently kicked out of the Alamo by security—the strong arm of the Daughters of the Republic (of Texas)—for showing up there in costumes including a mariachi, an Aztec princess, the Virgen de Guadalupe, and the Donkey Lady of San Antonio (a local urban legend). Another act implied in their name is the simultaneous ancestor-honoring maintenance and radical revision of what it is to be Chicana/o. They refuse to relinquish identity to the altar of contemporary art. This tenacity has been rewarded in their short, rocketing career with a residency at Slanguage in Wilmington, L.A., installations and solo shows at the Mexican American Cultural Center in Austin and the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio, the cover of Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social, and in Fall 2012, the Window at Artpace San Antonio, to name a few.
Interview by Josh T Franco
I have been following Mas Rudas Collective since the “Quinceanera” show a couple of years ago now. I have questions I'm eager to ask about that show and the really rad projects that have happened since, but first, can you tell me how you all decided to come together as a collective in the first place? Do any of you still maintain studio practices on your own, or is this an all-in kind of deal?
Our efforts towards establishing an all female collective was sparked by Mari Hernandez. We started collaborating in efforts of having an all female DIY art show, “Our Debut,” in December 2009 in a friend’s living room. We all welcomed the opportunity since we felt the SA arts community overlooked Mexican-American artististas and because we didn't connect to the majority of art being shown in San Antonio. Through our collaborative efforts in discussing, creating and organizing “Our Debut,” we decided to continue collaborating as a Chicana collective, which we solidified under the name, Más Rudas.
Individual studio practices are still kept while the collective works together on our collective exhibitions. Each form of practice, individually and collectively, ignites a flame in the other.
Richard Benari's current work focuses on the possibilities of a pared-down photographic language and its ability to provoke a visceral response to form. His chief concern is the interpretation of that language in print. Relying solely on the literal qualities of the photographic object, meaning in his pictures derives from the unique interaction of surface, ink and light, rather than from the image, per se. His photographs are in numerous private, public and library collections including Smith College Museum of Art, the University of Oregon and Yale University.
Lauren Henkin grew up in Maryland, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in architecture from Washington University in St. Louis and resides in New York City. She states, “My work focuses on the tension between preservation and extinction. I work from the inside out, using internal narrative as the foundation in which to reinterpret space, light and form found in the external.”Henkin is an educator, reviewer, writer, frequent speaker, author of numerous books, and active member in the arts. Her work is widely collected by private collectors as well as institutions such as Southeast Museum of Photography, Yale University, Smith College and Dartmouth College among others. Her work has been published in numerous journals on photography and the book arts including PDN, Shots Magazine, Black+White Magazine, Diffusion Magazine, Flak Photo,Urbanautica, Landscape Stories, Parenthesis and The Washington Post. She is a Px3 multi-category winner, Oregon Regional Arts & Culture Council grant winner, with other award nominations in both the Brink Emerging Artist and Contemporary Northwest Art Awards.
Interview by Josh T. Franco
The notion of a “touching photograph” is schmaltzy, saccharine. Well, at best, a photograph can be genuinely touching as a mnemonic talisman. And these are crucial. Distinguishing between personal and generic is the key. But touching a photograph feels illicit and irreversible. If the viewer is not imbedded with basic conservation protocol, she is nonetheless touching, and that is something in a world where looking at even shocking images is quotidian. The fingerprint will never fade. The human oil cannot be fully conserved out of the print. You have offered up your photographs explicitly for handling, manhandling. (Is mangling so far away?) To do so in the context of art is a risk. Thank you for taking a risk, not merely for the sake of being risqué. The touching matters, you tell us. It makes me begin my engagement with your work in a place other than the visual. Tactility seems the highway, visibility the exit ramp. The vehicles: hand-built vellum and sandpaper.
“Manhandling” feels a bit loaded. But “tactile” fits. That’s what we were after--reconnecting viewers to the haptic quality of a photographic print. And, yes, there’s some risk in that. Thanks for acknowledging it. The idea isn’t so much that the feel of the print in your hand supersedes the visual, but that you get to experience the print as we did when making it: up-close, unframed, unmmediated and accessing the ambient light in which it is viewed.
Michael Anthony García was born in El Paso, Texas, but has lived all over the state through the years. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art from Austin College in Sherman, TX in 1996 where became an Adjunct Art Faculty member after graduation. His work has been seen throughout Texas, Mexico and Brooklyn, New York and although he has explored a variety of media, the bulk of his constructions are true to the traditions of found-object sculpture, performance art and installations. Most notably he has presented work at Mexic-Arte Museum, the Lawndale and in the 2011 Texas Biennial. He now lives and teaches in Austin, TX and is a collaborating founder of Los Outsiders, a creative and curatorial collective that has organized exhibitions in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Houston and Austin, TX. He was a recipient of the 2012 Austin Critics Table Award for best group show curation as well as being selected as the 2012 Austin Visual Arts Association‘s (AVAA) Artist of the Year, 3D.
Interview by Josh T Franco
I’m glad we finally met. Seems like our worlds circled one another for a few years. To business: you’re a busy guy. This summer, you curated the 18th annual Young Latino Artists (YLA) Exhibition at Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin, had work up at the People’s Gallery (aka Austin City Hall), and had a solo show at Red Space, also in Austin. Are you exhausted? Ready to get back to teaching in the Fall? And pre-kindergarteners no less...
The summer took off like a rocket for me and taking on projects back to back the way I did, was very exhausting, but since then I have had the chance to relax and recharge my batteries. This summer I had the pleasure of living in an art world mirage by curating and creating/exhibiting my own work, but now I have to refocus myself on my day job in education. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a bit of a let down, a postpARTum dip, if you will, but these things always come in cycles so I have learned to adapt.
Fabiola Torralba is a dancer, educator, artist, and activist. After several years of community organizing and cultural work in San Antonio, two bachelor’s degrees, and some ethnographic fieldwork, she decided to return to her first love. Fabiola then trained under Erica Wilson-Perkins at Palo Alto College receiving an Associates of Arts in Dance with additional training under the Urban Bush Women, the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, and David Grenke of ThingsezIsee’um Dance/Theater among others. She collaborates frequently with local artists, schools, galleries, and non-profit organizations on multi-disciplinary, educational, and performance based projects. Previous works include, En Rumbo, entre nos, Zapatos Viejos, This Bridge We Call…, XVoto, Me Gustas Cuando Callas, and nos(otros) ¡somos!, a full length bilingual multimedia performance that presents multiple facets of the immigration experience by first voices. Fabiola utilizes movement as a vehicle for community building, civic engagement, and social-cultural awareness. She enjoys exploring interdisciplinary collaborations and the intersections between art, story, and action.
At the beginning and end of summer 2013, Torralba produced and performed innos(otros)!somos! accompanied by a related solo installation at Lady Base Gallery.
Interview by Josh T Franco
How did you recruit the performers for nos(otros)!somos!? Did you have the idea then find them, or vice versa?
My primary objective was to find immigrants to invite to participate. Given that many do not identify themselves so openly and that I knew few myself, I simply asked people that I knew to participate and then asked them to identify people that they knew to invite as well. I set the parameters of the project in terms of vision and scope, facilitated its development, and co-directed the program. The rest was all magic.