Interview By Maia Poon
Art in all its forms is so essential for our emotional wellbeing, learning about others’ lives, and sharing our own stories. Especially now, with June 2020 being Pride Month, a pivotal moment for the Black Lives Matter movement, and in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the role of art is shifting but more important than ever. I had the opportunity to provide a platform for multidisciplinary artists and writers through online interviews, and they each had something unique to share. Keep creating!
(shot by Kai Philavanh)
ABOUT THE PIECE
"Silver Rush" is a drag piece I designed and constructed during the period of self isolation. Returning home to the American West continued an inquiry into my personal relationship between the construction of the American mythos and my own identity. My aesthetic taste and indeed the validity of my own presence as a white American on Arapahoe and Cheyenne land is defined by the Myth of the West. Yet this narrative's core traditional conservative hegemony comes directly into contrast with my queerness, leaving me to feel stranded between disparate identities and their eventual expressions, leaving me feeling quite "alien" in the land of the cowboy.
1. Do you feel more or less connected to your art during social isolation?
In many ways, social isolation has brought about a reflective period, opening up a creative yet treacherous frontier for artistic works. I hesitate to describe this period as peaceful, however, as the opportunity to reflect ultimately has unearthed personal, societal, and institutional turmoil in not only myself, but the world. Crisis, and change in general, has a way of illuminating both the positives and the negatives of what was once normal. This cognitive dissonance and liminal space is a place that I not only crave to work from, but also need to work from in order to productively process my own learning and emotions.
2. Have you seen any noticeable changes in the subjects of your art?
Losing access to both the structure and materials offered by my college proved to be a challenge when it came to creating work. My art has always been motivated and informed by radical justice and political movements as well as my own experience of queerness, and this period of social distancing only brought about the space to continue my artistic inquiry into these concepts. What did change dramatically was the medium. I found myself leaving behind comfortable forms of creation due to access, in favor of a scrappy use of available materials. I don't think I would have designed and constructed this drag piece had my access and space not dramatically changed.
3. Why is art important right now, with the pandemic and civil unrest around the world?
The communication of information and concepts is crucial to both community survival through the pandemic, and the success of the latest iteration of the Black Lives Matter movement where the anti-racist re-education of America is of the utmost importance. Art has the power to render data and indescribable emotion tangible, accessible, and often entirely palpable where it may otherwise have not been. It is the duty of the artist to both reflect their times as well as inform them. It is the duty of the artistic institutions at this time to aim to platform and develop this progress and the voices of the movement via resources, exposure, and cold, hard cash.
4. How can art be used to share typically marginalized voices?
The best way for white artists (like myself) and non-Black artists to actively perform the duties of allyship to our peers is to elevate, platform, and PAY Black creators at this time, as well as evaluate our own space within the discourse, our communities, and artistic institutions. Same goes for cisgender and heterosexual artists. In order to create sustainable changes in these fields, we must be constantly assessing how privilege is wielded and how we may use it to dismantle our personal biases and systemic racism.