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Conversation between Jim Drain and Olivia Ramos.

 

Jim Drain

 

 

DRAIN: Hi

 

RAMOS: Hi Jim

 

thank you for joining me

 

Hi Olivia

 

yeah

 

I was reading about your show at Nathalie Karg Gallery

 

still looking at some of the images

 

 

 

 

 

ha

 

I like the title a lot, or rather it evokes something for me, as a student of architecture that's all I thought about - Utopia

 

and agree, if I understood correctly, that if we think about it more we might have a better change of improving or progressing from where we are

 

 

 

it is about an activating the future we want

 

rather than being passive

 

that we are given apocalyptic forecasts- none of which are 'true'

 

and that by flexing and building a utopian muscle, we can make a future aligned with our beliefs and hopes

 

Juno Diaz spoke at the RedCat in LA

 

and talked about taking this position in light of the current failures of leadership

 

so the show was about activating this space- flexing this muscle-

 

right, in a way shifting from a scarcity mentality to one of abundance

 

I was really inspired by Edward Hick's painting of the Peaceable Kingdom

 

exactly

 

there are a lot of efforts in play to make that shift, I was recently in a singularity university program - and this was the overarching topic

 

however, very different from the paining - it was assumed that technology would take us there

 

your show however couldn't be more low tech - unless I am perceiving it wrong

 

yeah- it was the lowest tech

 

is that a suggestion to come full circle, or move towards the past, or... how would you word it?

 

of the low tech

 

ha. how does the knitting empower the utopia muscle?

 

For many of the works, it involved tying knots of recycled clothing cut into strips onto chicken wire.

 

well. consider this poster

 

 

 

 

does knitting empower the utopia muscle.  in all cases yes

 

ok. so back to this Mayakovsky poster.

 

Vladimir Mayakovsky

 

it talks about a utopia

 

I translated it as something like: do want to stay in the past and be cold and be hungry?

 

it talks about providing basic necessities

 

no! eat and drink

 

and shelter ... aren't those basic necessities?

 

haha - "no! eat and drink" was not a response to my comment

 

Exemplary labor stand up!

 

i had to check my notes

 

so we are talking about pretty basic needs (and shelter- yes)

 

back to your singularity program:

 

not to be too critical -or critical at all- because I know zero about the program- but it made me think about what would this poster be like today?

 

a hyper loop?

 

or a  better cell phone?

 

or the Panama Canal?

 

well no - the idea is that technology is becoming exponentially cheaper and powerful at the same time

 

and it will reach a point in which all basic necessities will be free

 

true-

 

but with the help of technology

 

well that is cool

 

in the past it has been dependent on politics

 

and we see the results of that now

 

right

 

which is why I question - not in a critical way, but coming from a tech-heavy education - what the knitting is about?

 

is it about labor?

 

so. my take is that weaving (and knitting) are the first digital form

 

so it is about tech!

 

the jacquard reads a punch card-open hole/closed hole

 

it is one aspect of my interest, yes

 

architecturally

 

what do you mean architecturally?

 

I think the woven and knit structure have a lot to lend to architecture still.  I am going off the rails a bit- but i think as much as we see technology being ahead of us, beyond our nose, there still is so much history and knowledge to mine behind us

 

but just in a similar way- textiles has opened up ways to approaching form in my sculpture work

 

I understand, if it was up to me we would have tech took directly at nature

 

I would say the same for architecture

 

yes.  we live in structures that are so incongruous to their set environments

 

 

and even within themselves

 

they are modeled after ourselves

 

we simply produce waste

 

and so do our structures

 

nature doesn't do that

 

right

 

ontopic? I read an article on concrete- that its composition chemically is hardly made to last more than a few hundred years

 

that a better mixture would allow for cracking and self-healing and re-crystalization

 

then you wouldn't have recurring revenues

 

which is the definition of quartz in a way.

 

recurring revenues.

 

yeah

 

that's the thing about a mindset of scarcity

 

it is fear based

 

yes. so I tried to circumvent this in a way and see the show from a perspective of abundance.

 

I was in no way able to bring in help to the studio and I really wanted to make these ambitious sculptures that were pretty labor-intensive.

 

I approached the show from a place of scarcity- I dont have this thing I need (labor, materials, etc)

 

and I posted a thing on FB saying something like- hey come by the studio I need help i'll play good music and make lunch.

 

I quickly (and fortunately) got schooled

 

I was approaching the show the wrong way and it was going to come through in the work

 

hold on this new puppy is crying

 

prince.  a handful.

 

Anyway, so, i called a few friends and asked for advice.

 

I had a lecture in Detroit coming up and suggested we give my lecture fee to the students if I could have some help

 

I made clear that I was not looking for free labor.

 

The school was down and a number of students helped with the Ebay Kachina In a Vortex sculpture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim Drain

 

 

 

I followed up with the students to make sure they were paid for their time and they were- anyway, so it really shifted my focus and energy of the show to suddenly look for positive ways ahead- and really look closely to the things I already had at hand.

 

 

 

 

 

.......PART TWO

 

 

 

 

how should we continue?

 

Do you have questions or things you'd like me to discuss?

 

Olivia?

 

give me a sec

 

Ok

 

I had a spider on me and I don't kill spiders, but we are on a boat, so it was a bit of a situation

 

back to the conversation

 

Lol

 

I am really interested and very much identify with the scarcity/abundance mentality

 

the way we operate is night and day depending on where we stand with that

 

your work begins a conversation about that, not only in the making of it, but also in the expression

 

Yes. That was the ethos behind Nathalie's show

 

how do you move forward from there?

 

The next group of works look at Russian Constructivism. In particular Stepanova's work. There was so much upheaval and a her work took a stand. There a was a belief that Art had a place in helping to build a new society

 

I love her work: it's voice, her patterns, the ability to leap disciplines.

 

But I have also been interested in how utopias are expressed

 

Visually

 

This new work takes this as the starting point

 

I have a lot of images in mind from the architecture perspective, every great architect has had some kind of utopian vision

 

I wonder how different it might be from the perspective of an artist

 

As I work on imagery it feels like I am trolling history. That appropriation is a kind of meme making and trolling. Propaganda is a kind of utopic visual

 

the architect is mainly focused on infrastructure and systems that facilitate all the components of life - food, shelter, energy..

 

Both seal with systems

 

The artist perhaps is looking at less functional systems

 

Maybe....

 

do you imagine the work as propaganda, as in promoting change, or actually proposing real solutions?

 

It deals with a 'we'

 

... thinking...

 

sure but this "we" is used in many cases that have nothing to do with Utopia

 

I'm thinking about the garbage Shawn Hannity spews. It unites an us vs them mentality that does talk about a future. But the future is holding onto a fantasy past. I suppose the utopias I like are the futures that don't make divisions, admit to their own fantasy, that are not about revising a past

 

But his proposed future is holding onto a racist past

 

Anyway

 

if it is holding on to a racist past then it is a racist present

 

It lends itself to this discussion of monuments.

 

what do you mean by monuments? what scale?

 

I looked up to see if any British generals from the American rev war had monuments

 

And a future of further disparity

 

ok ok I was hoping you were not referring to those monuments

 

Wait maybe I'm getting too tangential

 

The civil war monuments being taken down

 

so then when you think of Utopia it is purely a social construct - specific to way society "feels" about each other

 

Identifies with each other

 

perhaps is my academic training, but i tend to think if there is an infrastructure that provides for everyone then the emotional side would be appeased

 

Heh yeah

 

Walls unite!

 

maybe it has to be a little bit of both? if there is still scarcity and people take care of "their own kind" then the identification will be unlikely

 

I hate to sound in any way communist - that scares the hell out of me

 

Yes. Walls are nice. Monuments are more about the future. Humans need a skin

 

Lol