Unedited conversations between artist in a productive critique  discovering  thesis and processes behind the work.








Conversation between Jim Drain and Olivia Ramos.


Jim Drain







thank you for joining me


Hi Olivia




I was reading about your show at Nathalie Karg Gallery


still looking at some of the images








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




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




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




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




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




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.




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?




give me a sec




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




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




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




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




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