Unedited conversations between artist in a productive critique discovering thesis and processes behind the work.
FOLLOW US @WORKUNTITLED_MAG
Conversation between Jim Drain and Olivia Ramos.
RAMOS: Hi Jim
thank you for joining me
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'
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
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