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








Conversation between Lee Materazzi and Olivia Ramos.


Lee Materazzi


MATERAZZI: I'm here!


RAMOS: Hi Lee - so happy to have you back


looking forward to this


we are going to discuss your last series, as I understand it on a very high level, you have now moved on to a next series, something you are no ready to discuss... why are you ready to discuss this one? what happens once you are finished with a series?


When I start making work there are a lot of questions, things that are unresolved. That is a part of my interest in making work.. working through those inquiries.


once there are no more questions, the body of work is done


and once there are no questions, you feel comfortable discussing the work


because you have all the answers I assume


well, discussions always add value to any work at any point


I keep the discussions of "work in progress" more intimate. As in less public.


There is then less pressure to define what I'm doing and it allows me to keep things as open as possible as I'm working through it.


that makes perfect sense... I also assume that a lot of work doesn't "make it" and once it is deemed a series is very much curated by you - would that be correct?


was just about to say that..


I definitely edit a lot. It's so important to make bad work along the way. I just don't need to put it out there.



well I hope you keep an archive of the bad work


it's just an instinct but it might come in handy someday


would love to curate a show of "failures" one day. Works made by artists that didn't make the cut. At the end of the day it's a process and every step is important.




ok I don't want to delay any further - I am so excited about the series we are going to discuss


few work, in general, gives me a genuine feeling of happy


and this work really does


what was the intentions?


This pre-conversation is perfectly appropriate for the work that we are discussing. The title of the series is called PLaY.


Its about finding the space to play in a structured environment.


it was inspired by having children in an urban environment. My kids walk down the street and want to pretty much just run into it.


or they want to pick up "treasures" that they find and it's a constant struggle for me to decide what they should and shouldn't touch.


haha I can't imagine


your structure environment is specifically in this case San Francisco




the city, for me, has a feeling of aged darkness


of course along with the promise of tech and the beautiful new wave of progress


San Francisco is an awesome city. It does have a lot of history combined with progression.


Making this work was combination of feeling suffocated by the city and embraced. A process of moving through both of these sensations.


making work in a public space opened me up to a lot of unpleasant encounters and awesome ones.


generally, people who are rushing to work on Tuesday morning at 8 were pissed off if I was in their way. Understandably..


but then comes this problem of, where is the space to play?


physically and mentally


I did close down a street for one of the works. I was intimidated by getting a permit. I had to go to a meeting with a room full of important people (head of police, fire department etc..) and explain why it was important for me to shut down the street and hang swings in it.


one of the police officers voiced concern about traffic jamming up because of the street closure. It turns out that he was worried about my shot being ruined more than anything else and gave me his number in case I needed help diverting traffic.


so, in other words, the city was impressively awesome.


that's a great story, San Fran, as part of it's history is amazingly accepting and flexible to the personalities that come to live in it


within the series I see three ways to differentiate between the work itself


the swings and the kites in the alley have this magic about them


this feeling of "how can that be?"







I particularly love that feeling


I want to go about life saying that to myself everyday - how can that be, it's magic


There was this desire to make something impossible happen. For there to be some magic, you could say. In reality though, the impossibility of it is also sad and defeating.


it would be really dangerous to install a swing set in the street and impossible to fly kites in a sheltered alley.


sure, but it's about it actually existing, at least nor for me, it is about the possibility of it


and if I am seeing it in image, it is possible, at least in my mind


this expansion within my existence is super powerful


I mean that's why we read science fiction


in a way this work is science fiction


The imagination is an amazing dimension. So many things can exist and happen. I suppose it's the line where the imagination crosses into reality where something interesting happens.


Something simultaneously magical and starkly real.


yes - magical realism ha


there is that, and within it, there is a very interesting choice to make it positive


I am guessing that part has everything to do with your children


maybe positive and negative are one in the same. If you have one, you inevitably have the other. So, when I moved through these works that is what I felt. The work was filled with idealistic ideas about play that were contrasted to the the very rigid world that exists. I was very aware of how challenging it was to subtly step outside of how we are expected to interact with the world.


I get this feeling with my kids too.


there are so many expectations on "how kids are suppose to play"


and also how grownups are supposed to play - or not play


which becomes very frustrating growing up to be 34


on that note, I want to bring up the second way to differentiate between the work


which is you playing


for example, the words on the street


playing with how many words can be done with the letters of STOP



It's good example for our conversation


there are only so many ways to play with the word stop


it's a rigid literary structure that I am trying to push and bring out its full potential. At the same time I am playing with an environment where you are being told what to do "STOP".


yes - but also there is this childish mischievous part of it, and that is you changing everyone else's reality


in the real world


Then there was also the reality of the people who use that road and their feelings towards me altering their daily space.


we said it at the same time




you are controlling other people's reality


how does that feel?


The road was closed that day so I laid the words out. They were made of paper and were about 40ft long. This one guy came up riding his bike and apparently he was use to riding his bike down that road so he pretty much decided that he needed to ride over my installation.


Sometimes change, play, art can be so hard for people to swallow.


so , how does it feel to changes someones reality... I suppose I would see my work as being successful if I can manage to do that.


haha no way - that was very territorial of him (the bicyclist) and I guess in general that is where the friction comes in


people might not want their realities to be extended or twisted or messed with in any way




and when you force it on someone you get a mixed bag of reactions and encounters.


but sometimes sneaking it in is the only way to go about it.


like the leaves!


that one was super sneaky





in fact, if I didn't know better it would seem totally normal


That was an emotional piece for me more than anything. I hid under some real leaves prior to that work and came out with ringworm and it was just gross. So, i decided to sanitize the experience of playing with leaves in an urban environment. I spent weeks cutting out those leaves by hand. Then my daughter and I threw them down the street - finally something that I didn't need to worry about her touching. It was really hard to watch them fly away.


It goes back to the problem of contrived play.


When you've put so much work into creating an environment there are too many expectations on how to navigate through it.


yes and at a larger scale that is how the city feels about it's environment


the everyday passer by, the biker..


Exactly, San Francisco is this amazing city but really that is a double edged sword, because where then is the space for people to create.