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State of the Arts NYC interview with artist Nathaniel Mary Quinn 
Recording Date: October 11,2018
Place: BRIC Arts Media, Brooklyn, New York
Artist: Nathaniel Mary Quinn

Savona McClain:                00:26     Good Morning. This is State of the Arts NYCN. This is your host Savona Bailey McClain and today we have joining us a nice young man who is a part of an exhibition at the Drawing Center that’s in SoHo and that is Nathaniel Mary Quinn. How are you Nathaniel? Can you hear me?

Nathaniel Quinn:              01:07                       Yes I can hear you, yes, yes.

Savona McClain:                01:09                       Great Nathaniel. So it’s such a pleasure to have you onto our show. And Nathaniel is a part of this show that’s called For Opacity.

Nathaniel Quinn:              01:23                       That is correct.

Savona McClain:                01:24                       Right. It’s at The Drawing Center and basically it’s three artists whose works, you have Elijah Burgher, you have Toyin Odutola, and I’ve met her before when she was a artist residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and Nathaniel Mary Quinn. Now Nathaniel was born in Chicago right? You’re a Chicago boy.

Nathaniel Quinn:              01:55                       That is right.

Savona McClain:                01:56                       Born in 1977, and you were exploring the identities through drawing. You’re a survivor of the Robert Taylor Housing Projects in Brownsville. Correct?

Nathaniel Quinn:              02:11                       Yes. On the south side of Chicago, that is correct.

Savona McClain:                02:15                       Okay. And so why don’t you tell us a little bit about what motivated you to become an artist in the first place and why you selected doing figurative works or figurative and abstract works as your practice.

Nathaniel Quinn:              02:37                       Oh yeah, sure. Thank you so much for having me as a guest on your pod cast show. I’m a huge fan of pod cast and very happy to be speaking with you and your audience. Well I can’t say that there was a time when I chose to be an artist. I think it chose me. It’s one of those things where I never had the experience where I was ever confused about what drove me in line to, or what I was passionate about. I never had that issue. I’ve got many people who feel like they are in search of their calling or their purpose and sort of thing and I can’t relate to that. I always knew and felt that I wanted to make art. I mean, it’s just sort of in my DNA. I guess it’s [inaudible 00:03:38] to say that I was born with this natural ability to draw and paint and draw figures and that sort of thing. Yeah, obviously it all began during my childhood. I grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago and my parents, once they learned that I had this talent they began to hone my skills, in particular my father. I mean, both of my parents could not read or write. They were both illiterate.

Savona McClain:                04:12                       Really?

Nathaniel Quinn:              04:15                       Yeah my parents were illiterate. We were poor, working class poor, but we were not unique. Every resident in the Robert Taylor Homes, this was a working class poor community, this tenement housing and, but my father knew how to draw and he was very good actually. And he would take me to the side on Saturday’s and we would sit at the little rickety kitchen table and he would take a shopping, the brown shopping bags from the nearby grocery store, it was called Super Jet and he would tear them in half to make them flat and we would draw the characters from comic books. Like Marvel comic books and DC comic books and my father would sort of train me. He was essentially my first art teacher. I was young, this must have been, I was maybe five, six years of age.

Savona McClain:                05:24                       Where your family is from originally?

Nathaniel Quinn:              05:29                       You know, I’m not sure where my dad may be from. I did hear a tale that my father was from New Jersey and he escaped to Chicago on the account of a murder that he committed while living in Jersey. This is the story that was told to me. That’s all I know. And my mother is from Mississippi. I’m not sure which town or city in Mississippi she was born or where she may have come from. But I do know that she is from Mississippi and was part of that great migration period, at least the later end of it and migrate to Chicago.

Nathaniel Quinn:              06:15                       And during that time, the Robert Taylor Homes were very nice tenant housing. Actually, there was groomed grass and newly painted fences and stuff and I think those tenant housing were officially designed to help single mothers with families to get on their feet as they made their transition to the sorta main stream community of Chicago. But I think over time, the city government abandoned their responsibility to these housing and let it go and it became what it is now mostly known for. Which is gang infested, drug populated, really bad community. [crosstalk 00:07:13]

Savona McClain:                07:13                       No, no, no. I don’t wanna cut you off but at the same time moving forward. So coming from that environment and your father teaching you how to draw at the kitchen table, a lot of us learned things at the kitchen table at home. What motivated you to focus on drawing figures? Did you draw figures of the people in your neighborhood, or did you draw people outside or what motivated you to now draw different types of, I guess, people?

Nathaniel Quinn:              07:48                       Well like I said before during, as a kid, I would draw, I would copy comic book characters so I think from that point I just had this ascenity for drawing the figure. And I just liked it. Now remember growing up there, this was a place filled with all kinds of gangs. This was a gang culture where I grew up and so drawing was a means by which I was able to purchase my own protection, because I would draw the gang leaders in the community and they liked it so much and I would do drawings of them as super hero’s. And then they, in return, it got me some protection, you know what I’m sayin? That’s good Nate, you can draw and don’t mess with him. He’s the artist around here. So it gave me a lot of reverence and I liked the feeling of that. To think that there’s things that I can do with my hands, actually giving me this protection. So it turns out that drawing was a very high level currency for me and I used it my advantage because it helped to sorta keep me safe.

Nathaniel Quinn:              09:13                       I mean, of course if you ran into other rival gang members who didn’t know who you were you can run into problems then, but for the most part it was great currency for me. And I liked that. There were other kids in the community who could draw as well and other kids would challenge me to drawing and stuff and have drawing competitions. I would always win and then they would become like my acalites. So I start teach them how to draw the figure and how to draw face and hands. These are some of the things as a draftsman, you probably would have difficulty rendering, were the hand or feet. But for me it came with such great ease so I had a drawing club that I began to form with many of my peers in the community here.

Savona McClain:                10:01                       Wow, you took it to another level. Interesting. So now this new exhibition that you’re doing at The Drawing Center, are your figures the same figures? Are they people from your neighborhood or did you move on to different subject matters?

Nathaniel Quinn:              10:19                       Oh nah, nah, nah. These days it’s very different. There is one, well in the show at The Drawing Center, it’s a survey of works over the past four years, so from 2014 to present. Some of the early works I made pretty much during the [inaudible 00:10:46] stages of my career were works about people from Chicago. From those, from the projects where I grew up. But the more current pieces are pieces of people in my neighborhood today in Crown Heights so it’s much more contemporary.

Savona McClain:                11:06                       And so who do you, so when you look at Crown Heights, that’s a very diverse neighborhood, isn’t it?

Nathaniel Quinn:              11:12                       Well yeah. The [inaudible 00:11:18] is pretty heavy right now throughout Brooklyn. It’s one of the most robust real estate markets in the world.

Savona McClain:                11:24                       I would say so.

Nathaniel Quinn:              11:27                       And two and a half years ago, my wife and I, we bought a house in Crown Heights, Brooklyn on Saint Marks Avenue. And we were very happy about it and I must say we really did got ahead of the curve here. ‘Cause two years ago to now, the prices are like very different. But when we moved here two and a half years ago, the community was at the beginning of that shift in geni fication, but it was still somewhat sketchy. It wasn’t dangerous but you could still see some of the old remnants of the old Brooklyn. And many of the renderings they-

Savona McClain:                12:12                       But it’s a mix there. You have a large Caribbean Community. You have a large Hasidic community that live right next door to each other. They’re like in one sorta big community. You have, I still think, isn’t Brooklyn Museum a part of Crown Heights a little bit?

Nathaniel Quinn:              12:33                       Oh yeah. It’s most certainly in Crown Heights. But see the Brooklyn Museum is sorta on the other side of Crown Heights, I think. A little bit past [inaudible 00:12:43]. Where I am is on the opposite side, which is the new frontier for geni fication. I mean you got all these new condos coming up and the houses being renovated and sold and purchased for these large sums of money. One point five million dollars sort of thing. But this is how it all began.

Nathaniel Quinn:              13:06                       So my wife and I we move into the house. We move everything inside, everything’s still in boxes, we’re tired. We lay down in the bed just to rest and go to sleep. However, in front of the house were a group of guys, maybe 10 of them, and they were talking loudly and playing music and stuff. Now, my wife is from London, she’s a black British woman so she sees this kind of activity, she thinks she’s on the set of BET. And she’s thinking she’s just gonna go out there and tell them what time it is and to get from away from in front of the house. Now I know this is not a TV set. This is real life [crosstalk 00:13:46]. I say to her “Whoa, whoa, don’t you, don’t say anything. Let me talk to them. I’m from the hood. I know how to handle this. I got this.”

Nathaniel Quinn:              13:50                       So I go outside, I just start talking. I introduce myself to them, I make them laugh and stuff, use my charisma, just warming up to em. ‘Cause there’s two things I knew for certain. Number one, obviously these guys grew up on this block. They grew up in the community. And number two, these guys clearly exhibit the sort of the behavior patterns that strongly suggest that the might have done some prison time, they may still be in that dark world of drug dealing and selling. Maybe some of em are carrying weapons like a gun or something of this nature. I can see this stuff, I just know this stuff. So I just warmed up to them and started talking and then after we had that discussion, one of these guys, I’ll never forget. He said to me “Hey man, I want you to know that we really appreciate the respect you showed up because we were standing in front of your house. And as a result of that we gonna move from in front of your house ’cause we know you and your wife trying to sleep. But you should also know that if you had come at us in a disrespectful way, we’ll be whooping your ass up and down the street right now.”

Savona McClain:                15:13                       Wow, they made it real, didn’t they?

Nathaniel Quinn:              15:18                       Oh yeah, yeah. They made, they showed no hesitation about it. But as a result of that night, over the past two years I developed a very health relationship with them. And let me tell you something, these guys, they share everything with me. They’re so generous about their lives and what it was like back in the 90s, and what their mom did and who was a crack addict, and their father died, and how much time they did in jail. Just everything. They just kinda talked to me.

Savona McClain:                15:52                       They needed a friend. Yeah, they needed a friend.

Nathaniel Quinn:              15:55                       It was really cool and they were always calling me the square. So in that world a square is someone who has a job, you working and stuff. You probably went to school, this kinda thing. And I said, man why you guys calling me a square? And they said, man Quinn, we wanna be a square like you man. Like what you’re doin is what we strive to do. But we just too far along in the street life, this is all we know. So now we got to a place of where allowing themselves to be vulnerable around me now. They trust me and those experiences is what gave rise to these ideas where I began to make a body of work about the community.

Savona McClain:                16:37                       Gotcha, gotcha. Now that’s a heck of a story. That’s a real story. And it’s not that different. I mean, I’m African American too and but I grew up differently. My family was working class, they came from the south too. My grandmother was a part of that black migration and but we always lived in a house. It’s not until I became an adult that I lived in an apartment building, but I always lived in a house. And yeah so, you deal with people that live in the neighborhood and so I find that sometimes setting an example makes quite a difference.

Savona McClain:                17:17                       I garden. I garden every day tree pits and people stop and they have conversations with me and they talk with me and they tell me what they like about what I’m doing or they tell me about their family too. And it just, that’s how you build a community. It’s through these interactions, these conversations and you do impact each others lives. And it’ll dovetail into other things. So this is great. So you created this body of work. Now did you make your subjects super hero’s or did you just drew them as they were and let that tell the story?

Nathaniel Quinn:              17:58                       Yeah, so here’s the thing. I think the reason that Clara Gilman, who is the Chief Curator at The Drawing Center, she, I’m very honored to be a part of this group exhibition with two amazingly brilliant artists who are both hugely successful and very talented. The show’s called For Opacity, which is based on an essay written by the Martinique philosopher.

Savona McClain:                18:27                       Yes I do know.

Nathaniel Quinn:              18:29                       Edouard Glissant and he talks about this idea of relation. And when you relate to somebody it operates on a very opaque level. Now what that means that you can’t quite put your finger on it. It’s not really concrete but there’s just a connection that you can have with someone that’s very different from you and maybe from a different walk of life from you.

Savona McClain:                18:55                       But also what he’s trying to say it that he was dealing with it on a very deep level, dealing with colonialism, and oppression and slavery that, what happens is that those who were oppressed, sometimes their stories get dominated by others trying to interpret their lives. And this is about not allowing that to happen. Just allowing people to create a model and a platform for themselves outside of the dominant model so therefore, you can just exist. And so that’s what makes this also about opacity. So I didn’t want that lost as well.

Nathaniel Quinn:              19:42                       Thank you for sharing that. You are absolutely right. So in relation to the work, I took that as that same approach. Not that, I take that approach in my work anyhow. Like, I don’t have a interest in painting the way that somebody looks because I don’t think that tells the truth of the spectrum of complexity of a human being. So these works that I, I have a show up now at Salon 94 Gallery. They call it The Land and it’s about my community. Right here in Saint Marks in Crown Heights and every subject I have painted are either people I actually know or spent time with or the work may be about a particular idea. But mostly about people I know. So, in spending time with these guys on the block, and a few women. Not many women, but mostly just men. I, what happens is a high level of empathy comes into the picture where you’re allowed to be vulnerable and honest and the dynamics is when your, the other person is very pure and there is a honest exchange, where judgment is removed and also where your interpretation of what you’re hearing is not involved.

Savona McClain:                21:20                       You see their humanity. Yes.

Nathaniel Quinn:              21:22                       Yeah, you see them for who they are. I’m not trying to describe them. I’m trying to hear what they’re saying and really feel where they’re coming from and so the works that I create are born from visions that come to me. And the vision is the blueprint. It’s my pre linear sketch and then based on that vision I do research in magazines and stuff. So I don’t take pictures of them ’cause I think that’s contrite. I think that what I’m trying to do is somehow find a way to paint and draw the complexities of Bobby or Terry or JD or D or my man B, my next door neighbor. Just based on my interactions with them. And paint the truth of, at least as much as I can, to try to muster to the surface the truth of who they are. This beautiful concontony of intersections and the complexity of their foundation and the blossoming of their being and identity. And of course you have all these different colors and shapes, shapes that don’t appear to fit but they find a way to create a harmony in such disruptive shapes because it turns out that’s the way life really is.

Savona McClain:                22:46                       Isn’t that something.

Nathaniel Quinn:              22:47                       You go through life and you do indeed have experiences that don’t seem to go together, but because those experiences have indeed happened to you, you must find a way to live with them. These experiences will shape your identity and there’s always a yin and a yang. I have a buddy who lives in [inaudible 00:23:09], white guy, he’s a artist. He’s a teacher and I lived with them at the time in a two bedroom, my wife and I lived in a two bedroom apartment and we would notice things, rent started going up and stuff like that. And we talked all the time. I can relate to the guy, and I said isn’t it something how racism works against you because based on the fact that you’re white you are expected to be able to pay this kinda rent. But you and I both know you can’t afford it. You can’t afford it. But in life, because of these fictional destructive belief system of race and racism. So in my community, now I was [inaudible 00:24:07] and I bought a house in Crown Heights Brooklyn so now I’m on the other side of sin and I’m talking to guys that remind me of the kind of guys I grew up with in Chicago.

Savona McClain:                24:19                       Yeah, they do. They sound identical to the same guys you grew up with in the projects. Yeah.

Nathaniel Quinn:              24:25                       Right but I’m on the other side of the fence. I’m in a very different social economic status and I travel, and those kind of things, but I can still relate because I’m from that backdrop. And in many respects I relate to them more seamlessly than I can relate to many of the new people I’ve been meeting in the art world. ‘Cause they’re so honest. They have no real shame. It’s amazing that they’re willing to go to be open with me.

Savona McClain:                24:59                       Well they realize that you’re willing to hear them and you’re willing, you’re not going to shame them. Let me put it that way. You understand them, you’re not trying to shame them and so you built this trust and that’s what they needed in order so that they could share. And in many ways it’s almost a form of poetry because you’re allowing them to speak in a way that they are, they normally do not get a chance to speak. And this is great, what you’ve done. You almost remind me of Kehinde Wiley ’cause Kehinde, who I’ve met, and you know Kehinde, who did President Obama’s portrait?

Nathaniel Quinn:              25:44                       Yeah of course.

Savona McClain:                25:45                       That’s what he did. He took these, mostly men, and created these backdrops that didn’t match what you would think. Whether it would be floral or it would have other dramatic colors. It had this sort of this barouche sort of look to it. So therefore folks had to take a double take ’cause you wouldn’t imagine these men in these particular settings. And you’re kind of doing the same thing but you really going in with a lot of local guys and you’re talking to them and you’re allowing them to share and this is a great thing because now that’s what the arts should be about. It should be about that.

Nathaniel Quinn:              26:30                       I would offer one difference between, let’s say, the work I create and the work created by Kehinde Wiley. Listen Kehinde Wile, I mean really. I would say this, I would tell everybody this. Years ago, I think it was 2003, 2004 when that guy started to explode in the art world and he had his face on bus stations and the subway station and he’s on the cover of R4 magazine and I was just so inspired by that. Because for me it was, man that’s a black man doing very well in the art world. The cream of the crop and he’s a quintessential black man. He’s like a brother from LA, from California. And he draws really well, it was just beautiful. And his work, what he, what I gather he did, based on what I’ve read, is this sort of reinstating the black male body inside of history where the black people were normally removed from. They didn’t have a place in that. And he’s sort of reconstructing history and placing these black bodies in that particular history which is why you have that sort of a [crosstalk 00:27:56] and there’s a guy front and center holding several poses that you would see in Barouche paintings and Renaissance paintings and things like that. So there’s a lot of history implied in his work that’s really beautiful.

Nathaniel Quinn:              28:10                       Where as in my work I’m very much diving to the actual humanity of a particular person and I’m trying to bring to the surface the complexity of who they are. The world that is often time not seen. Because if you see a guy, like let’s say Naquan, he’s my next door neighbor, most people would see Naquan walking down the street and it’s presumed he’s a thug. Right? But when you talk to Naquan, as I do all the time, he’s just a beautiful young man. He’s 40 years old, he has children, he’s a great father, he’s a great husband. Good guy. He’s deep and complex and smart and thoughtful. He’s aware of the community and the war at large. He has dreams. And so I wanna bring that out because what it does, is that it confronts a viewership of the art world to not only look at Naquan but to take a look at themselves and to then see how similar you are. You’re not that far removed from Naquan. He has, you may judge him on the base of his race and how he dresses and you may [inaudible 00:29:24] person, but check this out. Naquan has dreams like you. He has pain like you. He has heavens like you. He’s complex, just like you.

Nathaniel Quinn:              29:33                       I’m actually duplicating you through the lens of a brother that you wouldn’t even normally speak to but I’m gonna present it to you in this way so that it confronts you with the truth of who you are. And you’re not that far removed from him at all.

Savona McClain:                29:49                       You know, we have to wrap this up but I wanna tell you that I am so glad that I got a chance to talk with you and I wanna thank The Drawing Room and their communications team ’cause they really impressed upon me to meet you, to talk with you and I am just really thrilled about it ’cause this was a fabulous, fabulous conversation. I really enjoyed this so much and I am looking forward to going to the exhibition so I can see it, take pictures and hopefully get to meet you and your wife because this was quite enjoyable and you’ve made me really look at what we’re dealing with in our country today very differently. And I just wanna thank you so very, very much.

Nathaniel Quinn:              30:39                       Oh you’re very welcome and thank you for having me. I really enjoyed the conversation as well. Hope I meet you.

Savona McClain:                30:45                       Yes but I just have to wrap up our show right now but I just wanna say thank you so much Nathaniel. I had a cousin named Nathaniel. I did. I had a cousin named Nathaniel. And my grandmother tried to help him too. He had some troubles of his own and she tried to help him as well. So thank you so much. It was such a pleasure and tell everyone where your exhibition is at The Drawing Room. At The Drawing Center, excuse me.

Nathaniel Quinn:              31:14                       It’s at The Drawing Center. The Drawing Center is on Wooster Street in Soho. I don’t know the exact address but the drawings at the museum and the show opens on October the seventh.

Savona McClain:                31:28                       Perfect. Well thank you so much and we’re wrapping up our show right now and look forward to meeting you.

 

 

 

State of the Arts NYC interview with Sasha Water Freyers on her documentary Garry Winogrand; All Things Are Photographable
Recording Date: September 18,2018
Place: BRIC Arts Media, Brooklyn, New York
Artist: Sasha Waters Freyer
Interviewer: Savona Bailey-McClain

Savona McClain:                Good morning. This is State of the Arts NYC and this is your host Savona Bailey-McClain. Today, we have with you a very special guest. We have Sasha Waters Freyers who’s a filmmaker and producer. Sasha, I just want to thank you for coming onto our show.

Sasha Freyers:                    Oh, thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure.

Savona McClain:                Great. Now, Sasha is not only a filmmaker, but she is also the Chair for Photography and Films at Virginia Commonwealth University. We are here to talk with her about her new documentary on Gary Winogrand. The documentary is called All Things are Photographable. Sasha, tell us a little bit about your film.

Sasha Freyers:                    Sure. Gary Winogrand is a photographer who was very active. He’s passed away in the mid 1980s. He was born a first generation Hungarian American Jewish, to a Jewish family in the Bronx in 1928. He was very active as a photographer from the mid ’50s to about the mid ’80s, with the peak of his work coming in the 1960s and 1970s. The film really spends a lot of time with that era and looks at both his life and his work, and sort of reflects back on why that work was valuable, why it was sort of pushed aside for a little bit of time after his death, but now why it’s returning to and considering again.

Savona McClain:                Well, I wanted to share with you one important little fact that I know you didn’t know. I’m a Bronx girl too.

Sasha Freyers:                    Yes, I did know this.

Savona McClain:                Oh, you did. I’m a Bronx girl too.

Sasha Freyers:                    Yes, I looked it up, yeah.

Savona McClain:                And so, therefore, I was very intrigued with Gary Winogrand because it reminded me of my childhood. When I was a kid, we had all of these different kids from Eastern Europe and we had kids who were from Puerto Rico. You had kids like me whose family came during the Black migration from the south, and we all ended up playing together in the streets, and we all learned to be friends, and to be supportive of each other, so we were all like, you know, that new group of kids who were a part of the education movement during the civil rights, and how’s this going to work, and we all, we just had fun. We were just friends and so when I saw that, I just reminisced on the times when I was a kid in the Bronx, still feel that I’m a Bronx girl, the old Bronx that I remember. But this was quite fascinating. So you are born in Brooklyn, so you’re a Brooklyn gal.

Sasha Freyers:                    I am and it’s funny because what you’re describing is so familiar to me too. I grew up on the Upper West Side, which now has completely different connotations. At that time we called it Spanish Harlem. This was in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I grew up in a very similar neighborhood to what you described. It was Black families, and Dominican, and a lot of Jewish American. It was just a whole one big mix. All of us in public school together. And I think it’s part of the initial appeal for Gary Winogrand’s work to me was that way he captured that New York that I remember from the, not so much I remember it so much from the ’60s, but certainly from the ’70s.

Savona McClain:                Yes, and I think a lot of reviewers, because I believe The New York Times also did a nice review on his photography work, and they were mentioning in the film that old New York that was a little gritty and had a lot of chutzpah to it. And so, a lot of us I think were drawn to that. I did take a lot of time to look at quite a few of his photographs. I just wanted to mention to people that they can look at his photographs online. The film that you have done, the documentary, which is considered a feminist documentary, which I want you to explain later, will start showing at the Film Forum on September 19th, so folks have a chance to just look at the photographs, which I think they’re beautiful and you tend to smile. Then, you have a chance to see a lot more in your documentary. So, tell us, how did the documentary begin for you? I know why you like him, but how did you decide to go about doing this film?

Sasha Freyers:                    Sure. Well, he passed away in the ’80s and there was an early retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in 1988. But then there was a more recent retrospective in 2013 that opened at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, traveled to the National Gallery and was at the Metropolitan in New York. It was at that time that I revisited that work. I went to two of those shows and I was reading articles and reviews, and I just started thinking, wow, this work is so terrific. I wonder why there isn’t a documentary film about him. There had been so many wonderful documentaries about photography and it just seemed kind of crazy that no one had made a film about him. So in some ways, I think I made this film in order to make something that I just wanted to see exist in the world.

Savona McClain:                Okay.

Sasha Freyers:                    I got in touch with the family, and the estate, and the gallery, and asked about it. They were incredibly open, and supportive, and trusting, and it started there.

Savona McClain:                Okay. That’s really cool. I think that’s a lot of documentaries get started. It starts with that interest, you’re interested in that subject matter. But then, in your film you get to showcase somebody who kind of started something that we all deal with today with our Smartphones. Everyone now is taking photographs of everything, not just family photographs, but events in the streets, disasters that go on, just different sort of quirky sort of events or moments, I should say. He kind of started that, but he stylized it. It got to the point where he didn’t just take photographs anymore. He was able to stylize these every day moments so that we could take that pause and appreciate the people that he was capturing. Wouldn’t you say?

Sasha Freyers:                    Oh, absolutely. And I think it’s true. I mean, even if you’ve never had a photograph in a magazine or on the wall of a museum, all of us with our Smartphones, if we’re taking pictures at parties, or on the street, or just of the world around us, we’re all sort of unconsciously or not working in that tradition that he really elevated into an art form.

Savona McClain:                And then he broke into categories. I don’t think a lot of people realize how meticulous he was. He actually had photographs just of women, and then he had photographs of animals, which I thought was quite intriguing. Then, he had different types of photographs, I think, dealt with scenes. He meticulously, as I mentioned, just gathered these various subject matters so that you could also observe them too. What do you think he wanted folks to feel when he was collecting all of these images per categories as well? Was he trying to say, let’s archive our lifestyle? Should we archive style? Should we pay attention to what’s going on in the world? That there’s symmetry? What do you believe he was trying to convey?

Sasha Freyers:                    I mean, I think it’s so funny that you say that. It’s so interesting because it’s true, but there are so many photographs of so much. One could, if one had the patience to do so, go through all of the context and probably put together a really wonderful exhibition based on photographs of phone booths, or taxi stands, or subway entrances. There is this sort of this huge taxonomy. Based on what I learned and from interviewing people, and from what remains of interviews that he gave, and things that he said, he was thinking less about audience, and what the pictures would do, or mean, or convey for other people, and was really more interested in exploring photography for himself, so it’s thinking about what the picture could do from a formal perspective, sort of what would make an interesting picture. What would something look like when it was made into a photograph. He says that a lot about it. He famously said, “I photograph to find out what a thing looks photographed.” So he was really coming from a place of challenging himself, pushing himself, always trying to look at ways to make the photograph more interesting.

Savona McClain:                Okay.

Sasha Freyers:                    And in the process created this huge compendium.

Savona McClain:                All right. I mean, that’s fair that he was interested in his own discovery of photography. But what he ended up doing by photographing so many subjects as well as objects, he was able to really archive our life in the city and showcase what made New York City so special. Because it’s not just that he took photographs, and I know he went to other place around the world, but when he took those photographs of New York City, he showed what made New York City special at that time.

Sasha Freyers:                    Absolutely.

Savona McClain:                And I think, that took my breath away because it really made you smile, and a lot of that old New York is disappearing, or has disappeared already, like kids playing stick ball in the streets, or 42nd Street, which was kind of scruffy, and you accepted that as New York. Now, it looks very Disney like. I mean, it’s nothing wrong with that, but you also miss that scruffiness that you also knew was a part of 42nd Street and you accepted that, a different slice of life. He really captured all of that element of New York City. What do you think his photographs will do for us when we review them again and look at your documentary? How do you think people will feel?

Sasha Freyers:                    Well, I think you’re right. I mean, one of the things that’s about New York today is that so many of the neighborhoods just look like other neighborhoods, right?

Savona McClain:                Yes.

Sasha Freyers:                    I mean, there is a certain kind of flattening of distinction. There aren’t as many enclaves. There isn’t what I would think of as being sort of the theater of the streets where people are just out, and there’s these sort of every day dramas and interactions just unfolding. I mean, New York remains very crowded, but you don’t have people kind of living their lives out on the street, or sitting on their stoop the same way that you can witness in his photographs. I think it is a really wonderful document and testament to that vitality and that energy. I also think even though his book Women are Beautiful, it was the most controversial, among the most controversial of his books. It was a book of photographs of women on the streets in New York City in the 1960s and 1970s. And even though I’m not in love with some of those pictures, I think the title is problematic, I still really value those photographs.

Savona McClain:                Right.

Sasha Freyers:                    They document this moment. As we look at pictures of women on the street in 1955 compared to 1965, it’s just a radical transformation.

Savona McClain:                It sure was.

Sasha Freyers:                    With what they’re wearing, that their ability to be out in public, and be energized. Women are entering the workforce in this way for the first time. It’s a really exiting testament to that kind of visual change in the city and in American culture as well.

Savona McClain:                I like that, how you talked about the vitality of the street because that is missing nowadays, where neighbors got to know each other. Like I said, when I was a kid you played with each other and you went inside different homes. I had a friend, I’ll never forget, she was Japanese, and so he invited me over so I could try octopus. I had never had no octopus before in my life. It was like, okay, I’m going to try this rubbery thing. It was the sharing of each other’s lives, every day lives. So you’re sharing with me seaweed and octopus at 12 years old, and then I get to share with you some games that I’ve learned by playing them on the sidewalk. There was this constant exchange, and for me it wasn’t just games on the sidewalk. I was a handball kid. You give me a ball and a wall, and I was playing handball. It was playing handball, or other kids playing stick ball, and other kids just running around, red light green light, one, two three. I remember all of those games that made the block so important and lively.

Savona McClain:                And you’re correct, women, especially, they were going through a lot. You had the Black Power Movement, the Civil Right Movement going on, the Women’s Movement was just bubbling up. You had a lot of people dealing with expression and how do you harness it, or how do you go about showcasing it. That’s what I felt when I looked at a lot of those photographs, this enormous energy that you wish you could see today. I think there’s a lot of energy, but it’s about being busy, but not so much living. Everyone is caught up on these phones that they’re not having conversation. When you see that, you remember the conversations that people used to have, and the dinner parties people used to go to. Because when I was kid, people went to dinner parties. Now, when you talk about that, nobody knows what you’re talking about. Do you feel the same way?

Sasha Freyers:                    Yeah, that’s funny. I hadn’t thought about that, but that is true. I mean, I certainly remember, I certainly remember my parents driving me to dinner parties, and having dinner parties. I remember a lot more people out, just out on the street just living their lives, not doing anything, not being busy, sitting on the stoop or in front of the building, I mean, even not just kids, adults too.

Savona McClain:                Oh yeah. Then, you had the women who would sit in the windows and they would watch you, and if you didn’t say good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, your mother would get a phone call to say how disrespectful you were. That happened to me once. I forgot to say hello to somebody, and before I got in the door my mother was already questioning me, why didn’t you say good afternoon to such a such and so and so? And you forgot, but they were there, and they watched you, and they kind of looked out for you. Those were the eyes your parents needed when they were taking care of their errands too.

Savona McClain:                So with your documentary, how long is this documentary? Is it about, what? Two hours long?

Sasha Freyers:                    No, it’s not. It’s 90 minutes.

Savona McClain:                90 minutes.

Sasha Freyers:                    A quick 90 minutes.

Savona McClain:                Okay. Great.

Sasha Freyers:                    It takes you through, really from his early life really through his entire career and then after he died suddenly the retrospective considerations of the work because he left a great deal of work behind. When he died he left over 6,000 rolls of film behind.

Savona McClain:                Wow.

Sasha Freyers:                    Some also looks at that aspect of it as well. It’s a very, kind of unusual, legacy to leave behind that much work.

Savona McClain:                That is unusual because he died at 56, correct? Around 56?

Sasha Freyers:                    Yes, he did. He had cancer of the gall bladder, and so he was diagnosed and he died quite suddenly. He died a month after he received the diagnosis.

Savona McClain:                Wow, that’s very tragic.

Sasha Freyers:                    It really was.

Savona McClain:                But he left quite a legacy. I mean, it makes you think about it because as we all age, you start to think, 56 is not really that old. That’s still kind of young.

Sasha Freyers:                    I know.

Savona McClain:                And he left so much material behind. Did most of that material get developed?

Sasha Freyers:                    It did. There is this wonderful place call The Center for Creative Photography. It is at the University of Arizona at Tucson. It’s just incredible. It holds many, many different artists’ archives. His entire archive is there. All of the rolls of film were developed and contact sheets were made. The curators of different retrospective have all had access to that. I had access to those contact sheets as well. In the film there are about 35 images that have never before seen that weren’t in any of the other retrospectives or considerations of that posthumous work. So that was kind of exciting as well, to be able to go into the archive and make new discoveries.

Savona McClain:                So that’s another reason why people need to go and see this film because they’ll get to see images that have never been shown before. Now, they will have this opportunity to do this. Now, this film starts showing at the Film Forum on September 19th. How long will it run?

Sasha Freyers:                    It’s a two week run. It opens tomorrow and it will be there for two weeks.

Savona McClain:                Okay. So folks to need hurry up and get their tickets and see this fabulous documentary of a real New Yorker, someone who appreciated New York as well as other parts of the world. You’ve already received some acknowledgements already for this film, correct?

Sasha Freyers:                    Yes. The film premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March. It was in the documentary competition and it won a special jury prize, so that was a really nice confirmation of the launch into the world.

Savona McClain:                Okay. This is good. Are there any other visual exhibitions going on that you know of, of Gary Winogrand, so that folks can also, if they can’t physically, get there they can at least get some information online?

Sasha Freyers:                    Right now, I don’t know of any in New York. I know that, I believe that the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco is planning an exhibition, but not until early 2019, but there’s certainly tons and tons of his photographs, the Winogrand photographs available online, particularly with the websites for the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. There’s really a lot out there to look at.

Savona McClain:                Okay, so folks also know that they can delve into his other photographs via MoMA, the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco, so that they can learn more about him. I do encourage people to do so. We sometimes rush through life these days and we don’t take the time to just really explore. With him, you could, because I enjoyed looking at his photographs, you could spend a couple of hours just going through these various photographs and you learn so much. It’s not just that he took photographs, it was his use of lighting and creating shadows in the right places, so therefore, the subject could pop. Talking about the fact that he was interested in photography and making it as good as possible, all those various elements are very important. I always think of Alfred Hitchcock because Alfred Hitchcock was such a great filmmaker himself, and it was all about detail, it was all of his storyboarding first. Then, it was about how do you incorporate architecture, so that you can continuously tell the story, like stairwells, the moldings in certain buildings, so that all of these little details added to the storytelling.

Savona McClain:                Well, I just wanted to say, thank you so much, Sasha, that you were spending some time with us. I know that you are still traveling and you made the time for us before you have to go to Italy. Is that correct?

Sasha Freyers:                    Oh, no. I’m actually in upstate New York right now and I will be in New York City at Film Forum tomorrow and Friday for the screening.

Savona McClain:                Oh, that’s great.

Sasha Freyers:                    I go to Vancouver at the end of the month for the Canadian premier there.

Savona McClain:                Okay. Great. So maybe, because I’m trying see if I can watch the film tomorrow evening. Maybe I might see you there. I love going to Film Forum because they really go out of their way to showcase Americana that we should not forget. This is a person that should not be forgotten, and you too. Are you doing any other projects that we should be aware of before we end our conversation?

Sasha Freyers:                    I’ve got a few things, little irons in the fire, pots on the stove, but nothing bubbled up yet. Right now, I’m really just focusing on this film and getting it out there into the world, and hopefully getting audiences excited about it.

Savona McClain:                All right. Well, I just want to thank you so very, very much for joining us.

Sasha Freyers:                    Thank you.

Savona McClain:                Hopefully, I’ll get to-

Sasha Freyers:                    And come say hi tomorrow it you come to the screening. I’ll be at the 7:00 P.M. screening.

Savona McClain:                Okay. I’m going to try to make that one. Thank you so very much, Sasha, and enjoy the rest of your day.

Sasha Freyers:                    You too. Take care.

Savona McClain:                All right.

Sasha Freyers:                    Thanks a lot.

Savona McClain:                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sasha Freyers:                    Bye-bye.

Savona McClain:                Bye-bye.

Savona McClain:                And, for our guests, we had another impactful conversation with a creative professional that we should all get to know and appreciate. Again, Film Forum will be showing, starting tomorrow, the documentary Gary Winogrand All Things are Photographable. You can go online to read more about him. We did a post on our site, on WordPress State of the Arts NYC. You can also see some additional photographs and his bio, and we hope that you will join us back next week as we have more interesting guests for you. That’s our hope to show you the behind the scene side of the arts in New York City and beyond. Look out for other information on our Twitter and our Facebook page. Our handle is SOTArts NYC. That’s the acronym for State of the Arts NYC. This is your host, Savona Bailey-McClain wishing you a wonderful art-filled week, and we will be back with you again. All right, then. Thank you so much.

 

 

Chow Chun Fai on His Exhibition at Eli Klein Gallery, Contemporary Art and Beyond (English)
Date: September 10,2018
Place: BRIC Arts Media, Brooklyn, New York
Artist: Chow Chun Fai
Interviewer:Savona Bailey-McClain

Savona Bailey-McClain: Good Morning. This is state of the arts NYC, and this is your host, Savona Beiley-McClain. We are so happy because today we are at our brand new studio at BRIC Media in Downtown Brooklyn. And we have with us, a wonderful wonderful guest, who will talk to us about his artistic practice. This is Chow Chun Fai.

Chow Chun Fai: Hello Everyone.

Savona: And we are so happy to have him because in addition to his exhibition, which has just opened at the Eli Klein Gallery in the West Village, the exhibition is also a part of ACAW, the Asian Contemporary Art Week. So thank you so much Chow for joining us.

Fai: It’s my pleasure.

Savona: Great! So, for the benefit of our audience, let me just give you a little bit background information about Chow. He was born in 1980 in the city of HONG KONG. He is a visual artist, also an inter-disciplinary artist in where he mixes up painting, photography, and on occasion performance art. He teaches painting, and he is also a political activist. So I just want to kick off our conversation with Chow about his current exhibition at the Eli Klein Gallery. So why don’t you start us off, Chow, by telling us about your exhibition.

Fai: I was on the program; it’s a residency program. So I was in New York since June. I have been in New York for 3 month already. So in this show there are now 19 paintings on the wall. And most of the painting I made it here. So for the whole summer I was staying in the studio, which is the gallery actually. And most of the painting I finished it here. They are some images from movies. So I captured some still and caption, the subtitle from different kinds of movie, try to have Hollywood movie. And some Hong Kong local movies, and I also tried to have movie from different ages. And as you can see from the show, there will be images and subtitles from this movie that I transformed into paint. (Savona: OK.)  And I tried to have different meanings rather than just the caption or the capture from the movie. Even though I didn’t change the wording because if I change the wording, I think it’s too easy to create my own meanings. But when the wording, the caption is out of the context, some of the movies you may know, but I bet, audience form here they may not know my hometown’s movie. (Savona: Right. ) But when they see the wording and still they will have different layers of interpretations. So that was my intention.

Savona: OK. And I did go to the opening, and I saw your several of the paintings, all of the paintings, in fact. So yes, you are right, you had a lot of iconic American film scenes, The Godfather, Forrest Gump, you even had the film with Natalie Portman with the killer. And so yes there were a lot of iconic films that many of us could recognize. But what I also thought I was interested in were some of the phrases those captions that you had at the bottom of each of these paintings, and to me they were almost philosophic. They weren’t just from the film themselves, you were trying to convey these various messages with these mixtures of American and Hong Kong films. And what were you hoping that people would walk away from when they saw these combinations of paintings and philosophical captions?

Fai: Yeah, what I was concerned was about the interpretation on my work of course, but also on different artwork (Savona: OK. ). Like everyone knows the last supper, (Savona: Yes.) But I would say we would not be able to use the traditional mind to read The Last Supper anymore. We know many different stories like if you saw the movie Da Vinci Code, then when you go back to The last Supper, then maybe you would say that young guy next to Jesus is not a guy,

Savona: It’s a possibility that it’s a woman.

Fai: Yes, but of course the church would be upset by this kind of interpretation. But I would say it is impossible to keep your mind clear or pure to that traditional interpretation even for this kind of masterpieces. So I would say I try to have a very open dialogue on my own work. (Savona: OK. ) So, let me take some of the paintings that is showing in the gallery as an example that I have two paintings about paintings. (Savona: Yes. ) There were paintings inside the still or I mean there are actual paintings in the movies. One is Mr.Bean, that if you remember that there is a film about Mr. Bean being invited to a museum in the State .to present about a painting we all called The Whisterler’s mother. And of course Mr. Bean made a mess but what he was trying to say is that it’s not just a painting ,but it is more than a painting. So I have this sub tile “It is not just a painting” was the face of Mr.Bean looking at the whistler’s mother. So you can see, in my painting there is a painting, and the painting is actual real work from the real world, but is was a fake one in the movie. So you may have different interpretation if you know the movie, or, you don’t even watch it before, and next to it I have another work which is also a painting inside a painting, was from the movie Palling.(8’44”) is about abstract expressionist painter everyone knows which is Jackson Pollock. And when Pollock started his new painting about the abstract expressionist images, everyone said that it was not a painting.(Savona: Right. ) It was not considered to be a painting.

Savona: Because of his style.

Fai: So I also have this subtitle, it is not a painting, on this image. So it is lying form the movie, at the same time I was making joke of my own works.

Savona: Alright, so basically what you are trying to do is that you are trying to get viewers to kind of take a step back, and look at these iconic still images, but then open your mind to different kinds of possibilities, so that’s your main goal. And with that said I want to delve into the fact that over your artistic practices have been pushing for throughout your career. Let’s talk a little bit about that in Hong Kong. You are in Hong Kong. Hong Kong, as it was taken over by China in 1997, and so now, the life in China and Hong Kong is merging. And there is concern about you know, artist sharing different types of views and opinions, so sometimes when artists are working on different art it’s not so much about this literal translation but the subtext, and getting people to understand the layer of other messages that are being conveyed. So tell us a little bit about that because I know we talked a little about it before the show about how you were working just to help other artist gain access to old factories that are no longer in use but wish to be used as working spaces and studios, correct?

Fai: Yes, well, like what I have done on my work, that I try to have different layers of meanings behind the surface. And I think this is one of the reaction of an artist who is under pressure. I didn’t understand before because I thought we were in a quite liberal environment before.(Savona: Right. ) But now I would say I am trying to express something that I cannot tell directly, so that’s why I’m trying to hide some of the meaning behind the surface. And I was a bit involved in politics that was because the studio I’m using.

Fai: At the very beginning, I was trying to negotiate with Hong Kong government about the factory land use, like many cities, also in New York, many artists use factory space as their studios. But, at the same time, in Hong Kong, we are considered to be illegal. Or we are considered violating the regulation. But I would say, if we are violating the regulation, either to say we are wrong, or there are mistakes on the regulation. So, I spend over ten years to open dialogues with the government and try to change the regulation as long as we are doing well and doing something good to the community. Then I was more involved because I find it is not about what we did in the factories, but it is more about the absence of cultural voice in the discussion. No matter it is about the factory use of different kinds of policy-making in arts or even on the general public. The absence of the cultural voice is made because of the legislative council.

Savona: Just to interrupt briefly, this is like an issue that is happening all of the world where artists are trying to convey that they are cultural workers and they deserve certain rights so that they can engage and they are profession. I find this quite fascinating how this is such an international issue.

Fai: Yes. I think it happens in every city and every country. But of course the law and political background is different in different places. So I was facing my own experience and my difficulties in my hometown.

Savona: So, were you able to at least, in your efforts, to negotiate within the Chinese bureaucracy to convey that artists need spaces. And they need to come together and share. Their needs just might be outside the factory so that they can engage, contribute, and be a part of the society.

Fai: That was a sad story. I would say. As a painter, I will still be fine. Because I will close my door and then we made our own painting inside of the studio. But there are many different kinds of artists. There are performers. When they have their performance in the space, they attract many audiences. So there were stories of the police and the firemen try to check the space while there were performances in the factory. They could be captured. At the end of the day, I ran an election in the Legislative Council because of this issue. Because I think even though we have so-called representative in the council, but the voice is absent. I spend the whole year ran the election to raise this question to the public.

Savona: So, the Chinese government is still very sensitive to the works by Chinese artists. Do they really have such a need to be afraid. Cause this sounds like they are concerned, but they might not be such concerned with what you are trying to do. Cause it seems as though if some of the artists they just want to do their thing, they just want to paint, or they just want to do photography, they are not trying to say anything more than that. So is there the real concern, that the government should have? Or is it just imagined?

Fai: Well, I would raise two points. One is that culture is always a very important agenda for Communists, no matter is China or the form of Russian government. This is the first point, the other one is so-called undercover police is the big business in China. Of course, if could be very ironic that, I heard not in Hong Kong, but in Mainland China. I heard of a story that there is an artist, he tried to escape the city that he used to live, because he knows that there are so many undercover police around his house. So, before he left, when he was packing his luggage, and someone lock the door. And then there was an undercover police who banned him to leave. If he leaves, they will lose their jobs. That is what I meant, it is a big business in China.

Savona: Wow. That I didn’t know. So they pleaded him he couldn’t leave, so they keep their jobs and kind of keep this structure going. So therefore artists do play a role, a very important role in the culture there because it might be a way of pushing forward social issues or social concerns.

Fai: Yes. When you check some of the famous artists like Ai Weiwei on their Weibo or Twitter, sometimes Ai Weiwei play with these undercover police, right?

Savona: Yes, he does.

Fai: He put the camera in front of the police. Well, he would have much more fantastic stories to tell.

Savona: Yes, he does. But he does share some very important issues. I saw the exhibition he did in NYC over a year ago. And he was talking about refugee crisis. It was just shoes everywhere of different sizes of different people. I actually brought groups of people so that they could see that exhibition and it was something to be held and made you pause. You realize that there is real problem going around and it’s not just about immigration, it’s about people trying to flee their life. And he is doing that. And I just have to continue with that conversation with Ai Wei wei and Chinese artists in general. You are sharing with us how you might be able to push certain agenda forward. You were talking to me briefly about artists who were trying to leave. Tell us about that again.

Fai: Ok. So I heard some stories about them, too. It was not in Hong Kong but in mainland China that there is a guy who is trying to escape from the undercover police. He packed his luggage. He tried to escape silently. Suddenly someone knock on the door and when open the door, he found out they are undercover police. And the police begged him not to leave because if he leaves, all the police will lost their jobs. So that is what I meant by saying it is a big business that the undercover police is a big business in checking the artists and the public in general.

Savona: So you guys really could help the country in many ways. Move forward with your art to see that there is more to life than just managing people. There are so many areas where innovation, design, and photography could actually help people so that you could solve a lot of problems and challenges that people are dealing with day-to-day that doesn’t have to be this sort of battle over concepts and ideas and that’s what I am seeing from these new contemporary art that you are trying to push. You know, life, in a manner that could embrace more people and embrace solutions. Is that one thing you feel you are trying to do?

Fai: Or I should put it in other words that, I used to be more common artist. I thought I don’t have to be political. You just trying to be an artist, to be liberal and do whatever you want. But in the end I realized why the Chinese artists or the Mainland Chinese artists were so political. It is simply a reaction. When you are hit, you don’t have to fight back, but at least you are trying to block the fists. So, to block the fists, just a very simple reaction, an artist uses their works to react to the actual environment. This is a very simple way to give expression.

Savona: So do you see Chinese contemporary art involving more and more where people are expressing not just their craftsmanship but also the environment like you said or ideas that they feel might need to be explored even further to benefit the whole society?

Fai: Hmm, I would say that in different medias it could be different; so in visual art, we have more freedom, because we are not in the structure, we are in the system. But if say something about the film industry, because in my works, i have works (paintings) with films, so I try to know a bit about film industry; if you are talking about the films, then it is much more under control. As written in Chinese law, what to write and not to written in Chinese films.

Savona: Really?

Fai: Yes, some of them could be funny, like you cannot have ghost stories in the film if it is in the contemporary China,

Savona: Really?

Fai: Yes it is written in law.   If you making stories of modern china, then it must have to be no ghost; if you are making the ghosts, then you must be daydreaming in the film. But of course, it could be something I am making fun; but it is about power, it is about political concern, because under communist rule, there should be no ghost.

Savona: (laugh), really? I was just trying to understand, but how could this relate, but ok, alright, there is a fear there.

Fai: Well, yeah, of course, I am trying to tell the funny part of the story but something like that, no police could die in Chinese film.

Savona: Really?

Fai: Yes, it is written in law.  What I meant is, if you in film industry, there are thousands of rules that you have to follow, in modern China.

Savona: Wow, that is a lot.  It takes a lot for creative people in China to share a story because you have so many hurdles to overcome in order to share, whatever message it is you want to convey, for you, you are finding this freedom, because you stick with visual arts, so therefor you can play with a little more, even though you have to be careful with, you know, how you state, what you doing.

Fai: Yes, and I also witnessed some kind of censorship in China. For example,  the police in China will go to shows, exhibitions to check that if all the works are okay. If they find anything with is not appropriate they will tell you to take the painting off from the wall; so as in Hong Kong , we trying to not have this happen in Hong Kong,

Savona: Like sort of being experiment, you know, a labtorial, so therefore if you can show, that there is no reason for them to fear, it could actually grow.

Fai: Yes

Savona: Alright, that is fair, and not only fair, that is a possibility. Because you are sort of not in the mainland, and there is a little bit distance so you influenced by a lot of other people in culture. If they can see, there is no harm of what you doing, then hopefully that will also afford other artists in the mainland more freedom as well.

Fai: Exactly, in the 80s, Hong Kong is a pioneer of China. We were still under the British colonial government, but we were decided to return to the china in the 80s. And for the Chinese government, even for the Deng Xiaoping (chairs of communist party), he saw that Hong Kong should be the pioneer of China in different ways, in economic development, which is draw until today, you can see the economic so strong in China. Also Hong Kong as the pioneers of political reform to but I would say it did not happen after the economic reform in China, because it could threaten the rules of the government , if the politic or even culture from the start, and so at the end of the day, Hong Kong can not be the pioneer of political or culture  development for the whole China; but on the other hand, they try to make HK into one of the Chinese cities rather than the pioneers for the culture and political side.

Savona: But you are more pushing to be that even though now it is not, they are afraid, you are still pushing  that possibility so in that way, the whole Chinese culture can involve, can grow.

Fai: Yes, but for many people from Hong Kong, we try to be or realistic to this: we are not to pull whole China into one direction, we are trying to protect Hong Kong from  being one of this big giant monster.

Savona: Ok, alright, alright, so but still by doing that, you still trying to pull away kind of being allowed to experiment.  It can’t be sort of like that model that could involve mainland because I see a lot positive things happening, your contemporary scene, the talents is definitely there you can see from the brushstroke that in your painting, the details of the imagery that in your painting, the talent is definitely there. Now you blend that talent with a kind of thoughtful movement, so I can see something really positive happening if you are allowed to experiment, in effect, I can see that cross the globe, there is a lot of hubs in the world where artists are trying to break through they trying to be innovative, they trying to shake up things a little bit to say here are some possibilities, if there not being given that chance, that space, that voice, we are stuck, we are where we are and I think people are ready now, for that break through, wouldn’t you say?

Fai: Yes, image if you are a scriptwriter, and you are not allowed to write something about the ghosts or a fallen policeman, like what I just said, then that is the limitation of your creativity,

Savona: Yes, so this is a real possibility, you know I really enjoy our talk because I have learnt so much about the screen, and so many of us in new york, in us, we never have a chance to really have a conversation with artists from china or maybe even central Asia to here.  This is so important for us to learn and hear your voice, your perspective, and your understanding, and helps us to get along because politically (laugh) we not doing well with China right now, there is so many fighting going on. But if we talk to people directly, that could possibly help improve the relationship because it not only somebody dictates. but it is from those personal context, where we get to learn appreciate, respect, and even support. So I just want to thank you very much coming on and showing in our new studio.

Fai: I am very much happy to be here.

Savona: Thank you so very much, I just want let our audience know that your show will be up at Eli Klein gallery which is located at 398 west street in the west village until mid of October.  Thank you again for join in us.

Fai: Thank you so much.

Savona: We will be up on radio as well as other platform iTunes, Radiopublic, Pocastbox, Soundcloud, and others. We will come back to you next week with another great speaker.

艺术家周俊:奕来画廊最新个展与背后的故事 (Chinese)
时间:2018年9月 10日
地点: BRIC 艺术传媒,布鲁克林,纽约
艺术家:周俊辉
主持人:萨沃纳·贝利·麦克莱恩

萨沃纳:大家早上好。站在纽约最前端,我是你们的主持人萨沃纳·贝利·麦克莱恩。我们非常高兴,因为今天我们在位于布鲁克林市中心的Brick传媒崭新工作室录制这期节目。今天和我们一起的,是一位非常棒的嘉宾,他们将与我们讨论他的艺术实践,他就是周俊辉。

辉:大家好。

萨沃纳: 我们很高兴邀请到他,因为他的个展刚刚在西村的奕来画廊开幕。除此之外,该展览还是亚洲当代艺术周ACAW的一部分。非常感谢周俊辉加入我们的节目。

辉:这也是我的荣幸。

萨沃纳:很好! 为了我们的观众考虑,让我来给大家一些关于周俊辉的背景信息。他于1980年出生于中国香港。他是一位视觉艺术家,也是一位跨学科的艺术家,他将绘画,摄影和表演艺术混合在一起。他教授绘画,也是一名政治活动家。所以我只是想和Chow谈谈他目前在奕来画廊的开幕展览。那么,就请您向我们介绍您的展览,借此来启动我们的对谈吧。

辉:我参加了一个艺术项目,这是艺术家驻留计划。所以我从六月开始就在纽约,已经在纽约待了3个月了。所以在这个展览中,画廊墙上现在展出有19幅画,我在这里完成了大部分画作。所以整个夏天我都待在工作室里,工作室实际上就是奕来画廊,我的画大部分都在这里完成。他们是电影中的一些截图,我从不同类型的电影中截取了一些静帧和电影字幕,有尝试以好莱坞电影和一些香港本地电影为媒介,我也尝试不同时间段的电影。正如你可以从展览中看到的那样,我将这部电影中的图像和字幕转化为绘画,我试图让作品有不同的含义,而不仅仅是对电影中的标题的捕捉。我没有改变电影原来的字幕,因为如果我改变字幕,我认为太容易带有自己主观的色彩了。但是当电影画的字幕脱离电影上下文时,你可能知道的一些电影,但我猜大多数美国能不知道我家乡的电影。但是当他们看到画中文字时,他们仍然会有不同层次的解读。这就是我的意图所在。

萨沃纳:好的,我去了您展览的开幕式,看到了您所有的画作。所以,的确如您所说,你的作品里的场景取自于很多标志性的美国电影,譬如《教父》,《阿甘正传》,你甚至有采用娜塔莉波特曼的电影《这个杀手不太冷》,所以的确有很多标志性的电影让我们很多人都能认出来。但我认为我所感兴趣的,还有那些在画作底部的字幕和短语,对我而言,他们是几乎是富于哲理的。他们不只是来自电影本身,而是试图用这些美国和香港电影的混合传达些不同的信息。你还希望人们在看到这些绘画和哲学字幕的组合之后会联想到些什么吗?

辉:是的,我非常关心大众对我的作品的解读,当然有还关于其他不同的艺术作品的解读。就像每个人都知道最后的晚餐一样,但我会说我们也许再也不能用传统的观念来阅读最后的晚餐了。我们知道许多不同的故事,比如你看过电影《达芬奇密码》,然后当你回到最后的晚餐时,也许你会说耶稣旁边的年轻人不是一位男士。

萨沃纳:很有何能那画的是位女士。

辉:是的,当然教会会对这种解释感到不悦。但我会说,即使对于这种举世瞩目的杰作,人们尚且不可能保持头脑清晰或纯粹的统一解释。所以我想说我试着就自己的作品进行非常开放式的讨论。所以,让我把画廊里展出的一些作品作为一个例子,我有两幅画里有画的作品。电影画面里还有画,或者说电影里有实体画作在其中。其中一幅画是关于憨豆先生的电影,如果你还记得有一部关于憨豆先生被邀请到国家博物馆的电影,要介绍一幅名叫《威士拿的母亲》的油画。在电影中憨豆先生先生把事情弄得一团糟,但他想说的是,这不只是一幅画,而超越一幅画。所以有了我这幅画的字幕副标题 “这不仅仅是一幅画”。描绘了憨豆先生看《威士拿的母亲》的画面。所以你可以看到,在我的绘画中有一幅画,而这幅画是来自现实世界的真实作品,但在电影中的那幅画是假的。所以如果你知道这部电影,你可能会有不同的理解,或者,如果你以前甚至没有看过我的画所描述的这部电影,比如在《憨豆先生:这不是一幅画》旁边,我还有另一件作品,也是一幅画中还画了另一幅画,这部作品取材自电影《波洛克》。电影是关于抽象表现主义画家的,每个人都知道杰克逊波洛克。当波洛克开始他的关于抽象表现主义图像的新绘画时,每个人都说他所创作的不是一幅画。那不被认为是一幅画。所以我在这张图片上也有这个字幕,“那不是一幅画”。所以可以说它既是电影中的谎言,同时也是我在以戏谑的方式自嘲自己的作品。

萨沃纳:好吧,所以大体上来说上你要做的就是你试图让观众退后一步,看看这些标志性的静止画面,然后开启人们对于各种可能性的想象,这就是你创作的主要目的。接着我上面说的话题,我接下来想要更深入了解你的艺术实践,在你的整个职业生涯中一直你一直在推动的事情。我们来谈谈香港的情况。你生活在香港,香港在1997年被中国大陆政府接管。现在,大陆和香港的生活正在融合。有人会有些观点,你知道的,艺术家之间会分享不同类型的观点和意见,有时当艺术家在研究不同类型的艺术时,往往不是关于其表面意思,而是某种潜台词,并试图通过艺术传达其他多个层面的信息。所以请告知我们多点这方面的情况,因为我知道我们展览之前谈了一些关于你之前的经历。你有曾经帮助其他艺术家进驻不再投产的废弃工厂,并把废弃工厂改造为工作室的经历,对吗?

辉:是的,就像我在我的作品中所尝试的那样,我试图让作品背后承载不同的意义。而且我认为这是一位承受压力的艺术家的反应之一。我之前没理解,因为我以前认为我们处于一个非常自由的环境之中。但是现在我想说的是,我试图表达一些我无法直言的东西,所以这就是为什么我试图隐藏背后的一些含义。我有参与部分政治活动,主要因为我正在使用的工作室。一开始,我正试图与香港政府就刚才提到的工厂用地进行谈判,就像很多城市一样,在纽约,很多艺术家都使用废弃工厂空间作为工作室。

辉:一开始,我试图与香港政府就工厂用地进行谈判,就像许多城市一​​样,在纽约,许多艺术家都将工厂空间作为他们的工作室。但与此同时,在香港,艺术家这样做被认为是非法的,或者是违反了规定。若非要说我们违反规定,要么是我们错了,要么就是监管部门的错误。因此,我花了十多年时间与政府进行对话,并试图改变政策,因为我们是在为社会做好事。但当我发现这件事情其实并不在于我们在工厂做了什么,而在于文化声音的缺失以后,我更加投入了。不管是工厂用地,还是不同的类型的关于艺术或者大众的政策。文化声音的缺乏,是立法委员会造成的。

萨沃纳:简单打断一下,这是一个世界各地正在发生的问题,艺术家们是文化工作者,他们应该享有自己的权利,这样他们才能够真正参与进来,并且是以一种专业的态度。我发现这是一个如此国际化的问题,这非常令人着迷。

辉:对。我认为这个现象发生在每个城市和每个国家。但当然法律和政治背景在不同的地方是不同的。所以我在家乡面对的也是自己的情境和困难。

萨沃纳:所以,你能否至少在你的能力范围之内,与这些机构谈判,传达艺术家对于空间的需求。他们需要走到一起分享。他们的需求可能只是在工厂外面,所以他们可以参与,做出贡献,成为社会的一部分。

辉:这是一个不愉快的故事。作为一个画家,我自己没有问题。因为我会关上门,然后在工作室里画自己的画。但是有很多不同类型的艺术家,像行为艺术者,当他们在空间中表演时,会吸引很多观众,这时候就有警察和消防员的回来查处。艺术家们甚至可能会被捕。由于这个问题,我还参与了在立法委员会的选举。因为我认为即使我们在议会中有所谓的代表,但文化声音还是缺席的。我花了整整一年的时间来选举,向公众提出这个问题。

萨沃纳:所以,中国政府对中国艺术家的作品仍然非常敏感。但他们真的有这种需要害怕吗? 因为这听起来像是他们会担心的事,但他们可能并不关心你想要做什么。因为似乎有些艺术家他们只是做事,他们只是想画画,或者他们只是想做摄影,他们并不想说更多的东西。政府应该的担忧事真正存在的吗? 还是这只存在于艺术家们的想象中?

辉:嗯,我会提出两点。一个是文化始终是共产党人非常重要的议程,无论是中国还是俄罗斯政府。这是第一点。另一个是卧底警察在中国是一笔大生意。我听说一件非常具有讽刺意味的事情,不是在香港,而是在中国大陆。我听说有一位艺术家,他试图逃离他曾经居住的城市,因为他知道在他家附近有很多卧底警察。在他离开之前,当他收拾行李时,有人锁上了门。然后有一个卧底警察禁止他离开,因为如果他离开了,卧底警察们都将失去工作。这是我所说的卧底警察在中国是一笔大生意的意思。

萨沃纳:哇。我不知道还有这种事。所以卧底警察恳求他不要离开,所以他们才能保住工作,并保持这种结构。这样看来,艺术家确实在这个文化语境中起着非常重要的作用,因为他们可能是推动社会或解决问题的一种方式。

辉:对。 如果你在微博或推特上关注一些像艾未未这样的艺术家,艾未未有时和这些卧底警察一起互动吧?

萨沃纳:是的,他有时候会这样做。

辉:他把相机直接放在警察面前。好吧,他会有更多精彩的故事要讲。

萨沃纳:是的,是会这么做。他确实分享了一些非常重要的问题。我看过他一年前在纽约做过的展览。他在谈论难民危机。那个展览展示的只是各种不同的人的鞋子。我带来了很多人去看那个展览,因为这是一个可以让你铭记和暂时停下来的展览。你意识到存在着真正的问题,不仅仅是关于移民,而是关于人们试图逃离他们的生活。而他正在做这些事情,于是我继续与艾未未和其他的中国艺术家进行对话。您刚才与我们分享您如何能够推动某些社会议程的发展和那些正在试图离开的艺术家。能继续谈一些这个话题吗?

辉:好的。所以我也听到了一些关于他们的故事。不是在香港,而是在中国大陆,有一个人试图逃离卧底警察。他收拾好行李。他试图默默地离开。突然有人敲门,打开门时,他发现是卧底警察。这些卧底恳求他不要离开,因为如果他离开,所有卧底警察都将失去工作。这我为什么说卧底警察在中国是一笔大生意。

萨沃纳:所以艺术家真的可以在很多方面帮助这个国家。向前迈进你的艺术,让管理者看到看到社会制度中有更多层面,不仅仅只是管理公众。那么多的创作,设计和摄影作品正在告诉人们,他们每日遇到的一些纠葛不清的问题,或许不是他们本身的问题。这些困境可能本身就是不必要的。这就是我从你想要推动的这些新的当代艺术中看到的。改变出一种可以拥抱更多人或者更多解决方式的社会制度,这是你觉得你想做的一件事吗?

辉:或者我应该换句话说,我曾经是一个普通艺术家。我以为我不必是政治性的。我只是想成为一名艺术家,自由自在,做任何我想做的事。但最后我意识到为什么中国艺术家或者说中国大陆艺术家如此政治化。这只是一种正常反应。当你被打击时,你不必反击,但至少你试图防御这些拳头。为了防卫,这只是一个非常简单的反应,艺术家用他们的作品来对实际环境作出反应。这是一种非常简单的表达方式。

萨沃纳:那么你是否看到中国当代艺术越来越多地涉及人们不仅仅表达他们的工艺,还表达了你所说的环境,或者他们觉得可能需要进一步探索的想法,以造福整个社会?

辉:嗯,我会说在不同的媒体中它可能会有所不同,所以在视觉艺术中,我们更自由,因为我们不在结构中,我们在系统中。但如果说一下电影业,因为在我的作品,我有与电影相关的作品(绘画),所以我试着去了解了电影业,它受到相对比较多的控制。例如中国法律等等,很多东西是不能写在电影里的。

萨沃纳:真的吗?

辉:是的,其中一些可能很有趣,就像你在电影中不能有鬼故事一样,如果背景是在当代中国。

萨沃纳:真的吗?

辉:是的,这是法律写的,如果你制作现代中国的故事,那么它必须不能与鬼有关,如果你正在制作鬼,那么你必须在电影中做白日梦。当然,这可能是我正在取笑的事情; 但它是关于权力的,它是关于政治的,因为在共产主义统治下,不应该有鬼。

萨沃纳: (笑),真的吗? 让我想想,但这怎么可能有关系,但好吧,可能是一种恐惧。

辉:嗯,是的,当然,我想说的是有趣的部分,还有例如没有警察应该死在中国电影里。

萨沃纳:真的么?

辉:是的,这也是法律写的。所以我的意思是,如果你在电影行业,在现代中国, 你必须遵循数以千计的规则。

萨沃纳:噢天,这对中国有想法的创造者来说太难了,因为当你想传达什么信息的时候你需要克服很多障碍。对你来说,你找到了这种自由,因为你坚持做视觉艺术,所以你可以多玩一点,但即便如此,你还是要必须小心。你知道,如何陈述,如何做艺术。

辉:是的,我也目睹了中国的审查制度,就像中国的警察会去检查展出,看看参展对象的作品是否都没问题,如果他们发现任何不合适的东西,他们会告诉你让你从墙上拿下来。在香港,我们试图不让这种情况发生。

萨沃纳:就像实验一样,你知道,这是一种劳动成果。所以如果你能证明,让他们没有理由害怕,它实际上会促进增长。

辉:是的。

萨沃纳:好吧,这样还不错,这也是一种可能性。因为你不在大陆,也有一定距离,所以你表达的文化中很多会影响其他人,如果他们看到你所做的一切并没有受到破坏,这也能让大陆其他艺术家更自由。

辉:确切地说,在80年代,香港是中国的先驱。我们还在英国殖民政府之下,但我们在80年代重返中国。而对于中国政府来说,邓小平(中国共产党第二代领导核心领导者)在中国经济改革之后并没有让香港成为政治中心这种情况发生,因为它可能会威胁到政府的规则。他们试图让香港成为中国的一个城市,而不是文化和政治方面的先驱。

萨沃纳:但你在更加努力推动文化的发展,这种可能性。这样帮助整个中国文化可以更好的融合和成长。

辉:是的, 但是对于很多香港人而言,我们试图对此持相对现实的态度,我们不是想将整个中国拉向同一个方向,我们在试图保护香港的文化。

萨沃纳:好吧,但是仍然通过这样做,你仍然试图摆脱被允许的经验,它不能像那种可能涉及大陆的模型,因为我看到很多积极的事情发生,你的当代场景,你可以从笔触中看到的才华绝对是你画中的画面,你画中的影像细节,天赋绝对存在,现在你将这种天赋与一种深思熟虑的运动融为一体,所以如果你被允许进行实验,我可以看到一些非常积极的事情,实际上,我可以看到全球各地,世界上有许多艺术家试图突破他们试图创新的中心,他们试图改变这里有一点点可以说的是一些可能性,如果没有机会,那个空间,那个声音,我们被卡住了,我们就在那里,我认为人们现在已经准备好了,为了突破,不会你说?

辉:是的,想象如果你是一个编剧,你被不允许写一些关于鬼魂或警察死亡的东西,就像我刚才说的那样,这局限了创造力。

萨沃纳:是的,所以这是一个真正的可能性,你知道我真的很喜欢我们的谈话,因为我已经学到了很多关于屏幕的知识,我们在纽约这么多人,在我们这里,我们从来没有机会真正拥有与来自中国或甚至中亚的艺术家对话。这对我们学习和聆听你的声音,你的观点和理解是非常重要的,并且有助于我们相处,因为政治上(笑)我们现在对中国做得不好,有太多的战斗正在进行。但如果我们直接与人交谈,那可能有助于改善这种关系,因为它不仅有人要求。但它来自那些个人背景,我们在那里学习欣赏,尊重甚至支持。所以我非常感谢你们在我们新工作室里的表演。

辉:谢谢,我也很开心在这里做访谈。

萨沃纳:非常非常感谢您能来,我想让我们的观众知道你的个展将在位于西村398西街的奕来画廊举行,直到10月中旬。再次感谢您加入我们访谈。

辉:非常感谢您。

萨沃纳:我们的广播也将在其他平台itunes,radiopublic,pocastbox,soundcloud等播出。我们下周也将为观众带来另一位出色的演讲者。

 

 

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