All words: Ana Spevak — All photos: Blinkofanaye
Last Saturday, EMP Collective showcased a 25-artist project entitled “Genesis” at the Fridge. This project was based on pre-Columbian Latin American creation myths from the historical narrative “Memori a del Fuego” by Eduardo Galeano. Presented through film, music, visual and performance art, each piece portrayed an individual story from the collection in the artist’s own creative way. Below are some of the artist’s inspiration in their own words:
“I never planned to be a subway portrait photographer. This series began as a means to experiment with iPhone photography using available subjects. However, I started to see the simple power, force of personality, and emotional weight that can be carried by a candid portrait taken in the placeless, anonymous limbo of a subway car.
The story that inspired this piece tells of a people enveloped by a monstrous web and starving next to their small, gray-block homes. In the story, I saw the faces of the subway: Isolated, disconnected, usually alone. But in their solitude, for all the negative emotions they may present, there is also unguarded, unregarded honesty and love, hope, humor, and joy.
In the subway, we are invisible, and we are on display. We are alone, but we are together. The title comes from the last sentence of the spiderweb story. There, it serves to warn of the horrors of urban development to come. Here I hope it can serve as a testament to the best we are capable of as an eternally developing human family: “Sometimes dreams are wiser than waking.”
“The work I had in the show are part of a series that relate to various aspects of creation (one of the themes of Eduardo’s stories). My drawings aim to capture the flirting, the sex, the repose, the confusion/general lack of articulateness, and the way people are reduced solely to their bodies, which is why the figures in the drawings are all very vague and interchangeable. They are all done in pen and ink on paper, my medium of choice for pretty much everything I do.
My website is: http://www.danajeri.com
“There’s certain things we are continually aiming to achieve in our projects. First and foremost, we’re a multimedia arts collective…so you know, we actively collaborate with artist of all disciplines. We incorporate the strengths of talented folks and encourage them to stretch themselves and be inspired in new roles (Visual artist as set designer? An actor as an installation artist? Or maybe a scientist as a writer? It’s amazing how many people don’t consider themselves “artists” but have that creative drive and talent waiting to be tapped.). At EMP, we work to bring DC artists to Baltimore and vice versa quite often as well. Both communities stand to learn a lot from each other. Being DC-based but consistently working in Baltimore, I see the best (and worst) of both worlds so it’s always fun to smash’em together and see what happens (hint: awesome stuff).
In the GENESIS exhibition, I thought it would be fun to riff on storytelling and how the individual tells these universal origin myths with their own voice and tools. The process was straight-forward and very much call-and-response. Local actors from EMP and Single Carrot Theatre recorded select creation narratives from Eduardo Galeano’s Memoria del Fuego. Artists listened to them and chose a story to retell in their own medium(s). We brought all the work into EMP, our space in downtown Baltimore, and then turned around a brought it to The Fridge in DC a week later. Same stories, different environment, a world of difference in each. For example, we had pop-up performances throughout the night in both venues and it was a great amateur anthropological experiment to see the crowds in Baltimore react and translate the performances versus the crowds in DC.
I have a background in acting but contributed several visual arts pieces to GENESIS which I plan to expand on. One is inspired by the origin of The Milky Way and the other inspired by the origin of Fear (and male attraction/repulsion of females). I also collaborated with local DC playwright, Liz Maestri on a pop-up theatre piece inspired by Rain that occurred in three parts throughout the night of the exhibition. Get inspired, be inspiring, ya’ll.”
“Inspired by excerpts “Fear” and “Authority” from Genesis, this piece is based on pre-Colombian mythology on the supposed evils surrounding women and Galeano’s text on Malinche. It is understood that her role in history is still one of conflict and contradictory reverence.
Much like the women mentioned in the excerpts in question, and passages throughout Genesis, Malinche falls victim to circumstances out of her control. This idea of a woman being given over to the conquistadors, namely Cortes himself, by the Tobasco Indians as a gift intrigued me. She would later act as an interpreter, and represent the intentions of
the alien Spaniards. Because of her intellect, she would unintentionally aid in the fall of her own people.
I wanted to create an image that would allow the spectator to see her beauty in ways that could be called invasive and what some would classify as an old master’s misogyny at odds with an overwhelming eroticism. But it doesn’t quite let you go the full distance, in that the figure’s pose censors her nude body. It is when we see the face we are reminded
of the duality of women as they’re depicted in Genesis, being both threatening and alluring.”
Producing Director & Co-Founder of EMP Collective/Co-director of Genesis
My website: http://www.maggievillegas.com
We’ve been passing Genesis around EMP for over a year now – it’s this beautiful collection of Native American creation stories that resonated with all of us and we’ve been working on developing it into a larger theatrical production. We wanted to find a way to explore the piece with other artists and decided to build on oral traditions by recording some of the stories and doing a call and response. It was a big experiment for us in play-development and the artists were not only our co-creators, they were our sounding board. We asked everyone to choose their own stories and mediums, which not only helped us understand which pieces spoke to people, it created visual evidence of how different people interpret the same words. The story I responded to – The Rainbow – is about a man that gets his head cut off by a bunch of forest dwarves and decides to become a rainbow so people will recognize him. I tied a couple thousand yards of yarn to a gutted box spring to create fabric/light sculpture. Rams created an alter to Yobuenahuaboshka. Shitty made a movie. Though wildly different final products, the three of us told the same story from start to finish.”
Complete List of Artists
Adam Grise (Washington, DC)
Amanda Walker (Chicago, IL)
Brad Cartwright (Baltimore, MD)
Brett W Thompson (Brooklyn, NY)
Carly J Bales (Washington, DC)
Chris Fitzwater (Washington, DC)
Core Project Chicago
Dana Jeri Maier (Baltimore, MD)
Erin Rehberg (Chicago, IL)
Joshua Copeland (Washington, DC)
Kate McGraw (Brooklyn, NY / Washington, DC)
Katy Dubina (Baltimore, MD)
Ken Jordan (Baltimore, MD)
Liz Maestri (Washington, DC)
Logan Kornhauser (Washington, DC)
Maggie Villegas (Baltimore, MD)
Meghan Dubina (Baltimore, MD)
Nguyen K. Nguyen (Washington, DC)
Nolan Cartwright (Baltimore, MD)
Rachel Eisley (Washington, DC)
Rams Brisueno (Baltimore, MD)
Robert Marbury (Baltimore, MD)
Ryan Maxwell (Washington, DC)
Sara Moore (Baltimore, MD)
Shorty Bedford (Atlanta, GA)
Steven Krigel (Baltimore, MD)