NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 80

1 2 “ he legend says that some unidentified Japanese T scientists were carrying out a study on monkeys on the Island of Koshima, in 1952. Supposedly these scientists observed that some of these monkeys learned to wash sweet potatoes, and little by little this new behavior extended itself to the youngest generation of monkeys in the manner of observation and repetition. Watson then affirmed that the researchers had observed that once a critical number of monkeys was reached — the so-called 100th monkey — the learned behavior extended itself instantaneously. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Pamela and Maria. Cristina and Gabriela. Soledad and Elcira. Nurys and Grace. Esperanza and Patricia. Primitiva and Gabriela. Ana and Claudia. The number 100 shows us the abundance of a matter, and, at the same time, the possibility of reaching it. The number 100 puts us to the test; that is to say, it acts like a symbol of what, in the beginning, seemed to be unattainable. To reach it is to make possible the impossible. People say, for example, “he got to age 100,” or, if something is done a hundred times, it makes us experts. These searches led me toward new ways of looking at social problems, heritage, and territory, where art and its relationship to communities was the thread that made everything come together. Through these works I wanted to foment citizen participation in the sense of people belonging to a particular social group, tackling the complexities of the world, together, collectively questioning the world in which they lived/ live and use art to help them construct new social scenarios. Within the framework of this concept are works such as “Divine Breath,” “Common Place” and “Getsemaní: Subject-Object,” just to mention three of them. 78 The rupture that I recognize in my work came in a unique way. I went into conceptual art, expressed through installations. During this period of rupture, of revising what I had done before, I questioned myself about the artist’s commitment within society, and I was drawn to the fragility of the human being, to the values that individuals share regarding what life and death means. When I did “Common Place,” on this occasion with a partner, Justine Graham, for which we interviewed one hundred women from three Latin American countries, a friend told me about the fantastic theory of Lawrence Blair, Lyall Watson, and the effect of the hundredth monkey.2 The theory says that once a certain portion of the population has heard about a new idea or learned a new skill, the dissemination of this idea or ability among the rest of the population is produced instantaneously. This idea is very appealing to me. That is to say, even though we do not have hard scientific data about how new ideas are accepted, my work has shown me that beginning in an intuitive way often leads to a poetry of propagation, where we can see the process replicated in other projects. I noticed in your current work that you use the number 100, for example, in both “Divine Breath” and “Common Place,” there are 100 women. What is it about the number 100 that attracts you? BRN-SPRING-2015.indb 78 How did you find your subject for “Common Place”? How long did it take you to conceive this project, get the participants, and how did you find the women in the first place? Apply these questions to “Divine Breath” as well. The origin and the process of carrying out these two projects were different. We began “Common Place” in Chile, with Justine Graham, a French-American artist. What motivated us to carry it out was the persistent behavior in Latin American countries of placing people in certain social categories. Depending on the rank assigned, you are either included or excluded from certain social environments. Living as foreigners in Santiago, Chile, far from our countries of origin, helped us to observe this situation with greater clarity. We proposed the possibility of playing visually with these social codes to make them more evident. Focusing on this social phenomenon, we looked at the relationship between the female employer and her domestic worker. We chose the domestic space because it is a place charged with sentiment, but also with guilt. Here, the work relationships become difficult, since for the domestic worker it implies knowing the intimacies of a family not her own. In the home, then, as a place of work, physical proximity and social distance are mixed. 3/29/15 11:41 AM