production & pleasure
a lesson in reflection
I recently sat down with Zeina Baltagi to discuss my arts practice. Zeina is a an artist, educator, and co-director of Coaxial Arts Foundation. She grew up between California and Lebanon. I admire her and her work, and as artists we engage many of the same themes around gender, identity, and material language.
I also gave an artist talk to a class at Otis College of Art and Design last week. It’s been a while since I actually took some time to sit down and look back at all I’ve done. It felt nice to share where I’ve been, explain where I’ve landed, and just dream a little bit out loud about the future.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these recent invitations to reflect. It’s probably a combination of generational trauma and the general trauma of capitalism, but somewhere while growing up I learned that I was supposed to constantly work. I know that this culture of reaching for more is an inherited response to scarcity. The people and places that raised me taught me that more might translate to safer. So as soon as I achieve something I am often asked “what’s next?”
But, when we default to chasing the next thing we miss out on using reflection as an opportunity to discern where pleasure and production may meet. Imagine asking “what felt good?” after a project as often as we ask “what’s next?”
Talking with Zeina was great. I’ve never been able to talk through my work with another Lebanese woman before. She was able to really see some of me in the pieces and also pushed me to share more instead of asking me, "what's next?" Throughout our conversation Zeina’s spoke with specificity and insight that led me through questions like like “what did you enjoy?” or “what did you learn?”
ZB: It's cool because texture, when it comes to touch, smell and even audio is so tied to memory. A deep ingrained part of memory is really thinking about the feel of something around you. To put that in the work and add those small elements seems like really powerful markers for yourself. They're grounding moments that others could ground themselves within as well. It’s like you're bouncing through time a little bit.
Things like the pressure to constantly achieve or the notion that chasing more will make you safer are core characteristics of white supremacy culture (if you haven’t already - please read the full list - I revisit it all the time). Seemingly small but important questions that center pleasure as productivity such as "what did you like?" remind us we’re humans not machines. They may even lead us to even bigger sexy questions like, “what do you want?”
Some interview highlights:
🌸 Something that had a huge impact on my work
🌸 Life shifting moments at Haven For Artists in Beirut
🌸 Gems from my therapist - shout out to Wilhelmina !
You can read everything here - would love to hear if anything especially resonates with you.
Also, for LA artists the Level Ground Artist Residency Application is open!
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