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Between Fantasy & Reality:
Jose Duran
03/29/2024
By Nabila Brache

Jose Duran has been a mentor and a source of inspiration to us for many years. Back in 2020, we interviewed him and reflected on his career as a renowned fashion designer. Today, we are honored to speak to him again, this time about his latest body of work and his artistic practice. His works draw inspiration from the opulence of baroque and rococo interiors, constructing scenes of architectural splendor and feminine grace, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in complex narratives. Jose’s paintings are also an ode to the legacy of his dear mother, Elena.

Carlota Lucumi, 2023

During the beginning of the pandemic, you decided to make a significant shift in your life by delving into painting and pursuing a career as an artist. What motivated or inspired you to make this change?

For a long time, I had wanted to find out whether I could paint or not. That has always been one of my personal questions. I have many friends that are artists, and painting has always greatly appealed to me. I always find myself drawn to it… but I was afraid to find out if I was any good or not, or if I could succeed at it. Then, the pandemic gave me the opportunity to take the time to start practicing and see if I could enter this world. What motivated me was the desire to create, but I didn’t want to create fashion. After spending 3 years in Taiwan, and going through the pandemic… I needed to create but didn’t want to go back to creating clothing again. I had been in the fashion world for many years and wanted to change mediums, so decided to become a painter, and well, here we are!

As a multidisciplinary artist, where do you find inspiration for your artworks? Can you share the sources or experiences that contribute to your creative process?

When I create, whether it is art or fashion, I always look for a subject, and that subject usually leads to another. I am always seeking to create works that are different and of historical significance. My attention has always been drawn to research. I go to the library or investigate on the internet to gather an archive of information that I can reference to create artworks. Investigations are a key part of my creative process.

Congratulations on your debut solo show, “Elena,” at James Fuentes Gallery. Could you provide insight about your new body of work presented in this exhibition?

To give you some context, in 2023, I had a show in Santo Domingo called ‘Duvet.’ I didn’t name it after my mom, who was called Elena. I wanted to save that name for a bigger exhibition, and by chance after the show in Santo Domingo, I was invited to do a solo show here in New York. I wanted to name it after my mom because almost all of my creations are inspired by her or women like her: strong and beautiful.

The exhibition was created with a focus on interiors, specifically in the rococo art style. During this period, European colonizers became wealthy through the exploitation of resources in regions such as Haiti and other colonized islands, contributing to the flourishing of the rococo style. This opulent aesthetic was found in the interiors of castles and palaces, constructed with profits derived from the institution of slavery. It is precisely this historical context that prompted my selection of the rococo era as the thematic backdrop for the interiors showcased in the exhibition. Additionally, there is a series of small paintings that were not presented in this show but were showcased in New Orleans featuring medicinal and poisonous plants that were used by enslaved women, known as curanderas or healers. These women were doctors for the slaves working on the plantation and were highly respected because of their close relationship to the whites – the slave owners. The curanderas were more respected than the European doctors who were present in the colonies at that time.

Elena, 2022
Bligia, 2023

As you’ve explored the art world in recent years, what key takeaways or realizations have influenced your perception of the dynamics within the art community?

Looking back, I realize that the art world opened the doors for me, and I am very grateful for the acceptance and the community I found, because with the little time I have, I have already had 3 shows, and I am currently at the PRATT Forward residency. I believe that fashion gave me the tools to enter this world and made it a little easier because I already knew the textures, colors, and shapes to achieve harmony in painting. I am very happy to change careers… always creating but now in another medium.

You’ve been selected for the Pratt Forward Residency, marking an exciting chapter in your artistic career. What are your aspirations for this residency, and how has the experience been for you so far?

The residency is an amazing place. Every day here, groups of professionals come in, including artists, and lawyers… teaching us what’s necessary to survive and succeed in the art industry. In just the two weeks I’ve been here, what I’ve learned has been immensely helpful and besides, I have gotten to know all the artists who are part of the residency. They are all super creative, and we get along very well.

Isabel, 2022
Mami y Yo, 2022

In your latest show, “Elena,” your upbringing is notably present in your work. When you’re painting, do you find yourself reminiscing about the past, honoring it, or perhaps a combination of both? Moreover, has the act of painting provided a form of healing that differs from your experiences in the world of fashion?

Every time I paint, I not only think about what I have experienced, but also about the dreams that my family and I have, like living a better life and being in these luxurious places. For example, I always paint women in comfortable poses, so they are resting in the paintings I make. When I started painting, I began painting my mom and didn’t know that art had the power to alleviate the pain of losing a loved one like my mom. Before painting, I couldn’t see an image of her or listen to her favorite music. It was very difficult for me. Painting has given me the opportunity to see my mom’s image and feel stronger, accepting her loss. Painting these women in lavish interiors has helped me heal a little…

Jose’s work offers a unique perspective of the baroque Afro-Caribbean identity, transporting viewers to a complex visual world of fantasy, history, and aspirations.

Segunda Generación
Guarionex Rodriguez, Jr.
02/14/2024
By Joel De La Rosa

We had the pleasure of interviewing talented Dominican photographer, Guarionex, whose lens captures the essence of culture and identity. He takes us through his different works, including Segunda Generación, a deeply personal exploration of connection and disconnection to the Dominican Republic. Overcoming skepticism and self-doubt, he shares the journey of self-recognition and the support of peers and family that fueled his artistic endeavors.

When we first met, you told us about your community of photographers and how much they have helped you. Today, the community has opened their space to invite others to experience their work. Can you tell us more about how Mycelia collective started and how it has evolved?

Mycelia Collective began at Fabric Studios as a crit group with artists Avion Pearce, Chad A. Hillard, and myself. The group expanded once we invited Courtney Sofiah Yates and Rasaan Wyzard. Unfortunately, Pearce left the group for personal reasons (with a positive note) which led us to invite Cheril Sanchez and Keenan Macwilliam a couple months down the line. After many shared crits, we decided to solidify our connections and created the Mycelia Collective. We are trying to expand what we do as first a crit group, now a collective, in hopes to inspire other artists to create and build their own.

Mycelia Open Studio, 2023
Untitled, from Segunda Generación

Being Dominican ourselves, we feel connected to your photography series “Segunda Generación” What did this series mean to you?

“Segunda Generación” meant the connection and disconnection I have towards the Dominican Republic. Living and existing outside the island has shaped my relationship to the DR. My family did their best to preserve the connection through all my younger years which led me to explore the island on my own terms. It reminds me of the calling cards from the 90s/00s. My parents used to force me to grab a couple at the nearest colmado. The labor to get the card and bring it back home to then sit down and talk to every single person on the other side of that phone. Hearing the phone get passed around to my Tias, my Tios, to my primos, and even to the neighbor who would visit them during these calls. As an adult, that inspired me to tap into the other side and explore all my family members who couldn’t make it to the USA or beyond. And in turn, sparked this project to nurture that connection by using the traveling privileges to see my family and how they live their lives in the Dominican Republic.

Can you describe a photograph you’ve taken that challenged societal norms or sparked controversy? What was the message, and how did it affect your career?

I don’t know if I ever took photographs that challenged societal norms. But in 2015, I did start my series photographing black/brown DJs and producers who specifically work in house and techno music. I remember I told someone that I want to photograph these DJs/Producers as if they were getting a FADER cover. At that time electronic music was not being taken seriously in the American market–especially for people of color. I’d simply photograph them in my style and eventually they would use the images for their press shots. This led to a fortunate connection with Love Injection FanZine where I became their unofficial photo editor. I actually ended up photographing my favorite DJs and Producers onto Love Injection’s covers. Years down the line I saw the shift in image making for DJs within the Brooklyn scene. In time, this opened up doors I didn’t imagine opening. I started to work with other artists and clients who found those images of DJs/Producers from various press releases in the global market.

MEZ, 2022
Untitled, from Segunda Generación

What challenges have you encountered in pursuing photography and how have you overcome them?

A major challenge has been trying to be recognized as an artist. It was a challenge to get recognized as a photographer. But to be unquestioned as an artist has been the biggest hurdle. I finally overcame it when I verbally told myself I’m an artist. Finding the conviction for myself opened up the possibility for others to believe in me. Because there were a lot of people in this world that doubted my work. I’ve always had and continue to have the support of my peers and family but to gain recognition from art institutions, magazines, and galleries is still a push. Slowly and surely I’m becoming more recognized for the work I do because I’ve been blessed with friends that are a part of these institutions and help push me in the right direction.

What role does post-processing play in your photography, and how do you decide when an image is “finished”?

Most of my work is hand printed by me. Even if I feel that the piece itself is finished, I tend to come back to it and rework it or reimagine the images I make. So I guess it’s not necessarily ever finished but always evolving.

Have you ever had a project or concept that you’ve wanted to explore but haven’t had the opportunity to yet?

Way too many projects I want to execute. Recently I saw an interview with director Park Chan-wook. He was describing how patiently he waited to make movies like Oldboy, because it took him years into his career to finally create what he wanted to make. I’m basically at the stage of my artistic career where I’m waiting to execute past ideas and concepts that I didn’t have the finances or time to do so. As my career progresses, I will get to that point of creation. And of course, I’ll be excited to show the world all these new projects I’ve planned over for all these years.

Guarionex shares a story of resilience, community, and the possibilities that unfold when creativity knows no bounds. We are so thankful to him for letting us in on his artistic journey.

Recontextualizing Caribbeaness:
Patricia Encarnación
01/13/2024
By Nabila Brache

Discovering Patricia’s art through social media was like stumbling upon a treasure of Caribbean identity and captivating visuals. Our connection deepened when we had the pleasure of meeting her in person at one of our events in Brooklyn. Through meaningful exchanges, we explored her work and uncovered the fascinating journey of this multidisciplinary artist.

Congratulations on being selected as part of the 2023 Tribeca Artist Awards program! Can you talk about your experience? How did you get into expressing yourself with film as a medium? 

Thank you!
Being part of the 2023 Tribeca Artist Awards program was indeed an experience. Being selected was an honor, especially considering the opportunity it provided to represent my community on such a platform. For me, it’s never just about personal recognition; it’s about demonstrating our community’s capacity to contribute to culture and knowledge on a global scale.

The Artist Awards Program, curated by Racquel Chevremont, was a collaboration between Chanel and the Tribeca Festival. Racquel, an Afro-Puerto Rican curator with a mission of inclusivity, curated a group of ten female artists, and I was fortunate to be among those she invited. Participating in this program was incredibly insightful. It allowed me to celebrate the work of the filmmakers showcased at the festival and granted me access to various festival events. It was an honor to rub shoulders with other talented artists. However, I also observed areas where the festival could improve in providing space and support for emerging artists.

Following my experience, I wrote an opinion piece about representation policies for Hyperallergic, where I unpacked my perspectives and reflections on the festival. I aimed to shed light on the festival’s strengths while constructively addressing areas that could be enhanced to accommodate emerging artists better and foster a more inclusive environment.

I donated a print from my collage series titled “I am from Where You Vacation,” the piece called “No Regreso.” This artwork was awarded to the talented Lebanese filmmaker Jude Chehab for their impactful work; that’s an honor to me.

Overall, being part of the Tribeca Artist Awards program was an enlightening and enriching experience. It allowed me to showcase my art and engage in critical conversations about representation, inclusivity, and the future of emerging artists within such esteemed platforms.

No Regreso, from the series I am From Where You Vacation
Part of The Caribbean Blues series

How has your upbringing in the Dominican Republic shaped your life and work?

Overall, my upbringing provided a stable foundation. I grew up in a working-class household with parents who came from el campo and el barrio but aspired to create a better future for their family. This ambition afforded me specific opportunities that many in the Dominican Republic don’t readily access, although our financial means remained limited. My mother worked as a “salonera” (hairdresser), while my father held various jobs, ranging from managing sugar cane carts to working in the state Department of Frontier Development.

My upbringing immersed me in an environment where everyday life held political significance, influencing both my artistic expressions and general discourse. Observing the daily conversations and situations in the beauty salon instilled a profound sense of community, shaping my understanding of beauty standards and womanhood. Conversely, accompanying my father on trips across the frontier, exploring the country, and delving into the intricacies of national planning and bi-national policies sparked my curiosity about the realities behind the surface.

Through these experiences, I realized that what was portrayed as reality often diverged significantly from the truth. This revelation became the cornerstone of my art—a quest to uncover the layers concealed beneath the apparent brightness and darkness, a pursuit that continues to define my artistic endeavors today.

How have the various residences you’ve participated in influenced your career trajectory?

The residencies I’ve participated in have played a pivotal role in shaping my career trajectory. These transformative experiences have offered insights and perspectives influencing my artistic journey.

One of the most significant impacts of these residencies is on my global views. This exposure has been instrumental in my artistic research, allowing me to explore and express global themes while uncovering the interconnectedness between seemingly disparate realities.

Moreover, these residencies have facilitated the establishment of relations between regions. Through interactions with fellow artists and local communities, I’ve been able to foster connections that transcend geographical boundaries. This interconnectedness has enriched my understanding of the world, allowing me to appreciate the similarities and shared experiences despite cultural differences.

Fundamentally, these experiences have expanded my comprehension of realities. By immersing myself in different cultural contexts, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of societal nuances, political landscapes, and historical backgrounds. This deeper understanding has been pivotal in informing the themes and narratives present in my art, allowing me to challenge and deconstruct hegemonic systems and societal constructs.

Art residencies have been more than just opportunities to create art. They have served as conduits for cultural immersion, enabling me to connect with communities, break down mental barriers, and dismantle the walls constructed by hegemonic systems. These experiences have shaped my artistic practice and allowed me to contribute meaningfully to a more interconnected and culturally rich creative landscape.

De Verde a Ma-duro
Album Design for Jazz at Lincoln Center

You are an artist with a design background. What are the similarities and differences in design and art?

As a multidisciplinary artist, I find that design and art share fundamental similarities in the creative process. The concept serves as the initial spark, the driving force that fuels the creation in both realms. There’s a desire to explore, innovate, and convey ideas in art or design.

Over time, I’ve noticed the increasingly blurred lines between art and design in my practice. While both fields involve exploring ideas and creative expression, a disparity lies in the commercial aspect associated with communication design. In my experience, design often operates within a commercial framework, catering to the needs of corporations or clients, driven by specific objectives and outcomes.

Conversely, in my art practice, the focus tends to differ. Art and design seek responses or solutions to a necessity or problem, but this essence varies. My art addresses collective struggles, aiming to resonate with broader societal issues and evoke responses from a larger audience. It’s about communicating and engaging with communities on a deeper level, seeking to provoke thought, reflection, and change.

On the other hand, design often provides solutions tailored to individual or corporate needs, driven by specific requirements. This distinction highlights a key difference in the audiences and purposes that art and design serve.

While acknowledging these distinctions, I’m working towards aligning my professional endeavors more closely. I aim to bridge the gap between my art and design practices, seeking ways to infuse elements of social consciousness and collective engagement into my design work. It’s a gradual process aimed at introducing more meaningful and impactful elements within the commercial aspects of design, moving beyond serving individual needs toward contributing to broader societal dialogues and change.

What are the challenges you face working in New York? Can you advise someone entering the art scene to overcome these challenges?

Emerging artists navigating New York City’s art scene face a duality of challenges and opportunities. The city’s wealth of resources and creative input from diverse communities can be overwhelming, potentially sidetracking artists from their creative objectives. Artists can leverage these resources by networking with fellow creatives, cultural institutions, and communities to flourish. Staying focused on personal artistic goals amidst numerous opportunities is crucial, ensuring alignment between endeavors and creative aspirations.

The city offers versatile working spaces like cultural institutions, wellness centers, libraries, etc, fostering collaboration and networking. Seeking financial support through grants or residencies that align with artistic values is essential to maintain your goals. Embracing diverse experiences, engaging with communities, and exploring varied art forms enriches professional and personal growth.

Prioritizing mental and spiritual well-being and fostering a supportive community are vital in the fast-paced city. Thriving as an emerging artist in New York involves embracing diversity, seeking meaningful opportunities, and nurturing community connections while staying true to one’s creative vision and values. This strategy enables artists to connect in the city’s vibrant and competitive artistic landscape.

Ni Una Mas from the series I am From Where You Vacation

It was a pleasure to have this dialogue with Patricia, offering candid reflections on her upbringing, artistic influences, and her journey. It makes us at idioma studio proud to see that she is committed to advocating for representation, inclusivity, and showing the potential of art as a catalyst for positive change.

The Two Sides of the Peso: Franz Caba
11/12/2023
By Daniel Cortorreal

As Franz and I speak over Zoom, I can’t help but think about how much I’d enjoy drinking a beer with him in the sweltering heat of Santo Domingo while having this conversation. Franz speaks of the duality of being from the Dominican Republic, the foreign eye and the perception which is often attributed to the Caribbean, and I can’t help but feel part of it. Leaving the island has changed my perception of it, cementing the fact that this idea of a tropical paradise that I know is not real. The grass is always greener, is it not? As Franz talks to me about the contrast of the perceived Caribbean and the everyday reality of it, I’m starkly aware of what he means. All of a sudden, his work clicks.

Franz Caba is a painter from the Dominican Republic. His work has deep roots in Dominican pop-culture, often featuring iconic imagery such as the plastic colmado chairs, the viralatas (or stray dogs) and the impossibly cramped buses that brave their way through the streets of Santo Domingo. Drawing influence from Japanese animated media, Franz’s work attempts to capture a still image that fits into a bigger story, something that becomes clear as soon as you see the movement in his work. Each scene presents the audience with a story, using subjects, landscapes and action to evoke a narrative structure in the still images.

As a Dominican who has become part of the diaspora, Franz’s work possesses something special to me. It takes those minute details of everyday Dominican life, and throws them in my face, reminding me that the tropical utopia I often tend to fawn over is more of an illusion than anything else. The plastic chairs remind me of the warm, yet chaotic atmosphere of a colmado. The viralatas remind me of the barking and the occasional friendly encounter. The buses remind me of the Santo Domingo traffic, the endless bottlenecks and the blaring horns under the scorching Caribbean sun. Franz takes these key elements of the minutiae of the Dominican mundanity and mashes them together with the fantastic portrayals that make his work so unique. We see those same plastic chairs gracefully rearing. We see the colmado bikes engaged in fierce battle. We see the coquero truck bracing the rough ocean waves, or a banca in an island in the middle of nowhere. This is, to me, Franz’s work. An amalgamation of contrasts.

In my conversation with Franz, I had the chance to probe the mind of one of the kindest, smartest, most interesting artists I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Not only is his work beautiful and ingenious, but the mind behind it is one capable of interpreting, and more importantly, reinterpreting reality in a way that truly encapsulates what it is to be “the other” when the other comes from home, and what it is to miss the thing you always dreamed of getting away from.

How did your journey with painting start? Was it something that always interested you, or did your interest develop through other means?

In all honesty, painting wasn’t a medium that particularly caught my attention. I first got interested in drawing, as I thought it was the most organic way to approach the production of images. My interest stems from two things: boredom and foolishness.
After spending most of my life drawing, I somehow wanted to try other methods of work, and painting attracted me because of its technical complexity. It felt like a good way to reset my creative process, and it led me to understand that painting was the most favorable medium for my current body of work.

When we first spoke, you mentioned the idea of an “imaginary Caribbean” that permeates your work. Can you elaborate more on this “imaginary Caribbean” and its contrast to what Caribbean/Dominican culture is for you?

I think that the Caribbean and the condition of being a Caribbean person lives in duality. Through time and the process of colonization, exploitation and commercialization of this territory, some fictions have come to birth through the foreign eye in order to satisfy the ideas and the wish of an earthly paradise that is accessible. These fantasies are a stark contrast from the ways of life and the realities that surface in the palpable Caribbean, and they transform the way we are perceived and the way we relate to our space.

When I went to Aruba in 2018 to participate in Caribbean Linked’s artist residency program, I went in with the preconceived idea that I was going to find a travel-postcard paradise. The everyday reality of the Aruban territory and its people differs greatly from the image I had in my head. This made me question the Caribbean I came from, and the reason for my expectations.

 

“Untitled Sketch” 2017
“Si te vi, no te conozco” 2023

When we first spoke of your main artistic influences, you mentioned that a big part of it was Japanese art such as anime and manga. Can you elaborate on how these genres affected your style and work?

Lacking an academic artistic education, most of my source matter comes from Japanese animated media. I’ve always admired the way manga and anime artists use their visual
resources to narrate. This has always informed the way in which I approach image production. I like to think that the way in which I produce my work is via manga vignettes or frames of animation, where the frozen image I’m trying to portray belongs to a greater sequential narrative that has the capacity to introduce observers into the narrative arc. Through these mediums I discovered the potential of fantasy and Ero guro to approach about the earthly.

In your latest collection “Estoy aquí pero no soy yo”, many of the paintings use traditional imagery from Dominican popular culture, such as plastic chairs, stray dogs, buses, colmados and bancas. Is there any specific idea you were trying to communicate with the use of this imagery?

Unlike my past series’, where the main subject of the work was always the human corporeal figure, in Estoy Aquí Pero No Soy Yo, I discard corporeality, understanding that objects, animals, and landscapes have the ability to speak about our identities and realities while also referencing the bodies that relate to them. With this series of works I try to explore issues of belonging, otherness, the space and the identities of the Caribbean that have been constructed and imagined since the fantasies of colonization and tourist exploitation.

Usually, through the representation of landscape, I try to reflect about the fictions that create part of the context that I belong to and inhabit, one in which I often cannot see myself. I treat these landscapes as theater stages; I’m not interested in them looking particularly organic. I build them from Google searches, images from newspapers, Tinder profiles and personal files, to which I then add the elements of animals, objects and buildings to mix my personal anecdotes with observations and collective cultural and sociopolitical questions.

Not long ago you joined Lucy García’s (Dominican Gallerist) roster of artists. Have you noticed a significant impact in your career stemming from this?

I think the biggest impact of joining Lucy García has been the introduction and consolidation of my art to the collector’s atmosphere that, in one way or another, would’ve been hard to access. Also, the curatorial aspect of Lucy’s gallery, with her amazing curator Orlando Isaac, with whom I’m constantly working with when it comes to curating my work and getting feedback.

Being a Dominican artist living in the DR is very different from being a Dominican artist living abroad. Have you noticed any challenges that the Dominican artist living in the DR tends to struggle with?

Both Dominican artists and their work are faced with a system that completely ignores the craft. The lack of state or private incentives that go beyond biennale events, plagued by very timid and “safe” collecting, and the lack of experimental exhibition spaces make the development and consolidation of art as a career very difficult for artists.

When we first spoke, we talked about Dominican artists abroad and their support for art based in the country. In your opinion, do you believe that local Dominican art and Dominican art from abroad form part of the same community or movement, or are the two separate from one another? Why or why not?

I think every group responds to their own context. Keeping in mind that many of the Dominican artists that belong to the diaspora share their conceptual interests and practices with local artists, and that there is a certain professional and personal kinship between them, the marked differences in resources and opportunities seem to be strong enough to separate what can be done here and what can be done “there.”

“Me das y te doy siempre andan juntos” 2023
“El que da de primero da dos veces” 2021

One of the biggest struggles that Caribbean/Latinx artists go through is that of separating themselves and their work from the stereotypical connotations of their culture. What is your opinion on Latinx artists’ work being valued exclusively for their perceived representation of Latinx culture?

I think there is a serious issue of Latin-Americans being pigeonholed and validated only inside certain visual discourses and contexts. At one point, I had the opportunity to participate in an exhibition with my previous body of work, and one of the things that shocked me the most was hearing that “it didn’t look Caribbean”. Those words led me to question the imaginary tropics through its own representation. I think that a great part of this problem comes from the exotification and exploitation of our cultures, contexts and the people that habit them.

If you had to choose one artist, from any medium, that you think everyone should know, who would that be and why?

Lately I’ve been studying Cuban artist Belkis Ayón’s work. I think the narrative richness and the visual aspects of her work have the ability to transcend barriers. I’m in love with all her work.

Edited by Andrea Bautil

Washington Heights Surrealism:
Devin Osorio
08/27/2023
By Nabila Brache

We delve into the world of Devin Osorio, a visionary magic realist artist. In this dialogue we discover Devin’s deep bond with their Dominican heritage, nurtured in the lively streets of Washington Heights. Presently, Devin finds themselves preparing their inaugural solo exhibition, titled “La Combi Incompleta,” set against the backdrop of Mexico City. Join us as we explore Devin’s artistic career, where imagination knows no bounds and creativity dances with reality.

I want to start by asking… How would you define Washington Heights Surrealism?

Washington Heights Surrealism describes works that intend to focus on the psychological while using Washington Heights as its anchor in one way or another either as a backdrop, its inspiration for social cues, or as an idea. 

For some time, I believed that my practice fell under Surrealism but I’ve grown to learn that I align better with Magical Realism. The difference is that whilst I am exploring my psychology and emotional being, I always project those realizations with the people and physical spaces of Washington Heights. Creating my own fables with that knowledge. My mental self is the setting and Washington Heights is my developing character. 

Osorio’s grandmother wearing a garment by the artist in the series “People of Washington Heights.” 2015

Devin Osorio (bottom left) and family

Devin’s younger sister, wearing a garment for “Performance of Washington Heights.” 2015

Why did you pursue a career in art, and how has that journey shaped your perspective on life?

Growing up I was not very impressive or stood out. I was neither the smart kid, the pretty kid, the artistic one, or the bully. I seemed to always fall on the border of social groupings. What I definitely was and still am is very curious. I did not want to be an artist but rather become a horse. Since that is not anatomically possible, I settled with spending all of my time playing with animals such as Matt and Chris in the show Zoboomafoo.  

Art was always in my life in one way or another. My uncle, Ismael Checo, is a very talented painter who teaches his practice in universities. My brother, Kevin Osorio was the artistic person in the household and won national awards when we were kids. My father, Enrique Guarionex Osorio Peña, has been working as a landscaper in corporate buildings throughout NYC for most of my life and instinctively knows how to manipulate and tend to organic life to grow and flourish beautifully. My mother, Maria Lucia Checo de Osorio, was extremely smart and sociable. She knew how to make people feel comfortable around her and help them grow into whatever they desired. Although not all of these individuals worked in the arts or taught me my practice directly, they all contributed significantly to my artistic upbringing and how I navigate my practice. I don’t view my practice so much as creating art for art’s sake but I work as a researcher in which my outcome is in the arts. I use ethnographic research methods to navigate the work I produce, creating surveys and conducting interviews. I’m constantly reading research papers and studying concepts that seem to have nothing to do with my practice but are vital to my work. For example, I’m currently reading Bruce Bagemihl’s Biological Exuberance, The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Maltz and Micromotives and Macrobehavior by Thomas C. Schelling, which are all teaching me about humanity both independently and shared. 

The creative pursuit is not one of outcome but one of process. It’s allowing oneself to invest in their curiosity and allowing it to bear an abundance of fruit. It took me a very long time to realize that I deserved to live a life beyond survival but one of enjoyment and fulfillment. 

I began working for money at the age of 12 helping with light construction in the basement of a church. Since then I grew to believe that my life was aimed to pay bills and rest when I’m not in that pursuit. It left little space for personal investigation. Yes, one could make money from many sources, but I did not equate joy and money-making in the same context. Allowing myself to pave a life path that allowed for both worlds to live together taught me to trust myself, believe in myself, and gift myself more than I could even imagine.  

I understand that growing up in Washington Heights has inspired your work conceptually. However, what inspirations have you drawn in terms of aesthetics?

Aesthetically it’s in the details of my work. I grew up in 565 W 175th Street whose doorway has this beautiful ornamental decoration of a garland made up of abstracted grapes, bananas, apricots, and apples. The tiled floors were made of beautiful marble that was cut into geometric shapes that snaked their way through the entire building. Within my apartment, the window frames came off the wall, making it seem like the outside world was being held within an antique frame. Near the windows in the living room, my parents tended to a small jungle of plants that towered over the couches, and windows, and slumped over the ceiling. My mother loved to rearrange the apartment constantly and painted walls in whatever color piqued her interest at the moment. At one point she painted our living room a gorgeous pumpkin orange and our kitchen a dark forest green. Throughout my entire childhood, we have had a miniature painting in the kitchen of a cut melon and two cherries fading away into chiaroscuro. This painting sat next to ceramic wall figurines such as colorful fish or dainty Renaissance angels. 

Outside on my block, people sat on the cement steps of the Incarnation School whilst others created circles around the steps with foldable picnic chairs, stacking numerous amounts of jackets and leather purses on the backs of their chairs which threatened to topple over from the excessive unbalanced weight. Their cupholders were filled with beer bottles, baby pacifiers, and candy. The sidewalk was filled with blunt wrap residue and empty Hennessy bottles. My block was always difficult in regards to finding available parking spaces, cars were often left double parked on the street. Rows of cars stacked neatly next to each other with a few leaving their trunk open to blast music for the block to enjoy. Growing up the reason to own a car was not only for transportation but to be able to tailgate on the block and use the back seats as day beds for sun-drunk children. 

These are the details that make up the aesthetic of my work.  

Exterior detail of 565 W 175th Street

Image taken by Christian Rodriguez

“Art can also function as a personal textbook, a space to record and find the connections between all of the learning one does.”

How do you view the relationship between art and the human experience? How does your art reflect or comment on the world we live in?

I believe that art is the outcome of brain expansion and/or exploration. It can function as a journal and allow for one’s thoughts and emotions to be studied and materialized. Allowing them to potentially find clarity and to some degree, third-person evaluation. Art can also function as a personal textbook, a space to record and find the connections between all of the learning one does. In essence, art is a tool that provides the possibility to extract that which we hold in our interior and project it onto something material – an ability that is truly powerful and beautiful.

When I was in college, I became very close with a brilliant artist named Zlatko Mitev. He is from Sofia, Bulgaria and one would think at first glance that we would have nothing in common but in reality, we were kindred spirits. We loved the same things and seemed to inspire each other often with either new findings or by sharing ideas. Something that connected us deeply was music and our love for it, we would have drunken jam sessions in which I recited old reggaetón songs followed by copious moaning melodies and he would recite drum skits from his time in a screamo band. We would also often send each other links to songs. In sharing we found a deep connection to music from both Bulgaria and the Dominican Republic. Beyond sounding similarly, they seemed to function in similar ways culturally – at times to discuss pain through tools of joy and as an escape from reality by stepping into spaces of ecstasy. My practice attempts to continue that exercise of finding parallels within existence and collage them together conceptually. I don’t do this in order to reveal global connectivity per se but as a way to expand ones understanding of their own existence. 

Growing up I was not allowed to leave Washington Heights often. Areas such as downtown Manhattan became fictional spaces that adults and children in movies had access to. In finding these parallels I am allowing my child self to realize just how abundant my community is and how much larger everything around me actually was.

When you look back at your body of work, which piece or series holds the most significance to you, and what story does it tell about your artistic evolution?

A few pieces definitely come to mind, but the piece that stands out most is, Aprender Del Caer (2021), an artwork I created days before I moved to Mexico City from Brooklyn. At that time, I had created my first handful of pieces on canvas thanks to being motivated by the extremely talented, Tiffany Alfonseca. It was scary to justify spending money on my practice at that time because I was not sure if I was worth investing in. I knew that I had talent and that I enjoyed painting but it was a tool of catharsis, not a career. I began by making somewhat safe paintings that touched on topics about Dominicanness but reserved my vulnerability. The very last piece I created before my move was inspired by a conversation I had with a South African shaman over WhatsApp. In this conversation, he mentioned that people that live in cities struggle in life because they do not have enough trees around to fall from. He said that those individuals don’t learn the valuable lesson that the fear of falling is not about the landing but in the act of falling itself. Once one learns that the landing isn’t as monumental as assumed, one becomes more confident in their leap. This thought felt poignant at the moment as I sat in a bedroom that was being packed into boxes to initiate my move to a new country. 

What makes this piece so significant for me is that this was the first piece in which I allowed myself to be vulnerable to the public. I was materializing my fears and excitement for this new life transition. When that piece sold, I was shown that I am worth investing in and more importantly, that my vulnerabilities are tools of empathy rather than insecurity. When one closes the window, the ceiling has a way of cracking wide open. 

“What makes this piece so significant for me is that this was the first piece in which I allowed myself to be vulnerable to the public.”

Aprender Del Caer, 2021
Black Girl Window, Beyte Saar, 1969
The Liberation of Aunt Jemima, Beyte Saar, 1972

You have many artists that inspire you like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Faith Ringgold, Richard Avedon and others. If you had to choose the most impactful artist to your work, who would that be and why?

When I first moved to Mexico City and really began to sink my teeth into a painting career, I realized that I needed to strengthen and deepen my art history knowledge. This would work in my favor during studio visits and party conversations but also grant me a deeper understanding of my own tastes. I decided that every morning I would spend at least an hour doing research on artists. I have notebooks filled with notes about the lives of artists both contemporary and from the very distant past. During this research is when I came across Betye Saar’s work properly. I had learned about her in one of my art history classes in which we studied The Liberation of Aunt Jemima (1972), but we did not dig into Saar’s life story and the beautiful breath of her work. When I saw Black Girl’s Window (1969), for the first time I felt as though time had stopped. Saar had created an artwork that spoke about me in better ways than I could. She could effortlessly connect all the parts of me into one piece and I was left dumbfounded with goosebumps. Ever since I’ve been attempting to create work that moves me to such a degree. 

What advice would you give to aspiring artists who are just starting their creative journey?

This sounds so auntie of me but I would recommend reading a lot and reading all of the time about anything and everything that they are interested in! 

When I graduated from college my great friend, My Dinh, and I collaborated together on a fashion collection for the second time. She would create the silhouettes and I the textiles. We called our line Ratchet Couture because we loved mundane objects and kitschy memorabilia but wanted to elevate them with couture techniques and sensibilities. My taught me to do research properly. For about three months we would meet up after work at the FIT Library and devour countless amounts of books in order to better understand what we were inspired by. One week was spent doing research about the emotion and the vibe that we wanted to emit with the collection. The following week was spent on the textures and colors that we wanted to focus on. All aspects of the work were not conjured aimlessly but were slowly revealed to us through the collection of our organic interests. I appreciate this lesson because I’ve used this process ever since. Whenever I am stuck I sit and read. Whenever I am confused I stop and read. I allow the answers to reveal themselves rather than me conjuring them. 

Tactile Temple Toys 2, Devin Osorio x My Dinh for POAM Collaboration
Tactile Temple Toys, Devin Osorio x My Dinh for POAM Collaboration

Do you have any current and upcoming exhibitions you would like to share?

I do, I am excited to announce that I will be having my first solo exhibition in Mexico City with Adhesivo Contemporary titled, La Combi Incompleta. Following that I will be having another solo exhibition with Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles in February 2024. Any other projects are usually listed on my Instagram description, any group showcases that I’ll be participating in will be listed there. 

Island Nostalgia:
Larissa de Jesús
12/08/2021
By Nabila Brache

After coming across Larissa’s multidisciplinary artworks in social media, we had to reach out. We were attracted to her portraits and neo-surreal imagery that depict intimacy and introspection which led us to think about our own childhood memories. As a young, latinx artist in New York, Larissa shares with us her experience so far and her thoughts on the art world. 

How did growing up in Puerto Rico influence your work?

Puerto Rico is everything to me. All of my childhood memories are attached to the island and of course, most of my traumas are attached to my upbringing. Because my work touches upon topics of nostalgia, I often revisit experiences that framed my view of the world. Another main thing that links my practice to my island is nature. I often look up images to use as reference, from beaches in Puerto Rico, rivers, forests, to breathtaking views of the paradise that is Puerto Rico. 

What do tears or drops of water mean to you? This is very present in most of your work.

The use of water droplets came from the idea that when I’m alone, in moments of introspection, thoughts flow like water and I’m able to dig deeper into what I’m feeling in that moment. Self-analysis and ultimately, self-improvement, is the mental space that I revisit every time I create work. The use of water is merely a reminder that whatever ends up emerging from this blank surface will be a reflection of my inner thoughts, things that I don’t know or want to necessarily express in words. In other words, water represents introspection.

Talk to us about your creative process, as a multidisciplinary artist, what is your starting point?

I don’t pay attention to having a distinct style as an artist. I enjoy the process of exploring and discovering new techniques and this is what keeps me coming back every day. The idea of play is essential to my process. Through playing with materials and techniques, I uncover my subconscious mind which leads to processing bottled up emotions. The thing I pay most attention to is the quality of the work and that the story being told relates back to who I am as a person.

“Because my work touches upon topics of nostalgia, I often revisit experiences that framed my view of the world.”

When looking at your work, we see a recurring theme of self-reflection and intimacy. Has this been something that has always been present in your work, or have you just begun to introduce it? Do you see your style continuing to evolve?

The topic of introspection and self-analysis started in 2015 when I moved to New York from Puerto Rico. Leaving my hometown and my family at 19 was incredibly difficult but also exhilarating. It was a time to define what my role is in this world as a woman, as a Latinx, I didn’t know the importance of home until I had to create it for myself. I was struggling with discovering who I was as an artist and what I could bring to the table. Artmaking has been my preferred language ever since I was nine years old, so finding my voice through my work wasn’t a choice more than it was a necessity.

What advice can you offer to other fellow young artists trying to make a career for themselves in New York?

I have thousands of things that I could share with emerging artists because I am a true believer in sharing knowledge so that we can all succeed. But one advice I can give to young artists emerging in New York is don’t let anyone put limits on your success and make sure to not put them on yourself. It’s OK to fear what you don’t understand but do not let fear dictate your life. Go learn about what you don’t know, never stop learning and never stop improving.

What does the ideal art industry look like to you?

An ideal art industry for me is a place where knowledgeable people in the art-world hand over information to artists without the fear of them becoming obsolete. A place where everyone is driven to empower artists and where there is a common understanding that artists are in the nucleus of the art world. I’m happy that Instagram exists because it has reminded a lot of people of the power that artists have on their own.

Tropical Identity:
Joiri Minaya
08/16/2021
By Joel De La Rosa

We recently spoke to the artist Joiri Minaya, and she shared with us how her work has been the result of her experience in the diaspora. Her work is like a timeline of continuous responses to herself, it feels personal, and it matures with time. She describes it as a reassertion of herself, an exercise of unlearning, decolonizing and exorcizing imposed histories, cultures and ideas, while also exploring tropical identity as product: the performance of labor, decoration, beauty, leisure, and service.

How has growing up in Dominican Republic and then moving to the United States influenced your work?

I’m very interested in how we communicate with each other. While I grew up with the opportunity to occasionally visit the US from a young age, my interest in the construct of Dominican identity and observations about the way the nation presents itself or is perceived by the outside world definitely really solidified through my experience after moving to NY as a college student in my early 20s. I was also an exchange student in Belgium for a year when I was 17, this experience also influenced my thinking and my work years later in regards to identity and it’s perception and presentation. But that experience had a scheduled ending date after which I was to come back to the DR. It was really the thought of being in a new space for an undetermined amount of time that made me think “ok I have to deal with this, I have to talk about this.” I don’t think I would be making the work I am making if I had stayed in the Dominican Republic, my work has definitely been the result of my experience in the diaspora for the last decade and the multiple points of understanding this has provided me.

#dominicanwomengooglesearch (2016)
Container #3, 2017, Archival pigment print, 40 x 60 in

Walk us through your creative process, from research to installation or performance.

It’s different for every piece, although I do read a lot and do research for most of them. I don’t know if I have a clear beginning for all of them, because many have built up on each other. Most of them are a continuation of something I have explored before. The work I was doing in Dominican Republic before coming to New York was about gender in relation to domesticity and the type of behaviors learned at home. Women upholding this idea of domesticity and patterns as they relate to societal behavior. While the ideas of gender and pattern are still present, they aren’t necessarily tied to domesticity anymore, they’re more expansive in terms of space and context. It’s more about the outside space, about cultural and physical landscapes.

There is a progression and moments of shifts in the process, but I can’t necessarily dissect an origin for all my works. What I could say is that I start by capturing some sort of image in my head of something that calls my attention, and it sometimes takes a form of a note, a sketch or taking a screenshot, a way to make it tangible and explore it further. I have a million sketches and screenshots. Once I start seeing a pattern or I see something really getting my attention, I try to put it into words and then either write or research or both. Sometimes it’s less conceptual and more gestural, or process-based: I might explore an idea through some sort of making with my hands. Collage comes up a lot in this stage, either with images or pairing and remixing my notes and texts, accumulating files in digital folders, printing things out and pairing them in physical space, perhaps even editing things together through video. Eventually when I’ve identified something of interest and worth commenting on / communicating about / sharing with the world, I then think of the form: Should this be a fixed image on the wall? Do I need audio or movement here? Should this idea be a performance? How should this be experienced? Should you use it all at once? Should you discover things and piece them out together? What does that do to the work? What does this mean to me? What does it mean to others? Sometimes I end up with multiple forms and derivations, and this is how I’ve ended up with bodies of work that are very tightly related to each other.

In your work “Redecode,” why did you end up choosing that specific interior design wallpaper from a Beverly Hills Hotel and please go into how it becomes similar to the U.S. military uniform camouflage. We find this work fascinating.

I was following the thread of tropical imagery and pattern design that is depicting an idea of tropical space in a specific way. I identified that pattern as an iconic one, seeing derivations of that pattern everywhere, which led me to research it. I realized it was a sort of origin for that aesthetic that is still identifiable and copied today. I also realized it was designed during a time when the US was present in many places in terms of military occupation. This led me to think about the disconnection between the militarized experience in tropical space and the violence that comes with it vs. the superficial decorative approach to depicting the tropical space for consumption and the process of commodifying it through these designs and trends.

The imagery present in a lot of these patterns evokes botanical illustrations, which in a way are remnants of an imperialist past, because they were used to understand new found resources centuries ago in order to control and exploit them. The idea of sabotaging that visual aesthetic to me in the form of pixilation made sense. Later when I saw the pixelated pattern, it brought me back to the militarized idea because it looked a lot like the pixilated camouflage in the US military uniform at the time.

Redecode: a tropical theme is a great way to create a fresh, peaceful, relaxing atmosphere (2015)
Siboney (2014)

How has Siboney influenced all of your other works, and do you see it influencing future works?

In works like Siboney, I was trying to dissect or understand how the construction of the mulatta figure in literature and visual culture was exotified in a particular way, which is not applied to the white woman or black woman in the Caribbean, and how that is idealized in relation to nature and landscape. I began to explore these ideas in an earlier performance called Canela actually, that’s where a lot of what I’ve been unpacking in a lot of subsequent works originated at. But in Siboney the ideas and their execution came together in a more cohesive way, and it was documented better. Both of these performances were very influential to works I did later, where I was taking specific aspects of them and exploring them separately.

Have you considered perhaps moving into social justice and collaborating with organizations that help women to deal with the issues your work touches? I am trying to get at the question of do you sometimes wish art was more useful?

I was a muralist with Groundswell and other organizations for a number of years, and an educator with the Romare Bearden Foundation and most recently with the Bronx Museum. It is something that isn’t visible in my artworks, but a parallel practice I’ve had is working with communities through programs like these. I’ve thought about incorporating this aspect in a more visible way into my work somehow, there’s definitely some avenues I’m exploring in regards to this.

When you get into social issues there is always a question of sustainability and how to center the community you are working with. I don’t want to fall into the formula of a lot of “social practice art” of taking photos of the community I am working with to show this beautiful thing I am doing and reproducing a savior complex.

However, I don’t think art needs to be useful, I am perfectly fine with my work not being useful. If anything, what would be important is to extend that uselessness to people who don’t have the privilege or the access to it. When art becomes utilitarian, then it has a function and its reason to exist is that function. I think it’s part of the desire of human experience to just have time and space to reflect, and I think that’s what art provides.

The Cloaking of the statues of Ponce de Leon at the Torch of Friendship and Christopher Columbus behind the Bayfront Park Amphitheater in Miami, Florida, 2019
Art & Technology:
Bernardine Brocker
12/24/2020
By Joel De La Rosa

Bernadine Brocker is CEO and Co-Founder of Vastari. She is a huge proponent of technological innovation for the art world. She is also a scholar of art history, a graphic designer and was originally trained as an illustrator.

Could you tell us what your project “Vastari” is about? How did it start and why?

Vastari is an online marketplace platform where venues and museums can find and connect with new and exciting exhibition content. The company was founded as a result of a question from an art collector who wished to lend a drawing to a museum exhibition – but it has now developed into something much larger. 

Eight years on, the company now operates a confidential database of private collections available for loans to museums, as well as a matchmaking database for touring exhibitions. The industry of Arts, Culture, Exhibitions and Technology is very siloed and so we have been shining a light on many different collaboration opportunities and questions that couldn’t have been answered before. For example, how big is the market for exhibitions? What are participants looking for in a partnership? What kind of budgets are participants looking to spend? How can technology tools improve offerings? More recently, since 2018 we have started publishing reports about our industry, sharing insights to how the exhibitions industry works in 2018 and reports on collecting in 2020, answering exactly those questions.

Vastari’s primary aim is to know what museums and venues want, and connect them to the most relevant artworks or exhibitions that relate to their programming. Exhibitions we tour cover subjects from Toulouse Lautrec to the centenary of the Greek Revolution of 1921 to the undervalued masterpieces by female abstract expressionist Michael West, from music to silence – and our private collections range from the most contemporary masters like Hockney and Wiley to classics like Rubens and Goya.

2019 Annual Conference Programme

I was very intrigued by your comment on how museums are more inclined to export than import and you made a very interesting connection with post-colonialism. If museums are more interested in sending out their ideas and not bringing them in, what can we do to change it?

When we surveyed the sector in 2018, we asked museums if they are willing to import exhibitions (host) or export exhibitions (tour). Our survey was primarily of museums in the “West” like Europe (50.4%) and North America (42.8%), but also included 6.8% of respondent institutions from other areas of the world.

What stood out to us was that museums in Europe especially expect to export their exhibitions to other venues, but they do not expect to host or import any exhibitions – even more prominent within art museums. North American museums are 30% more likely to import shows than their European counterparts. 50% of European museums are not willing to import exhibitions “turn-key” meaning they always insist on changing the show for their own venue.

These findings indicate, in my opinion, that these institutions have a culture where they “know best”. This is not an inclusive attitude and is reminiscent of 19th century world views. These institutions do not allocate a budget for importing exhibitions to their venues, in the way they expect their counterparts to do.

In 2019, I organized a panel discussion at the Association of Art History Conference in Brighton, UK to discuss this finding, and it really struck a chord with the audience – many museum professionals, especially from minorities, found that this subject is something that needs more attention. In short, I think it is about appreciating others’ expertise and identifying inequity in business models.

You have mentioned curators at big institutions are hired for their address book. A curator’s role should be how to tell the story, not how connected they are. How does a digital platform make it easier for curators to focus on what really matters?

Today, a lot of connections are made through informal relationships. Our Vastari Global Collector Trends report demonstrated that most collectors are introduced to museums for loans to exhibitions through “friends” and other informal relationships, compared to online networks or professional networks.

I personally am of the belief, like you, that the curator’s role should be about how they tell the story, rather than their address book. But unfortunately, if we are still experiencing a reality where informal relationships are the primary way to find content, it means that curators will continue to be hired for who they know. I wonder how much curators want it to remain this way, or also find it frustrating to spend their time schmoozing rather than philosophizing and writing.

A digital platform like ours can help ask the question and provide an alternative – but it’s up to the industry to find the answer.

Ser Oscar de la Renta – Centro Leon

I remember you mentioning how in Dominican Republic you never had access to great museums and that when you first saw the german expressionists you felt incredibly moved. I remember a similar experience when I first went to MoMa. While I don’t expect to see an Otto Dix painting in Santo Domingo, I think the local culture is rich enough to produce more socially valuable exhibitions. Do you agree?

I like this question. For example, the Centro Leon in Santiago, Dominican Republic produced a fantastic exhibition about Oscar de la Renta, one of the most famous fashion designers from the island. As an example, I expect that the V&A would want to curate their own exhibition on the designer, rather than importing the one from D.R., even if the institution would expect Dominican museums and venues to import their exhibitions about British fashion designers like Alexander McQueen.

This question also raises the point of asking to whom all of these cultural stories and experiences belong. The British Museum produces an experience about Japanese Shunga, the MoMa holds works about German Expressionism, the POLA Museum in Japan holds works by Claude Monet… Can we agree that Culture is collectively owned by humankind, that extraordinary stories that belong to everyone?

You could argue that instead of looking at the ownership of the artefacts, the institutions “own” the scholarship, the expertise. When a lot of researchers and curators at museums are losing their jobs as a result of the 2020 pandemic – is their scholarship owned by them individually, or by the institution they worked for? Can they go off and develop exhibitions elsewhere, and how does this relate to the ownership of the collections?

Bearing all of these factors in mind, the argument for custodianship, equity, and representation becomes very complex. That is why there is a fine balance within our industry that is often not even put into words. It is a fascinating space to build technology for. At Vastari we are attempting to define in binaries something which is not black and white.

How can digital assets and blockchain technology change the art industry? What is the art industry of the future?

I actually want to evolve how we talk about the “art industry” going forward. It could be defined with the acronym ACET – Arts, Culture, Exhibitions and Technology – and acknowledge the direction that the art industry is heading towards. Redefining this corner of the media and education space helps us understand the potential of the future of our work.

Alliances will need to be made between the traditional arts & culture institutions and technology companies, as well as exhibition producers, to find new business models and collaborations. If you look at organizations like Superblue, Diversion Cinema, Khora Contemporary and ARTTECHHOUSE, or suppliers like Articheck, Conserv, and Artratio, and of course organizations like Artory, Verisart, Superrare, Rarible, Electric Artefacts and Dot Art…. the industry is much larger than what was collected under the “arts and culture” umbrella.

The future of the ACET industry is redefining value – and going back to the roots of our creativity. These creations are made to be appreciated by as wide as an audience as possible, while still creating a personalized experience. So far, the personalized experience has been reserved for a chosen few – those who can buy at an art fair or afford to be a patron of a museum. Blockchain and distributed ledger technology, mobile technologies, XR technology and all of the wonders of Web 3.0 can redefine the personalized experience to be more inclusive and significant. A great series of examples were discussed by The Lab organized by We Are Museums last week – and this is only the beginning. If you ask me, this is a time for ACET growth.

PODIM Conference 2018
The Present & Future:
Jean García
12/23/2020
By Rafael Gómez

Jean García is a graduate of Political Science and Economics, with studies in Anthropology and Management. He is a fellow of the Singularity University, social and political activist, chairs the Center for Political Innovation in the Dominican Republic and is co-founder of GENIA Latin America. In the following dialogue, we will talk about his views on technology and its impact on our future, among other issues.

The COVID-19 pandemic comes as the deployment of 5G and IoT technologies begins, technologies that promise to continue accelerating the radical change that has taken place in the 21st century. What is your opinion about the role that the pandemic plays in history?

Without a doubt, the emergence of this new context derived from COVID-19 has accelerated our transformation towards ultra-connected and intelligent systems. What once seemed like science fiction, today we live in everyday life. The world changed. It no longer makes sense to say that “the world is changing”, or that “we must prepare for what is coming”. The disruption to the system has already arrived and we are seeing it raw.

In this way, we can say that the pandemic accelerated time, it has forced us to have the discussion that we all knew that sooner or later we were going to have: the current system is insufficient to respond to global emergency situations. This reflection is fundamentally linked to the issue of exponential technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), the IoT, and the 5G infrastructure.

These technologies predict a greater disruption to the global system, which will impact all areas of society, generating greater uncertainty in crisis situations. These technologies have great potential to improve our systems, but they come with a series of risks – even of an existential nature – that we must collectively face on a global level.

The pandemic revealed the great deficiencies of the system, as well as accelerated processes that will bring greater difficulties to its capacity to successfully face the challenges of the Great Disruption.

The women’s liberation movement has empowered many women from all walks of life to denounce their transgressors, stalkers, rapists, etc … I recently heard about the launch of the book “Premka: White Bird in a Golden Cage: My Life with Yogi Bhajan ”In which a spiritual leader is accused of harassing and raping women who belonged to her community. To this we can add countless cases in which leaders in the course of history act against what is perceived as “good” or within the laws of morality. Taking into account that the society today is very likely more moral than in past centuries, what repercussions do you think this increase in accusations and movements will have? How do you think man would evolve in the face of his merely vicious behaviors from all these scandals, starting from the hypothesis of man’s “natural evilness”?

This is an interesting question because it starts from very complex premises. I do not completely agree with the hypothesis of the “natural malignancy of man”. I believe that the human responds to environments, rather than having a fundamental nature. For me the natural is what exists, I don’t think there is a metaphysical concept of nature; a fundamental essence. The natural encompasses the entire physical result and its universal derivatives, which are processes with a high level of randomness due to chaos and entropy. Although causal relationships are what science explains, the random component within complex systems is fundamental and breaks any concept of a “universal order” or pure essence of nature. Order is a concept that has evolved along with life, but Physics tells us that disorder and chaos are the greatest universal forces.

Good and bad are inter-subjective concepts, that is, they are created through social language. Morality responds to a historical context and a social environment. What used to be moral today may not be tomorrow. Today we see with moral repudiation the era of human slavery, while we torture and murder billions of animals for dietary and aesthetic purposes, which suffer the martyrdom of civilization. Similarly, today we are flooding our oceans with plastic, deforesting our jungles, and destroying ecosystems. Perhaps in more “primitive” times that would not have been acceptable, taking into consideration the moral orientations of peripheral communities to civilization.

Undoubtedly, I believe that there have been advances, especially in the role of women in society. However, this does not mean that this advance is also a conception that comes from an intersubjective interpretation. Absolute concepts are difficult to apply in the field of social complexity.

“For me the natural is what exists, I don’t think there is a metaphysical concept of nature; a fundamental essence.”

The emergence of Artificial Intelligence applications, the large capital investment in less expensive energy, and other market trends, could represent the reduction of the cost of living on the one hand, and on the other hand the obsolescence of human labor in many areas . Today’s society has flourished due to capitalism, and humans today “live to work.” Ideas such as the Universal Basic Salary represent a probable economic solution to these problems. From the perspective of Social Sciences, what do you think about a possible decrease in the enjoyment of life of these people who would not work and what solutions are there?

The issue of the possible obsolescence of human work due to the deployment of automated systems is one of the great challenges that we must face as a society in the coming years. The Universal Basic Income has emerged as one of the loudest proposals to handle market disruption by exponential technologies. Without a doubt it is a measure that deserves to be studied and experimented on a large scale.

The quality of life of the people depends a lot on the access to the fundamental services that a society has. Whether there will be a decline in the quality of life will depend fundamentally on whether there is a social structure that guarantees access to public goods and services. That is why politics is fundamental and should not be replaced by merely technical, much less business thinking. Regardless of whether in the future we have a job or not, I believe that the discussion should be centered on access to goods and services that are fundamental for the common good.

That is why the solution is political, since it is the tool that societies have to guarantee rights. Ironically, like morality, rights are intersubjective realities that we create through language. The ethical and moral discussion cannot be separated from rights, since there is no law as an objective reality and it is only a construction of language.

That is why politics is the highest expression of human agency, since it is concrete action that plays between power relations and social capacities. To define whether there will be a greater or lesser quality of life in a scenario where work is no longer essential to life, it will depend fundamentally on the political action we take to guarantee the rights that we value as fair to our human condition.

“That is why politics is the highest expression of human agency, since it is concrete action that plays between power relations and social capacities.”

Today we have heard figures like Ray Kurzweil talking about the possible immortality of man. Many spiritual beliefs speak about the finality of man’s existence as being immortal, or breaking the “cycle of reincarnation.” In a world in which humans control their mortality, and have access to virtually unlimited energies, how do you think humans will live? What psychological and spiritual changes would they have? What would be their purpose, and perhaps more importantly, are they psychologically prepared for this?

Kurzweil has been one of my great inspirations over time. His ideas have been decisive in expanding my horizon of the potential that life has to transcend and expand the universe. In fact, I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for Kurzweil’s ideas. My work at GENIA is a direct result of my experience at Singularity University, an institution founded by Ray Kurzweil, motivated by his vision of exponential development towards technological singularity.

When you speak of the “purpose of human existence” I think precisely of teleological questions, even touching on metaphysical concepts such as destiny. I am not very given to assuming metaphysical ideas as absolute truths of nature, but I understand the conceptual relationship between evolutionary trends and teleological doctrines, which speak about the “end” of things.

Evolutionary philosophy is marked in all areas of thought, from biology to political economy. It should be noted that thinkers like Marx had an evolutionary philosophy, which have broad similarities with theologians like the great Jesuit Pierre de Chardin, who spoke about an “Omega Point” or an end point.

My thinking has been heavily influenced by evolutionary philosophy. It could be said that the concept of the Singularity is a teleological concept, since it speaks about a future scenario where we are irreversibly heading, determined by the “Law of Accelerated Returns”, explained in Kurzweil’s mathematical projections. Not only Kurzweil, Marx himself spoke about a dynamic where the materialist dialectic was going to lead us towards a new social order where the laws of capitalism would collapse, being a kind of “economic singularity” that he called communism. Hence my admiration for post-capitalist thinkers like Jeremy Rifkin, ideologue of the “Third Industrial Revolution”, who also raised a concept of economic uniqueness.

This evolutionary dynamic for me is something material, not a metaphysical essence of “nature.” If there really are social meta-trends that are leading us towards a Singularity, it is the result of feedback loops that respond to random probabilities in the world of atoms and quartks.

The theme of singularity and the eventual appearance of “general artificial intelligence” and “Superintelligence” for me reflects the clear end of the humanist conception. Furthermore, I think it represents the end of the human itself in the medium and long term. Not seen in apocalyptic optics but seen as part of the evolution of life. Intelligence and the same power are passing from an organic substrate to a synthetic one, with many more creative capacities and power of being.

Capacities and power that culture currently grants to the gods, which we are nevertheless creating based on pure reason. It is the triumph of reason over Faith.

Faith tells you of an abstract and mythological God, while reason little by little generates those apparently divine capacities in concrete terms. Not a heaven or hell after death, but a new state of being here in the real world, with the potential to create the best of utopias or the worst of catastrophes.

However, ironically, this can also mean the vindication of faith. So much so that it has been warned about the existence of God, innumerable parables that reflect what we can savor today through human creation. Perhaps the religions have been warning about the arrival of the Singularity, the end of the human and the beginning of infinity. I see a lot of similarity between the apocalyptic narrative and the eventual arrival of the Singularity.

It is a new order of life that transcends our biological capacity. We are creating a next evolutionary stage, with its own agency and transcendental potency in relation to our capacity. A very interesting phrase from Kurzweil when asked about the existence of God is:

“Does God exist? … Not yet.”

Tell us a little about GENIA. What are the main points of this strategy and how does the Latin American continent benefit from it?

We deploy the infrastructure to create the Latin American ecosystem of intelligent transformation.

The trunk of GENIA is the Inter-American Network of Artificial Intelligence Laboratories #YoSoyFuturo; that positions the region as a developer, not simply a user to grant agency to LATAM in the new digital era.

The ecosystem is based on these 4 pillars:

Data

Academy

Business

Public politics

Through a regional AI strategy, GENIA works on these 4 pillars to promote the creation of the first ecosystem of of artificial intelligence in the region.

Postmodernism & Transhumanism:
Mane Tatoulian
12/22/2020
By Joel De La Rosa

Ever since Mane Tatoulian was a child she would open boxes, take everything out, and slowly start to organize everything; this was the beginning of the Art of organization. Mane is a graphic designer, art director, and writer.

You’ve said “We do not need the future to design humans, we need to design a more human future.” What actions can be taken to design a more human future?

The uncontrollable irruption of technology into our lives is leading us to redefine what it is to be a human. When the computer absorbed design (and almost all our functions) the humanity of its practice was significantly emptied, not only in the nature of the technique but also in its orientation. Where there is a machine, there is, essentially, the absence of a human being. In a world where everything has a new, updated version, we should rediscover the essential values of humanity and translate them into matters that can last, focus on more human rather than user experiences and interactions, develop more individual than brand identities, listen and speak rather than download and upload, connect the heart with the mind than the mind with the machine. In many orders, technique is the means of emancipation from the essence of things; it has even made us rethink the limits between the human and the machine, the spirit and the software. Technology liberates everything, as Benjamin would say, reality loses its aura due to the technical reproducibility. When the gene is liberated from the chromosome, it becomes information. When events are liberated from the real, they become media. When sex is liberated from biology, it becomes gender. When art is liberated from beauty, it becomes a concept. In all orders, technique is the means of emancipation from the essence of things. With the non-stop rise of technology and AI, we are precisely in a point before things can take a direction that will have no return. With all our diverse technologies and ideologies, we are liberating us from what makes us human, and this can only be fatal. In d’Alembert words, we must do for the future generations what we wish it was done for us.

Art is known to be of deeper value and is not concerned with functionality or use, while design’s primary purpose many times is function. Do you agree? Can design be art, can art be design?

Firstly, I reckon that we are used to say that Art does not have a «function» because we see it in a positivist and utilitarian way. But if we think deeply, Art has a very specific role which transcends the mere utility, as it is the expression of the zeitgeist of a society. As Kant wrote in the Critique of Judgement, Art is a natural extension of Philosophy and it should express the highest ethical ideas of a society; the love we have towards the beautiful is actually disinterested, in other words, it moves us from our selfish concerns and demands inspiring us to our better selves. Moreover, I believe that this constant division between Art and Design is again part of this instrumental desire to separate things instead of understanding everything as a whole. It would be absurd to deny the artistic background of design. Moreover, I don’t think it takes away from the meaning of Design to affirm this phenomenon, on the contrary, I think it gives us a broader and a more complete view of this discipline. Art can be design, and design can be art, each body complements each other, they are both part of the same constructive and heuristic ability of creativity.

What are your thoughts on the idea of technology being what replaces “God”?

Postmodernity is a transition, a dead time between Modernity and Transhumanism (or disappearance), as Hölderlin would write, that «empty time in which the old gods have already become gone and the new ones have not yet arrived». And it seems as though what comes to replace the idea of God is, actually, technology, in other words a «creation» is replaced by «another creation». Previously, it was the idea of God that represented all the qualities we would desire as mortals, now this function is replaced by technology. Technology is an extension of our capacities, while it is also a medium of manipulating, controlling and modifying reality. Technology allows us to see without being seen, as well as to think about immorality. Technology has replaced God, and Internet has become the new Eden.

How would you describe the transition from postmodernism to transhumanism?

We first transited from Medieval theocentrism to Modern anthropocentrism, but Postmodernity seems to have lost the «anthropo» and the «center», since even the idea of man is freed from its reason and its original meaning. Rather than a «post»Modernity or a continuation, is a «contra»Modernity or an antithesis, because it is the abolition of all the cardinal values, narratives and ideas of Modernity. Postmodernity, as a Modernity liberated from its idea, turned progress into progressivism, equality into egalitarianism, liberty into liberation, reason into artificial intelligence, man into information, humanism into transhumanism, and so on. And disorder begins with the loss of the idea that organizes form. What is liberated from its cause (like Postmodernity is from Modernity) is condemned to proliferate beyond its ends, in a disorderly propagation. Everything «post» is crossed by the «trans». Postmodernity seems to be this transition between Modernity and Transhumanism, but in a destructive way. Transhumanism is not, as it is usually thought, «more» human but, on the contrary, the technical and utilitarian vanishing of human. It is only when we are liberated from our original idea is that we can think the transhuman.

“Art can be design, and design can be art, each body complements each other, they are both part of the same constructive and heuristic ability of creativity.”

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