Constanza and Sarah

Constanza Mendoza Guerra 

Sarah Skaggs

Listen to excerpts from a conversation with Constanza & Sarah about their reflections on the exhibition. This audio was recorded on Friday, October 23, 2020, one week after the residency ended.

As if looking over a recognizable landscape from a high altitude, the works in I can see my house from here, explore questions of migration and diaspora, and individual meaning-making in times when a global pandemic exposes underlying structural problems. As Cuban born and based artists, Padrón, González, and Álvarez propose alternative languages for considering our subjectivities through the entanglement of poetic storytelling and found footage, creative interpretation of established myths, and performative socially-engaged practice. Internet access is expensive and precarious in Cuba, and when paired with the saturation of online live events, this exhibition considers live-ness with the intentional exclusion of live-streaming. Instead we explore live-ness in other ways, through time-based work, social media, documentation and ephemera. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday the website activates in new ways so please revisit the site. 


Como un paisaje reconocible desde lo alto, las obras en “Puedo ver mi casa desde aquí” exploran temas de migración y diáspora, y procesos individuales de hacer sentido sobre las cosas en tiempos en donde una pandemia global expone problemas estructurales. Hablando desde su posición como cubanos que nacieron y viven en la isla, Padrón, González Escobar y Álvarez González proponen lenguajes alternativos para considerar nuestras subjetividades a través del entramado de narración poética y archivos visuales, interpretación creativa de mitos establecidos, y prácticas performativas comprometidas socialmente. El acceso al internet en Cuba es caro y precario, y cuando se conecta con la saturación de eventos digitales, esta exhibición considera lo que puede estar vivo en la página web al excluir voluntariamente el streaming en vivo. En cambio, exploramos cómo se puede abordar el aspecto en vivo del espacio online a través de trabajo basado en tiempo, redes sociales, documentación y recuerdos. El lunes, miércoles y viernes, la página web será activada de nuevas maneras así que, por favor, visita de nuevo la página. 


A note from Sarah: 

When Lauren and Jill asked me to curate for Hot Wheelz, I immediately thought of using the platform to return to a previous collaborative dynamic and investigate how to hold space for evolution when each individual member has grown and changed so much. After nearly 4 years since working together, what might we have to say? Can we still say something meaningful together? 


I have always felt that with Eliane, Fabian, and Mario, somehow, within the complexities of speaking from our own individual positions, across language barriers and with our own specific, intersectional histories, many things are lost, but something new is created. My spanish is not nearly fluent enough to have philosophical conversations about Camus or the nuance of migration, and yet through engaging closely with their artwork I have felt my understanding transcend the dialogic. Can we somehow communicate to each other through our creative practices? I believe so. However, producing an exhibition online, over distance, with incomplete fluency on both sides posed a risk to the trust I feel we’ve built. So with this mind, it felt natural to invite in a new collaborator, and in particular, a co-curator that held a similar approach to working with artists and new work. Constanza was a graceful, fluid addition and, as I had hoped, brought a new richness and clarity to our collaborative effort. In the weeks leading up to this exhibition I have found myself reflecting on the unique conditions that must be established for the kind of collaboration that produces something more than the sum of its parts. I believe Lauren and Jill set the stage, and I feel proud to say we have approached this rare space and, for one week, will call it home. 


Read this conversation [in Spanish] between Eliane Adela Padrón and Constanza Mendoza to learn more about Padrón’s artistic practice! 


Cuando Lauren y Jill me preguntaron que curara una residencia para Hot Wheelz, inmediatamente pensé en utilizar la plataforma para volver a un proyecto colaborativo previo e investigar cómo estar presente en esa evolución en la cual cada persona ha crecido y cambiado tanto. Después de casi 4 años trabajando juntos, ¿qué tendríamos que decir?, ¿todavía tendríamos algo significativo para decir juntos?


A pesar de las complejidades de hablar desde nuestras posiciones individuales, en diferentes idiomas y con nuestras historias específicas, siempre he sentido con Eliane, Fabián y Mario que se pierden muchas cosas pero también se crea algo nuevo. Mi español no es tan fluído como para tener conversaciones filosóficas sobre Camus o los matices sobre temas como la migración pero, al involucrarme tan cerca con su trabajo, ya siento que mi comprensión supera lo dialógico. ¿Podemos comunicarnos entre nosotros a través de nuestras prácticas creativas? Yo creo que sí. Sin embargo, producir una exhibición online, a la distancia, sin fluidez de ambos lados, representó un riesgo para la confianza que habíamos construido hasta ahora. Con esto en mente, se sintió natural invitar a una nueva colaboradora, y en particular, a una co-curadora que ocupara un abordaje similar al trabajo con artistas y obras nuevas. Constanza fue una adición fluida y grácil y, tal como esperaba, trajo una nueva riqueza y claridad a nuestros esfuerzos de colaboración. En las semanas antes de esta exhibición, me encontré pensando en las condiciones únicas que se tuvieron que establecer para que surgiera este tipo de colaboración que es algo más que sólo la suma de sus partes. Creo que Lauren y Jill prepararon el escenario, y estoy orgullosa de decir que nos hemos aproximado a este raro espacio que, por una semana, llamaré hogar.   


Jackson Margolis’s Scratching the Surface Membrane is a two-volume zine series that covers the life of the artist dealing with chronic pain and isolation over the course of 2019 and 2020. Volume 2 will go up on Thursday, July 7th, so please return to this page to view the complete collection. In these works, Margolis, who has a history with the furry community, speaks to identity politics through fetishism. Scratching underscores a tension between fantasy and the self: each zine is a year-long anthology of honest projections of the artist reimagined as anthropomorphized dragons. By juxtaposing truth and fantasy in this way, Margolis seems to question the very core of how we understand identity and realness. What is more real: how we see ourselves or how others see us? 


Many of the images in Scratching are sketches upcycled from the margins of readings and notebooks, simultaneously capturing Margolis’s artistic process and representing intimate and candid moments of self-expression. Even the title, Scratching the Surface Membrane, touches on the sheer spontaneity of this piece, which can be best described as a non-literal, superficial exploration of thoughts and ideas surrounding identity without an outside perspective. As such, the zines are fundamentally diaristic, chronicling the artist’s evolving sense of self over time. This change, for example, can be traced through the difference in style of the dragons depicted in the two volumes. In Volume 1, the dragons grab at their marshmallowy bodies, emphasizing their plushness and roundness. Although the softness of the dragons remains an important hallmark of Margolis’s style, in Volume 2, one can observe a far greater presence of angular snouts and muscular bodies as well as less pronounced breasts. This transformation in the dragons’ forms serves as a thought record narrating the artist’s own journey starting Hormone Replacement Therapy in 2020. 


However, Scratching is just as much a regression as it is a progression. Driven by nostalgia, sentimentality and comfort, Margolis’s work encourages us to connect with our primal child and hug our inner monsters. In fact, this motif is seen literally through the zines where dragons are often portrayed hugging what can be interpreted as their partners, spirits, or twins. At the same time, while Margolis clearly draws influence from contemporary subcultures and the digital age, the artist’s inspirations can also be traced back to antiquity. In particular, Margolis cites the Paleolitihic Lion Man as one of the earliest instances of people showing that they are capable of imagination. So, anthropomorphism becomes a pure form of fantasy that can be traced throughout human culture and time. For Margolis, though, anthropomorphism is not only a way to connect to broader human history but also to the artist’s own past. Margolis recalls being a hyper-imaginative child, obsessed with drawing fantasy creatures, especially dragons, over and over. Thus, the work of Scratching is at once a moving forward and a revisiting. The temporality of the piece becomes jumbled, asking us to consider how memories and histories shape our presents and futures. Similarly, how does drawing the same image over and over for a year represent both the passing and stopping of time? 


–Afriti Bankwalla, curator 

Pay attention to this space. What do you notice? What assumptions do you make about the person who lives here? Bedrooms are complicated, intimate spaces that mirror ourselves back to us and anyone who sees them. They are where we feel ourselves (and others) the most, where we smell ourselves the most, and where we see ourselves the most. Literally, we see ourselves in our mirrors when getting ready; more abstractly, we do so in the scattered objects that reveal our styles, hobbies, and pasts. How do we root ourselves in our bedrooms and the objects that fill them? More specifically, how do such objects and spaces evoke performances through which our ever-evolving identity is constructed? What are the performances we play out every day, whether there is an audience present or not? In what way is our identity an extension of these performances? 


The artists featured in In My Room approach these questions with works that attempt to track personal growth and changing identities over time. Scratching the Surface Membrane by Jackson Margolis is the artist’s exploration of the self through anthropomorphic dragons; it features two year’s worth of sketches that juxtapose themes of nostalgia and evolution. In ted bourget’s virtual world, Some Sludge, the audience can roam freely through bourget’s life in Chicago over the course of four seasons. Time flows abstractly in this world, as players swim in Lake Michigan, wait for the bus, and walk through UChicago’s quad with bourget. aza’s art film, Chemtrails, presents a collage of photographic bursts from the artist’s private life as a way of playing with the strange and illicit disruption of time that occurs when one stops to look, assess, and take a selfie. Through their own whimsical variations on self-portraiture, bourget, aza, and Margolis address the difficulty of capturing something as in-flux as our perceptions of ourselves. They surrender linearity and narrativity in favor of an understanding of the past, present, and future as something more circular and connected.  


Each art object in this exhibit also represents a unique understanding of performance and liveness, and by placing them together, In My Room hopes to underscore and bring light to the performances we encounter every day that shape our lives and selves. In her theoretical text Queer Phenomenology, scholar Sara Ahmed posits the social as an arrangement of space. She explains that, even in a dark, hitherto-unexplored room, we find our way due to a basic familiarity with how the social is arranged. We know a room must have walls and a door, so we reach our hand out and feel along the door until we find what feels familiar to us as a doorknob. Ahmed uses this understanding of the social as spatial to riff on the idea of queer identity as an orientation. In what way is our identity a result of the way we are oriented in space and the objects and people towards which we are oriented? 


As you proceed through the exhibit, consider the way you move, consider your activity and engagement with each room. As you click through the pages of Scratching the Surface Membrane, allow yourself to think about the interactivity of flipping through a book. As you explore Some Sludge, think about the ephemerality of playing a video game. Can you ever exactly recreate that experience? As you watch Chemtrails, think about the small spectacle of the film format and of taking a selfie or going out to a club.


Please stay tuned throughout the week, as new content will be added regularly. 


Enormous thank you to Hot Wheelz Festival as well as Jill, Lauren, Jackie, ted, and aza. 


–Afriti Bankwalla, curator 

Jackson Margolis is an interdisciplinary artist who holds a BFA in Drawing from the Pratt Institute and is currently an artist in residence in “parents’ basement”. Jackson’s art is Identity-based work, concerned with themes of tenderness, comfort, regression, fantasy and the apocalypse. Particularly fascinated with American subcultures, Jackson makes use of fetish aesthetics to call attention to online spaces. Depicting what are most easily described as dragons, Jackson’s art asks audiences to connect with their primal child self and hug their inner monsters. Underscored in all of Jackson’s art is a desperate search for energy through color and material. Jackson is currently working on a new project that will deal directly with new-age world hurt, regression during the internet age, and the rabbit hole of the psyche.  


Insta: @lamesaltcrystal