Letter from the editor

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Conversations On Everything, an ongoing collection of interviews for the Social Forms of Art Journal.

Each term, graduate students in Portland State University’s Art & Social Practice MFA program interview someone as part of their artistic research. This publication exemplifies what the socially engaged realm of art looks like-one that, at the risk of sounding reductive, can encompass everything. I mean the entire cosmos, from your Dad’s lifelong collecting hobby to feminist music theory as a radical business model to life partnerships based on sharing water, simply because the ontology of art & social practice necessitates ongoing conversation about its fluid position, where it lives between and within both art and life. There is nothing that cannot find an intersection with this lens of artmaking.

As a whole, the interviews in this collection reflect the diverse concerns of a band of today’s contextual practitioners, who are sited and making work in different locations within the U.S. during a global pandemic and political upheaval. In conversing with Justin Maxon, H. “Herukhuti” Sharif Williams highlights critical concerns about the field of social practice: Who are its gatekeepers? What socially engaged lineages are invisible within the capitalist matrix of domination? Should artists be working outside of their own communities? With Brianna Ortega, Soheila Azadi contemplates her shifting identity in different contexts as well as the complex intersections of religion, culture and art. Mo Geiger talks to Mary Mattingly about living systems and ecosystems in relation to the current state of the world. Kiara Walls’ interview with Sunset Art Studios where she had a transformative artist residency experience, Diana Marcela Cuartas’ with Espacio Ode6n where she headed public programs, and Nolan Hanson’s with badass artist Gavilan Rayna Rusom, are particularly inspiring accounts of arts administration and production as radical social practices that support artists and activists.

Roz Crews notes in her conversation with Emma Mitchell that research is about agency, and agency is about identity, privilege and context. Using casual interviews as an accessible and powerful form of research, each conversation creates an opportunity for interviewer to approach interviewee in a possibly new way, whether it’s an artist-artist, parent-child or ex-colleague relationship. What can arise from sitting down for a recorded interview within the frame of artistic research? Within a limited space-time shared in conversation, hitherto unshared anecdotes and reflections might be brought forth, then transcribed, edited and served to you, the reader, who perhaps conjures the speakers within your own internal space-time. There, one bears witness to Rita Glazer recalling the details of her federal letter-writing profession for her letter-writer daughter Laura, as well as Adrian Rosser interviewing his mum Rebecca Copper using a set of Polaroids, a departure from the limits of language. Caryn Aasness’ interview with their father Jon is both intimate research into human-object relationships and an archival of his dogged passion. Years after she was forever changed by his exhibition, Shelbie Loomis chats with Enrique Martinez Celaya about context and transdisciplinary work. Haughty as it may initially come off, digging into one’s psyche as Becca Kauffman does candidly with her former therapist is a reminder of the deeply performative nature of public-facing work, and the internal forces that drive us to make work the way we do.

Representing a humble collection of knowledge resulting from exchanges between two (or more) individuals with a unique relationship to each other, these interviews might elicit quiet moments of everyday transcendence, or perhaps disagreement, anger, guilt, surprise. To come into true relation with something is to connect with it emotionally. The feelings that arise may be easy, difficult, alien, or something else, but the point is to connect with heart more than head. In a time where the world seems to be moving as a slow iceberg towards the heart of things -of what is wrong, and how to make it right- may you, in reading and feeling, find yourself in the liminal space alongside apparitions of interviewer and interviewee, encountering them with the deepest relevance of your everyday being.

Yours Sincerely,

Salty Xi Jie Ng


Salty Xi Jie Ng is an artist co-creating semi-fictional paradigms for the real and imagined lives of humans within the poetics of the intimate vernacular. She is from the tropical metropolis of Singapore and is an alumni of the Art & Social Practice MFA program. Salty receives letters to the editor at xi3@pdx.edu.

The Social Forms of Art (SoFA) Journal is a bi-annual publication dedicated to supporting, documenting, and contextualizing socially engaged art and its related fields and disciplines. Each issue of the Journal focuses on a different theme in order to take a deep look at the ways in which artists are engaging with communities, institutions, and the public. The Journal seeks to support writing and web based projects that offer documentation, critique, commentary and context for a field that is active and expanding.

The SoFA Journal is published in print and PDF form twice a year, in June and December by the PSU Art & Social Practice Program. In addition to the print publication, the Journal hosts an online platform for ongoing projects.

SoFA Journal
c/o PSU Art & Social Practice
PO Box 751
Portland, OR 97207
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