Friday, May 11, 2012
PDX Art: Interview with Gabe Flores
Hi Gabe thanks for doing this Lets start with an easy one.
RS: What does history stand for and how does your own history fit into the greater picture of western Civilizations?
GF: Yikes, if this is the easy one I don’t know if I’m prepared to answer the rest. History is a narrative, most of which is unattainable or decipherable. My own history is the thing I’m most schooled in but also the one I’m least able to really grasp. I’ve answered nothing.
RS: Lots has changed since our last couple of interviews. Do you feel you moved up in the pecking order of the local PDX art scene and which part of that is positive and which has a shadow side to it?
GF:Yes, I think I have increased my value, somewhat. These last couple years I really have tried a bunch of different things, sometimes failing really hard. Some shows we did at Place I was totally ill prepared to handle, like the In(ter)dependence big show we did with 14 different independent curators and alt spaces. Great attendance, but totally bombed on a couple of aspects, like having labels and statements up. Bit off way more than I could chew on that.
Part of this last year has been all about remodeling the galleries and now that I don’t have to worry about scraping floors or tearing down shelving I get to really have fun in programming.
Part of what I’m very curious about is how we navigate and position ourselves as participants in the local art scene. A lot of the navigation in the last year and a half has really been about Place and asking question that revolve around what an institution does and what is effective representation. Making sure we give artists enough time to really develop a project, giving enough space for the work to breath, and doing the basics before we can add on more projects.
The shadowy side of gaining access is that there is more at risk. Also, gaining a bit more access sometimes just makes me much more awkward at openings and meeting new people. I often have to force myself to go to openings because I am always wondering if I’m going to fit in, usually I do, although sometimes I don’t. Both are necessary feelings or at least both happen, so it’s best for me to not over process it.
RS: Talking about different sides to everything. How do you cope with the daily dual aspects of everything and what are your guide posts in that regard?
GF: I guess I cope by keeping moving. I’m sometimes terribly insecure and don’t feel like I’m adding anything to the conversation, other times I feel like I’m doing something that is worthwhile. I definitely prefer the later feeling.
RS: With these current bodies of work you seem to ask yourself who you are and in the process you invite us to asked us the same is that a desired effect?
GF: Maybe, I guess. With both shows, Intimate Historical Fictions at Place and If I Were You: An Apology From Myself To Myself at Half/Dozen, I’m looking at my relationship to ideas that I wrestle with daily. In IHF I’m asking how real is my narrative since it’s impossible to ever really have access to it. In IIWY I look at how much I should blame or congratulate myself for my history/processes/actions that happen. I feel that the show at Half/Dozen acted as an annex for the show at Place. It felt like a footnote to the idea of personal narrative as a form storytelling. Both are really asking about accountability in regards to determinism.
RS: Aren’t we all just story tellers reliving the stories we are told and the ones we repeat on our own accord?
GF: Yes, Absolutely. It makes it difficult to take credit for much or to berate ourselves when we really mess up because it all ties back to how we internalized and interpreted those stories.
RS: Most people are split in two, the one they are in the morning in their comfort zone, and the one that goes out to try to impress or live up to the standards of the world. Do you feel internal and external pressure to be someone else?
GF: Where I am most comfortable is probably baking or gardening. Not until recently did I realize that I’m constantly working on the balance of aesthetic and balance of information when I’m baking and gardening. When I’m in the yard it’s always about blurring my eyes and seeing the distribution of color and shapes and because it’s been my primary hobby for the last 15 years I don’t have to think about the process of what is a weed or how to dig.
I am able to just interact with the dirt, plants, bugs, and tools without having to wonder what each part does. With baking I work on balancing information and usually it’s with my finger going into my mouth searching to satisfy a wide range of information hitting my palette. A big part of both or at least the way I enjoy them is in sharing them, in this way they are a lot like an opening and I really LOVE openings. Yes I have an internal pressure to be someone else, but still me.
RS: Do you prefer one over the other?
GF: My baking/gardening/tinkering around self is constantly informing the other, but I love the risk taking and failure that can happen in both. One just get’s documented differently and might lead me to not be invited to be in a show or I might really fuck it up and then I might lose all credibility, the small scrappy bit that I’ve hoarded. I guess if I could just retire, bake, garden, and mess around on the beach I’d be pretty happy.
RS: If everything is in some utopian way virtual reality can we change our history and actually create our future?
GF: No, we cannot change our history/narrative. You know what, I take that back. We are constantly changing our history every time we tell a story about our experience. We edit some details out, conjure details that weren’t there, and begin seeing it they way we need to see it in that moment.
RS: What is the standard humans communicate with themselves and what is a desired state that is reachable while still in bodily form?
GF: I’m not sure if I understand this question, but for myself I like the feeling of displacement I guess because it makes me feel like I’m alive and that there is something to wrestle with. Maybe that is exactly what it means to be human and to communicate it’s to know that things will always be different eventually.
RS: Are your former selves welcome in your psychological house or are you, lets use a big word, ashamed of them?
GF: My former selves are welcome in the house, but I never really get to see them because my current self really only performs what I think were these previous identities, which have a corresponding fiction that goes along with them.
RS: We seem to have problems with ordinary language to formulate and to communicate our inner states. Is that what attracts you to art and it’s indirect way of saying the unspeakable?
GF: I like to set up a space for a conversation and sometimes the best way to do it is in an installation. I love an opening because I’ve set up a conversation topic aesthetically and conceptually and I love for people to consider possibilities within it. I love to give people as much information as possible, it’s my responsibility to make sure I allow them in and not be afraid they will not be able to handle the information or that it will take away from the presentation.
RS: What is your current disposition as an artist?
GF: I’m not terribly sure. I’m at the end of a very busy period of involvement. I’m looking forward to taking a little break from making for a while and relaxing a bit. Would you like to purge yourself of your past if that would be an option? No, an ungraspable narrative might be all that I really have.
RS: How much of your old self are you carrying forward into the future?
GF: I’m not terrible sure of a way to measure that.
RS: Do you feel that we have a psychological white washer in us?
GF: We put memories in and get new stains when we retrieve them.
RS: Is that healthy and in the interest of our psycholical well being to indulge in this somewhat on denial bordering habit?
GF: Healthy or not, it’s the way it is. I’m not sure if there is such thing as denial, denying denial how silly, because we only have access to what we’re willing to see anyway. Some things just aren’t clear yet. Could it be that maybe that in some way what we call a lie and the ability to do so is in itself remarkable, is an evolutionary addition to our mental make up? It could be, not sure what that really means if it was true.
RS: What coping mechanisms do you consider healthy?
GF: All coping mechanisms are healthy for a short time because it lets you keep living for a bit longer. Some coping mechanisms, if they start to interfere with other parts of life that we see as necessary are not as healthy and at that point I don’t know if they can really be called a coping mechanism anymore.
RS: Do you see your installations as metaphorical and what role play metaphors in this day and age?
GF: I’m not sure if I see them as metaphorical. I mean in some ways they are. I use tropes that are pretty easily accessed, letting and inviting the viewer in. So in Intimate Historical Fictions I’ve created objects that feel like art objects. There are large mirrors, white columned stumps, large open-ended glass boxes leaning between the stumps and white gesso-ed books all on the mirror. Then I have the cast pinkish/red that is underneath all it.
I placed the 3 sculptural events in a black room with black semi-gloss shadow responses on the wall. The installation had several entry points for the viewer to impose a metaphoric narrative if they needed it. I really felt like the show was standing in as an art piece to have a conversation of the role of having fictionalized histories and what that means for our storytelling selves.
RS: You use light in this new body of work and the absence of it like in the black walls. What states of being-ness are you revering to?
GF: I think I’m just playing different materials and to work in town that I really enjoy, especially and namely Laura Hughes, Damien Gilley, and Laura Fritz. I’ve been wanting to play with black for a while. One of the Place galleries is a black gallery for all of 2012, so I thought I might try my hand at it and explore the limitations and limitlessness of working with black. What I love is this endless void it created that totally enveloped the viewer. I want to play with black again soon.
RS: Are the three pieces in the exhibit in some way representative of the different versions of Gabe Flores?
GF: No, not particularly. What they stand in for are similar events that have different interpretations and meanings, but a similarity as a historical marker depending on how we are wanting to revisit them. So, it’s how we see categorized events like graduations, weddings, openings, deaths, or celebrations. We placed these events in similar containers, but or relationship to them individually is really the fictionalizing of the events. The supposed shadows in semi-gloss really look at the impossibility to take in the entire event. We are left solely with a fragment, we would need access to all the other variables if we wanted to really know what the event really was and really that is an impossibility that I can live without.
RS: Many of us have preconceived notions about identity and have not found support from the world at large that is needed to develop a sense of pride in ones personality. Do you think that plays a role while we all are tinkering with ourselves trying to constantly update our selves as if we are a toy?
GF: We are going to update ourselves regardless. We’ve been doing that way before 2.0 ever existed.
RS: How do universal versus media standards play into this exhibit especially in regard to history which is a good witness to show how taste in almost everything constantly change? What can we learn in that regard from our past?
GF: I’m playing with the idea of a desirable/interesting art object that we want to eventually turn our back on once we notice the shadow riffing on the wall, so I suppose I’m looking at how there could always be something that captures our interest more and that the previous interest is very important to the current one.
RS: Are you virtually a virtual sculptural event?
GF: I am always virtually a virtual sculptural event.
RS: Are you in the process to become your own work of art?
GF: Funny you ask this. Currently, I’m 2 years and 8 months into a project I’m calling “Gabe Flores in the Arts,” which is a 5 year performance piece that looks at my social and cultural navigation within art systems. This is really to assess whether or not this is a career/endeavor I want to explore further and to see how much can be done in a relatively short amount of time.
RS: Aren’t most of us treat themselves like a living sculptor that is like a slave to our own inner demons?
GF: I am trapped in my body with no real verification that anything outside of it is real at all. But, even though I’m trapped I always have complete freedom to explore any path, at least in the arts, because nothing has ever been done before. There will always be similarities but no path of causal relationships has ever done what any individual is pursuing. We have complete freedom, but we fear that others will connect us to unintended causal relationships.
RS:What future Gabe Flores is hybrid-ing in you?
GF: I’m going to be going to a residency at Kronica Center for Contemporary Art in Bytom, Poland this summer for a month. My next gallery show will be in October at FalseFront with Nim Wunnan. I’ll be presenting 2-D work and Nim will be doing an installation, a bit of a FreakyFriday show for us. Also, we have several projects coming this summer for Place that go outside the gallery.
One is a rugby game scheduled for August that will be full contact and will involve artists, curators, and directors. Also, we are holding a residency this September at my mom and her partner Jerry’s home in McMinnville, super looking forward to that. I’m going to be selling my house in the middle of next year and I have some major projects scheduled in 2014 and 2015 that will explore how to make long term investments with disenfranchised populations without displacing them.
RS: Have you become more alien to yourself in the process or are you just expressing more aspects of your self like a human house that's being added on?
GF: I think I’m becoming somewhat more alien in a human house.