In February 2020, the Morris Cohen Library hosted the Other Utopias exhibit in the Archives and Special collections Gallery. The multimedia show was organized by Digital and Interdisciplinary Art Practice (DIAP) fellows Emily Magave and Diana Guerra. The exhibition concluded on March 5th with a great number of visitors from departments all over campus. The exhibition featured a diverse range of multimedia works from students at CCNY, New York University, Hunter College, Columbia University, and the Parsons School of Design.
In an interview with the wonderfully talented co-curator Diana Guerra, we discussed some of the ideas behind Other Utopias and the future of art exhibitions in a post-COVID19 world. Our conversation is copied below.
TH: The exhibition featured students from MFA programs all over the city, featuring many different mediums. Was there a general consensus on what you wanted to accomplish with the show? What did the project mean to you?
DG: Emily and I wanted to work on a project that would bring people together. I think that having a sense of community is very important for the development of someone's artistic work, but sometimes this ends up as inner circles that are detached from other perspectives. Also, there are gaps that exist between the private and the public sector that we wanted to close for the purpose of this project. The exhibition wanted to showcase visual imaginaries, and it made sense to us that we had to make everything possible in order to assure the diversity of the work itself and of the ideas behind it as well.
TH: Is curatorial work something that you would like to continue to pursue in this town?
DG: I had a great experience curating this show and I think I would enjoy curating future exhibitions while I keep making work as an artist.
TH: What were some of your favorite works from the exhibit?
DG: I personally loved every piece that was part of the show. That is probably one of the best parts of curating an exhibition, the fact that you can gather artwork that incites you in different ways. If I had to talk about a few of them, I can highlight Arpi Adamyan's piece "The City of Dove Women". The way she uses different medias to build a hypnotic world for the viewer (the 3D animation, the sculptures, the sound, and the way the whole piece is presented), it really becomes an experience on queer hybrid-utopianism. Kiyomi Taylor's "Swimming Upstream" is an interesting mix between empowerment and chaos. The image of a woman with horns over a city in flames is a very provocative and powerful one. Red Sagalow's "Sex Ed Revised" brings us back to the school setting to deal with how certain discourses of sexuality are approved while others are absent but need to be unveiled. Marielis Garcia's "A Body Performs Here" initiates a conversation about the ephemerality of performance and the paradox of a present body and its documentation.
TH: Could you tell us about upcoming projects that you, Emily, or the group from the exhibition are working on?
DG: We don't have any open projects but we would love to organize something in the future when the pandemic is under control.
TH: We've seen your work with film and video installations from this year. How has DIAP, CCNY, and/or New York impacted your work?
DG: The DIAP MFA program has been very helpful for my artistic practice since I've been able to learn about new technologies and to incorporate them in my work. In my current thesis exhibition, I include photography and film along with 3D animation and data visualization.
TH: You recently uploaded To Come Back Is to Stay, a digital exhibit on your website. Can you tell me some more about the purple anthotypes from the video? Because of "distancing" do you think we will see more innovation and emphasis virtual exhibitions?
DG: I put a lot of work into it, thinking about immigration and the mediums that I used in the project. It’s been really something that started when I was following the photo program at Parsons. I luckily got a grant and could travel to my mother’s place of birth where I have a lot of family (Piura, Peru). I had a bunch of photographs from that trip but wasn’t really sure what to do with them.
I discovered the technique of anthotypes after having another trip to Peru this year, where I re-learned the process of natural dying. I got very interested in it and encountered this technique for photography. For me, it made perfect sense to use the photographs I took in 2018 to make anthotypes. The corn has become a symbol of my identity and its organic quality is present in this series, which is about roots, family and belonging.
About digital exhibitions, I think we are definitely in a search for new ways on how to experience art, now that we can’t experience it in public spaces like before. In my case, I already envisioned the exhibition in a physical space, so I went for recreating a gallery using 3D rendering. However, I believe that now that we are creating art without that pre-notion of the gallery space, we’ll come up with new ways of presenting work that will definitely affect the way we produce it too. It’s all a cycle! And I’m excited to see how it evolves.
For more information about Other Utopias, visit the DIAP website here.
To learn more about Dianna Guerra and her art, visit dianaguerra.com.
Image of "Other Utopias" exhibit in Archives gallery, copied from DIAP website.