May Member(s) of The Month – Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman
Hamidah Glasgow: What are you interested in talking/THINKING about right now?
While researching Recipes for Disaster, our artists book about the climate crisis as told through risk-laden desserts; we became interested in the history of what recipes are and are meant to do. We began borrowing recipe card boxes from friends and family, making “portraits” of them. These boxes represent a form of family archive filled with recipes made in the present, mixed with memories, recorded as actions for the future, to be interpreted and repeated.
Written to instruct, remember.
Modify, annotate, comment, embellish, correct, adjust, double, halve, sweeten, salt.
Written by hand.
Collected. In boxes, notebooks.
Stained with use
Portraits of confinement. Found poetry. Pandora’s boxes, contained energy, trying to decode the language that our mothers and grandmothers knew to get through confined and uncertain times.
And how the current interest in stress-baking and anxiety-baking is a return to the domestic, to the tactile, to the kitchen counter, to human scale
Where we are fed
A ritual act
Carrying the ancestral
Comforts of the kitchen
Distractions of the domestic
A certain reliability
Assurance that the recipe exists, that if it is followed, all will be fine
Time is a necessary ingredient
Frivolousness and exuberance in the face of collective distress
A deliberately absurdist endeavor
Leaving behind morsels….to find your way
A meditative practice
Mixing, rolling, kneading calm, slow-paced focus on the moment
HG: Our grandmothers knew confined times is interesting to think about in relation to today. How do you see the similarities and differences?
BC: Like our grandmothers, we find ourselves in roles defined by interpersonal, political, and economic forces of the given moment, not necessarily chosen roles.
We are sharing an ancient conversation about living with uncertainty.
We are navigating what is inside and outside.
We may not be good at this.
We will live with contradictions.
That I have tasted choice and have the relative financial security to even consider what it is to be confined is something my grandmothers never had.
Their expectations, obligations, dreams — I wish I had deeper conversations with them, but they did not have a voice for that.
HG: I immediately think of white women largely confined to the home, yet women of color largely worked out of their homes. The same could be said to be true today, and that is one of the reasons that brown and black women are dying at a much higher rate to white women.
BC: Caretaking, cooking, cleaning — unpaid within the home and underpaid outside the home — disproportionately done by women — are lauded in the abstract, but not compensated in proportionate economic terms.
The “sacrificial” is a deeply embedded and economically enforced myth within our culture, directed at women and more so at women of color.
What gods are appeased by this?
LL: Much of our collaborative work has sprung from the idea of domestic space as a site of psychological and historical significance. We use the domestic as a vehicle to tell stories and call attention to aspects of the human condition. I have been thinking about America’s ambiguous embrace of “Shelter-in-Place” and “Stay-at-Home.”
Domestic space usually functions as a retreat when life is focused on the outside world. In the last eight weeks of my sheltering, I have watched Americans’ assumptions about social engagement, commerce, and consumption upended and jumbled. Confinement and the shifting focus on the domestic sphere are being redefined by new external circumstances: anxiety, fear, the experience of the passage of time, a new ambiguity toward information, screens, technology, altered forms of intimacy, new relationships, and rituals of feeding and nurture. I marvel at this experience of transformation of domestic space. Right now, thinking takes the form of drawing.
I’m also documenting responses from our Jell-O from the Future workshops — writing and drawing workshops designed to inspire imaginative, alternative futures that Barbara and I conducted last year. When I think about the future now, I return to an idea I heard at the beginning of the pandemic: freedom is possible because of community. What does this look like in our freedom-loving America?
HG: “Freedom is possible because of community,” this is a complex statement in the time of polarization. How do you think we will fare given our current situation?
LL: Visual communication is another way of thinking. In these times, artwork and documentation will express the processing of emotional turmoil: paranoia, nihilism, restoration, nostalgia, utopian.
All things are always changing, and COVID l9 has accelerated change. Historically, large socio-economic shifts bring change: social mobility and advances in civil rights, work, and education have already begun to change. Structures of commerce, law, and globalization will be re-evaluated. There will be pain and injustice, but it is the obligation of visual artists to release from pre-COVID ideas of progress and advocate for inclusive and democratic change.
We are entangled by the assumptions and polarization of the past. Photographers must move past aestheticizing our current situation and produce images that startle to generate discussion about a future plan. As we begin to act toward achieving a positive future, there will be building and realignment of communities, but not ones we can predict.
HG: When you think of alternate futures, what do you think of? How did this idea/question get answered in your workshops?
LL: Alternate futures are worlds we want to live in conjured from the imagination.
Our intention was not to answer the question in our workshops; we wanted to offer tools for imagination and the co-create a vision of the future. We designed a workshop with storytelling prompts, allowing small groups to build a future collectively, using Jell-O as a transformative construction material made reimagining the future less complicated and inhibiting. What if the future was fun and transparent, jiggly, and infinitely moldable? Each groups’ solutions were positive, rebellious, and compassionate. Their interpretations were inspiring.
On collaboration and in conclusion. We live 90 miles apart, but meeting in our shared studio in Milwaukee is currently on hold. However, the process of re-evaluating the nature of our four-decade collaborative practice is ongoing. We have always adapted our workflow to ever-changing circumstances (e.g., work, motherhood, and family life). So, we continue our frequent, interminable phone conversations. Lately, we talk to each other about:
What is necessary to keep our artwork, the “third participant” of our collaboration, vigorous, and how will it evolve?
What is the best way to connect to the aggregated wisdom of others while in “isolation”?
How is knowledge captured and disseminated?
HG: I’m thrilled about our continued relationship and that you support the Center with your membership. Can you tell me what the Center offers you that compels you to be members?
BC: The Center has built a unique and thoughtful response to community-building for photographers who show work here. For juried group shows, they augment the experience for the photographers who attend the opening and arrange a group dinner, portfolio reviews, and portfolio sharing, often with the juror in attendance. Camaraderie and support are demonstrated in other ways: Hamidah is generous with her time and interactions, and the Center reaches out effectively to the larger community to share in the work.
The Center coordinated with our show in Denver to bring work to Fort Collins and organized a well-attended artists’ talk. The show was documented professionally and shared with us.
An organization that is this in tune with embracing photographers and building the photographic community is one to support!
LL: Agreed, Barbara! In addition, I was thrilled to read about the C4FAP new “nomadic” model. Combined with many opportunities and the highest standards you have always maintained, this new idea seems timely and liberating. C4FAP’s programming tradition can benefit from this new approach to space. I suspect it will bring new challenges, surprises and solutions, certainly for you all, but also for the community both near and far. Your characterization of a “deeper dive” into photography is exciting; I loved swimming in the ideas at your “ask me anything” cocktail party.
How can we not support a fresh way to broaden and deepen the community!
HG: Thank you! We have been evolving as the community evolves and continues to ask ourselves how to serve artists better. This new model has been very rewarding in many ways; one is that we’ve gone from serving about 8,000 visitors a year to last year serving over 25k. Partnering with other arts organizations has been a way to build community, share vision, and do a better job of serving artists. We have also received more donations and grants by evolving to this new model and will be doing less juried exhibitions, more curated exhibitions, and themed years for the deeper dives into topics of importance.
HG: Tell me about the truth serum?
We designed the Jell-O from the Future workshops to collectively move beyond the doomsday narratives. The future is not pre-ordained. It is something we imagine and build. And we need more imagination to do that. In the spirit of that project, while we are dealing with the present, we are soliciting recipes for Truth Serum, your personal recipe for cutting through this gas-lit moment. Send us your recipes! firstname.lastname@example.org
HG: Thank you!