#BĀS TALK: Live Artist Talk with Christian & Christina Gonzalez Ho
On April 30th, we invited authors of Mestizo Archipelago Christian and Christina Gonzales Ho to talk about the concept and the philosophy behind the book. Researched and written throughout the course of 2017, Mestizo Archipelago seeks to distill the complex and disparate nature of Los Angeles’ art history, its artists’ unique relationship to both the city and to spiritual faith and to the current burgeoning art scene by examining the city’s idiosyncratic geography (physical and cultural), as well as the economic and sociological concatenations which created it.
The event ended with a Q&A and the attendees had the chance to speak directly with the authors. The following are some of the topics discussed during their talk.
WHAT IS MESTIZO ARCHIPELAGO, AND HOW DID IT GET ITS NAME?
Mestizo Archipelago is a culmination of work from one of our clients. She was a philanthropist based in CA, who wanted to create an arts and residence program to draw top tier visual artists who wanted to explore issues of faith and spirituality. She wanted to know the landscape of the LA art world. We had one year to do it. We interviewed nearly 200 Los Angeles art world inhabitants, including established and emerging artists, gallerists, critics, collectors, museum directors, students, and teachers. Christian and I researched the past 100 years of history in LA, and compiled the findings into this book.
The name “California” comes from legends about Calif. California continued to be a projection of desire and fantasy within its geological location. The book contains projective imaginations of these projections. The word “Archipelago” illustrates these separated landforms that make up LA. Maps within the book show historical chop ups. These show ethnographic archipelago within LA of which areas are over 40% of a specific nationality.
“if it's 8 o'clock and you want Thai food you know exactly what part of LA to get it”
Mestizo came from this idea from a philosopher that talks about what happened during spanish colonization and the violence that came with the interaction, and the displacement of the different groups of people. It also covers the separation caused by police brutality and riots within the city… things we are beginning to see again today.
WHAT IS THE CONCEPT AND PHILOSOPHY BEHIND MESTIZO ARCHIPELAGO?
The book is split into two parts. The first being ecology of the artworld and history, and the second part being how that part interacts with faith and spirituality.
It covers how religion and spirituality is more prominent in today’s art world, which plays into Christian’s upcoming PHD at Harvard.
“Spirituality is trending in the LA art world. Art museums are hosting yoga, and sound baths…”
Christian touched on Hawaii’s unique culture and tradition in uncovering different aspects of the artworld. In Hawaii, being immersed in nature allows you to be more conscious of what is around you rather than yourself. One of the great examples is wearing a lei. Sitting inside of the fragrance, your senses opens to nature and the unknown with a much deeper wondering of where it comes from. Chrisitan believes that art is the language to understand ourselves and the world around us via the unknown (darkness). Hawaiian culture has these representations of the meaning of “Hawaii” in a much deeper explanation, which unfortunately is erased in the western culture.
“The fusion of culture in Hawaii could be a lens in which these things are expressed and understood.“
WHAT IS THIS DARKNESS YOU SPEAK OF AND HOW DOES IT RELATE TO ART?
Darkness is radical otherness, the mystery of the unknown. Art is our only aperture to this perceived darkness. Darkness does not relate to things such as evil or demented thought, but a much larger element. Art is the only way that humanity has to negotiate between ourselves and nature. For example, when an artist stands on the edge of a cliff and looks out into the distance, he/she is drawn by its beauty. This visual phenomena provokes inspiration, because what the artist sees is so vast, so... “unknown”. This is the darkness we are referring to. The deeper connection one has with nature and themselves; giving one's art a purpose in the world.
QUOTES ON DARKNESS FROM OTHER WELL KNOWN WRITERS
“Holy Wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.”
“Art is probably the last remnant of magic we have left, because we’ve jettisoned most of the magical beliefs that used to guide human behaviour and perception of the world. But in getting rid of all these things we have ourselves with almost no connection to the unknown.”
DO WE NEED TO LEAVE THE DARKNESS TO MAKE THE SPIRITUAL HAPPENINGS WHAT THEY ARE AND DISTINCT THEM TO THOSE THINGS SUCH AS SCIENCE?
Nature is probability and reliability, but at the penumbra it relies on experimentation. Over time you’ll get more clarity but at what point will we have enough knowledge to know everything? The humble approach to both is to recognize that they are much larger than we are, but it’s the ability to talk about spirituality within art without being deemed as crazy. It embarrasses the western world to talk about spirituality. Unless we reprogram a larger ecology, then that language expands. Our very lives depend on it.
We don’t want our lives to be crystallized into this scientific language. There is always a tension between religion and spirituality. You’re never going to escape the tension, but there is a lot of beauty and richness there. It gives us a way to make that experience more communal and explore beyond that experience that we’ve had.
HOW THE ASSIGNMENT CAME ABOUT AND HOW MUCH IT RESPECTED WHAT YOU WERE INTERESTED IN? IS THAT THE WAY THAT THIS PERSON FOUND YOU? WAS SHE A RELIGIOUS PERSON?
She was interested in our interests as well. We were both getting frustrated within our mediums, how language within art was so rigid. Always talking about form… wanting to get something else into the conversation. The book was originally a dataset… that later turned into ethnography, resulting in interviewing people within LA. It was a hard conversation that people weren’t used to having.
“At first nobody wanted to talk about it, but once they did they couldn’t stop.”
We were introduced to her through a mutual friend because of a piece that Christian wrote about an exhibition that they both visited in New York at separate times. She proposed doing a project on LA and the art world in particular. She was a christian, and she wanted to see the artworld within all different religions. People would bring up catholicism and christianity, and that’s why we went with those to drive the book's purpose. Her perspective as a religious person is the forefront of the book.
WOULD YOU SAY THAT THE IDENTIFICATION OF SPIRITUALITY WITHIN ART DEMYSTIFIES THE ART PIECE IN ITSELF?
“I THINK SAYING THAT IT IS SPIRITUAL OPENS UP ANOTHER WAY OF ENGAGING WITH THE WORK THAT WE AREN’T USED TO EXERCISING IN OUR CULTURE”
CHRISTIAN & CHRISTINA GONZALEZ HO BIO:
Christian holds an M.A. in Architecture from Harvard University (working on a PhD), and a B.A. in American Studies from Fordham University. Christian focuses primarily on the relationships between philosophy, art, and culture. Christina is a musician and writer. She holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Stanford University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. They are both founders of the consulting group NA. NA works with clients to make innovative and meaningful contributions to culture using humanities based research to show how their organization or project fits into a larger part of history/culture to make sure their work is sustainable and effective. Through their research they became frustrated with the surface language of which the art world operates in. They began to dive deeper into the culture of LA by asking questions others were afraid to ask, thus gathering a body of research to form this book, Mestizo Archipelago.
Purchase Christian & Christina's book Los Angeles: Mestizo Archipelago from HERE