Stacy Elaine Dacheux: I’ve been thinking about our conversation after the Urs Fischer exhibit a ton– especially regarding your comments on “emotional truth” as a certain valuable fact: this concept of trust as it relates to our past and identity– how we trust our former perspectives or how we trust our stories that stay after time? I’d love to talk more here regarding our relationship with the tales we tell ourselves or others about who we are or what we’ve encountered. I wonder if you could elaborate on this?
Matt Quezada: My comments about memory and emotional truth versus concrete facts started, I think, with photographs, or something like that. I don’t take a lot of photographs on vacation because I don’t really look at them afterwards. I’m content with the memory of the trip, my impressionistic recollection of the events, and any souvenirs I buy or receive from local children because even when I look at a picture or hear a version of events that differs from my own memory, it feels untrue or inauthentic.
I heard recently that 75% of people polled (whoever they are) believe the first thing they hear even if that thing has later been contradicted by an expert or facts. So, I think our emotional memory is largely responsible for this. I recall always being sad or shamed even when things like learning “alimenopee” isn’t a letter of the alphabet. So, maybe this is a way of protecting ourselves from the shame and sadness of being wrong. But, I don’t think we can trust our memories – Epicurus felt that the purpose of our memories is to bring us happiness in old age – so, I feel like we may distort our memories for better or worse in order to live with them so long: the extremely painful details forgotten, the pleasant ones made even more delightful.
Matt (Con.t): Another article I read talked about how whenever we experience a trauma, we remember it in hyper-clarity to avoid the circumstances which lead to that trauma in the first place and prevent it from happening again. So, I don’t think we can trust our memories, but I don’t know if we should necessarily check our emotional truth of events against the reality. In some cases, I think it would help; but, in others, I can see it being potentially devastating. However, as a struggling Buddhist, I suppose we need to face the truth and then find the bliss in that. Maybe that’s one of our biggest challenges as humans. This is rambling now…
Stacy: No, you’re not rambling! I can really relate to this idea of trying to navigate through a feeling or search for a certain level of honesty/truth in relation to identity– to our former lives as children, as teenagers, or as whatever. This is why I wanted to revisit the conversation. I feel like the Urs Fischer exhibit took me to this interesting place and I want to try and figure it out more.
I read up on the exhibit and found out that it was done by several people– several hundred, not just Urs alone. Apparently, according to the LA Times, Urs “choreographed” hundreds of volunteers– not just assistants or professional ceramicists, but elementary school children.
It’s so weird that we accidentally stumbled upon this exhibit during the 5th annual Tanabata Matsuri, which was happening in Little Tokyo, literally right outside MOCA– the celebration’s theme this year was “children’s dreams and wishes.”
Stacy (Con.t): Brian Kito explains this event was “about the orphaned children in Tohoku as the result of the Tsunami and the ongoing separation of families due to the radiation and relocation. As the result, indirect pressure is placed on these children. We must not forget them.”
There’s no wonder the exhibit felt alive in so many ways. It’s a collective of thoughts– daydreams, nightmares, reflections all colliding in clay on a day set to honor the more hopeful and helpless voices who have suffered and persevered.
Stacy (Con.t): I wonder how you feel about all this new information as it relates to your experience with the exhibit or our conversation about emotional truth and identity, in art, in life?
Matt: There’s something about that gray space we were in. The lack of color – I mean color is so subjective and evocative – now, I don’t know if I believe in a collective unconscious, but that’s definitely what the exhibit felt like we were walking through. The decision to not have colored clay might have been a financial one (i’m not an expert on the cost of clay pigmentation) but the message it sent to me is that we are to finish the piece and shade the images and symbols as we choose. This is why it strikes me as such a unified dream space, we all take from these tried and true modern and ancient visuals and apply them to the jumble of our own lives as we see fit.
Matt (Con.t): As far as children, it just brings up a point that our minds build up references and contexts through accretion. As we experience, learn, and read we move beyond cats and dogs (so many cats and dogs in that exhibit) and latch onto “grander” images to take up our memory space. But, I don’t think the pure emotional responses change as we age. Speaking for myself, I have very particular memories as a child of being frightened and confused and as an adult, I can feel just as overwhelmed in the midst of an anxiety attack with just as little understanding as to why. Children create and feel without full understanding and I think a lot of artists do, too. And I think we don’t understand the majority of our emotions which is why therapy is so crucial. So, in many ways the space felt like some kind of emotional and mental wilderness that we were trying to sort through and interpret. And the fact that much of it was created by children is even more proof that children are not our future just as the elderly are not merely our past. We can learn from these beings that came out of the soup more recently than we– and we should honor their emotions and artwork. We share this space with them.
Also, remember the candle wax sculptures? I’ve been thinking about them as far as maybe fading memories or ideas or symbols, things we lose with time, both collectively and individually. Maybe those sculptures are representative of the fading contributions of the individual to the collective. Like once their flame flickers out, we lose it from our communal subconscious forever. That thread is pulled from the tapestry.
I don’t know. What do you think?
Stacy: Well, I guess I want to address the idea of identity and memory being messy. Sometimes, I feel so stuck inside of it, and other times, I feel so very much removed, like in a dream state. I think the Urs exhibit did a nice job of taking us into the dream and confronting its imagery– how do our minds navigate throughout the repetition and how does our body behave accordingly? I felt like I was evaluating the show with my body more so than my logic, and I really loved that. The space felt loose and I was able to show up, get lost in the maze of images/ideas, and slowly react.
In addition to the exhibit, your comment about adult vs. child anxiety reminded me of body/mind relationships and how powerful the two are– this idea of fight vs. flight. This prompted a question: As artists do we make what we love or make what scares us? Both, I suppose– but why? It’s all connected and relative to this mind/body relationship. Like magnets we are often drawn to and repelled by the same object. We need both extremes to understand our own impulses. There is a drama constantly flowing from heart to mind to mouth. In art, sometimes, I don’t think we are looking for answers, but we are always looking for mirrors or containers, a place to see and put this internal psychological struggle.
This is what the exhibit makes me think about.
When I was a young girl, I went to Hershey Park, which is an amusement park situated in Pennsylvania– like Disneyland with rides and everything, but there are people dressed up in candy bar costumes that you take your picture with, like a walking Reese’s cup instead of Snow White. As a child, I was terrified of masks, clowns, costumed people– anything that seemed like a strange false version of a human. I suffered from this until I was about 10 and I still even today have little guttural flinches when walking down Hollywood Blvd past all the costumed characters. Anyway, the condition is called Automatonophobia or fear of “falsely represented sentient beings.” So, when I saw the walking candy bar, I completely panicked and tried to hop a fence. My aunt, at the time, chased me down, and to relax me, gave me this advice: “If you close your eyes, it doesn’t exist.”
It’s so easy and so true. I think about this line often as an adult in relation to anxiety, memory, and identity. All of us and our gritty or fantastical entrails are here and nowhere. Maybe this is also relative to the wax figures burning.
Matt: I love what you’re bringing up about body/mind dialogue especially in relation to the Urs space. A friend of mine went to the LACMA Turrell exhibit and spoke of how physically overwhelming it was to be completely immersed in his pieces, which then led to an emotional response and then an intellectual response and interpretation. And this seems to mirror your experience in the Fischer exhibit. Remember all those nooks and hidden corners? It seems the more we foraged, the more we found.
It strikes me that even the painter of a framed oil work is attempting to evoke a physical response. Can the artist hold your attention long enough for you to stand in front of the work, point, lean in, stand back? Yet, it is through some sort of emotionally or aesthetically visceral piece that they achieve this response . . . which I think leads to your question of what exactly does draw us in both as artist and spectator.
Matt Quezada is a native Angelino working as a director’s assistant, screenwriter, and sometimes actor. His short films have played in various international film festivals. Feel free to follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@themattyq).
Stacy Elaine Dacheux is the proprietor of this website. She enjoys seeing shows with Marcy & Matt– and hopes to have more adventures with them soon.