Double Agents: Carla Fernandez & Pedro Reyes

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In Sounds of Cultura, we dive into Double Agents: Carla Fernandez and Pedro Reyes, a two part exhibition that envision an alternative future from partner artists. Director and Chief Curator for the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art Jennifer McCabe will give us a preview of the art exhibit.

Ruelas: In sounds of cultura, SOC. Double agents, Carla Fernandez and Pedro Reyes, is a two part exhibition that envisions an alternative future by those two artists that happen to be partners in life. Joining me now to talk about the exhibition is Jennifer McCabe, director and chief curator for the Scottsdale museum of contemporary art. Thank you for joining us this evening.
McCabe: Thanks for having me.
Ruelas: an alternative future.
McCabe: Right.
Ruelas: Well, I guess all futures are alternative. Tell us about what we should expect at this exhibit.
McCabe: Absolutely, so Pedro Reyes and Carla Fernandez are two of Mexico’s probably most prominent artists and they don’t usually come together to collaborate for an exhibition but we invited them to do so. And both of them have very distinct art practices so they’re different but at the heart their goal is really the same. They’re both very interested in social change. So, they kind of view themselves as agents of social change.
Ruelas: how did you find them? Discover them? How did we get fortunate enough to get them here?
McCabe: well, I worked with Carla about ten years ago in my role as the director at the museum at craft and folk art in san Francisco and my husband, who is also an artist worked with Pedro Reyes before that. So I’ve known both of them for a long time. And a couple of years ago I saw that they were teaching a class at MIT and I thought that this is perfect. Actually the two of them, the way they approach issues and their life is so similar and I just thought that it would be interesting to see them next to each other.
Ruelas: and they must have thought that it was a good idea and a good and interesting opportunity as well.
McCabe: they did. I guess they did.
Ruelas: and as you said they don’t typically collaborate.
McCabe: that’s right.
Ruelas: when do they have a discussion that had to be had.
McCabe: it was a discussion, yes. But in the end, they did come together but it is funny because I think that the real collaboration is between the audience and the artwork. So they really, kind of turned the tables and where asking you where you can think about making change in your own life. When your personal spheres, your social, political spheres. So it’s kind of an interesting turn.

Ruelas: You would probably want to let our audience know and make clear that even though we might see some visual representations of the art coming up. It is no substitute for seeing it in person.

McCabe: Absolutely. Plus there are many surprises. So we’ve commissioned them on two different projects. One for Pedro and one for Carla. So they will be premiering new work.
Ruelas: This is—tell us, I know very little about art so you are going to have to go slow with me. So tell me what I should be seeing in this fabric of this tapestry.
McCabe: so Carla Fernandez has a fashion label and the design methodology behind it is that she works with artisans throughout Mexico. She travels to communities. It’s indigenous women, mostly, and her hope is to sustain textile traditions that have been around for centuries and like in other places around the world they’re a dying art. We aren’t doing as much with our hands. And so what we’re seeing here—what we were seeing here is a photograph taken by Graciela Iturbide. Kind of famous Mexican photographer who worked with Carla in photographing those pieces. So in her designs there are elements from all these different areas around Mexico that are specific to those areas.
Ruelas: And so it ends up being both a preservation piece as well as an artistic statement.
McCabe: Right. Absolutely. And that’s where the change part comes in, right? She’s looking at the fashion industry as how can we change- how can we get away from making cheap clothing as fast as possible? How can we put more heart behind it? We can do that by working with people, with artisans.
Ruelas: This is—and when we see the exhibit will we see these photographs or will we see these pieces?
McCabe: you will see both. You will see fashion, you will see these photographs. These were taken by Maruch Santiz she’s a photographer who lives in San Juan Chamula, in Chiapas Mexico.
Ruelas: Do not adjust your set. This is the proper form of---
McCabe: This is the right orientation, that is correct. So Carla went to the highlands of Chiapas, which is a predominantly indigenous area. The photographer is indigenous. And they collaborated on a series of photographs. So you’ll see the full suite of photographs if you come to the exhibition.

Ruelas: Let’s see more art while we can. And again this is the photograph but also we’re appreciating the fabric and the dress.

McCabe: Right. And addition in the exhibition space, we’ll also have videos that kind of explain her techniques and the way her business works and we’ll have a pop-up store in our museum store that will sell some of her clothing and accessories.

Ruelas: and we’ll see if there’s another—we don’t want to sell her partner short so let’s see is there another—

McCabe: that’s another one of Carla’s photographs. But Pedro Reyes also works in sculpture, video, performance and participation and what we’re showing at SMOCA is a sculpture made of gun remnants.

Ruelas: Right. And it looks almost like a—I’m sure, I think we have an image of that too. It almost looks like a band set up but it’s instruments-
McCabe: right-
Ruelas: every instrument is made of a gun part.
McCabe: Right. Different parts of guns. So the guns were decommissioned by the Mexican army. He was presented with an opportunity to use them and came up with the idea of making musical instruments. He talks about the idea of alchemy and kind of transforming these once kind of dangerous objects into something that is musical and beautiful and what that transformation- the physical transformation could result in. Maybe other transformations.
Ruelas: As a visitor, what does the gallery space look like? Am I able to, appreciating these from afar or can you walk up-
McCabe: No you’re able to walk around them and get close and see- identify different parts of guns. We’re also doing a workshop with him called Amendment to the Amendment.

Ruelas: He’ll be here?

McCabe: He’ll be here next week on Thursday October 25th. Both Carla and Pedro will do an artist talk and on Friday-

Ruelas: That will be very helpful to someone like me.

McCabe: You would learn a lot. I would learn a lot. We’ll all learn from them. On Friday-

Ruelas: The Amendment to the Amendment, you mentioned. Is there going to be a way to amend the second amendment. Rewrite it.

McCabe: So a part of Pedro’s practice is about bringing groups of people together. He’s very interested in group dynamics and theater and engaging the audience, really having them participate. So we have developed an app in which people will be invited to answer questions, they will be showed an amended second amendment and they can alter that one further or they can post it to the site and we’ll have a host of different variations. At the workshop, he’ll just walk people through the idea. And it’s really just, you know, it’s about all different voices coming together. You could- some people might think the second amendment should be more restrictive, others might think less restrictive. Everyone can come together and talk about making change.

Ruelas: Right. Some productive discussion after you get your mind expanded a bit by looking at the art.

McCabe: Right.

Ruelas: You can put it to use.

McCabe: Right.

Ruelas: Nonbinding, I assume. The amendments.

McCabe: Absolutely.

Ruelas: Art of in itself.

McCabe: It’s an art project. Yes.

Ruelas: We thank you for joining us and we look forward to seeing the exhibit out at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts.

Director and chief curator for the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art Jennifer McCab

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