Sounds of Cultura: “This is Modern Art”


JOSE CARDENAS: IN SOUNDS OF CULTURA, THIS IS MODERN ART, IT’S ABOUT GRAFFITI ARTISTS WILLING TO RISK EVERYTHING FOR THEIR ART. SOMETIMES THE CONSEQUENCES LEAD TO THE QUESTION, WHERE DOES ART BELONG. JOINING ME TO TALK ABOUT THIS RICKY ARAIZA, THE DIRECTOR OF TEATRO BRAVO AND OF THIS PRODUCTION. RICKY, WELCOME TO "HORIZONTE." – THIS PARTICULAR PRODUCTION ACTUALLY IS NOT A TEATRO PRODUCTION BUT IT’S SOMETHING THAT HAS BEEN OF INTEREST TO YOU FOR MANY YEARS.

RICKY ARAIZA: I WAS WHEN GETTING MY MASTER'S AT ASU, I CAME ACROSS THIS PLAY: THIS IS MODERN ART BY IDRIS GOODWIN AND KEVIN COVAL AND THE THEMES IN IT ABOUT ARTISTS OF COLOR, SPECIFICALLY, HIP-HOP ARTISTS, GRAFFITI ARTISTS. AND AT THE CENTER OF THIS STORY I JUST FOUND VERY INTRIGUING AND THE DIALOGUE AND THE CONVERSATIONS THAT HAPPENED, I HAD. LIKE I’M HAVING THEM STILL WITH FELLOW ARTIST FRIENDS SO I FOUND THAT IT REFLECTED CURRENT CONVERSATIONS VERY BEAUTIFULLY, AND VERY HONEST, VERY FRANK AND A LITTLE ANGRY. THE DISCUSSIONS ABOUT WHAT IS ART? WHAT IS OUR BELONG? WHO GETS TO SAY? WHAT IS GOOD ART? AND WHO GETS TO CRIMINALIZE GRAFFITI.

JOSE CARDENAS: WELL, AND IT'S BASED LOOSELY ON AN INCIDENT BACK IN 2010 IN CHICAGO.

RICKY ARAIZA: YES. SO IN 2010, THERE WAS A GROUP OF GRAFFITI ARTISTS WHO GRAFFITIED BOMBED AN EXTERIOR WALL ON THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO'S MODERN ART WING OUT OF AN ACT OF PROTEST. AND--

JOSE CARDENAS: WAS THAT THEIR DESCRIPTION, GRAFFITI BOMB? OR IS THAT A DESCRIPTION OF THE PEOPLE WHO THOUGHT THEY WERE VICTIMS OF IT. OR IS THAT-

RICKY ARAIZA: THAT'S KIND OF ME RIGHT NOW I THINK. I’VE HEARD THE PHRASE COINED BECAUSE I FEEL IF I JUST SAY BOMBED IT SOUNDS MUCH MORE CHAOTIC. OR THEY- THE TRUE THING IS WHAT THEY DID. I DON’T WANT TO SAY THEY TAGGED A WALL BECAUSE A TAG IS A CERTAIN TYPE OF GRAFFITI ART THAT WASN’T AS COMPLEX AS WHAT THESE ARTISTS DID.

JOSE CARDENAS: BUT IT WAS A PROTEST

RICKY ARAIZA: IT WAS A PROTEST PIECE, IT WAS A WILD STYLE PIECE. IT IS WHAT THEY WOULD CALL A MASTERPIECE OR A PIECE. AS QUICK AS THEY COULD DO IN 20 MINUTES. AND MOST STANDARD GRAFFITI PIECES YOU WILL SAY TAKE ABOUT AN HOUR OR COULD TAKE LONGER, BUT THE FACT THAT THESE THREE ARTISTS MADE A STATEMENT WITHIN THIS SHORT TIME FRAME, AND WITHIN THE ART ITSELF, THEY -- THEY -- THEY LABELED THEIR -- THEIR CREW, AND THEY SAID THEY TITLED IT “THIS IS MODERN ART.” WHICH CAUSED A CONTROVERSY THE CITY, OR AT LEAST I WOULD SAY CREATED A CONVERSATION WITHIN CHICAGO.

JOSE CARDENAS: THE REACTION WAS STRONG.

RICKY ARAIZA: VERY.

JOSE CARDENAS: AND INTENSE.

RICKY ARAIZA: VERY.

JOSE CARDENAS: SO THAT WAS EIGHT YEARS AGO. WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE YOU WANT TO DO IT?

RICKY ARAIZA: LIKE I SAID, I'VE ALWAYS BEEN FASCINATED WITH THE SCRIPT, AND THEN ASU APPROACHED ME ABOUT IT JUST LAST YEAR AND SAID HEY, WE'RE DOING THIS PIECE, AND WE WANTED TO KNOW IF YOU’D BE INTERESTED IN DIRECTING IT? DEFINITELY. DEFINITELY, AN OPPORTUNITY TO TELL THE STORY WOULD BE GREAT.

JOSE CARDENAS: SO ON THIS PARTICULAR PIECE, IT'S YOUNG ARTIST BUT THE AUDIENCE IT? -- HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE DEMOGRAPHIC THAT YOU'RE APPEALING TO.

RICKY ARAIZA: WELL IT’S DEFINITELY A PIECE WRITTEN FOR YOUNGER AUDIENCES. SO THE PIECE, THE PLAY ITSELF WAS CREATED IN 2015 THROUGH STEPPENWOLF THEATER IN CHICAGO. THROUGH THEIR YOUTH PROGRAM. SO THE PLAY RESULT WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES- YOUNGER AUDIENCES. WHEN I SAY YOUNGER AUDIENCES, I WOULD SAY ANYWHERE FROM 13 TO 25 IS THE DEMOGRAPHIC THAT THEY WOULD BE SHOOTING FOR. AND SO THAT WAS THE ORIGINAL INTENTION BECAUSE THERE’S YOUNG ADULT VOICES IN THIS SHOW. THEY'RE THE CENTER OF THE STORY. AND ACTUALLY, FUNNY ENOUGH, WHEN THAT PLAY CAME OUT IN 2015, THERE WAS A LOT OF CONTROVERSY ABOUT THE PLAY BECAUSE IT -- IT TALKS ABOUT GRAFFITI ART AND HOW IT WAS DONE, SO A LOT OF CRITICS CAME OUT AND SAID THERE IS A DANGEROUS PIECE OF THEATER, THIS IS PROMOTING VANDALISM, WHICH IN AND OF ITSELF CONTINUES ANOTHER CONVERSATION OF THIS CRIMINALIZATION.

JOSE CARDENAS: AND SO ARE YOU NOT CONCERNED ABOUT THAT KIND OF REACTION? OR ARE YOU LOOKING FOR THAT KIND OF REACTION?

RICKY ARAIZA: I'M LOOKING TO TELL THE STORY, AND PEOPLE ARE GOING TO REACT HOW THEY'RE GOING TO REACT. I DON'T THINK THE STORY PAINTS ANYONE AS A HERO, BUT I THINK THE STORY BRINGS UP VERY POIGNANT AND HONEST QUESTIONS ABOUT WHO IS GIVING THE OKAY TO ART, WHO IS PROFITING OFF OF IT AND WHO IS SUFFERING AND BEING CRIMINALIZED, ESSENTIALLY, FOR EXPRESSING THEMSELVES, AND THESE ARE ARTISTS WHO ARE REFUSING TO CONFORM TO A SPECIFIC STYLE.

JOSE CARDENAS: AND YOU AND I TALKED A LITTLE BIT BEFORE YOU CAME ON THE SET, EVEN WITHIN YOUR OWN CAST AND CREW, IT GENERATES DISCUSSION ON SOME OF THESE ISSUES.

RICKY ARAIZA: YEAH DEFINITELY. YEAH. A LOT- ALL OF THE ACTORS IN IT HAVE A LOVE FOR HIP-HOP CULTURE, BUT DON'T IDENTIFY AS GRAFFITI ARTISTS BY ANY MEANS. SO THEY REALLY HAD TO LEARN WHAT IT TAKES. SO IN THIS SHOW, A LOT OF TIMES YOU'LL SEE IN A THEATER, YOU HAVE THE LUXURY, WHICH I'M GRATEFUL I HAVE OF DOING THE SHOW WITH ASU, IS HAVING A DRAMATER. SO THE DRAMATER WILL COME AND DO A PROCESS AND WILL REALLY HELP YOU THROUGH IT AS FAR AS FINDING THE HISTORY AND FINDING THE FACTS AROUND CERTAIN THINGS. SO I HAVE A THEATER DRAMTER BUT I ALSO HAVE A HIP HOP DRAMATER WHO IS A GRAFFITI ARTIST HIMSELF, A B-BOY FROM ROCK STEADY CREW IN NEW YORK. HE’S ACTUALLY THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE ROCK STEADY CREW AND HE COMES IN AND SERVES AS A RESOURCE BECAUSE HE HIMSELF IS A PRACTICING ARTIST, AND HE TALKS ABOUT A, HISTORY, WHO THE MAIN GRAFFITI ARTISTS WERE, THE MOVEMENT OF IT, DOWN TO HOW THEY NEED TO HOLD THE CAN ON STAGE. AND WHAT’S REALISTIC AND HOW A GRAFFITI ARTIST WOULD REALLY HOLD IT. BEING ABLE TO GIVE THAT KIND OF PERSPECTIVE FOR AN ARTIST, FOR AN ACTOR, BECAUSE I STARTED OUT AS AN ACTOR IN THEATER, IT'S SO VALUABLE TO HAVE THAT KIND OF INFORMATION AND JUST THAT KIND OF CONTACT.

JOSE CARDENAS: ONE QUESTION, BEFORE I FORGET. WE SHOULD TELL PEOPLE WHEN IT'S GOING TO RUN AND WHERE.

RICKY ARAIZA: THIS IS MODERN ARTS, IT'S GOING TO BE AT ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY, THE HERBERGER INSTITUTE FOR DESIGN AND THE ARTS, AT THE GALVIN PLAY HOUSE. AND IT WILL BE GOING FROM NOVEMBER 9 TO NOVEMBER 18.

JOSE CARDENAS: YOU TALKED ABOUT YOUR CAREER AS AN ACTOR. WE'VE GOT A PICTURE OF YOU IN ONE PERFORMANCE A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO. THIS WAS A PLAY THAT ZARCO GUERRERO WROTE RIGHT?

RICKY ARAIZA: NO. NO ZARCO DIDN'T WRITE IT. HE DID THE MASS WORK.

JOSE CARDENAS: AND YOU'RE THE CENTER OF THE PICTURE.

RICKY ARAIZA: I AM, YEAH. SO THE PLAY WAS CALLED THE SUN SERPENT, AND THIS WAS WRITTEN BY JOSE CRUZ GONZALES, AND THIS WAS ALSO ANOTHER THEATER PEACE AND THIS TOLD THE STORY OF THE CONQUEST THROUGH THE EYES OF A YOUNG BOY WHO WAS BASICALLY GOING THROUGH THE OTHER SIDE TO FIND HIS BROTHER WHO HAD --

JOSE CARDENAS: THE CONQUEST OF MEXICO, AND YOU'RE THE EMPEROR OF MONTEZUMA.

RICKY ARAIZA: IN ONE SCENE. SO BASICALLY THE FEAT OF THIS SHOW IS TO TELL THE ENTIRE EPIC STORY OF THE CONQUEST WITH THREE ACTORS AND ZARCO’S MASKS. SO WE MANAGED, AND WITH THE SUPPORT OF MEDIA, WE DID THIS THROUGH CHILD'S PLAY, AND THE DIRECTOR WAS RACHEL BOWDITCH WHO WAS ALSO A PROFESSOR AT ASU.

JOSE CARDENAS: SO WE HAVE ABOUT A MINUTE LEFT. TELL US WHAT'S COMING UP AT TEATRO BRAVO, WHICH IS YOUR MAIN FOCUS WHEN YOU'RE NOT DOING THIS PLAY.

RICKY ARAIZA: YES SO TEATRO BRAVO RIGHT NOW WE'RE CURRENTLY IN TALKS OF DOING TWO DIFFERENT COLLABORATIONS WITH TWO DIFFERENT THEATER COMPANIES IN THE STATE. SO WE'RE CURRENTLY WORKING WITH RISING YOUTH THEATER ON A PROJECT CALLED FACE-TO-FACE, THAT IS ADDRESSING RACE, ASIAN CLASS ISSUES. BUT IT’LL BE A LONG PROCESS, IT’LL TAKE ABOUT A THREE YEAR PROCESS TO DEVELOP IT APPROPRIATELY. AND THEN NOTHING IS CONFIRMED YET, BUT I'M ALSO WORKING ON A PROJECT POTENTIALLY WITH BORDERLINE THEATER IN TUCSON. AND THEN, ABOUT THREE YEARS AGO, TEATRO BRAVO DID A PLAY CALLED THE CARPA PLAYS WHICH IS A SERIES OF VIGNETTES BASED OFF THE MEXICAN –

JOSE CARDENAS: YOU KNOW I THINK YOU TALKED ABOUT IT ON THE SHOW AND I LOOK FORWARD TO TALKING ABOUT YOUR NEW PRODUCTIONS LATER. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. AND THANK YOU FOR WATCHING. FOR ARIZONA PBS AND ARIZONA "HORIZONTE," I AM JOSE CARDENAS. HAVE A GOOD EVENING.

In Sounds of Culture, “This is Modern Art,” is about graffiti artists willing to risk anything for their art. Sometimes the consequences lead to the question: “where does art belong?” Director of Teatro Bravo and “This is Modern Art” production Ricky Araiza join us to discuss the work.

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Director of Teatro Bravo and "This is Modern Art" production Ricky Araiza

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