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MA'A* Cultural Innovation Editor | 05.2019 |
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OSMOSIS #Eva&Adele

A carte blanche & some addresses to conceive new identities.

PICO | Gallery B | John Sanborn©

Moving images
John Sanborn

Éric of MA'A*: The first time I saw your work, it evoked — in me, at least — the long-forgotten memories of Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi. I thought of the same aesthetically pleasing combination of visuals and sounds hiding a more general underlying message. What was the work that sparked the curiosity for video-creation in you? In what event of your life does that source lie?

John Sanborn: Interesting question, and one that I know the answer to quite well. In 1974 I was living in Paris and had the fortunate opportunity to "discover" video art at the first big museum show called "Art/Video Confrontation". I met there many of the first generation video artists and curators, as well as Don Foresta, who was working for the USIA on bringing such artists to Paris from the USA. I saw many early works there, especially Nam June Paik's "Global Groove".
Nam June Paik & Bill Viola at John's place | J. Sanborn's personal archives
John Sanborn & Robert Ashley | J. Sanborn's personal archives
This one blew my mind. Through Don, I met Paik and spent time with him. When he left, he asked if I was going to return to New York, and I said yes. He then told me to call him, 226 5007, when I got back. And so I did. He told me over the phone to meet him at the corner of Broome Street and Mercer.
V+M | La chapelle de l’hôpital général | John Sanborn©
I thought, "the great man needs me!" Only to find that he wanted me to carry 200 chairs from his loft to the art space called The Kitchen. For years after I carried things, plugged things in and worked with him, alongside him. Paik was and still is my personal video master.
Nothing for nothing | Jacques Cœur Palace | John Sanborn©

Éric: Do tell the story, the memory, the experience that helped you define your style. Which is, by the way, really recognizable nowadays.

JS: There was no formal story here, more of a feeling that I had early on about the fluidity of video and how I could use it to shape time. Starting with early days I wanted to shift the time axis: repeat events and use elements of life to fashion rhythms I felt and were in my mind. I started with creating vignettes and then moved to early computer editing to structure an experience that could not be staged, or painted, or danced. Then I moved to use layers of images to take "real" visuals and abstract them.

Whilst following structural and gestural impulses, using video to alter the flow of time and space, I have found inspiration in music. In my single channel work, there are stories but mashed up and strung out. In my installations I use multiple screens to layer in space, asking the viewer to shift their time base from moment to moment then to something like hearing a band play music.

Over the years I have worked with many composers, from Philip Glass t
o Robert Ashely, whose revolutions in sound I have used to inspire my work. Almost everything I do has a musical component in it — either overtly like "Sorry" at VF19  — or more subtly, as in my work about death, "Give Me a Second".
A tunnel through Olympus | Odile Ouizman Gallery | John Sanborn©
Éric: In many of your latest works you cast actors of unconventional sexual orientation. What do you think of the current situation in the American video-production business — is there still discrimination present on any level?

JS: As I returned to making art full time, I was a different person than I was when I started, or even when I went to Hollywood and Silicon Valley.
As a straight white male, I represent the patriarchy, as some call it, and do not wish to remain as such. I embrace people of ages, races, genders — those who are not me are important to me. Learning about others, celebrating people for who they are — not what they look like or want to kiss — allows me to grow and extend my ability to present humanity in my work.
Adi Lockheart, John Sanborn and Jiz Lee on set
Racism is a huge problem everywhere. Fear of "the other", those who don't look like you, that emotion of exclusion that leads to hate must be changed. We need to understand those differences, develop empathy in order to create ways of bringing cultures, histories and futures together. We all would like to feel that we are not complicit in racism, sexism, age-ism or anti-transgenderism — but we are. It's baked into us, our nature, and we must confront it and deal with it. Small changes are the way to progress. Put in the words of Robert Ashley: "Short ideas, repeated, massage the brain".
PICO | Galerie B | John Sanborn©
Amanda Lepore interviewed by Gigi©
Amanda Lear & Salvador Dali©

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Hellas 7 | Nicole Gnesa Gallery, Munich | VG Bildkunst Bonn and Eva & Adele©

Symbiosis of everyday life
Eva & Adele

Self-proclaimed as Hermaphrodite Twins in Art, Eva and Adele make a whole performance of their only presence. Since their beginnings, they refuse any institutional endorsement and work to make their sole public appearance a phenomenon in its own right. As unclassifiable beings, they travel the world of Art from worldly exhibitions to big fairs all around the planet. Mysterious, they harvest the secret of their persona. Hidden behind the eccentricity and veiled by the aura, their appearances are truly perceived as an artistic act. Indeed, they make a work of Art from their way of life. A play between reality and fiction, a play with social behavior and everyday Art — here's the symbiotic composure on both a physical and spiritual scale.
You are my biggest inspiration | Eva & Adele©
Artists' costumes | Eva & Adele©

+info: You are my biggest inspiration in Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

Countertenor | Jakub Józef Orliński©
The Rocky Horror Picture Show©
Transition selfies | Lanah Shaï©

An identity, a quest, a fight
Lanah Shaï

Éric of MA'A*: I had the chance to meet you in 2015 at the VIDÉOFORMES festival in Clermont-Ferrand, during the presentation of Screen Clothes project created in collaboration with Gérard Chauvin. You were then at the beginning of the transition. Today, an artist, a performer, a musician, your main theme is rebellion, and it gradually merges into your creative process. Hence the question: if modern society has a rigid hierarchy, how would you characterize your noncompliance with it, as a transgender artist?

Lanah Shaï: The history and atavisms of modern society are difficult to shake up, even with the emergence of the trans movement that challenges the notions of gender, sex, and identity. While the human body is the subject of heteronomous debates and projections, the first concerned are the trans people and they rarely have the right to speak up.
In the absence of that power, we must therefore accept being infantilized, psychiatrized, theorized by those who speak only of themselves or, at least, of the idea they have of us, of sex, of gender, of identity. Art is for me a way to regain a form of power that leads to self-determination, that carries a speech which belongs to me. I fully embrace being a hermaphrodite woman, an anomaly in a deadpan classification. And I do not see the point of being "a woman like any other". On the contrary, it's this out-of-field space, this new horizon that interests me. I made the choice to be me, to have an identity that suits me and it does not matter if I jostle the established social order. That's the ground out of which I draw my thoughts.

Éric: You align your words on gender-inclusive language to avoid bias towards a particular sex or social gender. Do you think that the human language is conditioned? How can Art evolve the established order?
At the recording studio | Lanah Shaï©
Order/Disorder and The Disered Body | G. Chauvin & L. Shaï©
Lanah: The philosopher Paul Preciado wrote: "The revolution is on, it will necessarily pass through the body and the transformation of languages". In essence, language is a definition. If every day you insinuate that the masculine prevails over the feminine, it is more than just a cultural heritage, it is the daily onslaught. Art is not there to decide upon this social question but to question us on the validity of such statements. Art challenges the meaning of the established order, its legitimacy. It is there to suggest, inseminate, divert but not to give lessons. Art forces itself to question itself, to walk towards other horizons. That is why it is subversive. Art is an alchemy that shakes our certainties without imposing the answers.
Mutations | G. Chauvin & L. Shaï©

Éric: Considering this LGBTQ philosophy, how would you describe your artistic approach? Has it changed over the course of your transition?

Lanah: I collaborated with many artists for four years, and today I work alone. I always brought the touchy subject out there, wrote about it. If at first, I started from the intimate experience to challenge definitions, I have now widened the questioning towards something more universal philosophically, even intimately. My last video, The Family, is an improvised text on canvas: a steep texture, a less worked one. My next video Bodies/Fights has a more philosophical backbone to it.

This work is influenced by Paul Preciado, Judith Butler, and Monique Wittig. I would also like to include a video performance, where my physical character comes to confront myselves. My approach always starts from a text that evolves towards a form. I also maintain a music production since June, I felt the need to be in direct contact with people, with something less cerebral, more physical. I mix a little, and I also set up my own recording studio. I want to do a live electronic music show — a new challenge for me. My style can't be set in a fixed category.
At the beginning of my transition | Photomontage | Lanah Shaï©


Drag queen competitions | RuPaul's Drag Race©
Jimmy Paulette and Taboo | Nan Goldin©
Random Nudes | Lucas Falchero©
Self-hybridation | ORLAN©
Devenir il ou elle | Lorène Debaisieux©
Valentina, transgender top model | Vogue France©
What Does Intersex Mean? | them©
The 1st pregnant man | Photo. Barcroft Media©