Hi Mariam, thanks for taking time >> Hi Pedro, it's my pleasure. >> So you at this point spent many years collaborating with a choreographer and you think a lot about the body. And this module in book and our MOOC is on embodied knowledges. What took you in the first place to collaborate with a choreographer? And as a visual artist and in general, when you work together, but also in your own individual practice. How do you think of this idea of embodied knowledge or the body in general? >> Right, well, I was actually trained as a dancer from the time I was a pretty small child up until I was 18. I was training pretty seriously as a dancer and so embodied knowledge is part of how I think about the world and how I approach producing knowledge in the world. So for me it was pretty natural to think about collaborating with a choreographer. And especially at a point in my practice when I was starting to think very seriously about site specificity or site responsive work. And wondering about how to incorporate that into a video practice or a lens-based practice. I was really resting with a lot of questions around how do I make something that responds really specifically to the place that I'm in. But at the same time, it's specific to this medium that I'm working and which is a lens-based medium which is video and photography. And how can we kind of translate the essence of this place into something that can be carried to other places. [LAUGH] And I was friends with a choreographer, Erin Ellen Kelly, choreographer and performer who's trained in Butoh and Gigong. And this with something she had been thinking a lot about as well, a lot of her practice as a performer for quite a long time. Before we started working together in 2006, it had been site specific or site responsive performances. So she had performed in a lot of really odd places. And so we've been talking about this, just as part of our friendship for a long time. And then I did a residency at the Shaw Solitude in Germany, which gave me a budget. >> Mm-hm. >> And a space to invite someone to come and work with me. >> Mm-hm. >> And so I rang up Erin and I said do you want to come to Germany for a month and make a project in the Black Forest? And she said yes. [LAUGH] >> Sounds like a great beginning. >> Yeah [LAUGH]. >> Something that keeps coming up in the work, different artists and activists, we're covering in the MOOC and also in our core lectures is this idea of public audience. So you already spoke about the relationship of the artist or performer's body and the lens and the camera, right? >> Yeah. >> But often, even when you do say these, that Ann does this site specific pieces. Is there a public there? Is there no public there? How does that get mediated and worked out? Because there's also the collective body of the people who are together producing a work, right? >> I think that is varied a lot over the different projects that we've done. I have another collaboration index that has appeared which is another long term collaboration. And that one is an entity that is evolved over time but always has the same identity and the same kind of configuration of collaboration. But my collaboration with Erin configures itself differently for every project. Which I think stems from the fact that it's all about site and place and responding to specific situations and places. >> And has the same happened to the medium? To the idea of the lens, has it transformed with each project? >> In some ways yes, but in other ways no. Because I think we should probably, I can explain this but the different elements of the project play pretty specific roles in the work. So, what Erin and I kind of came to over a series of different projects that we've made together. Was a kind of understanding of our work as putting into a discipline of landscape archeology. And we took a set of theories from the contextual school of landscape archeology. Which basically says that to understand any place, you have to look at it through three different axis. And the first one is the historical uses of the place. So all of the different ways that a place has been used over time. And then the second is the contemporary understanding of a place. What is actually that place's position in our contemporary kind of mythology. >> Mm-hm. >> Of the American landscape for example or of the Black Forest or of the German Palace. >> Yeah. >> So on and so forth. And then the third is the phenomenal object logical experience of a place, by which I mean what is it like to be a body in that place. And that's where the performing body becomes so important, because it provides this sort of human measure of the place for the viewer who can't physically be there herself, right. They can understand that place on an human scale and they can understand actually what it's like to touch it. What it's like to have the skin kind of press against. Right, the textures of that place, they can see that in the performing bodies responses to it. And that's why for me it's so important to have performance in these pieces. So this Saint Louis project which is called the City in the City, actually came about because Erin is from Saint Louis. It's her hometown and I thought it would be great if we could make a project in her hometown. We've worked in so many different places. I thought it would be really great to do something that would be really local for her in a way. Although she hasn't lived there full time in a long time but she goes back really frequently and I've been there twice for fun and I found Saint Louis really fascinating. And so I had this fellowship called the Floyd fellowship which is a joint project between Washington University in Saint Louis and the Saint Louis Art Museum. >> Okay. >> And to start this fellowship I arrived in Saint Louis right after the Michael Brown shooting. And I began teaching at Washington University and working on this project for my show at the Saint Louis Art Museum during what became known as Ferguson October. So a month were there were activist actions every single day in Saint Louis. And it was a really astonishing time there. It was really difficult. It was very contested. Many different people having many different feelings about many different things. And a lot of things that had been sort of beneath the surface in Saint Louis for a long time kind of suddenly boiling over. And I came to it and I had one of those moments you have as an artist sometimes where you think how can I possibly make work in the middle of this emergency, right? Of all this urgency and all of this also really amazingly creative expression by the activist movement that was happening at a time. Where they were creating these incredible images like this mirrored coffin that was being carried through the city every day. To all of these different places which I thought was just this beautiful performance of protest, you know? So I really had to struggle with it a little bit. How it's actually understand where to place myself. And where Erin and I could find something that we could make that would contribute to this moment without appropriating it. Because I feel like that's always a danger when you come in from outside. >> And at the same time, I mean you are quite familiar with US racial politics. >> Yes. >> But you don't embody that history of pain and suffering of African Americans particularly. >> Exactly. >> So it is, that question is not can I do work. Or not one can but how to do it. >> Yeah. >> In a way that is sensitive and bold at the same time, right? >> Yeah, I mean it's this funny thing and I had the same experience actually growing up in Baltimore. >> Mm-hm. >> Being neither black nor white. >> Yeah. >> You come in and your sort of in the middle of this very fundamental tension of American society. And you're neither one thing nor the other, which in a way is sort of ideal position as an Artist. Because you can see both sides and you can sort of operate within both of them. But it’s also a very difficult position to be in because no one's going to feel trust here [LAUGH]. Because you don't belong in either side. >> Yeah. >> And I completely understood that because that's basically where I grew up in Baltimore, in that exact position. >> As well as [INAUDIBLE]. >> Yes [LAUGH]. >> [LAUGH] Either or. >> Yeah. But I think the thing that was really interesting for me in Saint Louis was, understanding how much it was like Baltimore. Which is where I grew up. And once I kind of had that understanding click in, then I understood why I couldn't make there. Because I understood, okay, Saint Louis is a place where spatial politics and racial politics overlap to a really astonishing degree. And it's also a place where these divisions and these hierarchies are not enforced externally, they're enforced internally. We do it ourselves because there's these external hierarchies and these external pressures and these external decisions that have been made that create this necessity within us to do that. These structures, all these structural inequities that then lead us to create these self reinforcing decisions. These ways in which we don't look at each other, we don't see each other, we don't talk to each other. So then I started to think about this novel of China Mieville's, The City in the City, which came out in 2009, which is this sci-fi noir. And the premise of that book is that there's a city becomes so divided, it actually becomes two separate countries. And the way that the citizens of those two city states enforce that division on a day to day basis is that they learn from brick to unsee everything and everyone that belongs to the other city. They just look away from it so reflexively, it's like it's not even there. >> Yeah. >> And in the book, this unfolds very subtly and at first you think it's really like a science-fiction mechanism that's making things unseeable. And gradually, gradually, you realize, no it's not. It's just everyone doing it themselves, right? That was really an image that had stuck in my head. And the narrator of the film, Derrick Lenny, is actually one of the people that made the Merritt Coffin. And also one of the people who had done the action at the Saint Louis symphony. Where they interrupted the symphony to sing a requiem for Mike Brown. And that's how I found him actually. I was going through different activist groups, looking for someone with a really good voice. And everyone was like, talk to Derek. You need to talk to Derek [LAUGH]. And then I met Derek, I pushed in a project. And he was like I love sci-fi and I love mysteries, so this is perfect. >> Yeah. >> Yeah [LAUGH]. >> Yeah, well, index of the disappeared, as I said, it's been going for a long time, it's 11 years now. And when we first started out, we started from a place of immediate immigrant rights activism. And we were really looking at a more narrow, domestic picture. >> In the US mostly. >> In the US, looking at media post 911 detentions and deportations. And then gradually, over the years, as we came to understand how everything was connected to everything else. We expanded the index archive to look at the way those [INAUDIBLE] policies were resonating on other parts of the world. And then how things that were inactive in other parts of the world like the policies were developed at Guantanamo, Bagram and Abukrait, then came back, circled back to affect US prison policy. Here at home and there's just all of these giant circles and things that people as well as policies who circulate from one place to the other. As well as taking us into our current research into [INAUDIBLE] and their [INAUDIBLE] network. Which is 34 different countries involved in that. So it's really a kind of massive research project. But it's one of the things we had to do over the course of all this research is basically become not jail house lawyers but artist lawyers I guess. Because we worked so much with declassified documents and it became a really big part of the index project. This idea of building an archive around redacted documents, around documents from which many, many pieces of information have been removed. And this kind of quixotic project of sort of archiving around what was not there until we actually had a fairly clear picture of the missing things, right? >> Right. >> And when we first started out we thought, yes, this is quicktide. This is a crazy idea, but we're going to try it and see what happens. And it actually worked to the point where we've spent so much time doing this. And we read so many of these documents and we followed so many lawsuits over so much time to meet individual cases over so much time. That we actually became experts. We're working with the Yale Law School in this coming year. This is the second time we're doing like a year long academic residency. We did one with the Asian Pacific American Institute at NYU previously. And I think for this kind of project, it is really helpful to have institutional backing. Because it kind of requires institutional resources. >> And legitimacy so you don't get [INAUDIBLE]. >> Yeah, that helps, that helps. But I think mostly it's just the resources of having an actual staff. Because the project is so massive at this point. And also right now it's really helpful for us to have law students working for us. Because we've reached a point where we want to file our own freedom of information act requests. So having law students working for us would be extraordinarily helpful in that respect. >> Is that a particular goal of the project [INAUDIBLE]. >> It never was a goal before, but we have specific things we want to find for the black site project. Things which haven't been requested by anyone else yet who's working on this. >> And this would be part of the Yale collaboration? >> Yeah, it'll be part of the Yale collaboration.