In anticipation for Tire Fest our March 14th, 2014 mobile arts convergence we’re asking participating artists about what mobility means for their practices. We spoke with artist Irina Contreras part of the collective that organizes The Miracle, a bookmobile that will be dispensing at Friday March 14th, 2014’s Tire Fest.

1. What is your mobile-arts project and what does it look like?

The Miracle is an LA/Oakland-based bookmobile project that activates the redistribution of books. It can look lots of different ways from a car parked out in an open space with books coming out of it in milkcrates, suitcases etc. It can be a lending library and can also exist as a tag cloud online. I have hopes of it existing in more ways too than what has been able to happen in the last ten years.

2. What were the sources of inspiration or specific conditions that lead to you developing a project on wheels?

I grew up in a place where there weren’t really bookstores and later, found myself living in places throughout LA (Pacoima and Watts) where there were/are not many bookstores. Obviously, there is the library and I heart the LAPL, but I always felt like I wanted something else too. I grew up going to punk shows, making zines, being a riot grrrl in the 90’s and it just seemed to easy or silly maybe to NOT have a bookmobile. Initially, I wanted to have a reading room at my place in Watts but there were a variety of issues that are still at the heart of the bookmobile now. Who comes, for example is a big one! I wanted it to be of aid to the people in my neighborhood and especially to the youth I was working with at the time. Because, I started it while I was at Otis, I had to take it in my car to ensure that it wouldn’t contribute to any kind of fetishization the neighborhood, especially around arts/community arts is something I have felt very strongly about for some time. It also made more sense since I worked for Cultural Affairs Department for many years that it be in my car so I would stop at different places throughout my day and it just sort of followed me along. This was a super different iteration of the Miracle but it was also a really good, chaotic and fun time. Later, it was restructured with working with lezbrarian superpower, Kelly Besser and we worked to develop a more “curated” selection of what kind of books we wanted to offer.

3. Do you see mobile-arts as working against, in-conjunction or in some other way with brick-and-mortar situated art making?

Hmmm…interesting question! This may not be the answer you all are looking for but I will give it a shot anyway. I (and definitely Besser and a number of other collaborators including Marissa Medina and Elokin Huang for starters) do not consider it an art project per se. It can be many things; it can be a library project, an art project, a queer project etc. I am much more open to it being around other “art projects” right now, which hasn’t always been the case. That’s a bit complicated but I think that as an artist who sometimes doesn’t always like to collaborate with other artists with a capital A, I think that there is a tendency (of course) to concentrate on aesthetics, which for me are not the driving force of this project. So, in that sense, I see that running concurrently or in conjunction with because the beauty I think of mobile arts, people making things in the street or in the home is that we/they do it. Period. It’s about making something whereever you are and whereever you are at, both geographically and in life. That part is super exciting to me. Plus, I would probably add that fellow participants like Paolo Davanzo [of The Echo Park Film Center] have been super inspiring to The Miracle and the things I have been a part of. I have tons of love for LA, I think it’s a tremendously creative and inspiring place that can’t possibly be listed or made into a buzzfeed quiz cuz fools like that will NEVER get it. Angelenos are far too stealth to let go of those kinds of secrets. LA has the brujeria.

4. How does mobility effect the audience of your work?

Mobility, whether in a car, a lending library or bus all shift things dramatically. I think that this is one of the ways it’s existed for so long. It doesn’t mean its life has been steady the whole way though of course. It’s probably important to note that I haven’t driven a car that was mine since 2007 and I am not sure I plan to either. It’s not feasible for the kind of life I want to live besides the myriad of political reasons why driving is funky. I also tremendously enjoy the subway and bus and walking and bicycling etc. In this sense, when I return to LA, I will most likely go back to some of the old ideas I had about booking: looking for a ice cream truck that has retired and figuring out a suitcase and bikemobile situation. There are two bikemobiles being worked on at the moment; one might be further along than the other. The specific audiences are so different of course, it depends on time, geography etc. It will be super interesting to see who comes to Side Street Projects!

Find The Miracle on Tumblr, Facebook + Twitter.

-Irina Contreras
March 2014