IN PREPARATION FOR THIS YEAR’S OPEN ENGAGEMENT CONFERENCE WE ARE DOING “NOW/LATER” INTERVIEWS WITH SOME OF OUR FAVORITE LA ARTISTS PARTICIPATING IN THIS YEAR’S CONFERENCE. WE’RE ASKING SOME Q’S NOW. AND CHECKING BACK IN WITH ARTISTS AFTER WE ALL GET BACK TO LA.

SIDE STREET PROJECTS: What’s your art practice like right now? (and/or describe any on active projects. OR if your presenting/doing a project at OE please describe that!)

CAROL ZOU: My art practice right now is transitional. I’m moving from community organizing and poetically thinking about political issues, to working on an active understanding of what it’s like for artmaking to play a decisive role in the ways that we shape our communities and policy making. My work occurs on the streets as a site of public gathering and posits that the ways we visually shape our streets are linked to the power dynamics of who gets to access public space. I organize the guerrilla fiber art collective Yarn Bombing Los Angeles, and have lately been creating a series of pedagogical materials about gendered public spaces, which are then distributed as street art.

SSP: Which projects/speakers/conversations are you looking forward to at this year’s Open Engagement?

CZ: I am looking forward to hearing artists and researchers that have been working in the field for a long time – such as Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Mary Miss, and Superflex (and I suppose there’s an environmentalist bias in there too!). I am always thinking about the long term evolutions of social practice projects, and I am fascinated to hear from experienced practitioners about how projects, practices, and contexts have shifted over time.

SSP: As socially engaged artists in LA, what specific conversations to you think our communities need to be having? (ie specific issues of best practices/social justice issues, etc)

One thing I’m hoping to do during Open Engagement is to ‘crash’ the conference with a conversation about demographics at OE. A preliminary tally of the presenters at Open Engagement show the demographics to skew predominantly Caucasian. A glance at my library of ‘social practice’ texts also underscores the primacy of Caucasian males in shaping and framing the discourse of this practice. I find this to be especially problematic, especially within the racially diverse context of Los Angeles. For me this brings up the questions of just how far can social practice projects reach in a social justice context, what a field dominated by minority voices might look like, and what we can do as Angelenos to create a more inclusive discourse.

Websites: yarnbombinglosangeles.com, dontcallmeproject.com