Abandon Normal Devices Podcast
Abandon Normal Devices Podcast
Ep. 13 \\ Hundreds of bags of M&Ms, with Julieta Gil and Liz Mputu

Ep. 13 \\ Hundreds of bags of M&Ms, with Julieta Gil and Liz Mputu

Unseen Futures fellows Liz Mputu and Julieta Gil talk about humanising the exchange between artist and institution, and the benefits of creating an artistic rider

Welcome to episode 13 of the Abandon Normal Devices podcast. This is the continuation of the discussion in episode 12, but can be listened to as a stand alone podcast.

In this podcast, titled Hundreds of bags of M&Ms, Unseen Futures fellows Liz Mputu and Julieta Gil discuss care and artistic practice, humanising the exchange between artist and institution, and the benefits of creating an artistic rider.

Please note that there is strong language used in this recording that some people may find offensive.

Ruth McCullough 0:14

Welcome to Episode 13 of the Abandoned Normal Devices podcast. In this episode we are discussing Unseen Futures, our first ever artist led fellowship programme that ran from September 2022 to January 2023. This is a continuation of the discussion in Episode 12, but can be listened to as a standalone podcast. In this podcast titled hundreds of bags of m&ms, Unseen Futures fellows Liz Mputu and Julieta Gil discuss care and artistic practice, humanising the exchange between artist and institution and the benefits of creating an artistic rider. Please note that there is strong language used in this recording that some people may find offensive.

Liz Mputu 0:58

Hello again, Liz. How's it going?

It's going well, um, there's like a nice breeze coming through, that's making me feel a little bit more like awake and alive. And so that has me excited to dive into our conversation a little bit more. Right before this, I was on the phone with January. And they're sad that they can't be here, they send their love. But we have just been like fangirling over you for like the past 48 hours since our last conversation. You're just like such a wonderful type of artist to me because your approach is so humble. And I think that you have like these two extremes of like an artist that can exist like they're really like flamboyant, like loud, like rock star who is all about like the attention and the shock and the look at me. And then you have another type of artist who I feel like is more reserved and observant and paying attention to all of like the nuances of their own life experience without like casting judgement on what's happening outside of them. And then is able to filter all of that information into these really concise, like articulations of what it means to be human in the ways that otherwise get overlooked, right by like these louder voices. So it's so great to spend time with you honestly, and we've just adored how you have brought friendship into this space, like the energy of like forgiveness and friendship and, and kindness for oneself. And we just adore you. So I wanted to get that off my chest.

Julieta Gil 2:51

Thank you is this is really special. What you're saying. So thank you, I've also very much enjoy being around you and Jan. Especially, it's it's been an important reminder of care and addressing care throughout an artistic practice. This is something that yeah, I truly admire about you. And I think I've learned a lot of, of how to kind of think of you know that and have that be alongside you. As you're developing as an artist. It's such an important thing that we can sometimes forget about, just the fact that you kind of centred, your not not just your artistic practice, but just your your being as a whole, like the way that care kind of plays such an important role for you. It's very, very inspiring, and I'd love to hear more about how you're able to manage, yeah, like balance care for oneself, but also you care for other people, and you care for them you know not only just as your job but also just as the way you are. You know what when you address anyone it's always with so much care

Liz Mputu 4:19

Thank you oh my gosh, I wasn't ready for you to like reflect and reciprocate in that way so now I feel shy. But thank you love. Well, I think. Wow. Thank you for asking that. It gives me a second to think about who I am and how I like show up and present. Because I see myself as like this really chaotic energy to be completely honest. I feel like I like show up into into spaces and spend a lot of time harping on what's wrong about the environment and how like I feel like I don't belong. Like, I feel like I have this like chip on the shoulder almost, especially when it comes to like the art world. And I know that's something that we touched on earlier about, like, okay, what are the ethics of like this landscape? And then how do we fit in? And what is this, like negotiation look like. And I think that's where my desire to really prioritise care came into play. Because I got, like, tired of showing up. I was like, the bitter token black artist, who only wants to talk about strife and trauma and pain, because I started to realise that that became like the language of all of us, you know, and we were doing it, yes, because it was true. And yes, because we have this final opportunity to express what it meant like to be harmed for so long with one another, and feel like really at peace with that by finding solidarity, but then also became really performative, and a way to like, get attention, because you felt like you had to be that in the art scene to get attention to get opportunities. And I feel like that really dismantled the beauty of what being an artist is, which is us just living our lives how we want to, and then we just, like, throw up on a medium, and that's our work. And then the rest of the world is, you know, at this point of negotiation with us, where they get to receive our vulnerabilities, and then articulate what it means for them, and how it's either something they can relate to, or something that challenges them, right. Like artists, we're kind of like the clowns of the world. And that's a really difficult place to be in, no one really takes our work seriously, or values where we do as work to begin with. And yet so much of how our society is shaped comes from the things that we express. And I think that's also why care and us caring for ourselves as artists, is so vital, because like most industries, especially under capitalism, that's not going to be given to us. But we're giving, you know, these things that are, well I mean some of us even are sacrificing our bodies when it comes to how we produce our work. But it's mostly like emotional and mental. And so if your emotional and mental health aren't intact, like, we're all just going to end up crazy. And we're all going to end up drug addicts or committing, you know, violence on to ourselves, because we see that happen a lot in our scene as well, you know, when people don't feel valued for, for their voices, and what they share. So I've learned so much from the people around me about that first. And I think, seeing that in others, like Sofia Moreno is one of my favourite artists, and she is also a Mexican woman and she does like performance art. And I think that was one of the first examples, I saw someone who was like, okay, regardless of the industry, you're my baby, and I got you, how do you express yourself? How do you want to get into the world? And like, let me bring you in and nurture that. So yeah, I think that's how I got started for me in places like Chicago, where that was a big thing.

Julieta Gil 8:22

Wow. Yeah, I connect with a lot of what you're saying, especially this this thing of, you know, not being just understood as an individual and having to fit in certain like categories, right? In my case, it was like, well, you're a woman, and because you make art about, you know, you make maybe art about activism, like, you can't move from there. Because that's your fixed identity. You know, that's what you are. And it's, it's so difficult to navigate that because it's actually like, that's not what I am I many things. And artists are not a fixed identity. They're trying to figure out like some strange, alien thing that's happening in their minds. And they're using art to try to like, just put it out there, right? It's this strange monster thing that we're making. And, and that's the art and it's not even like the final product, right? It's this negotiation between what's in our minds and what we're going through in the world, like the culture around us and how we kind of respond to what we're going through, but it's in constant change too, so yeah, I guess that's something that yeah, I'm, I'm really happy that we were able to touch on these topics during the fellowship, and we had kind of a safe space to be able to talk about like these issues at large and just to yeah, have care, be something that will kind of follow us, accompany us, like after being able to distil what that means right to each one of us just have it been on our side. It's definitely something that I will keep with me, for sure.

Liz Mputu 10:34

Oh, my gosh, absolutely. Go off. You. Yeah, you just said a word. You said so many things that were valuable just now. I really, I really love that you touch on the fact that the art like isn't the product like we are the art, but the person, their lifestyle. How they make themselves up each and every day. And I love that you emphasise that that is in flux, too. So yeah, just sitting with those things. Gonna let that simmer in me.

Julieta Gil 11:10

Yeah, and also thinking about, like, how, one one question that I keep having, but that we I think we were also able to kind of yeah, talk about during the fellowship was when when you're working with institutions. How do you create certain boundaries, right, or strategies of self care? So that, you know, that's at the forefront? Again, because, I mean working with institutions is a form of collaboration. Or it should be a form of collaboration, but oftentimes, it doesn't turn out to be that way. Or it doesn't feel like it's a horizontal space where artists can, yeah, collaborate or negotiate.

Liz Mputu 12:07

Yeah, no, you're absolutely right. And it's, again, another form of violence that we're in limbo with, because we want to be able to present our work, we recognise the validity of these spaces and their value, their reach, and we honour them as like cultural centres and hubs, so that we can, you know, share in this dialogue with the people around us about, again, what it means to live throughout this experience. And fortunately, I think that, through this fellowship, it has allowed me personally to see that it's not impossible to humanise, what an exchange between an artist and an institution should look like. I feel like so often, we are presented with the idea that this institution is this hardwired system and machine and you don't even really know who you're talking to. And if you can talk to somebody. And when we were participating in this fellowship, I mean, even now, during this recording, you have so many different people who are helping to make this possible. And from the beginning of the fellowship, we were always at the table with everybody, and seeing everybody's faces, having them introduce themselves, even having them participate in some of the activities was so valuable to me, because it showed that they realised how essential like the connection, the human connection between one another is in the building, whereas other people will just like extract us for like our resources, and then tell us what our value is, and then keep it moving in this very transactional and just inhumane approach to business. So yeah, I thought that that was like really a strain when it came to like how things were formatted and organised and I really hope to pull from that and be able to use my voice in some way to, to tell other people that I enter into these types of contracts with like, hey, like, no, you can't tell me that this is impossible, because it's already been done. I've already seen it. I've already been a part of it. Yeah.

Julieta Gil 14:29

Yeah. Yeah, I think we have more tools to be able to address maybe certain power imbalances after having gone through this experience. And then I also think that one thing we talked about that I do plan on doing and I would suggest other artists to explore is this idea of creating your own rider, an artist rider, where you can, you know, set the terms and set your boundaries and present those before even starting to work with anyone. And I think it's a way to, again, like it takes us back to this idea of care, and protecting yourself and just setting, setting boundaries that are healthy for you and having people kind of accept them.

Liz Mputu 15:18

Yes. Yeah. I love like, yeah, I love that as an empowerment tool, there's a reason the idea of like, a boyfriend contract comes into my mind. Like, they'd be a few celebrities having like, you sign an NDA before you enter into, like a public relationship with them. And a lot of that seems ludicrous. But in some aspects, like it makes sense. And I think it's really like essential as we're moving past, like moving past capitalism, it's really great to see how these, these ways of negotiating relationships that usually was, like, reserved for something like more intimate and platonic and gets to be implemented into these business spaces, because we're starting to see each other as more than like, professional exchanges, right, we're starting to really see that when we go into business with each other. We're making like an agreement that has to do with like, a social contract as well.

Julieta Gil 16:27

Just about, yeah, like having certain ethics of participation. And if you want to also add, you know, I want hundreds of bags of m&ms on your artists rider, before I start to work, like celebrities do over that stuff. No.

Liz Mputu 16:51

Definitely, honour that, honour who I am and what it takes for me to be myself and show up in my practice.

Julieta Gil 16:58

Yeah, exactly. It's that. Yeah, that and, I don't know, it feels like just how can you make it so that you don't feel you're in a performative space? You know, you're not, nothing's like performative. It's actually real. Like, what you're asking for is real, the collaboration feels real. Because that's another thing I feel right now. It's like, oftentimes, it becomes something to capitalise on, you know, like, the morality or doing things right? Like, people know that, you know, they can't mess up anymore. But do they really mean it? Right? So also, that's another thing I think we talked about during the fellowship, like the difference between really meaning something or really wanting change versus, you know, performing it, and how far you can take that.

Liz Mputu 17:59

Yeah. Yeah. And that's why, you know, the artistt rider so useful because it serves like a metric. And I think when it comes to, like resistance movements, and working with allies, like you mentioned, it's really it's a feel good to have somebody who was well intended, present and sharing their thoughts and opinions, but then it's like, okay, how do we back up your words with your actions? And then how do we actually assess that your actions aren't just perpetuating harm, and then you're covering it up, by utilising this language that is easy to like, relate to, and can be used to like appease us who are asking for that change. And I think that when we're able to, like write things down, document them and say this in black and white, and this and this number, like, this represents a value of sorts to me. And I want to be the one who is able to discern what that value is, and why it means that to me, and either you're able to meet me there or you're not, and it doesn't make or break the legitimacy of what I have to offer. And I think when we as artists start to take control in that way and have these tools in these metrics. It'll be easier for us to walk away from opportunities that otherwise seem like vital to our career that in reality are just compromises over our character.

Julieta Gil 19:38

Yes, for sure. So I might just jump off topic, but I'm really curious to to know what are your next plans after this Liz finishing this fellowship? Do you have any projects lined up? Or any just life plans

Liz Mputu 20:00

Yeah, yeah, I mean, honestly, I'm finding like a lot of fulfilment in being behind the scenes, and working at more of a administrative level when it comes to collaborating with institutions to make sure that other artists can get opportunities and that they're being treated fairly. Because I've found that I've gained like, so much experience when I was a bit younger, when it came to just like, putting out art. And I feel like I had a jovialness about myself that didn't care about the outcome. But now that I'm older, and I have responsibilities, and not only to myself, but to other people, I recognise that some of this is for fun, but some of this is actually quite serious. And the art world is very fun. But there are other things that need to be addressed that are like more serious. And I think, when it comes to like diversity, equity and inclusion, being able to articulate what's like lacking in that area, because it is such a new concept that people are integrating into their system, like I want to be present for that. And I think all of us, you know, as artists who are a little bit more seasoned, I think it's our responsibility to be for the younger artists who otherwise will get taken advantage of and, and not realise that that's what's happening. And then, you know, it will, unfortunately fall into this cycle of being duped, again, by institutions who are able to pool together people who kind of allow them to save face, and buy time without having to actually alter like their behaviour. And if we don't allow the artists who are coming after us to know that that's something that is done, then we're just gonna keep seeing more of the same and no one's actually going to be treated fairly and treated for value for what they're worth. So that's where I'm at with it. What about you?

Julieta Gil 22:02

Incredible. So behind the scenes at administration, and just also it sounds like you're also just being a platform for other artists, which is incredible.

Liz Mputu 22:12

Thank you. We'll see, we'll see what happens, but something's gotta give, you know,

Julieta Gil 22:19

Yeah. I've been thinking a lot about collaboration and opening up my practice, in a way where, you know, I have collaborated before, but I think I wasn't really thinking about what what collaboration means, like, in a deeper sense. And so right now I, I've been thinking about that more, and about what collaboration means to me, and how part of it means that you're kind of opening up a space for other people's ideas to also, yeah, be born and exist, in a way also like thinking about it as just being a platform for others ideas. And, you know, losing control over the work and letting it turn into something that is just the result of a group of people being a part of it and not not oneself. So, I'm really excited about just like implementing, yeah, this kind of, I don't know, more of like an anarchist method of making work and seeing what happens. And then, I guess it kind of relates, but I'm also so now I'm currently teaching arts in a university and just having, having gone through this fellowship, and also just embodying this alternative way of learning and being in a group where there's no hierarchies. There's, you know, it's, it's about just respecting one another about consent, about everyone just being fully present, like the I feel like the values that were a part of this fellowship is something that I'm trying to carry on to my classrooms and figure out ways where, you know, education can be something that's about freedom, of not just freedom of expression, but also freedom to decide when when you want to be there and when you don't, just thinking about kind of non punitive approaches to teaching. And, and yeah, just trying to kind of turn academia around a little bit and see, see what happens. So it's been inspiring for me to see that, you know, we went through this and it was a way of learning you know, it really touched each one of us in different ways, but we We're always eager to participate and be me there. Like for me, it was getting up at seven in the morning, to log on to zoom and just be with all of you. And it was perfect. Like, it turned into like an exciting way to start the mornings. So that worked out for me here, I feel like taking this into the classroom could be, you know, a cool experiment, just to see, you know, with younger folks, this is a structure that works better for them than just your typical kind of academic structure, especially in the arts. If you're teaching art, you have to also allow for, you know, these more open spaces.

Liz Mputu 25:43

Yeah. Yes. Oh, that's so wonderful. I feel like if anybody in the world is able to add some fluidity to the rigidity of academia, it's definitely you, because you'll be able to integrate what's beneficial. Like, I would say, maybe like the discipline that like accompanies that space, with, with more of like, the expansiveness that's needed, as far as like how people are able to like process the information that they're receiving. Because I think when it comes to building up who you are as a person, and then you as a teacher building up another individual, it's like a song and dance, right? There has to be some level of structure because there is like a point to be made. And information is influential in such a sense that you can really take it anywhere. And that's a benefit. But sometimes, there things that like have to be agreed upon to really understand technically the importance of something. And so I really appreciate like, academia for that because much like, you know, this fellowship, it wasn't like random like, okay, well, is Thursday, good for you. Is two o'clock good for you. And he just like come together and convene and hope it all works out like no, there was like, there was a structure that was in place that was giving us an opportunity to say that we valued the insight that we were going to gain from this experience. But then once we had those certain things agreed upon as far as how we would show up, and why we would show up, what happened once we showed up was up in the air. And it's really up to you, wherever you wanted to, and I really valued that. And so I'm imagining, you know, you with your students going through like a similar process, or even you have your faculty, what it would look like for you all, to come together and speak on issues that might be related and might not be, but see the parallels, and extract what's like useful of that into your curriculum into the classroom, how you either relate to the students, or what you allow the students to bring into the space to teach you. And I think especially right now, that's really important, because we see this, like more on education and how people can comply. That is only going to be detrimental to individuals who are seeking to know themselves more, and to be provided the tools to figure out how to go on that exploration. So I'm really excited for you, I'm looking forward to what that process looks like and seeing how that informs your art practice as well.

Yeah, I'm looking forward to it as well. Definitely a lot, a lot to work. You know, it's a lot of work to try to take a structure that's already somewhat I mean, I don't consider that it functions at 100%. But to take something that's already implemented, and try to, yeah, play with it a little bit and take it apart and put it back together. So we'll see.

Yes, I was also some curious to know, because not only are you doing this, but you're doing this, like in a space like you're not needed to in a culture that you're not needed to. And so I was really interested in hearing how your upbringing has informed how you, you know, walk out into the world and enter into these different spaces. And what of it reminds you of growing up and I know you're Mexican, but where in Mexico are you from

Julieta Gil 29:55

Mexico City.

Liz Mputu 29:57

You're CDMX that's so awesome. That's cool. Woah, so yeah, so I want to, I want to hear more about like that cultural exchange and what it's like for you, especially because we have a lot of people from the United States moving to Mexico as well.

Julieta Gil 30:17

Yes, there's a lot of people moving to Mexico from the United States for sure. I think I, I've always gone back and forth. Just, I've had opportunities to study abroad at different moments in my life. And so you know, it, it's felt kind of fluid in that sense that like, since I was six years old, because of my dad's job had to move to the states and then back. And every so often I do that. But it's strange, for me, the strange thing is to be right now making work about Mexico being in Oregon. Because the work that I was making was really inspired by just inhabiting, you know, Mexico City that is such a chaotic and crazy city, and it's full of layers and history and just being there, would kind of inspired me to make this kind of work. And now that I'm here, and there's so much distance. It's strange, but not in a bad way. I guess it's just, we'll see what comes out of that distance.

Liz Mputu 31:40

Yeah. Yeah, because I'm imagining like CDMX. And one of my partners was Mexican, so I got to spend some, some time there. And I love Mexico, Mexico was like one of the first places that I got to really dive into my own African identity. So I value it, and I treasure it like, honestly, so much love for your people. But there's so much music blasting people moving, places to go, and now you're in Oregon. And it's so much slower, and you're not as stimulated. And I feel like you really have to seek out those experiences where, whereas like you said, you you walk into the street in Mexico City, and it's like you're in a living history book, it's amazing, it's like theatre. And so I guess I'm like wondering how that has changed your practice, as well, like just the quietness. And do you feel like when you enter into spaces, you have to be more reserved because of that, or do you feel like when you enter into spaces, you you aliven and you bring all of that energy with you? Or do you just, you know, pick and choose when it's appropriate to really let that out?

Julieta Gil 33:05

Interesting. I think I'm in the situation where I pick and choose, but I definitely see where you're going. Because yeah, I do feel like like sometimes people are excited to be around me just because I'm coming from like, a different background. And people who are here have just been here for such a long time. And it's such a small town, but yeah, it's like I'm bringing new energy into the place. But yeah, I'm also careful to not yeah, become like, you know, just an exotic creature.

Liz Mputu 33:48


Julieta Gil 33:49

Because I'm, yeah, it's like one is more than that, you know? This is just my history. But yeah. I don't know if you encounter situations like that?

Liz Mputu 34:04

Oh, my gosh, I go to New York and people are like, oh my gosh, you from Florida? Its just so funny. Like, it's so funny. Like, how even like slight differences in where we're from and how we belong can really change an atmosphere in an environment. But yeah, I mean, human beings are to be consumed right.

I don't want to get too far.

Julieta Gil 34:43

I don't know if we've segwayed this conversation, but maybe it's a good place to end it. How do you feel?

Liz Mputu 34:55

I feel good. I feel good. Oh, I did want to know what was your first art piece? Which you made, that you can remember?

Julieta Gil 35:08

Just drawings, drawings on paper when I was a kid, I used to love to draw

Liz Mputu 35:17

Any characters or anything?

Julieta Gil 35:21

No. I just remember drawing like the act of it.

Liz Mputu 35:29

That's good. That's good. And it still carries through in your practice, too.

Julieta Gil 35:36

Yeah, I want to be more like a kid when I'm making art now. Just not think about it too much. And just let whatever unexplicable stuff that's going on in the brain come out.

Liz Mputu 35:53

Right. Oh, that was gonna be the last thing I asked. I wanted to know how your piece is going, where your friend is doing, like some performance art. And you're also working with like, these sculptural images and you have like that visual going too, I want to know where you're at with that.

Julieta Gil 36:17

I'm trying to figure out a way to instal it in in a space like how would performance and like a kind of video projection happening simultaneously be? Like, I thought it would be fun to just turn it into a live performance piece where my friend could, yeah, be there doing it in person with maybe the projections, like, turned into a video in the background, and she's just constantly trying to like, sink into that projection through body movements. But it's, it's been a little bit on pause, because she got a new job and has been working full time. So we still need to yeah, we need to figure out a way to make it happen, though. I'm still excited about the project. But it needs yeah, need some care and love to to keep going.

Liz Mputu 37:16

Exactly, playing to your baby. But I'm, I'm really I'm really looking forward to seeing how that ultimately comes together. I can even just like, imagine like the fluidity of her, like her movements and I don't know for some reason I envisioned like maybe like this curtain too, that could be projected onto that she could like float in and out of it. I'm looking forward to it. Okay.

Julieta Gil 37:50

Yeah. Okay, I'll do the last question. Is Femmes at Large happening again, will it? Will it be like a yearly thing or, it has so much potential to just keep going? I feel like it's such a powerful idea.

Liz Mputu 38:09

Yeah, yeah. Thank you. No, Jans definitely excited. We really wanted to produce the again at the end of the year, and also attach a podcast to it. And then maybe try to see if we can might get into the NFT game as well. Because I know Jan, really sees this being like a network and a community and providing people with like opportunities to showcase their talents. And many of the ways that we've already discussed survival throughout this podcast, but we will definitely send a recording, I will remember to and would also really love to have you a part and figure out a way to just yeah, just keep supporting one another in our practices and challenging one another. And what it is we want to present so we will see what happens. I'm excited though.

Julieta Gil 39:13

Yeah, for sure. Count me in. Yes. Happy to participate in any way.

Liz Mputu 39:20

Yeah I mean, even if we could stream your performance, that would be really rad.

Julieta Gil 39:26

That'd be great. Yeah. Lets do that.

Liz Mputu 39:30

Because I think Eyebeam, when Kemi came on have mentioned that they had provided like resources for artists who were into streaming to be able to stream with higher quality. And I think it was like more continuity as well. So I think some resources to tap into.

Julieta Gil 39:49

Sounds great. Yeah, i'm down for that. Okay. Keep the friendship going through art.

Liz Mputu 39:58

Yeah, we will.

Julieta Gil 40:04

Sounds great.

Liz Mputu 40:08

I really enjoyed this time with you.

Julieta Gil 40:11

Me too Liz, it's always a pleasure to get to talk to you. And so happy again that Abandoned Normal Devices was what brought us together. Such a good way to meet each other. So, yeah

Liz Mputu 40:25

Yeah. It's like adating app for artists.

Julieta Gil 40:30

I also describe it as therapy for artists.

Liz Mputu 40:34

Yes, exactly. Intimacy. Such a delight.

Abandon Normal Devices Podcast
Abandon Normal Devices Podcast
Conversations and highlights from Abandon Normal Devices, an arts organisation devoted to promoting digital culture and new cinema.