SHIFT 2015/16 INTERVIEW: YASI GHANBARI
Alex Lee & Nick Witchey (EFA Project Space Interns)
How did your work develop over the course of the residency?
During the two week intensive, I designed the clothes and really started researching the use of hashtag activism. Then I was dragging my feet and not sure what to do. I was reading and talking myself out of things and then finally 2 months before the show I bought hoverboards, asked people to participate, booked a green screen, started writing notes and prompts, and edited. It’s awful, but I think I can only work under pressure. It forces me to make decisions.
Did the experience of working alongside the other SHIFT residents affect your approach and final work?
Yes, in that I don’t typically talk about the work that much while making it. Too much input can be confusing for me and makes me feel like I am running a focus group. I felt that the residency allowed a good amount of feedback, but also allowed time for processing that feedback. It was great to also work towards the final show. I need deadlines.
The empty green screen behind the actors seems to imply both potential and absence. Can you tell us more about the use of green screen in New + Now?
Yes, that is how I described it: an untapped potential that is never used. It’s a metaphor! I guess it also signals “internet” or“digital” which is important without me having to say those words. Also, there is a lot happening visually (in my opinion) and I didn’t want this to be a sensation-overload kind of piece. I want that a little, but I also wanted to create time to process too, so returning to the same green space again and again allows for that.
Who are the three people in the video?
Ben Fama, Rafael Martinez Canales, and Monica McClure. Ben and Monica are poets. Rafael is a therapist who has made appearances in my work before. I wanted people who would feel comfortable with language and were down to ride hoverboards.
Which clothing item from New + Now are you most likely to wear? Have you worn any already?
I use the #ArtistsWithoutTrustFunds tote bag almost everyday.
Why did you decide to show the boom microphone, the cameras, and the production team in the video?
I can’t help myself. I always want to self-reflexively announce that I am making a video. It’s hard because I think I am giving the viewer an opportunity to enter the piece, but sometimes it can also deflect from the message of the piece. Still there is a compulsion. After getting advice from my peers, I cut out a lot of that stuff, but had to leave some in. It’s my thing.
Your work explores themes of social justice through the lens of contemporary internet culture (e.g. hashtags, “What’s Trending” on Twitter, etc.). What do you find significant about the relationship between these two realms?
I guess I wanted to make this piece because I feel completely confused about how to be politically engaged. I’m interested in hashtags as I do think they are helpful for consciousness building, but I also know people use them to feel like they are participating in something or to build some kind of social capital, but do not continue a sustained engagement. New + Now is used to describe the unknown algorithm that dictates what things trend. If we are always interested in the new, it is easy to feel oversaturated and not invested. I’m interested in the tension between the individual and communities, the limits of empathy, and narratives of the good life that perpetuate our own self interest. I’m implicated in all of this.
Hoverboards ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ?
But really, could you tell us about the use of hoverboards in New + Now?
I saw this video of Justin Beiber and Skrillex on hoverboards and thought it was amazing. I was interested in their proximity, but also the circling around, which felt like a metaphor for the internet. Also, I like that the hoverboards signal an imagined future that never really came.