Feature

Kitchen Table Talk 3: Definition of the Self

Eugenia P. Butler

Participants: Eugenia P. Butler, Monica Castillo, Felipe Ehrenberg, Todd Gray, Ann Preston, and Carolee Schneemann

Witness: Judith Hoffberg

Transcribed and edited by Leila Hamidi. Over the course of several issues, X-TRA will print excerpts from artist Eugenia P. Butler’s The Kitchen Table, a project from 1993, in which Butler invited twenty-six artists from around the world to have conversations with her over a series of eight meals at Art/LA, an annual art fair held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The project was conceived to “ride on the back of the elephant of commerce” and took place in a secret room that was built out in the middle of the art fair. Video cameras captured the conversations, which had loose frameworks or themes, and broadcasted them to visitors of the art fair. As an additional layer of observation, art historians Judith Hoffberg and Cuauhtemoc Medina served as a human witnesses throughout the various talks. The following, which took place on December 3, 1993, is the second excerpt from The Kitchen Table series to appear in this journal. See Leila Hamidi’s introduction to the series in X-TRA 13.3 for more details. For an overview of all eight talks and a full list of participants, please visit http:// www.eugeniapbutler.com.

Eugenia P. Butler: [Introduces all participants and witness, Judith Hoffberg.] Welcome to The Kitchen Table. So are you guys hungry? Would you like to have some lunch?

Ann Preston: Some water would be great.

Todd Gray: Where did you fly in from?

Felipe Ehrenberg: I flew in from Mexico City.

Carolee Schneemann: And were you on the same plane?

Monica Castillo: No. I got the same ticket as Monica Mayer, so we had to take the same flight.

EB: Yes, because we flew one of you in for $20 on a two-for-one special. I’ve become an expert on cheap airfares.

[…]

AP: Do you speak Spanish, Carolee?

CS: I understand it; I don’t speak it anymore. […] I lived in Mexico when I was fifteen years old and I’ve never gone back.

AP: How long were you there?

CS: Three and a half months.

AP: Did it make a big difference in who you were?

CS: Oh, yeah, for a fifteen year old it made a very big difference. I got politicized for one thing.

EB: Talk about that. That sounds interesting.

CS: Well, I asked why their cars were so old and broken down and they said, “You [Americans] won’t sell us any parts.” And in terms of technology, economics, sex–all these things were codified in ways that I was just starting to pay attention to. First of all, the Mexican family that I lived with was interesting. They were failed Spanish cotton manufacturers. The father had gone to Mexico to expand from Madrid and left behind four sisters and an increasingly embittered wife. When I arrived as an exchange student on a scholarship, I didn’t know that my government was paying them some fee that they really wanted. […] I was like a little antenna picking up very disturbing things. But because I was American, I had all kinds of privileges that no Mexican had.

FE: Like running around on your own.

CS: That’s right. Running around with the Mexican boys and not being brown. That was very important to them. They have this racial hierarchy. The Native Americans were darker than the Hispanics, who were darker than the Spaniards…

FE: Racism is a major issue in the rest of the continent, not only here in the States.

Eugenia P. Butler, <em>The Kitchen Table, Talk 3: Definition of the Self</em>, ART/LA 93, Los Angeles Convention Center, 1993.

Eugenia P. Butler, The Kitchen Table, Talk 3: Definition of the Self, ART/LA 93, Los Angeles Convention Center, 1993. Stills from the Kitchen Table Hi-8 videos. Courtesy of the Eugenia P. Butler estate. Clockwise, from upper left: Monicá Castillo; Carolee Schneemann; Eugenia Butler and Felipe Ehrenberg; the group; Ehrenberg and Schneemann drawing; Butler; lunch; Ann Preston.

EB: And how does it codify itself differently than here?

FE: Well, with the exception of a few artists, like Rufino Tomayo and Francisco Toledo, any creative work or artistic thing that a brown-skinned person does is craft, and anything, any bullshit, that a white-skinned person does is art.

CS: But artists like James Luna are breaking those expectations by using objects that are part of white culture and degrading their iconic meanings. Luna does these huge installations based on sacred Native American mandalas made out of all sorts of American crapola from five-and-ten-cent stores–like beaded belts that say, “Cherokee Warrior” or “I’m a Navajo,” with phony feathers.

TG: Speaking of that, the Coco Fusco piece that was done…

FE: You mean the Guillermo Gomez-Pena piece?

EB: They were together, weren’t they?

TG: I specifically contextualized it like that because it seems that whenever that piece is reviewed, she’s a parenthetical participant and she’s not quoted.

EB: [To FE] Why did you immediately say, “The Guillermo Gomez-Pena piece”?

FE: Because he has specifically been delving into that issue for at least fourteen years.

EB: And she as well?

TG: She’s been a critical writer.

EB: What is the nature of their collaboration?

TG: Well, as far as installation goes, they both participated and she wrote the text about the piece.

EB: So, it’s her vision in a sense?

CS: It’s theirs. I agree with you shifting the proportion because another kind of cultural problem is equity between couples. I mean, along with race and gender and everything else, to have two artists who are really equal participants is very, very hard for a mythologizing, heroicizing culture to accept.

EB: That’s true.

FE: I jumped at the fact that there was just one name. You said, “The Coco Fusco piece” and I was like, wait a second.

TG: I was baiting you a little bit.

EB: You just brought up something very important. I experienced some of that even last night when I had Marina [Abramovi’c] seated at my right. I had heroicized Marina’s work in a certain way because I’d never met her. I’d been reading about her work and her work is important to me. Part of my struggle last night was to come out of that heroicization. Because that’s what I needed to do in order to be fully engaged in the [Kitchen Table] talk as it was going on. It was quite a struggle; it was very interesting to me.

CS: The need to make that kind of mythology is many layered. But I’m particularly interested in the possibility of having two people who can establish cultural equity. I mean, the obvious example is Yoko Ono and John Lennon. All the artists said: “Yoko has turned into a pop culture whore; she’s left Fluxus behind.” And all the music people were saying: “John Lennon’s ruining his gifts by running around with this stupid artist and her Zen ideas.” Whereas the amalgam in that cultural moment was absolutely extraordinary.

FE: [Speaking to MC] Well, you are, in a sense, as an artist, the heir to a lot of the things that were produced collectively in Mexico. You know, the Group movement itself–let’s not talk about the racial or sexual differences–but just the difference between individuals.

EB: Give us an example.

FE: Well, the Group movement in Mexico was a spontaneous combustion phenomenon.

[…]

TG: Could you bring me up to speed on that? I’m not familiar.

FE: Mexico, like any country’s art, has different stages. So the revolution itself was important. You have the Mexican school of art that universalized and affected the United States, for example, in the Roosevelt years. After that there was an enormous reaction against this nationalistic school of art and abstraction hit the scene. Abstraction and easel painting. The two camps were so polarized that nothing existed in between. An enormous number of artists fell along the roadside because they weren’t in either of those two camps. That was in the fifties, and was called the Rupture generation. But after that came a period of very deep…there was a nothing period.

EB: More of a chaos.

FE: No form, amorphous. And then came the Group movement in the early part of the seventies. Groups started forming, anywhere from four to twenty people. And they didn’t sign by name. They would sign the group signature. […]

AP: Did you participate?

FE: I participated. I was a founding member of one of the very first groups called Pentagon Process. We were four people originally, and the pentagon idea came from the fifth element, which was chance.

MC: You know, I think there’s something interesting about the Groups in Mexico. I’m fifteen years younger than you and I studied in Germany, so there’s a kind of a distance between what happened in Mexico and my education. […] But something very funny is that the artists from that era that I’ve spoken to told me that the Groups didn’t take it so seriously; that all of them were painting parallel to their work in the Groups.

FE: Well, let me put it this way, I mentioned the Groups not for any reason other than what we’re talking about–the individual’s strength as compared to couple relationships. And I brought that in as a lived-through example of what being an individual or not being an individual is about. When you had so many groups, you had that many different possibilities.

[…]

CS: I would like to ask Todd and Ann if you’re from Los Angeles, and about the configuration here in terms of group solidity, group conflicts, and process. Are you from Los Angeles?

AP: Well, no. I wasn’t born here, but after fifteen years, I feel like [a native].

TG: I am from Los Angeles. It’s funny the way the city is mapped out…there’s not much of an opportunity for exchange and for interchange. I find myself going to exhibits, bumping into people occasionally, but very much working in a vacuum. If there is a voice of authority like New York or some major cultural center, it’s not as present. Personally, I’m suspicious of any authoritative voice. I’m suspicious of any movement. When I see a group or an organization start to move in a certain direction, I get suspicious because it’s usually at the expense of myself.

AP: Consensus is a terrible thing.

TG: That’s what I’m getting at. Because I think as it includes, it also excludes. It’s that inclusion followed by the exclusion.

EB: This seems like a very American notion that a group necessarily means consensus. I don’t know that for me a group necessarily means consensus. Maybe it has to do with the family I came from.

TG: I think when groups form, there is this ideology and then the group protects the ideology.

EB: I don’t think that a group has to be about ideology.

TG: What’s the common denominator, then?

AP: What’s the group, then?

FE: We’re a group here.

EB: One of the reasons that I did this is that I found a need here, in this very fragmented Los Angeles society, to have a dialogue with other artists. Not necessarily to have a consensus, not necessarily even to do anything similar in our work or in our lives. But, I think of it as an inside skeleton rather than an exoskeleton. We have certain connections as human beings that have to do with choices we’ve made to be artists, which put us outside of the pale to a certain extent. The kinds of people that I’ve brought together here are people who–if there is anything that I think is similar about them–share an intense amount of independent thought.

TG: Well, that aspect I agree with. It’s just when I see groups, it gets to a point of… I don’t know if you call it a critical mass or solidification, where it turns into cells.

AP: So, it’s a collection. Social selection. Social correction.

Eugenia P. Butler, <em>The Kitchen Table, Talk 3: Definition of the Self</em>, ART/LA 93, Los Angeles Convention Center, 1993.

Eugenia P. Butler, The Kitchen Table, Talk 3: Definition of the Self, ART/LA 93, Los Angeles Convention Center, 1993. Stills from the Kitchen Table Hi-8 videos. Courtesy of the Eugenia P. Butler estate. Clockwise, from upper left: Felipe Ehrenberg; Ehrenberg drawing; Eugenia Butler; Todd Gray; Monicá Castillo and Ann Preston; Ehrenberg, Carolee Schneemann, and Gray.

[…]

TG: Well, one of the better things that happened to me was a collaboration with an artist from Germany. When we came together to talk about ideas in the first few meetings, I was protecting my turf and he was protecting his. Finally, that all eroded and we found a common ground where we could leave our egos and concepts of art at the door and come together. Consequently, we became extremely close. So now I collaborate and I also work individually, and they are two completely different processes. I like giving up my ego for the collaboration.

CS: That’s what you’re getting in Fluxus.

EB: Talk about that for a little bit, I think that’s interesting.

CS: The group processes are redefined by the personalities. Felipe was in exile in London in the seventies, and he gathered together other artists in exile. He provoked us to put our work forward and to share it. We lived in his farmhouse [in Cullompton] and we cooked, and if there wasn’t any food, somebody called somebody in London to bring some money, or bring some wine, or bring some dope, or bring some more paper–whatever we needed. He insisted that it be open and flexible. It was about a shared process for people who had been disengaged from their own specific cultures. And it was completely driven by Felipe’s personality. It was so open and receptive that we all did incredible work. Whereas Fluxus was always much more territorial and keyed into art historical strands of history making. Cullompton was just a wild experiment where we got a chance to work on degraded things, you know? So there wasn’t even that hierarchical sense of: “We have to get an important collector to back this project,” or something. It was raw and in a sense it was wonderful, and it was unique.

[…]

FE: All these elements that we’re talking about–from celebrating possibilities of Fluxus to the absolutely free-for-all collective work possibilities afforded by Beau Geste Press, for example–exist in all these many groups. What they did, though, was change what was a basis for an enormous plurality in the arts.

[…]

CS: [To AP] I wanted to ask you about group affiliation in terms of the feminist movement in California. Was that something that was active for you or not?

AP: I’m definitely a feminist and I care deeply about feminist issues. But to go back to what we were saying about aversion to groups–the minute an “ism” gets tacked on the end of something… My experience with how feminist groups have functioned for me has been to say, “Gee, that’s not very progressive.” Or, “Gee, you are not presenting women in a very constructive light, i.e. ass up,” or something to that affect. But the women that I speak to are probably the most enriching part of my personal, intellectual, and social life. I think the way women speak to each other is very intense, very personal, very direct, very honest. And it is incredibly valuable to me. I have mixed feelings when you go from the specifics of individual interactions into things that are framed in public contexts and definitions. The way that has worked for me is that it hasn’t.

CS: But I’m interested, also, in how feminist issues have resituated art history in ways that we didn’t expect. One way is that America, as a colonialist culture, suppressed its connections to South American and Mexican traditions. Murals were covered and the work disappeared until the mythology of Frida Kahlo brought that whole movement back. That’s a very odd historic event and amazing because through this suppressed feminine, whole masked areas of culture have been reintegrated really unexpectedly.

AP: I can’t define myself in any kind of pure light. When I look back into my own past, I am a colonialist. I am a WASP, you know? […] If you are on the receiving end of the power structure, I really think you have to own up and say this is not democratic.

EB: I think that’s interesting. But then, what do you mean? What is the “this” that is not democratic? And Todd is agreeing.

[…]

TG: All I can do is explain what I heard and how I reacted to Ann’s statement. I came from a black, middle class, nouveau bourgeois family. I had a good education and I was not allowed to speak in black dialect and so forth. I was forced to go to white schools and to try to get along with white people. My experience was a circumstance of the money my parents made and the class that they wanted to propel me into. Hence the way I think, the art [I make], the art institutions I have attended, and places where I have exhibited are an outgrowth of that. It’s a specific experience, and it is not open to everyone. It wasn’t as a result of “land of the free.”

EB: There’s an inherited aspect to those characteristics.

TG: It was a particular experience that wasn’t available to everyone, including some of my cousins. Those cousins of mine exist on a different so-called social level than I do. Because I have this education and I’ve done this reading, I think of myself in this light. I think of myself in this hierarchy and so, in that way, I agree and know that democracy is a farce.

EB: I understand and agree with what you are saying. What I am having difficulty with is that we are the inheritors of our own worlds. So the question becomes what do we do with [that inheritance]? I can’t change my history. You can’t change your history. What can we do?

CS: I don’t really agree with that. I fought like a dog to get a history and I have never stopped. […] Feminist issues weren’t in a social context [when I started making art]. And because it was so early, I’ve always felt that I’m fighting tooth and claw.

AP: Well, I did too. The odd thing is that I think everybody at this table would categorize themselves as a minority of some sort.

MC: Yeah.

CS: But also privileged. Privileged to the extent that we were able to have access to invade the culture. […] There are a lot of my students who disappear and drop out. They come from a background that doesn’t have any privilege at all, where you can’t be an artist because it’s a luxury they can’t afford. […]

FE: You don’t have this middle-class problem in Mexico with people that want to become artists. I’ve been a student of the crafts for thirty years, and there is no question of a young person, male or female, asking their mom or dad, “Is it ok if I become an artist?” The answer would be: “Yeah, just get into the thing.” There is a mechanics in Mexican society for distributing creative work.

MC: Something to understand about Mexican culture is that there is a lot of attention and respect for people that don’t belong to a middle class that create art. […] I am talking about one percent of Mexican artists. But there are highly talented people that don’t belong to a middle class that are indigenous, artists like Rufino Tamayo, Francisco Toledo, German Venegas, and Ruben Rosas. […] And something very important about those artists is that they make high art with low art.

FE: When we speak and think in Spanish, not English, we don’t have access to the same series of terms–like high art and low art, for example. Mainstream and non-mainstream, those are English terms. The very word “performance art,” for example, does not exist in Spanish.

AP: Really?

FE: It exists in some other countries as “arte action.” But in Mexico, we use “performance.” […] High art and low art is a Eurocentric proposition, so that in itself colonizes people. Now, for example let’s speak of Francisco Toledo.

TG: Whose work I am not familiar with.

FE: Please look for his work! I think he is one of the major artists of the twentieth century in the world. He is not a Mexican artist. He is a Zapotec artist from Oaxaca, meaning that his mother tongue is not Spanish; it’s Zapotec. He could have run that gauntlet and become a “minority artist,” had we the terms in Spanish to situate him as a representative of a minority art or as a token artist. But in Mexico, he is designated just as “an artist.” In my very specific case, my name being Ehrenberg has helped me avoid being ghettoized into Latin American shows or Mexican art galleries. I purposely, willfully, and consciously avoid being ghettoized according to Eurocentric art history. For example, shows like “Latin American Art,” “Thirty Hispanic Artists,” whatever it is; these are questions of identity. So these are categories established by the language of art history. You may all too easily fall into them and not be able to scramble out, regardless of what sort of work you do.

[…]

AP: But, what we are really talking about here is multiculturalism and the assets and defects thereof. […] The mere fact that we have spent all of our time talking about multiculturalism in a discussion that is presumably about self is profoundly disturbing to me.

EB: What would you rather we talk about? Let’s go for it. Let’s give you what you need.

AP: I am talking about a very baby-like, egocentric voraciousness. That is what I identify as a fundamental core of self.

EB: You are on to something interesting when you talk about the voracious core of the being. To me, that’s part of the engine that makes art. There is also this other part that we haven’t been talking about. When I make art, I explore myself. I empower myself. I become, as a human being, more powerful in that I inhabit myself more fully. And with my art, I can give more deeply. That’s as much a part of the definition of self as anything else. That’s my interest in the definition. I see myself and I can see the arc of who I have been up until now. The act of art making has made me who I am, which has fueled an ability to fight tremendous odds.

AP: Alternatively, we could view it as masturbation.

CS: I would never get those things mixed up.

GROUP: Laughter.

CS: Paradoxically, for me, when I am working, I disappear. I am not there, and that’s what I’m always looking for. I am trying to get to the place where I am in the state of dissolution. Whatever the material might be, if I am editing film, it’s getting to the place where I have to get rid of myself.

[…]

MC: I kind of work from a different point of view. I conceive an idea, and the idea that hurts–that’s the good one. And then I realize that. I work on that until it’s there. I develop it. So, I don’t ask myself too much about the unconscious. I work in a very unconscious way and if it gets to the point that it hurts, that’s the right thing. I don’t think that it’s so important to be that aware of the process.

FE: I identify with that very much. […] I’m not too worried about whether it’s a metaphysical process. But I do enjoy the fact that it’s a task. There is nothing else I would be doing, that I could or would want to be doing at that moment. It’s my job. I get up in the morning and I think, and make several phone calls. What to do with that person that has been disturbing me? Where to collect that money? What to do with that piece of wood? Whether I have to wash those things. You know, it’s a continuum of circumstances that eventually ends up being a series of pieces.

EB: Is that different from the way you work?

AP: Absolutely. I search for ecstasy.

GROUP: Laughter

EB: Talk about that a little bit.

TG: Is that the search for death?

AP: Yes, I think sometimes. I think the two are very closely related. I tend to evaluate pieces exactly on where I got to emotionally for that piece. I am not saying that my process is ecstatic daily in my studio. God no. Maybe once in three or four months I will get to the point where all the little jigsaw pieces have come together and I will go, “Uh, yeah.” […] The process is tedious and boring and dull. I spend forever on it, but it’s almost like a whirling dervish. You just keep going at it and going at it until you are absolutely bored to chills.

EB: See, I don’t think there is that much difference between the processes you are describing.

CS: Absolutely. I recognize that, too.

FE: But I enjoy it very much. I like the tediousness of it.

AP: Mine’s very painful. I am not enjoying myself in my studio. I keep wishing that I could.

FE: I enjoy the fact that this goddamned screw won’t go in or that the wood has splintered three times. I keep working at it until I figure it out. That gives me an enormous pleasure. I like sweeping the studio, and it is a large studio. I sweep and sweep, you know, it’s really big.

MC: I wouldn’t enjoy that.

EB: I only sweep when I do enjoy it.

TG: It seems like those pleasures that Felipe is describing are A + B = C, where action will render results and there’s resolve. But I think what I’m hearing from Ann is that she doesn’t know where A is located, she doesn’t know where B is located, but she really wants to get to C. And so that is where the fear is. At least, that is what I got out of it.

AP: It is a very, very anxious, unpleasant process.

EB: At times, mine is as well–terrifying.

TG: How so?

EB: It’s terrifying when I am working towards something and I can’t really understand what that “something” is. Yet all of myself is moving towards that. There are no familiar landmarks and there is nothing to even give me a sense of whether I am falling, going up or going down; that’s painful. There are times when I can enjoy it, when I can say “Oh, this isn’t pain, this is flight.” While planning this project, I woke up for a good month and a half every morning thinking: “What have I taken on? What am I going to do? How am I going to do this? What is this going to be like? Who are these people?” It was so incredibly out of control, which is what I looked for. But then, when I was in it, there were moments of incredible, gleeful, high flight. […] [To TG] What about your process? What is your process like?

TG: I am schizophrenic. I am driven by guilt. I am driven by the history of being all the people that died to get me here; specifically the people that came from Africa. I am very privileged, and because of that I can’t fuck up. That is with me a lot, and that’s what I fight with. I can’t fuck up. I don’t feel I can just follow a Modernist tradition of making art for art’s sake, just dealing with an aura of genius. […] On the other hand, I have a desire to make beautiful things. I go into the world. I turn on the TV. I drive down the street. I talk to my son, and I have this need to make something really beautiful that I can look at and go, “Ah.” I also have a need to give myself a voice, to use my materials for my voice. So at times I will give myself voice by making agitprop-type work. And then I will say: “Ok, now I need to make some work that is really just gorgeous.” […]

AP: You may find that guilt and beauty go together really good.

EB: Do you find that?

MC: Yeah, I do. I was educated in a very Catholic way.

TG: I’m Catholic, too.

EB: Yeah, me three.

MC: I am really interested in the cannibalistic part of Catholicism, and I think that is what my work is about. I relate to all these Catholic images that are so much related to blood and death, and to how spirit and flesh come together, and I think that has a lot to do with guilt and beauty.

EB: Spirit and flesh and guilt and beauty?

MC: I think they are the columns of the Catholic mind.

[…]

CS: I’ve never felt any guilt about my work at all, never. I’ve felt petrified. The performance work is always terrifying and I never want to do it at all. It’s like this pressure; it’s like a monkey on my back. It’s this voice that won’t let go, saying: “Now that you’ve done the drawing of this woman with her legs up pulling text out of her vagina, that drawing is not good enough. Now, you actually have to do it.” And I say, “I don’t want to do it. Leave me alone, go away.” And then it’s sitting there saying, “You’re not going to have your real meaning if you don’t do it. You have to do it”. […] All the pieces are terrifying; the group pieces are terrifying. Because the further I go out to somewhere where I’ve never been, I’m never sure it’s going to be okay. […]

EB: I hear such a parallel to what Monica was saying as well, that you go for what you’re afraid of. You go to the place that’s uncomfortable. Marina [Abramovi’c] was talking about that last night, and I think that that’s very powerful. We move towards that which almost repels us, in a sense, because I think that’s part of the risk of the self.

MC: It’s a way of defining ourselves also. […]

CS: I have a problem that I’m wondering if anyone else has. I dream a lot of my work, and when I wake up I have this complete vision of this installation with these motorized elements: how many there are, what it has to look like. And then I think, “Did somebody else already do this? Is this my dream, or did I pick it up?” And it really drives me batty because I’m really not sure. So I get on the phone with the most knowledgeable person in the art world and say: “Did you just see twenty-five ropes being turned back and forth on a geared-down motor?”

TG: No, but can you dream work for me?

GROUP: Laughter.

EB: I dream about my work, but I get excited. I think of it as a gift.

CS: Oh, it is. It’s fabulous. I’m thrilled. I draw it, but I’m still not sure where I got it.

EB: That’s interesting. It never would occur to me that I would get it from anyone else but this big place, this…

FE: …This major warehouse of ideas–and you’re probably stepping on somebody else’s dream.

CS: Did somebody leave this here and they’re coming back?

EB: No, no.

FE: I have two sorts of dreams, ones that generate, and ones that solve a given problem, like joining something. I have them at different times of the night. I think the technical ones happen earlier and by the time I wake up, I know how I have to build something. The other ones come in a half dream, before I wake up. Those are the ones where I float around fragmented, unspoken ideas. They’re all very visual. You know you’re working on something, but it is the longer dreams you have before you wake up; they’re very strange.

EB: I write mine down.

CS: Yeah, but I don’t want anyone talking to me. I get a whole lot of information. I get titles and instructions, fugitive thought. It’s not going to be there at 9:30 a.m.; it’s only there at 8:15 am. Whole statements, whole essays appear just when I’m really stuck.

TG: It’s funny, the litmus test for me is not writing it down, because, if the ideas are quality ones, I will remember them.

MC: Yeah, I do the same thing.

AP: I sleep like a log.

GROUP: Laughter

[…]

EB: Well maybe this is a good place to wind it up. Thank you. It was so rich that it was as if everything else disappeared for me.

EugeniaP. Butler was a Los Angeles-based artist who played a formative but often overlooked role in the Conceptual art movement. Her early text-based works, such as Negative Space Hole and A Congruent Reality, were conceived of as invisible sculptures that prompted the activation of the viewer’s imagination to complete the piece. Aside from an eight-year pause in art making, when she moved to South America to raise her daughter and study shamanism, Butler had a prolific career that spanned over forty years. After returning to the States in the early eighties, Butler resumed her studio practice with a focus on physical objects, including drawings, paintings, sculpture, and furniture. Beginning in 1993 with the Kitchen Table talks, Eugenia also developed public dialogues as part of her practice. She was an integral member of the Los Angeles art community and mentor to many young artists.

Monica Castillo trained in Mexico and Europe. She obtained various scholarships enabling her to study drawing and engraving at the Scuola Germanica in Rome and painting at the German art schools Freie Kunstschule Stuttgart and the Akademie der BiIdenden Kunste, also in Stuttgart. She has been exhibiting her work, which has been seen the world over, since 1984, and has taught art in Mexico and the United States. While she began her career with an orientation toward Conceptual art, the subjects of her work later came to revolve around the concept of femininity, broken femininity, and the face as an emblem of identity. At times she contrasts the self-portrait with the photograph. Her main concerns are the problems of representation, and she offers a referential examination of her own face, in which she seeks her identity and her memory. While she voluntarily limits her subject matter, she presents it in a rich language, achieving an imaginative, varied body of work that includes painting, the painted object, photography, and videotape.

Edited excerpt from: http://www.fundacion.telefonica.com/es/ at/mexico/paginas/13.html#3

Felipe Ehrenberg, born in Tlacopac, Mexico, trained first as a printer, then as a visual and graphic artist under various teachers and mentors. He has had almost one hundred one-person shows and has participated in some two hundred major group shows and biennials in the world’s major capitals. Recognized in his country as an extraordinary draughtsman, he is better known on an international level as a mail and media artist, and for his performance and installation works. Ehrenberg is especially respected as a book artist, a field in which he is recognized to be a seminal proponent. The artist is an assiduous writer who specializes in contemporary culture. His fifty-year retrospective exhibition, “Manchuria: Peripheral Vision,” curated by Fernando Llanos and organized by the Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, traveled to several venues including the Centro Cultural Universitario, Monterrey, Mexico, and the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, California, in 2010. Edited excerpt from: http://www.ehrenberg.art.br/bio.html

Todd Gray received his BFA and MFA from California Institute of the Arts. Gray is currently a Professor of Art at California State University, Long Beach. Gray has shown his performance work at REDCAT, New York University, University of Houston, Syracuse University and the Kunsthochschule fur Medien, Koln, Germany. He has exhibited his photo-based work internationally and is represented in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; MOCA, Los Angeles; University of Parma, Italy and others. Gray maintains studios in Inglewood, California and Akwidaa, Ghana.

Leila Hamidi is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles. She was profoundly influenced by her mentor, Eugenia Butler, who impressed upon her the value of collaboration and a deep curiosity for all disciplines. Her interests outside of fine arts have lead to positions with Taschen Books and the Los Angeles-based architecture firm Johnston Marklee. She is currently working as a project assistant for Pacific Standard Time, a Getty initiative to explore the post-war art history of Los Angeles through a network of over sixty partner museums and institutions that will culminate in a series of citywide exhibits starting October 2011.

Judith Hoffberg was an art librarian and curator who was a major influence in the emergence of books as an artist’s medium. Starting in 1978, Hoffberg edited and published Umbrella, a journal increasingly dedicated to artists’ books. Umbrella was printed through 2005 and then published online through 2009. [The archive is available at http://www.umbrellaeditions.com./] Over about twenty years, Hoffberg curated more than twenty exhibitions, including “Women of the Book,” which opened in 1997 and toured the country for several years. She also was an authority on mail art and Fluxus. Edited excerpt from: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jan/28/ local/me-judithhoffberg28

Ann Lee Preston is a sculptor and painter who lives in the Los Angeles area. She was educated at California Institute of the Arts, Boston Museum School, and Swarthmore College. She is a recipient of an NEA grant, has had numerous one-person shows in New York and Los Angeles, with reviews appearing in national publications such as Art in America. The Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Los Angeles, currently represents her sculpture. Her work is included in various museum collections. She has taught graduate and undergraduate programs at University of California Los Angeles, Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and Otis College of Art and Design. Public artworks include major pieces at the San Francisco Airport, San Francisco Court House, Los Angeles Central Library, Anaheim Arena and, most recently, a large permanent installation at the Manon Caine Russell Kathryn Caine Wanlass Performance Hall at Utah State University. Another recent project, in collaboration with architect Roger White, is a proposal for solar generator fields in Abu Dhabi for the 2010 Land Art Generator Initiative. The works in her 2010 one-person show at the Rosamund Felsen Gallery used the same mathematical principles and structures featured in the Abu Dhabi project.

Carolee Schneemann is a multidisciplinary artist who transformed the definition of art, especially discourse on the body, sexuality, and gender. The history of her work is characterized by research into archaic visual traditions, pleasure wrested from suppressive taboos, and the body of the artist in dynamic relationship with the social body. Her painting, photography, performance art, and installation works have been shown at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; Whitney Museum of American Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York; the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. She has taught at New York University, California Institute of the Arts, Bard College, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has been the recipient of many awards including Art Pace International Artist Residency; Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant; Guggenheim Fellowship; Gottlieb Foundation Grant; National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Schneemann has published widely; her books include Cezanne, She Was a Great Painter (1976), Early and Recent Work (1983); More Than Meat Joy: Performance Works and Selected Writings (1979, 1997), Imaging Her Erotics (2001), and Correspondence Course: An Epistolary History of Carolee Schneemann and Her Circle (2010), a selection of her letters, edited with Kristine Stiles.

Edited excerpt from: http://www.caroleeschneemann.com/bio. html