Traffic Report

An Interview with Lara Schoorl & Timo Fahler

1. What are you working on right now? Why?

We are working on a year-long migrating exhibition series with the artist-run space BBQLA, called american fine arts (afa). BBQLA's afa will travel from city to city across the US and form a narrative in response to different current and historical events both locally and nationally. Comprising seven parts, afa will show the work of young artists in artist-run spaces, galleries, alternative spaces and institutions across the country. Part 1 opened in Los Angeles at BBQLA on January 27, 2018 and part 2 opened April 14, at Cloaca Projects in San Francisco. The project contains several layers. It is a dedication to artists-run spaces across the US (and beyond, we are currently in conversation to bring the project to Mexico and Canada as well, because what does "American" mean). In a way, it is also a survey of young voices responding to what it means to be an artists today in contemporary "fine" art. Alongside the exhibitions we are writing a book that will archive the project as it goes. We see the book as a place that facilitates and reacts to the unfolding narrative in a creative response offered by Lara Schoorl as a writer travelling and working with BBQLA.

2. Can you share a piece of recent work (it doesn't have to be something you did at SMALL TIME)?

This is something short we co-wrote at Small Time as a prompt for the first reading/performance event we organized in Los Angeles.

A spider speaks from the corner of the room:

“I have a favor to ask of you. I really want you to try and do this and I would prefer that you take it seriously. You already know this. You have felt it before though you may not remember it. Actually, I know you don’t, but also know that you do, somehow. Innately. You are not truly able to do this, because you cannot remember doing it and if you can you are probably lying. Still, I ask you to try. Perhaps a memory of having done this is kept in a specific brain cell? Perhaps it is kept inside the skin of your head, where your body felt oxygen for the first time? I want you to remember this because it is a beginning, and this beginning is a threshold. I want you to utilize the eyes in your mind and picture yourself leaving your mother’s womb ‘[…] the eye, like the skin, is another site where culturally constructed opposites turn out to be inseparable, where mind and body collaborate’ (Mieke Bal, 1999).”

3. What was your SMALL TIME residency like? How did the time/space/environment impact your work, if at all?

SMALL TIME was a beginning for us. To be in Point Arena was to not be in Los Angeles; our residency provided us with a place and with time in which our physical presence could be fully dedicated to our book project, as a place: american fine arts; an allegory for america. Moving out of our routine in Los Angeles and creating a new temporary one in Point Arena became a huge influence in an environmental context. For example, we would wake up with sunrise, and make our plan for the day which consisted of reading topic-related works out loud to each other, walking or running in the monument/park which allowed for informal conversations and reflection, and taking part in previously set up Skype meetings with artists, writers and curators. The new landscape around us provided us with metaphors and/or an empty canvas in which we could imagine the possibilities of our exhibition and book projects, without being interrupted by social obligations, work and other happenings we naturally tend to in our homes in Los Angeles. Literally following the pace of day we had a different amount of time on our hands that we could use very productively and specifically. Additionally, the combination of writer/artist collaboration was relatively new to both of us as a working practice. We found ourselves utilizing each others strengths in tandem to focus on our project in a new way.

4. What do you think is urgent about art making in this particular socio/political/ecological moment?

This is one of the questions that leads many of the conversations we have with artists, curators, and organizers who we talk to in regard of our project, american fine arts. What does american "mean" in different places in America, how do artists, writers, and organizers respond to that. Does everyone have an obligation to move us forwards. During our recent visit to San Francisco for the opening of the second exhibition of afa, we asked the artist Matthew Angelo Harrison if it is the responsibility of the artist to progress us to a better place. His response was that the responsibility that certain artists take in creating positive change is great, but that it is necessary too for there to be artists who create chaos or emphasize the darkness. We think that to keep an engaged dialogue with a contemporary and locale (as part of a larger place) through art on however small a scale is important in order to keep thought and opinions in movement. Overall we consider ourselves a flow of hope or optimism, BBQLA and this project is birthed from struggling artists and a backyard gallery. It is hope that has brought us to a place where we can provide a platform for others through exhibiting work of artists who are themselves struggling to find their footing in a difficult creative climate.

5. Does the Bay Area figure into your work at all? How?

Yes, in a general way, and through our survey's narrative every city and place becomes a figure in the story. The story is America, it is Canada, it is Mexico, it is our relationships to and with each other. We are doing all we can to be as inclusive as possible under the circumstances, and we expect our relationships to grow with everyone as we move across the country.  For chapter two of afa, "on the tip of my tongue," which takes place in San Francisco, we have had conversations with artists and writers from the Bay. Regardless of the intention many of those talks touched upon the environment the artists are working in, how they moved from and through several areas and studio spaces and came upon the city, as many artists migrate to city centers from rural locations. For this part of our book we will speak more in-depth with people from the Bay about the art scene, its history and thoughts for the future.

6. What is something you're kind of obsessed with right now?

Timo: Movement. I am trying to understand and tap into a flow that understands my placement without expectation. I am a worker, a maker, an organizer, a service to others, a cultural commentator and reporter. All of these notions combine to enhance my creative output. There is a positive energy in that, but there is a negative space there too and I suppose I am trying to make my terms with understanding that. I think too much sometimes, that's obsessive and not always beneficial.

Lara: The materiality of language. This is something that I have been trying to grasp in grad school, and although I could understand how language could be understood as something material then, I never felt I was able to perceive it in such a way. Tied to the material yes, but mostly words themselves remained intangible for me. Working on part 2 of afa, "on the tip of my tongue," I have started to form an understanding on what the physicality of language means for me. How a word becomes part of the breath right before it is spoken. Breathing words, following Cecilia Vicuña, is something I am obsessed with at the moment.