Linda Mary Montano and Nicolás Dumit Estévez use e-mail as the channel through which they engage in a Q and A on Linda’s archive of four decades and the archive's recent journey from the Art/Life Institute in Kingston, NY, to the Fales Library and Special Collections at New York University. During this discussion Montano, a seminal figure in performance art and the art of everyday life, talks about her art-life in relationship to consumerism, the environment, the spiritual, aging, death and creative renewal.
THE ARCHIVE FLIES THE COOP, says Linda Mary Montano
" More than anything I wish to thank everyone who mentored me, supported the archives over the years, encouraged me, helped me put things in boxes, hugged me and on the last day videotaped and performed to celebrate the archive flying the coop." Montano.
NDE: Linda, I had the opportunity to see the video documenting your recent celebration in Kingston, New York. Was this your official farewell to your archives as they got ready to journey from the Art/Life Institute to the Fales Library and Special Collections at New York University?
Linda Mary Montano: Nicolas, yes, this was a send off of about 100 boxes to Fales, although I've kept back about 20 more boxes which will be sent there in the future and I am absolutely grateful to Marvin Taylor and Lisa Darms for inviting me into their art-safe-place.
Because I've been thinking archive for sometime, I have mused on why archives are so in the zeitgeist right now! Is it because as living baby boomer artists we are facing some inevitabilities as we:
1. Look around and see all of our tons of "stuff" piling up around us.....
2. Realize that paper, like dinosaurs, is "over" and that the future of saving is virtual and internet and invisible....
3. Age and know for sure that our relatives might landfill our art when we die.....
4. Watch too many hoarding reality shows and don't want to be identified as one and really know we are one.....
5. Realize that the next and next and next generation of artists might like to see what we were thinking...
6. Call our art our baby, our only child and insist on finding a final home for her/him/them.....
7. Watch global weather patterns and wonder how much longer our "stuff" can survive undamaged in our studios.....
Recently Franklin Furnace gave a call out for an archive project which addresses every single question or issue you might have about archives and I include the post now in it's entirety because I liked it so much and it might be of use to someone wanting to become part of this project. The post follows:
RADICAL ARCHIVES CONFERENCE
NYU, Friday, April 11-Saturday, April 12, 2014
Call for proposals for panels, papers, and performances
Deadline: Friday, January 10, 2014
Radical Archives is a two-day conference organized around the notion of archiving as a radical practice. An international contingent of archivists, artists, artist-archivists, activist archivists, theorists and scholars working within a range of archives and archival practices will be invited to present and discuss archives of radical politics and practices; archives that are radical / experimental in form or function; how archiving in itself might be a radical act in certain moments or contexts; and how archives can be active in the present, as well as documents of the past or scripts for the future.
The conference will be organized around four major themes, include a number of presentation formats, and be supplemented by / documented through an online catalogue. We are calling for contributions relevant to these themes. Proposed formats could include panels, roundtables, individual papers or artist talks, performances or performance-lectures, screenings, interactive screen-based projects or live participatory projects.
Archive and Affect
Possible topics could include, but are not limited to: embodied/ performed archives; archive and repertory; buildings as archives; oral and informal histories; private versus public archives, and transitions between those states; warm versus cold data
Archiving Around Absence
Possible topics could include, but are not limited to: disappearing archives; deliberately destroyed archives; inadvertently preserved archives, or unofficial histories within official histories; reading for the shadows; strategies of resistant or counter-archiving
Archives and Ethics
Possible topics could include, but are not limited to: stealing from archives; stealing as the foundation of archives; strategies of refusal or resistance to archiving; ownership of archived testimonies; intellectual property versus intellectual propriety; the afterlives of archives designed for specific purposes, e.g. archives of protests, activist movements, and human rights initiatives; the ethics of open access; FOIA and its discontents
Archive as Constellation
Possible topics could include, but are not limited to: archive as method; the artist's archive; the expanded archival field or notion of the archive; linking of archives across networks; film as archive; subversive or experimental uses of metadata, cataloguing and classification; archive and database, database and interface; how standards and interfaces shape our understanding of collections and the information they contain
To propose a paper or panel, please send an abstract (max 1 paragraph per paper) and brief speaker bios. To propose a contribution in another format, please send a 1-page description of content & form and up to 3 pages of relevant images/links.
Proposals due Friday, January 10, 2014
If you have any questions about proposal/contribution format or topic, send us an email. Index of the Disappeared (Mariam Ghani & Chitra Ganesh) firstname.lastname@example.org
The conference is presented by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU, where Ghani and Ganesh are the 2013- 2014 Artists-in-Residence, and co-sponsored by the NYU Archives & Public History program.
Please contact Amita Manghnani at A/P/A if you are interested in co-sponsoring: email@example.com
NDE: I understand that your art practice of more than four decades must have generated a significant amount of materials, including photographs, letters, and props. How do you feel about parting with them and how does this endeavor relate to your concept of “Spring Cleaning” as an art and life pursuit?
LMM: What an art colonic event that was, preparing every single item, paper-by-paper, document by document, letter by letter, because in cleaning out the amassed materials I found, yes, everything:
. galleys of 5 books
. my letters home when I was in a convent which might make an interesting book
. 100 never published interviews with performance artist's from PERFORMANCE ARTISTS TALKING IN THE 80'S
. Chicken Wing drawings from my MFA show
. the VHS of my students' good-bye performance for me at UT Texas
. Mitchell Payne's photos of all of my early performances
. my father's incredible and Zenish paintings after he had a left brain stroke
. then Texas Governor George Bush's letter of support for my performance art job at UT Austin
. letters of apology to my mother when I was 4
. and lots of other things to laugh and cry over.
But honestly, because I never had a child I began feeling very precious about my past art adventures as I aged and developed some health issues.....and I wanted my materials and documents to be safe and happy and secure. The added benefit is that I now have a new openness, an actual and mental space, a feeling of been there done that and a chance to breathe in a new direction. It is a happy retirement feeling. The timing was organic and natural because years ago I would never have been able to part with the surrounding comfort of my creations and when it did happen and they drove off with those boxes, I wondered if this meant that death was right around the corner (which it always is), or if I was getting ready to live LIFE as ART.
NDE: Archives, together with social engagement and pedagogy have become a hot topic within the arts. How does the subject of archives fit into your seminal practice?
LMM: My practice has always been to listen to my voices. Sometimes they are not correct but in general they guide me to do what I need to do. For some 10 years I have been performing/thinking the word "archive" and putting out the desire to have my work saved from the wrecking ball. My video ARCHIVE FOR SALE, was made maybe 5 years ago as a reminder to the air that I was thinking archivally and whenever I put out a request to the "air", then I feel a collaboration with the possibility of things happening. In some circles this is called Prayer....Put the idea out, visualize it as happening, don't doubt.
NDE: Was there a specific item in the banker’s boxes that was difficult to part with? Do you feel comfortable elaborating on this?
LMM: So funny Nicolas, BANKERS BOXES!!! Don't you remember I was once a nun and grew up in war years and the depression mind? Those boxes are the correct way to do it...all lined up equally and strongly and perfectly. Like BANKERS!!! The boxes I used were hippie-looking, arte povera, wine boxes and raggedy packing boxes from grocery stores. And the joy of collecting 100 of these was an action of consequence in itself because every day I would go to the liquor stores on my way to Kingston, get 4 or more, and that became such an important dance step in this process of performing the handing over of my things to NYU.
NDE: I am curious as to the future performative lives your art archives may lead to at the Fales Library and Special Collections. Is the material culture that your art practice has generated open for reinterpretation? These days there is so much buzz about “re-performing.”
LMM: Who knows what will happen. Someone might do things with it. But I have no desires right now for any re-staging or repeating or reseeding of my work. If it happens, fine. Performance is not a hidden Iron Mountain specialization anymore. Everyone performs and Youtubes their life.....If my performance language from 40 years ago would be of value, then I hope it will be used, but what is happening now is just as insightful and inspiring. Basically I like going down in the history as one of the elders and grandmothers of the 70's form. No big deal, just a grandmother talking a strange language.
NDE: Only you, LMM, would think of biblical food in the context of a goodbye archives party. Can you talk about any possible connection between the two? I can’t stop thinking about the biblical manna. After all, this item can be linked to the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, and it certainly speaks of pilgrimages, and journeys through the wilderness.
LMM: For the archive party, I indicated on the invitation, that there would be "biblical" food, popcorn (manna) and wine (Communion). Also there would be a prize for the best popcorn so that the opening would feel participatory. Women who want to be Catholic WOMENPRIESTS, as I always did, (there are now about 150) will do anything to link their art to the priest-priestess vehicle.
Nicolas, because you went to Union Theological Seminary and studied all of that theology, you are reading even more beauty-theology into my intentions which I totally like. Popcorn had always been a symbolic food that I used in past performances because of its association with my father and his showing love for us by making popcorn. The love is in each kernel, till this day and isn't that what Communion is all about?
NDE: How does it feel to let go? Any advice for those of us artists and art and life practitioners still weighed down by file cabinets of slides, photographs, half-chewed loafs of bread and bits of scabs from past pilgrimages?
LMM: Oh BABY! I wish luck to all archive-wanters. It is such a double-edged sword......making, storing, keeping, recording, saving, sharing, recycling. If only it was as easy as a SHARE BUTTON...........which is actually the next life of all of these papers/documents and things. Yipee, a fast-track to eternal salvation. There eventually will be a robot who can sort it all, archive it all. Wait a few years.
NDE: I visited you once at the Art/Life Institute. Now that your archives are at New York University, how do you see the role of this space in terms of your art practice?
LMM: Selling it, although I totally love this space. Paring down.
NDE: Any tips for archiving art and life and the performative aside from video, film and photography?
LMM: The Web. And pay the fee now, pay $$$$ ahead of time and reserve our website for the next 40 years and then we are guaranteed that it will always be there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Or is this just a deep, unconscious yearning for posterity and heaven, not hell.
Having an archive is really a way to dislodge a deep and abiding FEAR OF DEATH AND DYING. All this legacy talk about sharing my work with others is total bull. I'm really afraid of being totally nothing.
NDE: You are one of those artists who have the capacity to keep reinventing themselves. What are the implications of this in your existing archives or in an incipient one?
LMM: Now when someone wants to give me a paper or book, I run away screaming.
Linda Mary Montano (born January 18, 1942, Saugerties,NY)
Montano's work investigates spiritual energy states, silence and the cessation of art/life boundaries via intricate, life-altering ceremonies, some of which last for seven or more years. She is interested in the way artistic ritual, often staged as individual interactions or collaborative workshops can alter and enhance a person’s life. www.lindamontano.com
Nicolás Dumit Estévez (b. 1967) treads an elusive path that manifests itself through experiences where the quotidian and art often overlap. During the last seven years he and Linda Mary Montano have performed several collaborative endurances. Estévez holds degrees in art and theology. Born in Santiago de los Treinta Caballeros, Dominican Republic, he was recently baptized as a Bronxite; a citizen of the Bronx.
LIST OF IMAGES SUBMITTED:
Montano_01: Photograph courtesy of Linda Mary Montano
Montano_02: Photograph courtesy of Linda Mary Montano
Montano_03: Photograph courtesy of Angelika Rinnhofer