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Monday, June 15, 2015

INTERVIEW ELIZA SWANN AND LINDA MARY MONTANO

INTERVIEW: ELIZA SWANN AND LINDA MARY MONTANO




Perfect Wave Magazine is doing a special print edition for the New York Art Book Fair featuring the Golden Dome School. We're doing a kind of round robin panel discussion where participants all ask each other questions. A few of the participants had questions for you - your answers would be printed in Perfect Wave along with a picture of your work.

Here are the questions for you - answer any or all that you feel like answering - I'd love to have your input:

From Monica: I have been reading and re-reading your conversation with Eliza for BOMB and scribbling notes on all of it. You both mention the idea of intention: that is, using the self—more specifically, the self as represented by the body—as a catalyst for renewal, change. I know you have also worked with what you call “creative schizophrenia”: becoming other people within your own body, and then later practicing meditation to even get out of your body. I would refer to creative schizophrenia as a kind of spiritual practice, especially because it involves transformation.
LINDA MARY MONTANO: When I sat in front of a video camera for a year in 1975, I talked to it as  different people, all successful, all women, all wild, all somewhat wacky and ironical. WHY? I was in a very compromised emotional situation and completely unable to deal so I dealt the only way I knew how! By getting out of my mind because I was out of my mind! I became other people as art! SMART, I must  say. And yes transformative because I kept at it and as another big emotional crisis occurred, I started becoming real, not imaginary people: Mother Theresa, Paul McMahon, Bob Dylan and Hillary Clinton. OK, now why? In retrospect, I see it as  a way to practice being the "flesh-me." A way to prepare to let go of me via death and also theologically because from the point of view of all spiritual teachings, we are ONE and EVERYTHING .  So, actually, I am preparing via my art to experience that ONE!


I am curious about how you corresponded with your inner child as you explored other “selves.” Did you “consult” with her? I like to think of the inner child as a core, a “rootedness” of the soul. In what ways was transforming your personality, or acknowledging its fluidity, healing for the internal, younger parts of yourself?
LINDA MARY MONTANO:  I corresponded with the inner child by playing as she would, by allowing the  flesh-Linda to be led by the intuitive one, the child one.
From Eliza: At the Golden Dome "High Priestess" session, we spent a lot of time with the Void, creating from the Void space, and invoking creation myths that overcome dualism and emphasize interconnectedness and interdependence. What is your Creation myth? How did the Universe get started, and how does your story of this beginning influence the way you make art?
LINDA MARY MONTANO: Only when I am invited to DO, not think about this question, does it become real to and in me. I would have to spend a month in retreat and in workshop to be able to answer this question. In fact, I would like to hear about your experiences and solutions to this question since you all spent time IN IT.
From Monica: At the Golden Dome, we briefly touched on blockages, and the idea of communing with the Void as a means of overcoming creative blockage: creative, emotional, or otherwise. Entering the silence creates space, and it is within this space that certain transformative shifts can occur. Most of you create work that is performative or at least enacted with a beautiful fervor, allowing your artistic practice to merge with your life. On the other end of the spectrum, however, do you find value in stillness? Can feeling stuck and sitting within that space, in the quiet of temporary non-creation, also be transformative? I apologize if this is vague…I suppose I am really just asking a group of women I admire what they do  when they feel stuck, or as if things aren’t flowing so continuously. I imagine that your individual relationships to this kind of dilemma have grown and shifted over time.
LINDA MARY MONTANO: Stuck for me is never an issue. My concern is over do, not stuck not doing. I am like a fecund art-rabbit and can turn it out ad infinitum so I welcome "stuck!"  Only when I think about my attitude of grasping and greedily wanting to make more and more and more, do I allow myself to taste the Void and the sweetness of silence. I am now coming to a place where sitting in that silence is preferable to "flow."
Frank Haines told me to contact you many moons ago because he felt that I would relate to the healing work that you were doing at the New Museum in the 80s with your special mode of "art/life" counseling. Can you describe what you were doing at the New Museum with healing, and how your healing process has changed since then?
LINDA MARY MONTANO:  When I conceived 7 YEARS OF LIVING ART, I calculated into the process a once a month visit to NYC and asked THE NEW MUSEUM if they would host me for those seven years. Why?  I knew that because I was living in Kingston NY, upstate, at that time, I would get  ensconsed and caught up, up there, and would not go to the city and might get isolated, lonely and stale for those seven years. A trip to the city once a month would invigorate me so I made an art piece to give me what I needed! This was always my process: if I needed it I found a way to make art to give "it" to me.
My request to the Museum was answered, fate came to the rescue and the then curator, Marcia Tucker, who was a visionary and  brave/smart woman offered me a separate ROOM at  her museum for seven years!  Yes, seven years!  And I was able to make a seven year installation there consisting of a round table and two chairs. The room looked out over the street in back of the Museum  whose name I've forgotten, but to get into the room, you came up three steps and entered  a raised platform, about 5 feet wide and 7 feet deep.  Large windows covered the outside wall  and there was space just enough to fit two people in there. It was  vertigo-making.
  What happened in the room? At that time I was deep in my Yoga practices and certainly not steeped in Catholic theological bans on palm readings , tarot and psychic readings and so I happily, easily and without training, offered all three of these "items" in that performance, once a month for seven years and called it  ART/LIFE COUNSELING. It was about proximity and closeness and intimacy and community of one-to-one via art. It was the art of person to person, the art of no object, the art of energy as art. I had a salt shaker on the table and would say, "Take this experience with a grain of sale," hoping that nobody would take me too seriously, or sue me,  but of course some did take me seriously and were helped by what I did and said,  and some came back monthly for stock market updates, marriage questions and the typical psychic  reading, should I's:  that is: should I move to___________?  Should I marry_________________?  Should I forgive____________? I had the balls and hubris and belief in my  process and answered all questions without shyness or a higher degree in ,"How to read palms, 101."
Here's how I did it.  I would take their hands, look at their palms and the faucet of some unknown and untaught "knowledge" would begin to pour out of my mouth. It was a high and I felt like the priest I used to go to, to feel better, via Catholic confession.  This performance gave me back the power I had given away to  the patriarchy and now I became the priest via art. It gave the other person who had joined me as  art, a chance to be in touch with art/artist.
Many magical and some frightening things happened there. I will tell you two stories. Once a small boy brought his Russian mother into the room, translating for her, and whatever I said or did, saved her from committing suicide. They came back to report this, if I remember correctly, although this might be a wish and not real, the coming back part. The saving from suicide part is correct, though. I have no memory of how it happened or what I said to the little boy to tell his mother, but I have  probably written about it and the information might be able to  be found in my notes from 14 YEARS OF LVING ART, now at  FALES library, in my archive at NYU. Another time a man came into the room which was  doorless but very private and in the back of the Museum so sometimes nobody was around. He had a knife and threatened to kill me. I am still here. The memory of the details escapes me.
Let's jump ahead to the late 90's and my return to a version of Catholicism that edits my abilities and my psychic gifts. That is, I don't read palms or do tarot anymore but I do healings now and call them "Angel Clearings."  Same thing, different label. And it is still called  ART/LIFE COUNSELING. To this day, when I sneak a peek at  an extraordinary palm, I almost burst, wanting to tell all to the person with the story in their hand! But instead, I just tell myself, not them.
 

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