An Interview with STUFF

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Mariella Sonam Perez and Robert Perez, Founders of STUFF

With the second annual South Texas Underground Film Festival (STUFF) kicking off in early October, we here at Strike have taken the opportunity to chat with the founders and organizers of the event. In this interview founders Mariella Sonam Perez and Robert Perez talk about the meaning of STUF, the film festival and the development of the medium in South Texas.

Strike Magazine:  How did South Texas Underground Film come to be?

stuff 2013Mariella Sonam Perez:  We kept seeing the politics and were tired of hearing from other organizations that not only our films but other films and visual pieces didn’t have substance. It felt like other organizations, not all, wanted to see things that would make money. That’s not what this is about. This is about expression and being creative first. STUF was created so that filmmakers and video artists could have a place to screen their work without people ripping apart what they have created. We wanted to do things year round. You don’t learn something by doing it once a year. We wanted to learn from, and work with, other filmmakers and artists.

Strike Magazine:  How long has STUF been operating in South Texas?

Mariella:  We’ve been around since July of 2010. We started with our first filmmaking challenge in December of 2010. It was a Horror Film Challenge. In May of 2011 we had the Sisterhood in Film and Music during ArtWalk. Later in 2011 we held Corpus Christi’s first LGBT film festival. We’ve done Basic DIY filmmaking workshops with the AutismSpectrumResourceCenter for the kiddos. After putting in a lot of hard work, we decided that we should put on STUFF, which would combine Underground, Sisterhood and LGBT cinema.

Strike Magazine:  What are the aims and goals of STUF?

stuff lbgtMariella:  The goal for STUF is to give a chance for aspiring filmmakers to learn through ‘hands on’ participation, to network and eventually work with fellow artists.

Strike Magazine:  Why is it important for filmmakers to maintain aesthetic and creative independence?

Mariella:  This is so important because this is how artists find their voices and style. I know I don’t want to see cookie cutter projects or revamping of things that I’ve seen before. I truly believe that the underground is where the heart and soul and substance of art is at. The perspectives on story telling and self expression are amazing. In the words of Bjork, “DECLARE YOUR INDEPENDENCE!”

Strike Magazine:  How does STUF go about creating a space for that kind of expression?

stuff artwalkMariella:  I would say that STUF goes about creating a space for independent expression by not censoring. We let people know that the films are not rated and they don’t have to watch them if they feel they might get offended easily. We show films and video pieces that have things to say. You may not like everything that we show. But that’s ok, because the festival is about artist finding their audiences. We provide a public platform. That is not to say that there isn’t something for everyone. I recommend going through the program, watching the trailers that are available online and reading their descriptions. It is a great way to figure out what you would like to see.

Strike Magazine:  How has the film medium developed in the last several years in South Texas?

Rob: To answer honestly there are a lot of strides being made in Corpus Christi filmmaking. But I think people are in a seasonal frame of mind. They make short films once a year. There are some filmmakers breaking away from that trend. There are a few exceptions that have been making features and shorts on a regular basis. We need something more to have a deeper impact. Several years ago, San Antonio, I feel, was in that state of mind but as their film festival’s developed, you started to see more homegrown features being produced. Now you see a celebration of feature films, a  celebration of a variety of films within their community. It’s awesome.

Strike Magazine:  American cinema seems to be often dominated by corporate interests and the big budget blockbusters that flood the market each year. Do you think this trend is detrimental to film as an artistic medium?

Mariella:  No, because this makes artists like us to go out and create new movements, like French New Wave, to counter the glut of American Cinema. Big budget blockbusters are made because that is what makes the money. When it’s about money you lose something because the people with the money have control of what is being made. I’m not saying, I don’t like those movies. The Blockbusters are like having a name brand. People like name brands. It makes it harder for the smaller films to be seen. This is why we need festivals. Festivals help the smaller films find an audience.

Stuff 2012Strike Magazine: This will be the second year for the film festival in Corpus Christi. What was the experience of organizing STUFF 2012 like?

Mariella Perez: STUFF 2012 was very exciting to plan. There were plenty of times when we didn’t know how things were going to get done because we had very little funding. Everything up to that point was out of pocket. We, to this day, rely on volunteers and people who are passionate about the arts. We’ve been fortunate to have made great friendships and partnerships with Art Center of Corpus Christi, Film ExChange, Del Mar Culinary and now RealmsCon. We feel that when you align yourselves with other people and organizations who have similar goals in mind and who mutually respect each other (especially respect between artists) things only grow and become better. If we are partnered with people and entities it’s because its something positive for the artists. This year we were also able to get a grant from the Corpus Christi Arts and Cultural Commission to help us pay for some things that we need as a festival.

stuff 2013 2Strike Magazine:  STUFF 2013 is set to kick off in early October. What can participants expect this year?

Mariella:  There are so many great things planned for this year. First, we have selected films and video art pieces that people will enjoy. This material will challenge the viewer  to look at things differently and hopefully people will discover and appreciate non-mainstream work. We are fortunate to have Del Mar Culinary(DMC) choose STUFF to host their annual Tea Party. Their Tea Party is their mid-term. The students will be graded not only on taste and aesthetics of the pastries but also the presentation of the Tea Party itself. Chef Jessica and Chef Randy from DMC have also created the menu and will be cooking our Welcome BBQ. Also on Opening night we will be having the Inaugural PubCrawl where participants will be playing STUFF instead of BINGO and prizes will be given away as well as great drink specials. We will close every night with an After Party. Mixers will also take place everyday from 5:30-6:30. The parties and mixers are really cool opportunities to get to know filmmakers, artists and musicians. This is where lifelong friendships are made as well.

STUFF filmmakers/organizers with 2012 award winner Niko Kostet
STUFF filmmakers/organizers with 2012 award winner Niko Kostet

For more information visit southtexasundergroundfilm.org

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Poetry: When I Suffer by Rebecca Lyons

When I was seven months old,
I was left by my adoptive mother–
who really had to pee
but was so self-conscious
about human proximity

when she needed to relieve herself
that she once held it thirty-seven-and-a-half hours
on a hike in the Smoky Mountains
because she was also afraid of bears
and didn’t want to walk into any dens–

in the watchful eye of a friendly old lady walking her cocked-head
puppy-
because my mom also had an insane sense
of hope in human nature
that there was enough good in everyone that,
if just given the opportunity, would meet its true stature-

who, unbeknownst to her new friend, and probably herself,
had dementia and soon forgot her newly acquired human responsibility,
only to be replaced by a man whose long-gone
wife had desperately wanted a child of her own, so he took
this opportunity to begin snatching me, hold on,

he quickly released the hold on my arm
when he saw my brother’s hold on my other arm,
not to mention the look of pure awe
that befell our now forever-scared-baby-faces
renew his briefly-lost-ability to think of consequences’ law.

For it was then that we both realized everyone in the world–
after generations of subconscious succumbsion
to the belief that the tougher
survived and “tougher” entailed hurting others–
would only suffer to see us suffer.

Rebecca Lyons is a Corpus Christi native and is currently teaching middle and high school English. She also works as the volunteer coordinator for the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation and for a professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. When she’s not doing homework for grad school or grading papers, she likes to promote her own business, a vegan and gluten free bakery called Better Baking Becca. In her free time, she watches her dogs play, attends too many meetings, and attempts to write while wishing she wasn’t thinking about all of the things that need fixing in the world.

When I Suffer was originally published in Issue One of Strike Magazine.

Thursday’s Picks: August 8th

Friday is almost upon us, and while we’re all chomping at the bit to relax in the weekend (or not) Strike’s editors share some cool gems they found around the internet including a graphic designer at work, some hypnotizing visuals, a forgotten plus-size pinup, jams from National Wake and a documentary about a compelling case in San Antonio. Le’go!

Pheonix Bike Shot

Elyveth: Every year Pedal Craft in Phoenix, Arizona has a poster contest for a bike event where they print out 25 of each design and the highest-selling one wins. Badass designer, art director, and illustrator Bob Case won with this design. This is 30 hours of work compressed into a five-and-a-half minute video, in which he uses Photoshop to complete his work.

 

WIFE

 

Mike: WIFE is a very strange mixed media, avant garde art outfit based in LA made up of Nina McNeely, Kristen Leahy, and Jasmine Albuquerque. WIFE is both haunting and poetic incorporating elements of dance, music, film and animation in their presentations. See also “Statuettes”.

Hilda on Bike

 

 

Beatriz: So, I picked this because I enjoyed the different personalities and facial expressions of Hilda through her calendar years. Ironically, this is why she is presumed to have been less popular than other pinups besides her full figure. It allows the reader to reflect on the iconic looks of the fifties and enjoy a more personable variety of illustrations.

National-Wake-

Raul: Reissue label Light in the Attic is releasing a compendium entitled “Walk in Africa 1979-81,” containing every recording of Apartheid-era South African punk band, National Wake. The group was formed at a time of heightened tensions, shortly after the Soweto Uprising occurred where bandmates Punka and Gary Khoza had come from after their families had been forced to move there when the government began consolidating the black population. The band dissolved shortly after, having released only one album. Stereogum offers the first track off the compilation for download, and it kind of kicks ass.

 

San Antonio four movie poster

Erika: Austin-based director Deborah Esquenazi is currently working on a documentary titled Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four, which follows the exoneration process of four Chicana lesbians from San Antonio who were found guilty of sexually assaulting two young girls. One of the alleged-victims has now recanted the allegations, and attorneys and advocates believe the crime never actually happened. The documentary is currently under production and was just selected for funding by the Sundance Institute. The highly anticipated film will chronicle what’s being called one of the biggest cases in LGBT criminal history.

 

Featured Artist: Marco Garcia

Strike takes a closer look at the art of self expression through South Texas artist, Marco Garcia.Garcia Amaris wounded sentimentales de Frida Khalo, fall 2012

What first drew you to creating your own art, and how long have you been at it? What inspires you to do so?
Self expression. I have been creating art since I was a little boy; of course my subject matter has changed tremendously. The love affair I have with creating art inspires my process. Besides that obvious notion other ideas have inspired my work such as the “berdache”. In some Native American tribes a Berdache-two spirited individual- posses both male and female characteristics. At a young age, parents who discovered such a child would nourish her/his behavior. The girl or boy berdache would have an important role in the tribe as an adult. I created a silk screen print series tilted “Little Drag Boy” inspired by the berdache.

Garcia's "Polar Bear", fall 2012
Garcia’s “Polar Bear”, fall 2012

What are you hoping to capture, and/or communicate, with some of your images? What do you want people to walk away with after viewing them? 
My artwork challenges social norms of beauty, identity, and gender, I want people to question their own beliefs on such ideas. I want to empower others who have similar concepts and thoughts as mine to influence social change.

 What are some challenges you have faced, or expect to face, when trying to communicate through your art? I believe you mentioned to us once of a instance where you found your work rejected or censored by a publication you contributed to.
The work I displayed for my senior exhibition on campus was censored, if the work was not censored, the gallery doors would be closed and there would have been less traffic. I was only one of twelve and didn’t want to do that to 11 other artists work.
I think the big question I need to answer is, Is my subject matter, thick hairy slightly feminine men, the most effective way to express my conceptual thoughts? Is my execution really influencing social change?

 

Garcia's "Da Silva Realness," spring 2012
Garcia’s “Da Silva Realness,” spring 2012

What sort of projects do you have planned for the future, and do you hope to expand your creativity into other mediums?
I love fashion and recently began researching the history of textile, surely this will lead to fashion sketches and a tad bit of sewing. Some areas I might want to further investigate are performance art and Native American art (specifically the berdache). One thing for sure I want my art to be in galleries. So in the future I plan to submit works to different venues and hope I meet there requirements in order to be exhibited.
I have applied to several graduate programs and hope to hear good news sometime between the end of February and April. If I do not get into a program my next plan of action is to move to Austin and find a job. I will always create art; as of right now I am working on two commissioned pieces.

 Are there any artists you draw inspiration from?
Kehinde Wiley, Sylvia Sleigh, Paul Cadmus, Paul Richmond

For information about purchasing paintings or commissioning work, contact Marco Garcia by email at colorshine4menot@yahoo.com

This interview was originally published in Issue 2 of Strike Magazine

Revolution, Renaissance, and the Mexican Muralists

Raul Alonzo examines the impact of the Muralist Movement on the Mexican Revolution

Part of Diego Rivera's "History of Mexico"
Part of Diego Rivera’s “History of Mexico”

New Horizons are Born from Paint and Fire: The year 1910 sounded the death knell for the old ruling order of Mexico, ushered along to it’s end by the victorious cries of “tierra y libertad!,” that rang throughout the countryside. This was also the year that Gerardo Murillo, who would go on to be baptized “Dr. Atl,” the Nahuatl word for “water,” painted the first modern mural in Mexico, mere months before the first shots of the Revolution were fired.

Prior to the Revolution, the artistic output in Mexico was stagnated by the rule of the dictator Gen. Porfirio Diaz. The ruling classes embraced the art of the “Old Masters,” namely those of the imperialist and colonizing powers of Europe.

In essence, with the painting of that first mural, and the subsequent teachings and influence of Atl and others, artistic revolution would coincide with political revolution in Mexico. The question then was one that forwarded a bold task before the nation: how shall a new identity for a nation reborn take root?

Enter Jose Vasconcelos. A writer and philosopher, Vasconcelos was appointed to the position of Secretary of Education by the new president Alvaro Obregon Salido and was tasked with helping foment a flourishing of the arts in Mexico – one that embraced the indigenous past while celebrating the gains of the Revolution. As part of this task, Vasconcelos commissioned artists from around the country to erect murals in public spaces – not simply for the benefit of the affluent few, but for the enjoyment of the masses.

These early artists continued down the path taken by Dr. Atl, as well as others like cartoonist Jose Guadalupe Posada, and would take the art world by storm, changing the artistic output in the region forever.

Los Tres Grandes: Few would argue with the notion that the three giants of the Muralist movement were Jose Celemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera. The three would go on to paint magnificent murals across Mexico in the United States, with vivid scenes adorning the walls of the National Palace of Mexico City, Palacio de Bella Artes, and Dartmouth College.

Jose Clemente Orozco: Orozco was 27 when the Revolution began, unable to serve on the frontlines due to a childhood accident involving gunpowder that resulted in the loss of his left hand. Though he identified as a communist, Orozco’s work was often balanced between his passionate idealism and pessimism with regard to humanity. According to the PBS “American Master’s” episode on him, the carnage of the revolution left him desirous of something beyond the material creations made through socially-constructed ideologies. Concepts of race and nationality drew the ire of his brush strokes and he sought to outline the trajectory of the self-destruction of humanity.

“Like victims of amnesia we haven’t found out who we are. We go on classifying as Indians, Creoles and mestizos, following blood lines only, as if we were discussing race horses, and the effect of the classification is to divide us into implacable artisan groups, the Hispanists and the Indigenists, who war to the death.”

Utilizing the fresco technique practiced by many of his contemporaries, Orozco’s murals include “The Epic of American Civilization” at Dartmouth College, the politically-charged murals that adorn the first, second, third and stairwell of the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria and the Hospicio Cabanas in Guadalajara – considered the Sistine Chapel of the Americas.

David Alfaro Siqueiros: While Orozco may have been sidelined during the Revolution, Siqueiros seemingly breathed nothing but zealousness for the ultimate victory of the toiling masses. At the age of 15, he led a six-month student strike at San Carlos Academy against administration’s the teaching practices – and won. He worked to unseat the military dictator Victoriano Huerta in 1913, attaining the rank of captain and starting the Congress of Soldier Artists in the process. He helped launch “El Machete,” the official newspaper of the Mexican Communist Party, and departed to Spain to fight against the fascists during the Spanish Civil War. He would eventually become secretary general of the Revolutionary Painters, Sculptors and Engravers Union – of which Orozco and Rivera were also members.

His ardent militancy, however, would see him side with the Stalinists during the Stalin-Trotsky split that would divide communists internationally. In 1940 he led an unsuccessful assassination attempt on the exiled Bolshevik revolutionary.

"La Marcha de la Humanidad en la Tierra y hacia el Cosmos," otherwise known as simply "La Marcha De La Humanidad" by Siqueiros
“La Marcha de la Humanidad en la Tierra y hacia el Cosmos,” otherwise known simply as “La Marcha De La Humanidad” by Siqueiros

Despite his tolerance of Stalinist authoritarianism, his work was adently focused on human struggle and the overcoming of oppression by the proletariat – featuring masterful images of masses of people and strone with passionate optimism for the future. His masterpiece is often regarded to be the Polyforum Cultural Siquieros in Mexico City, designed in the 1960s and housing the world’s largest mural works and one of Siquiero’s last before his death: “La Marcha de la Humanidad.” Visitors to the mural can crowd onto a rotating stage that can hold up to 1000 as a light show and narration about the work seeks to arouse the sort of triumphant passion Sequeiros intended for all humanity.

Diego Rivera: Next to Frida Khalo, Rivera is probably one of the most well-known of the Mexican artists. His body of work, which spans across the hemisphere, provides a good reason as to why. Evoked in his art is a strong attachment to Mexico’s indigenous past, such as the mural depicting the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan in the National Palace. Also is a strong jolt of social and political influence, fomented by Rivera’s Marxist leanings, such as with his murals “In the Arsenal,” which depicts Frida Khalo and photographer Tina Modotti distributing arms to campesinos beneath a banner evoking Emiliano Zapata’s slogan “Tierra y Libertad.”

One of his most notorious murals is “Man at the Crossroads” (full name: Man at the Crossroads Looking with Uncertainty but with Hope and High Vision to the Choosing of a Course Leading to a New and Better Future). The mural depicts a worker at the controls of a machine in the center of the machine with two visions of the future on either side of him. One depicts what Rivera saw as the debauchery of the wealthy elites, the supression of the working class under the clubs of the police, and the utter despodence of war. The other depicts a May Day parade, of a united human race in which oppression, hunger and war were eliminated.

The work was commissioned by the United States’ top “patrons of the arts” at the time – the Rockefellers, Nelson Rockefeller in particular, to be painted on the main lobby of the RCA building in what would eventually be Rockefeller Center in New York. It wouldn’t be the scenes of disorder in capitalist society that would move the young billionaire to pull the plug on the project, but Rivera’s decision to include Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin as one of the labor leaders.

In one of the most flagrant acts of censorship in the history of muralism, Rockefeller had the torn down after Rivera refused to alter the image. As Rivera recounted in a radio interview:

 “Let us take as an example an American millionaire who buys the Sistine Chapel, which contains the work of Michelangelo… Would that millionaire have the right to destroy the Sistine Chapel?… In human creation there is something that belongs to humanity at large… No individual has the right to destroy it.”

Prior to the destruction, in a scene reminiscent of Rivera’s images, crowds came to chant their support of the artist, only to be disbursed by the billy clubs of mounted police.

A Culture of Resistance: The Mexican mural movement would boast many other names throughout the twentieth century, and beyond. The Work Projects Administration art projects saw the painting of murals throughout the Southwest, including those painted by Antonio Garcia for the Corpus Christi Cathedral and academy.

The movement would also go on to inspire those in the Chicano Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, with Latino’s throughout the Southwest rediscovering their cultural heritage through art projects involving formally trained and self-taught artists, community volunteers and teenagers. Lasting examples can be found throughout Texas, including in El Paso, Austin, San Antonio and Houston.

The reverberations of the Revolution have not been lost on the youth, as exampled by the ardent student activism against the return of the PRI party in Mexico – the party that abandoned the aims of the Revolution to embrace neoliberalism and oligarchy.

As a new generation seeks to take the reigns of their collective destinies, to look at their revolutionary heritage esconced in the murals of the past can serve as cultural inspiration needed in charting the future.

“Revolution, Renaissance and the Mexican Muralists” is the first installment of the Art as Resistance series. It was originally published in Issue One of Strike Magazine.