Vol. VIII

Together In Cyber Space

Interview with Carlos Serrano and TSKC’s Sarah McCrorey!

S: DID GROWING UP IN A BORDER TOWN INFLUENCE YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS IN ANYWAY?

C: YEAH DEFINITELY, IT WASN’T UNTIL I STARTED NOTICING AND EMBRACING IT. AS A CHILD OF IMMIGRANTS, I SPENT A LOT OF TIME TRYING TO ASSIMILATE AND INTEGRATE. I WOULD SAY THINGS I’M NOT PROUD OF NOW LIKE “I’M NOT MEXICAN, I WAS BORN IN AMERICA” AND IN RELATION TO MY GAYNESS “I’M ATTRACTED TO MEN, WHY WOULD I BE ATTRACTED TO AN EFFEMINATE MEN.” IT WASN’T UNTIL I LEFT THAT SMALL TOWN AND GOT TO A BIGGER CITY, MET A BUNCH OF DIFFERENT PEOPLE THAT I REALIZED THAT WAS INTERNALIZED MISOGYNY AND XENOPHOBIA/HOMOPHOBIA. NOW IN MY WORK I AM TRYING TO UNDO THAT AND EMBRACE IT, OPENLY.

S: OH, VERY COOL, SO IS GOING BACK AND RECLAIMING A BIG PART OF YOUR WORK?

C: YEAH. I LIKE TO GIVE DIFFERENT YEARS DIFFERENT THEMES AND LAST YEAR WAS “THE YEAR OF UNDOING.” A LOT OF UNDOING AS FAR AS BEING A BROWN PERSON, LETTING GO OF SELF HATE. ESPECIALLY WITH TRUMP AND THE WALL.

S: YEAH, ALL THE OPEN HATRED AND NUANCES BROUGHT TO LIGHT, I COULD SEE WHY THIS WOULD INSPIRE YOU TO WANT TO TAKE A STEP BACK AND TAKE A STAND FOR YOURSELF.

C: YEAH, IT’S BEEN AROUND THAT TIME THAT PRIDE STARTED TO BUILD UP INSTEAD OF SHAME.

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S: YOU MOVED TO SAN FRANCISCO TWO YEARS AGO. HOW DO THE BROWN AND QUEER SPACES DIFFER IN SF FROM TX?

C: I GREW UP IN LAREDO, TEXAS AND MOVED TO SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS WHEN I WAS 19 TO GO TO SCHOOL FOR ARCHITECTURE. I WAS BRIGHT EYED AND BUSHY TAILED THINKING “OMG, I LIVE IN A BIG CITY NOW” BUT AT A CERTAIN POINT I GOT BORED, PART OF THIS IS MEXICAN CULTURE WHICH THRIVES THERE CAN STILL BE REALLY CONSERVATIVE, SO IT CAN BE HARD TO BE EXPERIMENTAL AND I WAS MET WITH A LOT OF RESISTANCE. MOVING HERE IS TOTALLY THE OPPOSITE. IT’S THE ORIGINS OF PROGRESSIVE LAW MAKING, ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS AND MANY OTHER RIGHTS. SO, I STARTED TO LOOK AT MYSELF IN TERM OF LOOKING AT ALL OF THE DIFFERENT THINGS I WAS ABLE TO OFFER TO THE WORLD WITH MY MEXICAN HERITAGE AND QUEERNESS. MOVING HERE I WAS SUDDENLY VERY DIFFERENT. ROUGHLY SPEAKING, LAREDO IS 99 PERCENT LATINX, SAN ANTONIO IS 66 PERCENT LATINX AND SAN FRANCISCO IS 13 PERCENT. SO I BECAME VERY AWARE OF WHO I WAS.

S: DID BEING DIFFERENT IN A NEW PLACE ASSERT SOME PRIDE?

C: FOR SURE, THERE ARE SOME HISPANIC PEOPLE WHO I HAVE THESE MOMENTS WITH LIKE, OH I MISS THIS ABOUT OUR CULTURE OR “WE DO THINGS THIS WAY” OR EARLY 2000S MEXICAN POP SONGS THAT WE HAVE RECENTLY BEEN REMINISCING ABOUT AND BLASTING THEM OUT LOUD.

S: GOTTA LOVE NOSTALGIA AND EARLY 2000S POP! SO YOU ARE SAYING THAT YOU’RE A LOT MORE AWARE OF YOUR BROWNNESS NOW. DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE IS A LOT MORE SAFE SPACE FOR THAT?

C: GREAT QUESTION. YES AND NO. I STRUGGLE IN SOME WAYS BECAUSE MY EDUCATION IS REALLY GREAT AND VERY PROGRESSIVE, IT’S ALWAYS LOOKING TOWARDS THE FUTURE, AND PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO MAKE SPACE FOR THOSE WHO ARE NOT HEARD, BUT AT THE SAME TIME IT’S FOUNDED ON OLD STRAIGHT CIS WHITE MEN. THOSE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO DOMINATE THE FIELD. IT CAN BE A STRUGGLE SOMETIMES AND SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE I HAVE TO EXPLAIN EXTRA HARD WHO I AM AND WHERE I AM COMING FROM. IT CAN BE EXHAUSTING AND FRUSTRATING THAT THE BURDEN IS ON ME AS A MINORITY TO HAVE TO BE THE ONE TO EXPLAIN.

C: OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL IN SAN FRANCISCO, THERE ARE POCKETS OF IT. BUT, IN A LOT OF OTHER BIG CITIES SPACES FOR QUEER PEOPLE AND POC ARE DISAPPEARING BECAUSE OF HIGHER END BUSINESSES TAKING THEIR PLACE.

S: IT’S REALLY UNFORTUNATE TO WITNESS SO MUCH DISPLACEMENT GOING ON IN MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES RIGHT NOW. I SAW A CAPTION EXPLAINING ONE OF YOUR PIECES WAS TO CREATE HYPER INTIMATE SPACES. I THOUGHT THAT WAS INTERESTING FOR A PERSON OF COLOR OR A BROWN PERSON OR QUEER PERSON WHO TYPICALLY IS EXPECTED TO EXPLAIN THEMSELVES CONSTANTLY TO THE PUBLIC, THAT SEEMS LIKE IT COULD BE A VERY ALLURING IDEA. WOULD YOU WANT TO ELABORATE ON THIS CONCEPT AND POSSIBLY SHARE SOME PROS AND CONS?

C: SURE! I APPRECIATE THAT READING. I ACTUALLY DON’T QUITE THINK I HAD SEEN MY PROJECT IN THAT WAY. FOR THE LONGEST TIME I HAD WANTED TO GO TO URBAN DESIGN. I WAS SUPER INTERESTED IN THE WAY THAT CITIES WORK AND THE WAY THAT MASSES MOVE AROUND, BUT I’VE ALWAYS BEEN REALLY INTERESTED IN THE HUMAN BODY, THE WAY WE USE IT AND THE WAY WE EXPERIENCE THE WORLD IN PHYSICAL SENSES AS WELL AS THE WAY WE USE OUR BODIES CONNECT WITH EACH OTHER. BEING A PERSON IN A BROWN BODY, HOW DO YOU KEEP A SENSE OF PROTECTION WHILE STILL MAINTAINING INTIMACY AND VULNERABILITY. I THINK THAT IS WHAT MY WORK WANTS TO BALANCE BETWEEN. HOW DO I AMPLIFY MYSELF? HOW DO I MAKE MY VOICE STRONGER AND THE VOICES OF OTHER’S STRONGER BUT HOW DO I PROTECT IT AT THE SAME TIME FROM THINGS THAT WANT TO TEAR IT DOWN. I HADN’T QUITE SEEN THE PIECE THAT YOU ARE REFERRING TO IN THAT LIGHT, BUT SOMETIMES IT TAKES CREATIVE MATURITY TO LOOK BACK AND SEE A COMMON THREAD IN YOUR WORK.

S: “HOW DO I AMPLIFY MYSELF?” SEEMS LIKE SOMETHING THAT WOULD STIKE A CHORD WITH MANY. HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN INTIMACY WHILE PROTECTING YOURSELF?

C: RIGHT NOW, IN MY THESIS, I AM RESEARCHING DIGITAL COMMUNICATION AND MEDIA TECHNOLOGY AND THE WAY THAT WE USE THOSE THINGS TO FOSTER SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS. I’M CALLING THE DIGITAL OUR SIXTH SENSE. WE USE ALL THE OTHER FIVE SENSES TO NOT ONLY EXPERIENCE THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT BUT ALSO EACH OTHER. LIKE THIS CONVERSATION RIGHT NOW. WE’VE NEVER MET BEFORE IN PERSON, YET WE ARE HAVING AN INTIMATE CONVO IN DIFFERENT PLACES. MY PREDICTION OR THESIS IS THAT THIS TYPE OF INTERACTION WILL MOVE AWAY FROM THE SCREEN AND INTO SPACE. I THINK WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW.

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S: IT’S INTERESTING TO THINK ABOUT DIGITAL IN THE SENSE OF ARCHITECTURE, FOR A SECOND I FORGOT THAT WE WERE EVEN TALKING ABOUT ARCHITECTURE. DIGITAL IS BECOMING MORE AND MORE OF A PLACE.

C: YEAH AND I APPRECIATE THAT YOU CALL IT A PLACE. YOU ARE IN SEATTLE AND I AM IN SAN FRANCISCO BUT HERE WE ARE TOGETHER IN CYBER SPACE, WHEREVER CYBER SPACE IS.

S: AWW

C: YEAH

S: DO YOU HAVE ANY HESITATIONS? DO YOU EVER THINK, “WHAT IF I GO TO FAR?” WHAT IF THINGS END UP LIKE WEST WORLD? OR ARE YOU READY TO PLUMMET INTO THE FUTURE?

C: OMG. THAT SHOW FUCKED ME UP. HAHA

S: (HAHA, SAME.)

C: PERSONALLY, I AM SUPER FASCINATED WITH HOW WE CAN USE TECHNOLOGY AND THE DIGITAL TO BETTER OURSELVES, SO IF SOMEONE WAS LIKE “HEY, TAKE THIS PILL IT’LL MAKE YOU SMARTER. HEY WEAR THIS, BECAUSE IT’LL MAKE YOU RUN FASTER...I THINK I’D BE ABOUT IT. THERE’S THIS ONE EPISODE THAT MADE ME CRY BECAUSE IT’S ESSENTIALLY TALKING ABOUT HUMANS AND ARROWHEADS IN THE STONE AGE AND HOW THEY WERE THE FIRST THING WE AS A SPECIES DESIGNED TO BE A TOOL OR AN EXTENSION OF OUR BODY. AND EVEN THOUGH I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE SCARED OF TECHNOLOGY, I THINK THAT IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN A PART OF US. US USING A PENCIL, READING A NEWSPAPER, TURNING ON A FAUCET, THINGS PEOPLE DON’T CONSIDER TECH, ARE TECHNOLOGY. SO I THINK THAT’S WHY I’D BE TOTALLY OKAY WITH BEING A CYBORG.

S: YEAH, INNOVATION DEFINITELY MAKE US A MIRACLE SPECIES.

C: SO HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT IT, IF I CAN ASK?

S: I AM REALLY EXCITED BY THE POSSIBILITY OF IT ALL, BUT I’M ALSO WEARY OF WHAT COULD GO WRONG.

C: YEAH, THAT’S TOTALLY UNDERSTANDABLE. ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU HAVE THESE LARGE CORPORATIONS LIKE FACEBOOK, RIGHT? AND HOW THEY HANDLE OUR DATA...THERE IS SO MUCH GOOD, BUT THAT IS ALSO A LOT OF POWER TO DO SOME DAMAGE.

S: YEAH, KNOWLEDGE IS POWER FOR SURE. WE NEED TO CONTINUE TO BECOME INTELLIGENT AND EXPLORES THESE AVENUES. BUT LIKE YOU SAID, IT DEPENDS ON WHAT SYSTEMS ARE IN PLACE AND WHO IS IN CONTROL. IT IS SO IMPORTANT THAT WE HAVE PEOPLE OF COLOR, THE QUEER COMMUNITY AND WOMEN IN THESE FIELDS, AND THAT’S WHY IT’S SO GREAT YOU ARE IN THIS FIELD.

C: SOME PHILOSOPHERS SAY AS TECH IMPROVES, WHO IT HELPS WILL LESSEN. IT WILL ONLY HELP THE WEALTHY, THE WHITE PEOPLE AND THOSE WHO ARE MARGINALIZED WON’T BE ABLE TO HAVE ACCESS TO IT. SO HOW DO MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES POC, QUEER PEOPLE, HIGHJACK AND RE-APPROPRIATE THESE MEDIUMS TO ADVANCE THEIR AGENDAS BUT ALSO TO FIGHT FOR THEIR PLACE IN THE WORLD?

S: YEAH, IT DOES SEEM LIKE A BENEFIT TO TECHNOLOGY AT LEAST IN ITS EARLY STAGES TO BE ABLE TO FIND A NEW ROUTE OR HIJACK THE SYSTEM.

S: SO WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST MEDIUM THAT YOU EVER STARTED WITH AND WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY INTERESTED IN?

C: WELL, I ACTUALLY USE TO BE IN BAND. THE BODY AS AN INSTRUMENT, RIGHT? I WAS REALLY INTERESTED IN HOW TO BREATHE AND USE MY FINGERS, USING THIS INSTRUMENT AS AN EXTENSION OF MY BODY. AND MUSIC WAS MY FIRST MEDIUM FOR 7 OR 8 YEARS. I ACTUALLY WANTED TO GO TO SCHOOL AS A MUSICIAN, I TOLD MY DAD “HEY, I WANNA GO TO SCHOOL FOR MUSIC” BUT MY DAD BEING THE IMMIGRANT FATHER HE WAS SAID “I SUPPORT YOU 80 PERCENT. THE OTHER 20 PERCENT OF ME THINKS YOU SHOULD DO SOMETHING ELSE.” SO, I THOUGHT “MAYBE I’LL BE AN ARCHITECT.” I DIDN’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT IT. LIKE MOST OTHER PEOPLE, I JUST THOUGHT I WOULD MAKE PRETTY BUILDINGS. I TOOK QUITE A FEW DRAWING AND SKETCHING CLASSES. I STARTED ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL, SO BUILDINGS AND SPACE BECAME MY MEDIUM FOR QUITE SOME TIME, BUT RECENTLY I’M MORE FASCINATED BY DIGITAL SO I’M USING LIGHT AS A MEDIUM AND I HAVE BEEN DOING A LOT OF PROJECTION MAPPING. I’M USING A LOT OF TEXTILES IN MY WORK AND THE BODY ITSELF. I HAVE RETURNED TO A SMALLER SCALE MEDIUM.

S: WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT WORKING WITH LIGHT?

C: WITH LIGHT THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS, IT’S UNCONTROLLABLE. YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO GET. IT’S ONLY WORKING WITH LIGHT DIRECTLY IN A SITE SPECIFIC PLACE WHERE YOU CAN SEE, OH THIS IS THE EFFECT I’M GETTING OR THE ATMOSPHERE THAT I’M CREATING. AT THE SAME TIME, THERE IS SOMETHING REALLY PRECISE ABOUT HOW YOU CAN PUT ANYTHING IN THE COMPUTER AND PROJECT IT WITH LIGHT.

S: DO YOU PROJECT IT ON TO WALLS?

C: I’M EXPERIMENTING WITH MEDIUMS THAT RECEIVE LIGHT SUCH AS ACRYLIC AND MIRRORED SURFACES.

S: LIKE IN YOUR PIECE GLITCH BITCH?

C: I HAD A THEMED PARTY CALLED GLITCH BITCH LAST YEAR BECAUSE IT WAS ABOUT HOW A GLITCH BITCH CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE SYSTEM, BEING A POC BEING QUEER AND FINDING A GLITCH IN THE SYSTEM. THAT’S WHERE THE PROJECTION MAPPING STARTED. FIRST JUST ON WALLS AND SOLID SURFACES, BUT RECENTLY I HAVE BEEN THINKING ABOUR WHAT IT MEANS TO PROJECT ON TO A MIRROR OR SOMETHING SLIGHTLY TRANSPARENT. RECENTLY, I DID AN EXPERIMENT PROJECT THROUGH CHIFFON AND GOT A REALLY COOL LAYERED EFFECT. SO LIGHT IS THE CONSTANT AND THE MEDIUM BEING PROJECTED ONTO IS THE VARIABLE.

S: AWESOME, I LOVE TEXTILES. AND I SAW THAT YOU ARE DOING NATURAL DYE WITH COCHINEAL.

C: YEAH! I SPENT A SUMMER IN MEXICO FOR SCHOOL, LOTS OF PEOPLE WERE GOING TO JAPAN AND SCANDINAVIA BUT I FELT LIKE IT WAS IMPORTANT OT FOLLOW MY OWN NARRATIVE. PART OF MY TRIP WAS TO WORK WITH ARTISANS IN OAXACA. THEY WERE VERY CONNECTED TO THE PROCESS. THEY USE COCHINEAL, MARIGOLD AND INDIGO. ITS AMAZING HOW CONNECTED TO THE EARTH THEY ARE.

S: DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IMPLEMENTING YOUR NARRATIVE OF THE PAST INTO YOUR PRACTICE?

C: I DON’T THINK I WOULD APPLY THOSE PROCESSES TO MY CURRENT PRACTICE. WHAT I TOOK FROM THAT TRIP IS THAT THE BODY AND SENSES ARE ALWAYS AT THE CENTER OF MY WORK GOING FORWARD. THERE IS SOMETHING TANGIBLE ABOUT IT. AS MUCH AS I WANT TO MOVE INTO THE DIGITAL, IT’S STILL GROUNDED IN THE PHYSICAL WITH THE THINGS YOU CAN SMELL, TOUCH, TASTE AND HEAR.

S: INTERESTING TO THINK ABOUT AS WE CONTINUE INTO THE DIGITAL WORLD, I GUESS THIS IS WHERE SOME OF MY HESITATION MIGHT OCCUR, WORRYING ABOUT FORGETTING OUR PHYSICAL REALM AND CELEBRATING IT. I AM WORRIED THE TWO COULDN’T BE CONNECTED BUT THE WAY YOU ARE GOING ABOUT IT SEEMS LIKE IT COULD BE?

C: YEAH, FOR ME IT’S MORE ABOUT COLLAPSING THE TWO WHERE THEY ARE ONE IN THE SAME. IN EFFORT TO IMPROVE AND BETTER OUR LIVES AND RELATIONSHIPS.

S: WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY BETTERING OUR RELATIONSHIPS?

C: I’M STRUGGLING WITH WHAT THE ANSWER IS AS WELL. I REALLY DO THINK WE USE TECH TO FOSTER OUR SOCIAL CONNECTIONS. ONE EXAMPLE IS HOW I TEXT MY BOYFRIEND EVERY MORNING AND EVERY NIGHT. SOMETIMES I DON’T SEE HIM BECAUSE OF SCHOOL OR WORK. IF IT WEREN’T FOR THE PHONE, I DON’T THINK WE WOULD BE WHERE WE ARE RIGHT NOW. HOW DO YOU TAKE THE PHONE AND MAKE IT SOMETHING BIGGER? AND ON A LARGER SCALE, ACTIVISTS AND PEOPLE WITH A SOCIAL AGENDA OR SIMILAR INTERESTS AGGREGATE ONLINE AND THAT AGGREGATION MANIFESTS ITSELF IN REAL LIFE. LIKE THE PROTESTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST THAT WERE ALL VERY DIGITAL AND HAPPENED IN THE PHYSICAL. LIKE GRINDR. PEOPLE USE GRINDR TO HOOK UP AND HAVE SEX, BUT IN MIDDLE EAST PEOPL USE IT AS A WAY TO FORM COMMUNITY. ONE GUY WAS A REFUGEE IN EUROPE AND USED IN TO FIND OTHER REFUGEES

S: WOW, THATS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF HIJACKING THE SYSTEM. WHO ARE YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCES RIGHT NOW?

C: A LOT OF MY FORMAL INTERESTS COME FROM THE 1960S AND 1970S AMERICAN MODERN SCULPTURE ARTISTS. DONALD JUDD, ROBERT IRWIN, JAMES TERRELL BUT I’M ALSO INTO EZRA MILLER, HE’S WORKING WITH DIFFERENT DESIGNERS AND DOING A LOT OF PROJECTION MAPPING AND CODING. ANDRÉS JAQUE WHO IS A SPANISH ARCHITECT THAT IS LOOKING AT QUEERNESS. DIA STUDIO DOES AMAZING KINETIC GRAPHIC STUFF. I HAVE A GOOD MIX OF INFLUENCES .

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