Interview: Lvis Mejía

Lvis Mejía is an artist based in Berlin, Germany. He works in time-based media, and is a founding member of oqko, an artist collective and label that works at the intersection of various music and visual practices. He is our featured artist this week on the HAYP/IN SITU “Virtual Viewing Room” platform, a space for online artworks from June 1 – August 8, 2020. In this interview, we learn a little more about his meditative film essay “I don’t know where to start, though I know where this is going to end”, and what inspires him. Scroll down to the very bottom for a complete bio.


HAYP/ IN SITU: Tell us about your Virtual Viewing Room Project, “I don’t know where to start, though I know where this is going to end”.

Lvis Mejía: In all honesty, I envision this work being an exercise rather than a project. I would love this to be – in a way – a pilot of an essay film, but I don’t know if I can pay tribute to that. The story is about a non-human entity that finds “something” (like a log book/writings and graphics) and tries to make sense out of it while it finds itself stuck in its spaceship waiting for the end to come. It is in the form of a visual diary that it starts “exercising the thoughts” and tries to decipher the essence and meaning of the object that it found. To find out how it ends, just follow the story.

I don’t know where to start, though I know where this is going to end is in a way just a humble analogy to our lives. At the beginning we are unarmed, but during the process we start getting conscious about our surroundings and who we are. Nevertheless something is – at least until now  – inevitable, death (the end). This final chapter, or better said, how we cope with the cosmovision of death, determines most of our behavior in life, and therefore completely the way we live. In strength we remain fragile

The idea is to approach through an “experimental visual diary” I am forcing myself to use exclusively material from my own archive. An archive of my own. I am recycling and reinterpreting my work, and therefore a part of me. Material left in the virtual, material that never got exposed (became real) to the public eye. Like a crestomatia somehow. I decided to exclusively use found footage [of my own work], and tried to guide and interpret it in a specific direction.

HI: How does this relate to your artistic practice?

LM: Well, I have been working for a few years on the topic of “speculative futures” [of humankind] – yes I know the combination might sound redundant – but this issue both fascinates and concerns me, and sincerely, this should be a thing of global character. Leaving aside the unnecessary, almost pathetic question, “Where are we going?”. My tendency shows a rather objective-pessimism based on historical observation, critical perspective and a personal analysis of today’s standards. With this humble toolkit of understanding, I dare to conclude that the direction we are going in might not find its end soon, but all the way will be ferociously painful. 

As I mentioned above, the question of “Where are we going?”, seems unnecessary and almost pathetic to me, because it appears to be almost irrelevant for both the small “communities” capable of changing the paradigm on the paper and for the vast billions having potentially the chance to do it through action.         

In a way, this project is a family member of a pivotal writing I finished earlier this year about the shortcomings of our species, and the main argument is where the two projects merge. The writing will probably serve as part of the script to this experimental visual diary in order to reinforce the visual language.

Lvis Mejía performing at MUTEK in Montreal, 2015
“Anthropology of Amnesia” Lvis’ album (oqko label) exploring oral cultures from around the world, and their role in passing on and preserving memory.

HI: Who/what inspires you?

LM: Some rare chemistry processes in my body, getting confronted to new thoughts and experiences, fresh love and some extraordinary works of art.

HI: What does confinement mean to you? Have you (re)discovered something during this time?

LM: As a matter of fact, it made me reaffirm more things rather than (re)discover new ones. We are quite fragile organisms driven mostly by many irrelevant and abusing meanings. When a pause is taken, imposed or seized, there is a chance to reflect, rethink, repurpose and adjust. In my personal opinion, things after confinement are just going to go on (unfortunately) back to the desired pathological consensus of “normality”. The current situation merely undressed society, exposing elemental components to ourselves. These times are just reflecting who and how we are in a more precise way. The collective does not really differ that much from the individual. There is yet so much to learn…. and paradoxically, all of that wisdom is already out there. We are just adamantly still wearing the veil. We are doomed, actually.

Pictured above, some works from Lvis’ yet unpublished photographic series, “Irrelevant Studies on Dichroic Foil” (see more works @Hayp.insitu on Instagram)

HI: When you’re not making art, what do you enjoy the most?

LM: Watching tons of films, trying to finish reading different books, meeting random people at bars and playing football.

HI: What’s your connection to Armenia?

LM: I have had the chance to work and collaborate in the last 3-4 years both with the community and great individuals from the cultural spectrum in the country, and each time has been a particular – yet interesting – challenge. 

It all started with a project that now resides in limbo: an audio installation at the Herouni Radio-Optic Telescope in Orgov. Ever since I have been going back consequently every year.
In my personal opinion I think Armenia has a special and prosperous panorama for the development of the art scene and market, but there is still a long way to go. Therefore, the actual moment of paving the process should maintain an experimental idiosyncratic approach without lacking professionalism.
It is crucial to potentialize the sense of unity throughout the community in order to have a common ground and not many individual players on stage. As an external person – yet a recurrent visitor – I see there is plenty of potential to sow and educate the younger generations with a global vision based on exchange and preservation of the cultural heritage avoiding endemic self-glorification. I am always happy to come back and contribute in whatever way is possible.

Lvis Mejía’s site-specific installation in Orgov, Armenia for HAYP Pop Up Gallery’s CETI Lab, 2017 exhibit exploring communications with extraterrestrial life.
Lvis and the collective at the Iron Fountain in Gyumri. A project by Sound Lab, an initiative lead by Vardan Harutyunyan and the Armenia Art Foundation, 2019.

HI: If you had a magic wand, and could change one thing about the art scene in Armenia, what would it be?

LM: Lethargy and the negative-driven unfounded self-destructive criticism within the scene I have perceived.

HI: What is your dream project that you haven’t had a chance to work on yet?

LM:
– A couple of large format installation
– Shooting experimental featured films.
– Develop educational artistic programs with true social impact.
– Develop a decentralized web environment.
– Found an independent multidisciplinary research institute.
– Get a lot of land to create an independent sustainable “country”, hehe.

the list gets long…..


About Lvis Mejía:

Visit Lvis’ Virtual Viewing Room project, “I don’t know where to start, though I know where this is going to end” here.
Follow him on Instagram at @lvis.mejia
See more of his work at: www.lvismejia.com
Follow oqko artists and releases at: www.oqko.org

Lvis Mejía is an interdisciplinary artist, educator and musician born in Mexico City, based in Berlin since 2007. He is a member of the artist collective and label, oqko. Lvis’ work has shown at major museums and galleries including DOCUMENTA 13, the ICA London, the Centre Pompidou, MUTEK Montréal and the Transmediale Berlin. His academic background is in philosophy, fine arts and time based media from Christian Albrechts Universität zu Kiel, MIT Media Lab and HfbK Hamburg. His work has brought him to Armenia several times, in 2017 he designed a site-specific installation “UNO” at the Herouni Radio Optic Telescope (Orgov) in the framework of HAYP Pop Up Gallery’s CETI Lab exhibit. In 2018, Lvís participated in a collaborative installation for HAYP’s Retrospective “12-12-12”, and in 2019 he worked as a consultant for the Armenia Art Foundation’s Sound Lab in Gyumri. Lvis believes in the capacity of artistic practice to transcend medium, while being deeply intertwined in a sense of place and community. Since 2020, he has joined the IN SITU team as a cultural consultant, with the aim of catalyzing cross-cultural exchange and proposing new perspectives and contexts for art and idea making.

CALL TO PERFORMERS/Կոչ մասնակիցներին

հայերենի տեքստը ստորև ն է գտնվում

Dear artists, storytellers, musicians and performers,

HAYP Pop Up Gallery will be back in Gyumri this fall, from November 18 to 28. Our project “New Illuminations” has three different components: interviews (on-going), a workshop (nov 5-8), and an exhibition (nov 18-28).

We are a pop-up gallery, which means the gallery space will only be open for 10 days (after that, we will be gone… until our next project). We believe that performance art allows people to engage with the visual arts in new and exciting ways. That’s why we want to host events during the exhibit, and we want you to be involved!

If you have a cool concept, it’s your turn to shine!

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HAYP takes a trip to the USA…

You may have been wondering what the HAYP Pop Up Gallery team has been up to since our last event in September, “LOVE (ICA) Is electrIC Again”. For the past two weeks HAYP curator and executive director, Anna Gargarian, traveled stateside for work (and a little bit of play) to Boston and New York. Here’s an update by Anna as she reflects on the highlights from her trip: 

New York, New York

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My time in New York was brief but intense. Although neighborhoods and loci of activity shift, the beauty and awesomeness of the city never change. What stood out from my trip were two very different, but equally interesting museums: The Cooper Hewitt Museum, and the Museum of Art and Design (MAD). 

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The Cooper Hewitt re-opened its doors in 2014 at its 5th avenue location, the 64-roomed Andrew Carnegie Mansion; its home ever since 1976. The museum’s historic architecture offers a stark contrast to the touch-screen tables, large-scale projections, and personal design “pens” that allow visitors to engage with historic and contemporary design objects in a unique and interactive museum experience.

 

Tapping the back of your individual “touch pen” to the description of an object allows you to “save” the object to your personally curated collection of online images. The tip of the pen allows you to draw, select, and play on the tables located at the center of the mansion’s main atrium and corridors. Visitors are invited to make and save their own designs inspired by various objects from the collection. 

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The MAD museum was originally founded in 1956 under the name the Museum of Contemporary Crafts. In 2008, the museum reopened under its more catchy name, MAD (the Museum of Art and Design) to embody a broader spectrum of interests that include design, crafts, and artisanal practice, but also architecture, fashion, technology, interior design, and the performing arts. Personally, what stood out was the museum’s display of traditional, artisanal “crafts” (something you’d imagine your grandmother making) in a bold, fresh, and contemporary way. Also unique to this museum is that it not only exhibits works, but also gives you insight into the process of craft making with its open studio artist residencies. 

I loved the exhibit “Toxic Seas” by artists, Margaret and Christine Wertheim and the Institute For Figuring. The exhibit featured large-scale crocheted coral reefs that often incoorporated bits of plastic and reusable materials as a commentary on the pollution we produce and its effects on the marine environment.

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Also noteworthy, the individual pieces were collectively crocheted by women from all over the world who contributed sections of the work. The feminist undertones of elevating what is traditionally “women’s work” to the museum gallery is an added plus. Each artwork wall label included the names of each contributor and her country of origin. This reminded me of our own feminist, “Craftivist” group in Armenia, “Free the Needle”. Maybe they should get involved? Just a thought…

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Another surprising exhibit was artist, Chris Antemann’s, “Forbidden Fruit”, a collection of risqué ceramic figurines inspired by 18th century ceramic decorative arts. Although I’m not usually partial to the ceramic arts, Antemann’s keen sense of humour, brilliant use of form and color, and her masterful use of a “high society” decorative objects to show “debased” and provocative subject matter were completely engaging and charming. I will think twice before judging ceramic figurines in the future…

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Of course, New York City wouldn’t be complete without some late night adventures with old friends….. so this happened in an abandoned factory somewhere in Brooklyn: 

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Back in the more green lands of Great Barrington, Massachusetts:

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While in my home state of Massachusetts, I travelled westward to Great Barrington (about 2 hours west from Boston) to meet Suzi Banks Baum, the artist I had been Skyping/emailing/facebook messaging for the past three months in order to design and coordinate the upcoming HAYP project, “New Illuminations”. I’ve mentioned Suzi and our project before, but I hadn’t actually physically met her until last week! And what a pleasure…

Suzi is a book artist among many other things. That is, she makes handmade artist books and has been teaching book binding techniques (including coptic stitch binding which she’ll teach at our workshop this November) for many years. For Suzi, handmade books are a unique tool and means of expression for writing, illustrating, and most of all story telling. We are in the process of fundraising for our 4-day workshop and 10-day exhibition in Gyumri this November (donate here!). And another bonus of this visit, I got to reconnect with Dana Walrath, the artist I worked with to curate “Mapping Identity: Figures, Borders, and Nations” for AGBU Exhibitions in Yerevan.

Celebrating 25 years of AIWA

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Arts & Entertainment Panel: Sona Movsesian (Conan O’Brien Presents), Anush Yemenidjian (Hollywood Reporter), Teni Melidonian (The Academy), and Nora Armani (SR Film Festival). Photocredits: AIWA.

Next in Massachusetts was my attendance and participation at the AIWA 25th anniversary conference, a truly amazing three-day event of inspiring talks, presentations, and conversations with women leaders from the US, Armenia, Turkey, Argentina, Lebanon and more. We even had a few celebrity speakers (always fun)!

Panel discussions were divided by category including: Global Leadership and Women, Arts and Entertainment, Entrepreneurship and Business, and Leaders in Politics. Keynote speakers included Linda Hill from the Harvard Business School (one of my favorites), Seline Dogan from the Turkish Parliament, Maro Martirosian of Armenia’s Women’s Resource Center, and Katherine Sarafian, longtime producer at Pixar Animation Studios. 

Re-occuring themes in the talks were: implicit bias and gendered perspectives, approaches to leadership, how to “break the silence” and empower women leaders, and various tools for leveraging one’s skills and how to be an effective leader. 

 

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My panel! Photocredits: Juliana Del Aguila

The speakers were many, and inspiring, and HAYP Pop Up Gallery was thrilled and honored to be a part of the conversation as a member of the “Business and Entrepreneurship” panel. Co-panelists included Hasmik Asatrian-Azoyan of Basen hotels in Sisian, Juliana Del Aguila of Karas Wines, and Vera Manoukian of Starwood Hotels. Our dynamic panel addressed questions like: 1) What are your biggest challenges, and how have you overcome them?, 2) What specificities are unique to your industry? etc.

The AIWA conference ended with a deluxe Gala, complete with awards, inspiring speeches, good food, and dancing. Below is a (blurry) picture from the evening.

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Artist Studio Visit:

And of course my trip to the states wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to an artist studio…. introducing: Marsha Nouritza Odabashian.

Marsha is among the many artists who inhabit Boston’s South End artist district. The space itself was invigorating: a large open studio on the fifth floor of a typical Boston “brown stone” building. Her studio mates include an Italian painter, and an American costume designer and tutu-maker.

Marsha works in oil paint, ceramics, acrylic, and other experimental media and uses just as wide a variety of surfaces for her works, including all types of paper, sponge, canvas, wood and more. Her work explores identity and shows reoccurring motifs of flora and fauna (based on reality but often times distorted into fantastical elements), figural processions, and sewing needles (a commentary on woman’s work that underlies the tool’s dual function as weapon). 

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If you haven’t already noticed, Marsha’s body of work is highly inspired by Armenian manuscripts….so of course a bell went off in my head for HAYP8.0’s “New Illuminations- Codex”. Let me just say that my suitcase back to Yerevan was slightly heavier than when I left…. (hint, hint).

What next?

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Coming up in Great Barrington, Massachusetts is our fundraising event for “New Illuminations”, hosted and organized by artist, Suzi Baum. The fundraiser will be on October 25, 2016 at the Elixir in Great Barrington. Come and join Suzi with an open heart (and an even more open wallet) to learn more about the New Illuminations project.

Meanwhile, in Yerevan the HAYP team will be moving forward full-throtle to find an exhibition space and key partnerships with experts and collaborators in Yerevan and in Gyumri. More coming soon!

Keep checking out the hype with HAYP Pop Up for news on this and many more projects.

Introducing: The New Illuminations

Check out more information about our upcoming project, HAYP8.0 NEW ILLUMINATIONS

New Illuminations

by Anna Gargarian, HAYP Pop Up Gallery


The idea for “New Illuminations” took root in the creative mind of artist, Suzi Banks Baum back in March of 2016 during her first visit to Armenia. Suzi was among a group of photojournalists who were invited by National Geographic photographer, John Stanmeyer, as well as Anush Babajanyan and Nazik Armenakyan of 4Plus Photography, to come to Armenia for several weeks with a storyline.  

12829256_10208958504859511_7202841814466965724_oSuzi Baum (top right) with the team of photojournalists including John Stanmeyer (back row center) in Armenia in March, 2016. Photocredits: 4Plus Photography.

Suzi’s storyline: what are the realities faced by women artists in Gyumri, Armenia? What are the thresholds and challenges they encounter in their creative practice? 

12814434_10208933297749349_1750150045420713735_nSuzi Baum with several of the women artists she interviewed in Gyumri, Armenia. March, 2016. Photocredits: Suzi Baum.

Her trip to the Matenadaran, Armenia’s manuscript museum, left her awestruck and…

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