Sunday, 16 May 2010

Fernando Sanchez

The internet's an amazing place to explore, to hide in and to thrive on, due it's ease of use and lack of central authority it's become a place for hundreds of different subcultures, perverse or innocent, to spread in their own way devoid of the usual social boundries. Los Angeles artist Fernando Sanchez is an observer of these niche groups, drawing a lens towards hip hop culture, the Wapanese, sports fans and keggers of yore in inventive ways, presenting them using mixed media and interactive approachs including film montages, photography collages, fake profiles and vlogger-esque monologue videos.

Normally I'd ask people what their background is, but looking at your website your education's all up there (incl a M.F.A in Design and Media Arts from the University of California) what did your art degree teach you?

-Erm... I got very familiar with the internet, so you can see I came from Design Media Arts, which is an art specific field. While I took classes in the great art department, doing conceptual work with them, our department kinda pushed new media down our throats, and while I was there I didn’t really wanna do that kinda work, I rebelled a lot against that style of work. But once I graduated it stayed with me, I didn’t realise I was so involved in new media. Upon graduating I can see it more loosely, I see it more relevant to my life, not really attached to any kind of entities, not really attached to the agendas of the school. So it was just being present and being aware of what's happening in arts and colleagues and peers. That’s what I gained from art school, just being aware.

How would you describe your work?

-I always tend to tell people it's very interdisciplinary, my whole approach to art has always been I do what I want. And the actual execution of how I do things or what medium I go to has never really concerned me. I usually try to do work that's slightly immediate, meaning that I don't have to necessarily learn a specific skill, my own work I would just consider it a hybrid interdisciplinary between pop culture, low brow or high brow.

1 Minute of Ass, 2007-2008
Composed from user-generated dance video. 60 Glicee prints, one for each second broken down by 25 frames

Looking at your work a lot of it feeds off user-generated content, with youtube or flickr, would things work without the internet?

-It would be really difficult, obviously there's a history of found art, you would consider it, but it's such a different ball game now that it's so available and apparent, it's just so in your face. It's such a common thing that most people do is to carry the information that they encounter on the internet it's become a sensibility. So as an artist I’m just trying to follow that sensibility and just isolate certain things.

A lot of looking at people who lead double lives and you yourself creating fake personas (for example the Myspace dream girl in Looking For Michelle and even the name Fernando Sanchez seeming like a Pornstar Pseudonym) do you find it easy to delve into this other world, of a different version of you?

-Of course, it starts between where I am as a normal user and where I am as an artist. I’ve created a lot of fake identities for several reasons, it's actually through work that I began to really experiment with the idea, you guys can see a certain train of thought between certain marketing tactics and how I started experimenting with all my personas. I think most of us could say that it's really easy for us to put on a persona online, if it doesn’t involve actually visualizing yourself when it stays to the written word. I think that's why so people talk shit on the internet as well. That level of consequence isn’t there.

That ties in with another part of your work, looking at different subcultures and looking how they've managed to breed and exist totally on the internet, because there's that lack of consequence. Do you look at these different subcultures due to curiousity, are you trying to critique it, break it down, what are you trying to do when you observe these little niche groups?

-I think like most artists, we start off with a general curiosity towards something, an inclination perhaps, and it probably just stems from my personality. For example with Bob, I was looking at Yellow Fever, and I was trying to find that specific niche and how to visualize that, and I came across Bob and I thought he was an amazing character so I didn’t know exactly what I wanted from him. I even went to meet him, I still have a video that I've yet to publish and I have vidoes and tape recordings of our conversations and so with that specifically I tried to be careful, especially if it's a central subject and one person, I try not to criticise them. I try to present the subject with a little sense of sensitivity. I'm not gonna be completely objective of course.

Fernando and Bob

With the Niggas project, I guess you could see it as a subcultural thing but for me it was interest of language, and the comedy behind it when you see all the people that use the word and in the third person to describe themselves. So you know it tickled me, I started gathering them and then it made other people laughed and then you added something.

With 9 Fans, I was specifically looking for an event that happens at the same time, so with each project I might have an idea an interest in a certain culture to find how that idea is executed or how I can gather that idea and execute it in consequence of culture. You know whether it niche groups, cultures, a song... so that's kinda how I work.

9 Fans (Super Bowl XLI Kickoff)
Nine video tape recordings of the same American football game by different people in different context, collected via YouTube

Rap music and culture always seems to be there with your work, especially on your music and writing, has it always been an influence?

-Most definitely, I grew up with rap music when I was a younger teen, and then I navigated away into other music, we took a 10 year separation. I think when I was 23/4, I listened to a range of music, but rap kept my ambition going, that whole bravado that it carries, I just didn’t want to hear Bob Dylan, I didn’t wanna hear softness I wanted to hear just barks and rants. I burned a lot of bridges while at school, I had all this bulldog anger right after graduating. I think it kinda matched my personality that whole bravado, trying to see if that energy in itself could be useful in someways. I’m not into it so much anymore but I still have a place for it.

As one of his more meta projects that worked off Fernando's love of hip-hop, the LA ART SUCKS blog saw Fernando assuming the role of a Chinese artist Los Angeles called Song Kwai Li, who spent most of him time either 'attending' gallery openings or complaining about the art and people behind them online. Unsuprisingly the blog attracted considerable attention, notably due to Song's calling out of several contentious and inherent aspects of the Califronian art scene and his half texted half rhymed delivery described by one commentor as an 'Asian Bukowski'... though that was just Fernando talking about himself.

Fernando on Song Kwai Li

The blog, started in 2007 and ended in 2008, may have died a death since then (and is now available as a limited edition book) I asked him about the current state of the art scene in LA, had anything changed?

-It’s most likely not gonna be different, it's something you can tune into or tune out, like the news, you can be aware of it or not. I mean it was for complaining, it more just to make it aware, just to get it out there. I presented that project in front of a crowd in LA, and someone who had been reading the blog said 'you know you basically just say the things that we all think'.

And the writing style, it had to be effective in that kinda grunt-like broken English. It's funny because I almost write like that now. Because our thoughts and our attention spans are so short.

Is it strange for me to ask you about this work, considering it's sometimes 3/4 years old, do you still connect with what you did?

-To tell you the truth, the personas with the rap and Song Kwai Li, I was slightly... yeah I wasn't satisfied with my work. You know I started seeing a lot of people doing similar things, especially with the internet, collections and groupings and just kinda gathering moments. I kinda told myself ‘it's gonna be the same thing why don’t I do something different'. And every time I would see my work I didn’t have the balls, the heart that I have inside me. It was really prickly intellectual, I was still thinking too much. And so with the rap and the writing I started really developing organically and currently for the last year I’ve been pursuing video monologue work and acting.

Actual acting?

-Yeah I’m in an actors studio, and it's given me a lot of ideas for different performative works. I’m gonna be doing a commissioned piece for Bas Jan Ader, he's a Dutch conceptual performance artist, so I’m gonna be doing some works for an opening, as a retrospective of his work.

I wanna work more organically, and when I look at the past, I like the ideas and I'm proud of them but at the same time it's an intellectual me, I’m just not trying to be as much.

Me and My Girlfriend, 2007

A compilation of scenes when people turn and look at the camera during their homemade porn videos - narcissexuals

So with acting and with one of your new projects where you've been editing yourself in pirated movies, what other work are you doing in 2010?

-Yeah I have about three of those that I haven't uploaded or published, I've got a residency, and then I've been rapping or rap/singing. I have a few new songs that I’ve been coming out with and a couple of new music videos, so I’ve mainly been doing that. First it started out as a project, but now I just like it.

Do you make music as well?

-No I can't make music, I just like writing the lyrics, and doing my thing

And are the music videos just for yourself?

-Yeah, just for myself, it's actually a really cool process because I get to write, I get to perform and I get to come up with an idea for a video. And I do some intro acting scenes, I like the whole packaging. I’m writing a screenplay at the moment, eventually I wanna do a movie.

I guess in LA that's the best place to do it...

-You know I've been ignoring it for a long time, because I've been living in this space and I've always ignored the acting, you know oh 'acting’s just a bunch of douchebags'.

It is quite cliché in Los Angeles though

-Yeah it is quite cliche, I've been offered a couple of supporting roles, just in graduate MFA thesis films and really small indie, part of the whole mumble core movement, not sure If you’ve heard of that...

Yeah, I remember hearing quite a lot about it, isn't it quite old now mumblecore? Is it a turn of last decade kinda thing or am I making that up?

-It probably started last decade but it's still straggling, it's still alive I guess.

It's still mumblin’

-It’s still mumblin’.

Dumb Dick Danglas Directors Cut

Born in Ciduad Juarez, Mexico in 1980, Fernando doesn't shy away from his immigrant heritage, descrbring the 'illegal' in him as a motivation for most of his artistic methodology.

Am I right to say you're an illegal immigrant or is that wrong information?

-Illegal? No... I'm legal now, it's just something I like telling people. I'm not really sure, I have all the documents, but if they were to put me into a room, I wouldn't say I got smuggled into the states, there's no reason for them to know how I got into the United States the fact is now I have all the documents.

I thought it was interesting, because I heard in the news recently about Arizona and how they've had a curb on illegal immigrants, how does it feel having a person like yourself not being allowed into your country?

The thing with Arizona, I think it's just more blank out prejudice, which is just wrong. Just going after people that you suspect. It's good that I don't live in Arizona cause I dress like a cowboy sometimes, I look pretty authentic Mexican. It doesn't affect the way I feel, sometimes I worry for my Dad perhaps, I sympathise with people more I feel, but with myself I'm more stable. I feel like an American, so I don't really associate that much with it.

A lot of Mexican Americans have an interesting identity here in the states, like for myself the longest time I didn’t wanna speak Spanish when people spoke Spanish to me, I had this pride issue, like 'I'm American', but now I’m in charge of everything.