BAP Conversation: Eisa Jocson, Josh Kline, and Paul Pfeiffer
Last October 2, Paul Pfeiffer invited New York-based artist and curator Josh Kline and contemporary choreographer and visual artist Eisa Jocson for a conversation regarding their use of performance, sculpture and video respectively to investigate the changing nature of human perception and behavior.
Josh opens the program introducing his process and film background. He explains that the way he works is similar to a filmmaker or a novelist more than that of a painter: “To produce an artwork, I start with ideas on the drawing board then work with collaborators in same the way that a director does to produce a movie.”
Josh continues that his body of work between 2009 to 2013 deal with the idea of “posthumanism” and “transhumanism,” changing what it means to be human and adapting the human condition in service to capitalism. Additionally, a lot of Josh’s work has to do with advertising as a language, a way to create a more accessible artform, art that is more open to people without an arts education or a background in critical theory.
Recently in 2014, he worked on a cycle of installation based exhibitions that dealt with the future. Century 21 (a working title), consists of six chapters (three of which he has completed, three still to come over the next three years), tackles key political, economic, and cultural issues that may define this current era. Freedom (2015), an installation made of police teletubbies embedded with communication and surveillance devices and set in Zuccotti Park, deals with the era between the end of the bush administration, the financial crises, and black lives matter—a time of viral political movements, including occupy wall street, and the arab spring.
Unemployment (2016), made prior to Trump winning the 2016 election, attempts to look at the American middle class. And Civil War (2017) looks at the political consequences in the wake of Trump’s inauguration and composed of rubble piles made of fake concrete “a pile of middle class stuff,” as Josh describes in addition to another room with objects were more directly about class division as kind of bombs, with each of these objects having a sound component: the sound of a ticking clock. Whereas Freedom and Unemployment were foreboding, the artist provided more hopeful tone in Civil War with a three-channel film: “I wanted to create something more utopian, so the third component of Civil War was a 3-channel film,” he explains, “It was like a radical utopian image of America in the future, like America in the year 2041, when the country’s predicted to be majority and minority.” One channel is really hopeful and wholesome and then the other channel involves people burning and burying the confederate flags, the confederate flags being this symbol of racism.
There are still three more chapters to come. One which will deal with climate change and globalization. Two that are utopian: one that will deal with the world after capitalism and the final chapter will deal with biology, and the potential for biological change.
The program then proceeded with contemporary choreographer, dancer, and artist Eisa Jocson.
I’m interested in mobility, movement, in the macro and micro sense. Basically what makes the body move—what social political cultural conditions make the body move in a practical way. At the same time, what propels the body to move from one location to another location, so basically migration of the body. Micro in a sense the structure of the body, how we sit, how we position the spine according to the context of our birth, class or country. (Jocson, 2018)
She swiftly went through key works that gave an idea of her practice. Eisa explains that her interest in pole dancing started as a college student. Her interest shifted from the social function of pole dancing bourne out of the red light district into the fitness industry. Stainless Borders (2010) and Death of the Pole Dancer (2011) tests the limits of gender performance in possible in public space and reframes looking at things you assume you know what you’re looking at respectively.
With Macho Dancer, she attempts to evolve from being just categorized as a pole dancing artist. With a background in ballet and pole dancing (with the illusion of lightness, grace, fluidity, being long, being on very precarious balancing positions), the choreographer challenged herself in terms of movement vocabulary and what her body knew and the history of her gender upbringing. Macho Dancer (2014) works with the illusion of weight, tenacity, groundedness, having a relation with the floor, and occupying space—which is very different from ballet and pole dancing, where one has to disappear—with macho dancing one had to take up space and perform.
The last work that she presents is her first duet Princess (2017), a work with the Happyland Project which is an investigation into Filipino labor performance of happiness and production of fantasy within this empire of happiness which is Disneyland. The proposition of Princess was to hijack Snow White—the hijacking of a white skinned princess. She states that this proposal came from the fact there are quite a huge portion of highly skilled Filipino entertainers in Hong Kong Disneyland who work as backup dancers or filler to the main characters, the reason being that Filipinos do not have the physical profile for the white, main character.
The conversation then transitioned into an open discussion where topics ranging from from the importance of language of advertising to seduction were discussed with Paul as the facilitator. While having different practices in creating art, what was interesting to witness was how they utilized art to challenged their viewers’ mindsets.
Josh mentioned that there was this certain disconnect between what people are reading and saying. Where in often, viewers misinterpret the things that they see. He states that the easiest access to fully understand art and is through the language of advertising. Advertising makes the audience more receptive for whatever the advertiser is presenting. Additionally, feelings of hope and desire allows both art and non-art enthusiast viewers to experience art in an emotional level.
Eisa’s art utilizes the body as a malleable flesh matter. With her works, she attempts to create this sense of archiving Filipino bodies as her own. The contemporary choreographer mentions that in an environment that is economically driven, the language of seduction becomes a product that can be consumed.
If you’re interested in watching the video of this conversation, check out BAP’s Video Porfolio here.