Mark Alice Durant is an artist and writer living in Baltimore. He is a professor in the Department of Visual Art at the University of Maryland. Jessica Wimbley: Interview by Mark Alice Durant is featured in CONVERSATIONS on Saint Lucy. This conversation took place via Skype on June 7, 2017. For full interview visit saint-lucy.com
Exert from interview:
MAD: You acknowledge the influence of Octavia Butler’s writing has had on your thinking and your work. Beginning in the 1970s Butler was one of the few black women claiming a space in the science fiction genre or speculative fiction, as some people like to call it. Contrary to what many people think science fiction isn’t only just about the technologically advanced future, the past can be just as important, which was true in Butler’s work, especially in her book Wild Seed, which takes place entirely in the past, in 17th century Africa, and antebellum America. I’m interested in this idea of reimagining the past with contemporary eyes…
JW: Yeah… me too (laughs)
MAD: Yes, clearly. I have some specific questions, but can you talk very generally about that approach in your work?
JW: Questioning the grand narrative is a post-modernist gesture, and when I read Octavia Butler and the way that she really tries to address these narratives within kind of understanding history, I felt like I saw myself inserted into this greater kind of historical narrative. It’s important to have different eyes talking about the experience of culture, composing, creating culture in the past, especially within the Western world, because there’s been so much exclusion. There are so many stories to be told. So this idea of having different perspectives inform the interpretation and construction of history is a productive form of advocacy for inclusion, which I feel like art is supposed to help us do. Artists should be at the forefront of that. I often talk about my work in terms of these ideas of the micro and the macro, moving from the subjective to these notions to the objective, from personal history to collective history. I think if you move in between those spaces, you can create narratives that help build empathy, that can create connectivity, that can give you new insight into history, and how you experience the present. I really love looking at those elements and kind of weaving them together as a means to tell stories within my work, or address stories or narratives, or re-frame narratives.
About Saint Lucy
Launched in 2011 by Mark Alice Durant, Saint Lucy is devoted to writing about photography and contemporary art. Saint Lucy features essays, portfolios and wide-ranging conversations with artists, writers, and curators such as Zoe Leonard, Paul Chan, Marco Breuer, Lynne Tillman, John Divola, Jim Goldberg, Eva Respini, David Levi Strauss, Elinor Carucci, Taryn Simon, and many others.
Saint Lucy Books will extend the mission of the website and begin a publishing venture in early 2017 with two titles: 27 Contexts: An Anecdotal History in Photography by Mark Alice Durant and Hidden Mother by Laura Larson.
About Mark Alice Durant
Mark Alice Durant is an artist and writer living in Baltimore. His essays have appeared in numerous journals such as Art in America, Aperture, Dear Dave, Photograph magazine, Afterimage, and many catalogs, monographs and anthologies, including Vik Muniz:Seeing is Believing, Jimmie Durham, Marco Breuer: Early Recordings, Richard Learoyd: Portraits and Figures, and The Passionate Camera: Photography and Bodies of Desire.He is author of Robert Heinecken: A Material History and McDermott and McGough: A History of Photography. He was co-curator and co-author of Blur of the Otherworldly: Contemporary Art, Technology and the Paranormal. He was co-curator and co-author of the traveling exhibition Some Assembly Required: Collage Culture in Post War America, curator of Celestial at the Camera Club of New York and Notes on Monumentality at the Baltimore Museum of Art. He has served on the faculties of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, UCLA, the University of New Mexico, Syracuse University, ICP, and the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College. He is a professor in the Department of Visual Art at the University of Maryland.