Genesis Project Artist Interview #1: Carlos Monroy

The following interview took place on August 20th, 2009, between Carlos Monroy (2009 Genesis Project Artist-in-Residence) and Arturo Vidich and Aki Sasamoto (Culture Push co-directors). We conducted the interview via Skype chat, which we found to be an interesting medium between a transcribed recording and email correspondence. We sat at the same table.

Carlos MonroyAki Sasamoto: Ok, the first question:  What are you working on right now in the residency?

Carlos Monroy: I am doing some sculpture exercises and installations working with the other artists’ residues in the main studio. I am also doing a lot of photography and stop motion things… But actually I think  the best thing here is talking; having conversations with the guys and trying to figure out how we can work together, or just watching them work with each other. I find it amazing and I feel like it’s part of the work too.

Arturo Vidich: So a lot of the “work” is stuff that can float away– conversations, sculptures that get taken down in an hour. And stop motion is condensed time, a relic of an activity that is not the activity itself. The residue… Figuring out how to
work with the other artists as a main task sounds valuable when you primarily work as a solo performance artist.

AS: Do you think it’s still necessary to keep doing other things besides the talking? Why do you do things if you think talking is the best thing?

CM: Sure it is, actually the talking comes after I get involved with the other one’s residues. I’ll give an example: Fergus [Byrne] went into the studio on Sunday and did a drawing, and then on Monday I found the drawing beneath the foam floor tiles and made something up in relation to what he left behind.

Carlos's sculpture relating to Fergus's drawing.

Carlos's sculpture relating to Fergus's drawing.

Of course my product or anyone’s product could be the first step for talking. Talking about life, about art, about a movie, about whatever. The good thing is that the conversation is situated in both of us really deeply. It is like sharing some important questions but never making them totally clear. This could probably open the door for working together or just for understanding the other one as an artist or as a person. So I keep doing things to keep open the conversation. Today with just one week left I have the feeling that what was really important was that I met the guys and all the differences and points in common we have.

AS: Why do you think it’s important to have have conversations with other artists? Is it different from talking to non-artists? Talking about a non-art thing using art things. I’m curious why “the conversation is situated in both of [you] really deeply”.  As an outside observer, this is clear.  Is this something special for this Genesis setting?

CM: Well I believe that conversations with other artists or with any kind of person normally opens our perspectives. With artists somehow it’s easy because we share a “language”… but talking and expressing ideas is what is supposed differentiate us from other species so maybe that’s why I deeply like  conversations. Somehow I share the opinion of “art for the art.” This means that normally art is evaluated and appreciated by other artists. Maybe that’s why we share the same language– it makes it easy to talk. But in fact I try to talk with all kinds of people, like with Ben [Romero]. He is an artist, but another type. And he’s Latin; that makes him different.

AV: Do you see the conversations you have with other artists as flying out into the “real world” of non-artists somehow, besides in the finished work that you might show at a gallery? Basically, what’s the benefit for society?  “Are artists necessary?” as you asked before.

CM: I understand the work of an artist as like a magician. It’s like when one sees what is implicit or explicit in someone else’s relationships really clearly, but the ones involved don’t really notice. And then the third one comes in and makes it visible for them. Artists are somehow in a middle point between the real world (that place full of advertisement, fat people and anorexics) and the art world (were everything seems to work as theory) we just try to balance, passing from one place to the other… and good balances, or even balances with tricks, are the things we show.


Probably when people come on Friday [Aug. 28th] as outsiders they will not understand much of what’s going on behind the scenes between us really deeply. But that always happens. Art has such a problem of communication, normally people get it in their own way. That’s what makes art fantastic… But yeah, sure, this Genesis setting is amazing for letting us enter into the other’s world more deeply. I don’t feel any kind of shameful feelings. After Ben [Spatz]’s workshop that was clear. I am sure [artists] are necessary (I exclude myself from the group lol). I don’t believe we have a social function directly. As I told you before, I hate Relational Aesthetics. I find such moral problems with it. We call that porno-misery in Colombia. I like to feel we are like a mirror of our world, and then later we’ll reflect important issues and we’ll awe our grandsons. As artists maybe we are not necessary but as “History/Story” tellers maybe we are.

AS: Carlos: you came to US for this Genesis residency, do you consciously look for opportunities “to talk with all kinds of people”?  How important is it for you to work outside Colombia? And Arturo, do you think it’s crucial that you made this residency program ‘international’?

AV: I’ll respond quickly to that while Carlos writes. It was absolutely crucial. Bringing people from other cultures expands the breadth of opinions and perspectives present in the residency. It gives 6 sides to the cube. Otherwise certain issues don’t come up that have influence in the art world and international society we all live in, in general. For example, we probably wouldn’t be talking about the corrupt Colombian presidential election that just occurred if Carlos wasn’t in the residency. Even though it’s big news in Colombia, it might not make it into the conversations about 9/11, traffic congestion pricing, relational aesthetics, etc.

AS: So, Arturo, it seems like you actually meant this residency to be about the conversations among these residents. Win-win situation.

AV: Yeah, conversations and doing new things.

CM: WOW. Yeah, work outside Colombia is not only important it’s also fun. This is my first time in Northern USA and I’m wondering because it’s really different from what I already know. Going abroad gives you the opportunity to see what’s going on outside and this will be reflected in later works. And as I already said, you also have FUN. I like the idea of the cube… especially because I’ve been working with these foamy things that can only become like cubes.

The foam floor can become many things

The foam floor can become many things

AV: Right, the cubes. What’s going on with that? I didn’t anticipate the use of the foam floor as a material, and all of you are doing it. In the work I’ve seen of yours you use a range of materials, sometimes using them as intended, as with clothes and make-up, and sometimes using them in odd ways, like the plastic you used to wrap yourself and deliver yourself to the gallery. What’s your relationship with materials? Is it a new relationship you’re uncovering here in Philly?

CM: Actually, I love dice… have you seen that if you add the number of one side with the opposite it always gives you seven? They are perfect.

AS: While both residents and host have obviously positive outcomes there is still a comment like “I have no shame” or questioning of “the role of artists in the society”… It is interesting to come back to thinking about that when the residency ends in a week or so. Obviously, artists are having fun.  And I do instinctively think this is ‘right.’   But what does that mean?

CM: The first time I stepped into the studio and I wrote on the paper…WHAT CAN I DO HERE? I thought… FUCK really WHAT CAN I DO HERE? I found myself “alone” but suddenly I realized that it was more than just me in the place. And I don’t know, everything starts with a solitary game (I tried to make a card castle) and then it melted… the second day I entered I ATE CHERRIES but I didn’t find I was talking with the space. Then I went back and did the huge installation as a tribute to Saul [Melman] (big sculpture number 1) and then I realized that the foam floor has so many possibilities. Then came the wheel with Fergus’s drawing, and today the installation… I suppose all the things now are pointing to the impossibility of making a discourse that doesn’t melt. I’m not sure all that makes sense.

AV: Makes sense. The work has to come down. So it leaves a residue on YOU as the one who gave it thought and built it or recorded it. Shared spaces are always in flux.

AS: A space seems like the perfect multiple.

CM: Aki, I think it’s right to have fun. Actually that is one of the best ways to be creative. Take a look in The Artist’s Joke book. I have fun reading that book. And, well, that means sometimes we are making art that is fun to us, and then sometimes we’re just hanging out and having fun.

AV: And that’s what this residency is about anyway– trying new ways of working, sometimes just for the fun of it, not as an end product to show others, which can sometimes inhibit the delicate practice/process.

AS: As a group (‘the artists’) you may seem like a single performer to the rest of the group (the other types).

CM: Every time I want someone to remember me I give a dice.

AV: They are a symbol of luck, and a symbol of risk

AS: And a symbol of the unknown future.

Carlos Monroy is from Bogotá, Colombia, where he makes performances under the name Performance Product. He also does photography, and digital design for magazines.


  • Hillary, I believe you stated that NO OTHER INTERVIEW MJ did topped the 36 million viewers for the Oprah interview. But this is what Vanity Fair Maureen Orth says (and she is an MJ hater to the max):

  • Wow! Does he do that sculpture only by himself? You really an artist! You did a great interview about him and you really both did a great job! Thanks for sharing this blog!

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