Anthony Romero and Josh Rios curated I’ll make you a movie after I eat, a series of screenings, talks, and performances that took place between September and October 2014 at Gallery 400 and Comfort Station. The screenings, a celebration and investigation of Chicana/o moving images, function as a kind of preamble to an exhibition of collaborative works at Art In These Times opening November 14, 2014.
Josh and Anthony enter and sit in front of a table that holds a pack of flour tortillas, a warming basket, and a hot plate with comal. They are already in conversation.
Josh: One thing I noticed was how the screenings were accompanied by a lot of different activities: lectures, readings, performances, and discussions. What was the purpose of all that excess?
Anthony: (Turns on hot plate) We wanted to provide some specific contexts around the films. So the whole thing would be more than a screening; it could be a presentation of research, ideas, and a conversation. The performative lecture has been a part of our previous work, so this idea of a performative screening seems to be an extension of that. This conversation. This performance. This play. This interview.
Josh: That’s an interesting thought. (He scratches his chin and looks into the rafters) Maybe we should talk about what happened at the specific screenings and what those moments of excess did.
Anthony: Leonard Ramirez, coauthor of the book Chicanas of 18th Street, joined us for a post-film discussion after Yo Soy Chicano and Chicana. He really grounded the films in experience, which was nice, given how early Chicana/o media often featured circumstances that many of its audience members had first-hand knowledge of.
Josh: But we also wanted to do more performative actions as well, to respond to the specific circumstances of the screenings.
Anthony: (Licks finger and quickly presses it to the comal’s surface. It sizzles. While speaking he unwraps a pack of tortillas and begins to warm them) Would you say that was part of the reason for splitting the series up between the two: Comfort Station and Gallery 400? To deal with context and to point the works or aim them at each location.
Josh: I would. I think working within each context we were able to facilitate not just different kinds of interactions but different kinds of situations. So at the Comfort Station we could present a kind of performance, and at Gallery 400 it could take a more formal shape with a presentation from Lisa Junkin Lopez on the transnational development of ceramic aesthetics between Chicago and Mexico.
Anthony: I agree, and I think it says something about how Chicana/o peoples have to navigate context. (Throws a kitchen towel over his shoulder and continues to warm the tortillas)
Josh: (Picking up Anthony’s thought) And, in turn create contexts. For example, we hung a friendship flag on Comfort Station for Born in East L.A., a film very much about the not-so friendly relations between Mexico and the US. But for Frontierland we hung the Aztlán flag, which was a very symbolic way of claiming Logan Square for the Chicana/o. Even if it is rhetorical and temporary, this kind of gesture is very useful. It opens the possibility to imagine a different kind of future, to speculate.
Anthony: I’d like to return to a broader question that maybe speaks to some larger context. Why these films? Why now? (Hands Josh a warm tortilla)
Josh: (Clears throat. Holds tortilla up and begins reading it in a formal tone as if delivering a speech) Issues of reflection and absence are especially meaningful to certain factions of the public. Regardless of who has the power to shape the world, everyone with the means and desire to look to the screen longs to encounter a reflection, to feel the shock of recognition, whether aesthetic, economic, cultural, or experiential. We want and need to see our worlds and the positions from which we make meaning confirmed. As we know, something which haunts us as an absence is very much present. (Places tortilla on the table)
Doors open. Audience enters.
Anthony: (Stands and addresses audience) Thanks for coming. Thank you to Anthony Stepter and Gallery 400 for allowing us to hold half of the series here and thank you to the UIC Latino Cultural Center for co-sponsoring these screenings, and to Heather Radke and the Jane Addams Hull House Museum for loaning us their ceramic wares, as well as to Lisa Junkin Lopez for taking the time to share with us some of the history of the Hull House Kiln program. Also to Jordan Martins and everyone at the Comfort Station. Last but not least Leonard Ramirez for sharing your wisdom and experience with us...