From the authors and creators behind the Landings series and the Zero exhibition comes “The Container Collection,” a sort of anthology of the ideas, images and thinking of over 100 visual artists, writers and thinkers from the so-called “Hurricane Zone” – Central America, the Caribbean, and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The spirit of Zero and Landings was all about rebellion and resistance to authority – any authority. Art teacher at St. John’s College and chief co-collaborator Yasser Musa summarizes that spirit when he spoke with us after the presentation at the S.J.C. Gymnasium.
Yasser Musa – Chief Co-Collaborator:
Today we presented for the first time the Landings book under the banner of the Container Collection. We did it in the SJC gymnasium. Many people know where it is and have played ball in here. We did it here because we really wanted to use a metaphor, this gymnasium being a laboratory of energy, of physical excursion, of effort, to show that this kind of idea, effort, really is the heartbeat of what art is all about, the essential ingredient to push the boundary of the space that you have come to accept. The book is a massive book, it has 465 pages, over 500 images, the photographs and writings of over 100 writers, artists, thinkers from the Caribbean and central America and the Yucatan. It is a gathering of ideas. It is a container, a collection, of ideas. We are really putting down a signpost, and I am calling this book an artifact, a representation of what is the thinking, what are the ideas, what are the beliefs, what are the thoughts, what are the provocations, of our young artists from this region.
Musa says the book will be made available to all schools and other centers of learning to inspire future generations. One young talent who is already inspired is Kency Cornejo, a product of Compton, California, the city immortalized in rap music and gang violence. Kency Cornejo is now reading for a Ph.D. in art history at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, with a specialization in Central American art. She says the work of this region is not being properly represented.
Kency Cornejo – PhD Candidate Art History, Duke University:
You can’t detach art from politics. They are very tied together. So I decided that I wanted to study art and politics together, and how this was functioning for me. But when I started going to the schools, and started reading the histories of art, I noticed there was nothing about Central America. I would go to the museums and I would see the Greek statues and the Renaissance paintings, and I knew that these were master artists because that’s what the books told me. They told me these were the artists, these were the narratives that mattered. Many of them were European stories, but I didn’t see Central America. I didn’t see El Salvador. I didn’t see Belize. I didn’t see Guatemala. I didn’t see Costa Rica. I didn’t see anything where I could see myself in these artworks. It didn’t reflect my life. It reflected other people’s lives. Then I realized there’s a lot of power in creating these narratives.
Joan Duran, the spiritual muse of the project and its official curator, says simply compiling and presenting the book is not the be-all and end-all of the process.
Joan Duran – Curator:
The people don’t want to know about the book. “For us the book is not important.” Anyone that knows us, they know that everything we touch we do it right, because we work a lot. We are not only sweating today like all of you, we sweat even during the Winter, during the peak days of December, even if we are in New York. We [are] sweating because we work all the time, in order to do all things right. It would seem that doing things right is something alien to our region.
A public opening took place on Saturday and Yasser Musa says plans are in the works to launch the book at Duke’s campus as well.