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INTERVIEW

roz crews

january 22, 2018

UMass Dartmouth ↔ richmond, virginia
via FaceTime





Adele: Are you a cat or a dog?
Roz: I’m a dog for sure. I often smell weird. I am friendly. I definitely relate more to dog qualities. I don’t have very fast reflexes.
Adele: Yeah, like a cat would?
Roz: Yeah! I’ve always had dogs, and I’m allergic to cats.
Ava: That’ll do it.
Roz: But cats are cute.
Adele: Yeah, I feel similarly. The allergy has set me back because I have never spent time around cats so I have no idea how they think.
Roz: I sometimes feel alienated around cat people because they really get cats and I’m like, “I just don’t really know where you’re coming from.” Also, my allergy has gotten better than it was and so this summer I actually lived with a kitten. I didn’t know I was going to be living with it, but I ended up falling in love with this cat. Its name is Lorenzo and he liked to crawl up on my head while I was sleeping and bite my toes but he was very small so I didn’t care. I really developed a relationship with him.



Ava: Where was Lorenzo?
Roz: In Santa Fe. Spencer and I were there this summer making a film called 30 Under 30. We went around trying to meet 30 people under the age of 30 but instead of the typical list you would see in like, Forbes Magazine or something, we were just looking for anyone under 30 to see what people under 30 were doing in Santa Fe. And so, when we met one person, we’d ask them to suggest the next person - like snowball sampling in research. Everyone who participated in the film was invited to come to the screening at the end of the month, there were a bunch of families and kids and friends.
Adele: What made you choose Santa Fe?
Roz: We had a residency there at our friend’s gallery called Etiquette, so we went there for three weeks. When I was telling people that I was going to do a project in Santa Fe, people were telling me that there are mainly older people living there, and everyone’s an artist. And I was like, “that seems like it can’t be true.” We set out to debunk these myths, and that was why we decided to make the list of 30 under 30, and the list only includes people who don’t self-identify as artists.



Ava: Can you describe your studio practice or your artistic practice as a party?
Roz: Imagine a whole field—a football field—and in the football field there are six different pools. Each pool has a different waterslide and some of the pools have diving boards. One of the pools is filled—it’s got water in it and everything, but it’s also filled with as many two liter bottles of orange soda that it would take to fill up the whole surface area of the pool. What else? There’s a bunch of people, all kinds of people: little kids, a bunch of seniors from the local senior center that I don’t really know but I wanted them to come anyway. There’s a bunch of roasted vegetables and there’s a grill. And there’s a ton of red balloons—only red.
Ava: Just like, scattered around everywhere?
Roz: Well, I have another part of the vision. There’s this football field with all these pools but then there’s also a big fence? No, it’s not a fence. What is it? There are poles, yeah, big poles and they’re all around the perimeter. There are gaps of about eight feet between each pole. Each pole has 50 red balloons tied to the top.
Ava: Oh, like a bouquet.
Roz: Yeah, like a bouquet. And there is also a ton of pineapples.
Ava: Is that the party snack?
Roz: Yeah, well, there are the roasted vegetables, and the grill with a ton of chicken wings on it and a ton of pineapple.
Ava: You know what I love is grilled pineapple.
Roz: Yeah, there’s grilled pineapple for sure. There are buckets of ice filled with cans of soda water. And a whole row of bottles of tequila.
Adele: Damn, this is the best party we’ve heard of yet. We can make this happen in Corner Office—it’s very small.
Roz: We have to! There should be a line of mandarin oranges, like the ones in my kitchen. That’s one of the main things that’s been inspiring me lately. And the tablecloths are going to have a lot of drawings of mandarin oranges on them, so I think we need mandarin oranges. And probably some tequila. I don’t know if that’s allowed.
Ava: Definitely. And red balloons!
Roz: Yes!
Ava: There are different ways we can bring this vision to fruition. I don’t know about the pools but definitely the cans of soda water and mandarin oranges.



Adele: In the writing you sent us you talk about sustainability, and I want to know what connotations or associations you conjure when you use this word sustainability.
Roz: I’ve been thinking about this word sustainability since about 2015. Part of my last job in the residence halls at Portland State was working with this sustainability class of first year students. At the time I was like, “sustainable housing, sustainable solar power, is that what we’re talking about?” I learned through that class that it is all these things but also it’s really specifically talking about resources on Earth and about trying to make sustainable solutions for systemic living in the larger realm of society. I talked to a lot of students who were really excited about ‘green’ stuff, you know, like the Green Movement and wanting everything to be Green. I felt repelled by the word sustainable or sustainability because it felt like it was packaged within a commodified, imaginary idea of what it means to live a life that doesn’t wreck the environment. I definitely think it’s important to try my best to live a life that doesn’t wreck the environment, but I guess I’m skeptical of what happens when that mindset is turned into a product to sell. Obviously capitalism isn’t good for the environment. Those are some of my background thoughts on that. I started thinking about sustainability in relationship to this exhibition at Corner Office when you told me that you usually show works in progress. Is that true?
Adele: Yeah, sort of.
Ava: I’m not sure how literally people have taken that, but it is what we encourage. People still end up feeling pressure to show more finished work. We appreciate anyone who embraces the work in progress concept.
Roz: I think it’s a lovely concept. The idea of y’all using this space as your studio and letting it be repurposed every once in a while to become a gallery space is really interesting. It makes me think about how people use space. What do they do with space? How do they make spaces into places? How do people interact with their places on a daily basis? And then I started thinking about myself and what I’ve been doing in order to progress as an artist and a human.



I really like the idea of “work in progress,” and I think it’s much more difficult to show work in progress because it makes the artist feel so vulnerable. I’ve also been thinking about vulnerability in relationship to a daily process. Through Instagram, you get to see people’s daily process and you kind of see what’s sustaining them, in a way. Obviously, it’s not the full picture. I kept coming back to this word “sustain.” How do I sustain myself? Throughout these thought trains, I was confused because it seemed like “sustaining myself” is different than sustainability as a topic or a term but it’s also about the same thing. Referring to the “sustainment” of a closed system to keep you going - if I think about my body as something that is sustained - the same way society or earth can be sustained through maintenance and stewardship. I’m in the process of becoming healthier, and I’ve begun to embrace the idea that maintaining the health of my body and mind is the most important work I can do right now. During a brainstorming session for this show, I wrote a long list of things that were sustaining me earlier this winter. My health has overall slowly declined, pretty much since I met you, Adele, because I was in graduate school and not paying attention to my body or my mind. I was constantly producing work in a really unhealthy way, allowing essentially no time for reflection or processing, and so I’m sort of imagining my current dorm room (where I’m the artist in residence at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth) as a rehab center for Roz—a Roz Rehab—where I’m really questioning my habits.


This opportunity to work with you came at a really perfect time when I’m contemplating the notion of sustainability in terms of my life and what kinds of stuff I want to keep doing. In the list, it became obvious that I was feeling most sustained by food but also recognizing that a lot of the food that I’ve eaten over the last several years had been like, pickles for dinner. That’s not okay! I always justified it by saying things to myself like, “it’s not that unhealthy, it’s a just a pickle, it’s a vegetable.” I just realized that not offering my body the kind of nutrients and vitamins it needs, I’m only hurting myself. In all of these realizations, I decided to learn how to cook, something I’ve wanted to do since I met Pallavi at Mildred’s Lane who in-part inspired the desire to take care of myself. My answer to the question “what do I think of when I think of sustainability?” comes from lots of different places, really all various nodes of my life.
Adele: I totally get that. My health was pretty terrible when I met you. Physically, but really bad mentally. And then I finished grad school and learned to slow down and be healthier, but it’s really only been in the past 4 or 5 months.
Roz: When did you graduate?
Adele: 2016.
Roz: Yeah, it seems like it really takes a long time to rebuild after such an intense thing. Especially when I allowed myself to be controlled by my work instead of by the desire to live a healthy, well-balanced life.
Adele: Yeah, and there’s a lot of stress that I put myself through that reciprocated itself through my body. That’s what I have been trying to work on a lot in the past six months: redefining what sustenance is for me, mentally, inspirationally—
Ava: —socially.
Roz: Yeah! Relationally. Part of the reason why I like the idea of the tablecloth is that it’s this external dressing that decorates a table. Tables are such a big part of my social world. Forever I’ve been sitting around tables with people, but now I want to put more effort into what kind of table I’m sitting around and with whom. That’s part of the impetus around the tablecloths. Like, let’s start with making this table—or whatever table we’ve got—into a place where we truly want to sit and be with our friends and family, sustaining ourselves through meals. What I love about the show being in your studio and the tablecloths being for your work tables is that obviously these tables already have a lot of love and intention put on top of them so I think it will be really fun to add some tablecloths.
Ava: Yeah I love that!
Adele: Me too. I think that will be really nice.



Ava: I was looking at your website and reading all of the many jobs that you’ve had. How have your non-art-related jobs influenced your practice? You mention Mildred’s Lane, and I pulled this quote: “Each activity is part of an ongoing art project that will never end.” I interned at Elsewhere, in Greensboro, which is a very similar concept, turning the everyday—the mundane, the domestic—into art. Do you think everything is art?
Roz: I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately because I seem to be living in an art project right now. During my first semester here at UMass I started working on the Center for Undisciplined Research which is a place for first-year students living in the residence halls to experiment with how they learn and what kinds of things they learn, and to be fully engaged in the project, I also live in the first year residence halls on campus. In the fall I was totally immersed and always working on this project. For winter break, I went to visit family in Florida for three weeks, and I found that time away to be really helpful for me, to just step back and remember that not everything in life is my art project, and I don’t want it to be, either. I think there’s actually lots of value in things not being part of the art project, or the art practice.



I’m fairly sure my desire to make an all-consuming project like this is inspired by the time I spent at Mildred’s Lane in 2015. While Adele, Pallavi, and I were there visiting for a two-week workshop, everything we did became part of somebody else’s art project, in a way, which I thought was compelling. I liked that while I was just living and participating in daily activities, I was also contributing to something larger than myself. When I worked in a gift shop in Alaska in 2009 I wasn’t necessarily contributing to someone’s art project, but I was participating in a larger system outside of myself which was the microclimate of a resort hotel. I was not an artist, and I didn’t identify as an artist at all during that time, but I think all of those interactions that I had while I was there, exchanges with customers, guests, co-workers from around the world, totally influenced my ability to meet new people and talk to new people about things.



Those skills help a tremendous amount when I’m dropped into a university and don’t know anybody and I have to suddenly make an art project with a hundred first year students, you know? Dropping myself into unusual situations at an early age was really beneficial, and it helped me—not necessarily with my confidence, because I wouldn’t say I was super confident at the time--but it helped me with my social skills in general. I’m an only child and I grew up uncomfortable with and in some ways unaware of how conflict works; rather than address conflict, I learned very early on how to avoid conflict. Since I became aware of the shortcomings of avoidant behavior, I’ve been consciously learning about conflict. I think it’s become a research interest of mine in some way - I want to know how other people experience conflict and how to more productively engage in conflict myself. I feel like I’m constantly trying to meet people and have dialogues and maybe even have conflicts because I see them as part of progress. And I’m still not good at having productive conflicts, but all of my jobs have given me opportunities to practice how I engage with people, and certainly all these engagements have influenced where my art practice is now.



The question I ask myself: is it useful to call this thing I’m doing part of my art practice, or is there no reason to do that, or maybe even, is it detrimental (to me or someone else) for me to claim this activity or moment as part of my artwork? Essentially, is it useful, is it neutral, or is it detrimental? I ask myself that, but I don’t really know what happens after that. It still feels really blurry all the time. One thing is, I have gotten better about being transparent about whether or not something is an art project with the people that I’m working with. With the Center for Undisciplined Research, everyone who is part of it knows they’re part of a situation that’s an art project, and it’s really transparent on the website for the project, too. A lot of the students are listed on the website as staff of the Center, and they get to choose how they’re represented within the project: their title, their biography, and their photograph all come from them. That’s been going really well so far. That’s not something I was doing in grad school very well, and so I’m really happy to realize I’ve progressed in my communication about what’s happening.



Adele: What are you really excited about right now?
Roz: I’m really excited about a lot of stuff. I’m really excited to come to Richmond, and I think that’s related to my excitement right now about friendship and the potential for friendship to create solidarity to fight fascists in the government. I’ve really been thinking about what I value and specifically relationships, and having people to rely on and people that I can support and they can rely on me. This is becoming more and more important in my daily life. I don’t think I’ve ever really prioritized that, not since I was a kid. I just feel I’ve been really selfish and I’m really sick of it. So much of what I think about is how people form communities and I feel as though I’m really outside of the communities I think about a lot of times. So, to me, my network of friends is so valuable and I’m really excited to learn how to better support my friends. I’m going to do a performance in Oklahoma in March. My friend Jessica is the curator, and I’m really excited to get to see her and learn about what she’s doing there. And I’m really excited to go back to Portland and see my friends in the spring.
Adele: What’s the place in Oklahoma?
Roz: It’s called Living Arts and they have a festival called the New Genre Arts Festival, and Jessica became the Artistic Director there this year, and so she curated this year of the festival, but it’s been going on for a long time, since the 70s.
Adele: Wow, that’s so cool! That’s so exciting to be part of a tradition that long.
Roz: Yeah, I’m really nervous about it. I’m not sure how the performance is going to go, but—I’m excited about it. I think it’s a new direction for me that I’m looking forward to.