Interpretations of their own teachings and opinions shared here are the responsibility of each artist.
Written transcript is below.
"I really think about Blackness in the Americas as a form of indigeneity, and so how I share that in the work is a communication, again at the edges, at an intersection. That feels important to me, that our teachings inform me but also expand my understanding of self and the potential of how what I make can be useful."
- M. Carmen Lane
"When we say we are the land, we
really are the land. The land also - and in that way, the land informs our music, so the trees, the rivers, in my family's case its rivers."
- Jennifer Kreisberg
Written Transcript, Interview between
M. Carmen Lane & Jennifer Kreisberg
M. Carmen Lane: So this is an interview of Jennifer Elizabeth Kreisberg and M. Carmen Lane. We are interviewing each other about our practice as Two Spirit and women artists. I'm going to share my name and then Jennifer, you can share yours. I'm M. Carmen Lane. I'm 46 years old. I'm Mohawk and Tuscarora Two Spirit and I currently live in Cleveland, Ohio.
Jennifer Kreisberg: My name is Jennifer Elizabeth Kreisberg. I'm forty eight years old. I am Tuscarora from North Carolina. I am in Connecticut, in the States, and I am a woman. And my mother's family is from North Carolina.
M. Carmen Lane: So, you know, my grandfather's family migrated to Ohio from New Bern, North Carolina. And my grandmother's family migrated to Ohio from St. Catherine's, Ontario. So we've been in Cleveland, Oberlin, Lorain, for a couple of centuries now, or three centuries, something like that, but I've never been to New Bern, North Carolina. I've been to North Carolina, but not home in that way, or St. Catherine - wait, have I been to St. Catherine’s during a road trip for grad school.I thought we can go through the questions and, you know, just go back and forth with our answers from our own perspectives, how does that resonate with you?
Jennifer Kreisberg: That resonates good.
M. Carmen Lane: Okay, so artistic expression. How do you want to start?
Jennifer Kreisberg: What is your method of artistic expression? It's a good question. You want me to start?
M. Carmen Lane: Yeah, go ahead.
Jennifer Kreisberg: My main artistic expression at this time is through singing and composing music. Yes, singing and composing are my main ways of artistic expression at this time, and you?
M. Carmen Lane: I'm a visual artist and a writer, so I do installation work or sculpture and sound work.
Jennifer Kreisberg: And why is that important to you?
M. Carmen Lane: You know, I think being an artist is a part of my purpose as a human being. But in particular, why it's important to me, is that I come from a family of artists who were not able to be artists in their professional practice, so it's not what paid their bills. I'm really, to my knowledge, the first person in my family who's been able to center their art practice as the thing that feeds them and puts a roof over their head. That's why it's important to me.
Jennifer Kreisberg: I think singing and music is important to me - not unlike you, similarly, because of my family. It's both of my parents went to music college, that's where they met, and then they stayed in town near their college, they were both from York. They both stayed in Connecticut after college and fell in love, started a family, and it's just sort of carrying on those family traditions on both sides and then it's just... It's important because I got to eat, also important because I don't have a lot of other skill sets? No, I'm just kidding, it's important to make something in the world; we live in a big capitalistic society, making people feel something good or making them feel something that causes them to reflect and evolve is just as important as making a big bunch of money or creating [unclear]
M. Carmen Lane: Yeah, you know, for me, the piece you're talking about around the work being useful to others is important, and how I frame it for myself is I want the work to take the viewer or the audience to the edge of meaning-making for themselves. I think art doesn't explain, but it creates some capacity to understand what it means to be human.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Right, right.
M. Carmen Lane: I'm going to go into the question around what artists and art movements have I been influenced by, because I need to think about which work of mine am my most proud of and why - I don't... I don't know if I can make a decision. But I also need a moment to think about and consider the impact of the work, you know? But, for me, Elizabeth Catlett as a visual artist, the Black arts movement of visual artists, particularly, you know, women of colour artists like Ana Mendieta or Shelley Niro, or Adrian Piper, artists who decided to do whatever the fuck they wanted to do, you know, and use their practice to - or at least for me, it has helped me to make meaning of the environment that I live in the US, as well as open my eyes to global connections and intersections, you know, their work got me out of my conditioning of mainstream thinking, you know or - no, not my conditioning, but helped me to not feel crazy that the environment wanted me to think certain things or embody certain things or... So people whose work said no, that your reality is valid and has meaning has been important to me.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Yeah.
M. Carmen Lane: You know, the poetry of Chrystos, Barbara Cameron, Audre Lorde, Gloria Anzaldua. Those were critical moments in my life to read that work, you know.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Yeah.
M. Carmen Lane: What about you?
Jennifer Kreisberg: (reads question) Oh, man.
M. Carmen Lane: I know. How do you - how do you choose? You know?
Jennifer Kreisberg: So many. I mean, I guess if I look at influence instead of inspire, I'm inspired by so many, that's the longest list, but actual influenced by?
M. Carmen Lane: Yeah, I didn't catch that word. Thank you.
Jennifer Kreisberg: I would say well, first and foremost, my relatives, my family, that's been the biggest influence. They all pretty much sing and growing up I was, as a teen, I was influenced by powwow music. That was this pan-Indian thing that people in the cities and everybody could participate in in their own way, and then I listen to a lot of harmony music from all over the planet, anywhere I could find it to consume it from. And art movements, I guess, movement wise... I guess bringing Indigenous music sort of more mainstream or getting people more access to it was an influence, but I guess Ulali actually helped to be a part of that movement and influence.
M. Carmen Lane: I would say so, yes.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Especially for women with hand drums, which we weren't the first, but we were the first to do it in our way. But somehow when you're doing it and you're on the journey of it, it all morphs and evolves and there's this whole journey.
M. Carmen Lane: You talked about Ulali being an influencer as a movement and participating in it, you know, in the moment, you're not thinking about what you're influencing, right? You're doing the work. You're embodying it.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Yes.
M. Carmen Lane: So back to this word influenced by - so then I would have to say the poetry of Lucille Clifton, the poetry of Luci Tapahonso, the art of Bettye Saar, you know, Faith Ringgold, you know, where these objects that are just kind of around you can be materials for your art practice. I think Ana Mendieta's kind of relationship to the Earth and to the environment and to doing work outside of a museum, outside of a gallery, has influenced me.
My, you know, my mother is an art therapist, but she studied painting when I was a kid. So I notice a lot of my kind of brush strokes in my painting are similar to her brush work. Which is, you know, interesting because you think, you know, you want to think you're doing something new, and I never saw her paint, but I saw her paintings, you know, and still, the brush stroke is similar.
Jennifer Kreisberg: I think we get our inspirations and, you know, art is life, even though that's whatever, it really is real and if you are just waking up and doing you there's five other people on the planet at any given time doing the same thing, who may come up with something really similar. That's all, it's just we all live on the same planet, so we all kind of have access to very similar things on a macro.
M. Carmen Lane: What work am I most proud of and why? I don't have a work that I'm most proud of, but the one that feels important is the installation piece that I collaborated with you on because I also collaborated with my family on it. So part of the installation had objects that were used by my relatives and the things that they made were also included in that installation. So it was an opportunity for my relatives' art practice to be acknowledged. And I was proud of saying yes to the opportunity of having their work be included in an exhibition that I was in so, you know, I didn't necessarily bring that into the awareness of the gallery or the curator, but I chose to use the moment and the container to do what I wanted to do, and that was to collaborate with my relatives, with my ancestors.
Jennifer Kreisberg: That's actually - I was pretty moved by that answer.
M. Carmen Lane: (laughs) I'm not laughing at you
Jennifer Kreisberg: If we can't laugh at each other we have no business in kinship. If we can't laugh at ourselves and each other - just as long as it's not cruel, right?
M. Carmen Lane: That's right.
Jennifer Kreisberg: I don't really have a favourite piece of art of my own that - I guess it says what are you most proud of, which is different than what's your favourite. I guess, as a musician, I'm proud of a couple - there's a few collaborations I've done that I'm really proud of. Or I've - collaborations I've been blessed to have been a part of. It was more about how they affected people, and the affect that I saw it had on people, and it really was about how I felt about the actual pieces themselves, because most - the pieces that people react the most to positively were all really excruciating to create, right? Really hard to do for many different reasons that, you know, that's another discussion for another time. I guess there's just something about that hard birth - anyway, but I guess the one I'll pick tonight is the song that Ulali did for the end of Smoke Signals, Wah Jhi Le Yihm, that was something that I'm proud of, I'm proud of other things, too, but that's the one I'll pick tonight. I guess it just depends on our moods, right, what you're feeling at any given moment in time.
M. Carmen Lane: Mhm. No, I love that song, you know, and I love it for, like, scratch the surface reasons, like it's just beautiful and melodic and I, you know, it's a song that you can put on repeat and enjoy, you know, in a very simple way. And I love it because when I first heard the song, you know, it really - I had a very fraught and absent relationship with my father. And there wasn't room in my family system to wrestle with that, and so that song created a container for me, for me to be able to acknowledge and wrestle with it. And so I'm grateful for the song in that more profound way for myself. And I know others like the song, but I'm - you know, I want to speak for myself.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Thank you. It was definitely emotional to give birth to and create, and there's stuff behind it, but that's for another time. But yeah, that's it.
M. Carmen Lane: So we're shifting from artistic expression to childhood reflections. How does the land and water where you are from influence your work?
Jennifer Kreisberg: The land and water influences my work in every way - as it influences all human beings, where they're from, where they get down, where they have generations upon, or just one generation upon. Where I come from and the sound that I have, and the sound that Ulali had and has, is all informed by our ancestral homelands.
M. Carmen Lane: Repeat that last sentence, so I heard you say, you know, the land in our ancestral homelands influence the work of Ulali.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Yeah, our ancestral homelands informs the sound of Ulali, and informs, to this day, the sound that I have.
M. Carmen Lane: Yes.
Jennifer Kreisberg: And it, for obvious reasons, it's a real simple thing, it's not a big - it's just a very simple thing: when we say we are the land, we really are the land. It's past that, it's like our food and our diet is based on what the land gives up, what animals are there, what grows there, what we're able to grow, and what we're able to gather. The land also - and in that way, the land informs our music, so the trees, the rivers, in my family's case its rivers. The specific way that the land sounds informs how we sound, what you hear every day is in your head and your ears take it in and if your ears don't work a certain way, your body feels vibrations and takes that in, right? And that all comes out when you make music and sound when you speak, it's like people having accents from different places, and you know, yeah, that's - that is how the land and water where I am from influences my work and everybody's work. It's just one of those basic things.
M. Carmen Lane: Well, I'm thinking about the piece we did where, you know, Kate animated it, and, you know, I'm speaking the poem and you're singing the song. And, you know, people keep asking questions about how did we sync my voice with your song, and I'm like... There was no syncing, you know, it just was recorded, and then it was played on the video, you know what I'm saying?
Jennifer Kreisberg: Don't tell our secrets! It took us years, but go ahead.
M. Carmen Lane: I think what was so interesting about that was how easy it was for your singing and the sound of my voice to sync, you know, or to be connected. For me, the land and water are literally materials that I use in my work. So it's not an influence, it's a material. It's a collaborator in the work. That I learn from it in the process of doing visual art. And in my writing, even, you know, a physical need to be at the edges of land and water, for me, or it's an important spatial location for me in my process.
I'm going to the second question, how does your gender identity and/or sexual orientation influence your early years and how has that influenced your work?
M. Carmen Lane: You know, I feel like my gender identity and sexual identity, or sexual orientation, you know, that - and my identity as a Indigenous person who is also Black, I mean, all of those things put me at an edge, you know, so I think it helped catalyse my relationship to a creative practice because I wasn't distracted by the center, you know. So I could describe it as difficult or I could say more aptly that it removes certain obstructions so I could grow in the way that I've needed to grow as an artist. I don't necessarily think about those identities when I'm doing my work because I feel part of doing the work of an artist for me is being - it's the work of being whole. And so I don't have to think about the ways in which the over culture, as Joy Harjo likes to say, and how you like to remind me, those are moments where the over cultures' messaging, it doesn't get in when I am doing my work, you know. And I also believe as a Two Spirit person that these places of intersection, these edges of land and water, these edges, these spatial edges, you know, have been such critical points of learning and transformation for me personally and in my practice as an artist. I don't know if that resonates or if it makes sense.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Yeah it resonates with me, it was a great answer. I have nothing to add to that - no, I'm just kidding.
M. Carmen Lane: Ditto.
Jennifer Kreisberg: You said it all! I think the thing that resonated the most is, generally, I think especially after you've been doing it for so - for a certain amount of time. And you have experience. It's just sort of not something you're constantly aware of or thinking about when you're creating art. And not in the over culture way. It's just not something you're always thinking about and...
M. Carmen Lane: One thing you mentioned to me once, in a kind of [private way], was that often movement supports you in creating, like the physicality, like your body literally moving where I think in an over culture, you know, or a white person artist, they talk about, you "had to be still and quiet and be with myself in my studio" or whatever the fuck, you know, to be able to make this thing, you know. And so it caught my attention when you said that. And so I'm wondering again how perhaps water or land or kind of the natural rhythms of movement influence how you compose, how songs come to you.
Jennifer Kreisberg: I think movement - honestly, it's really simple. I lose my pacing and my beat if I stand still. That's during a live performance. If the body is engaged and you have a good center of gravity you can keep a beat as good as a metronome.
M. Carmen Lane: So I'm hearing it is very pragmatic, but at the same time it also feels kind of anticolonial too, to have that understanding, you know?
Jennifer Kreisberg: Yeah. Yeah, I guess so. I didn't think of it as anticolonial, but yeah, absolutely - oh, man, that's a whole other... So much colonial stuff in the music business and the creation of art of all forms, but yeah, movement is important and to anyone that's precolonial or doing a precolonial art form anywhere on the planet movement's pretty universal and it's just something I observed in myself: that I would lose my beat if I stood completely still, and any time I'm moving, even just a little bit, or a lot, I keep perfect time. That's all.
M. Carmen Lane: Well, it makes me think about... In a funny way it makes me think of Anita Baker in those 80s music videos.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Earworm. Yeah.
M. Carmen Lane: In the context of childhood reflections,I studied ballet as a kid from age three to 13. And so, you know, I remember having, like, huge excitement about Maria Tallchief and Janet Collins and Alvin Ailey and, you know, and I often diminish the role that that part of my life may have on how I do visual art, how the rhythm of my poetry, you know, so this conversation is having me think differently about that. I haven't come to any conclusions, but I just wanted to name it. So we're shifting to Indigenous identity, but we've been talking about it constantly. What aspects of your Indigenous identity influence your art practice? Also, what cultural teachings around gender and sexuality do you feel comfortable sharing and how do they relate to your art practice?
Jennifer Kreisberg: What aspects of... My Indigenous identity completely influences my art, end answer. And I think it's obvious how and why, I do traditional based song, and based on the land that my family comes from in North Carolina - see I made a - I had a rhythm there. And as far as cultural teachings around gender and sexuality, I, you know. I'm learning more, I've learned a lot these last few years and I don't really know that they relate to my art practice in any meaningful way for me, they might for people on the outside looking in, but at 48 years old - you know, when I was younger, I think those things were far more important and certain aspects of that were more important. And I'm just at an age where it's me, not a big relational thing there that I can see.
M. Carmen Lane: Yeah, you know, like what gender is a song, you know?
Jennifer Kreisberg: Yes, in all of that, all of that - it just doesn't really fit, my songs are for everybody. Our songs are for everybody.
M. Carmen Lane: Yeah.
Jennifer Kreisberg: And the teachings are - that's also super personal too, teachings wise, and in terms of - I think people should have access to the teachings, but in terms of my art practice, it doesn't really intersect in that way, that's all.
M. Carmen Lane: Yeah, I think for me, I need to be very clear that I'm speaking about how our teachings live in me and then are expressed in my art practice, you know, so it's not the teachings or who taught me, but the meanings that I continue to make around our teachings. Though how I learn is through my making of things, you know, the deepening of a lived practice, a lived life, and so when I think about, for example, you know, my Indigenous identity is all over my practice, and it also informs how I've been erased by the over culture. So I really think about Blackness in the Americas as a form of indigeneity, you know, and so how I share that in the work is a communication, again at the edges, at an intersection. That feels important to me, that our teachings inform me but also expand my understanding of self and the potential of how what I make can be useful. And I think I'll just leave it at that.
So we're kind of shifting more explicitly to gender and sexual identity. And I'll answer the question kind of first and then flip it over to you. So how does your gender identity and/or sexual orientation influence your art? Do you identify as Two Spirit and/or Indigenous - so as a Two Spirit person,
M. Carmen Lane: There’s a piece of writing that is included in the contemporary Two Spirit anthology called Sovereign Erotics, the name of the piece is Remember, She Bought Those Panties For You.” So, you know, my gender and sexual orientation influenced that work. But if I'm being clearer it's not necessarily my gender identity or my sexuality that is influencing the work, but the ways in which the over culture wants to continue to snuff those identities out. So I put a stake in the ground, in the work for myself and for others, and for others who come after me, so that they can recognize themselves and their potentiality in a poem, in a song, in a piece of art, you know, so that those over culture messages don't stick. Or at least that's part of the motivation when I do work that's explicitly around gender identity as a Two Spirit person.
Jennifer Kreisberg: That's really important.
M. Carmen Lane: What about yourself? You said it a little bit earlier where, you know, at this point in your life, the song is more important than you on some level.
Jennifer Kreisberg: I love your retelling. Can you edit everything I write? Yeah. What are you going to say before I cut you off, I'm sorry.
M. Carmen Lane: Well, I think a lot of times your participation in Ulali, people say "you're a Native woman artist", you know? And so does that have meaning for you or not?
Jennifer Kreisberg: That's a tough one. That absolutely has meaning for me, I think. When you talk about - in a way, what I got out of some of your answers were just visibility, right? And in over culture you're snuffing identities out, or in my case, in my experience of it, similar snuffing identities out, snuffing your existence out, and snuffing your experience out. And then it's something that our own people actually uphold in a lot of different ways, and I think I've spent so many years trying to prove something, mainly to myself.
M. Carmen Lane: Yes.
Jennifer Kreisberg: But it's like I lost - I'll just come clean, I'll be honest, I don't really think about it that much, even being a woman artist until I come up against a brick wall.
M. Carmen Lane: Yes.
Jennifer Kreisberg: And the reason why there's a wall there is because I'm a woman artist. Do you know what I mean? Otherwise, if there's no brick wall there and everybody's pretty evolved and whatever, it's just not something I think about right now in my practice that much. Until there's that - so it gives you contrast, right? Otherwise, I'm just going along, human being, you know what I mean? When I was younger, it was huge, being an artist was everything to me and now, after having lived more life and just had more experience, more time on Earth - right now, and this may change because, you know, we're all evolving all the time: I experience it mostly when there's a wall there or when there's someone there who has an issue with women or when there's some lateral violence about it or just colonial bullshit, which, you know, you can be decolonized all you want, we still exist in a colonial system, so. You can you can decolonize English and change your language and, you know, we're still in a colonized world.
M. Carmen Lane: Yeah, we're saturated in it.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Absolutely, we are surrounded by and -.
M. Carmen Lane: We're like an old grease can on the stove.
Jennifer Kreisberg: You know, it's just, it's there, right? But in order for me to thrive -.
M. Carmen Lane: Yes.
Jennifer Kreisberg: And have a thriving practice, I - it's just not something - it's like if that person wants to pay me less because of my gender or wants to pay me or doesn't want to listen to me, but wants my voice, wants my juice, right? My gender or whatever of the labels that I have, there are many, I've just learnt to... I cannot internalize that anymore because that's not a healthy place for me and that's not where I thrive as an artist. So I'm not saying that they don't exist and that they're not important, I know that those things are, it's just for me where I'm at right now, it's not something I'm preoccupied with or that I think about that much until I come back to a brick wall.
M. Carmen Lane: Well this kind of takes us into the conversation, these questions around the mainstream art scene, and as I was listening to you speak about kind of just embodying your practice until you hit the brick wall of X, Y, Z, oppression, gender, anti-Indian, whatever the ism is, right. For me one of the things I'm very clear about in the mainstream art scene is if these kind of cast of characters aren't licking my balls, then they don't see me as an artist. And so I'm very clear that I need to see these non-Native mainstream people on their knees when they engage with me so that I can get my work done, and if I don't feel that they are doing their art world kabuki well enough with me then I put the boundary down because my practice... I have worked and fought very hard to have a practice, you know, and so I'm clear, and what I'm learning about myself is that I will not back down unless there is one hundred percent plus of respect and ball licking. Even if it's a shadow puppet ball licking, I still need to experience it, you know?
Jennifer Kreisberg: I understand. Interesting.
M. Carmen Lane: And I say that because I want, you know, emerging artists and emerging Indigenous and Two Spirit artists and women artists just to know that if someone is treating you equitably, it means that they are not taking your art practice seriously, they need to be demonstrative in some way, you know.
Jennifer Kreisberg: It's very interesting.
M. Carmen Lane: Mhm, it's, you know, and I'm, you know, I - it took me a long time to understand that as a truth for myself, but once I was clear about it... If I don't see that behaviour within the first couple of minutes of an interaction with the mainstream art institution, it's a wrap, you know.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Right, right.
M. Carmen Lane: You know. And then, I mean, that's really all I have to say about mainstream art scenes, because I'm not looking for those scenes to support me. I want them to get out of my way so I can get my work done.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Yeah. Yeah. I totally get it. I would answer that question... You know, I used to rail against the mainstream art scene, the music - mainstream music scene, and we sort of dabbled in it on the periphery now and then as a group and, you know, got to interact with people, but I feel like, again, where I'm at right now, at 48, after a year of covid and processing, processing, processing, processing, every fucking day, processing, I feel like it's not something I rail against anymore. It's just my place isn't in the mainstream art scene, and that's fine because the mainstream art scene is, again, another colonial entity. And I'm not shitting on anyone in the mainstream. It's like, you know, if you get the world to lick your balls and give you lots of money to do something you love, then fucking go for it. But there's no place for me in it and what I do, and what I do is for my own people and for myself and for Indian Country at large and my home community and then Indian country at large and myself and anyone else that loves it, that's great. And I'm happy, and truly, and appreciative, but it's just not something I consider anymore.
And I - part of that's because as a musician, I see our own Indigenous artists get can get really lost and wrapped up in making it in the mainstream music and getting lost in their proximity to whiteness, or in this case Blackness, because a lot of what's valued in mainstream music is from Black culture. But I - it's just not.... It - they're trying to prove that they can do - it's like, for the women especially, I can throw my tits out there, I can be sexy in that way and it's like, you know, we can just be sexy just naturally and not in the way that the over culture's telling us is sexy, you know what I mean? You could just wake up and be sexy and it can be a part of your work.
But the way I'm seeing it actioned out in the music scene, it's very for the colonial lens and everyone rails against it, but that's what they're doing. There's work that needs to be done there in order for me to feel like a part of it. And - or I guess I'm a part of it in a way, but in order for me to feel like I could thrive in it as an artist, and I think - so I just don't feel connected to the mainstream art scene in that way. And I've worked with a lot of - quite a few mainstream artists and usually the ones I've worked with are good people because they're they want to be around Indians because of obvious reasons, because (unclear) and they want to right some wrongs and they want to dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah, so I've had mostly good experiences with mainstream musicians.
M. Carmen Lane: There was a couple points where you sounded garbled, so I just wanted to give context for what you're saying, because what I heard you say was, you know, this perspective that you're having around the mainstream art scene is really after - it's where you are now after many years of being in the field. And you were also talking about kind of being choiceful around which kind of non-Native artists you work with or collaborate with.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Right. Thank you. I guess just to wrap it up or to whatever, I just don't feel a part, I don't consider the mainstream art scene as a musician, as a woman, as an Indigenous artist, there's really no place for me in it. And there never was. I would have had to have stretched and contorted and changed my practice so much that it wouldn't have been me anymore, and I don't think that's unique to me, I think even mainstream people go through that, but they're willing to make that sacrifice. And I am not, I can't! I don't know how to fake it in music, you know what I mean? I don't know how to become a character.
M. Carmen Lane: Yes. And, I think for me, how I am clear about this is that when I do get access to those "spaces", and I'm not going to say access when I do work in those spaces, you know, I'm clear that it's not shifting the meaning of my life, you know, and that it is, temporary, "this is what I'm doing right now," but it is not the embodiment or some kind of affirmation of the road that I've been on as an artist.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Right, or your value.
M. Carmen Lane: Or my value, you know, and that there's nothing in the mainstream that can validate my practice, you know, for me. I don't even see my practice as my singular practice, it feels constantly collaborative. As an Indigenous person, as a Two Spirit person who's an artist, I don't believe I do anything alone.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Right. I've had a similar experience. I said you probably have some Libra placements in your chart.
M. Carmen Lane: I got to check it out, I got to check it out. Now, there's some questions around Indigenous art scenes and my experience in Indigenous art scenes. You know, I, this is an interesting question for me, because primarily how I show up in Indigenous art scenes is as a poet, you know, not as much in my visual art practice because, for example, in the era of covid and a racial reckoning, like all of a sudden people are interested in my contemporary art practice because they want to, "center Afro Indigenous people". So all of a sudden the Smithsonian's calling me, all of a sudden, you know, certain entities and institutions that have some kind of Indigenous arts thread is connecting with me and my practice in that way. And the other Indigenous kind of spaces where I show up in my art practice, and as a writer, and as an artist, is in Indian country, which I wanted to make - say is different and distinct from Indigenous art scenes, you know? And so the kind of hospitality and care that I get in Indian Country is very different than what I perceive as an Indigenous contemporary art scene, where I think being under thirty five is important. Being thin is important, you know, there's a certain kind of visual aesthetic, I think, that is encouraged to be considered a contemporary Indigenous artist. And I'm not particularly bothered by it, but I've been curious about how we're curating what that supposedly looks and feels like, you know.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Yeah, I think that's an important conversation we need to keep having outside of this and to hold ourselves accountable, or other folks is - it's kind of similar to what I - it's a similar experience, I guess, your own personal experience is similarly in that what I think I'm hearing you say, and I could probably be wrong, is just that there's a certain aesthetic, yes, it's a fucking colonial aesthetic, even though it's an Indigenous art scene, it bleeds colonial aesthetics, and it's still, as you and I have discussed in the past, and you've named, I think, pretty accurately: proximity to whiteness, which everybody rails against, but it's still what everyone's fighting for in these - in all the scenes and we don't even -.
M. Carmen Lane: And also, to your point, a proximity to Blackness, because there is an aesthetic in Indigenous contemporary art that mimics and parallels with Black contemporary art that is getting quite a bit of attention right now. So, you know, Afro futurism, now Indigenous futurism, and Black Lives Matter, and Native Lives Matter. And I'm doing - Nick Cave is doing these sound suits, and Jeff Rune is doing these suits with masks and beads that are based in Choctaw cultural representations. And, you know, so there is something happening to position your work and practice to the attention of galleries and collectors and museums, you know? And is that really the work you want to be making? Is that the song you want to be writing, is that the beat you want to be producing?
Jennifer Kreisberg: Yeah. I think, yeah, I agree. I think for me as an Indigenous artist, my experience with Indigenous art scenes is... I've experienced a couple of different art scenes; there's the music scene, which is different than fine art scene, and there's all these different scenes and they Intersect, which of course they do, and at different places and different times. And I've also watched the music scene evolve over the course of my whole career and life. And I think, experience wise, the music business Indigenous art scene kind of saved my life as a younger person.
M. Carmen Lane: Mhm.
Jennifer Kreisberg: And that's where I felt welcomed and that's where I flourished and that's where I blossomed and, you know, whatever, however you want to, whatever, but through the years, that is, as it has become more colonized, there's different levels of colonization, and as it's - as with social media, has helped so many people break away from having to rely on record companies and whatever, but it's also brought in a shit ton of over culture, ideals, ideas, ideals, ideas, and aesthetics that really informed what's valued in the art scenes.
M. Carmen Lane: So I heard ideals, can you repeat that list? Ideals...
Jennifer Kreisberg: Ideals, ideas and aesthetics.
M. Carmen Lane: Yes, yes. Ideals, ideas, and aesthetics. I like how the words are intersecting.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Yeah, and then in those colonial ideals, colonial ideas, and colonial aesthetics have really become the norm, and it may not even be about the song itself, but now everybody has to have a brand and be branded, and now everybody has to have the correct hashtags, and everybody has to be angry at the same things for the same reasons, everybody has to, you know, water is life dah-dah-dah-dah, you know, it's -.
M. Carmen Lane: It's kill the Indian, save the man.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Yeah, right, and there's, in a way, it's kind of - it's gutted, the 2D, you know, having your whole career and whatever through a screen has sort of gutted the humanness of these practices.
M. Carmen Lane: And it's still very colonial, branding is colonial, you know.
Jennifer Kreisberg: That's what I'm…
M. Carmen Lane: It's the ultimate, you know, and I'm even going branding, as in, you know, in enslavement, right, of taking a cattle prod and branding someone's body. You know, what I hear you saying is they don't have to do that anymore because we're hash tag burning ourselves, you know?
Jennifer Kreisberg: Absolutely, that's exactly what I'm saying. And not only are we doing it to ourselves, we're encouraging it, we're rewarding it, it's a way to reward mediocrity, a way to not have to focus on your practice and make your art better. It's just like jumping on who can manipulate social media the best, which is great, I think the best of both worlds is people that are ultra talented and make amazing moving art and then can also do social media well, but it just seems like all these aesthetics, physical aesthetics, like what you were saying, you know, tone policing is back, and I mean that physically and aurally, the tone of what you're saying and the tone of your damn skin is back in a really stupid way, the conversations around it are dumb and not evolutionary - it's like we're devolving. And that's my experience of the Indigenous art scene right now.
M. Carmen Lane: Yeah, I do want to make a tiny addendum. You know, I do experience myself as an Indigenous artist differently when I am in Canada versus when I'm in the U.S., I just want to mention, you know, I don't want to open it up too big, but I feel like I get more work in Canada and more response to my work in Canada than I do in the States and more hospitality. And I don't know, again, I'm not making any meaning around it, but it's just something that I've noticed.
Jennifer Kreisberg: I think I've experienced that as well. I've always worked more in Canada, especially as a solo artist. I think there's a few reasons for that, in addition to whatever is going on socially. There's more funding in Canada for Indigenous Arts and, you know, they have APTN, they have the Canada Council has a whole Indigenous, you know, there's just more going on there and more funded there and...
M. Carmen Lane: You know, also more access to archival footage of Indigenous realities. Oh, you know, I think in the U.S. we still have to catch people up on the timeline and I don't experience that as much when you can go on an app and, you know, look at a contemporary Indigenous artist's film, or a documentary of a man building an igloo in like 1890, you know, like those things are equally accessible, you know?
Jennifer Kreisberg: Right.
M. Carmen Lane: So we're coming kind of to a close of our time together, interviewing each other and answering these questions, but these these kind of final questions are still big questions. How do you use your art to address social and cultural issues? How do you - how does your creative practice involve community, can you share about that process? You know, these are important questions and part of what resonates for me, and what resonates kind of in how I'm taking in your practice, is that these things are just all a part of the work. It's not something to think about later or identify as a part of your practice, but it's a part of the ethics in how we do work, you know? So I'm curious about whether you see this as something - that you focus on in your practice or simply because you are an Indigenous artist, and this is your aesthetic and world view, that people can suggest that you're addressing these social cultural issues, or that you're involved in the community, but that also feels like a over culture framework rather than just this is how you do your work.
Jennifer Kreisberg: I would start by saying the fact that I am alive and making this type of music is how I address issues. Yes, and just the fact that I'm alive and remembering these traditions. That's my statement, that my addressing of the issue, that is my - what do you call it? Activism practice, it's just existing. Existing, and the fact that I exist, kind of addresses all of those things. My creative practice - I mean, everything I do involves community. I have my home community that I come from that we went home to and my relatives there, and then I have, you know, there's the community you build, right? And then there's the communities I'm guests of. So...
M. Carmen Lane: Yes, yes.
Jennifer Kreisberg: There's - that's three different things. And it's just sort of one of those things that's a given, right? So my creative practice involves all three of those communities. And process wise, I have so many different processes and they all are informed by those collaborations and access to resources and, you know, half a dozen, one, two, I don't have one process. My processes, processes, have to be able to adapt and adjust to what's going on, to what's being offered to to what's inspiring me that day. It just depends on, you know, it's a unique case by case art piece by art piece, project by project thing. For me anyway, and I think part of that, again, I can't - I know it's like I'm beating a thing, but just having 30 years of doing this. Wait, hold on, thirty one years of doing this, it just - as you evolve through the years, it's just time spent doing this. You - it all just sort of gels into one thing, one human being, one human experience, one art experience. And many things happen under those things. Under that umbrella. Of being a human being, which is a very basic teaching.
M. Carmen Lane: Yes, you know, I think for me I often make work that cuts through the kind of colonial scripts of social justice; that I want to invite the viewer to even consider that these good messages that they're hearing about change may also be a function of occupation, you know. To get you reinvested in the idea of decolonial practices that "keep the system in place" even though you're using that word, you know?
But I also feel like the core of my work is about being a human being. So I use these issues as materials, you know, as touch points in service of this wholism, that feels important. Or as we talk about privately, the Original Instructions, you know, and what does that mean to live those instructions here and now? Or at least that's what I'm efforting to do in my lived experience. When I think about, you know, one of the projects that I'm working on, which is having an arts and culture space, right, in the community where I live that brings Indigenous artists and artists of colour to a neighbourhood rather than a gallery, rather than a museum.
I don't see it as involving the community, but living in a community, so that anyone's practice can be in conversation with the community, and they can - and that artist individually, and this project collectively, can learn from that. So we're not intervening in the community, but we're a part of the community because we're a neighbour to others, you know. And so for me, that's experimenting with letting go of this notion of activism and interventions in this binaristic fashion, where the artist is kind of positioning themselves as saviour. Rather than what's the responsibility to place? And I'm still learning through that to your point, every experiment, every experience you have of embodying your practice deepens your understanding of those relationships and those responsibilities.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Right, right.
M. Carmen Lane: So there's some kind of bullet points, Jennifer, of whether or not we embody some of the lived experiences of, you know, Black, Indigenous, neurodivergent, Deaf, disabled, parent or caregiver, Elders - as a part of the lens that we're using to have this conversation and you know, I don't necessarily identify as Black Indigenous as an identity, but I have a lived experience as a Indigenous person who's also African-American. And I have been a parent and a caregiver, but I am currently at - well, I am caregiving with my nephew, but I'm not - currently caregiving in the ways that I used to. How about yourself?
Jennifer Kreisberg: I - similar. I have - I don't identify as Black Indigenous. We don't have that down here. But I do have Black lineage and I am Indigenous and I - my indigeneity is just Tuscarora and, anyway, that's another whole loaded conversation. I am a parent, I've been a parent for 17 years, 16 years. Well, in a month, he'll be 17, and I've also been a caregiver to Elders, a couple of Elders before they passed, And yeah, that's it. That's how I fit in that list.
I am appreciative that my perspective was requested and valued. That doesn't always happen in the art world. I greatly appreciate that. And I appreciate this talk, it's always fun and it's always helpful.
We talk a lot and so I enjoyed learning something new in this process with you about how you see the world, how you see your practice, and, it really made me interested in hearing more from you about your process as an artist in the world so that we get to benefit from both your work but also your ideas, ideals and aesthetics.
Jennifer Kreisberg: Hashtag! Start branding.
M. Carmen Lane: This has been a good way to close out a Wednesday.
Jennifer Kreisberg: I agree.
M. Carmen Lane: All right, so we are complete enough for now.