Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Q&A: Misael Soto discusses The Status Update

Misael Soto (Photo credit: Nadja Sayej at Art Stars)
As an artist, Misael Soto is forever dreaming up ways to turn the things people often do alone into communal events. As such, he's been seen sitting in front of a TV with newfound friends on the streets of Wynwood, dancing to the tunes people choose from his iPod and taking complete strangers for sunset drives.

Soto continues dreaming up new such ideas, even as he completes an artist residency in Berlin.

This and other images below provided by Misael Soto.
This time around, the loner activity he's targeting is the status update. So how do you turn this into a communal event? Get a bunch of people to gather around your computer while you write it? Hope you get likes or comments?

No, that would be too easy and, well, boring. Soto strives to create experiences that are memorable, something that will stand out from other status updates. "Do you remember your last online status update?" he asks in the invitation. "I doubt it. I guarantee you’ll remember this one. It will only happen once. Let’s make it count."

For starters, no computer or phone is  needed in the project he calls The Status Update. As Soto's instructions go: "Leave your computer and put away your phone, open a window or step outside, go somewhere comfortable or special to you, close your eyes, and scream. "What’s on your mind?" No need to record it. Don’t post it. Keep it for yourself. Trust for a moment in your own words."

You can plan it, let it come to you in the moment, whatever you choose, but at 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18 (or the corresponding time in your time zone), you are to scream it out ... and let it go.  Everyone ... all at once.

"Just yell. Really, it's that simple."

Recently Arterpillar (I say that like there's a big team of us or something but it's just me) did an e-mail Q&A with Soto about his vision for this project, and his Berlin residency. Here's what he had to say:

What have you been doing in Berlin?

"I've been at HomeBase Project's BuildIV residency program in Pankow. As a live-work situation in which the two often become one and the same, it's been an intense three months. Besides the occasional dip into Berlin's sprawling art scene and many dance parties, the cold outdoors have given this Puerto Rican an excuse to stay mostly indoors thinking, reading, and discussing. I've been pretty glued to my laptop, finally focusing on something I've been somewhat afraid of tackling head-on with my art: the Internet."

What do you miss/not miss about Miami?

There are many things I miss and many things I've been happy to live without. I definitely miss my cat Keats the most, but of course the close-knit community of artists we have there. Most of my favorite people ever are home. Being here in December, away from all the Art Basel Miami Beach madness, I definitely did not miss the obnoxious and pretentious sides of art that the fair brings to glaring light.

When and how did you come up with The Status Update project?

The idea was directly inspired by the famous "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" scene from the 1976 film Network. I've been wanting to do something like it for over a year and still had it deep in my notes. After much reading, discussing, thinking, and experimenting about what I could do in response to the web's plethora of useless information, I took a step back looking at my past work and realized the two ideas meshed quite well together. Given this contemporary focus, I was able to justify as well as adapt and modernize this very basic, almost prehistoric act of raising one's voice. After that, online promotion became a huge, glaringly ironic asset. A way for me to push the project globally using the very same media I am calling into question.

So this is about participants updating their status, but rather than doing so online via Facebook, they should abandon their computers and cell phones and open a window and yell it, or step outside and scream it?

Essentially, yes. Letting it go into the air without fear for no one, anyone, and possibly everyone to hear and feel.

Have you planned what you will scream  and where you will do so? Would you like to share or do you think participants should keep this a secret until they scream it?

I made a personal decision to not plan it at all and just feel out the time and place. However, this is how I approach many other things in my life, including my internet and social media use. It ebbs and flows (these days it's been like a monsoon) and is a product of the moment. Of course, I've thought about what I'll yell, but I'm really trying not to. As for others, I hope I've given them a framework here that they can play with and make their own. I can make suggestions, such as how they shouldn't record or post their update, but of course it's ultimately up to them.

When was the last time you yelled?

New Years morning! Sometime around 4 am, reminding myself of where I was. A kind of refocus amplified by the celebratory nature of the holiday and the urgency associated with it. I'm really jealous of the silly yet inescapable energy this day carries. It's all about the here and now at midnight on the 1st.

After everyone has done this, will there be followup on The Status Update site? Will people share stories of how that felt or what they screamed?

After MUCH thought, I've decided not to promote this but not to do the opposite either. Memories become more real as we share them, but they also often change, like a game of telephone. I'm sure some will share amongst their friends and possibly even post around, again that's up to them.

Will you yell your status update alone or with others?

The scheduling of The Status Update was chosen not only because it carries no obvious association or traditional weight, but also because it is the first day of the final festival (exhibition) here at the residency I am in. I'll be updating my status amongst hundreds of festival-goers, and residency artists and friends. I can't wait to experience it on my side.

Are you nervous about public screaming, or you are perfectly comfortable with that? Do you think about how people may react?

I'm not nervous at all, but excited and happily anxious at the possibilities. Reactions always vary wider than I predict for a piece, good and not-so-pleasant. I've learned to push this kind of anticipation aside and go in open, ready to listen.

Are you aware of any groups of people who are doing this together, or of anyone that has picked out a special place to do this?

Some Facebook-ers attending the event are beginning to post where they'll be updating from, not doing it together, but essentially they are. It's very exciting! Some friends here have already told me they'll be running to their closet or bathroom to yell.

Given that your work often involves making a communal event out of things people typically do alone ... what future ideas, are currently floating around in your head?

Yell your status update ... Know that others are doing the same.
Well, I've been attempting to approach the Internet as an experimentation with the space and time we inhabit on the other side of our personal computers before and after posting things online.

Playing with what is trusted online and why. I've also decided to tackle the business side of art in this way, incorporating it slowly into my existing practice. The idea of presenting alternative business models as art intrigues me more and more lately. Other current obsessions include DJing and interior decor.

When do you return to Miami?
April at the latest. I'm missing the 305 <3.

South Floridians who wish to participate in Soto's project The Status Update need only to scream what's on their mind at 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18 ... Remember: Scream loud. Make it count. 

For info on more South Florida art news and events, visit Arterpillar.blogspot.com.






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