August 11– 13, 2020
Artist collaborators Kristin Bauer, Mario Ybarra Jr., and Julio César Morales presented Collective Chorus, art and activism workshops (conducted in person and virtually) for youth around text and language.
Up to 15 people were allowed onsite at ICA LA while others gathered online for a video conference call using Zoom. Most students came from Los Angeles neighborhoods and one traveled from Ontario, CA. All attendees were receptive, and curious.
Each workshop began with a presentation about text-based art made by activist artists. The hands-on project was designed to encourage the expression of each young person through single words or short phrases. A spirit of enthusiasm flowed through each activity as it may have been the rare opportunity to do a hands-on project in-person. ICA LA implemented safe social distancing protocols and provided participant with masks, gloves, face shields, and hand sanitizer.
Tuning in virtually from Arizona, Morales shared his and other artists’ text-based practices that explore social justice issues. “What happens when text becomes a texture,” he asked, referencing Tania Candiani’s Habita Intervenido project in Mexico City. Bauer also displayed examples of text art from artists such as Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer to demonstrate the power of artist signage in public space.
After some writing exercises, the teens were given access to the process of cutting vinyl lettering using Roland vinyl cutter brought by Bauer. Each youth was able to produce and post their powerful political statements on ICA LA’s glass storefront. The public text installation invites conversation in the public space to encourage human connection and dialogue.
Text was not the only medium from the Collective Chorus workshop. Storytelling became crucial to Mario Ybarra Jr.’s discussion of personal ancestral narratives of his family migration to Los Angeles. The participants were then asked to create a short story and many of them opted to illustrate pressing issues relating to immigration, racism, capitalism, and other structures of power with their text-based projects.
Employing one’s imagination was a common theme throughout Collective Chorus. From the “Exquisite Corpse” activity to the open-ended “I am” writing exercise, the workshop participants expressed their visions for a new reality, one which celebrated and empowered all walks of life. During an era of physical disconnection, teens from Collective Chorus explored the possibility for a new future while being offered agency through artmaking in the process.
A special installation, created by the lead artists and youth members, is featured on the ICA LA’s glass doors of Field Workshop space. In orange and white bold vinyl lettering, the message displays “WRITE THE FUTURE / ESCRIBE EL FUTURO.”