Place seems to be an important theme in your video installation “Gallup Motel Butchering.” Can you explain what you mean by “non-place” in the context of your work?
Cristóbal Martinez: A non-place is a phenomenon of the built environment in the context of market systems. For example, a big box mart, food chain, or hotel are all examples of what Postcommodity considers as non-places. The physical and psychological phenomenon of the non-place is the experience that irrespective of where these non-places are located in geography, it is not possible for a human within these spaces to discern his or her locality. So for example if I was blindfolded and taken to the middle of a big box warehouse like a Target located somewhere along the east coast, and then I was blindfolded and shuffled over to the middle of a Target somewhere in the American Southwest, in both cases if my blindfold was removed within these store locations, I couldn’t tell you where I was, because within the centers of these environments it isn’t possible for me to discern anything about the world outside. This is because these stores are virtually replicated identical irrespective of the geography or land that they reside on. This becomes very important to Postcommodity’s discourse because it is the antithesis of the indigenous worldview by which we in the collective were raised. Where we come from land matters, and from land comes power manifested through place, language, and culture. The non-place does not account or have respect for regional concepts of place in the diverse geographies it is situated in. This is one of the points of critique we, Postcommodity, amplify about the fast capitalism that is currently dominating and transforming our world. This is a market system that operates irrespective of place and stewardship of lands.
How has your personal experience influenced your exploration of cultural traditions and place?
Raven Chacon: I am fortunate to have grown up on my tribe’s lands and still live close to that community. Also New Mexico, a place where all members of Postcommodity call home, has a very old and complex history and still retains a strong Indigenous presence, shared with an old Hispano lineage. So living in this community constantly reminds me that these histories are not extinct stories, but rather uninterrupted, evolving and accumulating narratives. When we become conscious of that, we gain a freedom to make new mythologies, since there is no danger of overwriting the past.
Many of Postcommodity’s works are about specific places. Site-specificity allows for an opportunity to directly learn about people via their homes, and we enjoy finding relationships between those people and places and our own histories. We realize that some stories are not our to tell, so it is important for us to collaborate with others to create future stories.
If you wanted people to take away only one idea from your piece, what would it be?
RC: That many Indigenous traditions are still continuing and surviving, despite their surroundings, and despite the gaze from outsiders. We are surrounded by facades which bear no load compared to these lineages. Our sisters and daughters will take us into the future.
Postcommodity is an interdisciplinary arts collective comprised of Raven Chacon, Cristóbal Martínez, and Kade L. Twist. Postcommodity’s art functions as a shared Indigenous lens and voice to engage the assaultive manifestations of the global market and its supporting institutions, public perceptions, beliefs, and individual actions that comprise the ever-expanding, multinational, multiracial and multiethnic colonizing force that is defining the 21st Century through ever increasing velocities and complex forms of violence. Postcommodity works to forge new metaphors capable of rationalizing our shared experiences within this increasingly challenging contemporary environment; promote a constructive discourse that challenges the social, political and economic processes that are destabilizing communities and geographies; and connect Indigenous narratives of cultural self-determination with the broader public sphere.
You can see more of their work at: www.postcommodity.com
About the Interviewer
Carolina Quintanilla serves as Interim Gallery Creative Partnerships Manager for SOMArts Cultural Center. She has a B.A. in Asian American Studies and is an Ethnic Studies MA candidate at San Francisco State University.
The exhibition: Visions into Infinite Archives is opening January 14th and on view from January 14th – February 10th, 2016.
Video still images courtesy of Postcommodity. “Gallup Motel Butchering,” video installation, 2011.