photo courtesy: Doug Miles
NAICA favorite Georgina Lightning was recently in town to show a trailer of her forthcoming feature Older Than America. Rooftop Films and IFC made this screening possible. The event, contrary to the title, was held at a park on 12 Street, between Avenue A and 1st Ave–for those of you who give a shit—in East Village. Some of you may claim that I am biased but I assure you the highlight of the event was Georgina’s trailer. The rest of the trailers emphasized “white neurosis” under the guise of art. Please don’t make me explain this. Either you get it or you don’t. Or better yet take a class at the New School. I’m sure they offer a course on this subject! Please see my interview in the 2007 summer edition with Georgina for more details on her feature: http://www.thenaica.org/edition_six/ppt/georgina/intro.htm
In other news yours truly also participated in a screening/ Q&A for Artic Son directed by Andrew Walton at The ImaginAsian theatre on 59th street in midtown Manhattan. This event was co-presented with American Documentary/POV and Big Mouth films. The morning of the screening I made a brief plug of the event on First Voices Indigenous Radio hosted by Tiokasin Ghosthorse on WBAI FM. This was my first time on the radio save the time I called a fitness show seeking advice on how to get rid of flabby arms. I was excited-my cherry was popped on public radio! Back to the screening…OMG…the audience was rowdy and irreverent. In spite of the presence of their teachers, the students chatted incessantly with each other, and even had the nerve to talk on their cell phones.
How many times have you read DO NOT TALK DURING THE MOVIE or TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONES on the screen before a movie began? Obviously not these kids! The only part of the film that commanded everyone’s attention was the scene where Stanley Jr. skinned a rabbit. After the screening I reluctantly moved to the front of the theatre to sit on a panel with the Arctic Son producer Dallas Brennan Rexer and Irene Villasenor of POV. The point of this segment was to answer questions or offer commentary on the film. Yikes! My initial skepticism was soon eradicated by the articulate questions offered by the audience. Yes these kids did pay attention! In retrospect I realize that I was too harsh on these kids. In fact, at a recent screening at my friend’s home, I too was offering commentary at inappropriate moments. However I was drunk on cheap wine…so there!
Last week Longwood Gallery at Hostos College in the Bronx held an opening reception for The Fort Apache Connection. The show is a multimedia presentation that, “explores the falsehoods and realities of Apache images that have been historically conjured up and perpetuated by American popular culture.” I was late to this event due to, well…you really don’t give a shit…right? The point is I made it there. I arrived famished expecting to gorge myself with cheese and wine. But upon my arrival I noted there was no food. Shit! Everything had already been consumed. Yup, tell-tale sign of the presence of Indians-empty plates and trash left on the floor. However the focus was the work on the walls. Various artists such as Jason Lujan, Pena Bonita, Bob Haozous, Carm Little Turtle and Douglas Miles had their work on display. I immediately went to Doug and Nadema and offered my congratulations. For those of you who don’t know, Doug lives down the block from my grandmother in TC ALLEY, USA. I meandered through the gallery and noted all the work. But I was mostly interested—yes I am biased—in Doug’s work. Frankly I was so tired that I opted to pose a few questions to Doug via e-mail. Yes, I get tired and prone to lassitude…but you’d rather read his description of his work than me, right?
Sonny Grant: Although your work has been presented in various forms, you mostly use skateboards as a canvas, Why and What message are you trying to convey?
Douglas Miles: Using skateboards as a canvas is a way I challenge myself as an artist and designer. Its also fun to design something that has form and function, not something that just hangs on a wall or sits on a shelf. I don’t think in terms of having a “message”. Just trying to make something interesting that people can relate/respond to. If there are messages I guess they’re multilayered. I think the medium is the message. People ascribe different meanings to my work. There is a long list of short words people use when discussing my work: “ Pop, Modern, Street, Hip-Hop, etc…” There is also a short list of long words people use to describe my work: “ contemporary, appropriation, confusing, etc.” Go ahead and add your own new long or short words here.
SG: For those of us who aren’t familiar with your company would you briefly tell us about it and how it came into being?
DM: Apache Skateboards came into being purely out of necessity. “ Necessity is the mother of invention.” With no Native Skateboard companies at the time we started, we pioneered a little known thing into a small movement of sorts. Now Apache Skateboards (AS) has become a “brand.” We want to make it clear that we are proud of who we are and what we’ve done, Yet AS is not just me but a team of dedicated skaters, filmers, photographers, and artists who serve as our “ Broad of Directors.” AS is for everyone. We created a product that anyone should be proud to support.
SG: Your work synthesizes the images of “Boricua” and contemporary and traditional Apaches, What is the connection between these two cultures?
DM: The skateboards and art designed for the Fort Apache Connection art show at Hostos College (curated by Nadema Agard) were done as a tribute to two strong yet often marginalized cultures in America. Apache people from the southwest, Puerto Rican people from an area in the South Bronx formerly known as: Fort Apache. The work in the show is not really a synthesis but a tribute to two very strong and vibrant cultures and meant to discuss sociopolitical parallels in how each culture had been (mis) treated, for better or worse.
SG: Do you feel that you are commodifying Apache culture by presenting it within a pop context?
DM: No I do not feel that at all. Apache culture is too vast, complex, living, vibrant, expressive unknown, mysterious and specific to commodify. If I am commodifying anything it is my own artwork for my own fun and challenging purposes. I think it is necessary that we (Natives) create our own companies, products, and projects so we don’t have to be blindly sold whatever is out there. You can’t help but notice we live in a country/culture of consumers. I like Pop art but I do not consider myself a “Pop Artist” nor do I consider what I or my peers do as “Pop Art.” Museums that take cultural and intellectual property under the guise of preservation, then charge an entry fee to view one’s own culture? Authors and historians who write about Native cultures as “so-called experts” and receive payment for these books and articles? Non-Native companies who use Native-themes and images to sell products such as , cigarettes, butter, orthopedic shoes, clothes toys, movies, films, documentaries etc? Of all these various groups it is rare that the Indian community gets to see revenue from these various products or projects.
SG: Who or What influenced your work?
DM: First and foremost?
And Allan Houser
Did I say Allan Houser?
Of course you can see all types of influence. But currently?
Yatika Fields, Rose Simpson, Micah Wesley, Brian Brannon, Cey Adams, Batman, Bob Haouzous aka Mecha-Godzilla, subway sweat, ( sing sweet chariot down deadened streets.) Cannupa, HUMBLE, The Apache Wars, Velvet Underground, The Sopranos, Reubrn Ringlero, Lil’ Doug, Irwin Lewis, Exvoto Design, Eyejammie, Akira, Taxi Driver, South Bronx Hip-Hop era, Rahzell, Joe Conzo, Nadema Agard, Bruce Lee, Scorcese, Apachelypse Now, Ernie Panicolli, The Land of Plenty Skateboards, Cowtown, Charlie Parker, The RZA, Martha, Gracie, Bekah, Cece, India, T.C. Alley spray painted walls, & that cholo kid who is doing ill work on a little scrap of paper in the back of the classroom.
SG: Please tell us about your forthcoming projects?
DM: Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Apache Starship Enterprise: It’s a five year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man or woman has gone before.
P.S. this is shameless self promotion time…a personal essay of mine was published in the most recent edition of Talking Stick Native Arts Quarterly….check it out!
TORONTO OR BUST!