In-progress Update: Locks & Hsaio

As a continuation of our artist spotlight, we posed the same three questions to collaborative pair Damon Locks and Cathy Hsaio. Interested in how their ideas both merge and diverge, we thought to explore the ideas of subtextual themes, narrative, and how each artist handles their own dual practices.

Throughout the summer, ESS, Spudnik Press, and Homeroom will be documenting and sharing various aspects of Ten x Ten: Dual Practice from the artists’ vantage. For now, enjoy a deep dive into the conceptual terroir of Damon Locks and Cathy Hsaio.

Would you describe the themes and underlying ideas Cathy and you are exploring in your project?

DAMON: We are both addressing our ideas about place and how it relates to our own identities. I am definitely very much an urban guy. I like cities. I enjoy public transportation because it’s the meeting place for most communities.

How does narrative manifest if this project?

D: Well, visually, the CTA train takes center stage in our print but works in conversation with Cathy’s patterning score, which interrupts and compliments.

How does collaboration fit into your broader project? Does it vary for visual and audio art?

D: I think within the two pieces, organically, each took the lead on one piece. I think the audio pieces speak a little more about Cathy’s ideas about place. But each piece benefits from another point of view, which is at the core of collaborating.

 Would you describe the themes and underlying ideas Damon and you are exploring in your project?

CATHY: Damon and I wanted to map together our respective geographies and cultural histories. The main sound concept is to mash up of Damon's analog sampling style with this old Taiwanese folk song by the Tsou tribe. It's a traditional ballad usually for flute and voice that describes the landscape of Ali Mountain (阿里山). I arranged it for Sculpture Orchestra, an improvisation-based work for sculptures, molds and musicians that uses the switch from sculptures to instruments as an analogy for the hybrid, shifting nature of cultural exchange. I asked Damon, Ellery Royston, Adam Bach, Chinting Huang and Adam Vida to perform objects from Jennifer Huang, Kelsey Quinn Harrison, Jeff Prokash, Daniel Baird, Eric Leonardson and myself. It was performed really loosely, with a basic sound skeleton, and the idea came out of the experience itself so that was very gratifying.

How does narrative manifest if this project?

C: I was born in the US but immigrated to Taiwan when I was three, and due to parents living in different countries, moved back and forth between Taiwan and the US over 12 times before I graduated high school in Taichung. Migration between landscapes and languages are big themes in my work.

How does collaboration fit into your broader project? Does it vary for visual and audio art?

C: I love collaborating. For me, audio techniques translate into visual ones and vice versa. I've always been a gesamtkunstwerk-type maker. Damon and I have somewhat different visual styles; he is more figurative and I am more abstract. But working with him, especially in the process of making the Spudnik print, was exciting. It pushed me to think more about legibility in my own work and I see that push coming through in other projects already, so I always learn a lot from working with other artists.

Damon Locks is a Chicago based visual artist, educator, vocalist/musician, and deejay. He attended The Art Institute in Chicago where he received his BFA in Fine Arts. Recently, he has been lending his artistic and/or teaching talents to organizations such as Prisons and Neighborhood Arts Project, Art Reach, the Center for Urban Pedagogy, and at UIC. He is a recent recipient of the Helen Coburn Meier and Tim Meier Achievement Award in the Arts and the 2016 MAKER Grant. He also recently completed a music residency at The New Quorum in New Orleans and begins an Artist Studio Residency at the Hyde Park Art Center in April. He has been operating as an Artist Mentor in the Chicago Artist Coalition program FIELD/WORK. Damon has performed internationally throughout Brazil and Japan and at festivals in Sant'Anna Arresi, 2011 & 2013 (Italy), Lisbon, 2009 (Portugal), Saalfelden, 2012 (Austria).

Cathy Hsiao was born in New York City and immigrated to Taiwan at the age of three and back to the US after graduating high school in Taichung, Taiwan. She holds a BA from the University of California Berkeley and a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2016). She has been awarded the 2016 Emerging Illinois Artists Triennial Juror Prize; the New Artist Society Fellowship, School of the Art Institute (2014 - 2016), amongst others. Her practice is rooted in a hybrid inquiry between material making and conceptual thinking as a way to construct a parallel consonance between inner cultural/emotional landscapes and larger natural and built environments. She references distinct practices from Asian textiles and the history of Western abstraction to craft entirely new vocabularies of migration and translocation. Using her body to reimagine other bodies, using other bodies to reinterpret her own she builds and records indexes of her environment to feel her size. In doing so she is constantly interested in amplifying the sound of sentiments and objects that have no socially recognized language.