Nadia Hironaka & Matthew Suib

Sacred Hostess
Everything & More

Nadia Hironaka & Matthew Suib, with Brian Kim Stefans, C. Spencer Yeh, Jena Osman, Michael Bell-Smith, and Roberto Carlos Lange.

Get an exclusive sneak peek of this week's must-have items, showcasing everything & more! But that's not all—click the link below to check out the Sacred Hostess sneak peek circular for even more exciting discoveries!

Sacred Hostess is a process-based collaborative comprising Nadia Hironaka & Matthew Suib, with Brian Kim Stefans, C. Spencer Yeh, Jena Osman, Michael Bell-Smith, and Roberto Carlos Lange. Their work bridges their respective disciplines combining moving-image, sound, poetry, and critical writing across a variety of platforms. Everything & More represents their collective efforts over a short period of time, 2012-2013; a snapshot, an experiment –– get ‘em while they last.

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What a deal!

In our minds, artistic collaboration can happen in one of two ways: an artist (an “I”) has an idea and invites others with specific talents (“they”) to join and fulfill the artist’s vision, or, a group of artists (a “we”) come together as initial conditions in a chain of events that take us beyond our usual habits of making. “We” are the latter; here we are together, defining as we go along.

Not so long ago, John Cage created chance operations—algorithms—to discover things he had never seen or heard before. He saw the algorithm as a swerve away from blindnesses caused by ego, by his individual likes and dislikes. Today, algorithms are everywhere—we use them when we do an internet search, make a social media post, purchase a book from Amazon. But instead of helping us discover things we’ve never considered before, these algorithms are structured to deliver exactly what our previous interests indicate we might want. The algorithms are meant to be mirrors—we see only the “I” in a solipsistic loop.

The collaborative “we” of this project, joined by our appropriative practices in film, music, poetry, and thoroughly immersed in the digital source-pool of the culture we inhabit, want to explore the anti-algorithm; we want to look outward and explore what’s beyond the mirror. This is done not through the popular strategy of remixing sources, but by following the sources beyond where the algorithm wants us to go. For example, a keyword search for “hostess” on a stock footage site brings us to a generic scene in a restaurant. Although the clip may have been intended for advertising a delicious dining experience (and could easily be ironized in a remix experience), we are sure that the clip is actually trying to tell us something else. We submit it to intense examination, looking for clues, patterns, secret signals. We hunt for the keys hiding inside the key words. Within the banal commercial material, we find forks and knives in the grass of fuchsia-shock prodding in small circles. On the seemingly generic plate, the archived stegosaurus, brown with hard living. Embedded in the dullest of cinematic gestures, a pair of silvered cylinders covered in prints. We, in collaboration, seek to find the secret dramas hidden within the data, suppressed by code and search structures. We feel that the rescue of the imagination in a datamined universe is imperative and we can only do it together.

Sacred Hostess/ Jena Osman, 2013

It started with Screening, a small gallery dedicated to the moving image that I ran with my collaborator, Matthew Suib from 2007-2010. The gallery consisted of just one small room and was housed inside Vox Populi, a venerable artist-run cooperative in Philadelphia. To help keep things manageable and focused on the artwork, rather than a curatorial thread, each exhibition showcased a single projected moving-image work in video or film by one artist. Screening’s program was intended to survey moving-image art practices, from works of historical significance by pioneers Joan Jonas and Pat O’Neill, to spellbinding new-media works by Takeshi Murata and Kelly Richardson. Contained within the room were a few benches for viewers, and an air conditioner for the painfully hot summer months. I had thought that Screening, our gallery project, could be a test for another gallery concept we would call “Living Room”. This project involved inviting a variety of artists to make a piece for a living room-like space, where the artwork(s) may or may not be at all apparent. That one never manifested but still lives on in my maybe-possibly-but-uh-likely not sketchbook.

Somehow out of these two collaborative, semi-curatorial project concepts came Sacred Hostess, a hybrid system which proposes a series of fluid parameters intended to dissolve the predictable output of an algorithm, the fundamental tool of data mining. The result is as much a creative process as an artistic project, shape-shifting and potentially infinite––which collaborator Jena Osman described as an anti-algorithm.

The project was really a collaborative experiment in developing an alternative creative language that would cut against the commercial and self-mythologizing tendencies of the art world, and that might and eventually exist in the Creative Commons. Carving out space for collaborative experimentation was key. Deadends, misfires, and failed punchlines were not considered a problem.

I’ll add that at this point, Matthew and I were still fairly new parents. I suspect this may have added to my own personal interest in collaborating with other artists. As a new mom I was attempting to find a sense of balance; navigating the daily routines and responsibilities of family life, while still engaging in creative play and conversation with adults.

The first Sacred Hostess workshop retreat was held at an artist residency in Connecticut, during the off-season in 2012, Matthew and I invited poet and writer, Brian Kim Stefans, along with musicians and artists, C. Spencer Yeh and Michael Bell-Smith. These were early days, initially, our time was spent with introductions, a bit of show and tell, followed by a lot of discussions. These conversations revolved around previous experiences with and possibilities for collaboration and interdisciplinary practices.

While the first retreat functioned more as a think tank, the second round focused on generating creative tests. Poet, Jena Osman, musician and artist, Roberto Carlos Lange, joined by partner, artist Kristi Sword, along with Matthew and I, and our daughter, made up our second assemblage. This time we were hosted by Millay Arts in New York. Guided by short prompts, we generated a collection of “content” as early building blocks for a new work: sound loops, video shorts, and texts. We liked this formula and decided to create a short piece with the entire group.

Collaborators from both workshops contributed short pieces to the collection. This content took shape as poetry, text-based code, graphics, video, and/or audio. A supermarket circular was used as our template resulting in Everything & More, 2013.

––Nadia Hironaka

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