April Artist in Residence: Amina Ross

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LATITUDE is excited to welcome Amina Ross as the April Artist In Residence!

Amina Ross is an interdisciplinary creator and educator. They work across mediums, shaping spaces that honor darkness and love through language, light based video installations, sculpture, and curatorial engagements. Amina studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has exhibited work at venues throughout Chicago and New York. Ross has spoken on panels and taught workshops at a wide range of events and venues including Wayne State University, the College Arts Association Conference, the Alphawood Foundation, and Theaster Gates’ Black Artist Retreat. Amina was a part of Chicago Artist Coalition’s BOLT Residency in 2015-2016. They co-run a black and femme centering space in the Little Village, Chicago, called F4F and are co-lead artist of Teen Creative Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Amina is a founder of 3rd Language (2011-2015), queer arts collective. Additionally Amina runs the popular workshop and participatory performance series “Beauty Breaks”.

Amina recently curated ECLIPSING, a multi-media celebration of darkness which included a performance festival at Links Hall and a group exhibition at the Arts Incubator.


Q & A

Your recent curatorial project “ECLIPSING: The Politics of Light, the Politics of Night” has just ended. Can you name a powerful moment or memory from the experience?

The whole thing was powerful! It was emotional, raw, ecstatic. A really felt thing. I feel so full moving out of the fest and happy to have been a part of sharing some really tremendous artists with Chicago. A particularly powerful and personal moment was that the ECLIPSING festival came just a couple of weeks after the passing of my great-grandmother, who was an incredibly powerful woman, matriarch, and spiritual leader. In the wake of her transition, my family (my mother, grandmother, aunt, and brothers), flew to Chicago to witness and participate in all 5 days of the performance festival at Links Hall. Their presence was so meaningful for multiple reasons. It is such an honor and luxury to have a family that is willing to witness my full self, which is a rare thing, and it is even rarer to have a family that is willing to support my full self. My mother told me that the experience was very healing for her, and that’s the best review I could have hoped for.

When looking at your sculptural practice, materiality is a word that comes to mind. What guides your material explorations or experimentations?

I am interested in materials we have intimate relationships to, through proximity or use. From bed linens and curtains to latex and perfumes; things that we wear close to the body. I’m into touching and playing, the tactile and physical parts of making. I’m really into the theatre and dance involved with the production of images; the ducking and weaving of the person holding the camera, in the armature of lights, in the way that every part of the room, the moment, the interaction caters to the camera. The camera becomes this really powerful inanimate object, magnetic in a way. I think that’s an exciting thing to play with, the role of the camera and the roles of everyone around the camera.

In general I find materials to be very powerful in their own right, with or without the presence or force of humans.

What creative risks have you taken? Do you feel that these risks have benefited your body of work?

One of the biggest risks I continue to take is whole-heartedly pursuing whatever interests me, whatever gets me going, without regard to creating some sort of cohesive narrative (branding) about my career or personhood. Whether that’s diving head first into a curatorial practice or starting a new body of work that diverges stylistically from the previous body of work, I have a wide range of interests and passions that may seem disparate upon a quick glance. However, following my work long enough reveals a series of nuanced threads between my bodies of work and practice. This is something that I’ve seen many of the women in my life do as well: pursue motherhood, career, and loving relationships, alongside a handful of creative interests and four other side hustles. I think this very expansive and passionate way of working is very risky in a time that is very “brand” heavy, in a time that looks for clean narratives and cohesion. I like to switch things up. I also don’t have a Facebook which can be risky, but less anxiety ridden.  

What will you be working on during your residency at LATITUDE?

I’m revisiting my work The Body Con Project (dress) in a new yet-to-be-named incarnation. I will be working with people in pairs, unconventional couples if you will. I am asking them to swap bodies and pose for me, and there will probably be some storytelling and performance of caregiving and caretaking enacted. These experiments will result in a series of photographs, text, and some garments! In addition to this series of work I am also going to be working on an also yet-to-be-named series of photos on fabric for an exhibition at Smack Mellon this summer called Laugh Back. Again, I’m working with pairs of people who share intimacy between them, and I'm asking them to tickle one another, with the resulting images produced on fabric curtains.

Are there particular mediums or processes from your multimedia practice that you feel a strong connection to?

I feel really connected to facilitation! Facilitation is such a big part of my life as an educator, as someone who collaborates frequently. There is an art to working and communicating with people, and it’s something that only develops with time and experience. It’s something I can’t learn in isolation and I enjoy that. I also really love the physical parts of making video work, maneuvering around bodies and objects, an animation technique I’ve been playing with involves the rough and physical manipulation of images on paper through folding and crumpling. I like when I can throw my body into something.

You were born and raised in New York, describe your ideal day in New York City...

Walking alone! An ideal day in New York is easy: I like to walk everywhere, get a slice of pizza, be in the sun. I always run into art somewhere. Walking into art is my ideal day in New York, pretty simple.

Are there any books, movies, magazines or podcasts that you would recommend readers check out?

So many! I read a lot of books at once, here is everything I’m reading in this moment:

Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and PracticeThe Black Body in Ecstasy: Reading Race, Reading PornographyHow to Love (Mindful Essentials)The Story of BlackHealing Visualizations: Creating Health Through Imagery

In regards to movies/films, I’m obsessed with Cinema 53, the ongoing series of films curated by Jacqueline Stewart. Cinema 53 is “a screening and discussion series presenting conversation-provoking films by and about women and people of color”, films are shown for FREE at Harper Theater in Hyde Park. Everything Jacqueline Stewart does is brilliant and everyone should go to Cinema 53 all the time. 

The next film is La Cour de Babel on Thursday April 19th @ 7pm. I’ll see you there. 

And my favorite podcast is The Hoodoisie. It's actually a live recorded talk show organized by Ricardo Gamboa, a brilliant witch who is one of the creative forces that is actively reshaping this world in party by creating new worlds.

AIR 2018Colleen Keihm