In this interview, Cali M. Banks shares her passion for experimentation and gives us a hint about the activities she will host at this year's edition of Experimental Photofestival - EXP.22 (Barcelona, Spain, July 20th-24th).
Hi Cali, could you introduce yourself to the readers of our Online Magazine?
Born in the 90s in New York, I have lived across several states in the U.S., before settling in Brooklyn, NYC. I hold an MFA in Interdisciplinary Media Arts Practices, specializing in Photography, from the University of Colorado Boulder. I also hold a BA in Art & Technology and Global Health Studies from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. I am currently a Teaching Artist-in-Residence with Creative Art works in NYC, in which I coordinate Creative Workforce Development for youth and young adults, and teach mixed media and digital art courses in New York City Public Schools and Alternative to Probation Programs. I am also a Teaching Artist for Reel Works, in which I teach experimental, documentary, and narrative filmmaking in New York City Public Schools. Lastly, I am an Adjunct Professor of Video Art and Photography for Indiana University.
How did you get started with photography?
I’ve had an interest in photography for as long as I can remember. My mother used to give me 35 mm Kodak single-use cameras, and I would photograph anything I could. She would always have the film developed, and I’d fill countless amounts of albums with my “work”. I didn’t take a structured photography class until my first year at Allegheny College, when I gravitated toward the medium even more. I like the idea of image-making as a time or record-keeper, but also being able to manipulate that to recreate memories, history, methods of healing, etcetera. I continued these ideas throughout graduate school, and still work with them today.
You are an interdisciplinary artist and often use photography. When did you start experimenting with photography? Do you remember your first photography experiment ever?
I believe that I have always been experimenting with photography. Once I learned the basics in my introductory college course, I would try to subvert those parameters whenever, and wherever, I could. I was lucky to have mentors during my undergraduate career that were supportive of my experiments, which helped me cultivate my own practice, and I was able to continue that into my graduate school career and beyond. An experiment that sticks out in my mind was a project titled “Inner Workings of the Feminine Brain”. I took portraits of women and focused on where they felt the most emotional pain or stress. Depending on how the pain felt to them physically, I would distress the image by hand with a heat gun, lighter, razor, acid - you name it. It was incredible to see how photographic emulsion reacts to those substances.
In your website it is stated "Banks explores the reclamation of identity through performative photography and videography." Can you tell us more about this concept?
I make work about myself, and for myself, because I am the only person that truly knows who I am - inside and out. Aside from the physical and psychological self, there is culture tied to anyone’s identity, and that is a particular interest of mine. As a white-presenting person, my maternal side of the family is Native American, and familial rituals play a role in my work. But, I find myself lingering in a liminal space with regard to this identity, as I am privileged in the sense where I can hide aspects of my identity, but those are aspects that resonate with me the most. I am also curious in my endeavors of pushing the boundaries of identity politics and identity-based art, with a hint of abjection. I juxtapose the beauty and repulsion that surrounds woman-identifying individuals and their bodily functions, that are commonly rejected by American, patriarchal social orders.
With regard to the performative categorization of the mediums, I actually entered into the world of art through dance. Performance is ingrained in me for that reason, and I feel that my work wouldn’t be genuine without it. I think there are a lot of connections between dance and photography and film, especially when you can capture movement. Even if it is a still image, you can sometimes see movement and texture within the subject.
You will be participating at the upcoming edition of EXP.22: can you tell us what activities you will be hosting?
I have curated an exhibition titled, /ˈärˌkīv/: anth(r)opogeny in contemporary photography. I am also holding portfolio reviews, a conference on the future of photography, as well as a conference on experimental exhibitions, and an online workshop on handmade cinema and direct animation.
Who or what inspires your work?
I am greatly inspired by ‘70s feminist video art. Carolee Schneemann is one of my favorite artists. I am also inspired by the work of Rebecca Belmore, Matika Wilbur, Wendy Red Star, Kiki Smith, Sally Mann, Dora Maar, and Martha Rosler. My own lived experiences also have a large influence on my work. As I mentioned before, I am the only person who knows me to my core. But, I am conscious about giving space for people who face different issues that I won't understand, while at the same time incorporating my own personal and familial ritual into my practice.
Do you have any interesting projects or collaborations planned that you would like to share with us?
I was just able to get my hands on a Super 8 film camera, so I am excited to work on self-portraiture through a medium I haven’t experimented with yet. I’m also continuing to play around with polaroid emulsion transfers and tactile 16 mm filmmaking. Overall, I am contemplating the idea of “home”. Can it be a person, a specific place, yourself? Etcetera.
Ready to learn, teach and share experimental photography? Register HERE to join EXP.22!