Meet Your Maker Monday: Antena
Today's profile shifts to making with language – via tangible outputs like books and some less tangible via performance. Meet Jen Hofer and John Pluecker, who work together as Antena.
What is your name, company, URL, and social media links?
Our names are Jen Hofer and John Pluecker.
Collaboratively we work as Antena, but Antena is not a company or a non-profit. Antena is a collaborative, an on-going artist project, a space for working through our ideas together in ways we couldn’t if we were working on our own.
What do you make?
Antena: We make language. We make books. We make connections between and across languages. We make spaces – laboratories, spaces for experiment – that encourage people to critically examine their own relationships with language. We intend to make something ephemeral called justice real and malleable. We also make installations, curatorial projects, public interventions, poems, prose texts, and translations from Spanish to English.
What does a typical day look like for you?
JP: I take care of my daughter. I make emails. I make Word documents. On good days, I use the guillotine to do some cutting or pull out the typewriter to make pages for books or sew some books.
JH: At any given time, I work (occupationally, alongside my labor-of-love creative work) doing between 3 and 5 different freelance jobs (teaching, translating, interpreting) so my days are rarely typical. Or the typical day usually involves something quite different from the day before. Some elements of my days are typical, however: I ride my bike, I make and eat homemade food, I feel like what is possible to get done in one day is never enough.
Why did you decide to start your own business and why Houston?
JP: I don’t believe in the logic of business or capitalism, so I would never think of Antena as a business (though it is a hustle). And Houston, how could eight generations of ancestors (both past and future) be wrong about this place?
JH: We are both committed to working autonomously. That usually means working as far outside the confines and conventions of capitalism as possible. I’ll quote from the book we made to document our installation at Project Row Houses (Round 36, March - June 2012):
“Tuesday 5/22/12, 18:00–A performance of a failed business model. (Joel told me that it would be a better idea to sell action books or comics.) Why it might be important to fail (where “failed” suggests alternatives to capitalism or profit.) Akilah Oliver’s words resonating, now as imperatives: Labor in a snail state. Seek refuge. Dive into the otherwise. An experiment in negative production–using bookselling as a durational performance to create space for writing that thrives at the fringes of, in the otherwise. Otherhow.”
And why Houston? I’d never been here before I started working with JP (I’m here temporarily, from Los Angeles, while Antena is in residence at Blaffer Art Museum). My work with Antena has shown me what an amazing and complex and intriguing city Houston is.
What are your inspirations and how do they guide your work?
Antena: Everything is inspiring if you are open to it. We are particularly informed and inspired by the work done at the Highlander Research and Education Center, spearheaded by activist educators Alice Johnson and Roberto Tijerina. We draw inspiration from thinkers, artists and activists working along intellectual borderlands: Echo Park Film Center, Grupo Etcétera, Highlander Research and Education Center, Project Row Houses, Temporary Services, The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, and Ultra-Red. We are equally energized by writers and translators whose work ignites shifts in the possibilities for change inherent to language, like Ammiel Alcalay, Gloria Anzaldúa, Don Mee Choi, Lyn Hejinian, bell hooks, M. NourbeSe Philip, Craig Santos Perez and Rosmarie Waldrop. We are further informed by many autonomous small press and literary curatorial projects, like Afinidades electivas/Elective Affinities, belladonna, Corollary Press, Dusie Books, Eloísa Cartonera and the other cartonera presses around the world, Half Letter Press, Printed Matter, and Ugly Duckling Presse. Books by many of these writers and presses are available for browsing and purchase in our installation at Blaffer.
What's next for Antena, and for each of you?
Antena: There’s still quite a bit of programming related to Antena @ Blaffer upcoming: some events as part of the CounterCurrent Festival, Autumn Knight’s performances in the Antena space, and on May 6 from 6:30 - 8:30pm a celebration and presentation of work by artists participating in our UH class, titled “In The Between: At The Intersections of Writing, Art and Politics.” In June we’re facilitating a public intervention on Governor’s Island in New York City, through Writing On It All. And then Antena morphs into something new and different.
JP: We are excited to reimagine Antena constantly. We welcome all kinds of new iterations of the project revolving around translation, interpretation, language justice, language experiments. The forms are yet to be decided. We will continue to publish books. Personally, I’m excited to make a book object for the Fresh Arts CSA program and also to have time for reading, writing, traveling & translating again soon. Specifically, I am translating a book by Mexican writer Sara Uribe and diving back into some neglected writing projects.
JH: In terms of my personal projects, I’m translating three books right now (poems by Mexican writer Dolores Dorantes and Uruguayan writer Virginia Lucas and prose by Mexican writer Cristina Rivera-Garza), working on a new poem sequence – scripts for live film narrations, and finishing sewing my last homemade book project, titled “Denotative Skies.”
What do you want people to know about your work?
Antena: We want people to visit our website. We want people to visit us at Blaffer Art Museum – one of us is there every day the museum is open from 1pm until closing. We want people to read the interview Nancy Wozny did with us for arts+culturetx. And we ourselves want to learn about our work through our interactions with other people in Antena spaces. We are more interested in what we do not know than in what we know.