Meet Your Maker Monday: Julia Brown
This is the second in a series of crossover MYMM profiles with Project Row Houses artists who participated in "Process and Action: An Exploration of Ideas." Meet Julia Brown, whose installation is part of Round 41 at 2513 Holman.
For more information on Project Row Houses, please visit their web site.
What is your name, URL, and social media links?
My website: www.cargocollective.com/juliabrown
The exhibition's website: http://projectrowhouses.org/on-view/
What did you make for Project Row Houses?
"The Young Mothers Project" is both an installation and an ongoing series of conversations about the economics of caregiving and domestic labor. The project was prompted by an inquiry into parenting as an economic externality, as a category of unpaid labor that is necessary for social reproduction, but which is often figured as an act of love and personal fulfillment.
Shotgun row house #13 that contains the installation was originally built to be a home, and its skeleton is the same as that of the homes currently used by the Project Row Houses Young Mothers Program housing just down the street. Two consecutive videos are projected onto an interior wall. In one video, a resident in the Young Mothers Program talks about her experience of being a single parent while simultaneously entertaining her daughter. The second video is edited from footage that I commissioned of the same woman and her daughter, asking them to record what was happening in their house on a Friday evening. They took turns wearing and operating a head-mounted "action camera" which would capture their point of view. The interaction between parent and child is intimately recorded. There are only two brief moments when either woman is out of the view of the other. Since parenting can be figured as personally fulfilling and/or labor exploitation, I think of this camera lens as both a home movie camera and a workstation surveillance camera.
The installation also contains a sculptural bench modeled on the furniture that was designed for Eleanor J. Gibson and Richard Walk's 1959 Cornell University "Visual Cliff" experiment on depth perception in human infants. Infants were encouraged to crawl across a gridded, glass-topped structure towards their mothers. They began at one end of the structure, which was opaque, apparently solid, and supportive, and were coaxed toward the other end, where a view down through transparent glass showed a steep drop to the floor. Would infants hesitate, recognizing the drop off to the floor and fear a fall, or would they continue to crawl towards their mothers across the apparently unsupported glass? While the experimental design was intended to control all factors except depth perception, it failed to control the social variables of trust, attachment, and the perception of physical cues, tone of voice, and expression given by the mother. The experimental structure Gibson and Walk actually created functioned to test trust and communication as much as depth perception. The difficulty of rationalizing this axis of attunement between parent and child most interests me about the original experiment. In the row house my bench is placed so that it can be contemplated as an object, used experimentally, or can provide seating for watching the videos. I've noticed people are very suspicious of sitting on it.
What does a typical day look like for you?
The structure of a day varies dramatically depending on the type of project I'm working on. I might be planning, researching, filming, editing, building, painting, writing, or sketching. There's also always a significant amount of administrative work to do to keep the studio running - corresponding about projects, writing proposals, overseeing production, applying for grants, and so on. I mention it because I myself often forget how much administrative work has to happen to support the works. And I can't think of an artist I know who feels productive while they're doing it, even though we all know it's necessary. A day spent with hands in the actual materials tends to feel more satisfying.
What brought you to Houston?
I took a leave from my full-time teaching position at George Washington University in Washington DC in 2013 to participate in the Core Program. The structure of the program supports research and creating new work.
What are your inspirations and how do they guide your work?
I'm interested in situations, events, and images where the politics of everyday life are obscured, overlooked, and expressed non-verbally.
What's next for you?
Up next I'll be generating ongoing programming for the project that will run until Round 41 is over in March.
What do you want people to know about your work?
That making artwork is work.