VEXILLOLOGA

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  • 2017 was Flagalicious!

    Looking Back, Moving Forward.

     

    Hi from 2018,

    It has been quite a while since I've given this little flag blog some love. Not at all for a lack of news to write about, quite the contrary, this has been the year of the flag, but rather, I've been real busy making, sharing and talking flags. Frankly, it has been hard to keep up with documentation. So in an effort to make up for the silence, here is a detailed recap on my flag adventures:

    2017

    Last January I moved back to the Bay Area after giving Seattle a 10 month test run. I hibernated, ate many delicious meals with some of my closest and oldest friends, went for long rainy walks with my dog, did some deep thinking and unraveling and ofcourse, made many flags in my cozy studio in West Seattle.

    2017 was bountiful. The momentum started with pieces from 2016 being activated out in the world. The Archive of Creative Culture Argosy Museum has been traveling with the flag I made for them. It is hoisted it at every venue event and city they visit all over the country. I love knowing one of my flag babies not only influenced the design of this awesome experimental mobile art space, but gets to travel! I always wonder what my flags see and hear without me.

    Seattle based blogger and small business Not Without Salt asked me to make a flag with her business logo as signage for tradeshows. This flag now hangs on the window of their new shop in Ballard! Congrats Ashley on the growth of your business!!!

    After accomplishing one of my biggest and first ever flag centered public projects to date in 2016, My Story Is My Flag, the Alameda County of Education building exhibited all flags produced as part of the project from March till June. Just recently I was informed this project will get a second chapter thanks to the Archive of Creative Culture and non-for-profit Co|Operative and the City of Graham, North Carolina in April. Stay tuned on that!

    In March I made an experimental auto-ethnographic flag called EMT flag (Emotional Mistranslation Flag) that played with scale and bordered on sculpture for the Foreign Language Magic Word Mother Tongue exhibit curated by Sasha Petrenko at SOMArts. One of the first but certainly not the last of pieces I'll make that conceptually pushes the notion and purpose of a flag. In many ways, this would not be considered a flag by say a Vexillologist but as my relationship to working within this frame and history is growing and pushing back on the limitations the field has, so does my need to once again get personal and inevitably get rebellious about those "rules". Any day now I anticipate Whitney Smith coming to me in a dream saying "what the hell are you doing?! That's not a flag!" At which point I’d say, “Sit down Whitney, let me make you some cafecito and tell you what I’m up to.” Just kidding, I would never say that but I would totally make him a cafecito and let him rip me to shreds.

    A few weeks after the SOMArts show was de-installed, the building where I had my art studio hosted an open studios event. I had installed half of that piece in my space partly because it was too big and too nice to store so I displayed it. An 8 year old boy came into my studio with his mom. The boy, Lodan, had a very intense response to the flag. His concern for it was so strong his mother asked me to consider selling it to them right then and there. Lodan said he wanted to hang it over his bed so he can look at it every night. So off it went with them. It was very special to see a child respond to a piece that was a big departure and experiment as well as a sort of self-portrait.

    OCTOBER & NOVEMBER were crazy awesome!

    I met with the 100 Days Action crew to design an image and create a flag that stands for inclusiveness and the long-term reverberations of small acts of resistance against the current political administration. We marched this flag across the Golden Gate Bridge on June 14th, Flag Day, as well as Trump's birthday.

    100 Days Action is a counternarrative to the Trump administration’s one hundred day plan. A calendar of activist and artistic strategy, 100 Days Action is a call to thinkers, artists, and writers to propose gestures that can be carried out either at home or in the world. Whereas the president’s 100 Days will seek to dismantle restrictions that protect our environment, public education, health, and jeopardize unprotected minority groups, 100 Days Action is a forum for resistance, an artistic coming together, an exercise in endurance, a call to all bodies that stand against bigotry, xenophobia, racism, sexism, and the destruction of our environment to act together.

    This flag then had the great pleasure of being part of Ceci Moss’s incredible projects Gas Dot Gallery’s inaugural exhibition Fuck The Patriarchy. The exhibition was featured in various publications including THE NEW YORK freakin’ TIMES!!! Read the article HERE. As well as honored to be included in the Portland Flag Association Newsletter, thanks Ted and company!

    Almost done.....I swear! 

    I was honored to be invited by artist and curator Rachelle Reichert to participate in a really unique exhibition as part of the State of the Estuary 2017 Conference. My piece responded to the State of the Estuary Blueprint which is a very thorough plan of actions to help preserve and educate about the many efforts necessary to keep these essential Bay Area bodies of water sustainable. I designed 32 prototype flags on watercolor paper in response to each of the actions detailed. It was the first time I worked in response to the environment. I wondered how these semaphoric images could function as codes that could be referenced to help educate the public on how and where these specific actions were being implemented. The conference was so informative! Participating in this made me realize that there is so much potential for artists and scientists to work together to bring awareness to the needs of our natural environment. I loved being part of this show and the fellow artists I had the pleasure to work with. I'm also happy to say the piece was purchased by the State of the Estuary Partnership. I look forward to see these little flag babies installed in their new office location in San Francisco.

    And finally, the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito, California invited me to be the “Artist In Spotlight” for the month of November. I thought making a large collaborative flag would be fun with all those little ones. The piece will be finished and installed at the museum in the next month. It was great to work with the young little flag makers.

    Alright!

    To wrap up my self indulgent recap of 2017 I will say I’ll be a whole lot more active on here and look forward to talking about other people’s flag ventures. This seems to be a great time to use this powerful form.

    love from Miami,

    VEXILA // Sabia Projects // Cristina Victor

  • Reflections on my recent project: My Story Is My Flag with Oakland International Highschool

    On May 16th I set off on my road trip from Seattle to the Bay Area with my trusty dog, Reginaldo, a few books on flags, camping gear, my back up sewing machine and too many shoes. I always travel with too many shoes. I had a fantastic, peaceful drive down the 101 sleeping in quiet beach towns in Oregon and then under magical ancient Redwood trees with a final night in Mill Valley to help ease the transition into the craziness of the Bay.

    Yet again, the reason for my return to the Bay was all about Flags. Interface Gallery in Oakland approached me to do a social practice / public art piece in the Temescal neighborhood. The project goals were to work with Oakland International High School students and teachers for their post session class (a three week, end of the year intensive) to design 12 banners that would temporarily replace the ones on the light posts on Telegraph Ave. The aim was to have these flags/banners make visible the stories of these students, who most of which are recent immigrants and some refugees.

    We applied for a matching grant with the East Bay Fund for Artists and got it!!  Then we fundraised for the matching amount and met 84 % of our goal. 

    We had 25 students ranging from Freshmen to Seniors. 2 amazing teachers, 1 volunteer and me, the flag dork. The students were asked to contribute to the website with a very active blog, an instagram account as part of their assignments and sketchbook where they worked their ideas out and did writing assignments. As we finalized our banner designs to scale of the street poles (the flags measure 4ft. by 2ft.), students worked collaboratively to create one image that spoke to their collective identity. 

    For most of the students, English is their very recent second language. In our planning discussions, the teachers warned me, language would be a major factor in all aspects of the project. I nodded my head and thought I totally knew what they meant. Into week 2, I could not help but think about my parents and what they must have been like when they came to this country as teenagers from Cuba. They were about the same age as the students involved in this project and also had limited knowledege of the English language, and having lost everything and now navigating a new country with its own set of challenges.  I was especially proud of the student groups who despite their language barriers with each other, created very strong designs. It was very gratifying to see the power of the visual language at work.

    I embarked on this project thinking I understood that this was not about me. That I was a facilitator. Not so. It is a tricky balance to come into a community and be all "lets make my project you guys!!! Come on! We have a grant. Flags! Right! Right? By the way, nice meeting you now lets het to work." Before the end of week one, I was surprised/embarassed by how sensitive I felt to the student's bewilderment about this project. Three weeks is a short amount of time to gain that much trust and to ask for so much in return. I snapped out of the funk and focused on finding ways to engage them. My co-teachers had everything to do with bridging this gap. 

    If anyone knows me or how I work, I have the habit of creating these insanely ambitious projects that always underestimate time, drive me to near insanity and usually some sort of physical pain in the process, peppered with a few anxiety attacks....but regardless I always deliver what I set out to do. ALWAYS. This project was very ambitious. I would never do it the same again for the sake of everyone involved but despite how manic it felt at the time, I am utterly grateful for the opportunity, the willingness and  vulnerability of the students, and the support I had from the community and my friends. I sincerely hope I get the opportunity to do it again and again.

    Here is some press we got through out our project:

    https://ripplenews.com/read/oakland/oakland-international-high-school-flags-diversity-19u7ejbt

    Interview by Katherine Rae Mondo

    East Bay Express!

    Check out our website: MYSTORYISMYFLAG.COM

  • The library grows!

    The library grows!

    Though my life may be crazy hectic right now and it all kind pulls me away from nerding out (which is all I want to do), I still try to find the time to build my rerferences to continue to evolve my learning and understanding about the history of flags. Here are some recent additions to my library. I'm excited to spend time with them once work simmers down. When I shared my excitement about my new purchases with a friend, she mentioned a TedTalk she had recently seen about flag design by Roman Mars. It just so happens the recent purchase I made Good Flag, Bad Flag by Ted Kaye was not only mentioned but used as a reference! This TedTalk was excellent and really delivered the potential power of flags and good flag design. It was also just oh so very comforting to feel a sense of comradery with someone who was fixated on something as random as flags.  I'm enticed to attempt a redesign of San Francisco's flag myself! 

    http://www.ted.com/talks/roman_mars_why_city_flags_may_be_the_worst_designed_thing_you_ve_never_noticed?language=en

  • Vexillologa-ing as access to a language of power?

    In 2014, I was invited by SOMArts then curator, Justin Hoover, to participate in the final exhibition event for Flag Stories: Citizenship, a year long youth art program run by the SOMArts Cultural Center in partnership with the Islamic Art Museum of Malaysia. Though Justin was quite familiar with my work as a performance artist, he also knew of my recent research in Vexilollogy, the history, design and general interest in flags. As a public engagement piece, I staged a workshop area with two tables. I prepared various textile sheets with heat bonding material, stenciling tools, 2 hot irons and a major willingness to nerd out with anyone interested in discussing the weight of the alien term as well as provide basic historical context, technical and conceptual support for those interested in making their own flag for the taking. The response was quite powerful. One local participant made a flag with her own personal mantra as an example to show her patients who were recovering victims of domestic violence. Another Malaysian student made a pocket sized flag that said “NO!” on both sides. She intended to use this as a response to when asked about her traditional headdress, which was often. Frustrated by by dealing with ridiculous and inappropriate questions such as “do you have ears? or “what are you hiding under there?”,  she chose to make this flag as a portable yet silent protest that very clearly expressed her unwillingness to engage in such ignorant curiosities about her culture and identity.

    My experimental Vexillology workshop showed me the potential of working publicly with the flag form and validated my suspicion/hypothesis/hope.

    A. People were really into flags too, most just didn't know it. I mean, it is after all a huge part of our daily visual, cultural and political landscape.

    B. Sometimes playing with materials and with what you have at hand can yield surprising, powerful results filled with potential. But without space, time, engagement and access, how does this potential continue to sprout and evolve?

    Space, Time, Access….precious things, especially now and especially in the Bay Area.

  • Work in progress: Perpetuo Dance explained.

    Work in progress: Perpetuo Dance explained.

    This is a developing flag story project. By creating these flags with basic cotton fabric and handcut lame and appropriating the graphic logos of Miami night clubs of the eighties (now long closed), I aim to abstractly tell the story of these sites. As I research the history of each club chosen to be featured in this project, I am finding each story to be all the more telling of how the city of Miami's contemporary character has been deeply affected by deco-aesthetics and the continued influx of immigrant and exile populations to the area. 

    The flags I've made thus far are prototypes for larger pieces I would like to be used for a video- dance performance piece by an auxillary team at each site. With funding, I'd like to collaborate with a team and a choreographer to capture footage that would result in a looping video (hence the perpetual dance) and installation of the hand made flags. 

    Dream big right? Some day....but for now, I'll make my retro flags!

    Read some juicy bits about one of the clubs I feature : SUZANNE'S