Jacki Orr: A Conversation With The Artist

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Jacki Orr likes stuff. And junk. And trash. And you can usually find these elements in her mixed-media sculptures, one of which recently posted up beautifully in a corner of Mesa Contemporary Arts.

For her latest project "The Goal is Interactive Acculturation" installation, Orr will feature found-object shrines and alters as well as video components that comment on culture sharing with Arizona's recent immigration reforms as the anchor.
"The Goal is Interactive Acculturation" is scheduled to open with a First Friday artist's reception tonight from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Tire Pit Gallery, located behind Longhouse Studios at 914 North 5th Street

New Times spoke with her regarding the exhibit, her views on immigration, and her recent jaunt to Vietnam. The following is in Orr's words:

Living here in Arizona through the most recent months and years of dealing with the draconian fears of immigration manifested through state policies has had me thinking a lot about culture in Arizona and our greater American culture and such things.

What exactly is the definition of American culture? I don't think there is one definition because this country is made up of so many different experiences and cultures. How can all these experiences equal up to one definition? These questions got me thinking about how historically, regardless of the host country, how waves of mass immigration have led to great increases in cultural growth, whether that be in art, food, literature, architecture, or whatever.

Then that got me thinking about how Phoenix (and the state to a larger extent) is in such a unique position right now with regards to immigration and culture sharing. It is one of the first major cities that introduces American culture to new immigrants as well as being one of the first cities that gets introduced to new immigrant cultures. New American cultures are being grown right here in Phoenix before our eyes! Just like cultures in a Petri dish, no?

I've been researching sociological studies of how people navigate new cultures during immigration, whether they desire integration versus marginalization (who wants that?), how re-appropriation can be both encouraging and discouraging, and most importantly, how individual choice can steadily and slowly shape the larger culture of an entire nation. So choice on a micro level influences culture on the macro level.

I decided to represent this concept through shrines and alters. Shrines/alters represent offerings made up by individuals, choosing what and where to place their offerings, to a larger common purpose (and shrines are also common to a large variety of cultures).

I just got back from a trip to Vietnam and I was really inspired by the shrines that I saw there. Most Vietnamese had shrines to their deceased family members and ancestors in their homes as a way to pay homage to their past as well as honor the creators of their culture.

Therefore, the interactive installations consist of five large "shrines" representing various aspects of culture sharing (specifically, discardment of old modifiers, accumulation of new modifiers, cultural rebellion, celebration, and individual choice). The interactive-ness comes into play as the viewers will be encouraged to add to the shrines, either from boxes of "offerings" that will be provided or through their own personal belongings.

I am hoping that by the end of the show, the shrines will have grown in size and become their own creations made by the larger community of anonymous people coming from various backgrounds and experiences, using choice to shape the outcome of the larger offerings.

To add to the concepts of micro culture and individual choice, I've been compiling video of various neighborhoods throughout Phoenix, mixed with interviews I've conducted on culture and immigration with some local artists and friends and family.

The materials I used to create the shrines are basically things I've been compiling from thrift stores, alleys, and the streets of Phoenix that are mixed with my own paintings and artwork.

One shrine consists of a suit jacket that I've hand-sewn hundreds of tea bags to, accompanied by a mini shrine to the American dream enclosed in a suitcase. This shrine compares the social, political, and cultural rebellion of the people that participated in the Boston Tea Party in 1773 to the social, political, and cultural rebellion of today's new immigrants. One could also draw conclusions to today's current Tea Party fringe political group and its irrational fear of immigrant culture.

For more information, check out Jacki Orr's Tumblr.

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