Artist2Artist Conversations

Cassils & jackie sumell

In 2021 Art Matters was proud to launch a new regranting program titled Artist2Artist, where our grant recipients — artists — act as grant-makers. How does Artist2Artist shift moments of fracture and competition, to support the care networks artists want to build? In four Zoom recordings, we get a glimpse into the relationships, process, and practice of Artist2Artist’s pilot year fellows. Playful and profound, these revelatory exchanges model how artists and culture workers empower their creative kindred. We are grateful to them for allowing us to learn from these intimate Artist2Artist conversations.

Cassils  00:51

Hi Jackie.

jackie sumell  00:53

Hi Cassils! 

Cassils  00:54

How are you today?

jackie sumell  00:57

Complicated question, it definitely will end with a very long answer. I'm wondering how you're doing today.

Cassils  01:07

Similarly, there's a lot of, you know, there's a lot of chaos in the world right now. And I feel like that's manifesting in both the macro socio political landscape and it's interesting to see how that plays out on an individual to individual level too. You know, how, how these kinds of just like ever so evident that the web of interconnectedness works on all different sorts of templates for good and for bad. So yeah, I'm navigating a lot of change. I'm you know, I'm in the midst of preparing for a cross country move, which I'm excited about. But you know, there's just a lot to, it's, there's just, there's a lot of stress, but I'm also feeling very, sort of hopeful and excited. Because I don't know, I do feel like, although there is a ton of crap, I've also never felt so kind of bolstered and supported by so many incredible artists in my life, actually, you being one of them. And that really does reassure and help me.

jackie sumell  02:12

That's beautiful. Yeah, I think, you know, as we thank you for also keeping me in the collective of folks who care about you, and, you know, really believe that bolstering that web of interconnectedness is the only way to survive. So many of the shifts and changes and crumbling of, you know, late stage capitalism and how radical and unnerving those changes feel, both on macro and micro levels. Yeah, I definitely share that sentiment with you, you know, where, and reflect it back. We're coming up on July 13, the two year anniversary of Devonte's killing. Devonte's murder. My godson, for people who may watch this later. And, you know, you and Rafa were very much part of what felt possible in the moment of abject impossible. In that, you know, I think that in the wake of such enormous tragedy, there was, you know, a huge acknowledgement of what I've done well, in this lifetime, that was made visible by the community that wrapped up for me, you know. And I know, you share some of that sentiment. It's like, you know, I do think that most of the world may know, you or I from the interwebs, or from engaging with our artwork, and, you know, have a perception of a particular kind of person. You know, some of those things may or may not be true, but this idea that in the most intimate ways in the, you know, to reflect the Artist2Artist, the ways we show up for each other is what really matters. 

Cassils  04:22

Absolutely. And I mean, that tragedy, the loss of Devonte was, you know, all the more like, I'm conscious — unconscionable and also impossible, really to understand because he was a child, you know? And, yeah, that was just awful. And I mean, I think there's a lot of this chaos that we're in, you know, there's like, there's a lot to kind of, it's like a question we have to ask ourselves, I think is like, how do you hold on to yourself? How do you hold on to yourself in a society that in many ways, would prefer you to not exist? Right? That's a question I've been asking myself a lot. And rather than just exist, I was thinking, you know, I have my friend, the poet and performance artist, Alok Menon, who's just such an incredible speaker of like a future of trans and nonbinary-ness in a way that as I feel like, I'm a little bit of an older generation, but they have this kind of vision. And they were speaking about this notion of like, so much of the rhetoric around social justice is around the finding ourselves in relationship to oppression. So like, how is it that we are free? Right? And how is it that we can start to find these methodologies, both within our day to day, and within our artistic practice? That that really is more about the definition of ourselves in relationship to love and freedom, right, versus solely around oppression? And I think that's, you know, one of the questions I was prompted to ask you. Why did I pick Jackie? Well, so obviously I picked Jackie, because Jackie's one of my favorite artists. But one of the things that you do that I think is so beautiful as you grapple with these very difficult things in your in your practice, but you posit a generative, sort of, it's not just hope, it's literally regeneration. It's a metaphor, but it's also an act of practice that exists in the landscape. And I just think that that is the medicine. I feel like you're bringing us medicine, and that your work is very urgent, and not without sacrifice, you know, but like, such a such a gift. So, you know, I'd say that's why I picked you so picky whenever I was given this opportunity to, to do this, which is such a weird thing. But that was one of the that was like, that's my answer to that prompt. I guess.

jackie sumell  07:08

That's very generous. Yeah, I mean, I had such amazing models. I had people to model that kind of organized... I guess it's like an organizing of priorities in life, you know, with my elders, Herman and Albert Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox, and this idea that folks could be not only incarcerated, but in solitary confinement for four decades, and still, you know, emit, share, focus, prioritize joy and laughter from within abject isolation and torture. For me, it was not only permission, but made it a requirement for the work to not only be organized around, you know, what is wrong with the criminal punishment system, but what could be possible? Like, I think I would be doing Herman a tremendous disservice, if I, you know, illustrated how solitary confinement is cruel and unusual punishment, right? If that was the extent of the work without also positioning, you know, what he gave me, which was the possibility that together a completely different revolutionary world is possible.

Cassils  08:38

Yeah. And yeah, how, you know, one thing I've also been really thinking about a lot is this way of like, intellectually understanding something, and embodying it. And how, you know, for example, you know, a Buddhist practice of impermanence, right? Like, we can all understand the concept that we're all going to die, and that everything is fleeting, and part of a cosmology much greater than ourselves that we don't ultimately have any control over. It's one thing to understand that, but it's another thing to kind of live that. I feel like as artists — I'll speak for myself — like one of the ways that I will kind of comprehend the sort of intellectual concepts is to create these modalities that allow me to inhabit them. And so I guess, I wonder, you know, what was your experience in terms of learning from Herman and your elders? And, and like understanding intellectually, and then how was it for you to kind of process that through your practice, and create the sort of modalities of embodiment like, how did it affect you? You personally?

jackie sumell  09:53

Yeah, I mean, I don't want to be disappointing. I don't want to disappoint you. But you know? I am not an intellectual, like, I'm not an academic, I don't organize my life around that, and I never had the access. You know, it wasn't accessible to me. And even the ways that, you know, I started working as an artist, and really committing my life to like being a cultural worker, or dreaming and building together, especially through social practice was really clumsy and intuitive, and, you know, a kind of fumbling around without ever thinking of this, you know, whole other world of academia and intellectualizing and writing aboutit. And I, you know, to that point did not think there was anything interesting, nevermind, you know, powerful, about the collaboration with Herman building his dream home from solitary confinement, you know, after 41 years. And I was doing an artist residency in Germany, Schloss Solitude. And I remember this French philosopher wanted to write about the work and so she would invite me over to her studio once a week, and she would prepare this like feast, and freaking delicious food and French wine. And then she would just like, ask me questions, and listen, and I was like, what is — what do you want to know about that? You know, and then you go, this is good cheese, but I don't know what you're getting at. This magic elixir, french fillet, and I don't know. And then she pulled together this, like, this piece that she had written. She was like, "Okay, come, it's finished." You know, I can do a terrible French accent just to make the story more entertaining, but I won't. Right now. But she said, she said, "Please come over, it's ready." And she sat me down. And she read this paper to me. And then she was just looking at me. And I was looking at her. And then she was like, "What do you think?" I was like, I have no idea what you just said, like, I heard my name. I heard Herman's name. I don't know what you're talking about, you know? And she said, "That's good, because it is my job as the philosopher to confuse people. It is your job as the artist to make things clear." And I was like, okay, good, because I don't know what the fuck you were talking about, you know? And so I associate that with this idea of intellectualizing and, you know, and now as someone who's 22 years deep in this movement, and organizing around principles of abolition, as a practice, as a lifestyle, as a commitment, you know? To me, to be able to reflect on some of the things but especially when young people come through, and they're like, reading quotes from Angela Davis and Maryam Kaba, or whatever, they're sort of like, and then like, oh, that's dope, you should, you know, have that in your back pocket, but also like, yeah, what's the everyday ways that you are responding to this world and being generative, and, you know, taking care of others and whatever. Because, like, we, you know, we can have a pissing contest around who can remember what quote from what author all day long, right? But that is not ultimately, I don't believe, going to produce the most affectation. So your question is, was, how did it change me? Everything about me was changed. Everything, you know, on a molecular level on a physical level. Moving to Louisiana, you know, in relationship to Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox. My whole world changed. And it was not nice. It is not nice to go every other weekend to Angola Prison. It is not a pleasant thing. Living in the state of Louisiana, in the Seventh Ward, which, you know, is where Devonte was killed. It's where, you know, my homie just last week was shot on the corner across the street from the studio. It's like this city, in particular, in the state that is redder than all the red states. It is not easy. And because of that, I know it's where I need to be. For now. You know? Because of that, I know that it's correct for me to be here. As a way to say, you know, I love you, Herman. I love you, Malik. Thank you so much, you know, thank you. Thank you, John Thompson [sic]. And yeah, and I think the bigger question for me and the constant question is, how is it sustainable? So that  the agony is not compartmentalized from the beauty and the magic, you know?

Cassils  15:24

Absolutely. And I know, like, we've talked about that. You know and I can speak, you know, I think one of the most life changing experiences that I've ever had was working on that project with you and with Rafa and working on #InPlainSight. Which was this piece, for those of you who don't know, who are watching, that Rafa and I spearheaded, started in 2019. You know, COVID, and uprisings occurred, and it launched despite that in 2020, and we basically used the nation's scarred piping fleet that's like airplanes that cloud to highlight hidden sites of immigrant detention, federal courts, border sightings, or historical sites that have been used to incarcerate Japanese Americans. Just, these various sites across the United States on the Fourth of July, with artist-messaging, and that required just such an incredible team effort. I've never worked with that many people. I've never had, such like, honestly, people come together from such diverse subjectivities and lived experiences, and despite that, you know, really focus on something outside ourselves. And the experience of doing that was very challenging at times, but like, absolutely life changing and incredible. And I think for myself, you know, the thing that gives me purpose, and even when things feel like they're burning me out is just the sense of greater than myself and connectedness that I can tap into. And also, like, as I was saying earlier, the sort of love that I can feel for most people when I'm not when I'm not in isolation, and I think, you know, that's like what the Elon Musks of the world, you know, they, they mistake, like the hoarding of capital as protection. But what real protection is, is the security that comes from love, right? This is something that I've really, like, learned in this last few months. It's something that I really like, I'm like, okay, that's, that's, that's something I'm really like, taking into my, my body and feeling now as as a way of just feeling a sense of strength in this time in this moment, you know? Yeah. Um, but yeah, I mean, I hear you on the intellectual versus like, I guess I wasn't meaning like, you know, from a philosophical argument standpoint. More just like, when, when you learn these lessons through just a sort of verbal learning versus like, when you put it into your practice and live it, you know? And, yeah, clearly, that's something you've done. 100%, It's funny to me that you say that you felt like you were fumbling or it was intuitive because when you know, especially when I show young people, like students your work, there are so amazed at the red thread of like, consideration that goes through all aspects of your practice. You know? From like, the concept to the way that you're making the beds, in the solitary gardens out of cotton and crops that come from chattel slavery. Like the very materials — you have such such a sort of decisive thoughtfulness that goes through a consideration process that goes from the materials you use, to the symbologies that you use to the ways that you organize and treat people. And that is like, to me, that is something that I also aspire to, in my own work. It's this notion of like, how do we not just put it in the artwork and the symbolics in the metaphor, but how do we actually like live that, like, how do we live that ethos, right? Yeah, how do we live that ethos?

jackie sumell  19:24

Well, I would say, you know, what makes that possible is the same community of love. Like I remember hearing somebody talk about this in the context of like, the things that we might want, like the Venn diagram between you and I, and Elon Musk, you know, is like — (laughs) we might want some financial security. We might want some rocket ships or 11 kids, you know, with a bunch of different baby mamas and so whatever, whatever, you know, whatever he's up to these days. And we might want acknowledgement for the work that we're doing, you know? But it, it may not be number one, number two on the list, right? The priorities that you and I have are arguably organize differently, such that the material things are lower and lower on the list. And I think that that is a prescription for liberation, a prescription for happiness, you know? And when you look at The Black Panther Ten-Point platform, you know, and they are demanding land, bread, water, housing, education, healthcare control of technology, end to police brutality, etc, etc, on behalf of all poor and oppressed beings, right? It's always like in service of other. And that, in, in the ways that I've learned and listened to the world is also consistent, when you look at — you brought up Buddhism — you know, like, Mahayana Buddhist practice is that all of our happiness comes from the service of others, and all of our unhappiness comes from the prioritizing of ourselves. And, you know, I think, even if you can explore that in other mystical or religious traditions, and that is the same. I think that, you know, part of where we are now in the world, with so much shifts and change and challenges is like, this reckoning with the grief that yeah, like, we, we have been lied to for centuries. And we've really become hardened around a false sense of where our survival should come from, and our joy should come from. And I've been super blessed in this micro way to have a relationship with someone, Herman in particular, that was so powerful, and that was like, "It's all wrong. And let's prove it to the world in the ways that we relate and we build, and then let that sort of grow forth." And so those those moments, you know, yeah, I don't think, you know, if, in any practice that I chose to pursue — that as central, it's those kinds of the priorities of loving on one another, and the priorities on, you know, on making sure that, that people feel seen and honored and held and respected, and really trying to remove myself from it, you know? It's hard. Like, it's, it's hard, because in the art world, and I don't know what your experience has been, but like, you know, when I went through grad school, it was really about, like, what's your CV gonna say about you? I'm like, why is this shit about me? You know?

Cassils  23:07

Yeah, I mean, I was just gonna loop it back to that, you know, you're talking about how when we focus on the individual ego and mind, one becomes like, miserable, and that when we can be in concert and service and feel our interconnectedness that like misery is sort of left behind, right? Or less so. And yet, in the art world, there is such a sort of cult of the individual. And specifically, like, the surface of so many things, and, and like, how do we, how do we rectify those, you know? And I think it's interesting, because there are many art worlds, and it's taken me, it's taken me a long time to find my art world. You know? In this country. In this country that has like very little individual artists funding, you know, in a country that like, did away with individual artists funding, with the NEA with artists, like my mentor, Ron Athey? You know, the ways that artists were held up and used much in the way that you know, trans youth and, like, young folks of color — the way the people are being used right now to polarize and to create sort of fear mongering. Artists have also been used in that way, in a very successful sort of way of like, removing resources, because the voices are powerful, you know? And the voices have strength. And so it's like, this notion of like individuation and inequity is something I really grapple with and sometimes I move into these spaces where I'm working against it thinking critically, and making like semi ridiculous projects? Like you know, $HT Coin and White Male Artist. Just like, what the hell was that?

jackie sumell  24:53

They're my favorites!

Cassils  24:57

To then, like thinking you know, like, No, it's not about...You know, I personally, I think I'm starting to feel very tired of like, yelling, and advocating and fighting in this in this countering way. I mean, I do think we need to do that. But I'm also really interested in this idea that, you know, something I've been exploring in my own practice in the last maybe four or five years, which is just like, I'd say, maybe something I see in yours. And maybe one of the reasons I feel really inspired by your practice, which is this idea of like, how do we just build for us? You know, like, how do we, how do we just, you know, and especially as someone who's like, you know, I'm not by any stretch of the imagination old, but I have younger artists, now kind of coming to me and asking me for advice and questions. And, you know, when I was younger, I had zero trans representation like this, there was, in fact, even to this day, I can't think of a trans artists that's older than me that has a sort of sustainable life built on the success of their, like, anointed art practice. Not that that's what success should mean, righ? But just like, there's just, there's not a lot of that. And so I think it's, you know, this, like rhetoric, for example, and I'm just kind of jumping all over the map, but just like, the rhetoric in Florida, you know, around like, "Don't say gay!" for example, you know, and this idea that, you know, that queerness is a danger and a corrupting danger at that, when in fact, like, older queer people, and the representation of artists, like I have, like De LaGrace Volcano, or even seeing like Catherine Opie's, like, cutting piece, you know, early on in my life. Like seeing that work saved my life. And so this rhetoric around that there's a danger associated with elders, that possess these subjectivities, and you cannot say their names, and you cannot, you can't, you cannot speak of their difference, you know, that, to me is so incredibly counterintuitive, because, in fact, those are the very things that kept me alive. And continue to, I think, keep younger people alive. And I think about like my own growing up, like, yeah, there was bullying and unacceptance, and maybe not even the words to explain why you are wrong, right, just a lot of shame, a lot, a lot of shame. But now we have, like, government officials, bullying children, you know, it's people making millions of dollars and organizing political campaigns and garnering votes, you know, around harassing, and bullying children for their subjectivities. You know, and that is like, all the more reason why it's very clear to me that as someone, as I get older, that it is my job to like, Is my like I want to be I want to be able to, you know, embody the sort of protection and, and real, like self actualization that I needed to see, you know, when I was younger, and so it's just like, it's not about like, ego, it's really just like, this is maybe the alignment of our purpose, perhaps, you know, and that kind of like alignment gives me a sort of clarity that does make me feel anchored in this chaos. 

jackie sumell  28:09

Yeah, I relate to that a lot. The idea of feeling anchored. I remember also, I mean, you're, there's so much that you just said that I don't want to miss you know, I think, be I was actually, you know, sort of, like, I have a toothache and I'm exhausted. All these, like, list of reasons why I'm having a permanent archive of a conversation on today would probably not be a good idea, you know? Like, ooh this will be remembered forever. But, you know, but I love you, and I was honored to speak with you. But you know, if someone is watching this conversation, 5, 10, 20 years out, because they can, you know, what you just said about the, you know, targeting and oppression. And the normalizing of government officials, in the ways that their power trickles down, bullying trans and queer kids across the country. I hope is, you know, in, in time, something that is a thing of the past, but I think is particularly pernicious. And at this moment in our history, and and shouldn't be ignored, you know? And I think that, you know, somebody the same way — if I was like, oh, you know, I'm, I'm a ma'am now and you know, and the young people are coming up to you. They're like, "Ma'am, how do you, you know, how do you do this?" Like, how do you do 22 years of organizing around PIC abolition and working with folks and solitary and, whatever, whatever is sort of like, identity that makes it look like I figure something out. And, you know, for me very recently, it was, you know, in the wake of, of Roe v Wade being overturned, I was talking to somebody about how part of the strategy in the very beginning of the first Iraq war, they were gonna insert reintroduce the draft for the first time since Vietnam. And everybody was like, "Oh my God, no, no, no, no, no, no!" And then, you know, there's a group of radical organizers, including myself that were like, "Fuck, yeah." Let's do that. Like, let's get the draft in place. Because then these folks who are not, you know, in proximity to harm will be forced to wake up. And it sucks, like I'm, you know, a nonviolent vegetarian. But I think that, unfortunately, that as history has told us, in the colonized United States, that the radicalization of people happens when they are forced to contend with the reality of oppression. And the far reach of what is happening now. My prayer is that it serves to it in lightness, you know?

Cassils  31:20

Yeah, I mean, I think ... Yeah, what you just said is really, it's, it's crazy that we need to be pushed so far. To be able to value the things that we should just have, you know? And I guess it calls into question like, well, then who has to go to, like, it's true that if you push, if the draft is not good, then maybe people who would normally not be confronted by that issue, will then wake up to it. But it's, it's so often like a very particular group of folks that have to take on the heavy lifting of that work, you know? And back to your question is like, how is it sustainable? Like, that's a question that really interests me. And something that I've been really grappling with myself. And you, I guess, I wonder, like, yeah, how do you? I mean, I know that both of us have like a really like physical practice and have had at different points in our lives. Like, I know that you've, you know, you've taught yoga, that you used to play football, you know, that you have this, like, sort of physical. 

jackie sumell  32:25

We're jocks. It's okay. 

Cassils  32:26

Yeah, we're jocks. Just like that. But there's something about for me, you know, the thing that I love about physicality is that it feels like a sort of agency in my body that no one can take from me, right? Like, there's so much of my body that's trying to be controlled. But like, that's one thing that I can do on my own terms. And for me, that practice of daily moving on my own terms, like gives me a certain sense of strength and agency, you know? And I guess I wonder, like, and I mean, it's just like, one tiny example, but like, what are the things that I would love to know? Like, what are the things that you do? To help yourself create that balance? Do you feel like you're ever able to have moments of achieving it? And, and, and if not, like, what do you need? You know, what do you what? What do you need? Like, because we're on this great call from Art Matters. Who's this? Sorry. 

jackie sumell  33:21

Good timing, though. That's a call. 

Cassils  33:23

Yeah, no, but we're on this great, we're on this like, call because Art Matters, decided to do something a little bit different, which was they said, okay, let's, let's instead of like us choosing, let's have artists annoint each other. You know, and it's just like — I love that gesture. I think it's a really important way of decentralizing because we artists know what's up. And we know who's doing the work, maybe more than those who, not to say that, you know, people who are, you know, working in these cultural institutions don't necessarily — but we're really all on the front lines together. And so yeah, I guess my question would, would be that, like, how do you? How do you find ways of creating sustainability? Have you ever felt balanced? Because I myself, haven't really, I'll speak for myself. And then like, and then like, what is it? What is it that like, we need, you know, and like, how could these larger systems in this moment support us?

jackie sumell  34:18

I mean, yeah, I'll answer that from the most direct to the most convoluted. I think, yes, I have felt balanced. And, and the times where I've felt the most balanced are the times where I'm the most disciplined, which I think is part of like, what it means to grow up a jock. And I live in a city that throws down, you know, because the mayor sneezes and they're like, let's have a break, you know, and party, whatever! You know, and that's not necessarily the best balance for me. You know, I love it and I will partake and celebrate myself, but you know what I mean? Like, I think that the times where I feel like I have the most access to ideas and creativity and like generative motion is when I have the most discipline. And that discipline doesn't have to be like, you know, necessarily running or yoga or whatever. For some folks, it might. But that it is like a scheduled thing where I'm, you know, where I'm sort of creating the framework to bump into, and, sometimes to transcend and rebuild. Right? And that, that, that is for me, how I would describe the path to sustainability, for sure. For me, it's movement. That's how I learned. You know, that's how I learned to transmute and process and take so much rage and anger and turn it into something else. And then we'll be able to do that, in addition, in the studio. Sometimes feels like the greatest gift, right? But you know, the, what do I need? I don't always know. You know? And I think what feels important, and to that point, Cassils, is to, like, how do we create infrastructure in our lives, that we know when to pause? And, and like, pause enough to be able to say, I need this — right? Like my homies in the wait, I'm going on tour with the Abolitionist Apothecary and Abolitionist Tea Party, and so I'll be gone for three months. And that feels super intimidating, you know, with all of these projects that are just rocking up from the Sanctuary to Solitary Gardens to the space that I'm in now, like all that stuff, you know, needs a lot of love and life and breath to keep going. And I'm like, shit, how am I going to leave it such that it can continue? And then, to have friends and homies be like, "What do you need?" And I'm like, Oh, God, I've gone too far. Because I don't know what I need. Right? Like, I don't actually know. And so I'm just like, you know, I'm riffing, but I think like, maybe — yeah, like, how do we build into the disciplines that sustain us? Moments where we can actually reflect? And be like, yo, I actually, you know, I took this time, and I didn't realize it, but I do need someone else to go to Walmart today or whatever. You know what I mean?

Cassils  37:37

Yeah. Yeah, I do. I do. And I think as artists, we're so used to doing everything on our own. Everything. And so it's like, what I think that's one of the reasons why I'm drawn to like, not working as an individual artists alone, like even this piece that I'm making right now, which is like under the umbrella of my own work. It's like a performance, it involves dancers, it involves choreographers and involves lighting designers and involves photographic experts. And like, it's such a, like, I have, like, I have a producer? You know, who's helping me and it's so helpful! You know, and there's, I don't know, there's other disciplines, you know, that have the sort of like, you know, like film industry, for example. It can be kind of hierarchical in a problematic way. But it's also really helpful when everybody knows, like, how to come together and make something work. You know, and I feel like, that's definitely what we were learning on #InPlainSight, you know, like, we didn't really have like a structure for it, but like, everybody had the sort of skill, everybody has skill sets that shine. And I think it's like, how do we, you know, try to there's certain things I'm just terrible at, you know, and it's like, and I tried to do them anyways, and it's so stressful! You know, like, how is it that we can delineate the things that we're good at and then get support at the things that, you know — bookkeeping. Numbers. 

jackie sumell  39:02

Yeah, no, I agree. I think, without needing capital, right? So like, when you have these major projects that are funded super well, you can say like, oh, yeah, I'm gonna hire a studio manager. I'm gonna hire a bookkeeper. I'm gonna hire an assistant, whatever it might be? And it's like, but how do we do that with and for other folks who may not have as much access? Like, how do we do that with each other? And I love that as a question that I don't have an answer yet for. And such that, you know, it's like, you know, we're almost premeditating like one of my elders and teachers, Lama Marut, who has since ascended used to say, you're either in a disaster or you're in between disasters. There's no other, you know, path in this lifetime. And so, what you do in between those disasters is critical to the inevitable next disaster, right? And so like, what are we doing as, as artists, that is like inevitably setting others up to succeed, which is not the culture that at least was shared with me going through like a formal art education. Like, what are we doing to set up others so that, you know, when the inevitable disaster happens, it's like, yo, I can I can, I can dip out for a couple months, and I know that this ship will flow, right? Or, like, I know that I can call on jackie to do, to sew my performance costumes for me. And that it's not transactional. It's like, jackie knows there's a solid relationship there, that when it's necessary, there's other resources. Yeah, it's yeah, it's, it's definitely, um, you know, in the organizing world more normal than it is in this this art world, you know?

Cassils  41:08

Yeah. I mean, I guess we're talking about mutual aid, right? Like, how can we, as artists, use our different skills. And I love that, like, I've been thinking a lot about that, in terms of like, because I'm about to teach. And I'm thinking about, like, maybe I can do classes where, you know, the students have to crew for each other, you know, where they work together, and they take turns initiating, like larger ideas, but they have to rely on each other, to build that, you know, I really think that, for me, as an artist that lives in Los Angeles, you know, which is a site of a lot of a lot of artists come here. And a lot of people do do a lot of sort of cultural trading, you know, like, yeah, a lot, a lot of that. And that's been so generative for me, because that's how I've been able to, you know, make projects that I would have normally never had a budget for, you know, is by like, us kind of trading our skill sets back and forth. So, yeah, I agree that that's a good one. And I think like this idea of like space and having time to think and like pausing, is really counterintuitive when we're like being raised to just grab at things because it never feels like enough. But I agree too that that is like absolutely key. Like, building in your walks in the woods, or like, a morning meditation, you know, really important.

jackie sumell  42:27

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, even more so. Like, I believe I don't want to out you on this thing, but like, maybe it's like, a three day meditation. 

Cassils  42:41

Yeah, yeah, we're attending. Yeah. 

jackie sumell  42:47

Be realistic here Cassils. 

Cassils  42:52

Disembodied energy fields, and you know, fuck it all!

jackie sumell  42:56

For reals. Or you know, or a drive across the country. You know, something where it's like you're actually scheduling in what is necessary to prepare yourself, to be present for others, you know?

Cassils  43:12

Totally. Jackie, I'm cognizant that you have to get to a doctor's appointment. Is that right? You gotta get off? 

jackie sumell  43:21

I do, yeah. I have a couple more minutes if there's anything else you want to touch on or dream about?

Cassils  43:30

I mean, you're wearing A Thank God for Abortion shirt. 

jackie sumell  43:36

Yeah, that's an easy conversation. 

Cassils  43:38

No, I'm just gonna say like, Viva Ruiz.

jackie sumell  43:41

Shout out to Viva.

Cassils  43:43

Amazing. I've known her for many years now. I think like my early 20s, I met her. And she's always just, she's such a force and a light. And I think like, I'm very much embodying a lot of what we're talking about. And I don't know, I just feel like, as you were saying earlier, the polarization and the sort of level of oppression is getting so great, you know, we're gonna be called to do something major and bodily autonomy, as it has now been, as Roe v. Wade has been, you know, rescinded — obliterated at this point — you know, and how that's gonna roll down to affect all other kinds of subjectivities moving forward. I feel like you and I and Viva will be in contact soon about a collaborative project that we're... Yeah, like, um, so, you know, we'll continue to dream. And I have some ideas that I'm looking forward to sharing with you. And, yeah, so I think, you know, let's just keep up this collaboration. And I just want to shout out and thank Art Matters for, you know, making this conversation possible, for trusting artists to make really important sort of decisions for themselves around how we can network and create opportunities for each other. I also want to thank these beautiful ASL interpreters. Amazing. Yeah, thank you, both of you for doing this work and making this work even more accessible. And yeah, is there anything that you want to say? I would also just want to thank you, Jackie, just like I do! I like you, I really, you know... I just really appreciate and love you and love your work. And I'm very grateful for your presence. So there's much more I could say, but I'll just say that for now.

jackie sumell  45:35

Yeah, I don't know if I have much more to add there. But one thing that did come up for me in a very recent meditation. The ways that we love, like, the ways that we find gratitude, when we are able to sit in those moments are just such a source of power, you know? And that, you know, I feel so blessed. Like, I can remember the very first email I got from you, and I was like — oh, my goodness! You know, like, who's this person whose work I've had a crush on for a while?! And I feel myself like sharing it with my homies, you know, and just like, in the ways that you reflected, how sometimes, you know, the artwork keeps you alive, other people's work? I feel that way about your work. It's, it's almost like, you know, you go into whatever institution you're like, gonna Yeah, yawn, yawn, yawn — and then I saw your work and I was like, fuck, yeah! Like this is happening, you know, this is happening. And, and the ways that it reflects and validates the radical choices and decisions I've made as an artist, also, for me has provided such buoyancy. And and I thank you for that. And I thank you for all of the tremendous sacrifices (I don't know where my voice is going now) — that you've had to make, and the risks that you've taken to share this work with the world. I know, wholeheartedly that it's not always the easiest path, but you are, you know, throwing such powerful stones into a pond and creating ripples of change that the world needs. And so I genuinely thank you for that. And I would love at some point in our lives, to really, you know, not require the disasters. And find and build each with each other, you know?

Cassils  47:46

Yeah, let's do that. 

jackie sumell  47:48

Yeah. Let's do that and bring Viva.

Cassils  47:51

Yeah, let's do that and bring Viva. That sounds great. Looking forward to future with you. And I hope, you know, I hope your toothache gets better. No, that sucks. I'll give you a big hug. 

jackie sumell  48:08

What a jerk, this tooth like right before I was supposed to get on the road, you know?

Cassils  48:13

I know. It's always like that. But all right, well, um, talk to—

jackie sumell  48:19

I'm going to hopefully see you in New York IRL without these backgrounds. And so that'll be beautiful. And, yeah, very grateful for you as a human being and the human doing. So. 

Cassils  48:33

I am grateful for you too. I love you, jackie! All right. Bye, everyone.

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