Interview with Artist Shiloh Ashley: On Constructing Language, Relationships, & Identity

Shiloh AshleyIntermedia Grad Student Shiloh Ashley has been hard at work preparing for their thesis show, including the arduous task of constructing their own language. Our Art Editor, Regan Henley was lucky enough to get some time with Shiloh to talk about this process and see what exactly this whole project entails.


Regan Henley: So, my understanding is that you are creating your own language as part of your thesis. Can you speak a little about that?

Shiloh Ashley: I am very interested in languages, codes, puzzles, and games, and the ways in which these things intersect during play. I wanted to deepen my knowledge and expand my understanding of the how language, codes, puzzles, and games influence communication and interpersonal relationships. I felt that the best way to investigate the dynamics between the intersections of those elements and how they lead to transformation would be to create my own language.

RH: This project is obviously a huge undertaking. What has been your process throughout this work? Have you been following some outline for creating language or is it more of an intuitive task?

SA: I am working intuitively with a plan of action, which means that I set aside time to focus on only writing, only music, only building, etc., and the work develops from there. It helps me to corral my thoughts but not limit them too much to a set of expectations as I find art has a way of making itself regardless of what, I, as the artist think it should be.

RH: Has language always had an important element in your work, or is this a more recent fascination of yours?

SA: Language has been a constant in my work.

Language is important to me because I believe languages are adventurous journeys to new worlds, not just verbal or gestural languages, but also languages like mathematics, coding, and the use of acronyms in cyberspace. There are many different ways to say the same thing, there are similar ways to say different things, and too many ways to say the wrong thing.

RH: Do you think language plays an important role in defining personal identity to you? And if so, what are you saying in creating your own?

SA: I grew up in a multilingual setting. My family is Lakota from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, and so I grew up around English and Lakota. I got in trouble in first grade for coloring out of the lines on a picture of a pig that we were going to cut out and put on a wall. In protest of getting reprimanded by the teacher, I called her a name in Lakota and was sent to the principal’s office. I learned that there was a lot of power in terms of what is said, who is saying it, and who what is being said is being said to.

Also around that time, my parents worked at a summer camp along the Missouri River, and the majority of the counselors were international coming from Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Australia, Jordan, and Japan. It exposed me to the world in a way that still informs my curiosity about people and how lives are lived across the globe.

Outside of those experiences, I took a couple years of Spanish, learned to read music, became interested in technology, and am learning to code.

I have in the last year started to learn Lakota. The extent of my knowledge comes from language used in ceremony and things I remember from my aunts and uncles. My parents spoke mostly English. It is important for me to reconnect with the language of my people because it connects me to who I am, where I come from, and the values of my people. All of these languages are important to me because they help me understand and process the world. I am creating my own language because I feel a responsibility to communicate sincerely with the world in an attempt to join in on the conversations that address issues related to our planet and the future of humanity.

RH: The idea of ceremony definitely seems present in how you construct language. Last semester I got to see you do a performance art piece at a live art platform in which you used audience participation and line dancing to teach participants your new language. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

SA: Line dances and dance crazes interest me because they facilitate space for temporary communities to come together for about five minutes to just have a good time. Momentarily, race, sex, class, gender, politics, and prejudice are suspended, and people just dance. There are other ways of looking at it, but I am focusing on work that brings people together, and I felt like the line dance was a good way to integrate learning, performance, and participation into the work.

RH: Will you be following this line of thought (doing any more line dancing/performative elements) in your thesis show?

SA: I sure hope so! Bring your dancing shoes just in case.

RH: This work has definitely been a long time coming for you, given your background and experiences it seems. What have you learned throughout this process?

SA: The most helpful thing I’ve learned is about having the patience to allow space for the work to evolve and to trust that it will eventually come to make some sort of sense. It is new territory, and I am very excited about the process moving toward thesis show as I am approaching the work in a more focused manner now that the foundations of the language have been established.

RH: Last but not least, where can we see you and your work?

SA: You can find my work in progress website from 2010 at www.shilohashley.com, updates coming soon. I post images of my process on Instagram (@shilohmfa) and if you are into music you can check out my band, Ashley at https://soundcloud.com/ashley-musicaz.

Shiloh’s Thesis Show with open at ASU Step Gallery in Grant Street Studios on April 1st.

 

 

Guest Blog Post, Philip Gross: Three a.m., in Boston

Philip Gross at Boathouse (Stephen Morris)Twelve storeys up in Boston (yes, that’s in British-English, where storeys are not the same as stories) – three days into the word-storm of AWP… I wake after three hours sleep, on a still-visible tidemark of my home time zone. Other tidemarks show through, like one left by Anne Carson’s reading yesterday evening – the point-by-point enumeration, with the sound of logic, of a train of thought… What I sit up and write isn’t imitation, isn’t homage, and is nothing to do with her meaning. At three a.m. a tone, her tone, feels like a place, a set of inner rooms (look, with numbers on them). You can walk through them. Pausing. Glancing around a little guiltily, an interloper. Not quite sure if you’re welcome. But trying the sound of your voice, how it echoes, in each…

                                                   Theses at three a.m.

1. That even starting from nowhere, going nowhere else, still simply the numbering of things creates a sense of movement. An illusion… as innocent as a painted backdrop hand-winched along outside the window of a train in an early motion picture.

2. That I catch myself believing that’s what they did – the hand-winching, I mean – because I’ve written it, though I don’t have a shred of evidence.

3. That this too is a kind of movie. Stop-motion animation of a thought like Play-Doh or Plasticine.

4. That human figures made from Plasticine or Play-Doh, from beach sand or mud, grow naturally between our fingers, where they have a kind of life.

5. That somewhere a mullah might even now be denouncing a child for doing that thing, unthinking, with blasphemous hands.

6. That God might, secretly, be eaten up with fondness, at the sight of these blunt malformed child-made creatures. Sad too, knowing that they cannot be allowed to live.

7. That somewhere in the floodplain mud, the alluvium, just outside the city, where the shanties go up, is a lump that desires to be golem.

8. That it was people’s crying out for order, in unformed mud-voices, that set the golem’s mud-tread going in the alleys of Prague.

9. That Golem, in his off hours, must have dreamed of river beds. Or been afraid to sleep, always hearing the drying and trickling away of his skin.

10. That the mullah too wants to get some order into the sticky, the palpable world. For its own good.

11. That, equally, a monk might nail a numbered list of theses to a door, thud, thud, and hear the echoes spreading like the tread of boots.

12. That form is always, in God’s eye, reformation. And creation always recreation.

13. That the rabbi of Prague too watched his hands at their work, and wondered what was being done.

14. That a word breathed in to it made all the difference.

15. That in the breath of ‘thesis’, melting one way into ‘this is’ and the other into ‘these’, we already have a hint of number.

16. That verse was born from voice-mud, in the hands of recreation, with a hint of number, with a hint of tread.

17. That Thesis and Antithesis were a marriage made in Heaven, or in Hegel. Ask their only child, Syn.

18. That there’s always some danger when mud-shapes begin to conceive of themselves. (Aside from God: Don’t I just know!)

19. That each poor bare forked and early Play-Doh figure is somebody’s niece or nephew or great-great-grandchild’s thought nearly conceiving what it is.

20. That to give a child a doll too lifelike, too eyelash-blinking-perfect, is uncanny. Too made already. Too far from the true cloth or true plastic, let alone true mud.

21. That now CGI can seamlessly make seem such perfect monsters, we maybe have to hand-winch the backdrop, as clunky as this, or get clumsy as toddlers, just to reassert a sense of what is true.

Past Intern Updates: Sarah Murray

Sarah Murray, Issue 9 Fiction Editor, shares where she found her inspiration after Superstition Review and her future plans.

Sarah Murray

Photo by Ken Camarillo

My initial plan after I graduated from ASU was to take some time off. I was going to move back to Los Angeles (which I did), recover for a couple months, and then start looking into Grad school. Study for the GRE. Take the time to actually write and get published. Possibly learn guitar. Possibly start looking into getting my EMT certification. And, of course, probably get a job.

What I didn’t bank on was getting a job with some of the most determined, open-minded people in all of Los Angeles. One day I’m at home, minding my own business on Facebook, when I see a post from AIDS Walk Los Angeles advertising a job opening. I applied and was hired in about a week.

I consider myself an activist. In college, I was involved with a variety of organizations that were dedicated to eliminating social stigma in one way or another, mostly in terms of queer activism. My senior year I was predominantly involved with a nonprofit called HEAL International, which was dedicated to HIV/AIDS awareness and education. When I graduated, I was hesitant to apply to just any position. I wanted to pick a job with a mission statement that I agreed with, something greater than myself that I could have a hand in progressing. AIDS Walk Los Angeles allowed me to do that. I was a Team Coordinator/Fundraising Specialist, which means that I worked on an individual basis with hundreds of people who formed their own teams for AIDS Walk. Teams range from corporate teams to teams made of friends and family members. I specifically was in charge of school and university teams.

AIDS Walk Los Angeles was held in West Hollywood on October 14, 2012. Now that it’s over, I am going to keep with my original plan of continuing my education and other assorted aspirations, and in the meantime I am going to look into volunteering at 826LA. I am also in the process of getting a thesis of mine published (final edited draft for Queer Landscapes: Mapping Queer Space(s) of Praxis and Pedagogy due March 1st; keep your fingers crossed!). But, let me tell you why, when I was working for AIDS Walk, I was the most inspired person you could hope to talk to. First off, I worked with students. Students are my absolute favorite people. I was a student leader myself for many years. At AIDS Walk, I talked to them on the phone all day long. I sent them emails. I visited their schools and answered their questions. I was a resource for them to take advantage of, a point of contact between themselves and the event. The kicker, though, is that I was in charge of empowering all these students (if they weren’t already empowered, which, to be honest, half of them were).

Now that AIDS Walk is over, I’ve mostly been reading and writing. But there’s that damnable itch that’s starting again. Sometime soon, I’m going to end up working for another nonprofit. Maybe even AIDS Walk again. Change is a comin’. I can feel it.

2012 First Book Award: $3500 and Publication due July 7

The winner will receive a publication contract with Southern Illinois University Press, and will be awarded a $2000 prize. The winner will also receive $1500 as an honorarium for a reading at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Submissions for the 2012 First Book Award are open through July 7, 2012 (postmark deadline). Submit Manuscript online for the First Book Award using Submittable.

A first book of poems will be selected for publication from an open competition of manuscripts, in English, by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who has neither published, nor committed to publish, a volume of poetry 48 pages or more in length in an edition of over 500 copies* (individual poems may have been previously published; for the purposes of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, a manuscript which was in whole or in part submitted as a thesis or dissertation as a requirement for the completion of a degree is considered unpublished and is eligible). Current or former students, colleagues, and close friends of the final judge, and current and former students and employees of Southern Illinois University and authors published by Southern Illinois University Press are not eligible. For questions about judging, please visit http://CrabOrchardReview.siu.edu/conpo3.html.)

Meet the Interns: Dustin Diehl, Nonfiction Editor

dustinDustin Diehl is a Senior at Arizona State University majoring in English Literature and minoring in Religious Studies. He is also pursuing a LGBT Certificate.

Superstition Review: What do you do for SR?

Dustin Diehl: I solicit work from nonfiction authors to be considered for publication. I then read through submissions (both solicited and submitted) and decide which ones I think should be included. Together, with Liz, we decide which ones to include, then send out rejection/acceptance e-mails.

SR: How did you hear about or get involved with Superstition Review?

DD: Trish is my Honors Thesis advisor and asked if I would like to participate…I said yes!

SR: What is your favorite section of SR? Why?

DD: I really enjoy fiction; however, I’ve been earning a deeper appreciation for nonfiction…seeing how people can take ordinary circumstances (or even not-so-ordinary circumstances) and convey them in a creative and readable form is fascinating to me.

SR: Who is your dream contributor to the journal? Talk about him/her.

DD: I would love for Michael Stackpole to contribute a short fiction story. I love his Star Wars novels and he’s a local writer!

SR: What job, other than your own, would you like to try out in the journal?

DD: I think it would be fun to be a part of the marketing team. I work for an online ad agency, so getting to apply my job skills to something fun like SR would be pretty cool.

SR: What are you most excited for in the upcoming issue?

DD: I’m really excited to read the submitted work…it’s always fun to read people’s work, especially when you find a diamond in the rough!

SR: What was the first book you remember falling in love with and what made it so special?

DD: The first book I fell in love with was The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare. I loved how it deftly juxtaposed religious history, political history and fiction into a very readable and timeless story. In high school, I adapted the book into a play script and would still love to produce a stage version of the book.

SR: What are you currently reading?

DD: Currently reading the Star Wars: X-Wing series by Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston. Reading should be fun, and these books are fun!

SR: What are some of your favorite websites to waste time on or distract you from homework?

DD: I’m a huge movie buff, so I’m constantly on WorstPreviews.com, a movie news blog.  I’m also an avid Star Wars fan, so I enjoy TheForce.net as well.

SR: Do you write? Tell us about a project you’re working on.

I do write; usually fiction, but I’ve found nonfiction to be very satisfying as well. I’m working on a collection of creative nonfiction essays for my Honors Thesis as well as a LGBT-themed modern fantasy novel.