ALICIA GRULLON: Yes, in regards to the disappearance of traditions and culture from the city, the working class that has thinned out so rapidly the last 15 years. For me as a native New Yorker all the different people, ways of being, and the encounters of having such an amalgamation is what makes New York so unique within the US. My piece for Ritual "Domino!" looked at the ritual of game playing on NYC streets. From stick ball, double dutch to domino, these were the activities of communities all over. Through these actions people got to know each other and these games became strategies for urban planning. Real estate, speculators and residents with little if any interest have harmed the public space unique to NYC. With "Revealing New York: The Disappearance of Other" which I did for Pedestrian in 2008 looks at real estate and the cost of living as they relate to these issues.
QD: In your experience, has AIOP changed in the past 4 years?
AG: I think AIOP has always maintained the incredible qualities that have made it strong. There have always been a mixture of artists emerging and established that take part and reclaim the public space. If anything it has reaffirmed the power of art as a tool to reconsider poignant issues in ways that are accessible.
QD: Can you discuss what led you to create Revealing New York: The Disappearance of Other?
AG: It was the angst I was feeling from people about the rapid changes taking place in NYC. This project is actually a spin off from my Franklin Furnace Archive funded piece in 2007-2008 "An Auto-ethnographic Study: The Bronx". These originally staged performances occurred throughout the Bronx addressing displacement as well as the high cost of living. It was during the climax of the mortgage crisis, the food riots in Haiti, and the increase in military spending on the war in the Middle East. All the the while, there was a sort of re-colonization of areas in the city..... The cost of living was getting ridiculous and salaries remained the same. It was as if there was a plan to make NYC a gated community. Places where families had resided for decades were being pushed out. I looked at all this and wanted to find a solution that drew attention at the insanity. So, in an attempt to bail myself out, I had commodities and food staples for sale for thousands of dollars. It got people talking. Folks would tell me the most intimate details of the struggles they were going through. It was a silent protest of sorts and people felt good talking because it seemed (and still does) that no one really listened unless the person talking had 8 figures supporting their name. NYC has always changed that is its nature, but there is something different about this....the speed of it and the suburbanization of NYC has been like no other time.
QD: What is the role of the mask in your performances?
AG: Masks are comfortable. Encounters intensify. It creates a rather safe space ironically enough. that's the power of the mask for the observed and observer. Also, the mask has been associated with other and ideas about the magical brown person. Since much of my work looks at identity and power relations, I ask myself, "Is this the way I am seen? If so, let me then define it and really weave a not so magical story". There is also a ritual connected to my making the mask on site and provides for the performative aspects of the piece.
QD: What are a few ways that you feel NYC can "meet equity and equality"?
AG: I feel one way to address it is through property. Property has been the marker for wealth in this country in more ways than in others. If a person could claim property they had the most power: A person could vote, own and mistreat another human being, and garner the support of an entire militia in the name of protecting property. I think there needs to be a change of focus so that markers of wealth become the quality of free, excellent and dignified education, housing and healthcare. Property should no longer define a person it should be something that is within realistic reach for all. It can be accomplished through full taxation of corporations, effective community benefits agreements, housing protection and zoning, rent freezes, and protection of the commons- to start.