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Arts & Culture

An Interview With Julia Barbosa Landois

Photo: Ramin Samandari, License: N/A

Ramin Samandari

Do you remember a specific piece when nobody got the references?

Yeah, I made a video that depicted an egg cleaning. It was really about feeling guilty, like your soul hurts, and trying to purge yourself of those feelings. And the critique—we weren't allowed to really say anything during the critique—the critique at the end of the semester was totally public, anyone in the school could come and see you get brutalized. It was good, in a way. I developed a thick skin. I showed the video, and the critics were saying things like, “oh look, it's an egg, it's obviously about her fertility. Her biological clock is ticking, she’s thinking about having children, and this is a really overdone bland feminist topic.”

They had no idea. And there was even some Spanish in the voiceover. Made me think a lot about how much context we need to provide. If you're making work with a specific cultural reference, are you limiting the audience you reach? And I think, maybe all work only reaches a limited audience. Maybe if you're reaching a completely broad audience, it's hotel art. Like Thomas Kinkade. But you don't want it to be so specific that people don't get any of what it's about.

What were you into, when you were a kid? What kind of teenager were you?

I was pretty strong academically, but I was a total misfit. I was reading a lot of underground feminist lesbian magazines, stuff like that. I listened to a lot of punk rock, I was going to the DMZ for punk shows.

At the anniversary of Kennedy’s death, I thought, I should go listen to that Misfits song “Bullet.” You know, “Texas is the reason that the President’s dead.” I have it somewhere on an old tape. But I looked up the lyrics, and they were horrible!

As a kid into punk rock, the sexism in it was disappointing. l was at a party once, and I wanted to put on a song by Bikini Kill. And all these guys were saying “God, I hate these feminazis!” I thought ‘great, here I am hanging out with all these punk rockers who want to start a revolution. This is the revolution?” Some 40-year-old guy in the corner digging change out of the couch cushions to go buy a 32-ounce Busch beer.

Now you're raising a daughter. I'm sure these issues come up in how you parent her.

Yeah, of course I think about the future for her, I'm concerned about reproductive rights in particular. But it's great that [mothering] is mostly very empowering for me. Like when I was in labor, or before actually, I remember hearing from people, friends of mine were pregnant, they didn't want their husbands present, they wanted a cesarean for this reason or another. And when I was actually in [the delivery room] squatting next to the table (laughs), and this sound comes out of you, like an animal sound... I really felt part of something bigger, beyond me, and I never thought it would feel like this. Not just the pain, but the real power! You can get through anything! You are anything but self-conscious. That's empowering in a way that I didn't expect.

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