Purple Magazine
— “Purple 76 Index” S/S 2018 issue 29

Menuez india

the day of mending

portrait by JASPER BRIGGS
interview by HAYDEN DUNHAM

HAYDEN DUNHAM — I first met you in…

INDIA MENUEZ — I think I was in 10th grade. I think I was 14.

HAYDEN DUNHAM — That means I have loved you for 10 years, then. It was at P.S. 122 for a Vaginal Davis Show that your dad was in. 

INDIA MENUEZ — Yes! It was a performance Vaginal Davis did. It was structured like a talk show, and through some odd chain of events, my dad and I were “guests” on the show.

HAYDEN DUNHAM — And at one point a naked person covered in whipped cream was brought onto the stage as a kind of offering to the panelists from Vaginal and you proceeded to lick… Do you remember what part of the body?

INDIA MENUEZ — [Laughter] I think I was feeling provocative and a need to reclaim some autonomy. I had felt a little infantilized by my position as the youngest person on the panel. And so to reclaim that, I licked it off the crotch area. Was there something seed-like you noticed in me that you think is still true today?

HAYDEN DUNHAM — I was really impressed by you and how clear all of your intentions were. You gave me a strand of your hair as a bookmark. I looked inside the bags that you carried with you and the objects that you surrounded yourself with. I don’t think many of those things have changed. You were always involved in these very elaborate care systems… And you were very wild then, down to get messy. I think that’s still true. 

INDIA MENUEZ — Not afraid to get your hands wet.

HAYDEN DUNHAM — You were willing to jump all in and splash around and also splash others. 

INDIA MENUEZ — Yeah, definitely. I think we share this way of relating to materials, this belief in the capacity for materials to hold something beyond their materiality. So that leads us both to building up and carrying around these different care tool kits.

HAYDEN DUNHAM — Like how you always have an elixir on you — chlorophyll, lemon verbena, or a mushroom tincture in that special bottle in your bag.

INDIA MENUEZ — Yeah, particularly when I was doing more performance work, I would often make a project-specific elixir for the day of the show to share with my performers. It would be comprised of ingredients to combat anxiety and to enhance energy, something yummy, etc. The performative gesture and ritual of sharing the cup — it was always interesting to foster shared, transformative experiences. One of my favorite rehearsal activities I came up with was when I was preparing for something I did at the Knockdown Center. I had all of the performing artists in my piece bring an ingredient to the rehearsal space, and then together we cooked a meal without talking, which was so fun. It fostered a more connected group dynamic. Thinking about it now, you and I are both interested in listening, and all that is to be received from listening.

HAYDEN DUNHAM — I remember a few years into our relationship, you went on a month-long trip to India for a film project and decided not to speak the entire time you were there, only to listen. This level of endurance and willingness to try things outside of your comfort zone is pertinent to your practice. 

INDIA MENUEZ — I am interested in pushing myself to the extreme; I’m interested in what is received from being at the edge of a limit. It’s not until you leave the comfort zone that you have access to certain new information — which is learning. I’m a little fearless around this, for some reason. As a result, I’ve put myself in situations that were not always safe. Afterward, this required recoiling, reassessing, and realizing that I let myself be depleted beyond necessity, or that I let myself be exploited. I have to wonder how that weighs against the compulsion to do it in the first place. I feel deeply connected to that interest, but at the same time have grown more reserved with my energetic investments — setting boundaries, observing my own capacity, and respecting my limitations.

HAYDEN DUNHAM — I was thinking about the body as a vessel. Can you tell us about your new project or has it been ongoing? 

INDIA MENUEZ – My new project is called “The Day of Mending.” Last year was the first time I put one together; I did it in LA, in the park, on the grass, and it was an idea that I had and then proposed to do with Zoe Latta. It was about being connected to other people, who are connected to materials and do craftwork of different sorts to gain knowledge of how to assemble or care for materials. The idea was to do this work together and observe what it might foster energetically — or more simply, how it might get you to finally do some small thing or start a project that you haven’t found the time for, something that’s part of your daily life that needs this moment of attention.

HAYDEN DUNHAM — There’s also something in the act of taking care of an object that will take care of you, or that has been caring for you. Maybe that object has been pushed beyond the boundaries of materiality and is now in need of some assistance — this extends into the garment and into the way the garment feels while you’re wearing it. 

INDIA MENUEZ — This is so true. Those actions are self-care, and to do self-care collectively is really productive.

HAYDEN DUNHAM — It’s a practice, research, and a process?

INDIA MENUEZ — Exactly, and it’s not end-destination oriented. In the last two iterations of an event I put together with Misty Pollen  — she and I had our most recent iteration yesterday at the Bridget Donahue gallery — I really enjoyed talking to different people about their relationships to mending, and how it’s not about fixing something and expecting it to be done forever. Sometimes, you have an article that you care for, that you patch up, and then it rips again, and you patch it again, and so on. Eventually the entire article might become an assemblage of just patches. In this way, care actually brings it to another level. The event’s structure is simple, but doing it has revealed that there is a need for this facilitation. Every time we’ve done the event, the response is extremely positive and grateful.

HAYDEN DUNHAM — I’ve attended two of the three events. The first time I attended this project, I made an apron dress that I’ve worn every day since then. Actually, it was really effective for me.

INDIA MENUEZ — So cool! It makes me think about what you were saying regarding connecting the capacity of self to the capacities of objects. I think when we’re having certain conversations, it’s really valuable to think about where we’re at materially — physically, what kind of state does our body feel? Is our selfhood in a state that is porous and open, like a vapor, moving all over, having this infiltrative quality? Or are we in rock mode, solid? If we’re solid now, if you hit us a particular way, will we crack? Do we need to be protected in some way? I just really love thinking that way with you, and in general. Sometimes the act of caring for something, whatever material state it is in, can be so therapeutic — like my experience of having a relationship with plants, or having companion animals. The practice of caring for something outside yourself can be inherently, mutually nourishing.

HAYDEN DUNHAM — Do you think that the practice of caring for immaterial things as well as material things, like clothes, actually transitions beyond the limitations of the object? 

INDIA MENUEZ — Yeah, I do, definitely. Because of the sheer fact of interconnectivity.

HAYDEN DUNHAM — Interconnectivity. Yes. When I think about interconnectivity, I think about water as a material that is both inside of us and outside of us. It is outside in the form of air and precipitation, and inside as something that holds us together. It’s a life form in and of itself. 

INDIA MENUEZ — It’s the blood of the planet. If we think about the planet as a super-organism, as a living thing that we’re killing or caring for in turn, our bodies are like this, too. We are not just singular entities; we are hosting a microbiome, a complex system of what we could think of as foreign entities, but our microbiome also is us. These notions of “isolated self” and “individual” are a delusion. A main focus through my work has been fostering shared experiences that get interconnectivity — which is already present — to resonate at a higher frequency. I ask questions like, how do we do this? How do we get it to sing and shine? How do we need to polish this? I think you and I are always thinking about how we shift spaces by the things we put in them. We are working on a long-term project of some kind of post-gender bathhouse/healing facility. It will be a space where we can implement purpose and intention through every step, from the ground up. Of course, it will take longer than just putting an object in a room, but it is something I am particularly excited about.

HAYDEN DUNHAM — Me too, I can’t wait to actualize this healing facility with you. It feels like there’s a lot of potential for tending to the earth in new ways.

INDIA MENUEZ  — Absolutely. There’s just so much work to do in terms of healing the planet that holds us and all the healing that has to happen with humankind to even be able to get to that point of healing the planet.

HAYDEN DUNHAM — That’s why I’m so excited about “The Day of Mending”  project. It focuses on the individual’s capacity, all the objects that we’re surrounded by, how to support and encourage the objects’ frequency, then to support and encourage one another. 

INDIA MENUEZ — Yeah. Obviously, we have to work collectively if we want to create impact. To push something further takes more than just one set of hands, which is why this notion of activating interconnectivity is so essential.

END

[Table of contents]

“Purple 76 Index” S/S 2018 issue 29

Table of contents

Purple Index 76

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