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An in-depth look inside Feathered Changes, Serpent Disappearances with Mariana Castillo Deball and Christopher Squier, SFAI + Kadist Artist-in-Residence and Fellow, respectively.

On view through July 30 at Walter and McBean Galleries. Learn more »

Mariana Castillo Deball (MCD): Nowadays, we have more devices to help us control everything that’s unpredictable. So I think what is interesting to me about John Cage is that he was trying to give up control.

MCD: I’m Mariana Castillo Deball, I’m an artist from Mexico City.

Christopher Squier: I’m Christopher Squier, the current SFAI and Kadist fellow.

CS: Feathered Changes, Serpent Disappearances focuses on archeology, as well as John Cage, to present a new picture of the past.

MCD: One of the series of prints that John Cage produced here in San Francisco, called Changes and Disappearances. He produced it through a series of chance operations, so he had a series of plates and the color, the position, and all the aspects of the composition changed according to the etching script that he wrote. We wanted to bring back the spirit of that work into the exhibition.

Somehow it collapsed with the feathered serpent, which is one deity that appears in many cultures. It’s a snake but it has bird feathers so it’s something that connects the skies with the earth.

CS: The layout of the show consists of this series of tubes, robes, and different pieces strung along through a chance based score.

MCD: There are a lot of misinterpretations or there are a lot of experiments trying to imitate things but changing the scale, the order, the dimensions, and the techniques.  So the show is not just trying to understand artifacts and history through texts and definitions, but also through material approaches.

MCD: We were mainly producing ceramics based on the Mimbres ceramics that they have at the de Young museum. And then we were trying to imitate the fresco techniques from Mexico city from Teotihuacan.

CS: One of the techniques that we use in the exhibition is this rubbing technique developed by Merle Greene Robertson, which she used to document a lot of the Mayan and Colombian artifacts wall reliefs. So we decided to repurpose this technique—a rubbing of one of the skylights.

CS: One of the unique things about the fellowship was getting to work with one artist over the entire span of a show. I worked on advertising for it, but also worked on conceptualizing it, and on the actual fabrication. As a studio artist myself, I think there are things I can take back to my own practice that are really interesting and valuable.

MCD: It was also very nice to work with Christopher, and to have the chance develop all the content together and to do all the research together, and to approach all the people that we worked with. And finally to start producing the work here at SFAI.

MCD: Perhaps many of the objects have links to other places, to other geographies, or to other times, but let’s say that the core of the exhibition is San Francisco.

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