We recently caught up with Aliya Bonar, Professional Development Fellow 2011, to find out more about what she has been up to lately. Read on to find out more!
Why did you enroll in the Professional Development Fellowship, and what did you gain from it? How did the program impact your work as an artist?
I enrolled in the Create Change Fellowship program because at the time I was working full-time as an arts administrator, and I wanted to set aside time for myself to be an artist and focus on my own practice.
What else have you been doing since the fellowship?
Since my Fellowship ended (Fall of 2011), I have done art residency programs at the Wassaic Project in Wassaic, NY and am currently an artist in residence at Flux Factory in Long Island City, Queens. I have been exploring how to be an artist and sustain my practice, and what my dream job is inside of all of this!
Tell us about PowerSuit Camp. What was the inspiration behind it?
PowerSuit Camp came out of my exploration of the daily characters we play in our lives based on our individual “costumes”. Upon moving to New York City, I was intrigued by the way that individuals play these characters of Important Business People and how I could almost “sneak by” by pretending to be that person, and also dressing like one. And how when I dressed like a professional, I felt more professional myself, even if what I was actually doing was quite silly.
PowerSuit Camp is an opportunity for a group of people to go on a retreat of sorts and go to Camp: step out of the normal constraints and rules of normal life and consider what they really want to, if they could do anything.
Over one week a team of artists and Girl Scout troop #4989 met together every afternoon exploring their “Dream Jobs”. Through interview, dance, zine-making, sewing, and discussing they investigated the question, “what would you do, if you could do anything?” You can see pictures from the final Fashion Show here!
What kind of responses have you received from participants or other community members?
The people who participated in the project said that it was a great experience to set aside time and work on themselves, brainstorm as a group, and think critically about what they really wanted to do.
What’s your neighborhood? Why there?
My neighborhood is Long Island City, Queens, where my studio and my collective community is. Flux Factory is my main community and mini-neighborhood, and they support and challenge me to make great work.
What’s your favorite thing about it?
I love how authentic Long Island City and Queens are—there is a huge intersection of worlds here. No one is too cool or too busy, we’re all just working hard and making things happen.
Who are your neighbors? How have they influenced your work?
The Flux Factory neighbors were directly involved in PowerSuit Camp. On the second day we walked around and interviewed our local neighbors about their current and Dream Jobs, asking how they could be connected and what they like about their current jobs, how they got there. The interviews were a great way to really ground the somewhat abstract conversation, and make it something that the young people could understand. It was also great to get outside of our own heads and actually interact with people who maybe didn’t have their dream jobs but were working towards it.
What are you reading now?
I’m failing at reading Infinite Jest for a book club that I’ve been in since October. I’m at page 105. I know it’s good, I just have to keep going.
What song gets you going when work is hard?
Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend”—I’m still learning the dance moves to recreate the music video on-demand.
What’s your favorite NYC-themed movie, song, poem, book?
What’s your favorite word, sound, color?
Red. The sound of wind flipping through your ears as you coast down a bridge on your bike.
Your dream last meal?
Vietnamese spring rolls and ice cream sundae.
What most inspires you?
Authenticity. People being honest and true, people sharing themselves and connecting with people in ways they’ve never known how to do before.
Tell us about an artist who has influenced your work.
Miranda July has influenced me in the way that she is so transparent with her process and her awkwardness and her insecurities, even if some of it feels like a character and an act. She makes a huge quantity of work and tries everything—film, writing, performance—and that inspires me to just go for it, to try things out, to make big mistakes. There’s something about her character and her work that resonates with me, and makes me cringe or cry or laugh right with her, and so whatever that is, I aspire and am inspired by it—to be my most honest self and share all my human weaknesses and fears and insecurities. That is what others will connect with, and that is what gives my work weight and power.
What advice would you offer other artists interested in socially-engaged work?
Start making it. You don’t need a degree or a certificate, you just need awareness and responsibility. Maybe you’ll mess up. but being nervous about messing up and not doing anything is useless too. Talk to people, share your ideas, welcome feedback and critiques. Make things happen, even if they just start small.
What will you be working on next?
I’m sorting that out now. I think I’m ready to do a more personal and solitary project, after doing so much out there and with other people. I think I will be developing a line of costume/garments that are highly utilitarian and also continuing on the “PowerSuit” theme—for my own dreams and passions and tailored to my body, and in collaboration with others based on their dreams, passions, and fit!
Any current or upcoming show/performance you want to recommend?
Flux Factory has a million events and shows, and they’re all really great opportunities to get to know an entirely different community and crowd. Check them all out here, or see you at the next major exhibition opening, “The Wonder Cabinet” March 16, 6-8pm.
Aliya Bonar is an artist, community organizer and event producer based in New York City. She has worked with Creative Time, Flux Factory, Elsewhere Collaborative, The Wassaic Project, The Laundromat Project, and the Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute to teach workshops and produce events that engage everyday people in making authentic connections.