Today we’d like to introduce you to Ariel René Jackson.
Hi Ariel, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I was born in Monroe, LA and raised in New Orleans. After getting accepted to The Cooper Union in New York City I moved (2009). I worked and made artwork through various residencies and fellowships in NYC for seven years. I got accepted to several graduate programs and received a competitive scholarship from UT Austin and decided to move here for Graduate School (2017). I’ve been in Austin since then curating The Cage Match Project, working for Deborah Roberts as a studio assistant, collaborating with artists, and flourishing in my practice as I apply for grants, generate commissioned works, and exhibit my films nationally and internationally.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I would say that my growth began after Hurricane Katrina. My family fled and I grew up in rural Louisiana, seeing local racism alongside the news headlines identifying Black families as looters and white families as survivors. Thankfully my oldest sibling was attending LSU where she learned about the history of slavery and its modernized forms. I became militant in my Blackness, educating myself and others. I felt like I was on a mission when I moved to New York City to attend The Cooper Union, a free arts, engineering, and architecture college. This was prior to the modern-day awakening of white America and my anger about the racism I had witnessed was dismissed in addition to the financial struggle of getting a job in NYC as an unexperienced student. There were many skills I developed through trial and error while I was making sense of who I was and what I stood for. It was in Far Rockaway that Confuserella, my alter ego, was born–as a conduit and illustration of these various realities I was living–a racist south and dismissive north.
Between the generosity and love from my New York City friends and the work ethic I inherited from my family in Louisiana and Virginia, I was able to find employment and shape a career. At a certain point I knew I needed to reconsider my process, theory, and overall practice at a graduate program that would encourage my research, which ended up being UT Austin.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am a Black film-based artist whose practice considers the relationship between narratives and landscape as process and site of internal representation. Themes of transformation are embedded in my interest and application of repurposed imagery and objects, video, sound, and performance.
The beginning of this year has been full of creating a reworking performances with my longtime collaborator Michael J. Love and using footage/material research from my residence at Skowhegan ’19. As I, like many, have been working through grief from the loss of close family members, I’ve turned to my practice, finding joy and meditation in my collaborative projects and solo research.
In 2019 my solo exhibition titled “A Welcoming Place” was selected in an open call by Women & Their Work gallery in Austin, TX and will debut in January 2022. Since that time I have gained local, national, and recently international financial support to pay my crew, myself, and purchase equipment and materials in order to realize a three-screen installation.
In “A Welcoming Place” I employ a meteorological aesthetic as an allegory for oral narratives. I’m interested in how narratives can be informed by collective testimonies collected via “taking temperature”. Forecasting, I propose, is the product of this data gathering, a practice of communication and codependency that relies on pointing out the environmental manifestations and historical markers of anti-Blackness that pervades gentrified landscapes. Visit my website for more information about this project (arielrenejackson.com).
Choreographer Michael J. Love and I have been awarded the 2021 Tito’s Prize, which includes a sizable stipend from Tito’s Handmade Vodka at Big Medium located in Austin, TX. This awards helps Michael and I to produce a three-channel video installation as phase I of our three-part project titled “We are the [Hackers], Baby, [Hackers] are we”. In this work our alter egos, Confuserella and Babé, illustrate a location through the narratives of our family, where Black America’s history of agriculture and tap-dance merges to create a transformative landscape. I gave birth to Confuserella in 2010, as a coping mechanism and conduit for illustrating an alternate reality that could describe the culture shock of traveling from the south to the north. Michael J. Love’s alter ego, Babé, makes an appearance in his work throughout his choreography since 2017 as a receptacle for Michael’s reflection on his parents’ upbringing and the lives they lived during the 1970s. Together we build a world that acknowledges our pasts and incorporates them into our future.
“We are the [Hackers], Baby, [Hackers] are we” demonstrates a Black millennial understanding of how to actualize dreams of generations past. This is embedded in the work’s namesake, a hack of the title of the 1980 lead single from the album Real People by Nile Rodgers’s’ funk outfit, Chic. In our collaborative practice, Love and I are positioning ourselves as hackers of a Black tradition where institutional archives are undermined with critical fabulations, as discussed in the Black feminist works of Saidiya Hartman. Hartman’s term ‘critical fabulation’ points to a writing methodology that combines historical and archival research with critical theory and fictional narrative. Exploring these topics through an artistic lens enables us to incorporate our personal narratives as part of a larger historical archive ensuring we are visible in our future.
What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
Longevity and sustainability is and continues to be my mantra as I deepen my interests and place my health and mental wellbeing above “work”. This realization is after nearly a decade of living in New York City where I doubled down on my work ethic and hustle. I don’t have regrets about the work I put into growing as an artist and videographer during my time in NYC. When I moved to Austin, life slowed down a little and provided me with ample space and time to consider my health and overall being as part of my artistic practice.
- $500-750 for longterm screenings (1-6 months)
- $150-200 for class visits
- $100 per film for one time screening (for Educators)
- $250 per film for one time screening (for Institutions)
- $1600+ for film/video installation commissions
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.arielrenejackson.com
- Instagram: @arielrenejacksonstudio
- Twitter: @ArielRJackson
All-I-see-is-blue_2017-18-01 Chauncey Valesco AWelcomingPlace-2022-04 Hiram L. Mojica Descendance-2020-01 Hiram L. Mojica