Betty Nguyen is a curator, writer, instigator and artist, founder of Living Arts Fund and founder and editor of First Person Magazine. She curates and hosts this weekend’s Snow in the Desert at Ace Hotel & Swim Club, an activated art space for women. Artist workshops are open today from 2-4pm in the Clubhouse, and we’ll have DJs by the pool all afternoon Saturday and Sunday. Betty DJs tonight in the Amigo Room as well. She’s whip smart — as evidenced below.
You’ve said that you “embrace all forms of cultural delivery.” How do those semantics disrupt ideas of art?
I’ve never regarded one art form higher than another: film, music, performance, dance, painting … if the shit is good, I’ll take it. They all influence each other if we are open to them. I have very fluid instincts. I trained in college as an art director, so I envision worlds through texts and vice versa. Just because work is fun or colorful or punk doesn’t mean it’s not informed. My work goes deep and I enjoy it. The disruption comes from opening people’s perspectives to expand what art is or how it can be presented which includes where it can be presented like at the Ace Hotel.
Tell me about interviewing Yoko Ono and Missy Elliot.
Yoko Ono is so fucking alive. The bigger the name, the more I tend to be restrained as an interviewer. But that’s bullshit right? I interviewed Yoko Ono for First Person Magazine’s “Discomfort of Sculpture” issue that also included Lynda Benglis, Louise Bourgeois, and Maya Deren. I first encountered Ono’s work at ICA East London in 2000. She showed these big Oxford shoes in larger than life rat cages on top of tons of used paperback books. A map of the world was on a table top with her Imagine Peace rubber stamps all over the table for you to make an impression on a country or border line, the ocean whatever needed it. And the last memorable piece was this long dark corridor that led to a light box of a rainbow. Her work is so provocative in a positive way. It’s sometimes difficult to do both in a work. And it’s always been there in hers for me. She was on tour as the Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band with her son and I was pretty nervous, thinking I had to make sure the questions were related to music. But she just went straight out the gate with, “You know John and I did a lot for promoting peace to end the Vietnam War” after I said I thought we were simliar… refugees of war. We talked about both being women and immigrants. And working in the arts as Asian women as being really fucking hard. I can name one other Asian woman curator at the New Museum. And one in Tokyo at the Mori. Oh, yeah and I made her pink peace sign sugar cookies for her show with Sean Lennon.