“CAUGHT ON THE 7”: Hector Canonge

Hector Canonge

Hector Canonge

“100 Degrees” is a public Intervention Art project created by Jackson Heights-based artist Hector Canonge and Taiwanese artist Chin Chih Yang. The interactive installation and on site performance raises awareness about the environmental state of the planet and encourages audiences to participate in the creation of a temporary site-specific multimedia media sculpture. In preparation for “100 Degrees” on June 6th, Hector answered questions from Queens Art Express.

What is your subway stop?
I use the # 7 train daily. I’ve been doing a lot of work in various neighborhoods along its route. Right now is the 33rd St. / Rawson St. stop because I swim daily at La Guardia and will be doing the installation of the Public Intervention project “100 Degrees,” right under the elevated tracks.

What is the best musician or artist you saw performing on a subway platform?
One day, late at night, I was waiting for the E train on 14th Street when suddenly I heard the sounds of a saxophone. The melody was an old Spanish ballad that my grandmother used to sing. It transported me to the time when I was a kid and I relived those days when grandma, Machida, we called her, sang in the morning while doing her morning activities. As I moved in the direction of the sound, the song “Besame Mucho” engulfed my entire being. The man who was playing the old saxo was lost in his music, and I was lost in my memories. I talked to him, and found out he was from Ecuador, he played other ballads and music, I stayed for at least one hour. I bought his CD, and few months later, I did a documentary about him.

Do you regularly see other artists performing in the area (if so what type)?
Yes, in the same spot, a few years after the sax player, I met an interesting older Russian woman. She was singing in Spanish and playing a portable children’s keyboard. Amazingly enough, she was singing “Besame Mucho.” I talked to her, and she was incredibly Zen and good energy. Somehow she moved me deeply. I was supposed to interview her the day after, but did not see her again until a year later. She was riding on the # 7 Train, and playing a Cuban danzon.

What type of work do you do?
I’m a New-media artist. I work integrating emerging and old technologies to create projects in relation to geographies, identity, gender roles, image appropriation, and the politics of migration; I explore contemporary issues affecting diverse urban communities.
What do you do for fun in Queens or the metropolitan area?
Queens is my home-fun! Somehow I always manage to hang out in Jackson Heights, Flushing Park or at the Queens Museum. My favorite place to eat is “La cancha” this Argentine, hole in the wall, pizza-restaurant place where they have the best empanadas, homemade ñoquis, house wine, Quilmes beer, and they always have soccer matches on TV. The 82 Street movie theater is great with movies with Spanish subtitles, and cheaper than the multiplex. At night the clubs and bars along Roosevelt Avenue are a true adventure -not for the weak at heart. In the city, I’m a flaneur, I like walking and discovering new things in the city. My recent venture, the Mexican outpost in Spanish Harlem. My favorite Dominican restaurant is Margot in Washington Heights.

Do you have any questions for us at Queens Art Express?
I will be doing sound walks in relation to my project 18 Beats (On view as Queens Beats at the Discover Queens Visitor Center at Queens Center Mall) in September. You wanna contribute?

What was your first art/performance experience like? Where was it?
My initiation with my New-media work was when my project “Ciudad Transmobil” was featured at the Queens International 2004. Prior to that my work was in film with documentaries and short fiction films. The experience of taking over a gallery space, working closely with the curator, installers, having friends and loved ones helping me in putting up the project was definitely something that I wanted to repeat. Since then my work and projects have grown, but I still get the same rush and exhilaration. It’s probably like giving birth…

What are you working on now?
I am getting ready for 2 projects. One, “100 Degrees,” is collaboration with Taiwanese artist, Chin Chih Yang, as part of the Queens Arts Express. The second is “Germinal” a project about genetic modification of seeds, as part of my present residency at City Without Walls, cWOW, in Newark, New Jersey. I will also have a show at Aferro Gallery, “Deceptive Landscapes” in relation to my work and research as visiting artist at New Jersey City University.

What are you working on in the future?
I have an upcoming solo show, “Schema CorpoReal,” at Topaz Arts, and had just gotten the news that I was selected for the Dyson Residency program for the Summer at Pace University. There I will work on the cataloguing and future installation based on family correspondence of the past 15 years. After that, I will disappear for 2 weeks in August probably go north to Maine, I am not revealing where or with whom though…

The information about the sonic project in Queens is on my website: “18 Beats” now on view as “Queens Beats” at DQVC. www.hectorcanonge.net/18beats.

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