In this series of virtual conversations, we bring together visual artists, scholars, composers, activists, writers, and others to explore what kinds of radical imaginaries can unfold in this moment of pandemic, racial reckoning, economic uncertainty, civil unrest, and environmental crisis.

How do we think about what is possible? 

How can we use our imaginations to build a better present/future? 

How can we attend to the past in service of the future? 

​And how can we retool and build better more equitable models for living and working together?

In March 2020, Indian author Arundhati Roy described our current moment as “a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.” She argues that we can choose to drag our old, outdated, and destructive ideas across its threshold or walk through the portal imaging a new world, being ready to fight for it. Today more than ever, we need our imaginers and frameworks for incubating new ideas to help us bring this new world to life. As bell hooks said, “what we cannot imagine cannot come into being.”

Why Scratch Space?

On a hard drive, there is an area dedicated specifically to temporary storage called scratch space. This volume of space is commonly used with graphic design programs as an overflow when there is insufficient computer memory. But a scratch space is also a space of ideas–a mental or physical scratch pad—somewhere we jot down concepts, make preliminary notes and sketches, and make connections. Montalvo is home to the third oldest artist residency program in the United States, and in many ways, an artist residency is one large scratch space–a space to try things out, to experiment, and to imagine new ways of thinking and working.  With Scratch Space, we are interested in open-ended exploration, where we are allowed to fail and make mistakes, all in the service of reimagining a more just world.

Conversation Series


(September 23, 2021) — Synthetic Life

On September 23, 2021, we were joined by independent artistic research studio Interspecifics as they discussed their latest work, Codex Virtualis, an evolving collection of virtual hybrid bacterial-AI organisms designed to provide insights into how life might originate in extraterrestrial habitats. Interspecifics was also joined by SETI Institute Research Scientist Rosalba Bonaccorsi who works in the fields of astrobiology, environmental science, marine geochemistry, and biosedimentology.

We explored what makes the living different from the non-living, how can life can emerge from an ecosystem of algorithms, and whether life is itself an algorithm.

Codex Virtualis is the outcome of the SETI x AI art residency, a partnership between the SETI Institute’s Artist-in-Residence (AIR) Program and ARs Electronica. Veronika Liebl, Director of European Cooperation Ars Electronica and Bettina Forget, Program Director of the SETI Institute’s AIR Program joined the conversation and discussed this partnership and their interest in the field of AI.

Conversation Series


(May 20, 2021) — Foraging for a Future

How do we reclaim our natural place in the world? On May 20, 2021, we were joined by chef and journalist Andrea Blum with artist Kija Lucas for a conversation about their work on a new cookbook project about foraging and sustainable food practices. Blum and Lucas first met in 2015 at the Lucas Artists Program when working on solo projects—Lucas on Smolder, a body of work documenting the charred aftermath of California wildfires, and Blum on Biofabric, a series of decorative textiles grown from yeast and bacteria and colored with natural dyes. We talked about their individual practices, artistic collaboration, culinary creativity, and how foraging can help us cultivate a more intimate relationship with our environment and an interconnectedne

Conversation Series


(May 6, 2021) — When We Gather

On May 6, 2021, we were joined by interdisciplinary artist and educator María Magdalena Campos-Pons for a conversation about her work and latest projects. In 2020, in response to the social unrest of the moment, Campos-Pons launched “Engine for Art, Democracy and Justice,” a trans-institutional platform for academic, creative, and social exploration aimed at fostering inclusive conversations about cultural interconnections and how we can engage with painful historical legacies and progress toward more just and democratic futures. We discussed this work and When We Gather, Campos-Pons’ multifaceted collaborative undertaking and five-minute film that premiered in 2021 and celebrates the role of women in ushering in sweeping political change and progress across the United States. Originally inspired by the election of the country’s first female vice president and performed during the pandemic, When We Gather invites us to consider how we can come together, heal and unite at a time of great social division and discord.

Conversation Series


(April 22, 2021) — Digging Down Into Our Planetary Future

What can we learn about our planetary futures by digging backwards and down into the ground rather than launching ourselves up into space? ​On April 22, 2021, we were joined by Xin Liu, a conceptual artist and curator; Rachel Obbard a senior scientist at the SETI Institute and Adjunct Associate Professor at Dartmouth College; and Bettina Forget, Program Director for the SETI Institute’s Artist in Residency Program where we discussed what astrobiology can tell us about life here and on other planets and how we navigate our sustainability crisis. We explored Liu’s work generating deeper immediacy with our environment, and her collaborative project Unearthing Futures, which seeks to decolonize narratives of planetary futures through growing, shaping, and sharing potatoes from seeds that travelled to the international Space Station.

This episode of Scratch Space is presented in collaboration with the SETI Institute and the SETI Institute’s Artist in Residency Program.

Conversation Series


(April 8, 2021) — The Thirty Names of Night

On April 8, 2021 we were joined by Zeyn Joukhadar and writer and residency director Lori Wood where they discussed Joukhadar’s latest novel, The Thirty Names of Night, a moving and lyrical story following three generations of Syrian Americans who are linked by a mysterious species of bird and the truths they carry close to their hearts. We explored how this work was incubated and developed in residence at both the Lucas Artists Residency Program as well the Fes Medina Project, which Wood founded in the old medina of Fes, Morocco. We also discussed the novel’s themes of migration, gender, sacredness, and the legacies of queer and trans elders in communities of color.

Conversation Series


(March 18, 2021) — Grammar of Grief

On March 18, 2021 we were joined by visual artist Indira Allegra and curator Erin Christovale where they discussed quiet and interiority as spaces for discovery and open-ended imagining. We explored Indira’s work and scholarship using weaving as a methodology, including their latest research into how we can re-conceptualize the spaces between textile threads as grief-portals. Indira also discussed their ongoing work exploring memorial as a genre and a vital part of the human experience, and their latest project, Grammar of Grief, a series of performances and a handbook that reimagines how we can process and memorialize bereavement, through actions of writing, sound-making and physical movement. We considered how we can move forward with our experiences of grief and loss without binary/all-or-nothing narratives.

Conversation Series


(March 4, 2021) — Pedagogical Experimentation & Mutual Aid

How can we support strategies for a resilient art practice during a time of crisis?
On March 4, 2021 we were joined by artists and educators Jennifer Parker and Kim Yasuda as they discussed the importance of pedagogical experimentation and collaborative learning; as well as ongoing projects that empower interdisciplinary thinking and activate the intersection between institutional knowledge production and creative practice. Parker and Yasuda also examined their shared interest in how we can create and prototype systems of mutual aid to perpetuate a healthy interdependent arts ecosystem that supports social transformation.

Conversation Series


(February 25, 2021) — ¿Estamos bien?

On February 25, 2021 we were joined by interdisciplinary artist Edra Soto and curator Susanna V. Temkin as they discussed Soto’s latest installation Graft presented at el Museo del Barrio as part of the ESTAMOS BIEN: LA TRIENAL 20/21, the museum’s first national large-scale survey of Latinx contemporary art featuring more than 40 artists from across the United States and Puerto Rico. Soto and Temkin discussed resilience and resistance and how to create experiences of belonging in the face of migration, displacement, colonialism, and structural racism. We explored the challenges of curating a triennial during a pandemic, and how uncovering overlooked architectural histories can upend orthodoxies around what gets preserved and valued as part of our shared cultural heritage.

Conversation Series


(February 11, 2021) — Adapting History

On February 11, 2021 we were joined by Dahlak Brathwaite as he shared the journey of developing the theatrical work, Adapting History, into a film during the pandemic. Adapting History is an oral telling of American music through history and American history through music. From gospel to blues, jazz to R&B, America has produced some of the most innovative music of the 20th century. In Adapting History, musical artist Dahlak uses spoken word poetry to narrate the complex history of our nation. His musical chronicle shows that despite conflict and misunderstanding, we can still be brilliantly creative. We explored how a closer understanding of our collective past can help us build a better future.

Learn more about the artist here and watch the film adaptation here.

Conversation Series


(January 28, 2021) — Access is Love

On January 28, 2021, we sat down with disabled activist, media maker, and consultant Alice Wong and visual artists Jason Lazarus and Siebren Versteeg where we explored tactics for making protest accessible to all and giving voice and visibility to communities at the margins. Wong discussed her work as Founder and Director of the Disability Visibility Project, and her recently edited book, Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century (2020). Lazarus and Versteeg described their recent project Public Public Address, a nationwide virtual protest in support of Black Lives Matter that prioritizes the civic engagement of individuals who are immunocompromised and their caregivers, people with disabilities, and precarious community members. Together we examined how access can be a form of creative practice and an act of love.

Conversation Series


(January 21, 2021) — Rethinking Artificial Intelligence

On January 21, 2021, we had a conversation with transmedia artist and scholar Stephanie Dinkins and digital media theorist and artist Jason Edward Lewis where we explored how to imagine a future with A.I. that contributes to the flourishing of all humans and non-humans.

During the conversation, we considered:
​How can we co-create more equitable, values grounded artificial intelligent ecosystems? How do we broaden discussions regarding the role of technology in society beyond the largely culturally homogeneous research labs and Silicon Valley startup culture? 

Conversation Series


(November 19, 2020) — How can we keep our hearts open?

On November 19, 2020, we sat down with visual artists Leah Rosenberg and Christine Wong Yap to discuss their shared interest in psychological wellbeing at a time of great social anxiety and discord. Some questions we considered were: How can we keep our hearts open when we are so divided? How can we do the work of restorative care? We also explored Wong Yap’s latest work, including her public art portraits of real New York City medical workers as messages of gratitude during the COVID-19 crisis. And Rosenberg discussed her recent installation, Like a Multivitamin, in the Women & Children’s Center of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and examine how color can support wellness and resiliency.

Conversation Series


(November 12, 2020) — The Dilate Ensemble

On November 12, 2020, we held a live streamed audio visual performance by the artist collective the Dilate Ensemble, featuring LAP Fellows Carole Kim and Scott L. Miller. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, visual artist Carole Kim began developing a new intimate venue for her work under the kitchen table. This space became a site for micro video installations animated by experimental musicians and performers who create improvised soundscapes from afar. The performance was followed by a discussion about the importance of creating shared imaginative and collaborative spaces, how memories can interweave within a collective dream-space, and what we will remember about living through 2020.

Conversation Series


​(October 29, 2020) — Reinventing Ritual

On October 29, 2020, we were joined by artists Hector Dionicio Mendoza, Amalia Mesa Bains, Viviana Paredes, and Pilar Agüero-Esparza as they discussed their shared interest in ritual, memory and tradition. We considered the Mexican tradition of Día de los Muertos in the time of Coronavirus, examined the importance of ritual during moments of uncertainty, and explored new models for remembrance and connection.

Conversation Series


​(October 22, 2020) — Weeping Mary

On October 22, 2020, we were joined by moving image artist Lisa Crafts, composer and performer Matt Petty, and playwright Alva Rogers to discuss their collaboration on Weeping Mary. This experimental video includes music composed by Petty after meeting descendants of former slaves who established a “freedom colony” in Weeping Mary, Texas. Craft, Petty, and Rogers talked about their current work and their decision to release Weeping Mary on Juneteenth to honor George Floyd and the anti-racism movement that followed his death.

Conversation Series


(October 15, 2020) — Reimagining Border(ed) Lands

On October 15, 2020, we were joined by visual artist Maria Hupfield and poet Natalie Diaz as they reimagined our border(ed) lands as fluid, and returned to the practice of migration as a natural relationship with language, story, land, water, and one another. We also contemplated Hupfield’s exhibition Nine Years Towards the Sun at The Heard Museum and Diaz’s latest poetry collection, Postcolonial Love Poem, and explored how artists can move past representation towards liberation.

Conversation Series


(October 8, 2020) — Investigating Whiteness

On October 8, 2020, we were joined by artist, educator, and mediator, Dorit Cypis; artist and scholar Janet Owen Driggs; and artist and justice reform advocate Gregory Sale where we discussed and reflected on whiteness in this moment of racial reckoning. Cypis shared her immediate pivot in response to George Floyd’s murder, and her current work tackling racial injustice and the role of whiteness through PeoplesLab. Together we discussed our experiences as we locate our roles in racial justice and anti-racism work as white folks.

Conversation Series


(October 1, 2020) — The Possible Impossible

On October 1, 2020, we were joined by artist, musician, and writer Lex Brown and performance artist, comedian, and writer Kristina Wong for a wide-ranging conversation on dismantling internalized and external racism and sexism through art and humor. We discussed how Brown and Wong draw on personal experiences to explore large-scale systems of power and create performance experiences that blur the roles of artist and audience; as well as explore the value of articulating blueprints for imaginary futures.

Conversation Series


(September 24, 2020) — Afterglow 

On September 24, 2020, we were joined by Delhi-based artistic trio Raqs Media Collective discuss their vision for the Yokohama Triennale, one of the first major art events to take place after a flood of cancellations due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We examined how art can be a form of renewal; the importance of ‘luminous care;’ the challenges of installing and opening an exhibition virtually; and how Raqs’ practice and this moment point to new ways of approaching creation, culture, sociality, and publicness.

Conversation Series


(September 17, 2020) — AntigoneNOW

On September 17, 2020, we were joined by multi-disciplinary performing artist Margaret Laurena Kemp where she discussed her recent work during lockdown, and introduced a virtual screening of AntigoneNOW, a contemporary response to the classical play she co-directed, which was rehearsed and created collectively online between the USA, Singapore, Japan and the UK using mobile phones, IPad and video. We talked about how to model collaboration, research, creativity and community engagement through a digital platform.

Conversation Series


(September 10, 2020) — The Appearance of Black Lives Matter

On September 10, 2020, we were joined by activist and scholar Nicholas Mirzoeff, visual artist Carl Pope, and poet Karen Pope to discuss their collaborative work and revisit their 2018 publication The Appearance of Black Lives Matter from the perspective of our current moment of racial reckoning. We explored the challenges of allyship; the role of art and scholarship in revealing and dismantling systems of oppression; and the value of collaboration in reframing and reimagining cultural paradigms.