After presenting at our most recent Comrade Truebridge Santa Fe, SSB asked Marya a few questions.
SSB: How do you describe your field and what you do, and how does it interconnect?
MEJ: I am a performing artist. I create works of theatre that come from my dreams and curiosities. I work in politics for a living but even that is an act of the theatre.
SSB: What are you moving towards and away from?
MEJ:I am moving towards an expansion of music making, and looking for the theatre within. I am moving away from caring what other people think about my creative career.
SSB: What have been a few major surprises that your work has brought to you or presented to you?
MEJ: I am mostly still amazed by my connection to the invisible. How much I have come to rely on messages, coincidences, skrying and dreams and alignments. I have had dreams that have lead me right to information that I would’ve needed to have previous intimate knowledge to know about. There were things I was doing as a child that I have come to discover were techniques and technologies my ancestors used.
SSB: What influences have brought you to your current practice? Who and what are you aesthetic artistic and intellectual influences and inspirations?
MEJ: I am and have always been inspired by choral singing, from Africa to the Arctic. I am intrigued by the ancient artifacts that have been bringing up all over the world suddenly, the lost manuscripts and planets and things! I sometimes feel it is my duty to create work out of lost things. Still and probably always a part of my practice is the sea- its sounds and its mysteries. Robert Louis Stevenson has been my mentor for adventure in so many ways. I am stunned at the number of people who reference his concepts, characters and quotes, but don’t know they came from him!
SSB: What do you consider your greatest passion project – past or present or future
MEJ: My greatest passion project is probably yet to be revealed to me. But I am pretty sure it has something to do with a boat, and the sea. Wrapped up in this project I imagine is the need to merge the spiritual with my performance life, to speak to ghosts, and listen for their replies.
SSB: What has been the biggest conundrum you faced as an artist/activist/presenter and how did you overcome it?
MEJ: It’s been difficult being seen as an individual. I’m “blowing minds,” over things I do in my everyday life that surprises people, because they didn’t think black women did that, or something. I’m perplexed by this, but I understand – this culture has watched European immigrants become white, then assimilate, then become filmmakers, then the masters of their own image – so they can create stories about themselves from ANY angle! That’s WHITE DIVERSITY! Black people are still being defined by how white people perceive us in the media (or, in the case of black women, how we are erased). I overcome the invisibility by not give up on my visions, and by using whatever reference materials feed me and my projects. I don’t have to wait for the world to catch up with me.
SSB: Is the personal political? Is the personal artistic? Is the political artistic?
MEJ: The personal absolutely is the political – always. The personal is not always artistic, but it’s the material from which we make art- even if we think we’re not mining our own caves. The posters of the Spanish Civil War, Meyerhold’s techniques, the Polish Theatre, the Theatre of the Oppressed, Pussy Riot. These examples of political art that are deeply rooted in the distillation of resistance
SSB: What are you listening to or reading right now?
MEJ: Listening to Solange, A Seat at the Table and reading Brown is the New Black by Steve Phillips.
Marya Errin Jones is an artist, performer, curator, and activist/organizer who maintains several ongoing personal and collective projects, including her work as curator of The Tannex and founder of Albuquerque Zine Fest.