RG: A lot of your work utilizes sculptural and spatially interactive elements as well as virtual/networked components. How do you see your work functioning in these different arenas?
RMZ: The majority of the work I do draws from current sociopolitical issues that I feel must be publicized and protested. In so far as creating art that attempts to approach activism, I question the relevance and potential of on-screen virtual/networked art. I believe that in order to create work that embraces activism the work presents greater potential when embodied in the physical space, more importantly the public space to create dialogue between diverse individuals. Of course, I can’t negate the web’s power as a communication and dissemination vehicle, therefore, nearly all the projects that I do have a web component in which information, creative visualization and related links are presented to support the sculptural elements of a given project. Although, today I give greater weight to the embodied space, both arenas, the physical and virtual, present modes of interaction, discussion and contestation that I seek to embrace.
RG: I’ve also noticed that some of your work seems to be a response to specifically curated events, like the Wireless Lab Park Days. Besides the obvious advantages of producing things for venues that already have an audience, what have you found to be pros and cons to this way of working?
RMZ: Although, the Public Broadcast Cart has only been presented at the Wireless Lab Park Days, this is a project that I started working toward before the event was conceived and it is a project that would have been executed regardless of any particular venue albeit perhaps in a different format.
I live in a neighborhood in Brooklyn with a growing Mexican population. Most of these people have arrived here illegally and are eager to work, but many have had to create their own means of sustenance. Amongst the economic means that they have established are mobile flower stores, by taking shopping carts and outfitting them with beautiful arrays of roses. I was struck by the carts themselves as well as how these floral carts establish a strong public presence for the individuals as they push the carts along the sidewalks and streets.
The flower vendors and their carts inspired me to begin building tiny FM transmitters that would be installed within paper crafted flowers that would populate a shopping cart and transform the cart into a radio transmitting tool. The flowers would then be freely given to anyone seeking to inhabit the radio waves. Due to so much radio activity in the area, I had a rough time catching the mini transmitters on the airwaves, so I began to rethink the project. At this time, the Wireless Lab Park Days began to take form. The event helped me to arrive at the final format of the radio cart. I tossed out the miniFM transmitting flowers for a combination of broadcasting via speakers, online radio and a larger 5 watt transmitter and designing the speakers in a way that would visually evoke the flower vendors. So the pros of the event was that it helped me realize the project in an effective manner, that successfully invited interaction, even by people unaware of the wireless event. In general, I would say that realizing a project for a given event may prescribe certain elements to the project and may make the project valuable only to that event. However as wireless nodes continue to spring up, not just here in the states, but throughout Europe and parts of Asia, I do seek to present the project again and continue that old Marxist ideal of freeing the media.