Christopher Kojzar

Christopher Kojzar received his B.A. in International Affairs from George Washington University and his M.F.A. in Intermedia and Digital Arts from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. A list of residencies includes the Creative Alliance in Baltimore, Crosstown Arts in Memphis, the Seventh Wave Residency in Rhinebeck, NY, and the Truth and Reconciliation Residency at Santa Fe Art Institute. Christopher researches and creates art in response to interactions he has with other people when he enters active public spaces and openly engages in artistic practices such as drawing or recording with wearable technology. Prompted by interactions with security personnel, bystanders and the spaces themselves, his work explores the increasingly troubled phenomenon of observing and being observed in an era of escalating surveillance and mistrust—complicating it further by signaling his identity as an artist.

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As a bi-racial artist, I use my body to insist upon the entrenchment of racism in American society, yet intellectualize the experience after the performance is carried out. The photo- documentation is coupled with writings and become particularly important to me because they develop a narrative about idleness. The words “work” and “loiter” swirl around in my head because there is a historicity of discriminating idleness in public space. The project lends to a much larger dialogue about the observational gaze and how surveillance can be traced to stereotypes or unconventional forms of expression.

 

I first went into the Rayburn Offices to document interns working for House Representatives in Washington DC; I also sketched at places like casinos, car repair shops, DMVs, retail stores, and subway stations, visually discerning the balances between work and leisure. I made Baltimore, New York, Mississippi, New Mexico, Honolulu, Memphis, Washington DC, Amsterdam, and Paris my testing grounds and couple audio recordings with my drawings to relay an immediacy for the interactions I usually experienced with other people. After I performed (read: drew) in public several times, I felt that the 'interaction' became the art and want to convey what it means to see and be seen as a man of color.

 

It wasn't until a year into my practice that I figured how American surveillance guidelines of the "see something, say something" campaign literally interfered with my performance as an artist. On the Department of Homeland Security website, it states that suspicious activity includes "Someone [who] pays unusual attention to facilities or buildings beyond a casual or professional interest. This includes extended loitering without explanation (particularly in concealed locations); unusual, repeated, and/or prolonged observation of a building (e.g., with binoculars or video camera); taking notes or measurements; counting paces; sketching floor plans, etc.".  I endowed to myself a sense of righteousness by saying, “Here, check out how drawing in public provokes interaction with law enforcement, security guards, and everyday people. This is how I have to move through the world not only as a man of color, but as an artist.”

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