i, you, me, she, he, it, they, we are walking forms of pedestrian poetry


letters to a young poet

the process of editing is very special to me.
during those moments of making video art, the end result becomes less important than the actual process of making (editing and creating video)
i like the feelings that are involved when i’m making videos, all of the senses are evoked, it is the making of a spiritual experience, like communion.

this video “letter’s to a young poet” is all found footage—-the video itself reflects my process and feeling towards the qualities of impermanence and mystery inherent in this work, but also inherent in life itself.

elements of disruption and displacement (disruption & displacement in the function and order of space and time—aka nonlinear editing), improvisation, and disordered unity are central tenets to this piece.

the process of making, for me, arises out of historical and contemporary influence, and bridging the gap between the lapses or spaces in time

through a feeling you cannot describe clearly


post-colonial letter #1

Dear Megan

Thanks for your email and apologies for my late response. I have been offline for quite a while. I think your questions are very cogent and intelligent. I cannot provide a very comprehensive response but I hope what I include below suffices to help you along your journey (my responses are inserted into your questions_-see below). Also, see my article “Where is Africa in Contemporary Art?” in SAVVY journal
( It discusses in part the issue of how to reach Africa as a site of discourse.
I hoep this helps. Cheers.

Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Art History History of Art and Architecture
Ellison 2720 University of California Santa Barbara, CA 93106-7080
On Aug 12, 2012, at 5:08 PM, Ortanez Megan wrote:

Summer Greetings Dr. Ogbechie,


My name is Megan and I am an aspiring image-historian from CSU-Sacramento. I attended your lecture “Art Collections, Museums & Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Africa” on my campus a few months ago and it has helped to fuel my journey of continual questioning—-specifically in regards to art and the creation of representational spaces within art and its histories.


Using Sac State’s art history department as an example, there is obviously a plethora of “foundational” courses teaching “Western” (also inevitably interlinked with the term “European”) art history, only slightly devoting time to the politics pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial periods. My response to this has always been


why, when, and how did West become the foundational subject of art-history study for undergraduates.

The Educational curriculum of American institutions mostly promote an idea of the West as the primary engine of history. In the same manner that the political history of the USA has been written as a history of Euro-American activity, analysis of art-history and global culture assume a primary of Western viewpoints and promote a discourse of white supremacy. Postcolonial studies have challenged this discourse unsuccessfully, and in the current climate of doubt about the preeminence of America, the white supremacist discourses are thriving again. Undergraduate education is affected by this history as are many other aspects of American life.

Why aren’t there foundational courses for African Diaspora Art History (at my school)?

For the same reason that the history of African Diaspora peoples have been excluded from “mainstream” history of the USA. African Disapora peoples have simply been written out of this history. I teach undergraduates who arrive at UCSB without any single educational background in the history of African Americans, which means that no aspect of this history is taught in most of the high schools in the country. This active process of writing black peoples out of history ensures that most people continue to be ignorant of their role in shaping this country, which then allows really them to be demonized as OTHER, which is why you have a rabid opposition to President Obama from the right wing constituency.

Why not teach the myth of “West” in art history as opposed to simply “Western” Art History?

Knowledge is power and the ability to define history as an attribute solely restricted to the West allows for continued Western domination in global affairs. The idea of a Western art history supports this viewpoint by falsely assuming that the West invented itself and owes nothing to other civilizations both ancient and modern. (I will like to direct you to the controversy surrounding Martin Bernal’s Black Athena for further clarification: see

I acknowledge that I may be, in some ways, generalizing our art history department here, but these are the questions that loom in the air through my studies at this college.Some questions I have for you include:

What courses do you teach at UC Santa Barbara?


How does the art history department at UC Santa Barbara challenge and engage students to seek studies that move beyond this “myth” of the West.

This is quite a struggle that depends on each individual teacher. I frame my work on challenging the myth of the West and therefore construct my classes on that basis. There is no overall campus policy on this matter and I don’t think there should be one. I do however think that professors should be encouraged to treat their subjects from a global viewpoint, which recognizes that the history of human culture is a history of cultural exchange rather than insular invention.

Are there any texts or journal articles that you have used in your teachings that you can recommend for my scholarly journey towards practicing and theorizing “The Politics of Looking” when it comes to art and much of its institutionalized histories?

There are many good books but one of the most important is Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism



Thank you for your time and looking forward to hearing from you.

Megan Ortañez

†‡† – ____ ____


post-colonial letter #2

Winter Greetings Prof. Ogbechie,

This is a long overdue reply and letter of thanks, as well a letter of continual questioning of art and its histories.

A few months ago, I emailed you about my problems with Western hegemonic ideology dominating my art history studies. I appreciate your responses as well as many of the links you shared which critically assess many of the feelings I have toward the institutionalized art history program (specifically at Sac State) which marginalizes Global discourse, particularly people of color (who tend to be relegated to Other/Native/Primitive/An ‘Exceptional Case’ in relation to the dominant Western discourse)

This semester I took “Modern Art History’ as well as ‘Global Modern Art History’ —– both very informational and wonderful classes……Although I began and left the courses questioning their segregation in the first place. (Why is modern art not a well integrated combination of both?)

Also, on the first day of the Global Modern Art history course, I was shocked to hear my professor say “unlike the modern art history course, our focus will not be an examination of heavy theories or philosophy”

This simple statement assumes that global modernisms: Modern Art in Africa, Asia, Latin America —- were not critically theoretical in nature.

bell hooks, best summarizes my feelings: “The idea that there is no meaningful connection between *Black experience and critical thinking about Aesthetics and culture must be continually interrogated”

(here, I replace *Black with “African, Asian and Latin American”)

The questions continue.

Some questions I have for you, apologies if they are repetitive/interconnected in nature, although that may be a necessary element:

-What possibilities can be produced from a well integrated Global modern art history?

-When the meaningful connections are made between experience (of people of color) and critical thinking about aesthetics and culture…. How can this improve a new understanding of art histories and how great an impact would this make on art history programs around the country?

-Can we, then, really call art history as such? Would we in fact need to re-imagine and break from the mold of ‘art history’ and into a more succinct names such as ‘art and its histories’?

-By breaking out of the mold of European ethnocentricity in our art historical college program, and into the realm of equality across thinking and across identity, how can we, as art historians, fight and advocate for this availability of knowledge across cultures and against the re-emergence of ethnocentrism in various forms or disguises?

– How can we, as art historians begin to (as prescribed by art historian Darby English), begin to address and explore “How To See A Work of Art in Total Darkness?” where freedom and liberation become practical tools for the art historian to complicate, reinterpret, and re-imagine the very histories that define art and humanity?

Again, thank you for your responses, they have been very helpful in my continuing journey towards a greater understanding of my passion for art history.


Megan Ortañez

†‡† – ____ ____

Ur face is in the flowers

I’ll tell you a story.

Growing up, I remember waking up to the smell of multiple cultures intermingling. I remember waking up to the smell of SPAM, fried rice, Balut (fried fish), purple egg plant, pan de sol (filipino baked bread) hot off the oven. I remember waking up to the sounds of my grandmother playing Tchaikovsky on the piano. I remember my grandfather singing hymnals on Sunday mornings. I remember family Christmas parties and I remember the familiar faces that were many shades of brown. Oh, how I love to recall the voices of my youth. waking up to the Taglish of lolas, lolos, tita, titos, cousins I remember that my lola and lolo never called our country the United States, they called it America.

The notion of culture penetrates my memory.

The more I grew older, the more I began to see that the idea of my own Filipino tradition becomes a myth, a fantasy. I am Filipino-American. I am a cultural synthesis, an amalgam of reinvented traditions that span centuries in the making. I understand that the elders in my family speak with accents that are rich with the history of oppression and resistance.

My installationback1 closeup1 closeup2 closeup3 detail1 DSC_0015 as Smart Object-1 effect1 effect2 front1 front2 hall1 hall2 main1 main2 takes on many stories that belong to my cultural memory and cultural imagination. I try to tell life as (eye) see it. I see how my family formed new ways of belonging within this unfamiliar (alien) American geography through the process of assimilation. We formed new ways of belonging together within our alien nation (we are a nation of aliens aren’t we?) conforming to the new ways of living: specifically capitalism, suburbia, dependency on technology.

My cultural imagination lies in the hybrid cultures that were formed through these modes of assimilation. Assimilation defamiliarized our native tongues. Cultural genocide is a part of this process, but through the formation of community, we survive. The communities that I grew up with, were communities of comfort, assurance and salvation. We are communities who yearn for tradition through the process of creating our own hybrid cultures. For me that is where the beauty is. As an aspiring artist and art historian I tend to find myself extracting beauty from the rubble of my past, the history We intertwine through the historical junctures that occur through Migration.

I projected two videos during the week of the show: video one: “la niña, girl of my dreams” (see fig 1.) video two: “a family christmas home video“ (see fig. 2) video three: a television projecting a video of star shapes. I projected the first video onto a white sheet. The second video was projected onto saran wrap. I use these These are the “forms” of my time and place. These forms, along with the videos signify how I critically engage with the formation of my cultural memory. I am because we are, we are because I am.

MoAD: Viewer, Object, and Site [An essay]

so i applied for this internship at the Sf Museum of the African Diaspora in September but didn’t get because I lived too far away. i’d just thought i’d share my responses to their interview questions for whoever would be interested in reading them.

I hope to apply again next year! Cheeeeers:

Application Questions for Public Programs Internship, Fall 2012

  1.  Why did you choose MoAD as your intern site?

My first reaction to this question would be because MoAD is a space for the reflection of cultural diversity. But if I would like to expand upon that:

For me, the significance of MoAD lies in its social responsibility as a museum space to encourage dialogue addressing our shared African heritage. This practice challenges the vitality and depth of visual culture:  visual culture becomes a collaborative process, a space of interconnection where cultural diversity awareness and understanding may emerge. For me, spaces like MoAD, allow new forms of freedom to emerge: an art for the people, by the people, and from the people. The structuring of MoAD’s exhibitions, interests me in particular:

  •  the ‘changing’ exhibitions provide a platform for the public to engage in specific dialogues of African Diaspora expression
  • the ‘permanent’ exhibitions encourage dialogue about the origins as well as transformations of the cultures, enculturations, and transculturations of the practices and beliefs of African descendants

Approaching museum space as a form of interactivity, cutting across age, culture, race, goes beyond the notion of a museum of a space as mere anthropological space for ‘looking’, and introduces more contemporary ways of being together, a feeling of the familial (family and community)—— this is what I value and seek in a museum space and why I specifically applied to MoAD

2. How do you define the African Diaspora?

My definitions for this question exist in plurality:

Poetically, I could define the African Diaspora as:

  • the social fabric between I, you, me, she, he, it, they, us , WE
  • or a Sacredness that is making a comeback here, there and everywhere.

In terms of Sociology and Post-Coloniality, I could define the African Diaspora as:

  • a modern project of life expression: involving an endless and continual assessing of subject-positioning, shifting cultural and social identities that resulted from the dispersal of Africans around the world.

3. Based on your experience working with youth, community, non-profits and organizations, what can you bring to creating family programming at MoAD?

While living and working in Sacramento, CA, I had the opportunity to work and/or volunteer for the following organizations:

  •  My Sister’s House (a local non-profit organization addressing the needs of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans who are survivors of domestic violence). Since 2010, I have worked with outreach at public events, completed Shelter Advocate Training to work in their women’s shelter, and helped with writing community reports of special projects at My Sister’s House.
  • I was a student assistant and a media intern at Sac State’s Multi-Cultural Center from 2010-present. Here I work with public programming in a college student setting with an emphasis on advocating programs and workshops that focus on developing student’s leadership skills, diversity, social justice and personal wellness. Specifically I worked on developing programming related to people of color LGBT activisms.
  •  From 2010-Feb 2012 I was also co-chair on the Scholarship committee for a Sac State organization called Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (M.E.Ch.A.)—- we developed materials  and planned events to raise money for annual college scholarships for undocumented High School seniors in the U.S.
  • I am currently becoming actively involved with LGBTQ rights organizations in Sacramento, specifically addressing the needs of LGBTQ youth in grade school.

As a result, my prior experience working for community non-profit organizations has inspired my passion for addressing the needs of diverse communities through the lens of social justice activism. Understanding the intersectionality of oppression (the politics of race, class and gender) interests me and shapes my life passion, both professionally, scholarly and artistically.   My experiences have facilitated my desire for addressing and improving cultural proficient services to address the needs of our cosmopolitan and modern communities. The study and appreciation of art, with the specific focus on family programming will give me the opportunity to expand my skills and help to create exciting, interactive programming with a bent toward social progress and social justice. I would like to specifically research and collaborate on programming that addresses the rich and diverse groups of people who play integral roles not only as Art’s audience, but also the role as local actors in our community. If given the opportunity, I would specifically be interested in research and development that would focus on LGBTQ family-related programming at MoAD.

4. How would you describe your network (colleagues, professors, professionals) in the Bay Area and beyond?

I have a solid and strong network of colleagues in the Sacramento area. I correspond on a regular basis with my professors, colleagues and program managers at Sacramento State. I also correspond on a semi-monthly basis with my managers at the non-profits for whom I volunteer. Although my close colleagues and professionals I know in the art field are mostly based in Sacramento, I definitely open to developing contacts and correspondences in the Bay Area.

Also, I when it comes to social network and interaction I would compare myself to a monthly electronic newsletter for the arts: I try to keep updated, attend, and participate on community events and programs (in Sacramento and the Bay Area) which in turn helps me to solidify, expand and strengthen my social network in the areas art and social justice-related community events. This practice also helps me challenge and strengthen my writing skills.

5. What skills (technical, writing, research) do you bring that would enhance the work being done at MoAD?

What I would like to share with MoAD is my personal skills of writing, research, art theory and art practice.  When I approach professional and scholarly work, I tend to study and engage in the practice of:

  • Questioning how we look/the politics of looking
  • Seeing Art as social process, an experience of looking
  • Studying Art as “the struggle over relations of representation” (Stuart Hall)
  • Writing to “appeal to the reader’s freedom to collaborate in the production of his/her work and paints the world only so that free men may feel their freedom as they face it” (Trinh T. Minh-ha)

At best, I would work to enhance the work being done at MoAD through my commitment to social justice and cross-cultural understanding. My background with addressing social justice issues in cross-cultural communities has allowed me to explore and expand the possibilities of being a critical thinker and translating critical thinking into practice. In terms of scholarship my critical art thinking practices are being continually challenged and strengthened by my studies in Art History, Art Studio Sculpture, and Film Studies. I am an avid reader of contemporary art history scholarship; and as a Public Programs Intern for MoAD, I will offer a unique set of eyes that are continually challenging the way we look at art and the dynamic interrelationship between viewer, object, and site

Thoughts on David Lynch and Attempting the Impossible

What does reality really resemble?

Enculturations (?) Socializations (?) Dreams (?)

Is your reality more realer than my reality? Are our realities equally real? Or are they just pre-constructed elements of Time?

Is reality itself a series of illusions that we perform out of habit?

Colin McCabe writes that reality is made up of beliefs, relations, and knowledge.

If that is true, are we all just a bunch of surrealist poets? Dreamers?

Who knows how to respond to these questions?

Random fact: I have David Lynch on speed dial—- and last week I called him up, posing these same questions in hopes that he would give me all the answers I had been desperately searching for since the age of 2 (after I found Santa Claus the Tooth Fairy were just American Myths).Our conversation was short because I had a dentist appointment to go to…. And all Lynch did was repeat some Sufism scripture.

Lynch said, “Jessica Megan. The Logos is also Light: when chaos, the abysmal darkness, ended and moved toward order, Light came into being, of which wisdom is only a reflection.”

I wasn’t really enlightened by his response. It made no sense. But then, we have to ask ourselves what makes sense in this world besides the senses of cinema?

That is what I like about Lynch’s style. It truly doesn’t make the least bit of sense. And that is what makes it so real. Reality doesn’t sense make.

In Twin Peaks the dislocation of sound and image interpellate the cinematic spectator into the realms of visual familiarity and aural absurdity. The theme song evokes similar melodramatic theme songs heard on American day-time soap opera “One Life To Live” or “General Hospital”—-and the naturalistic setting of Twin Peaks becomes overly sentimental through this sound and through the over-romanticized visions of nature and industry. How many times in your life do you see a lumber saw represented in a delicate manner, sawing metal to the ambient sounds of chirping birds and melodic synthesizer keyboards?

Similarly, a scene from Mulholland Drive illuminates a film studio recording of a lip-synched version of the song “16 Reasons Why I Love You”. The song, sung by a 50’s looking A cappella group looks like they were plucked straight out the American sitcom Happy Days. The women singers are dressed in tangerine or pink-colored puffy-glamour-prom-gowns and the men singers are clothed in purplish-blue tuxedos with dark pants. The lighting gives everything a surreal feeling. The A cappella group sings with excessive sentimentality, they sing with little twinkles in their eyes, and as the camera pans backwards we are reminded, once again, that it is an illusion. They are just actors. And this is just a scene being recorded for a movie.

This is the Lynchian Pathos of Persuasion. As a cinematic spectator, I am driven by the desire to believe in the cinema’s image, but this belief grows from (my subjective belief) of what the tragedy of the image represents: the vicarious and superficiality of this world.

What does it mean to look?
What does it mean to have eyes?
Is cinema itself Kitsch art?
Is emotion itself a rendering of the imagination?
Are these questions just a self-created response to a self-created response?

The pondering of reality continues….

found love letter

found photo, Ebony Magazine 1968,

To my Lover, the Cinema:

I remember the first day I saw you. I was just a timid child. You, perhaps, were a timeless creature. And still are. 

It was not love at first sight though. No Ma’am. Not one bit. Actually (this may seem a little bit offensive and I apologize in advance for that) I grew to like you less the more I got to know you! 

I think it was because we were so different. You were always projecting these ideals of hetero-normative love (where the man saved the day and married the woman). You seemed to only seek Eurocentric ideals of beauty (your main characters predominantly white and able-bodied). You seem to only present racial stereotypes and subverted genderqueer identities. 

Not to be vain or anything, but I never saw myself in you.
You only represented me in secondary roles, I was either the queer villain or the maid. Never the Shero.

You may not want to hear this but you made me feel unspecial. It was to the point where I couldn’t handle our relationship anymore. I don’t know if you remember the divorce, but I do. I remember singing the papers was a weight off my shoulders, but at the same time I felt so missing.

It was only later when distance made my heart grow fonder that I decided to analyze you one more time. Someone told me to give you a second chance. I don’t recall Who. But even though I didn’t want to, like a lonely-hearted-fool, I did anyway.

It was then that I discovered there was more to you than your Hollywood façade. I spent time studying other parts of your personality: world cinema, documentaries, art films, old family videos. It was then that I began to see myself in you. And only then did I really fall in love with you completely.

There was so much more to you I did not see because I only focused on one part. The negative parts. I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry for reversing the stereotypes and not seeing your multi-dimensionality too.

I am happy to say that what I have grown to love most ardently about you is when you present the Unknown. Your Animism. I’m not sure if that makes sense….

But Cinema, studying your ontology opens the possibilities of interrogating human relationships, our relationship with the natural world, and the mysterious ghost called Time. Through your filmic medium I aim to revert back to more organic patterns of filmic ideology, how you deal with Time and the Unknown. How you reverts back to the world of interconnectedness between humans, animals, plants, and time. Those deep-seated transmigrations of the soul. I have not seen this film, but after reading about it I see that it raises discourse of the meaning we have come to correlate with the lives we are born into. What is the depth of the love layers between I, you, me, she, he, it, they, we………..Us?

You are always asking about Time.
And I can only say that for me it does not exist. 

My only hope for our future is that you haven’t answered these past questions and that we are forever in the present.

I look forward to our next meeting. Until then, I hope you are doing fine wherever you are.

With all my Love,


some upcoming projects and deadlines:

    • -MOCA’s Optic Nerve Film Festival, July 15 July 29
    • -CCAS, Open Reel, August 4
    • -SF MOMA application, July 11
    • -deYoung applications, July 29/August 5
    • -video for public installation, August 1
    • -MoAD Internship, August 17 (personal deadline July 13)
    • -Sac State exhibit for “Your Face Is In The Flowers”, November 5

i’m sleepy, tired andvery excited for these possibilities (possibillions?)