Art Project Explores the Roles Rituals Play in Modern Life
May 30, 2017 by Ken Switzer
woman getting haircut
A woman sitting down getting a haircut.
A still from 121212.

SVA continues its series highlighting some of the many outstanding projects by 2017 Alumni Scholarship Award winners. Next up is Aya Rodriguez-Izumi (MFA 2017 Fine Arts) on her project 121212, which explores how daily routines can become personal rituals that provide a sense of safety and comfort in modern life.

Tell us about your project. What inspired the idea?

My multidimensional project 121212 manifests in various forms, such as video, performance and installation. It explores the idea of repeated quotidian actions that become personal rituals and a sanctuary in modern life. My interest in ritualistic systems stems from my upbringing and continues to be part of my life today. Through my parents and community, I participated in the handed-down rituals of Lucumi/Candomblé—the Afro-diasporic iteration of Yoruba religion—and the Okinawan spiritual customs rooted in nature and ancestral worship.

For this project, I chose to explore these concepts by acting as a witness to the daily rituals of another person: Lynnese Page. The title 121212 refers to the initial filming session of October 28th, 2016. From noon until midnight, I followed Lynnese for twelve hours. The residual footage from this day became the video elements of 121212. It was also the inspiration for a performance of the same name. The final iteration was an installation that included video and remnants from the performance presented during SVA’s MFA Fine Art open studios.

Funky tattoo den
Installation view of 121212.

What most surprised you once you started working on the project?

I’m not sure if I was surprised by anything during this project, however there were definitely moments of creating this project that affected me more than I initially expected. It turned into an experience that really changed how I think about and make work.

What was a highlight of living and studying in New York City?

I’ve lived in New York for about half my life, but I had two classes where we took weekly field trips to different art institutions or artist studios, one with David Row and one with Rico Gatson. It was really cool to see new places and other sides to a city a feel I know pretty well.

A lady standing in front if a plum colored background. Lady has long floral coat, black hair and pink glasses hanging from her neck.
Photo of Aya Rodriguez-Izumi by Nir Arieli.

What is something you learned at SVA that you’ll always take with you?

The most important thing I gained during my time at SVA was more clarity about what kind of work I want to put out into the world.

Was there a teacher or class that was essential for you?

Definitely. My first and second year mentors, Kate Gilmore [MFA 2002 Fine Arts] and Miguel Luciano. But really I learned a lot from everyone I worked with at SVA, teachers and students.

What was your favorite piece of advice a teacher or student shared with you?

Rico Gatson always says, “Let the spirit run through you.” I thought that was a really a great way of thinking about what it is to be an artist.

What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program?

Don’t lose your school ID because it costs $20 to get a new one! And, collaborate with the people that are around you. Your peers are one of the most important aspects of a graduate program—this is your chance to work with some really amazing artists!

This year, a record 78 students were chosen from a pool of over 300 applicants, and were awarded scholarships worth more than $83,000 for projects as varied as narrative film, animation, painting and sculpture. For more information about the Alumni Scholarship Awards and to see a complete list of this year's recipients, click here.