Photo of people gathered around a white textboard with black text that reads "YO'O KUNCUKA CU[obscured letter]E"

‘Interloper’ Explores (Not) Belonging With Pop-Up and Online Art Installations

by Rayna Mathis

Interloper (n) a person who becomes involved in a place or situation where they are not wanted or are considered not to belong.

—Oxford English Dictionary

Interloper is a network of art exhibitions, community engagement events, and a conversation podcast all centered around rotating themes of controversial topics. Interloper’s current show, “THIS IS(NT) FOR YOU,” which premiered on March 29 in the Ravenna neighborhood, is a pairing of two solo exhibitions, each with an artist making work for their own community — communities alienated in different ways by language, location, and class expectations. By constructing the exhibitions using language and coded signifiers of the communities the work is for, each artist creates dual viewing experiences that immediately confront the viewer with a sense of (not) belonging. 

The show asks the following questions: Who controls the narrative? Who is art for? Who is left on the outside looking in? 

The first of the two artists is Mexican American artist Lorena Cruz Santiago. Her work, Ñuu Savi, translating as “the people of the rain” from the Mixtec Tu’un Savi language, explores postcolonial themes such as migration and assimilation. Cruz Santiago’s work can be viewed at any point, as it is installed on the (Seattle) Textboard (9541 Ravenna Avenue Northeast) and can be seen from Lake City Way. The textboard was built in response to the Uncle Sam billboard on I-5 South, the idea being if the Uncle Sam billboard can publish obnoxiously racist message and display it with impunity, then they [Interloper] can say whatever they want as well, but choose to approach their board channeling celebration and joy. 

Ohio-based multi-disciplinary artist Brock Oakley Ailes is the second artist featured in the exhibition. His work Plastic Spoon Feeder can be viewed through Interloper’s (Nonspace) Space. The Nonspace Space provides Seattle audiences a couple different ways to engage with his work: online through live streamed events or in-person at temporary outdoor installations. On May 8, Interloper will host a special Closing Event for Plastic Spoon Feeder, from 2–4 p.m. at 220 South Brandon Street in Seattle — located in South SoDo/Georgetown area. To sign up for a free ticket, visit the Interloper website. Interloper requests that all attendees practice social distancing and mask guidelines in accordance with the CDC.

Photo of a blessing box inscribed with the words "Taters & Onyuns," a drawer is opened with a framed photo of a tray of fast food from a burger joint.
“After a blessing,” 2021 by multi-disciplinary artist Brock Oakley Aisles. This piece is part of Ailes’s work “Plastic Spoon Feeder” and can be viewed through Interloper’s (Nonspace) Space until May 13, 2021. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Danielle Elliott, lead curator of the Interloper.

After their successful opening in late March, Interloper continues to keep audiences on their toes with temporary installation pop-ups, and word on the street is one will go up somewhere in South Seattle the week of April 19–25. The location is chosen the day before and in a place it supposedly “does(nt) belong.” The location will also not be disclosed until an hour before the event and will only remain up until the group is asked to remove it. However, folks can sign up for free tickets online to receive a text notification to find out the location closer to the installation. With nine events left before the closing of the exhibition on May 13, these pop-ups encourage audiences to engage with the important work of Lorena Cruz Santiago and Brock Oakley Ailes in real-time and to be ever present with the artists in the fleeting moments when their work is first raised high in defiance against everything that they are challenging and the moment it all comes down and they are silenced again. It is certainly a powerful and heavy act of resistance and a trusting dynamic to be invited to share in with the brilliant creators of this work. 

This myriad of ways of showing and experiencing these works may seem unconventional, but that is exactly what Interloper intends for its artists and viewers. Lead curator Tiffany Danielle Elliot adds that Interloper’s mission strives to “work outside the systems of expected art exhibition and provide more opportunities for artists to interact with the community in unconventional spaces.” By doing so, Interloper empowers and commissions artists to speak their truth by pushing the parameters of what is “appropriate to say.” This approach has also offered an alternative and accessible opportunity for audiences to engage with artists in the pandemic, when the idea of visiting indoor galleries or museums may still cause concern.

Along with Interloper’s series of exhibitions, Elliot and Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary visual artist Anna Parisi co-curated a separate exhibition series titled “Zambo Mulato Criolo Cafuzo” at Das Schaufenster, exploring the many complicated and often painful histories in regard to Latin America’s grappling with racial identities of mixed African and Indigenous descent. “It is a series of six solo exhibitions that present six voices that insist on reclaiming their Latin American and LatinX visions of dissent, with pride and in power, speaking about the new understandings of where Latin America stands in the context of world politics and concerning the systems of oppression. Zambo Mulato Criolo Cafuzo is a provoking form of a call to action that emerges from the works on view, coupled with a belief in art as a tool for criticality and effective change,” says Parisi. Each artist’s work will run for about a month each until the series concludes on August 12, 2021.The next artist to exhibit in Das Schaufenster’s window gallery in Ballard will be Cruz Santiago, with their exhibition titled Tejidos, a work centered on Mixtec indigeneity, language, and Oaxacan weaving traditions.

Rayna Mathis (she/her) is a graduate of the University of Washington with a B.A. in history. Her work at the SAM as a museum educator, seeks to amplify the work and voices of teen artists and activists. In her spare time, Rayna can be found tending to her Little Library in Beacon Hill, outside of The Station coffee shop.

📸 Featured Image: Art installed on the Interloper’s (Seattle) Textboard, located on Ravenna Avenue Northeast and viewable from Lake City Way. Mexican American artist Lorena Cruz Santiago’s work “Ñuu Savi” is currently on display on the (Seattle) Textboard until May 13, 2021. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Danielle Elliott, lead curator of the Interloper.

Before you move on to the next story …
The South Seattle Emerald is brought to you by Rainmakers. Rainmakers give recurring gifts at any amount. With over 1,000 Rainmakers, the Emerald is truly community-driven local media. Help us keep BIPOC-led media free and accessible. 
If just half of our readers signed up to give $6 a month, we wouldn't have to fundraise for the rest of the year. Small amounts make a difference. 
We cannot do this work without you. Become a Rainmaker today!