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Student Profile: Juan José Castaño-Márquez, Expanded Media

Friday, October 27, 2017


Medellín, Colombia        

What degree are you pursuing at KU?

MFA Visual Arts - Expanded Media​​​

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree? What was your major?

Universidad Católica de Oriente (Rionegro, Antioquia, Colombia) - Bachelors of Foreign Commerce

Academia Cultural Yurupary (Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia) - Associates of Photography

What brought you to KU?

There were many factors that brought me here. First, the fact that they were willing to take me in, give me a chance to learn, and have this experience even though I do not have the “proper" education (a B.F.A.). Secondly, the work of many faculty members. Before applying to KU I went through all the faculty websites to see their work, and I was very pleased with the quality of it. Third, the option to take classes outside the department. My practice is very interdisciplinary, so that was one of the main factors that made me pick KU. And finally the funding the university offered me through scholarships and assistantships. I could have not afforded to go to grad school without those resources.

When did you know you wanted to pursue art?

I always knew I wanted to pursue art, but was always too afraid to do it. After graduating from business school, when I was working in the field, I realized how miserable my life was going to be from that moment on and decided that profit was just not going to cut it. So I decided to go to school for a Photography degree, using that time to prep for my application to grad school.

What drew you to expanded media?

My favorite thing about Expanded Media is that it is a new way of thinking about art. As a field, it is deeply rooted in an interdisciplinary practice that pays more attention to ideas rather than specific sets of skills. One of my main concerns has always been to find a medium that perfectly matches and convey my ideas, and it was very exciting to see those concerns reflected in a program.

Which of your projects has had the most profound impact on you or others?

I can only speak for myself regarding this matter. I think I have had the greatest, most profound impact from my current work, which is my thesis show. I have been lucky enough

to be working on a project that makes me question my understanding of the world every day. It has pushed me to rethink the ways in which we make art, the ways in which we conceive history, and the ways in which we represent and conceive the world and that, for me, is just priceless.

How do the arts have an impact on your daily life outside of the classroom?

The arts have impacted my life in many different ways. They gave me back the sanity I was losing when I was working in business, for example. As I mentioned before, art has given me the tools to understand the world in a much different, most personal way.

Who is your biggest inspiration either personally, professionally or both?

I have to say every fellow student and college faculty who has dedicated their lives to knowledge and to trying to gain a better understanding of the world and its structures.

Why do you think the arts are important?

Art is a reflection of society. I think in this way art presents itself as a space in which uncomfortable and very important conversations can take place - and that is just invaluable.

What is your creative process like?

My creative process is kind of a mess. I blame it on the lack of creative structure that comes from not having gone to art school as an undergrad. All my work usually comes from an idea or a concept and from there I allow myself to fall through a rabbit hole of research, literature, scholarship, movies, music and whatever resources I can access that have addressed the same issues or ideas. From there, I start to conceptualize the project, trying to make sense of all the information I have collected and trying to figure out what is the best means to communicate it. It ends with the execution of the project. I usually work on many projects or pieces at a time which means that I am constantly researching, gathering information, conceptualizing, and executing at the same time.

What message do you hope to communicate through your work?

Through art, I explore contemporary issues on historiography and archivization, as well as personal identity. Some of my projects directly engage with ideas of representation of "the other" — this other being both queer and brown, historical erasure, and situations of victimization in my country of birth, Colombia.

What advice would you give to students just starting their path to an arts degree?

I would advise them to move away from just representing ideas. We have enough works that are just representational, and they are usually not the most interesting. Try to find ways of making the work “do" things rather than just represent them. I would encourage them to make mistakes - lots of them - and to enjoy themselves as they are making them.

What has been your most valuable professional experience thus far?

Even though this puts me at a risk of sounding lame and totally un-cool, I would have to say graduate school has been my most valuable professional experience thus far. Here I have found the support and guidance of amazing practicing artists who have taught me to understand art in a way that I never could have seen on my own. I have also been incredibly lucky to find a community that has helped me to not only find a voice, but also ways of expression and my own vocabulary. The grad school experience has given me countless opportunities to explore and enter meaningful conversations, and I think that is incredibly valuable.

If you could invite five people, living or deceased, to a dinner party, who would you invite?

Marguerite Yourcenar, Emperor Hadrien,  Chavela Vargas, David Wojnarowicz and María Félix

If your life had a theme song, what would it be and why?

“Canción de las Simples Cosas” by Chavela Vargas, live, while she was being interviewed a few weeks before she passed away.