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Marval A Rex Interview with Mary Anna Pomonis

Memories of Tomorrow's Sunrise, is on view at the Ronald H. Silverman Fine Arts Gallery at Cal State LA. The show show investigates concepts of legacy, personal relationships, cultural identity, and oppression, curated by Jason Jenn & Vojislav Radovanović with Mika Cho.

I asked four artists from the show to talk about their work in a short interview format. The artists create work in part as an effort to survive the very real challenges being presented to their bodies. In light of the present moment, these four artists respond to issues of body autonomy in their work in different ways. Kayla Tange, Marval A Rex, Marne Lucas and Jessica Wimbley to different degrees explore images of bodies under attack. The first in the series is Marval A Rex.

Self Portrait of Marval A Drucker Rex, by Zackary Drucker, Black and White analog film, 2022

MAP: What is it like to use your own body as a metaphor in a time of the very real bodily threats implied by the overturning of Roe V. Wade?

MAR: It's interesting: I optically look male, like a cis white man. But over the last two years, my partner and I have discussed my getting pregnant and the nuances of trans men giving birth. The intersection of transness (gender terrorism/gender joy) and reproductive rights intersects right inside of my body, in the womb that usually sleeps under the spell of synthetic testosterone. I know that my dogged labor towards unashamed visibility will procure something: making my body known to the larger culture has and will inevitably shift understandings of what bodies can do: the miraculous multiplicity of each and every one of us. How do we tease out the fact that all of our freedoms are each others freedoms, when humans tend to biochemically react to new stimuli with a sense of distinct fear (of death)? This is the dance, and it takes a lot of compassion (the teasing out) for all parties...even the parties we (our egos) deeply disagree with. My aim is simple: love myself into the public sphere, so that the public sphere can be changed by my love (for self and for humanity).

MAP: How does the issue of bodily commodification figure into the themes of your work?

MAR: As a trans person, as ANY trans person, my body has never felt like my own. First, it was my mother's. I was, indeed, "her little princess". Then it was my body performing certain rituals of 21st century feminine codes in Salt Lake City, Utah, where I am from. Then it was the ultimate failure at my attempts of said rituals, which brought my being-ness into a sort of fugue state for years...a floating blob, a phantom, a hauntological thing. Now, my art rebuilds me. It is a slow, slippery process. And I like the moments of finding, the moments of failure, the moments of loss. The kinetics of it all is the kinesiology of God. All of it is so, and all of it is full of meaning. It has taken many journeys into labyrinthine hellscapes, of which I was convinced of my death, to emerge into this buoying sense of knowing that I am this thingness, it is good, and it is sometimes somewhat real -- and always unreal.

MAP: Because of the Roe decision and the potential it presents overthrowing of previous due process protections including the right to contraception, and same-sex relationships anxiety is a real underlying experience for all of the artists in the show. Would you talk about that?

MAR: Theoretically, if things are to remain static (they won't), this court is in a draconian conservative grip for 30 more years -- that is plenty of time to take us into The Handmaiden's Tale -- and as someone whose epigenetic trauma stems from Franco-era Catalunya (Spain), I am not in denial that this very possible. However, I approach politics from a rather unpopular and highly contested lens: predictive astrology. Predictive astrology is a branch of horoscopic astrology in which an astrologer attempts to interpret future outcomes based on the chart for the exact time/place of an event. I interpreted the chart for the passing of Roe V Wade in 1973 in this recent episode of my podcast, here:

That being said, astrology does not "will" anything away or manifest it into being. But it is a language I speak professionally and find to be uncanny in its accuracy (if interpreted by a cogent astrologer). The astrology points to a total degradation of the first 248 years of the United States's identity over the next 4 years, particularly peaking in intensity around late 2024 when the next presidential election occurs. The word degradation may throw some folks off, I am not speaking apocalypse here, simply the pressure on the country itself to transform entirely will be unavoidable. This includes state and federal structures transforming, ideas around wealth distribution, capitalism as we know it, social and ontological structures shifting, and issues around the environment speeding all of this up! ....May we live in interesting times.

Portrait of "Marval A Rex" by Sean Black, Digital Print, 2022

MAP:How do the issues of colonial oppression and self-commodification figure into your work?

MAR: I am very affected by the place I exist in; or live in. Los Angeles is a hyper simulacrum that perfectly mirrors late-stage capitalism all the way to the *glint* on the perfectly white set of veneers. I live in Los Angeles. Therefore, I experience and am queered and conditioned by the Los Angelesness of Los Angeles, which is in and of itself a intensely serious parody of itself, ad infinitum. A Russian Doll that leads to...where, exactly? But I love it. I think in some ways, the hyper falseness of it all feels very trans(gender) to me. The city feels infinitely expansive the way my expression does because it is so far gone from any fragile sort of "realness" or "authenticity". And Los Angeles has really built the players or avatars of social media: the influencers. I am an influencer, in my own way. I am a doll in a doll in a doll, going...where?

But I have lived in other parts of the world: some of which are vastly removed from any of this interesting/banal late-capitalist performativity. So I know other parts of myself that hide away, beneath the acting, the enacting, the way my "identity" is marketed and sold. There are secrets I harbor, but not out of shame... I keep them like mementos, like spiritual talismans, and go to drink from their waters when the spiritual drought of self-commodification threatens to sap me dry. I don't post about them on Instagram.

Still from "Work of Art" by Marval A Rex, Performance Still, 2020

MAP: With the potential loss of future privacy rights along with the attack on the rights of trans youth families, how do the notions of family or chosen family figure into your creative practice?

MAR: Well, I am planning on a pregnancy... yes, in late-capitalism. So, family as a topic looms big in my life. I honor the sacred duty to family, and I guess I am old-school in that way. But also just very Jewish. Family, chosen or otherwise, is sacred, is honorable work and therefore profoundly worth defending. I commit my practice towards elevating and integrating my family and its sense of family-ness into the larger collective.

MAR:I am interested too, in macro-notions of the family: the species, the social human, the understanding of our profound inter-relatedness. My spiritual practice, which informs and IS my art practice in many ways, exists to strengthen my desire and commitment to help all humans feel familial together alongside individual differentiation.- Marval A Rex

Memories of Tomorrow’s Sunrise is curated by Jason Jenn & Vojislav Radovanović

with Mika Cho, Professor, ART/Director, Ronald H. Silverman Fine Arts Gallery, Cal State LA

Featuring works by Enrique Castrejon, Serena JV Elston, Anita Getzler, Jason Jenn, Ibuki Kuramochi, Marne Lucas, Trinh Mai, Hande Sever, Vojislav Radovanović, Marval A Rex, Kayla Tange, Nancy Kay Turner, & Jessica Wimbley.

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