Artist Interview: Talking with Francisco Cardona and Jared Ned McNeil, Creators of “Lumens – Clouds” on Exhibit at Revelry January 4 - Feb 4th, 2019
By Rev Reporter, Stephanie Lindsay
Rev Reporter: Are you originally from Louisville?
Jared: I’ve lived here all my life.
Francisco: I moved here about four years ago. I fell in love with my fiancé, and we have a house together.
Rev Reporter: When did you first start making art? In your youth?
Francisco: I’ve always been a creative individual. I went to school for architecture and design at Arizona State. I’ve always been making things, hacking things. I’m always trying to find a different way to do things. I graduated in the recession and took an internship that turned into an unpaid internship, but I couldn’t do that. So I started teaching and making things here and there, and I became good friends with some graduate students. I took some graduate courses where I explored different materials like concrete. I made articles like rainbow dresses out of magazine pages.
Jared: It’s so funny because I still don’t consider myself an artist in a traditional way. The first thing I ever made was when I was 7 years old. My grandmother’s rotary phone wouldn’t ring, and I took it apart and made it ring again. So in a sense, I was making something.
Rev Reporter: How did the idea for “Lumens – Clouds” at Revelry first come to be?
Francisco: We’ve made clouds before at the hackerspace, and you’ll see clouds as totems, so people can find each other, at music festivals.
My first interaction with Mo was last summer after I did Startup Weekend here in Louisville. A friend who was a coordinator for that event had seen my toys that I would take to festivals and said “You should probably pitch this to people because I think they would buy it.” She signs me up, and long story short, I won second place for my totem, one individual light stick. We were talking about it at Taj, and someone suggested I connect with festival people, Burners, and the Electronic Circus. Grace Diamond introduced me to that group via Facebook and then that same weekend Mo posted on there that she was seeking a light artist for a Churchill Downs event, and Grace introduced me.
I came to meet with Mo at Revelry with a scale model of my “Crystal Castle” concept for Churchill Downs. I also had a cloud, and her husband Scotty said, “That cloud is cool. Can we do something with that?” And I said, “Later down the road.”
Rev Reporter: Jared, what is your role in this collaboration?
Jared: I principally have been into sound. In this collaboration, Francisco did a lot of the light management. I did more of the kinetic management. By association, the aural presence that the art creates in the space—those motors make sounds. You can program to where the movement is the same but the sound they make is different, which for me is part of the experience. People first see the light but its subtleties like these that make it complex.
Rev Reporter: So you chose the cord for the clouds? It reminded me of telephone cord.
Jared: Yes, I did. It is a telephone cord. It’s a very conscious choice. I love telephones, and I work with telephones often. For the last 3 years, I’ve had a live telephone network set up at Maker’s Faire Louisville that allows the audience to talk live with people from across the Faire. My ongoing project is a hot racing series. I have a team that travels around the country to maker’s fairs and races.
Rev Reporter: Is your team part of the hackerspace that Francisco earlier referred to?
Jared: Yes, LVL1. It’s an open-access community workshop where anybody can use the equipment. That’s how Francisco and I met.
Rev Reporter: How did you find it, Francisco?
Francisco: I was having cocktails one night after work and saying, “If I am not creating something then I am actively destroying something.” My friend’s boyfriend is a developer, and he suggested that I check out LVL1. I went to check it out and the first person I met was Jared. I went home and told my fiancé, “If I’m gone for twelve hours, that’s where I am.”
Rev Report: It’s so important to find your people when you are new to a community. Even Louisville can be hard.
Francisco: Yes, especially being in the queer community. People here are really friendly, but it is still very conservative in a lot of ways.
Jared: LVL1 is a space where you can be queer and be comfortable being around the thing that you care about.
Rev Reporter: You are able to be yourself.
Francisco: Yes. The only rule is “Don’t be a dick.”
Rev Reporter: Were you working in a maker’s community before Louisville?
Francisco: I wish there were something like LVL1 in Arizona. We had friends who worked in the digital labs and wood shops, so we had access to play around. Nothing like LVL1. LVL1 Is really special in that it is interdisciplinary with people from many different backgrounds who have different goals and who are so willing to help.
Jared: LVL1 is one of the oldest hackerspaces in the country along with I3 in Detroit, Hack Pittsburgh, and Pumping Station One in Chicago. It started in 2010. About half of the founding members are still around. The community is really rich because we’ve had time to cultivate that community.
Francisco: Other places will try to start places like this but for the wrong reasons, like for profit. Or it’s only open in the daytime when people are working. Here it’s really open. Someone comes, shows us they know what they are doing, sign a waiver and they get to work.
Rev Reporter: How do you refer to yourself as a creative? As an artist or a maker?
Francisco: I just recently started calling myself an artist. Rob, another artist I work with, recently called me out and said, “You are a maker, but you are creating art and so you should label yourself as such.” Artist also covers maker, architect, thinker, leader, all of these things.
Jared: For me, getting my artifact into a gallery, I am showing it in the context of art, not in the context of making, and it’s being called art then I can self-label myself as an artist. Because I define it as a way others see me, it doesn’t really resonate in a meaningful way. I know that it’s exterior definition rather than one that comes from the inside.
Rev Reporter: Now that you are working within the context of art, does it affect your approach, process, or how you perceive the work?
Jared: I am just now realizing that when I was strictly a maker, I would make things almost exclusively with found objects. These were entirely free found objects made (for example) with scrap cable found in the back of the hacker space. This is all brand new. The relationship to capital is different. With the clouds, the batting has to be new. It has to be white for the light to hit them and interact in the right way. We couldn’t find a bunch of separate motors that match.
Rev Reporter: So funding gives the opportunity for your imagination to open to possibilities that otherwise couldn’t be done.
Francisco: Absolutely. We didn’t have to spend our own money on this because the profits from our Forecastle jellyfish went to this. So, having the funds to be able to take these crazy ideas and make them into something.
Rev Reporter: Do you have any next plans?
Francisco: Jared and I and a few others from LVL1 are putting together applications for commissioned projects like for BLINK in Cincinnati.
Rev Reporter: Anything that you’d like to share in closing?
Jared: Every Tuesday, 8 pm, at LVL1 there is an open meeting that anyone can attend, and I give a tour right after the meeting.
Rev Reporter: Is it helpful for LVL1 to receive donations of recycled electronics?
Jared: We have a limited amount of space, but anything with working parts is great. Printers are great. Anything with moving parts, displays that still light up.
Rev Reporter: Sweet, I’m cleaning out miscellaneous unused electronics, and I’ll bring what I think may have value to you.