By Argenis Apolinario

"The foundation of my art practice is a daily process of finding intimacy in all things large and small. My work is primarily conceptual, with the idea dictating the final product. Context  becomes a crucial factor—whether it is a specific neighborhood or the architecture of a building—the work is contingent upon this. Many themes arise from the neighborhood where I live, from which ideas are culled from everyday experiences and banal activities. Often, I use my body in photographs and video, as a politicized agent in the work, as a vehicle for communicating ideas for a larger conversation."

Q&A Intro by Chenée Daley: Zachary Fabri works across the mediums of sculpture, video, and performance. Inspired by both the visceral and material world, his video and performance work captures his body engaging with a site’s built environment, Black identities, and his Brooklyn neighborhood. In this interview, we steal some time from Fabri’s morning routine over a Zoom call where the artist talks about his feelings on the past nine months, our direction as a collective, translating communal pain into art, and how he feels about winning the Colene Brown Art Prize.

CD: As a collective, we've gone through an evolutionary nine months, can you speak to the pandemic, political volatility, and what it may have incited or inspired in you artistically?  

ZF: I try to remember to think about this year, not in a way that might be debilitating and crippling, but in a way that it doesn't start to become normalized in my mind, or it doesn't start to just become a situation of: “well, this is how things are and we just have to accept that.” I’m trying to remind myself that what we're going through is something enormous, gigantic, and beyond all of us. I’m trying to be more open, allowing myself to be sensitive while still thinking creatively so I don’t feel crippled by the effects and I'm not just responding to the oppressive factors. It’s like, “do I have any psychic space in me, that's able to think beyond that and problem solve beyond this moment?”  

CD: In one of your videos, you say something to the effect of, “the body traps emotions,” and it reminded me of how the body knows grief before we do. In a time of pandemic and uncertainty, where many of us have been forced to do  the emotional work of translating how we feel because of the pain it has caused us physically, are you having any thoughts about this where performance art is concerned?  

ZF: I like the way that you are phrasing it in terms of translation. I think that there is a certain kind of translation and an articulation that I'm interested in, in terms of how I think about information, and how that enters the body. I have been interested in articulating or translating moments, years, and decades of my life. It's like a translation of how things are, how things inform the body, and in turn, how the body communicates that. How does trauma sit in your body? How does that affect how you walk? How does that same emotional trauma stop you from dancing?  

CD: You mean the voluntary and involuntary effects of trauma?  

ZF: Exactly. And I think that kind of awareness where things are conscious or things are unconscious does choreograph our movements, in our life in a way. What we allow ourselves to do and what we do. The type of thinking or intelligence that we have in our body and mind. Speaking of dance and movement, there's formal dance and then there's going to a party and just moving your body and dancing to a song. I feel like those things are quite different, but they are similar in a way in which your body is still being formed by something. I like where those two meet. The trained discipline of dance, and then social dancing and how they borrow from each other.  

CD: We have so many limits right now. Specifically, limits to our movement and to our control. In terms of mediums, do you feel as if you're drawn to any particular medium right now, based on your limits or limits imposed on you by what's happening because of this pandemic?

ZF: There are limits; I've built a practice on rules and limitations. I find that limitations can yield some really beautiful results. They focus you in on a limited palette. But I've been actually doing the opposite. I've been trying to think outside of my limits. Limits like the size of my studio. It can also be abstract thinking or theoretical thinking so that it doesn't make my ideas too narrow.

CD: What does winning the Colene Brown Art Prize mean for you?  

ZF: It means a lot, specifically because of the organisation. It’s important that an organization like BRIC, that is not driven by the commercial machine of the arts, recognize my practice. I'm so sensitive to non-profit art organizations and how important they are to the art ecosystem. They have a very important place historically in the arts, and in New York City, in allowing artists to experiment. I’m just proud to be an ambassador for the prize and that cause.

Listen to the full interview:

Interviews were conducted by Chenée Daley; a Jamaican-born, New York-based multi-genre writer, whose work encompasses poetry, prose, and song. Grounded in the tender narratives of personal histories where place and memory connect, her work has won the first place writing prize from the University of the West Indies, the Caribbean Small Axe writing prize, the Denis Diderot [A-I-R] fellowship from Chateau Orquevaux in Ardenne, France and was recently shortlisted for the Eddie Baugh poet laureate of Jamaica prize. Her work appears in The Wall Street JournalThe Jamaica ObserverSmall Axe JournalThe Cordite ReviewAmerican Chordata, and BOMB magazine. She has an MFA in writing from Columbia University.