Interview: Daniel Bejar

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I’m at an apartment party in Mexico City with a bunch of the artists who are in residence at Soma. It’s an intimate gathering of some 20 odd people crammed up in a nice little apartment, dancing and doing there thing. I make rounds, talking to a couple of the obvious U.S. Americans in the room, for a welcomed vacation from Spanish-headaches into an easy flowing dialogue about the state of affair or the art world, and well, to make some new friends. I’m automatically drawn to the tall, curly haired chap who very cordially asks me where I’m from, maybe sensing my own native-foreign sensibilities. He’s sitting on the couch surrounded by other friendly looking art-folk, but this guy is different. His inviting nature and directness is greatly appreciated. We chat for a second, on the fringe of the dance-off, tequila and birthday cake littering the small coffee table by a window. He tells me a little about where he’s from, a Puerto Rican-American from New York with a penchant for politicized art as action. My ears perk up. This is exactly the kind of guy I need to be talking to. Fast forward to the end of their summer residency at Soma, and among the very D.F.-esque chaos of the final show, Bejar is the only artist of the bunch to show me around the works, giving me small little run through his own project, which dealt subtly with identity and geographic confusion in the tangled and often un-Google-able directions and streets in one of the most insane cities in the world.

All in all you have to check out Daniel Bejar’s work, some of which will be shown at the upcoming BRIC Rotunda Gallery, on Sept. 15 in a group show celebrating the highlights of the galleries history. I’m glad to present a small correspondence we conducted below. And don’t miss Bejar at BRIC included in “30: A Brooklyn Salon” Wednesday, September 14th from 7-9pm. The exhibition will be open from September 15th – October 29th, 2011.

Daniel, tell us a little about your experience with BRIC Rotunda Gallery?

Well, I met the founder Jackie Battenfield during a professional development residency program she was teaching at the Bronx Museum back in 2008. I learned of the gallery and learned that they had an online portfolio component to their gallery where curators were able to look through and select artists for exhibitions. I submitted work to their site and in 2009 was contacted to include work in an exhibition. And this year I was fortunate enough to be included in “30: A Brooklyn Salon”, it’s been really a great organization to work with, and is one of the oldest supporting contemporary art in Brooklyn.

Tell us a little about your work.

My practice uses sculpture, photography, video, performance, and intervention to provoke the historical amnesia and subvert ingrained systems of belief in the everyday. In a recent project entitled ”Get Lost!” I restored the New York City subway map and signage to what they would have looked and sounded like prior to colonization in 1609, these maps and signage were then inserted back into the subway system.. I’m really looking to peel back the layers of history and pose critical questions, where viewers are encouraged to question what is familiar, and envision alternate possibilities.

What is it you strive for in your work?

I strive to inject a critical voice into the everyday, and propose alternate ways to view and experiencing the everyday.

How did you fall into the art world?

I’m not sure I would use the word “fall”, but I graduated in 2007 and so far it’s been a lot of hard work, sacrifices, and credit card bills. But I would say persistence and believing in the work you’re making has helped in trying to get a foot in the door.

You just finished up Soma’s art residency in Mexico City, can you tell us a little about what you might have taken from that experience?

Mexico City was a great experience filled with amazing food and being surrounded by really talented and brilliant people. Through all of the great conversations, the thing I took away from SOMA was some clarity and understanding of what I was trying to say and do with my work, and some direction of the next steps I want to take with my practice and career. And if you ever have the opportunity to experience a toritos fireworks parade, do it, you won’t be sorry!!

What are the limitations of art?

I think art can be a powerful force and agent for social change, but I question if art can create social change on the scale of what’s happening across the Arab world right now. I would like to think art could create change outside of the art context, but if there was a limitation I think this might be it?

What’s the one thing you hate that people assume about you or your work?

I’ve heard some refer to my projects as “stunts”. A “stunt” would imply my work calls for attention. In reality it’s quite the opposite, I’d like to fly under the radar if possible.

Where and when were you born?

I was born in the Bronx, NY in 1976.

Find out more about Daniel Bejar’s work and history at

BRIC Rotunda Gallery

33 Clinton Street

Brooklyn, NY 11201

Google Map

Directions: Located in Brooklyn Heights, BRIC Rotunda Gallery is a short walk from the 2,3; 4,5; M; or R trains at Court Street/Borough Hall; or the A, C trains at High Street.