Natalia de Campos & Thiago Szmrecsányi

Natalia de Campos & Thiago Szmrecsanyi open their studio for the South East Queens Artists Alliance (2017)
On view: a discussion of the artists on race and politics; on the left wall, SEQAA’s artists work; ART&COM works in the center wall; on the left: excerpt of Defend Democracy in Brazil Committee’s street performances and demonstrations photo exhibition.
Photo: Thiago Szmrecsányi


Six questions asked of all our guests.


What are you currently reading?
Clarice Lispector’s “Complete Stories” (new translation, although I prefer to read it in the original in Portuguese).

Readings that I consult a lot are on poetry and politics, like Hannah Arendt, Slavoj Zizek, bell hooks, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Fernando Pessoa; and on performance, like Chris Salter “Entangled”, and a compilation by Claire Bishop called “Artificial Hells”.

What are you currently watching?
A lot of news – especially TRT WorldAl Jazeera, Democracy Now!, PBS NewsHour, obsessively; and some films, but I don’t have one comm

ercial film that I loved in particular recently.

 My friends’ films, like the newly released  “American Thief” by Miguel Silveira; and the documentary “The Edge of Democracy” by Petra Costa – both I like, and recommend. I love documentaries.

What was the last meal you made?
Stuffed cabbage, which reminds me a lot of my childhood – but with turkey instead of beef.

My mom made it all the time, and her parents were Polish immigrants in São Paulo. It only made sense to me that it was a Polish dish though when I moved to New York. 

Can you share a recipe?
Sharing a recipe is a difficult question for me! I never spent much time in the kitchen, not my forté, and I hate to follow recipes to the letter, always transform them. Some work and some don’t, so I am afraid I can’t really share a good recipe… but I have been learning during the pandemic. I watch A LOT of recipes on YouTube.

Whose studio have you visited recently that really excited you?
Recently, being more isolated, I like to think of the works of my collaborators (present and past). My friend Tracy Collins (also a collaborator in Collective Bargain and UAAU) explorations with A.I. and video are on my mind, and wish that we had time to explore more. I miss the time when artists were more concentrated and visited each other more often.

What have you seen recently (either art; performance; film, music; stage; etc.) that had a significant impact on you and your work?
Some of the usual suspects that I love: in music, Bjork’s 2018 “Utopia” album ; in sound and text, I like Caroline Bergvall’s Middling English, 2010; much more recently discovered, Sandra Proto’s writing; and in street and activist performance everywhere, I adore Reverend Billy & the Stop Shopping choir (whom I have known and followed since 1999). 

Nowadays, we often collaborate with Rev Billy on the streets of New York with the Defend Democracy in Brazil Committee. They are such wonderful people to work with. I also produced a show under Syncretic Pleasures in late September and included them as the main show. They are just so fantastic (and colorful!). I highly and specially recommend to try and catch one of their (impromptu) performances on a Chase Bank investment floor in midtown.


What are you currently reading?
Odd stuff from 1989: 
“If you lived here: The City in Art, Theory, and Social Activism” A project by Martha Rosler

What are you currently watching?
The news

What was the last meal you made?
Lunch: lentils and rice, beet salad.

Can you share a recipe?
Well, I am not sure I can provide all the steps, but I do recommend Açorda, a Portuguese bread soup, made with hardened bread, garlic, cilantro, salt, olive oil, some hot water and eggs. It is simple, it is fast, and it keeps us going…especially during hard times.

Whose studio have you visited recently that really excited you?
Now we are even planning to open our studios in a virtual way…The other day I enjoyed taking part by Zoom in the launch of Jam Journal, a new literary web journal created by Sherese Francis, with many contributors from or related to Queens. 

We prepared a video that mixed music with a poem, a sculpture, and a collage from ART&COM. The other artists and poets participating brought us closer to a place that we have not visited for a while, and to their visual and writing work. 

What have you seen recently (either art; performance; film, music; stage; etc.) that had a significant impact on you and your work?
All the protests from the Black Lives Matter movement. They marked a new way for the city to congregate, stand, and socialize during the pandemic. They were happening everywhere and at any time. There was a common cause, and a decentralization in the organization.  I was attracted to the great profusion of small cardboard and black marker signs: simple, diverse, direct, and powerful.

A sincere thanks to Natalia de Campos and Thiago Szmrecsányi from john ros and studioELL — thank you for the generosity you’ve shown in sharing your studio practice with us.

john ros is a Brooklyn-based, multi-disciplinary artist, professor and curator. They obtained an MFA from Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and a BFA from the State University of New York at Binghamton. john is the founder of studioELL where they currently serve as director and professor. They have over 15 years experience in higher education and 22 years experience curating exhibitions and developing community programming.

This interview was conducted over a series of emails which started with an initial question and led to a responsive conversation. The text has been edited slightly for this publication.

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