First of all, we are excited to welcome you to ALTA as the new Membership & Digital Projects Coordinator!
You’re coming to us from the art museum world. Would you be willing to talk a little bit about yourself and the sort of work you’ve done up to now? Would you be willing to describe a recent project you enjoyed working on?
Thank you! I would describe myself as someone who delights in the space between meaning and form, and the disciplinary parameters around that are secondary. I fell into studying art history after feeling energized by my first survey course during my first semester of undergraduate studies. The professor was very encouraging, even prodding me to consider changing my major. Prior to that, my interests had been literature and psychology, but art history opened a world that linked aspects of both disciplines alongside the visual.
After I moved on to my graduate studies in art history, I had opportunities to explore exhibition-making and working with living artists. There, something else came alive for me in the politics of collaborative creative processes, communication with audiences, and responsiveness to physical contexts. I was fortunate to find myself after that at the Queens Museum in New York. Both a contemporary art center and a layered historical site, my projects were rooted in broader civic histories and collective experiences rather than a negotiation of art historical narratives that I found problematic and limiting. Of course, these frameworks also have biases and pasts that need redress. Still, they offered myriad entry points, and I could engage with them through a combination of exhibitions, public dialog, publications, archives, and digital tools. It’s hard to call out just one project, but the most comprehensive project I worked on was an edition of a locally-focused serial exhibition, Queens International 2018: Volumes, which combined all of these elements via many deep and generative collaborations, including an unconventional website project.
What draws you to working with ALTA and literary translators?
One of the satisfying things about making exhibitions is exploring them as an information architecture or a narrative device. There are many parallels to editorial and translation work, in my opinion. The curator’s primary role is organizing the art itself, as well as language and interpretative tools around the art that consider spatial and temporal circumstances; it is this current that was central to my work. In recent years, I found myself reconnecting with my love of writing and the possibilities of that as a stand-alone offering. As I re-engaged with literature, I found the discourse around translation incredibly fertile and aligned with the concerns that had been cropping up in my curatorial work and my own identity as a practitioner–namely, about the value of nuanced and horizontal sharing and questions about authorship, representation, and visibility.
Can you describe your relationship with/to languages and translation?
I was raised by Portuguese immigrants and spent time with my maternal grandparents in rural Portugal, where almost no one spoke English, so it was a total immersion. That foundation carried me through studying other Romance languages like Spanish and French, and most definitely enriched and complexified my English. In retrospect, I realize how formative it was to paradoxically exist within two idioms and experience moments of consciously moving between them. While my grammar proficiency has waxed and waned over the years relative to use, the embodied aspect of my Portuguese–my accent and my ear–is very enduring.
What are you reading right now?
I am reading a book of short prose by Matilde Campilho called Flecha. She’s a contemporary Portuguese poet that has a very distinct verve. I’m also reading a few non-fiction texts, including Caroline Levine’s Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network, which has been sitting on my shelf for a bit too long, and I’m really enjoying it–finally.
What are you looking forward to tackling in your new role with us?
I think I was chosen for this role because I deeply admire and feel a kinship with this community, even as an outsider to the discipline. I’m excited about connecting with members, understanding their needs, and how they already utilize ALTA’s tremendous resources. A significant undertaking will be the process of evaluating and eventually managing the redesign of the website. I have a lot of experience thinking about the needs of different stakeholders and connecting resources and ideas through both verbal and visual forms. Upon starting my position in April, I jumped right into familiarizing myself with ALTA’s web history and developing a survey (which you can fill out here!) to solicit member feedback. The latter will form a critical foundation for this process–and I’m really looking forward to hearing from everyone!
We want to hear from you! What’s working, and what isn’t? What would you like to see more of? Less of? By completing this survey, you’ll be playing a vital role in the planning of this new platform. Help us to understand what we’re doing right and how we might improve this central hub for ALTA’s community. Fill it out by August 18.
Welcome to the ALTA team, Sophia!