Hsini Desiree Des
I believe art can be fun and egalitarian while still being conceptually rigorous and engaged with the act of looking, both for the artist and the viewer. My photographic works are all documents of everyday phenomena, but they use optical sleights of hand and manipulations of context to throw their subject matter into question. My social practice works, which run parallel to those made with the camera, involve novel modes of audience engagement in the distribution of my photo and sculpture-based artist multiples. With both approaches I’m attempting to create participatory experiences that are figuratively and/or literally outside of the traditional art market. My goals are to encourage looking critically at the things that surround us and to create alternate, non-monetary means for the valuation, appreciation, and acquisition of art.
My photographs are a direct look at my immediate environment, but I use highly varied framing and printing methods to challenge a viewer’s first glance. Beyond the subject of a given image, I also consider its substrate and how that substrate occupies physical space—whether that means as a poster tacked to a wall, a blanket draped over a sofa, or on a dinner plate smeared with food. My questions are always: How can the experience of viewing, including what is outside of the picture plane, further the reception of an image? How can art function at home, or in other private or public spaces other than the gallery? How can I get such work into the homes (or within the line of sight) of people from all walks of life, not just the wealthy, the aesthetes, and the gallery-going set? What can an artwork do beyond my intention, in the hands of another, on their terms, in their space, alongside their other possessions? How might an artwork change with the viewer over time?
In 2014, I had the opportunity to display a photograph in the form of a 48-foot-wide billboard installed publically in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. This was great, but as someone from outside that particular community and a non-Spanish speaker, I initially felt uneasy about what it might mean to have my work residing there in such an imposing and anomalous way. As a method for me to communicate with the neighborhood on a more intimate and personal scale, I fashioned miniature souvenir versions of the billboard to give away to passersby within view of the real thing. The experience was amazing. I managed to use these scaled-down images in place of spoken language and convey that this giant image was no advertising ploy but rather an offering from me to them.
My social practice often involves devising interactive social games to create a safe and enjoyable public space to talk about our ideas and ourselves. These games, which are modeled loosely upon familiar games of chance and midway amusements, endeavor to connect individuals through “icebreaker” conversations on a given theme or topic. I’ve recently employed the structure of a bingo game to host events centered on fake news, gender equality, and water. These games use bingo cards stocked not with numbers but with various conversation prompts. Incentivised by artist-made prizes, players were able to interpret and freely elaborate upon the phrases on the cards, and each conversation got players closer to winning. Prizes included buttons emblazoned with the prompts, acting both as a souvenirs and cues for continued conversation when worn after the game has ended.
I am driven to create opportunities for real-world conversation and connection because we live in a world that is increasingly mediated by virtual interactions that can impede essential human contact. We have all at one time or another felt social anxiety, so I want to create inclusive environments that breakdown the traditional, often exclusive social hierarchies prevalent in the art world—even if just for a couple of hours. Because we learn the most from our weak ties (like strangers with different values and backgrounds) rather than from our strong ties (like family and friends), my creative activities are tacitly intended for broader appeal.
2016 MFA Studio Art, Hunter College, New York, NY
2010 MLIS Library Science, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
2001 BFA Studio Art, Alfred University, Alfred, NY
2000 Advanced Certificate in Printmaking, National Academy of Fine Arts, Hangzhou, China
2017 Real Lookers, Cohen Gallery, Alfred, NY
2013 VISION TRAPS, Sardine Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
GROUP EXHIBITIONS / EVENTS / PERFORMANCES
2017 Fact Craft, Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, NY
Punching Up, Richard and Dolly Maass Gallery, Purchase College SUNY, Purchase, NY
Game Night #6: Feminist Politics, SOHO20 Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Whitney Houston Biennial: Greatest Love of All, chashama at XOCO, New York, NY
We WILL Replace You, Transformer Gallery SIREN ARTS, Asbury Park, NJ
2016 Dollar Days: Cash & Carry, MFA Thesis Exhibition, 205 Hudson Street Gallery, New York, NY
Global Programs Bulletin Board, Global Programs Office, Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
Game Night @Come Out and Play Festival, Manhattan Bridge Archway, Brooklyn, NY
Show #1, INstall/DEinstall Enterprises, New York, NY
Mini Bar at Beverly’s, Material Art Fair, Mexico City, Mexico
Exquisite Roller Coaster, community drawing project, Hunter MFA Open Studios, New York, NY
2015 New Moon Rising, Monti Building, Brooklyn, NY
Don’t Honk if You’re Horny Bumper Sticker Giveaway, Holland Tunnel Entrance, New York, NY
Open Studio Bingo, Hunter MFA Open Studios, New York, NY
Birthdate Bingo, Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, NY
2014 Whitney Houston Biennial: I’m Every Woman, C. Finley Studios, Brooklyn, NY
WINDOW PLANE BILLBOARD, billboard at the intersection of 179th St & Broadway, New York, NY
And the Villagers Never Liked You Anyway, Knockdown Center, Queens, NY
2013 SPECIAL GUESTS, Sardine Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Terrifying Noble Splendid, TEMP Gallery, New York, NY
Perspective Pair, Ainslie Studios, Brooklyn, NY
2012 Peaces on Earth, Sardine Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Ab/Ob/Ob, Ainslie Studios, Brooklyn, NY
RESIDENCIES and AWARDS
2018 Works on Water / Underwater New York Residency, Governors Island, NY
2017 C12 Emerging Artist Award Special Recognition
2013 Print Residency, Institute for Electronic Arts, Alfred, NY
2017 Steinhauer, Jillian. “The Greatest Biennial of All.” Hyperallergic, March 23, 2017.
http://hyperallergic.com/367050/the-greatest-biennial-of-all/, features Desiree Des Dinner Plates.
2016 Elmslie, Kenward. “Mooning.” BOMB, September 22, 2016.
http://bombmagazine.org/article/6095921/mooning, features Avoiding the Self-Portrait, Bowl.
2015 Conjunctions 65 (Fall 2015), cover image features Avoiding the Self-Portrait, Subway.
Ellingsen, Eric. “It’s Private.” BOMB, June 12, 2015. http://bombmagazine.org/article/5065611/it-s-private, features Bathroom Poster images..
2014 “The Whitney Houston Biennial Is Here To Make Your Feminist Art Dreams Come True.” The
Huffington Post, March 3, 2014.
Photo Shop is featured.