6HWbNHN-show-poster2x3-c7tgE2Y.png

Artbound

Start watching
MJ250sC-show-poster2x3-Bflky7i.png

Tending Nature

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
HvlSxHY-show-poster2x3-4ik43uV.png

Earth Focus

Start watching
5LQmQJY-show-poster2x3-MRWBpAK.jpg

Reporter Roundup

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

LACMA9: Nicole Miller's 'Believing Is Seeing'

Support Provided By

In partnership with LACMA9 Art + Film Lab, an in residence in nine communities, offers free art and film workshops, an oral history project, outdoor film screenings, plus a day of free admission to LACMA.

Something intangible yet unmistakable in Ndinda Spada's oral history piqued the interest of artist Nicole Miller. Spada had visited the LACMA9 Art+Film Lab when it was in Redlands and recorded a personal story during the Lab's drop-in oral history hours. It was a short video, just five minutes, but in it Spada spoke passionately about moving to California from Kenya, and how she found a surrogate family in her church.

LACMA commissioned Miller to nine interviews collected in the nine cities on the Lab's tour in order to identify subjects for new artworks. Miller sensed an open and expressive quality in Spada, something that transmitted through the video recording. "It's pretty clear when I meet someone whether or not they are interested in going through this journey with me. Everyone who came to the Lab to tell their story all had an air of wanting to share. I didn't know Ndinda would be such a good performer, but I had a feeling."

Nicole Miller, still from video series "Believing is Seeing," featuring Redlands resident Ndinda Spada
Nicole Miller, still from video series "Believing is Seeing," featuring Redlands resident Ndinda Spada

The journey that Miller describes could be summed up as an exploration of self-representation. Miller is not a documentarian, and LACMA's charge was not to create a series of photojournalistic biographies representing the sites that compose the LACMA9 initiative. Rather, Miller regularly uses documentary practice to "give people space to self-represent." Some of the circumstances depicted in past work include a man recalling the amputation of his arm, young people dancing explicitly at a club, a conductor performing, and a yogi engaged in transcendental meditation.

According to Miller, her videos document "individuals making a decision about how to represent themselves." Miller posits that self-representation is mired, subconsciously or not, in tropes learned from outlets such as cinema. This history of representation has contributed to our collective understanding of how to present ourselves to the world. In this way, identity can be more akin to performing a character than revealing a truth.

At the same time, Miller's work often captures what she refers to as "sublime subjectivity," where her subjects seem to temporarily eschew this loaded history, the implication of the camera, and the forthcoming audience. By reliving trauma, executing physical acts, or engaging in forms of personal expression in front of the camera lens, Miller's subjects seem to momentarily thwart the conventions of representation, attaining disarming veracity.

Nicole Miller, still from video series "Believing Is Seeing," featuring Redlands residents Harold Hartwick and Diana Kriger
Nicole Miller, still from video series "Believing Is Seeing," featuring Redlands residents Harold Hartwick and Diana Kriger

The artist further investigates this concept through the LACMA9 commission. After viewing the brief oral history that Spada recorded in the Lab, Miller conducted research and discovered that, in addition to Spada's involvement with her church, she teaches hasyayoga, or laughter yoga. Miller contacted the Redlands resident to collaborate on a video artwork that would feature her at church and demonstrating hasyayoga techniques. "Usually when I tell people the concept behind the work, they start to see themselves in relationship to my ideas. We (Spada and I) met together knowing exactly what we were looking for. In this way it feels less like a documentary and more like a performance. What can one know about another based on one story besides that story, besides that one gesture?" The result is a compelling portrait that reflects on the display of identity through faith, therapy, and self-representation.

Nicole Miller, still from video series "Believing Is Seeing," featuring Redlands residents Diana Kriger and Harold Hartwick
Nicole Miller, still from video series "Believing Is Seeing," featuring Redlands residents Diana Kriger and Harold Hartwick

Miller's video artwork featuring Spada and other Redlands community members is the first in an evolving series of works titled "Believing is Seeing." "I stole the title from a book, which in a way I suppose is a gesture undercutting the validity of originality and subjectivity at the same time as pursuing it."

The Redlands component of "Believing Is Seeing" debuts in the Bing Theater on Sunday, October 13, looping from 12:30 to 2:30 pm, with Nicole Miller in attendance. The author also selected the documentary "Burden of Dreams" to directly follow the viewing.

This article first appeared on LACMA's Unframed blog.

Dig this story? Vote by hitting the Facebook like button above and tweet it out, and it could be turned into a short video documentary. Also, follow Artbound on Facebook and Twitter.

Support Provided By
Read More
Chloe Arnold is photographed professionally wearing a leather-like top and red pants.

A Dancer for Justice: Chloe Arnold Connects Youth to their Humanity Through Movement

Emmy-nominated tap dancer Chloe Arnold credits dance for saving her life. Now, she is paying it forward by offering inner-city youth an opportunity to connect with themselves and others through dance.
Julio Salgado is wearing a floral print shirt and a black jacket while holding up two pieces of his art on each hand. The artwork on his left features the side profile of a woman with multicolored hair and statements like, "Black Lives Matter," "#MeToo," "Make Love Not War," and "Thank Black and Brown Trans Women for Pride." The artwork on the right reads, "No Longer Interested in Convincing You of My Humanity," with a graduation cap at the bottom. Salgado is standing in front of a pink background.

Julio Salgado's Art Uplifts UndocuQueer Existence and Joy

Life as an undocumented queer immigrant is difficult, but Julio Salgado has found that the arts practices he honed in school has helped him combat depression, negativity and stress. He eventually went on to use that creativity to uplift the voices of millions of people just like him.
Christopher Myers' "The Art of Taming Horses" is installed at Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs for Desert X 2021.

Six Sculptures Pay Homage to Forgotten Cowboys of Color

Christopher Myers' "The Art of Taming Horses" sculptures subvert the accepted narrative of monuments to tell the story of two fictional ranchers of color.