Cover of Interview with Erica and alks from Art, Strike!

Interview with Erica and alks from Art, Strike!

Could you please start by introducing us to the people behind Art, Strike!?

Hi, I'm alks. I'm a writer, independent journalist, and coeditor of Art, Strike!.

Hi! I'm Erica Rivera (she/her) and I'm a transgender woman. My deadname (at least the first part of my deadname) is a pretty standard/average "boy name," so I thought I would honor my parents' decision to give me such a name by giving myself a standard/average "girl name." Rivera comes from, of course, the inimitable American revolutionary Sylvia Rivera, whom I hope to honor with my every word and action. You can learn more about me at [RiveraErica DOT com SLASH about].

What is the inspiration of Art, Strike!? How did it evolve from an idea in your mind to what it is today?

Erica: Art, Strike! was inspired by a generous gift of time, space, resources, and support that, tragically, almost nobody but the most connected elite receive. It was a shock to receive such a gift, and while still stumbling around in shock, I felt it was absolutely necessary to begin to redistribute that gift among the people and communities that kept me alive for so long, through some of the scariest and most vulnerable times in my life. The most relevant of these people and communities are anarchist zine distros doing incredible, under-appreciated work, and the brilliant writers and artists whose works fill their catalogues. The most recent of these people and communities include transgender women like Jamie Berrout seeking new ways of thinking around publishing, art-making, and politics, especially those that became part of the vision she articulated around an "anti-press." From my obssessive desire to honor and support this work and these visions, I simply started improvising, until I found another musician willing to engage with my strange, chaotic energy. The rest is ourstory.

Could you summarize Art, Strike!'s vibe in six words or less?

Both: Sympathy for the belligerent

Art, Strike! Is so unique in how it sources & pays creatives. How did you come up with it & what were your motivations to throw out the book, so to speak, and do it this way?

Erica: Our current payment policy comes from the old adage about, "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need." Everyone knows what their material needs are, and I figured it was only fair to let artists and writers be the judge of that. Who would I be to say this poem is worth $10, this story $500, and this hybrid work somewhere in between? I also hoped to encourage writers and artists to think about how the sausage gets made, so to speak; I think we sometimes feel like small cogs in a sprawling industry, and thus become disempowered from engaging with the complicated political economy of art-making. Our policy speaks to a future where these decisions are not only in the hands of writers and artists themselves, but also shared among the communities who foster and support them. And, of course, as many know, my motivation to throw out the book is that I don't really like books, lol.

Where do you see Art, Strike! headed? Say, in a few years time, what would be your ideal outcome, or do you prefer to not think like that and instead embrace change as it comes?

Erica: I don't feel capable of seeing where Art, Strike is headed because, to answer the second question, my ideal outcome is that the crew and collaborators, as well as their/our supporters, have built the kind of network capable of making their/our dreams realities. As I always say, I think my ideas about Art, Strike! are the least interesting ones in existence. In other words: alks, take it away!

alks: Art, Strike will ideally end up with a bone-dry bank account and solid relationships.

In your guidelines, you have, "build up a bunch of writers'/artists' careers until they're the most/only important writers/artists in the world & then they lead a global general strike." What does this global general strike look like to you?

Erica: Ah, yes! Well, there is the parenthetical afterwards that says we're just kidding, which of course, we are also kidding about. I searched for "art strike" on the Internet long before Art, Strike! had a name because I felt so much that the cruel dismissal I had faced trying to make it as a writer and artist made me want to do nothing more but to "strike" by removing my work from the art world completely. My searches showed me that I wasn't alone in feeling this way, so to distinguish Art, Strike! from similar belligerent attempts to intertwine politics, economics, and art-making, I added a comma and an exclamation point. If I can envision even a single part of that global general strike (which, even with my clairvoyance, I could not possibly begin to do), it is that "Art, Strike!" may be one of the many protest chants you'll hear echo for miles as it unfolds.

alks: This quote shouldn't be taken seriously in any way, certainly not as a battle plan.

The lit mag scene is massive. What did you want to bring to the community with your magazines that is different from what others are offering?

alks: Fair pay.

Erica: Fair play.

Creatives can often feel a lot of stress when it comes to submitting to journals because they are unsure how to present their work. How would a creative looking for publication by Art, Strike! best reach out, and do you have any requirements they should be aware of?

alks: Write to us as if a literary historian would want to anthologize our correspondence, or copy-paste some form you found on a blog or whatever. Regardless, bigotry (or anything written by a punk-ass white boy in general) is a deal-breaker.

Erica: I can only add that I feel bigotry is incompatible with quality, and that even if it comes from a punk-ass brown or Black or Indigenous boy or girl or gender-variant or otherwise "hypermarginalized" person (oh, identity politics!), it'll still probably be a deal-breaker. (Emphasis on the punk-ass, of course.)

Is there a specific kind of project you haven’t seen in your current submissions that you’d love to see come in?

alks: We haven't received any essays yet.

Erica: Plays!!! I love reading and editing plays. Also video games. Video art, of any kind. Collage. Assemblage. Sculpture. Performance art, including song and dance. Murals. Found art, with that term being as loosely defined as possible. Interviews. Journalism. Libel. Manifestos. Technical inventions. Architectural blueprints. Computer code (I'm serious, I love to read and edit code as well). Agriculture. Food. Biography, autofiction. Couplets and haikus. Pretty much anything and everything, lol.

What is one question you'd like to add to this interview and how would you answer it?

Erica: How can I, a writer and artist who feels more lost than ever amid the maelstroms of violence and death that surround our every action and decision, possibly find the time and space to think up a collaboration with a publication that seems so sure of itself and its future? And the answer is: There is no risky mission. We are the same. We're all your friends tonight.

alks: How do you prefer paying contributors? Anything but upfront cash is always inconvenient.