Finding Creative Grounding through Media Inquiry

by Reva Santo

My experience in professor Frances Negrón-Muntaner’s Media and Idea Lab created a strong grounding for all of the creative work that I have pursued after graduating from Columbia University. Our explorations allowed me to unify my intellectual curiosities with the visual nature of my mind. As an archivist, researcher, thinker, and visualist, media as a mode of inquiry was a practice that made sense to me. Multimedia inquiry became a quest to absorb new languages, pursued by a spirit of curiosity rather than an approach of “cultivating a skill,” as visual studies tends to have. I created Home Is ___, an experimental short film about my own upbringing in a mixed Afro-Brazilian, Jewish family.1 The film explores my desire for grounding and home, despite my constant desire for travel and motion, and the sensation of fragmentation that I carry within my very body. I was seeking to understand what home is, and where home is. I was seeking an energy, something a bit more tangible than a location. I wanted to investigate how I could pose a question through media, one with all of the intricacies of deep research, and carve a response through images and sounds in a way that could be immediately emotionally recognizable by my audience. Media allows for layering and texturing that I think lends quite beautifully to exploring the complexities of identity. Exploring race, ethnicity, global identity, ideas of belonging (or not belonging) is possible because there is space to collage, layer, and hold these complexities within the same space or work of art. My significant takeaway from my time with professor Negrón-Muntaner was a dynamic creative praxis. All of my creative works have stemmed from this place: just as movement stems first from a sensation or emotion, my media works, films, photographs, music, stem from this space of visual inquiry—always asking questions, exploring new languages, and letting the pieces fall together and guide me toward new understandings.

Home Is ___ became an immersive art show that I presented as my senior thesis project. This immersive art experience, which included my short film as well as performances from sound and movement artists examining the same theme—home—was highly successful and stirred my mind on the importance of intentional, focused art space. I have since launched my own business, Honey & Smoke, a global artist community and platform focused on creating space for artists to meditate on the important themes of our time. I owe a lot of this expansive growth to professor Negrón-Muntaner!

1 Home Is ___ can be watched with the password homeis123 through August 20, 2020.

Reva Santo is a multimedia artist whose work pinpoints the emotional pulse of issues faced by marginalized communities and creates space for radical healing and reimagining. She graduated in film studies from Columbia University and has since directed several experimental short films, which have landed her work in festivals and galleries across the nation—including NYC Poetry Festival, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Miami Art Basel, and a solo exhibition at Studio 1.06. LA. Her upcoming film Trust Issues was the recipient of the Panavision New Filmmaker Program Grant and is set to be released in 2021.