Mayer\Leyva is performance artist Jillian Mayer and retired playwright Lucas Leyva. Their collaborations include short films, art installations, music videos, experimental theater, and web projects.
Their last two short films (Life and Freaky Times of Uncle Luke; #PostModem) premiered at Sundance and went on to play AFI, Milan, New York, Los Angeles, Winterthur, New Zealand and festivals all over the world. In 2012 four separate Mayer\Leyva projects were screened at SXSW and in 2013 they returned with another.
Named to Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” list, their projects have also screened at museums worldwide including MoMA, Guggenheim Museums, New Orleans Contemporary and the permanent collection of the Miami Art Museum. This year they were selected for the New Frontier Story Lab Fellowship at the Sundance Institute.
They have made three viral videos, including I Am Your Grandma, which became an unlikely sensation that has been spoofed on various TV shows and was featured on the cover of Art Papers Magazine, and the controversial Jacuzzi Boys: Glazin’ which became infamous after getting over 600,000 views in 48 hours before being banned from YouTube permanently and becoming the subject of a SXSW Panel.
They have been awarded grants from the Cintas Foundation Fellowship for Cuban-American Artists, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Elsewhere Museum/ National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the Harpo Foundation, the Zentrum Paul Klee Museum Fellowship (Switzerland), and the South Florida Cultural Consortium’s Visual and Media Artists Fellowship.
Together they help run the Borscht collective and the Borscht Film Festival in Miami, where they work and reside.
1: How do you describe yourself / selves to people who need descriptions?
Jillian: Lucas and I are filmmakers with no film background. My work is directly informed by art and Lucas is a retired playwright. I have an art practice and spend most of my time trying to invent stuff with Lucas who runs the Borscht Corporation and Borscht Film Festival, a regional festival/ loose collective in Miami. Our families both came from Cuba and we were born and raised in crazy Florida.
2: What kind of work are you into?
Strange stories, absurdist things, beautiful and bizarre imagery, dark comedies, alternative editing. We are both interested in future thoughts and new imagery. We also talk a lot about digital myth-making- creating narratives that make sense of the weird events that happen in Florida every day. We often use humor as a vehicle to explain some things that are challenging for people and ourselves to evaluate. But ultimately, we try and make work that we find entertaining. Basically, stuff we would want to see.
Our projects usually have some ancillary component which allows the work to exist in several mediums. Sometimes it is a video for a product that doesn’t exist that comes with a toll free phone number to speak to customer service. Other times it is a physical location that has part of the project running live from an interactive website.
3: What problem are you working on?
We are currently at work on a feature film with many ancillary “trendzmedia” elements. Our problem (or interest) with this project is trying to make it interesting and special but also accessible enough for people that aren’t familiar with some of the hyper progressive theories of the future. Also translating our interests/aesthetic into something people can watch for 90 minutes without destroying them/ourselves.
We aren’t used to working on a project for so long, so we keep getting distracted as well. Lucas is trying to make a homemade theme park ride using virtual reality and other fun stuff, and getting ready to do a call for entries for anyone who wants to make short films or realities in Miami through Borscht. I have a art show coming up at the Utah Museum in January.
As far as regular problems, we live in South Florida and we are sinking.
Also, my dog is down to the last of her teeth. She is forced to eat mush.
4: Who are the most important people to work with?
People that are smarter than yourself. Hopefully, your collaborators think the feeling is mutual.
5: What is the right thing to do?
We are in agreement! Thanks!