What is conversation?

The mutual “I” that we produce together when we speak to one another is not exclusively mine, nor is it yours.

I speak in your presence, calling myself  “I.” You swallow the “I” that I present. It churns in you as something you are not. And yet you can become it. You can become “I” when, in response to my utterance you call yourself “I.” Thus, “I” moves between us, back and forth. Aquí/Allá. 


Conversation is a framework for interpreting the ethics of the movement of spoken “I” as it shifts between you and I. “I” is neither you nor I, but rather, it is an enunciative event that constitutes both you and I in the position of a living, breathing, speaking subject. 

( ^__^ ) Hi.

I met Maria Gonzalez on Independence Day, 2003 and America’s old imperial eye looked back on itself and saw Oaxacan dancers parading.  Together, through six years of conversation, Maria and I wrote a joint autobiography.  We produced a one hundred-paged work called Regresar A Casa, which in English means Going Home. Maria asked me to translate her words directly from Spanish into English as she spoke them.  

Going Home takes place in Mexico and California, shifting back and forth between locations through the movement of the characters. Our conversation mimicked this motion, from Maria’s mouth to mine and back again. She told me that she dwelt neither here, in California where we met and where we wrote, nor there, in Mexico. She said she lived mentally and physically "nowhere," between places. 

When I read passages aloud back to her, Maria was often embarrassed by what she heard. “Really?” she would say, shocked and grinning, as if the events she recounted had not actually happened yet but rather, were happening now, between us.

Here is an excerpt from Going Home:

ABUELA. It’s Wednesday and you must take the boxes of mangos that you picked yesterday to the village. You know the truck comes once a week to take the fruit to the markets in the city. Hurry up, you only have two hours and if you don’t get there all the fruit will rot and we will have no money to buy the things we need. To start, milk the cow that is waiting for you outside before it runs away to the pasture and you have to go chase it. Then untie the mule and take it to the waterhole for a drink before you saddle it up with the boxes that you are going to take to the village. Make sure you get a good price for the mangoes. (Says to Juan while handing him a brown burlap sack.)  And on your way back, don’t forget to stop at the cornfield and fill this with corn so I can make tortillas for dinner.  (Adds as Juan grabs round Mexican bread to eat with his hot chocolate.) [1]

[1] Maria Gonzalez and Hannah Manfredi, Going Home (Unpublished), 5.



oil on canvas
24 X 36


El Colomo


Photos of a trip I took to El Colomo, Mexico, with Frank and Maria Gonzalez. December 2006 - January 2007

1 Young Maria on her way to the water hole. El Colomo, Mexico.

2 On the eve of 2007. El Colomo, Mexico.

3 El Colomo, Mexico.

4 The home of Doña Simona. El Colomo, Mexico.

5 Washing nopales. El Colomo, Mexico.

6 El Colomo, Mexico.

7 Young Maria at the water hole. El Colomo, Mexico.

8 The road to the mountains and El Colomo. San Cristóbal de la Barranca, Mexico.

9 Cornfield. El Colomo, Mexico.

10 Harvested corn. El Colomo, Mexico.

11 The water holo. El Colomo, Mexico.

12 A house. El Colomo, Mexico.

13 A view of Doña Simona's walking through a cornfield. El Colomo, Mexico.

14 Ruins of a house that burned down. El Colomo, Mexico.

15 Maria and Frank Gonzalez waiting for the Bronco to be fixed. San Cristóbal de la Barranca, Mexico.

16 Cactus. El Colomo, Mexico.

17  Doña Simona's front door. El Colomo, Mexico.



My lecture on singing and Aquí/Allá. 

 VCS Symposium. Art Institute of Chicago. Modern Wing. Studio B. 30 April, 2011.

VCS Symposium. Art Institute of Chicago. Modern Wing. Studio B. 30 April, 2011.

Transcription of Skype Conversation with Maria Gonzalez, September 29, 2010

Maria:  I want the fan off.

Judy:  Hannah can you hear the fan over there?

Maria:  Are you sure you don’t hear the fan?

Hannah: No.

Maria:  You look good Hannah.

Hannah:  You look good.  I can’t see you.

Maria:  Can you see me?

Hannah:  No, where are you?

Maria:  Right here.  Can you put on the light?  Keep trying.

Hannah:  I can see me but I can’t see you.

Maria:  Well I can see myself there.  You look very clear.  You look great.

Hannah:  I wish I could see you.  Well, that’s okay.



Animation inspired by Going Home. Collaboration with Jesus Contreras. Sonoma State University, California, 2008.