Spotlight Series

Spotlight: Contemptorary

This week we’re highlighting the work of our friends at contemptorary, and today Gelare Khoshgozaran’s “Dear Colleagues: Dead or Alive” takes up the arts community, drawing necessary parallels between art and political movements. How have we spoken to each other? How will we continue speaking to each other? This essay was originally published on February 28, 2017.

Image courtesy of Contemptorary.

Image courtesy of Contemptorary.

1.

Despite my disdain for predictability and repetitiveness, I have found myself starting all correspondences with friends and loved ones with the same greeting:

I hope you are surrounded with lots of love and support amidst fascism!

Although I am aware that no amount of love or support may protect one from fascism, I find that starting in this way sets the tone for an acknowledgement of the climate where, as a friend once said, “how are you?” is no longer pertinent.

I wish you the same here as well, although I don’t believe some of you, some of us, are exempt from having contributed to the creation of either this regime or the desire for it. I have previously spent long periods of time in limbos of visa and immigration processes, waiting for decisions to be made for me. This one, though, doesn’t feel any more comfortable than the many I experienced to gain the “alien” status I was granted in this country.

Continue reading the essay here.

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Spotlight Series

Spotlight: Contemptorary

This summer, Daily Serving is shining a light on the work of some arts publications that we respect, and this week we’re looking at contemptorary. Todays spotlight excerpts an examination of racial politics and “arts freedom” in an interview with poet and performance artist Bhanu Kapil. Co-founders Eunsong Kim and Gelare Khoshgozaran write, “In ‘Title TBD (Part 1)’ Kapil narrates the politics of her embodiment, the difficulty of an arts practice in the institution, and the many frames of attack.” This interview was originally published on September 30, 2016.

Still from Ana Mendieta's Volcán, 1979. From Bhanu Kapil's blog post on Sep 20, 2016 with caption: "This image comes closest to what I could not speak in Ban."

Ana Mendieta. Volcán, 1979 (still). From Bhanu Kapil’s blog post on September 20, 2016, with caption: “This image comes closest to what I could not speak in Ban.”

contemptorary: How have you, and do you, wrestle with the power of the savior narratives of The Artist?

Bhanu:

To pre-empt the sacrifice with the auto-sacrifice.

To become the meat in advance.

Or to note the feeling that you are meat.

In the corridor.

To say aloud as you exit the building, which is often a university building: “I am the meat.”

To delete the book in its final stages.

Delete, delete, click.

Update: in the corridor, I involuntarily growled.  I growled like a tiger, faintly so.

Update: I just came from Philadelphia, where I gave a reading at Penn Sound, introduced by the poet–scholar Lucas de Lima. Because I cannot pretend anymore that anything is okay, I couldn’t begin. It was a terrible moment. A moment that I couldn’t integrate and that I understood that I would pay the price for on the aeroplane, as a dump of shame: “I am bad,” versus “I did a bad thing” (guilt) a la the Brene [this should be accented but I can’t figure out how to do that in google docs] Brown TED talk my co-teacher for First Year Seminar recently screened. My only solutions were to look only at Lucas, and then, because I have vowed never to leave a stage feeling ashamed. I recollect a performance I gave at my workplace in 2005, after which my White male colleagues and their wives or ex-wives in the front row of the theater—did not clap. They looked away and down as I got off the stage. And I calmly floated out of the large space with about 100 people in it, perhaps more, to the hotel room the university had booked nearby, as it was a festival, and late at night. And I lay down on the bed and I throbbed lightly, excruciated by this other writing of the body, by having sung to them, by having worn a sari so beautiful that had been stitched with real silver and gold in Pakistan then smuggled back to India. Or perhaps at that time I had not formed or honed my hybrid form to be a healing one, one that would return to a White audience their feeling, too, of being animals, because they like that stuff.

Read the full conversation here. 

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Spotlight Series

Spotlight: Contemptorary

This summer, Daily Serving is highlighting some publications that contribute to the global arts conversation. Today from contemptorary, co-founders Eunsong Kim and Gelare Khoshgozaran write, “Legal scholar and artist Mari Matsuda’s interview further extrapolates the power dynamics found in freedom and the arts. In ‘Mari Matsuda: Founding Critical Race Theorist, Activist and Artist,’ we discuss with Matsuda her thoughts on the intersections between law and expression, and the possibilities of contemporary art.” This conversation was originally published on April 30, 2017.

Codex, 2017. courtesy of Mari Matsuda. Photo: Reese Kato.

Codex, 2017. Courtesy of Mari Matsuda. Photo: Reese Kato.

contemptorary: We are so grateful for your existence and presence in the world. We have been avid readers of your critical race and legal scholarship—and we were so excited to learn that you also have an art practice. We were curious what the field or the practice has offered you. So we wanted to ask you about your legal studies and art relationship—there seems to be a small tradition in which legal experts take up (and take apart) representation; we’re thinking, NourbeSe Philip as the most contemptorary example.

Walter Benjamin describes the necessity of “The Author as Producer”—where the writer of the photograph not only provides the captions and the text, but the labor involved in photography in order to unsettle artistic categories and remain in solidarity against the function of management. Is this how you might describe the dynamics between your legal scholarship, your theoretical work, and your art practice: as an undertaking that unsettles labor and author categories?

Mari Matsuda: No one has ever opened an interview with me expressing gratitude for my existence. Blessings to you for your existence as radical women art and idea generators.

Poet lawyers abound—Elizabeth Alexander, Pauli Murray—some of my absolute favorites. Many of us chose law because it is a tool for justice. A problematic tool, but not one to dismiss lightly. Critical race theorists came to understand law as an ideological support system for inequalities of all kinds. Law allocates wealth, power, life itself. As Woody Guthrie said, some kill you with a six gun, some with a fountain pen. Understanding how law worked as an ideological system, what lies it told, how the lies seduced, how they were resisted, was our work.

Entering the art conversation late, I find art questions are basically the same as law questions. Like Walter Benjamin, I don’t see aesthetic value as separate from value in the human struggle for just and beautiful lives. My art making is not so much what you are calling unsettling categories (although it ends up doing that) as it is taking sides.

It is no surprise to me that women who are warriors in law would also make poems, or that the anti-racist historian Nell Painter switched to art. The project doesn’t change. It is about describing a world inhabited by humans, with all its pain and all its possibility.

Read the full conversation here.

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Spotlight Series

Spotlight: Contemptorary

This summer, Daily Serving is shining a light on some arts publications that we admire, and this week we’re focusing our attention on contemptorary, a publication that has been running “on the desire to catapult and transform art conversations about power.” Co-founder Gelare Khoshgozaran writes, “With the ongoing debates surrounding the foundations and violences of ‘Freedom of Speech,’ we hope you read ‘The Freedom to Oppress’ by Eunsong Kim and Maya Mackrandilal. Kim and Mackrandilal address the racialized politics of ‘arts freedom,’ and in order to do so, examine the U.S. Constitution.” This article was originally published on April 19, 2016.

FEMelanin, Performance Stills from Bedtime Stories of White Supremacy, November 15, 2015 at Mana Contemporary, Chicago.

FEMelanin. Bedtime Stories of White Supremacy; performance stills, November 15, 2015, at Mana Contemporary, Chicago.

First, we must name this phenomenon that keeps popping up in our social-media feeds: the idea that the lived experiences and perspectives of historically marginalized people pose an existential threat to the foundational values of liberal democracy, freedom, and culture. Let’s call it “Dominant Culture Persecution Complex.” We see it on the Left when Jonathan Chait, writing in New York Magazine, laments the return of the “language police,” who supposedly enforced an anonymous code of proper, non-racist or non-sexist conduct in the 1980s and ’90s before “going into remission.” Now they’re back, and Chait catalogs what he perceives as restrictions on “free speech” from the academe to Twitter and other social-media platforms.

In this respect, the Right is in agreement with the Left. On his widely read blog The Dish, commentator Andrew Sullivan is equally aghast at the “extreme identity politics” of responses to Chait’s essay. “Freedom of speech” is repeatedly invoked, even though, for all the deeply problematic metaphorizing of “policing,” marginalized groups are not in structural or state positions of power to enforce censorship. The authors assume that the default White-dominant culture’s status quo should enjoy protected status, and the mere expression of other perspectives is an affront to the founding principles of the U.S. Constitution.

Read the full article here.

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Spotlight Series

Spotlight: N-o-nS…e;nSI/c::::a_L

Wrapping up our week with N-o-nS…e;nSI/c::::a_L, today we bring you an excerpt from artist and filmmaker Margaret Haines’ essay “Sex without Threat.” Co-founder Vivian Sming notes, “Haines springs from Theodor W. Adorno’s The Stars Down to Earth, which posits astrology in relation to fascism in 1950s California. Haines revisits the Carroll Righter Astrological Foundation to reflect on current-day Los Angeles and the global events between the EU and Greece, leading up to the U.S. pre-election in 2016. As judgment is suspended and we look to greater forces to plug out, a question remains: Do the stars inform politics, or do politics control the stars?” This essay originally appeared in N-o-nS…e;nSI/c::::a_L’s third issue, (wrong).

Apollo Insurance

Apollo Insurance is in Highland Park, a Los Angeles neighborhood, which in the last five to ten years has gone through the predictable ramifications of neoliberal gentrification—all as blandly expected as the redevelopment.

As related to me by a grad student whose thesis contradicts his implicit participation within the stealth neighborhood high-jacking: “Art students run the streets, zip to MFA programs in energy cars, coffee shops serve something called a ‘flat white,’ and families living in houses across three generations are forced out to ____? to accommodate web-series writers, leftist intellectuals, x-Eurozone artists, and architects with midcentury furniture.”

Apollo Insurance offers low-cost auto and home insurance. When the DP rolls by on his skateboard for a rigged dolly shot, a man inside wakes up, opens one eye wide, and shuts the door. Potentially a money laundering front, it will be at least a half-decade until its actual owners succumb and realize at a porn factory somewhere in the Valley that the building itself presents a worthy profit.

Insurance: a means of protection from loss.

Read the full text here.

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Spotlight Series

Spotlight: N-o-nS…e;nSI/c::::a_L

Continuing our week highlighting the work of N-o-nS…e;nSI/c::::a_L, today we bring you a selection by co-founder Vivian Sming: “In ‘Extraordinary But Not Quite Magic: What Makes the War On Terror So Damn Medieval?,’ artist and writer Dan Bustillo underlines the semiological relationships between Western military intentions and medieval history. Bustillo relentlessly throws themself against the architecture of patriarchy, showing that the middle ages are far from over. Bustillo’s text demonstrates that Western politics, though submerged by the superficiality of enlightenment, is still a rally to the cross, using contemporary notions of medievalisms to continue the historical persecution of bodies and behavior based on identity, sexuality, and difference.” This essay was published in nonsensical’s third issue, (wrong), in 2016.

1. Rewind

Former CIA official Cofer Black jump-started the use of medievalisms in relation to the War on Terror when he swore to Russian officials in the immediate aftermath of 9/11: “We’re going to kill them. We’re going to put their heads on sticks.” Shortly after, Bush’s unscripted speech on September 16, 2001, at Camp 73 Davis about the “crusade—this war on terrorism” was confirmed by Bin Laden within a month:

This is a recurring war. The original crusade brought Richard [the Lionhearted] from Britain, Louis from France, and Barbarus from Germany. Today the crusading countries rushed as soon as Bush raised the cross. They accepted the rule of the cross.

Medieval scholar Bruce Holsinger notes that one of the dangers of post-9/11 medievalism is that it oversimplifies an incredibly nuanced conflict by weighing the antimodern medievalists of the Middle East against the forward-thinking and modern West. And while the Bush administration initially identified itself within this medievalism, language was quickly twisted to outcast and vilify a “technologically sophisticated band of medieval barbarians,” whose backward ways could only be defeated by the neomedievalism of the West. Because, in the words of former UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, unlike “these barbaric, medieval types in ISIL,” whose shrewd use of social media is said to revive 7th-century conquests in the name of Islam, the West claims not to impose Western values but to fight against a historical regression. Like Bush, Obama has been explicit in his struggle to advance Western democratic views as irrefutable universal values. Shortly after the Paris attacks on November 13, 2015, Obama announced:

Once again, we’ve seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians. This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.

Read the full text here.

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Spotlight Series

Spotlight: N-o-nS…e;nSI/c::::a_L

This summer, Daily Serving is shining a light on some of the commendable arts publications that we regularly read, and this week we’re spending some time with N-o-nS…e;nSI/c::::a_L. Today we bring you an excerpt from Los Angeles-born and -based artist EJ Hill’s text, “An Utter Disregard of the Potential for (and the Likelihood of) Complete and Total Ruin,” after Lauryn Hill’s legendary Miseducation album. Co-founder Vivian Sming writes, “The album’s lessons on love create an echo that follows the reader, chasing Hill down a tunnel of lost loves and heartbreaks. Hill’s emotional life is funny, soft-tragic, contemporaneously self-absorbed, and simultaneously heartfelt in its sincerity and relatability. It’s a picture of love and the romantic problems contingent with our hyper-consumeristic and fleeting moment.” “An Utter Disregard” was first published in N-o-nS…e;nSI/c::::a_L’s second issue, (meaning), in 2015.

When It Hurts So Bad

As someone who is constantly falling in love, whether it is reciprocated or not, I can assure you that being in love is just as tortuous as those times when I am not in love. It’s basically like all the same shit, always. And that’s not my heartfelt sentimentality finally giving way to cynicism. No, it’s just the actual reality of things. All things have a little bit of good and a little bit of bad. Some things are more good than bad, and vice versa, but when it comes to love, it is all completely insane, and it is the one thing that will start and end a war all in the same breath.

I just bought the new Alabama Shakes album, Sound and Color, and overdrafted my bank account for it because their last album, Boys & Girls, was kind of another love/love lost anthem for me. And from what little I heard of this new album, I knew it was going to be a good follow-up—the perfect soundtrack to this current moment. Maybe I should just put art on hold and start writing music again.

Did you know that before going to art school, I pursued a music career? I played open mic gigs and coffee shops, stuff like that. Played my acoustic guitar on the streets and subway platforms à la Tracy Chapman circa whenever that was. In any case, I don’t even know who that person is anymore, but it was totally real, and I was so 100% all about it. Maybe love is kind of like that: So real when you’re in it, but looking back, you’re like “LOL, bye.” Like the studio apartment you shared with your boyfriend when you were 22 years old, not quite a child anymore but barely an adult, still referring to him as your “friend” when your mom asks through the phone, “Who’s that?”

Continue reading the essay here.

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