TO DO: MAXIMAL CREATIVE FEASTING :: The Good Good Kind of Indulgence
An invitation and also love letter to creative agents everywhere (and, bonus NY recent Gallery Round Up)
031322 | LOG
OOH I’m just really excited to write these thoughts down so that they can go out into the world like little seeds! That’s really why I love (and encourage others to find a way to develop a relationship with) documentation - because it’s a place for us as human beings / agents within a larger biome to use technologies (and by this I mean writing / pens / paper / the printing press, not only what we’ve got now) to expand the reach and possibility of our exploration / discovery / craft / tools with people both living when we are and in many possible futures.
[Wanna dive deeper on that? You can download my essay And I in the middle-ground found: Documentation as Self-hack, Sigil and Blueprint, which was excerpted for Matters of Feminist Practice, (Belladonna*, 2020) here.]1
Today I want to talk a bit about how this works in our relationship to getting excited about going to see “art,” but before I do it makes sense to ground this in the larger practices it represents for “me.” I put me in quotes here, because the reason I name things and turn them into documents and concrete tools is not primarily for my own use. I realized years ago that to name and solidify a thing into something actionable and repeatable made it available to me in a way it wasn’t, and that this is one of the biggest gifts we give each other. So, when I make a tool out of a practice that has been transformative or useful I always share it publicly.2
So, as an example of this, back in January I made a set of slides for IG about the Library as a Speculative Solidarity, with a Disruptor Mechanism tip about engaging with its offerings as a sort of “system preparation” for a flow state of the body and our system beyond the capitalocene. (I’ll do another one of these on the power and value and role of this now-iconic / recognizable space of the “tile,” meme, and so on as a transmitter of information and tools, but suffice it to say I think it’s an important part of the public process of any culture-bearer at this time to be thinking about how to make our messages / work translate into these spaces and the ways in which the public is conditioned / comfortable receiving information…)
You’ll find a graphic laying out these tiles below, but here’s a visual / text description of them as well. You will find suggested “prompts” for disrupting your somatic / sensory relationships with experience via the library, here. [All the tiles are black label stacks with white text, overlaid on recent photos of spines and faces of library books I have out, and/or library shelves / displays I visited recently.]
1: Speculative Solidarity: Disruptor Mechanism Tip: Library Engagement as System Preparation, Flow State
2: The library as opposed to the bookstore encourages flow, to be free to experiment expansively and be drawn in by curiosity without punishment, cost, or limit: find an area that pleases you, pick things off the shelf. There is no risk here. Breathe into things you like for any reason: the color, the font.
3: What if the only truly valuable things are those available to everyone? What if that’s the goal? I’ve been on a journey of seeking to buy almost nothing other than food, actively giving and seeking in local networks and leaning heavily into the pleasure of libraries again. Plus Libby / the digital offerings. I promise, it’s freeing.
4: Here we are reminded of the scale and vastness of human creation, thought, and inquiry. It would be impossible to read or even page through everything in even a section of a single library in a lifetime. Let this help us remember how constrained our lens can become. Especially if limited by what we can afford to risk purchasing.
5: We are taught to support through consumption but this is short sighted. We can never buy enough books to support creativity in everyone – which is why fake value tries to tell us that there’s a scarce and limited amount of “best” or “canonical” work. Decolonizing mind also means scaling up to the abundance of value, like in an ecosystem.
6: What would it look like to get all of our materials by and through shared ecosystems, committed to adding resources to their infrastructures, amplifying access while directly supporting the creation of more work by more people? These are the granular questions of resource distribution. These are Disruptor Mechanisms for Speculative Solidarity.
7: We are so conditioned to see what we “have” as what we own rather than what we share. What would it look like to begin to practice speculative modes of post-capital resource distribution? It needs to happen on a large scale but we can make micro-adjustments to how it would feel.
So, yesterday, my dear friend Sara Nics accompanied me on a bit of a gallery crawl I had planned, as I was committed to seeing Suchitra Mattai (wonderful OS collaborator) whose solo show at Hollis Taggart, Herself as Another was closing, as well as The New Bend, curated brilliantly by Legacy Russell at Hauser & Wirth. I also wanted to get to the new group show, Zoonotic Hex, at artist-run Field Projects… and hoped my companion would want to do the organic wander through the adjoining spaces on those blocks in West Chelsea, where the density of offerings is a perfect way to welcome the burgeoning Spring. (She did, yay!)
And as we wondered and wandered, I was relating some of what I said in those tiles: that in the last few years I’ve been feeling really excited about what’s going on in ‘art’ but what I really mean is, ‘with artists,’ with that word understood as The Questioners, The Troublers, The Outside-of-Official-Role-Researchers, in and across every imaginable discipline. Spaces and people and infrastructures that help us access and see these are a critical and complicated intermediary, but despite what the mythology around systems and their power loves to tell us, there have always been maker-thinker-public pipelines, as the history of erasure, control and silencing has always been met with staunch refusal and folks finding workarounds.
Something that’s exciting about this moment is that our technology and our activism and our collective awareness is waking up to a point of not only refusal but capacity to scale access to the other narratives – about both our current time and the past. And institutions built on the old models and old stories are scrambling to stay relevant and make these stories into ones they can peddle alongside the power structures they rely on, but ultimately they’re inviting their own demise, which is why museums and galleries (and schools, and, and) are such a bizarre, fascinating, and fractured space to be in right now.
Like I wrote in those tiles back in January, the library is a space that reminds us of the vastness of human making / thought and the documentation of our species attempts to know ourselves and the world. When we remember that there, as in galleries and museums, we’re only getting a fraction of what was actually made and thought and experienced, we start to get to the staggering scale. We couldn’t have possibly seen, in an afternoon, the amount of offerings contained in even a few blocks of Chelsea. Not even close.
I hope this makes you excited. I hope this leaves you a little breathless, but in the best way. I called this missive Maximal Creative Feasting because I want to remind you of how very very much there is, that you can see and read and access for free, and that this is a dream, and some small (well, actually, some massive) proof of the possibilities of our species. It’s important to feel excited about what we not only can do, but do do. (Let your inner toddler say that again, have a laugh, let’s do it together: ha! YOU SAID DOO DOO.)
You know, just this week I was meeting with a librarian at Pratt who will be meeting with my students, and I told her about how when I took my senior art majors to use the zine collection as inspiration for the documentation project we’re working on together, almost all of them didn’t know about the collection, and many had never used the library. They were deeply engaged in exploring these stacks, curated *for them.* And yet, the conduit for them to feel comfortable with and drawn to those materials hadn’t been built. That’s a question of infrastructure: how do we use and even see and become familiar and comfortable with the resources we already *have*?
Galleries are free! Museums can be costly, but galleries are free! Ignore the few still remaining unfriendly attendants, they’re just scared they have no value because of the same systems that make you maybe feel those spaces aren’t for you, and are grasping at straws. Pray for them, you know? You’re doing great. Galleries are for you. Art is for you. This is your official invitation, it never expires. Check out some examples of what’s getting me excited below.
I love you, really.
In solidarity and possibility,
Ok beloveds, here’s a round up of what we saw, and loved, and felt nurtured by:
1 - Suchitra Mattai, Herself as Another at Hollis Taggart - Closed yesterday! But follow this brilliant human on IG @suchitramattaiart and watch for her work coming to an art space near you!
2 - The New Bend at Hauser + Wirth (22nd St gallery), curated by Legacy Russell - through 4/2 – this show features 12 contemporary artists working in the raced, classed, and gendered traditions of quilting and textile practice, in dialogue w / homage to the works of the Gee’s Bend quilters. Also at H+W 22nd st: Takesada Matsutani, Combine, organized with Olivier Renaud-Clément. Member of the radical Japanese avant-garde art collective Gutai - large scale works! That drop!, and Keith Tyson Drawings and Paintings.
3 - Karl Haendel, Praise New York at Mitchell-Innes & Nash : WOW though, this was a surprise of the best kind. These massive pencil drawings of the hands of New York faith leaders are artist and New Yorker Karl Haendel’s love letter to the city and they should leave you feeling reverent in the very best way.
4 - Right next door, Michelle Stuart’s The Imprints of Time, 1969-2021 at Galerie Lelong is a gorgeously considered survey of her land-art work, with some beautiful early examples of the archival, eco-aware type attentions that are becoming so common now. Many will not be familiar with Stuart, and her work with the materiality and texture of place are sensuous and profound.
5 - Over at Field Projects, we got to chat with Jacob a bit and check out Zoonotic Hex, a fantastic group show that explains itself as “an antidote to speed the collapse of humanity or perhaps a prophetic warning, a deterrent from that fate.” I’m excited to be able to offer a window into it through Unearthed Online, the virtual paired exhibition FP put together. Theres so much to love in this deceivingly “small” show, but I particularly loved Erinn Kathryn’s constructed pieces, Annalise Neil’s gorgeous cyanotype-based works, Susan Rostow’s seemingly alive mixed-media sculptures, and Alicia Smith’s gorgeous video work. We were also mesmerized by Berlin-based Keturah Cummings’ videos of the artist licking sap from birch trees, and now that I’ve realized it’s on vimeo and that there’s, uh, sound, I guess I can just say, you’re welcome, especially to my fellow eco-queers.
6 - Lastly, at the International Print Center - Unfinished, a show of New Prints up through 3/26, juried by Queer.Archive.Work, an important and wonderful project up in Providence helmed by Paul Soulellis! Who writes, about Unfinished, that with this theme, “we push up against capitalism’s relentless drive towards market-based success by making way for other kinds of stories,” including “works-in-progress, abandoned work, failed work, and work that is simply unfinished” for all the reasons that impact artists living and working today. It’s impossible to say everything there is to love in this show but it’s A LOT.
MY HEART and eyes and mind and full (and my body is a bit spent after trekking around chelsea in a sudden SQUALL of horizontal winds!) but I will be back soon for more.
In keeping with my Open Access commitment, this and most of my work is available for link and/or download on my website. There’s a lot there, please feast, it’s another place with really low risk. Enjoy! Let me know what’s tasty.
[If you’ve been following my work for a while you’re familiar with these toolsets, and the names I use, and if not, welcome, feel free to ask questions!]