On Sunday afternoon I went to an online summit “War By Other Names” hosted by 16 Beaver Group. It focused on first-hand accounts from artists and activists living in the Ukraine and Russia, and elsewhere in the world but especially with connections throughout the former Soviet Union. In the calm of daily life, while cooking our weekly meals with laptop open, I joined in listening to these brave people who are confronting the urgency of the moment, as well as those grappling with the implication of their citizenship in nations perpetrating the conflict. And of course despite the differences – there were echoes of being a US Citizen during the last 20 years of war, that was constant and so powerfully destructive, and somehow still distant and abstract from that calm.
Sunday was also the birthday of my dear friend Dara Greenwald, who passed away a decade ago from cancer. Dara was one of my anti-war protest buddies, always prioritizing a demonstration for Jewish people in solidarity with Palestine or against US invasion in Iraq and Afghanistan (and later elsewhere). I learned a lot about international solidarity from Dara, and I miss her insistence on that way of being which feels so necessary as I navigate the consequences and responsibilities of the privileged calm. That calm that I desperately need after a long week, and that is always implicated in the uncalm.
These reflections are also the gift of this calm, the time to reflect and to re-group with friends. If you are interested amidst it all, I’ve got a few updates to share below. I wanted to share these updates with my community, because it is for you and with you that I make these gestures and projects and you like Dara, 16 Beaver Group, and those mentioned below who I have learned so much from.
For the last year and a half Anthony Romero and Dan S. Wang and I have been meeting to process the events of the day, and slowly developing a project that would become the book released this month “Lastgaspism: Art and Survival in the Age of Pandemic” on Soberscove Books. Details on this project, designed by Dorothy Lin, are here along with bios for the contributors: Kimberly Bain, Sandra de la Loza, Cheryl Derricotte, Design Studio for Social Intervention (Kenneth Bailey and Lori Lobenstine), Erin Genia, Pato Hebert, Damon Locks, Kelli Morgan, and Karthik Pandian.
While our collaboration was very intertwined with discussing and writing together, we also developed some of our own pieces. For me that included conducting an interview with the inspiring Kelli Morgan about her trajectory in the museum and curatorial field and writing an essay “Care In Crisis” on the development of the discourse around care before and after the pandemic with a focus on 4 artists who I greatly admire: Alicia Grullon, Simone Leigh, Anne Basting and Amber Art & Design.
At the end of the month this book will be turned into a new exhibit at Drexel University’s Pearlstein Gallery that will include book contributors along with Timeslips, Alicia Grullon and the Drexel Writers Room. Details are here. Hoping you can join us for an opening in Philadelphia on March 31st and then for a day long program on May 7th.
Besides the book I’ve had the opportunity to do some other recent writing projects.
Looking forward, there are two forthcoming essays :
- “1 to 1: Media and Public Mourning through Temporary Tactical Memorials” written for The Routledge Companion to Art and Activism in the Twenty-First Century Edited by Lesley E. Shipley and Mey-Yen Moriuchi. In this essay I focus on American Friends Service Committee’s Eyes Wide Open exhibit of soldiers’ boots representing veterans killed in the Iraq War from 2004 and more recent memorials to Covid-19.
- “How We Move” to be published in the FWD Museums journal issue on the theme of “In Transit” edited by Therese Quinn and Ximena Mora y Olivan. This essay focuses on a number of artist projects including The Aqua Line (Los Angeles), Compass (Chicago), and Pinata Sound System (St. Louis) alongside recent developments in transportation ranging from automated vehicles and the sharing economy to the Muslim travel ban and migrant detention.
And finally, while events have been largely slowed down, a few things have happened recently and a few are upcoming:
- Last December’s panel discussion at the Visible Evidence conference focused on interviewing practices. In this presentation I tried the impossible task of reflecting on about 15 years of interviewing projects in a short talk called “Field Scanning”, focused on ones that dealt with trying to interview groups of people about their shared history.
- In my role at Moore College of Art & Design there has been a resumption of in-person events with our recent Conversations@Moore lecture by Saya Woolfalk, Kalia Brooks, & Deborah Thomas which you can see online here. Looking forward to April 11, we will be hosting Tony Cokes and Nora Alter in dialogue and hope folks in Philadelphia will join us.
- Later that month I’ll be hosting the The Fifteenth International Conference on the Inclusive Museum (details are here).
And following nearly eight years of work, last month I received a promotion to Associate Professor and have taken on a new appointment administering with both the Socially-Engaged Art graduate program and the BFA in Fine Art program. It has been a wild ride but looking forward to seeing where it leads!
Please take care of yourselves and if you are inclined, tell me how you are.
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