TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT Summer 2016

ARTISTS AND IDENTITY

IMAN ISSA

Parable #5

WHEN AN ELDERLY religious leader—who would later become a key figure in his country’s independence movement—heard that the general of the foreign army, which had just entered his city, was going to give a speech addressing the local inhabitants, he immediately headed to the designated square. The elder stood at the front of the crowd, attentive to the general’s friendly words recited in the city’s local dialect. He appeared to be recording everything he heard in his notebook. His companions watched as his eyes widened and his face contorted while he listened carefully to the general’s words. They were certain the elder’s response would come as a rebuttal pinpointing the dishonesties spoken by the general, unveiling his words as the lies they were. To everyone’s surprise, the elder’s response, which was signed by him and distributed all over town the next day, was an exact replica of the general’s speech. The only differences were dark ink markings identifying, with no added corrections, the misused words, faulty conjugations, mispronunciations, and grammatical mistakes that filled the general’s speech.

Iman Issa is an artist based in . . .

OSCAR MURILLO

IT IS THE PERIL of the current moment, dubbed the postmodern period—the encouragement of the exploration of the self: I the gay artist, I the black artist, I the Latino artist, I the oppressed female artist, and I the ever-triumphant white male artist.

I do not identify or work under those terms, which amount to the commodification of race and social practice in art. A performative engagement with these ideas does not foster deeper cultural exchanges.

It is the unshakable narcissism of the Western center, with its insatiable phallic drive to consume and co-opt difference, that makes it impossible to realize a fair cultural exchange.

When I was a child of ten years, my father and mother were discussing the idea of an adventure to the UK, and I remember looking at the Mappa Mundi and wondering about the significance of travel.

Oscar Murillo lives and works in London and La Paila, Colombia.

Page from Oscar Murillo’s artist’s book Them, 2015–, ink and oil pastel on paper, 11 3/4 × 8 1/4".

ANTOINE CATALA

NOT SO LONG AGO, the mediated self was solely the concern of public figures—pop stars, athletes, politicians. But Web 2.0 has given us, the common folk, the tools to produce images of ourselves and present them to the world. This representation of the self can take a variety of forms, from a shared selfie video taken on a roller-coaster ride to a music playlist posted to a social site. We are asked to adopt a strategy or an attitude, however elaborate or banal.

Like getting dressed, maintaining our online presence is a rather solitary activity. But unlike our choice of clothes, that identity is a strangely alien presence. We relate to it as we would a Tamagotchi, feeding it intimate data whenever we’re left alone.

Antoine Catala is an artist based in New York.

Antoine Catala, Le Petit Antoine, 2014, LCD monitor, powder-coated aluminum frame, video (color, silent, 20-second loop), 54 1/2 × 32 3/4 × 4".

CARRIE YAMAOKA

IN MY STUDIO OF NONPICTURES, I shoot myself reflected on the surface of a painting. The ground is like a skin, laying out the site in which I stand, the deep space of the room. Some people do not like seeing themselves. Viewers will take up a position outside the frame, uneasy. Or it can be just the opposite. Strange—as what one sees is never a true facsimile (an impossibility), but an inflected, chewed-up approximation of what you might call a self. Never still for long, continually in motion, where the light falls, never the same way, I am caught in the process of becoming, and in the midst of disintegrating.

Carrie Yamaoka is an artist living in New York.

Carrie Yamaoka, In the Studio, 2016, ink-jet print, 14 × 11".

SENGA NENGUDI

Senga Nengudi, Blue Haze, 2013, nylons, sand, found objects, 18 × 16 × 2 1/2".

AJAY KURIAN

LATELY, I’VE BEEN WONDERING why people often deride art that deals with identity. I’ve concluded that what they may be thinking of isn’t actually art concerned with the politics of identity, but that which addresses the calcified cliché of “identity politics.” The latter is something that might be more akin to identity consensus, where artworks reproduce the signifiers of an already interpellated identity. What was radical settles into convention; the minority position becomes enfranchised by a master narrative. Art, however, should always disrupt master narratives. Reformulating the human, or redrafting its genre, as novelist and cultural theorist Sylvia Wynter would say, is a critically urgent task, one that is more important than ever—not so we can leap into some distant speculative future, but so we can transform the present with a different kind of humanity. In my own work, I have forged a kind of racialized vernacular where images and proper nouns are fractured. In The Less I Know the Better, 2016, a child-size figure with mottled skin stands looking at an image on his phone. His head is a tangle of wire and mesh, his skin a collage of animal-print duct tape and swabs of thick brown putty. He is caught between performing for himself and performing for an other who sees his body marked by something that looks primitive. My sculpture doesn’t subscribe to the myth of a pure phenomenology; instead, it induces a diffracted one, which does not imply a unified subject but a multiplicity of contradicting positions—a prismatic experience. Together, these positions produce an ensemble of tensions, variously legible, variously felt.

Ajay Kurian is an artist based in New York.

Ajay Kurian, The Less I Know the Better, 2016, foam, aluminum, expanding foam, epoxy, wire, model figurine, iPod touch, duct tape, sneakers, custom T-shirt, shorts, rope, 49 × 22 × 16".

Martine Syms, Subtle Maneuver VI, 2016, vinyl letters on corrugated plastic, 28 × 22".

Aki Sasamoto, Under/Over, 2015, two toilet-paper holders, two toilet-paper rolls, dimensions variable. Photo: Samuel Kahn.

PARK McARTHUR

WHEN IDENTITY IS PRESENTED as a category or a set of categories, I try to remember it is also a pocket. It is expandable, like the bottomless velvet bags used at magic shows. Folded over and doubled onto itself, this pocket of identity can also be used when performing a trick in public. From the perspective of an audience, the pocket looks like a pocket—it has an interior and an exterior. But from the perspective of the pocket itself, the pocket is everything: interior and exterior but also ulterior. Cinched together as it also falls slack, it is open to being turned out.

Park McArthur is an artist based in New York.

MARTINE SYMS

A. K. Burns, A Smeary Spot, 2015, four-channel video installation (channels 1–3: HD video, color, 53 minutes 13 seconds; channel 4: digital video, black-and-white, silent, 4 minutes), dimensions variable. Marcelo Gutierrez.

AKI SASAMOTO

Rule 1: Play the race card no more than two times in my life.

Rule 2: Flatten myself to a category, if the situation is life-threatening.

Rule 3: Avoid making manifestos around past isms.

Rule 4: Accept contradictions but don’t philosophize them.

Rule 5: Respond immediately, on the spot, when somebody insults my friends or me.

Rule 6: Laugh, and look for shy gigglers, and wink at them.

Aki Sasamoto is an artist based in New York.

Christine Sun Kim, My Voice Is a Gender Bender, 2015, charcoal on paper, 11 3/4 × 15 3/4".

A. K. BURNS

IN A HYPERACCESSIBLE WORLD, cultural margins can shift rapidly. Historically crucial social and safe spaces such as cruising spots and dyke bars have been reconfigured or dissolved entirely. A generation has emerged for which identity appears to be fluid and multiplex: Gender cyborgs now assert the singular they, bringing it into everyday use—resulting in the pronoun becoming the American Dialect Society’s 2015 word of the year. As the rate of change accelerates, is postidentity what we are building one they at a time?

Post-, defined as “after,” is a semantic device that champions newness at the expense of the word that it qualifies. This device, which structurally cannibalizes the word to which it is affixed, not only generates new rhetoric on which to capitalize but, with regard to “postidentity,” proposes that the burden of identity is resolved only when differences cease to exist. While declaring something as past may provide space for visionary alternatives to begin to take shape, what is the value of jettisoning identity when it is still visibly present? Those who latch on to the new at the expense of the old are often acting from a position of privilege—one that allows them to remain blind to stark inequities, the persistence of which is made all too clear by the recent anti-LGBT law in North Carolina, the fascist demands to erect a migrant obstacle course on the US-Mexico border, and the long-standing institutional abuses that brought about the Black Lives Matter protest movement.

Society includes what it can identify with. In the case of trans citizens, having their experiences articulated through the spectacle of popular culture offers visibility by demarcating their personhood. Yet while visibility may be a step toward shifting perceptions, it’s far from resolving the persistent issue of violence against difference. With the mass marketing of these branded bodies comes a new set of presumptions that I encounter regularly: that as gender nonconforming, I identify like I look (trans-male), or that I use the all-accommodating pronoun they. While the introduction of this third category challenges the fixity of the s/he binary every time they is uttered, it simultaneously introduces another frame to fit into. I’m personally not interested in being accommodated or accommodating. What feels politically critical for me is to situate myself next to she, but without an interest in participating in the performance of her. I may not look or even feel like her, but I am in conversation with her past and future.

Through self-segregation or separatism, identity-based movements use their prescribed “difference” as a uniting force, building coalitions based on shared experiences to cultivate the language and agency necessary to produce social change. While these are old tactics, they are still in use because identity is a superstructure that we can’t dismantle simply by declaring its “post”-ness. Certainly much changes: We have a black president and black principal ballerina as well as trans visibility in sitcoms and reality shows. But new is what capitalism feeds on, and such surges of assimilation are about as permanent as the run of a TV series. This kind of change starts to look a lot more like spinning in circles than moving forward. After we acknowledge that the Ouroboros of newness has nothing more to offer us, we might make space for unassimilated difference, a safe space for the strangers that we all are.

In somatic therapy, the patient can’t change or remove their trauma. They can only slowly reshape trauma-based patterns until those patterns evolve into a healthier set of behaviors. This process is slow, and it hinges on a plural, rather than a reformed or “cured,” understanding of oneself. If systemic change is not a revolution but a slow dance with the perpetrator, I wonder what other language we could create to acknowledge social change as a continuum—an ongoing process—as opposed to terminal cycles of inscription.

A. K. Burns is an artist based in Brooklyn, NY.

Hank Willis Thomas, I Am a Man, 2009, acrylic on twenty canvases. Installation view, Baltimore Museum of Art.

CHRISTINE SUN KIM

I SPEAK in American Sign Language, and so I frequently work with interpreters when I give talks or attend social events. In the US, about 85 percent of certified interpreters are women, which is the only reason I rarely work with men. When I do, it’s usually because they are familiar with art terms or are otherwise specifically qualified to represent my voice. Sometimes the male voice comes out before my personality, and other times I’m told that a man sounds exactly like me. But I like to think my presence is strong enough for people to perceive the interpreter’s voice as me rather than as male or female.

Christine Sun Kim is an artist based in Berlin.

Mary Kelly, 7 Days, 8–14 March, 1972, 2014, compressed lint, 41 × 34 × 2".

HANK WILLIS THOMAS

I THINK a lot of people get hung up on surface readings of terms like postrace, postgender, post- etc. I don’t think these terms are announcing the end of “race,” “gender,” or “humanity,” as much as proclaiming that it is the end for “race” (e.g.) as we know it. The old classifications no longer uniformly apply to an entire group of people. This creates space to see our identities as multifaceted. As society changes, it is necessary to acknowledge and name those shifts. The new term is often as problematic as the old, but it still offers an opportunity to reconsider outdated models of seeing and categorizing. My work is increasingly inspired by intersectional theory, a concept developed by Kimberlé Crenshaw, which connects converging factors in history, locality, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity when discussing identity and gender.

Hank Willis Thomas is an artist based in New York.

Will Rawls, Personal Effects, 2015. Performance view, Westbeth Gallery basement, New York, November 17, 2015. From Performa 15. Photo: Paula Court.

MARY KELLY

SINCE 2014, I have been making a series of works in compressed lint based on the covers of 7 Days, a short-lived, left-leaning weekly newspaper from the early 1970s. For me, this slice of the past captures the collective aspirations and missed possibilities of a generation formed by the events of May ’68, a social revolution that set the legal precedents and inspired the personal transformations associated with the present-day notion of identity politics. Succeeding generations seem to have an intuitive knowledge of the consequences of these events, a lived relation to the past that is practical rather than historical. In the 7 Days project, I am trying to map this generational transference as well as the meaning of an era defined by the legacy of ’68. The process of reproducing archival images in the lint medium is concerned with affect as much as fact. Individual units are cast in the filter screen of a domestic dryer, over several months and hundreds of washing cycles, then assembled as a single work.

Referencing Picture Post, a periodical published in the UK from 1938 to 1957, and similar in design to Life magazine in the US, 7 Days used jobbing news photographers and reporters who were also activists to create alternative coverage to the established narrative of current events. But unlike any of its predecessors, 7 Days was founded by an alliance of women who were engaged in feminist politics, as well as men involved in the self-styled revolutionary politics of the time. As a consequence, the newspaper aimed to establish parity in the production process and give full support to the Women’s Liberation Movement. Launched in October 1971, 7 Days ran for less than a year, until May 1972. During that time, I contributed articles and illustrations to several issues. One of my most memorable experiences was working on issue 19, March 8–14, 1972. The cover photo by Rex Features was taken at the international abortion march in Paris in November 1971. In the foreground, two women strut arm in arm. One makes a provocative gesture, exposing the photographer’s complicit voyeurism. Now there would be no turning back, no holds barred. Other photos in this issue document Simone de Beauvoir’s participation in the demonstration and illustrate an extensive interview with her, in which she delivers the famous lines, “Today, I’ve changed. I’ve really become a feminist,” referring to her shift in position since writing The Second Sex (1949). Rather than assuming that women would be liberated after the socialist revolution, in 7 Days, she suggests that an independent struggle for emancipation would be necessary. For many of us, this was a life-changing event—the formative moment of a political identity, understood as a movement that was “separate, but not autonomous,” that acknowledged our commitment to the broader struggle for social change, and at the same time insisted on making sexuality pass into that grand narrative unscathed.

Mary Kelly is an artist based in Los Angeles.

Sondra Perry, White Sheets (#1–8), 2014, eight ink-jet prints, each 18 × 12".

WILL RAWLS

ABOUT SEVEN YEARS AGO, a choreographer announced to me: “Identity politics is dead.” At that moment, I began wondering: If identity politics really died, then when and for whom?

The idea that artmaking, especially live performance, could be exempt from questions of identity and subjectivity seems misguided at best, amnesiac at worst. These tangled terms always shape the ways in which an embodied life becomes racialized or otherwise determined, from within and without. I get busy with this; parsing the terms is like undoing a hex or solving a Rubik’s Cube. My resistance to proclaiming an identity is born from the contortion required to utter something that might stand in for my work or for me without naming either. And yet I often make art from this uncomfortable place, issuing something that takes the form of address, action, ambiguity, and feint. My expression of these contortions in my performance work is playful at times, and sometimes it reveals what feels like an internal sibling rivalry. I have been experimenting with ways to maintain an alchemical imbalance of language, dance, objects, and sound; material that needs the right kind of space—and the right kind of doubt—to operate at its fullest capacity for transformation.

As I reimagine with each new project how to take up space, and what it means to be a visible presence in a field or discipline, performance continues to be a practice through which I can exercise my right to refuse static definition. I’m always in favor of something that is not, but rather something that moves; situations where one thing can become another. Some call this agency, urgency, dance, willfulness, magic—for now, for me, it is still choreography.

Will Rawls is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. His performance The Planet-Eaters: Seconds will be featured in the River to River Festival in New York, June 20–22.

Kalup Linzy and Dan Colen, Sweet Liberty, 2014, C-print, 20 × 30".

bell hooks

MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS AGO, identity politics was the rage because so many exploited and oppressed people were growing in political consciousness and awareness. The hope of identity politics was that it would create a foundation for all of us to respect diversity. Unfortunately, identity politics gradually became more of a tool of separation and competitive one-upmanship. Positively, the struggle for voice, which was centered around identity politics, did foreground diverse perspectives even as it often obscured places of commonality and shared struggle. Within a culture of domination, all our political struggles risk commodification in ways that diffuse their radical intent. This was, and is, certainly the case with identity politics.

bell hooks is a feminist theorist, cultural critic, artist, and the founder of the bell hooks Institute.

CATHY PARK HONG

BACK IN 2009, Nicolas Bourriaud explained in the manifesto accompanying his “Altermodern” exhibition at Tate Britain in London that “multiculturalism and identity is [sic] being overtaken by creolisation.” Setting it apart from multiculturalism, which is based on the fusion of different categories of race and gender, Bourriaud defines creolization as a process of cultural nomadism, where one can wander, identity unfixed, among a globalized “archipelago” of signs and codes.

While I agree with much of what Bourriaud says, I bring him up because I’m tired of white male thinkers who keep dismissing identity as if it’s some denim cut that’s no longer in fashion. Try telling an Egyptian waiter in Amsterdam that he’s no longer burdened by his ethnicity and religion, that he is now free to wander as a cultural flaneur. He’d tell you to fuck off. Today, given the world’s turbulent waves of racial unrest, Bourriaud’s comment couldn’t be more out of sync. I’m also unsure how creolization can “overtake” identity when creolization has always been a part of identity; translation, global connections, and shape-shifting have been essential to who I am.

As long as artists know it’s not only what they make but who they are that will gain them access to art markets and institutions, identity will always be an issue. If that sounds reductive, hard statistics support my claim. As for me, I’m currently writing poetic essays that address structural inequities in literature and the arts while chronicling this moment when syncretic alliances of queer, feminist, and minority makers—especially those who use video and new media to question white neoliberal enterprises—are pushing back. Jen Liu, Sondra Perry, and Shawné Michaelain Holloway are part of that vanguard; they examine racial identity and labor through layers of digital, historical, and speculative realities. Technology doesn’t eclipse identity but rather fuels collective radical identities. Or, as Perry once said: “Identity coding is a group sport.”

Cathy Park Hong is a poet and essayist. Her latest collection of poetry is Engine Empire (W. W. Norton & Company, 2012).

Bouchra Khalili, The Constellations, Fig. 7, 2011, silk-screen ink on paper, 24 3/8 × 16 1/2". From “The Constellations Series,” 2011.

KALUP LINZY AND DAN COLEN

Rashaad Newsome, BAAAAAAAM!, 2016, collage in custom frame, leather, automotive paint, 50 × 58".

BOUCHRA KHALILI

THE EIGHT SILK-SCREEN PRINTS that make up “The Constellations Series,” 2011, propose alternative maps of the Mediterranean as configured by individuals forced to travel illegally for political and economic reasons. The series explores, as does my video installation The Mapping Journey Project, 2008–11, the representation of subjective geography as a way to challenge borders and restrictive concepts of the nation-state.

A constellation is, in essence, a point of reference in spaces where landmarks do not exist. For centuries, sailors looked at the sky to position themselves at sea. But a constellation is also the visual translation of a narrative, an articulation of nomadic movement within and between different sites, a heterotopia that contests normative geographies. In this silk-screen print, sky and sea merge and conventional boundaries are erased. The tracing of paths of individual lives emerges as a different mode of orientation, one that suggests that Oscar Wilde had it right: “A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at.”

Bouchra Khalili is an artist living and working in Berlin and Oslo.

RASHAAD NEWSOME