Outside View 3 A Blog

The Kitchen L.A.B.: Regeneration

By Alison Burstein

Nov 6, 2019

Each season at The Kitchen, artists working across disciplines present a wide range of performances, exhibitions, screenings, and events. Since 2012, our annual L.A.B. series has run in parallel with this programming, creating opportunities for practitioners to speak with one another and with audiences while addressing terms that are relevant to our contemporary social, cultural, and artistic landscape; past words include presence, audience, relation, and representation. This year our curatorial team selected the term “regeneration” with the aim of probing its various registers of meaning and engaging with its combined evocations of looking to and moving on from the past.

We launched this year’s L.A.B. season on September 18 with a conversation among Taja Cheek, Catherine Damman, and Constance DeJong. Over the course of a dynamic evening, the presenters reflected on this term as it relates to their practices of making art, creating music, curating, and writing. Cheek, Damman, and DeJong also drew on their sustained relationships with The Kitchen in order to comment on how regeneration might be relevant to the organization’s ongoing activities, particularly as we look toward the upcoming milestone of the institution’s 50th anniversary in 2021.

One of the goals of the L.A.B. series is to spark collective thinking that evolves and takes on new dimensions as more voices join the dialogue in each program. During September’s gathering, several threads ran through the discussion that point toward possible directions for our future inquiries. One such topic was the relationship of regeneration to labor and duration. Both Cheek and Damman called attention to the fact that institutions are organisms made up of a number of individuals, and as such, any efforts to make change or to spark regeneration within these contexts are contingent upon both individual and collective action. DeJong underscored this point while talking about the traits of persistence and focus that historically have led to shifts in social or institutional practice. She and the other speakers contrasted these types of personally grounded, sustained activities with instances of institutional “box-checking”—the cases in which institutions address a certain issue (such as expanding diversity of representation) within an isolated program and then use that example as evidence that they’ve accomplished something significant.

In tandem with the above lines of thought, DeJong voiced an important question about the context of the L.A.B. itself: what can be made of the ideas that are discussed and what potential for action is there following a public program, when the assembled group disperses and returns to daily activities? Or, put differently, to what extent can group exchanges about the term regeneration lead to acts of regeneration? This question is one that remains on our minds, and as an institution we hope to develop further answers to it in practice through our ongoing interactions with artists and audiences in the L.A.B. and across our programming. As one audience member commented, the momentum of coming together for a particular event and then disbanding afterwards might be understood as giving shape to a collective form and then creating space in which something different can emerge. In this vein, we can treat the time in between L.A.B. events as an opportunity for reflection and processing in the interest of returning together with new perspectives and a refined focus.

We will have the opportunity to build on these ideas next week on November 12 in our second L.A.B. of the year, which will feature poet Rachel Eliza Griffiths, artist Sara Magenheimer, and writer and musician Greg Tate with musical collaborator Avram Fefer. This group of artists shares an investment in and a history of experimentation with the generative properties of language. With this commonality as a baseline for the conversation, Griffiths, Magenheimer, Tate, and Fefer will add new layers to our unfolding exploration of the term regeneration.

Image: Sara Magenheimer, NOON, 2018. Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. Photo: Marisa Hutchinson/EPW Studio.

About The Kitchen