Koestenbaum Crop

Next in The Kitchen L.A.B.: Regeneration

By Alison Burstein

Jan 13, 2020

As the new year begins, we continue The Kitchen’s ongoing L.A.B. series with a program tonight, Monday, January 13, featuring artist and musician E. Jane, artist Jamian Juliano-Villani, and poet and cultural critic Wayne Koestenbaum.

Since last September, we have convened three events bringing together artists, writers, and other practitioners to reflect on this year’s term, “regeneration,” in relation to both their own work and contemporary social and cultural developments.

To revisit September’s conversation among musician and curator Taja Cheek, writer and scholar Catherine Damman, and artist and writer Constance DeJong, click here; and to learn about November’s discussion among musicians Chris Eddleton and Avram Fefer, poet and photographer Rachel Eliza Griffiths, and artist Sara Magenheimer, click here. Our last L.A.B. event of 2019 took place in December with artist Andrea Geyer, writer and AIDS historian Sarah Schulman, and artist James Allister Sprang. A number of salient comments emerged over the course of the evening, outlined below.

We hope that you will join us tonight and at future events as we further our collective consideration of regeneration and its potential in and for art today.


On regeneration in relation to time, memory, and history:

Andrea Geyer: “I’ve been interested in how the viewing of art could potentially be a regeneration of sorts. A regeneration of time or of memory. Because looking at art is always a collective experience: even if we are looking at a work by ourselves we can anticipate that it will be viewed again and again by others. I’m interested in art as a site that creates its own memory, that cannot and should not be separated from the present moment, but insistently resides within it…

Regeneration is also like choosing to tune into a different kind of presence that is there. The ghosts—you can’t uninvite the ghosts. They are here. So what does that mean for me in relationship to these histories, because I’m an agent in relating to particular trajectories. In that sense, you have the power to be an agent in that relationship to others. What do you tune into, what do you choose in your family or your kind of lineage? You can tune into that lineage that resonates with you, that reverberates with who you are.”

On the accumulation of events and histories:

AG: “Everything that has happened is here. You know Chantal Akerman did a show right here [at The Kitchen]. So that memory or that event, that voice of that video I saw twenty years ago in this space is still here—every performance I have ever seen in this space is here. I like that you [Sarah Schulman] use this word accumulative a lot—this way in which there are these layers, and in their accumulation they generate a certain kind of heat. And how can I tune into that, this kind of omnipresence of these layers?”

James Allister Sprang: “My response to that is that I think of signification, which is the Henry Louis Gates Jr. way of saying remix. I can’t expect myself to be able to tune into the entire surround. Because we are like the technology that we design; we are like this microphone. When I point it away from myself, it doesn’t pick up. And the way I move through life is based on circumstance—some of which I have control over and some of which I don’t. But when I find myself pointing in a direction, I try my best to be present, to allow those frequencies to pass through me and to be aware of the fact that they pass through others. And every moment is a moment in which I can have agency, and in some way—whether I can put my finger on it or not—in some way I’m returning to something, and constantly trying to be aware of what I am returning to, and how best I can return to it.”

On generations:

Sarah Schulman: After meeting Marianne Faithfull, I thought “that’s the kind of 73-year-old that I want to be. And it was so good to feel at age 60 that I could meet an older woman who inspired me and gave me a path.”

AG: “I was thinking about this term generation. Of course we all know what it means, but I think there’s something important to recognize because I was lucky enough to meet some of my heroes early and be friends with them now: these people are of the generation of my parents but they are also my contemporaries. So this idea that certain people were active back then and they are recognized for that, it kind of takes away the presence of their actions now. So you constantly want to historicize somebody, but if you are 73, you are equally as active and as present as a 30-year-old, with a different set of histories and memories of course. I think it is also important to acknowledge that what crosses the generation is the present in which we all are, and which is actually the only thing we all have—this moment as a kind of shared experience and reality.”

On the “human landscape” and power of coalitions:

SS (on her forthcoming book, LET THE RECORD SHOW: A Political History of ACT UP, NY): “What I’ve done is laid out the wide variety of kinds of people that were involved in AIDS activism… And I think the takeaway is that people pick their political strategies based on where they are in relation to access. And based on where you are positioned, you have to pick completely different strategies… If no one listens to you and no one cares about your life, then you have to use a completely different strategy than if they identify with you. So that is the takeaway, and then you have to line all of that up and you get the big human landscape.

Nothing changes in this country because of individuals. Nothing. Historically, everything that happens happens because of coalitions. So stories that sell you the individual are undermining progress. It’s a false progress.”

On the potential for regeneration within informal institutional spaces:

JAS: “I am in a place in my life where I am searching for community… As I’m looking around me and starting to tap into things, I’m realizing how much community is based around learning together, and I am trying to unlearn a lot of stuff. And so I am trying to think through developing a rubric in which we unlearn together.”

Image: Wayne Koestenbaum, still from Elegy for the Village Voice (2018). Courtesy the artist.

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