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An Institution of Domination is Anti-Love

By Legacy Russell

Dec 21, 2021

Dear friends,

Writer, feminist, activist, and author bell hooks in her essay “Love as the Practice of Freedom” (2006) reminds us, “A culture of domination is anti-love.”

I write to you today from The Kitchen in consideration of this “culture of domination”, and the ways it keeps manifesting itself. The work, then, together, is to consider the ways in which domination and institution intersect in art and life, compounding one another. It’s a complex dilemma: building structures of refusal that constantly require deconstruction and decolonizing in order to remain equitable. Our volatile and dynamic work, then—as an experimental arts institution built for and by artists, generously shaped by their collective creative imagination—is to think through how to build without domination, how to make and celebrate an inclusive culture that, in the words of interdisciplinary Kitchen artist E. Jane in their 2016 “NOPE (a manifesto)”: “loves us.”1

The work of being an institution that strives to find ways to escape its own confines to make and hold space is vulnerable, complicated, risky, gorgeous work. Here at The Kitchen we’re working to redefine the avant-garde, recognizing that it is an imperfect history that in many ways replicates the troubles of other art historical canons. To explore, discover, break apart, and reconstruct what this history needs to be for the future requires us to look backward as we move forward, celebrating those who have brought us here and helped pave the way.

Semiotext(e) founder and critic Sylvère Lotringer echoes in these meditations: “One of the conditions of freeing people, is that they are not free to start with…People internalize power then they shape their own life in such a way that they’re going to fit the system in which they are…[to fit the confines of] the institution.”2 The work of being an institution that strives to find ways to escape its own confines to make and hold space is vulnerable, complicated, risky, gorgeous work. Here at The Kitchen we’re working to redefine the avant-garde, recognizing that it is an imperfect history that in many ways replicates the troubles of other art historical canons. To explore, discover, break apart, and reconstruct what this history needs to be for the future requires us to look backward as we move forward, celebrating those who have brought us here and helped pave the way.

Conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner provides us with more instruction for what this necessary work can look like, reflecting in 2010 “The thing is, I don’t want to fuck up anyone’s life on their way to work. I want to fuck up their whole life[.]”3 and then, “[C]reate an art that is a substantial object that has its own life but at the same time its content is accessible to any person who looks at it. You don’t have to have a previous knowledge.”4 This is an explosive proposition to our understanding of art history, the notion Weiner proposes, refusing domination by allowing access to art to be all at once possible, immediate, seismic.

Sound artist and musician Yoshi Wada’s early instructions of “Blow cardboard tube,” or “Lie down for five minutes.”5 ; Dee Pop’s “[H]ave pillow fights.”6 ; and Alvin Lucier’s reflection, “I listen to a lot of pop music.”7 remind us to play as we perform, that an artist's personae must be entitled to impulse, improvisation, and joy.

Writer, musician, critic, and producer Greg Tate in 1991 wrote for the Village Voice: “...the meaning of being Black is summed up in who comes to bury you, who gathers together in your name after you’ve gone, what they have to say about how you loved, and how you were loved in return.”8 Here at The Kitchen we gather to say the names of those who touched our community, who changed the game by changing the rules, giving us new instructions and an urgent score to follow and carry forward.

Constance Demby (1939–2021), Milford Graves (1941–2021), bell hooks (1952–2021), Sylvère Lotringer (1938–2021), Alvin Lucier (1931–2021), Tony Martin (1937–2021), Robbie McCauley (1942–2021), Sandra Payne (1951–2021), Dee Pop (of Bush Tetras) (1956-2021), Robert Rutman (1931–2021), Greg Tate (1957-2021), Yoshi Wada (1943–2021), and Lawrence Weiner (1942–2021)—we will keep remembering you and loving you, for holding the light, for leading the way.

Carrying these visionary and radical spirits into 2022 and beyond.

Warm Wishes,

Legacy Russell, Executive Director & Chief Curator




Citations:

1: E. Jane, “NOPE (A Manifesto)” (@cod6tt6, December 4, 2016). https://twitter.com/cod6tt6/status/805543149154271237

2: Sylvère Lotringer. “Neo-liberalism and discipline,” 2011. Excerpt of seminar at the European Graduate School EGS Media and Communication Studies department program Saas-Fee Switzerland Europe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPuHLb8CxZU

3: Lawrence Weiner, “Looking Up: Lawrence Weiner at Marian Goodman,” interview by Adam O’Reilly, Interview Magazine, December 10, 2010. https://www.interviewmagazine.com/art/lawrence-weiner-marian-goodman

4: Lawrence Weiner, “Lawrence Weiner Told Us About F**king Up Your Life With Art,” interview by Nathaniel Ainley, VICE, June, 11, 2017. https://www.vice.com/en/article/wjqgkz/lawrence-weiner-fcking-up-your-life-with-art

5: Yoshi Wada by Tashi Wada, BOMB Magazine, May 13, 2016. https://bombmagazine.org/articles/yoshi-wada/

6: Dee Pop, “Bush Tetras at 40: An Interview with Drummer Dee Pop,” interview by Audrey J. Golden, Louder Than War, April 20, 2020. https://louderthanwar.com/bush-tetras-at-40-an-interview-with-drummer-dee-pop/

7: Alvin Lucier, “Alvin Lucier Sits in a Room—and Speaks with Fellow Experimental Musician John Olson”, interview by John Olson, ArtNews, May 31, 2017. https://www.artnews.com/art-news/artists/alvin-lucier-sits-in-a-room-and-speaks-with-fellow-experimental-musician-john-olson-8428/

8: Greg Tate, “Black Like Who? Love and the Enemy,” Village Voice, September 17, 1991. https://www.villagevoice.com/2020/06/19/black-like-who-love-and-the-enemy/

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