For our first feature, we are hoping to create conversations around notions of “freedom”–how are notions of constitutional freedom translated into US contemporary art practices and discourses? Freedom is too often a word tellingly linked to US cultural production. The “freedom” many practitioners are referring to is unfortunately, The Freedom To Oppress, the Freedom to Conquer, the Freedom to Purchase and Destroy and Expand into what does not, nor should belong to us. Rather than this notion of “Freedom”–which we hope will be fundamentally critiqued and outstripped of its current allure–we have been thinking about the ways other writers, thinkers and artists have pushed this definition.
We’ve been thinking specifically about how Toni Morrison has stated that “The function of freedom is to free someone else.” In thinking about this definition, how have feminist scholars and practitioners ruptured institutionalized notions of “freedom” by creating portals and by reimagining the foundations of expression? So for this first issue we reached out to artists and writers grappling with and critiquing expression:
“Politics as Currency and the Souvenirs of War” takes up this question and looks at the materiality and militarization of expression. In conversation with Rijin Sahakian, we discuss the material and structural protocols of contemporary expression in relation to her statement on the closing of Sada for Iraqi Art.
“Freedom to Oppress” takes up Morrison’s quote and wonders what an art practice situated in this notion of freedom might look like. The article discusses what the linkages in US notions of freedom are to US contemporary art criticisms. Maya Mackrandilal and Eunsong Kim question whether current understandings of freedom should be an impetus in the arts. Can it be something else???
Continuing this strain of thought, we interviewed performance and interdisciplinary artist E. Jane. E. Jane began and archived #cindygate, has been performing a series titled #MoodExercises and their alter-ego MHYSA released the album: HIVEMIND. YES.
“What if We Got Free” introduces “Unstoppable,” a collaborative project by micha cárdenas, #BLACKLIVESMATTER co-founder, Patrisse Cullors, Edxie Betts and Chris Head to build bulletproof clothing for trans women of color. cárdenas reflects on the recent exhibition of Unstoppable at INCA (Seattle) and the future direction of her ongoing research and project.
In “Vision in Ruins” Rose Salseda offers a close study of Michelle Dizon’s video installation “Civil Society” (2008). Salseda discusses how visual evidence is taken up by Dizon, and offers analysis on how representation of racialized violence is utilized by the State, and how this usage purposefully delinks the possibility of a civil society.
We love every one of these pieces! Send us your vibrant thoughts: @contemptorary_
—Eunsong Kim and Gelare Khoshgozaran