Dear Friends, Colleagues and Family,
I find writing a newsletter to be a strange exercise under normal circumstances, and it feels doubly bizarre these days. I worry that if I comment on recent events that it will seem as if I’m trying to be profound, and if I don’t that I am contributing to the cultural amnesia that is the US’s hallmark. The third option seems to be vague, anodyne-sounding hopes that people are “doing as well as possible during all this”, which feels like trivialization of ongoing crises.
I’ve been fortunate during the last 15 months. I’ve had personal and professional upheavals and anxiety, but my closest circle has been relatively lightly touched by tragedy from COVID-19. I don’t take this for granted, and I know this is not the case for many of you.
As a white person living in Minneapolis, it’s also difficult to find adequate words to address the epidemic of police violence here. In our metro area, there has been at least one extrajudicial killing of a Black man by law enforcement each year since I moved back here from Germany in 2014, each time triggering protests, community meetings and re-evaluations of police procedure. The brutality of George Floyd’s murder last year by Officer Derek Chauvin (warning: graphic imagery) has created a tipping point where the abolition of police—something that never would have seemed feasible in my youth, or even 5 years ago—is now part of mainstream discussion. I try to contribute to moving that discussion forward where and how I can, but perpetually come up short. Here’s one local organization that’s doing the hard work.
So I am left trying to engage with the world as best I can from my position, which is always changing in relationship to context. Often the best way still seems to be through art—to create room for the constant ambiguity and uncertainty that is, for me, endemic to being human. Part of my good luck has been to have the time during this last year to bring a few projects to completion, and I’m writing to share those with you.
First is an illustrated essay in booklet form. Entitled “Three Seasons”, it is a subjective look at porches and how they might help or hinder neighborhood relations. This work has its origins in my return to Minneapolis, when the unfriendly façades of the enclosed porches of the vernacular architecture seemed to be reflecting the social challenges of reintegrating into a fairly closed culture. Many thanks to Andy Sturdevant of Birchwood Palace Industries for helping bring this little guy into physical form.
Second is another print-based project, Issue 2 of The GRIND from The Feminist Strip Club. The FSC, a collaborative project begun during my residency in 2019 at the Weisman Art Museum, is a group of current and former erotic dancers who examine the present conditions of and utopian visions for stripping.
Like so many others, our activities and plans were turned upside down by the pandemic. Uncertain access to unemployment insurance, health concerns, job insecurity from strip clubs closing and re-opening and closing again were existential crises for members. But by the second half of 2020, members wanted to pick back up and share what they’d been through. Now, a year after it was originally planned, Issue 2 is available for purchase. Naturally the pandemic influenced the content of this issue, including expanding previously drafted articles about traveling for work and writing completely new ones about switching to online sources of income. But we also found some time and space for more visionary content like self-care tips for dancers and imagining future transfeminist technologies. And though we couldn’t have the big photoshoot we’d planned, we still found some ways to include dancer photos, art and images.
I’ve also been working on a series of drawings that diagram various relationships between artist, participant, artwork and audience as I experienced them in the project Das Fundbuero. I’m hoping to complete it as a printed multiple (apparently this is my new medium) by the end of 2021.
I do sincerely hope each of you are well, and I’d love to hear from you, too. I still hold out hope that we can learn new, better ways of being from our experiences in the pandemic, so if you’re looking for someone to share your resistance against “going back to normal”, I’m here for that.