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Author Archives: Damien Luxe

  1. Art Making Change: Syllabus and Discussions

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    CLASS DESCRIPTION:

    Art transforms hearts, minds, and social movements. This class explores history around movement art. Art is used for social movements: from posters to protest signs, t-shirts to buttons, book covers to zine art. What are the overarching principles that tie this art together? Examining recurrent themes, production methods, and makers of political art helps us understand the ways images and messages play roles in social movement strategies and resistance cultures.

    In this four-week class we’ll:
    – work with with materials on-site at the Interference Archive to follow your own art-research path on one image, group, or icon,
    – learn about types of art and organizations that make “political art”,
    – engage in discussions about the creation and dissemination of political art and visual culture,
    – and as a class co-create a digital collection of images, increasing movement documentation.

    CLASS MEETINGS: 7-9pm, April 28, May 5, May 12, May 19 at Interference Archive

    LISTSRV: artmakingchange1@googlegroups.com ||  https://groups.google.com/d/forum/artmakingchange1

    SYLLABUS: https://interferencearchive.org/art-making-change-syllabus/

    Week 1 [discussed in class]: POLITICAL ART / WHAT IS AN ARCHIVE / WHAT IS THIS COMMUNITY ARCHIVE?

    After-class discussion question: Why does it or doesn’t it matter what kind of space politicized art is in? Does being archived change the nature of the things in the archive? Does the kind of archive actually matter?

    *****************
    Read for Week 2: WHAT FRAMEWORKS DICTATE ARCHIVAL COLLECTING? WHO’s MAKING THIS AND WHY? WHY IS THIS WORK HERE?

    • Cook, Terry. “Archives as Media of Communication”
      http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/innis-mcluhan/030003-4040-e.html

      “Archivists need, Taylor concluded, to “work to ensure that those who draw sustenance and insight from archives feed on a balanced diet of media and are aware of the effects.” Media of recording and communication are not “passive wrappings, but active processes,” which rendered the context of records as important as their content.”

    After-class discussion question: Art-making communities and Infrastructures of Resonance + your first stab at selecting something to work on in this class.

    *****************
    Read for Week 3: SELECTING, FOCUSING, COLLECTING DATA: Metadata, Copyleft, Producing knowledge & WRITING ABOUT POLITICAL ART, TALKING ABOUT MOVEMENTS

    • “Contributions to a Visual Culture Glossary” and whatever else interests you in: 31 Readings on Art, Activism & Participation [in the month of January]: An Art & Activism Reader: http://www.wearethethinktank.org/2007/02/reader-volume-i/  [I like Participatory Art by Suzana Milevska for the concepts, though it’s a bit off-topic]

    After-class discussion question: What are you writing on? Share a draft.

    *****************
    For Week 4:

    • Work on a draft of your research / write-up item. Focus on both writing about what you know about the thing[s] for a description as well as gathering metadata about them.

    After-class discussion question: After documenting the piece you did, has your perception changed about art? About archives?

    *****************
    EXAMPLES OF COMMUNITY ARCHIVES

    *current*
    “All of Us or None of Us Archive.” Oakland Museum, gift of Michael Rossman.
    http://collections.museumca.org/?q=category/2011-schema/history/political-posters&page=10

    Radical Archives of Philadelphia:
    www.phillyradicalarchives.org

    Lesbian Herstory Archives:
    www.lesbianherstoryarchives.org

    Riot Girl Collection:
    www.nyu.edu/library/bobst/research/fales/riotgrrrltest.html

    Puerto Rican Diaspora Archives:
    centropr.hunter.cuny.edu/archives

    Queer Zine Archive Project
    http://www.qzap.org/

    Women’s Zine Library @ Barnard, NYC

    Political Zine Library @ ABC No Rio, NYC

    Carol Queen archive & library @ Center for Sex & Culture, SF

    *historical*
    Black Community Archive, London [1994]
    Working Class Movement Library, London [1976]

    GENERAL READINGS — feel free to add your own in the comments!

    ACTIVIST ARTS

    Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the age of Enterprise Culture
    Sholette, Gregory, 2011.
    http://www.darkmatterarchives.net/

    POLITICAL ORGANIZING

    A Guidebook of Alternative Nows, ed. Amber Hickey
    http://www.alternativenows.net/

    ARCHIVES
    Community Archives Development Group (CADG) (2006) The impact of community archives.
    http://www.communityarchives.org.uk/category_id__63_path__0p4p.aspx

    Archvies Next
    http://www.archivesnext.com/

    “Whose memories, whose archives? Independent community archives, autonomy and the mainstream” Andrew Flinn, Mary Stevens, Elizabeth Shepherd
    Abstract: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10502-009-9105-2#page-1

    Cook, Terry. “Archives as Media of Communication”
    http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/innis-mcluhan/030003-4040-e.html

    “Towards a Radical Archive: De Balie’s Eric Kluitenberg.”
    Institute of Network Cultures Weblog. Currie, Morgan. Posted September 9, 2010.
    http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/Weblog/2010/09/09/towards-a-radical-archive-de-balies-eric-kluitenberg/

    “The Activism Files” By Maya Lau, N.Y. Times July, 2013
    https://interferencearchive.org/ny-times-july-19-2013/

    OPEN SOURCE

    Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity
    Lessig, Lawrence. (2005)
    New York: Penguin (http://www.free-culture.cc/)

    Open Access
    Cambridge MA: MIT Press
    Suber, Peter. (2012) (http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/open-access)

    ALT-AC or NONINSTITUTIONAL LEARNING

    Invisible Culture.
    http://ivc.lib.rochester.edu/

    ARTS

    “How Many Artists Are There?”
    Princeton University’s Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies
    http://www.princeton.edu/~artspol/quickfacts/artists/artistemploy.html

    ARCHIVING
    “Archival Theory and Digital Historiography: Selection, Search, and Metadata as Archival
    Processes for Assessing Historical Contextualization”
    Joshua Sternfeld. American Archivist, Wednesday, November 23, 2011
    http://archivists.metapress.com/content/644851p6gmg432h0/

    Gilliland, Anne. “Neutrality, Social Justice and the Obligations of Archival Educators and
    Education in the Twenty-first Century,” Archival Science 11 nos. 3-4 (2011): 193-209.

    COPYRIGHT/COPYLEFT & PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE

    Anderson, Jane. (Colonial) Archives and (Copyright) Law
    Nomorepotlucks no.4. 2010.
    http://nomorepotlucks.org/article/copie-no4/colonial-archives-and-copyright-law

    Creative Commons
    http://us.creativecommons.org/

    Digital Library Of The Commons Repository
    (http://dlc.dlib.indiana.edu/dlc/)

    What is CopyLeft
    (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/)

    Question Copyright
    (http://questioncopyright.org/)

  2. Spring 2014 Classes

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    “It is the role of the revolutionary artist to make revolution irresistable.”
    – Toni Cade Bambara

    We’re excited to introduce classes for the public at the Interference Archive, continuing our work of increasing critical engagement with political and social movement arts.

    REGISTER Art Making Change Class 4/28-5/19 https://artmakingchangeclass.eventbrite.com

    *************************************************************************************************************************************

    Monday April 28 — Monday May 19 7-9pm: Art Making Change class

    Art transforms hearts, minds, and social movements. This class explores history around movement art. Art is used for social movements: from posters to protest signs, t-shirts to buttons, book covers to zine art. What are the overarching principles that tie this art together? Examining recurrent themes, production methods, and makers of political art helps us understand the ways images and messages play roles in social movement strategies and resistance cultures.

    In this four-week class you’ll:
    — work with with materials on-site at the Interference Archive to follow your own art-research path on one image, group, or icon,
    — learn about types of art and organizations that make “political art”,
    — engage in discussions about the creation and dissemination of political art and visual culture,
    — and as a class co-create a digital collection of images, increasing movement documentation.

    Looking over the development of one image tells intersecting stories about liberation, direct action, and autonomous organizing for revolutionary change. Class facilitator Hadassah Damien has spent two years researching visual connections across political arts, and shares strategies as well as theory from her work, which covers the history of raised fist images. Using the focus point of raised fist images allows her to look across a century+ of political art production, while allowing the meaning of this image to shift over time. What will you learn in your research?

    Class is Limited to 15 participants.

    COST: $20-100 for the course. In the interest of financial accessibility, solidarity and mutual aid, we ask that you pick your ticket type based on your income and access to resources. Here is a guide to help you decide:

    $1500/month or less: $20 — 3 spots available
    $1500-2500/month: $40 — 3 spots available
    $2500-3500/month: $60 — 3 spots available
    $3500-4500/month: $80 — 3 spots available
    $4500+ /month : $100 — 3 spots available

    Half your ticket cost goes to support the Interference Archive, and half goes to support the teacher. If cost is an issue please email info@raisedfist.femmetech.org to enquire about other options.

    REGISTER Art Making Change Class 4/28-5/19 https://artmakingchangeclass.eventbrite.com

    **************************************************

    About the teacher

    Hadassah Damien is a political artist, technologist, and community organizer from Brooklyn, NY. She is Resident Scholar at the Interference Archive, co-producer of the queer art troupe Heels on Wheels, and a fearless rabble rouser across the US and Canada. She holds a MA from the CUNY Graduate Center. See more at: femmetech.org

    *****************************PAST WORKSHOPS & CLASSES

    *****************************

    Wednesday March 19, 7-9pm: The Fist Is Still Raised Workshop & Slideshow

    The Fist is Still Raised is a slideshow and talk about the history of the use of the raised fist in protest images from 1906-2013. Looking over the development of this one image tells intersecting stories about liberation, direct action, and autonomous organizing for revolutionary change.

    The 1.5 hour slideshow uses the repeated raised-fist image to examine:
    – relationships between movements
    – historical anti-racist and civil rights work
    – copyleft and resisting image ownership as a form of artistic prefigurative politics
    – art as part of direct action and as an inspiration to act
    – movements covering claims and ideologies including radical labor organizing,
    autonomous/anarchism, indigenous peoples/First Nations rights, LGBTQ rights, squatting, anti-globalization,
    – what it looks like and means for images to be “co-opted”…and if it matters.

    RSVP for the Raised Fist Workshop 3/19 https://raisedfistworkshop.eventbrite.com

    Digital Catalog: www.raisedfist.femmetech.org
    Raised Fist Writing: www.femmetech.com
    Follow on FB: facebook.com/femmetech #raisedfists

  3. Spring 2014 Conferences

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    Interference Archive folks will be at two conferences in the coming weeks:

    April 4, 2014: Queer Internet Studies [registration is now closed]

    Hadassah Damien will be speaking about the organization of Interference Archive and our collections on the Artists and activists – Projects in progress panel at this conference focused on “challenges and opportunities for the intersection of queer lives and technology.”

    April 11-12, 2014: Radical Archives Conference [registration is still open, and free]

    At this “two-day conference organized around the notion of archiving as a radical practice,” Interference Archive will be represented on two panels:

    • Disrupting Standards, Remaking Interfaces, April 11 @ 11am [Hadassah Damien/Openflows]
    • Archives From Below, April 12 @ 3pm [Molly Fair, Bonnie Gordon, Jen Hoyer, Blithe Riley, Anika Paris, Ryan Lee Wong]
  4. Haiti Solidarity Trip Report Back

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    Thursday February 6, 2014

    7-9pm

    $Free.

    FB event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1440328502866431

    Accessibility notes: Side door has no steps but might be icy.
    131 #4 8th St, at 3rd Ave, Brooklyn NY

    This January a collection of six U.S. librarians, archivists, technologists and community organizers
    went on a trip to Port-au-Prince, Haiti for solidarity meetings with organizations.

    The U.S. delegation met with:
    – KOFAVIV, a grassroots women-led organization which works to provide services which confront and correct instances of gender-based and sexual violenc
    kofaviv.blogspot.com/‎ |  www.culturesofresistance.org/groups-we-support-kofaviv‎

    – SAKALA, a peace-focused community center in Cite Soleli with that neighborhood’s first library, and Port-au-Prince’s largest community garden
    paxchristiusa.org/programs/sakala/

    – KOURAJ, the first and only LGBTQ organization in Haiti
    kouraj.org/‎  |   http://youtu.be/25xAvOsW6cE

    – FOKAL, a “Knowledge and Freedom Foundation” with one of the largest libraries in Haiti, a bookmobile, and a theatre.
    www.fokal.org/en/‎

    – UHELP, an organization that gives need+merit-based full college scholarships and leadership development support to young people
    uhelp.net/‎

    …and more

    On Thursday, February 6 from 7:30-8:30, we will host a report-back at the Interference Archive
    to share information we received from these Haitian organizers, show photos, and share their requests,
    with a focus on the work and needs of libraries and archives in community-based organizations.

    Photos: http://flic.kr/g/o3y3n

    More photos: bit.ly/1nE48BH

  5. Examining the Archive: a class lecture on activist posters

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    What makes art activist? What makes it political? Does who is using it matter?

    The Interference Archive is uniquely situated as both a living collection of activist cultures and ideas, and a site of popular education and engagement with these ideas. One way we integrate these facets is by offering lectures/tours/workshops to groups and classes. I recently taught an interactive workshop on activist printmaking and political art at the Interference Archive, where I currently volunteer on the cataloging team and work on my political art research as the Resident Scholar.

    For the workshop, in order to reflect the content of the class who was visiting, I wanted to highlight feminist printmakers who create paper-based works that support both global and local liberation projects. I also wanted to select works that have an activist lens which encompassed the struggles and experiences of women of color and allies.

    Class tour, Nov 7, 2013

    Class tour, Nov 7, 2013

    Using these criteria within the collections at the Interference Archive, we still have a lot of options to choose from. I pulled out the files for three printmakers’ work:

    Melanie Cervantes [dignidadrebelde.com/‎],
    Mary Mack Tremonte [www.marymacktremonte.org/‎],
    and Favianna Rodriguez [favianna.com/‎].

    After I spoke about the Archive’s genesis, and gave some history of the popularization of screen printing in the US*, we began to examine pieces in the IA. While flipping through the files and handing some of the pieces around — this object-interaction one of the unusual and wonderful things about the IA — we talked about the questions above and then some:

    What makes a print political? Why would we call this poster “activist”? What are the determining factors to call this “art” and what kind of art? Are all prints in some way activist because of the history?

    Melanie Cervantes, Brown and Proud, 2012. dignidadrebelde.com/‎

    Melanie Cervantes, Brown and Proud, 2012. www.dignidadrebelde.com

    Trying to define “political art” or “activist art” is a challenge many people have thought about. Is it helpful to first define politics, activism, or art? The political is then any element that relates to the governing, autonomy, liberty, freedom and choices of a group of people. Activism can be thought of as actions made from a cultural, identity, or moral imperative with a desired effect. As for art…

    In Strategic Visibility, artist and art critic Nato Thompson states, “it is the total lack of classically defined utility that tends to be the signpost for most things arty.” For those of us interested in art that has a specific function, effect, or utility — inspiring activism or disseminating political content, in this instance — he suggests that a radical critical approach is to ask “not ‘is it art?’ ” but “what does it do? … what effects are we interested in [it] producing?”**

    Instead of “art,” artist and Georgetown professor Nicholas Mirzoeff uses the term “visual culture” for the hyper-visuality of everyday life; for the things we look at every day which are produced in and from a visual discourse, or conversation, with the things around them. Further on in that essay, Mirzoeff positions “visuality within a discursive field of power where visual sign systems are deployed to achieve certain ends,” and argues that, “visuality is a strategy. It is not neutral. ”

    Political art can thus be understood one way as the non-neutral strategy of using visual culture within social and protest movements to achieve certain ends. This makes it teleological, or goal-oriented, in its messaging. This is the “activist” part — some effect, or utility, is hoped-for in producing it. So, looking back to posters: why would we call them activist? If they are part of a conversation which includes a call to action. For political posters, this call to action is non-market based, and can come from a cultural or moral imperative rather than a call-to-action that comes from a shopping imperative.

    But the message would be a bit hollow if the production was not also looked at as potentially activist or political, right? The message of a political poster, for example Melanie Cervantes’s Brown and Proud, pictured, is political because it relates to the autonomy of a group of people. This example is out of Dignidad Rebelde, the graphic arts collaboration between Oakland-based artist-activists Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes, who “believe that art can be an empowering reflection of community struggles, dreams and visions,” and who “create work that translates people’s stories into art that can be put back into the hands of the communities who inspire it.”*** The making is political because it comes from a 100-year-old printmaking tradition where individuals or groups create a work that urges liberation, made in a non-exploitative way, via collective process  while poaching the tools of industrial mechanics like screenprinting, graphic design, and photocopying.

    Because political/activist art is both by and about utility as well as politics, and communities as well as activists, it’s inherently tied in to the people making it and the intended audiences for it. The individuals and groups who make this kind of cultural production are primarily movement actors [e.g. activists] within the communities meant to experience and co-create the work, artists, cultural activists, tool-having professionals, also often from within the communities of interest. These groups are far from mutually exclusive and often involve a lot of cross-over.

    Political art is criticized for being too didactic, that is too blatant, loud, or uncrafty about it’s intentions. But, if we see it as visual culture, as part of a conversation, then we can allow it to intentionally make a point: for example, to be Brown and Proud is a good thing. It’s also criticized for lacking effect in lieu of more “direct” activist tactics. While we can also not assume that the creation of any revolutionary cultural item is enough to incite revolution, it’s also unfair to assume that the production of something that of revolutionary cultural voice is a failure. Most political art does not have a set space for responses, as in the gallery settings which fine art does, or in the market reports which commercial art generates.

    To review, I think the factors that define political art are effect/utility in the message, awareness of politics in the production,  and community engagement or voice. What do you think? What else is there to consider? Who else is talking about this work in ways you want to engage with?

    ***********
    The Interference Archive is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday from 12-5pm, and
    by appointment for individuals and classes to get customized tours. Event listings and more are at: www.interferencearchive.org, or email interferencearchive [at] gmail.com to book your class visit.

    Hadassah Damien is the Resident Scholar at the Interference Archive. Her work examines political icons in activist art, and she’s researching in the Archive to build out a digital humanities project that includes an online catalog of Raised Fist images. See more here: www.raisedfist.femmetech.org

    ***********

    Footnotes

    *Check out Paper Politics, Post-Digital Print [PDF], or this interview with historian Lincoln Cushing for some of that history.

    **Nato Thompson, Strategic Visibility; A Project by Four Artist/Researchers, in
    Art Journal, V 63 N1 Spring 2004 pp 38 – 40 http://www.jstor.org/stable/4134473. p39.

    ***About Us, http://dignidadrebelde.com/section/view/about_us