ASL LECTURE: Kimberly Drew – January 9, 2020


Good evening, everyone. Welcome to the Portland
Art Museum. My name is Julia Dolan, I’m the Minor White Curator of Photography. And I’m
Sara Krajewski, the Eichholz curator of Modern and Contemporary Art and together we are the
co-curators of the exhibition, All Things Being — Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being
Equal… We’re absolutely thrilled that you’re all here for tonight’s Arnold and Augusta
Newman Distinguished Lecture in Photography. With Kimberly Drew and before we introduce
Kimberly, we would like to say an incredible thank you to all of you, and in particular,
our staff here at the Portland Art Museum for making this very, very important exhibition
such a success. This is its final weekend before it leaves us to go on to Bentonville,
Arkansas, and then Cincinnati, Ohio. And so Please spend time with it tonight after the
lecture come back this weekend before we send it on its way but thank you to all of you.
We would love to have a blockbuster end to the show. So definitely come back. Bring friends
if you can, and help us end this off with with a bang. So thank you all so much. It’s
been so gratifying to have so many of you come many, many times to see the show. So
thank you. To begin, we would like to state that the Portland Art Museum recognizes and
honors the indigenous peoples of this region on whose ancestral lands this museum now stands.
These include the Willamette Tumwater, Clackamas. Kathlamet Malala, Multnomah and Watswala Chinook
peoples and the Tualatin California who today are part of the Confederated Tribes of the
Grand Ronde and many other native communities Who made their homes along the Columbia River.
We also want to recognize that Portland today is a community of many diverse native peoples
who continue to live and work here. We respectfully acknowledge and honor all indigenous communities
past present future and are grateful for their ongoing and vibrant presence. And also tonight,
we have an accessibility announcement. There are t coil headset and earbud compatible assistive
listening devices available near the stage. Please let staff know if you’d like to utilize
one there on either side of the stage. Tonight we are using an automated captioning program
to provide real time captioning. These captions can be viewed on stage or by opening the URL
Pam to slash captions on your mobile web browser that’s pam.to/captions. And do please let
us know if you have questions about that as well. We want to thank and acknowledge our
deaf interpreter, Tie burcham and our American sign language interpreters, L’Oreal Aviles
and Ashley Paul. For those new to experiencing events that use Deaf interpreters, we want
to give a quick explanation. Deaf interpreters are deaf themselves, and typically use American
Sign Language as their primary language. Because of their language, fluency and cultural experience,
they are able to provide better interpretation. Ty will be onstage interpreting to the audience,
L’Oreal and Ashley will be in the front row interpreting the presentation into American
Sign Language for Ty to base their interpretation on. Now for all of these processes to work
effectively, particularly during the question and answer period, we ask that one person
speak at a time and that the microphone be used every time. So please do wait during
the question session section for the microphone to come to you before you begin. And lastly,
if you have any access needs that aren’t being met, please let staff know or come meet our
head of accessibility. Becky Emmert, who will be by the front of the stage Becky’s raising
her hand right now. We are incredibly grateful to the Arnold and Augusta Newman foundation
for making this series of annual photography focused lectures possible at the Portland
Art Museum since 2013, the foundation established in 2007 and named in honor of American photographer
Arnold Newman and his wife of gusta has supported important talks here that are free and open
to all featuring artists and scholars including Carrie Mae Weems, john Lee fuzzle shake Emmett
gowen, Richard moss and diode Bay we would like to extend a sincere thank you to David
Newman, Arnold Anna gusta son and David’s wife, Deirdre Steinberg, who live here with
us in Portland but could not join us this evening. And now please join us in welcoming
la the museum’s community partnerships coordinator, who will introduce Kimberly Drew. Since January
of 2019. Ella has worked with us on the Hank Willis Thomas all things being equal exhibition,
focusing on in depth collaborations with community groups, including 96.7 the numbers don’t shoot
PDFs King school Museum of Contemporary Art, the Oregon justice Resource Center, Portland
and color, and we Black at widening Kennedy. So thank you for all for being here. That’s
enough from Julia and I and we will hand it over to Ella Hi, everyone, thank you for being
here. My name is LA and like they said, I’m the community partnerships coordinator. I
just want to extend gratitude for sharing your Thursday evening with us and closing
this exhibition in this way. Excuse me with this lecture by Kimberly Drew. Kimberly Drew
is an author, a curator and activists and a founder of the iconic Tumblr account Black
contemporary art. Previously Drew was the Social Media Manager at the Met. Her work
in and about social media has carried over into collaborations with brands like Prada,
and Instagram. Drew recently released her book what I know about art through penguin
teen and her forthcoming book, Black futures, co authored by Jenna wertham will be released
in 2020. After her lecture, like they said, there will be a brief q&a period so have your
questions ready and please use the microphone Please help me and give a warm welcome to
Kimberly Drew. Hello, everyone. Thank you all for being here. That’s my limited ASL.
It is such a privilege to be here in Portland and I’m almost emotional being invited in
this way to give a talk in this way. In my, you know, aside from all the stuff I’ll talk
about, in the last few years, I’ve been really passionate about how to do the work that I
do better, and how to do the work that I do in a more accessible way. And I just want
to extend extreme gratitude to everyone here at this museum that has made every one of
my requests possible. And I’m sure that these are things that you guys do regularly. But
I’m just very thankful for that. Because it doesn’t always happen. Now, I’m teary eyed.
But it’s hard out here. You know, you’re like, I just want stuff. And people are like, oh,
stuff is hard. It’s like, but more people can come and they’re like, oh, and very specifically,
I just want to shout out to Lisa, Julia, Stephanie, Ella and Becky. Because y’all made it happen.
We had to change the date, blah, blah, blah. We love flexibility in 2020. So a thing that
I’ve started doing recently, because the idea of a lecture scares me. I’m an art historian,
I studied and did you know all the like checks and balances of, of what it means to be a
curator. But in many ways, I find myself trying to challenge the ways in which those titles
can be elitist. And so instead of a lecture tonight is more of a meditation. that’s already
been Trying out. Because I really think that I left my ruminations on this topic of photography
and what it means with more questions and answers. And at the end of my presentation,
you’ll see me spiral as I tried to clammer together a thesis. And so I call it a meditation
because I think lectures, maybe have destination points, and I don’t really have one. So I’m
going to talk for about 40 minutes about my career about some images that I really love.
And at the end, I’m happy to answer any questions, clarify anything for anyone. So I’m going
to start my lecture meditation. As I start all lectures and meditations with this quote
by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who is one of the first scholars of African American History.
He says if a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition. It becomes a negligible
factor in the thought of the world. And it stands in danger of being exterminated. I
found this quote, when I was an intern at the student Museum in Harlem in 2010. I returned
to this quote, often because I liked how extra the language is. I like that he utilizes the
word exterminated, because I think that that’s the urgency that we should all bring to the
work that we’re doing, when it comes to thinking about representation and work of equity. Every
step that we take as a step against oratio and extermination, and it should be that extreme.
Oh, and then I also want to start with a disclaimer in this Distinguished Lecture, which is just
like I I often interchange images and photographs. I do that somewhat intentionally and not without
forethought. About how the history of photography, especially with in the last half century has
been a really difficult one. People recognizing photographs as artwork is not something that
like really is as common as it should be. And so I say images and photographs interchangeably
thoughtfully and I encourage anyone in the audience who’s curious about those, the difference
between the two to research and investigate, but I kind of mix them in together in a way
that I think might make some art historians angry. And so I want to half apologize for
that. My talk my rules. So I want to start of course with Hanks work. This work basketball
and chain is one of my favorite of Hanks works. I think it really speaks to the power of his
photographic process as an artist. You see so many images excuse me, you see so many
sub images within this image that communicate themes of Blackness maleness, perhaps consumer
culture, the history of slavery, the impact of white supremacy, all layered onto one.
I also wanted to start tonight’s meditation with a quote from this incredible resource
that I found on the website. Shout out to the educators who put this sources and Reference
Guide together. It’s very good. And there’s tons of quotes and links. For anyone who’s
visited the exhibition or plans to visit the exhibition again, it’s a really incredible
Wayfinding device for the very complicated themes that you’ll see in the show. And oftentimes,
people just don’t click on those links. So I encourage you to take the time to do that
after this talk. In the catalog for the exhibition, Hank is in conversation with Dr. Kellie Jones.
And in the conversation, Hank says, in photography programs, they teach you ways of seeing, because
photography is all about perspectives and timing. It’s not just about making a good
image, but actually thinking about how the image will function in the world, the connections
that viewers might have to it, how you might get closer to our subjects and further explore.
Depending on where you stand. It affects what you see, and everyone is negotiating different
perspectives. And I thought that that was such a brilliant way to kind of start the
ways in which we might tonight have a dialogue about images and photography, because it really
is about how you’re seeing how you’re interacting what each of us as individuals takes away
from the images that we’re encountering. When I was thinking about coming here, and especially
the last few weeks, like I think we can all agree, anyone who’s using social media, it’s
been a very difficult two weeks, you open up Instagram and Oftentimes, you’re immediately
confronted with pictures of so many of the evils in the world just kind of coming right
at you. And I wanted to, in my original thought about this talk, be really pessimistic and
talk about how images are bad and hurtful and how images have hurt me recently. But
instead of doing that, I tried to challenge myself, especially in considering this, this
quote from Hank, to talk more about images that have inspired me, images that have really
taken me on a journey, through my career and through my life, and perhaps to extend a note
of gratitude to some of those images. And so, I want to start with an image that probably
is like the most important image in my career trajectory in life and all these things. It’s
this one. So random, right? You guys weren’t expecting that. Um, so I discovered this image.
While I was a wee baby at the Studio Museum in Harlem, for the sake of Sonic professional,
I want to say that I found it on a break. I may not have found it while break breaking.
But I found this image while I was an undergraduate, I’d probably taken one art history course
before I found myself as an intern at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Shout out to the
Studio Museum and other museums, so give people a shot, even though they don’t have Sterling
GPAs and track records of studying art history. And while I was interning there, I found this
image in the top right corner, I recognize that guy the white guy was like, Oh, that’s
Andy Warhol. You know, one of the, you know, 15 artists at the time that I knew, but I
didn’t know who he was punching. I was like, oh, who could this person be? You know, using
my critical thinking skills, started to research john Michel Basquiat for the first time and
I was pissed. I was immediately angry, because I thought to myself one, this is 1985. As
you see in the bottom, it’s kind of small. But you see the year that this I think it’s
a show poster for the surprise the gallery was circulated. I was like, wow, this Black
artists who has made these incredible paintings, who has, you know, reached who had who had
made these incredible paintings and had reached these incredible levels of acclaim I’ve never
heard of, I started to think of him and not an immediate moment as the Black Warhol because
I didn’t know any better. And I was so obsessed with the thought of how many more Black versions
of artists that I love exist out there. How many more artists have been shielded from
me or have I not found yet? And how can I make sure that I’m not missing out on them?
Many years later, of course, I can say there is no such thing as a Black Warhol. There
is There’s no such thing as a Black version of this or Black version of that. Each of
the artists that I will of course talk about in my presentation are singular artists in
their own rights. But I also try to extend compassion to the younger version of myself
who was like, it’s got to be the Black this or that. And so when I saw this image, I,
like I said, began researching, and it sent me on this really interesting quest. It directed
me towards artists like nikoline Thomas, it directed me towards artists like Lorna Simpson,
and of course, directed me towards artists like Hank Willis Thomas. And this one is actually
my favorite one. I know you’re not supposed to pick favorites. Um, but I’ve always loved
this image, because I think it really is just one beautiful and I just want to say like
as an art nerd, sometimes things can just be beautiful. They don’t have to be particularly
poignant. You can just like them or dislike them. But for me, I really liked this image
because, one, it speaks so much to Black Southern culture. It speaks about Of course to the
Black Power movement, it speaks to notes of Black joy. It speaks so much to self identification,
self determination, some of the the things that at the time that I found this image I
really needed to see. When I was finishing with my internship at the student Museum in
Harlem, I felt one sad. But I also felt really hopeful because I finally found an institution
or finally found a space that helped me to better understand who I am in the world. So
the City Museum for anyone who doesn’t know is a museum that’s based in Harlem that’s
interested in putting forth work by and about Black culture. And it was in those 10 weeks
that I had my aha moment on who I want it to be and how I want it to be. When I got
back to Smith College, which is where I was studying art history. I fully threw myself
into our historical studies I was taking three and four semesters, three and four classes
a semester trying to catch up to my peers to ensure that I would finish with an art
history major. And the more art history classes that I started taking the less kinds of images
I was seeing of the images that got me invested in the first place. I was taking Baroque architecture
and learning about the survey of Asian art and all these other wonderful things from
the past and really learning how to think critically and put my thinking cap on and
Visual Thinking strategies. And I was pushed to many academic limits that I didn’t even
know I was seeking. But more than that, I also wasn’t seeing myself reflected back.
And so in February of 2011, I reached out to my friend, Marcellus, who was an intern
with me at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and posted this to his Facebook page, asking him
to join me in building out a Tumblr page. That was interested in promoting the work
of Black contemporary artists. When I finished my internship at the Studio Museum in Harlem,
I should also know that I probably knew the name of around 10 Black artists tops 10 to
15, the ones that I encountered while interning in the director’s office, and I knew that
I wanted to continue to learn more. And also I was a millennial, or am a millennial, I
should say, I was 20 years old, and I was like, I need more. I need more. I’m really
angry about it. It has to happen right now. And while I was back on Smith’s campus, I
was doing a lot of research to try to find some sort of resource to continue to learn
because I knew that I wasn’t seeing it in my art history lectures. And I went and googled,
and I searched Wikipedia and high and low across the internet. I look back now and I’m
like, Sis, why didn’t you go to the library? But I was 20 and angry. And so instead I went
to the internet. And when I didn’t find anything that I didn’t find the exact thing that I
was looking for, in a very kind of Toni Morrison way, decided to make the thing that I wanted
to see myself. And I reached out to Marcellus because I knew that I couldn’t do it alone.
And I also decided to use Tumblr specifically, because I didn’t know anything. Like the only
thing I knew was that I didn’t know. And sometimes that’s enough. And I liked Tumblr and continue
to like root for Tumblr, even though it’s changed so much. Because it is a site that’s
perhaps the most dialogical I always have seen it as a platform where you don’t have
to go in as expert. It’s not like blogger or some more stationary platform where you
publish onto the, onto the web, from the space of knowing it’s a space where you show up
and hashtag your way into discovery and collaboration with others. And so I reached out to Marcellus
to join me on this journey. He said, No, I, you know, whatever. But in this moment of
like, you know, pre, early 20s anks decided to start the blog anyway. And so this is kind
of like my stylized version of the blog as it as it exists right now. So the blog is
called Black contemporary art. And it was launched March 2011, in the interest of kind
of making a digital version or a digital extension of a lot of what the studio Museum’s mission
is. But then also with a personal twist, really interested in recording the work of Black
artists that I was continuing to learn over time, and then also just to privilege the
1015 artists that I’d already learned. As I look back on who I was at that time, I think
what was most important was paying, paying tribute to the knowledge had already been
instilled in me, because it was that knowledge that inspired me to do something with it on
the blog as it has always existed, it’s Black contemporary art.tumblr.com. For anyone who
hasn’t checked it out when I first made it, as I mentioned, I wasn’t going into libraries,
right? I was angsty, I was really, really curious and really excited about learning
more. And one of the things that at that time I I knew to be true, which is so untrue, was
that there was there was perhaps no art historical language for Black artists. That was kind
of how I reasoned why there was no Black art history course at my college. That was kind
of wide reason that I’d never heard of Basquiat that was kind of wide reason that I hadn’t
learned about Dena Lawson or Renee green. And so the blog as it exists now, it just
has the artwork itself, the name of the artists, the name of the work and the year was created
because I didn’t want to Tried to define what the work should be to anyone. I also in a,
in a more real way was too intimidated to write anything about art. But I knew that
this resource needed to exist if only for myself. And I was also joined. So it’s really
tiny up here. But the blog has always been co edited by a group of people. And I say
that to say never, never ever be afraid to call people in when you have a big idea. I’m
an only child and a Leo and asking for help is just not my way. But it is the projects
that I’ve asked for help that still exists and have had any success. And so this blog
has existed and and and really was built as an educational tool and as it grew and grew.
One I was shocked because I didn’t think that it was it wasn’t it wasn’t designed to grow.
It wasn’t designed to reach what has now like 200,000 followers. It was designed really
as a primary resource tool for people to be inspired by Black artists. In the summer of
2012, I graduated from school and moved to New York City to start working at our organization
called creative time, which is a public art organization with a social justice bent. that’s
interested in presenting art in the public realm. And it was such an important first
gig for me. Because as a fellow, and as a social media fellow, I was able to trick a
ton of people into thinking that a kid with a Tumblr deserved a job. But also, it challenged
me to think about how to utilize social media to really like decidedly reach new audiences.
It challenged me to think about how I can use social media to draw people to destinations
to view art. And because up until that point, a lot of the work that I was doing was making
the best Digital, I really enjoyed the idea that you could open up your phone and have
a primary encounter with a work of art. And maybe that might draw you to a gallery. But
maybe you don’t need to go to the gallery. Or maybe you might find yourself a gallery
and pleasantly surprised by an artwork that you may have discovered online already. But
it was in working at Studio, excuse me at creative time. And in working at an organization
that thought a lot about social justice, that I was inspired to take what was this digital
platform and take it to the streets. That’s not what I want to say, but it’s kind of what
I did. And so I started doing public programming with the little resources that I had. I reached
out to the Guggenheim Museum when they had their Carrie Mae Weems exhibition, which traveled
there from, I think, the mirrorless center in Virginia, and invited people to come and
view the artwork together. Because alongside thinking about a lack of representation of
Black artists in our historical Canon or in pop culture, I also am at that time especially
and even now, I was acutely aware of how few Black and brown people were readily invited
into museum spaces. And how that lack of invitation, perhaps was what was keeping people away.
Like I said, I’m a Leo and so I was like, I want to bring people and so I showed up
and invited people gave them free tickets to the museum for an afternoon of CO viewing.
And then I also curated like the one exhibition that I’ve ever curated and probably will ever
curate shout out to the curators in the room. Like I lost hair, I lost sleep. I, I was very
inspired by the happenings of like the 60s and 70s and put together this performance
with two Dear Dear friends Christopher Meza, who now does a project called raga, exploring
queerness in the UN, in Jamaica, and within cut Caribbean die sport communities And then
Juliana Huxtable, who’s an incredible multimedia artist. We packed into this tiny, tiny gallery
in Chinatown, to put on a show for people. Because I, you know, as I knew that, and as
I know now, I think it really is about not only presenting information but also really
providing invitation. And then I did a party, which is also fun. The blog when it turned
five in 2016, I worked with friends who owned a gallery in Bushwick and invited people to
just celebrate, to create space for joy and exultation around the work. The blog is going
to be 10 next year, which is wild. My baby’s growing up. And so I’ve been thinking about
other ways to convene people. But one of the things that I think is really important in
the note on the party was that I when I started the blog, I was able to start it privately.
I was able to start it actually like while I was doing my work study job. I was in an
office by myself, I didn’t have the pressures of success or failure looming over me. I wasn’t
like I said, building something that was meant to grow or to reach broad audiences or to
get me here or anywhere. And it allowed me a freedom to publish. And it allowed me a
freedom to explore and to get things wrong. And by the time that the fifth anniversary
had come, I’d found myself in the art world, I’d found myself starting to feel the pressures
of what it meant to be a person of color in the arts. How many immediate knows there are
silent or self enforced or self imposed? And when I was thinking about the fifth anniversary,
all I could think about was grounding it in some sort of academic process. I thought I
had to do a symposium or, you know, bring in scholars to anchor it or do like a Wikipedia
edit a THON or something that would like make it seems smart. And through a lot of counsel
from friends was like I’m just gonna have a party. Because sometimes that’s enough.
And sometimes, you know, it is about coming as you are, it is about providing space for
freedom around really big ideas. And so anyway, just thought, but I am merely proud of myself
when I look back on that moment and saying like, No, I’m not going to do it the traditional
way. At around the time that I started working on Black contemporary art, and around the
time that I went to do my fellowship at creative time, I also started to think about what it
meant to publish as an individual. Black contemporary art, for better or worse was a group project.
And because it was a group project, it almost made it anonymous, which in many ways I still
battle on whether being anonymous or like saying this is my thing is the right thing
to do. But as I began my life in the workforce, and as I moved to New York with like zero
dollars and zero cents, And was bouncing around to openings to, to get food and to see art.
I felt really inspired to journal using social media to share my journey with other people
to share the possibility of a young Black queer person from suburban New Jersey, arriving
in this art world and being welcomed with open arms because of this strange blog that
that they’ve created. on my Instagram, I’ve tried my hardest to make sure that I’m showing
what it means to interact with art. Because I think oftentimes people have these pre determined
ideas of who and how you are and museums. Recently, I took a group of friends to the
MoMA to visit the new MoMA. And as I was walking around in the galleries with them, we were
Zooming through. There’s, you know, Cathy Opie’s work and milosh, and Harris’s work
and all these illustrious artists on the wall, and I knew who they were, but my friends didn’t
know who they were. And so I was perhaps moving at a different pace. And one of my friends
kind of grabbed me by the arm and stopped me and asked, What do you do in museums? And
it was this really profound moment because I genuinely think that for some reason, we’re
all lied to that, like, you’re supposed to look at a work of art, tilt your head to the
side, rub your chin leaning. when in actuality, people look at things for like less than 10
seconds. And so I’ve been really on this kind of like personal journey to try to demystify
that controversial topic, using the art selfie or the museum selfie, and trying to really
unpack what it means when we image ourselves in museums because I think in one Way, of
course, people want you to respect the art. But in another way, it’s also an important
medium for letting people know what’s up letting people know when and where exhibitions are.
Maybe things are free. Maybe this is how many steps there are to access the the building.
There’s so many ways in which social media affords us an opportunity to invite people
into a dialogue that perhaps they’ve never been invited to. And so, I also Yes. also
wanted to know, in terms of Instagram strategy, I was just like ranting about how much I hate
Instagram strategy and how I think a lot of it is myths, like hashtags and timings and
all that stuff. But I, in 2015, the artists aging they created this really beautiful filter
that was inspired by the extrajudicial murder of Sandra Bland and the project is called
alive. And then in parents, it’s not yet dead. And what you could do is download the filter
to like photobooth you know that like in the Mac, and it’s like, dude, dude. And you could
take images of yourself and the call from the artists was for especially Black people
to participate in this project. And it’s something that I think of often, because many times,
especially in my personal career as a person who’s kind of for the last decade, manage
social media channels, personal or professional, I spend more time than most people on the
internet, which means that unfortunately, within this political climate, I’m confronted
with images of Black pain more than some others have images of Black Death more than others,
or in conversation with others. And I really appreciated this project as an opportunity
and a call to show what it means to be Black and alive. And that has remained A stream
and like impetus for so much of my social media presence, where it’s not just about
the art, it’s not just about, you know, rah, rah, this is my blah, blah, blah. It’s also
just like, I’m still here. And there’s, there’s, there’s so much possibility in that. And so
this is kind of like what maybe my Instagram looks like. And I try within the platform
whenever possible to of course share our to share images of friends in the field. Because
often times too, I think, when I was in having my like, Basquiat moment, I also couldn’t
name any people of color in the arts, probably besides Thelma golden, who was my boss at
the time. And now I feel really fortunate to be in community with so many incredible
scholars who I would have loved to have linked to on the blog when I didn’t think there was
any art historical language about Black artists. And so in The Infinite Warhol pieces my friend
Jessica Bell Brown, who’s a curator now at the Baltimore Museum of Art. And so it’s equal
parts that nerdy art stuff and then equal parts, memes and equal parts, really body
selfies and trying to show that, you know, this is the, all the things that make me me
and alive. And oh, yes. So I also wanted to talk about some photography projects that
I love just to make this a real photography lecture. On the notice social media, I think
oftentimes, like I was saying, there can be these like endless weeks and moments where
we’re inundated with images of pain, images of suffering, but I wanted to just give a
special shout out to two photography projects that I’ve remained really particularly inspired
by. The first is a project called veteran us a rucas er and rigorous which was founded
By Guadalupe, Rose Alice, who basically is using social media and Instagram specifically
to call to Latinx people to submit their own photos of themselves. And so on the page and
and now in a publication that’s gorgeous. You’ll see these images from Southern California
from like the 1980s, I think up into the present day, so that people can either publish them
or share them, draw connections with them, spend an afternoon in the comments section,
it’s really beautiful. And then in that same same kind of vein of publication, there’s
another project that’s based in the UK called Black in the day that does a similar thing
that’s interested in document in the lives of Black people living in the UK. I call to
these two projects is I think, oftentimes and this is where like the weird photography
image thing happens. I think oftentimes, within especially kind of the ways in which our history
and the ways in which history and record keeping can be so exclusionary Two people across the
spectrum of neuro typical illness, neuro divergence, or people who are representative of marginalized
communities. Oftentimes, we don’t think to record ourselves. And what I think is so important
right now on the social media moment is that we have incredible opportunity, incredible
chances to celebrate the mundane, to celebrate the every day to ensure that we’re not exterminated.
And I really, really, really love these projects is I think that they’re perfect examples of
that kind of work. It’s not just about the numbers. It’s not just about making a grandstand
and impact. Sometimes it’s just about recording and building community for those who might
be seeking it. And so, this quote is by my favorite person, one of my favorite people,
Sarah Lewis, who Guest edited a really beautiful issue of aperture magazine. And she called
the issue vision and justice and is now doing work to make vision injustice into so many
other things. She’s had a convening. There’s hopefully so much more that will percolate
from that project. But this quote, in particular has stuck with me kind of haunted me in this
in this image moment, if you will. Sarah rights, being an engaged citizen requires grappling
with pictures and knowing their historic historical context with at times near our historical
precision. And so sorry, notifications. I really love this quote, which I have paraphrase
to death and taken so many things because that’s kind of like what we all do with quotes
that we love. But I feel like this quote, in particular is such a call to action for
each of us to think about what images were in taking, what impact they have on us, what
demands they have on our brains, and The ways in which we communicate and understand the
world, and then also what ways in which we enact that on our own? How can we think critically
about the images that we’re putting over? We’re sharing on social media or in other
spaces? How can we think critically as maybe art practitioners, or media makers and what
we’re putting out into the world and what context we’re building. And this is where
my spiral begins, because I think it really is a matter of thinking critically about how
these things are impacting all of us. And so I return back to this image, which is the
beginning of my personal spiral, which has been pretty successful. And I think so far.
I want to challenge all of you to think about your images, how you’re sharing them, how
they impact you, the ones that keep you up at night, the ones that help you to start
a weird blog or Instagram page or conversation with the person on the street. This image
is mine. And then I’m going to show you some other images that recently have really inspired
me. But I challenge all of you to think about the images that hold you whether those images
are in Hanks exhibition or beyond, because they really can have such a profound impact
on the life. So these are my four favorite images right now, which is not like a formal
lecture thing, but I just wanted to share them because they make me happy. This one,
which I love. Tyler Mitchell’s from Tyler Mitchell’s cover story on Beyonce. And then
this picture by the photographer Joshua was of the model Aaron Philip and friend. This
image by Latoya Ruby Frazier from the series Flint is family. And then this last one, which
is my friend Mickey on the cover of paws magazine. Thank you So I think we’ll open now for any
questions about anything you all would like to talk about. We can bring mics to people,
right? We can pass them around. So if you’d like to ask a question, just raise your hand
if that is available to you. When I researched you on the internet, I found some very interesting
items about you telling one gentleman a two items on YouTube talking about accessibility,
but especially inclusiveness and resumes. Can you comment on that? Yeah. So I was really
fortunate last year to be invited by the musical artist Chanel Monet to have a conversation
about I think we were Talking about the future. And Janell is a person who I’ve been a fan
of, since I was probably like 13 years old or something. And we sat and had a dialogue
about the work that each of us were doing respectively. And I got a chance to talk about
art and my personal inspirations around trying to make these spaces more inclusive. In my
practice, aside from I didn’t talk at all about the work that I did at the mat. If you
have any questions about the work, I did the mat, I’m happy to talk about it. I was their
Social Media Manager for three years. But in my dialogue with Chanel, one of the things
that I really wanted to to nail home that this broad audience it was hosted by Harper’s
Bazaar. One of the things that I wanted to drive home for people to think about was that
we all have a role in making museums more accessible, which is a direct call, of course
to peers who are working in museums, people who are educators, curators, registrar’s everyone
has an awkward tunity to say hello to a guest to direct someone to a restroom or to a gallery.
And then also as individuals, we all have the capability to take a family member to
a museum like you guys all found yourselves here. Now you’re responsible for bringing
other people. That’s your duty now. And so that was what I was trying to speak to Janelle
about, and to that broader audience about because I think oftentimes, it’s very easy
to say, museums are very exclusionary museums or institutions of white supremacy. See, so
easy to say. But I also think it’s equally important to think about how we’re going to
work to deconstruct that how we can each take it on in ourselves within our facilities to
to do something about it, because I like action. Anybody? We have a question down here Yeah.
Hello, I love your Instagram feed. And I really appreciate how you kind of live your life
unapologetically in a very public space. And I wonder if you’ve had to deal with any negativity
in that kind of presence online? Yeah. I’ve been relatively unscathed, if you can believe
it. My worst critics are my family. Like, it’s great. You’re so successful. We love
that. Also, why do you curse so much? Which I think I got through the lecture without
cursing. I saw that there are children in the audience and like, this is a big step
for me. I’m really profane. I like I gave this really beautiful or I think beautiful
lecture in May of last year and revealed my salary at this like huge museum conference.
And my dad was there and he was so mortified because I dropped like 15 f bombs, but I was
so nervous. But at any rate, for the most part, I’ve been relatively unscathed. But
I will say that and also say that many of my friends have not. And so I do my best to
try to like hop into comments sections and say nice things about friends and make sure
that they’re tagged and that they’re getting positive energy. But yeah, for the most part
I’ve been trying to, I think I’ve been able to be relatively true to who I am and shoot
a forum without a ton of criticism, which isn’t like the funnest answer, but also maybe
it is the funnest answer, the Black queer person doesn’t get torn down on the internet.
Cut another one back here. Hi, just want to say thank you so much for being here. This
was really insightful and eye opening. And I appreciate all the knowledge that you’ve
given to everyone that’s here tonight. My question to you is have you ever thought about
so with digital archiving, as we pass images through the internet, there’s a level of like
degradation that comes with that because depending on the type of file, it degrades over time,
I don’t know if that’s something you’ve thought about that on top of like how algorithms and
and of themselves become actually end up being inaccessible. So we have, like, algorithms
that like can actually like be racist how we shadow bands, specifically Black and brown
activists on social media, especially when they bring up issues pertaining to like, their
histories as well. So I was wondering, like, what are your thoughts on that in terms of
like, what does it mean to archive contemporary work today? Yeah, two really excellent questions.
First, I think a lot about image degradation, but from a very soft place because I don’t
really understand it. Not gonna lie. I, and also just in general to so just to answer
two questions at once, if there’s any criticism that I think I’ve really, really gotten, it’s
that people are like, Why are you showing so much Art Online, people need to go see
it and like, everybody can’t go see it. Or maybe People need a vocabulary of what they’re
going to go see. And so I think about it more in that word, like, how can I make sure that
the images that I’m sharing are at the highest quality, so that people can see that maybe
screen readers can screen the read the image, or that people are seeing the best, most high
quality version of this thing that hopefully they’ll be able to see in person, but maybe
they won’t. And maybe that’s okay. And then on the note of archiving, it’s something that
I feel really stressed out about, right, right now, as Tumblr is changing so much, because
the blog as it exists right now isn’t archived. It’s just that’s it. And if like Tumblr close
tomorrow, that’s it. And I know I need to just like hire an intern to do it, but also
I’m a procrastinator. And so it’s something that I think often about, but not something
that I necessarily have tools for, and then on the note of shadow banning, so annoying,
right? Like so annoying. It’s It’s so I don’t I don’t exactly know how to tackle I would
lie to you to say that like, here is my son, my 10 point plan for how to fix it. I would
encourage though, I know that salty. There’s a platform called salty, that’s feminist magazine,
they’re doing a lot of work, especially around nudity on the platform and censorship and
that, right, and they are very, like, action oriented folks. And so I want to call to their
work. And then Personally, I’ve spoken a lot with people at Instagram internally, about
censorship and the ways in which especially trans bodies are invisible eyes on that platform.
It’s wild, because you can show a male nipple and not a female nipple, and it’s like, why
is an algorithm determining gender. So all that to say, I too, am confused about all
these things. I too am angry about these things. But because of the work that I’ve done in
the spaces that I found myself, I’ve been in a position to speak directly to some people
that And I’m trying my best to make sure that I’m standing firmly interested in speaking
on behalf of my community and others. But those things keep me up at night and make
me really uncomfortable and kind of make me want to quit sometimes or the platform, not
the work. But at the same time, I also know that like, it’s really important to be there
and to provide these images. So it’s a constant, a constant battle. But it’s something that
definitely something that I’ve been thinking about really critically for a very long time.
And it just seems like it’s getting worse. And so I wonder, especially with the election
coming up, blah, blah. It’s a crapshoot. So certainly something I’m thinking about, unfortunately,
not a thing that I have any strong answers towards though. I have a question over here.
I just was hoping to hear more about your future book project. Yeah. So I have two books
that are coming out this year, which is a wild thing to say. So the One of the books
that I worked on last year is called this is what I know about art. I was invited by
Penguin teen workshop along with a couple of really like way cooler activists people
to write books specifically oriented at kind of an 11 to 13 year old range. The suite of
books that are coming out alongside mine are books by a local manaan, who is an incredible
image activist, poet, hero, personal hero of mine, and Adam Ely, who is a really, really
beautiful thinker around issues of gender and sexuality and Judaism. And in my book
I wrote about art and activism and specifically, like a kind of a memoir style, even though
I really hate men more like because I’m not even 30 yet. But I also realized that memoir
is like a moment in time. And in the writing of my memoir, I was able to write about how
some of the small actions that I’ve spoken about this evening have amounted to a career
and amounted to some, some key changes and shifts within the field. And then also some
of the reality behind the person I was pretending to be online, like I’ve had this interesting
reckoning recently, where in the interest of being like, the arts are great, you should
come here, and then the personal kind of like, turmoil that I was feeling the, the weight
of knowing that I’m inviting people into institutions that maybe aren’t ready for them yet. And
so I was able to work through some of that and that book for babies, also, because like,
sometimes it’s just, I don’t know, I was never taught at 11 that I could be a curator and
that makes me angry too. And so I wanted to do that project. And then the other project
that I’ve been working on for just over three years is a book called Black futures which
aligns with kind of the the earlier question about archiving and image, breakdown and all
those things. Jenna wertham, who is behind the podcast still processing, and then also
is an incredible writer at the New York Times Magazine, she DM me. And I was like, What?
And she’s like a real writer. And we went out for lunch and over lunch, had a really
beautiful conversation about art, tech culture through a Black a Black cultural lens. And
Jenna had the brilliant idea to make a scene just to start to record some of what was going
on because we were both observing these incredible ways in which especially within a Black cultural
context, people were connecting in ways that were unprecedented. There were there just
more access than ever before, and ways of connecting with each other. But also, because
we don’t own the platforms in which we’re connecting. We stand a risk for success. termination
or ratio, because we don’t own Facebook because we don’t own Twitter or whatever, have you,
blogs or whatever. And so Jenna wanted to make a scene and because I’m a masochist,
I was like, let’s make a book. And so we’ve been working on this book called Black futures,
that’s ask, asks all nearly 300 of our contributors, what does it mean to be Black and alive right
now? It’s largely inspired by Toni Morrison’s Black Book of the 1970s. And in the book,
we have a mixture of recipes, interviews, essays, artworks, that are it’s kind of like
a portrait of where we are right now. We tried to be as comprehensive as possible. It’s a
very clear book. It’s like the gayest book I’ve ever read. And I’m so glad I wrote it.
But really looking at Black culture right now. Because we want to make sure that, you
know, here’s hoping that in 2030 years when people look back at our time that this can
be a resource for understanding what we were up to And so that’s that’s the that’s the
book project, which is do this fall. I have another question over here in the back. Hi.
Hello. I grew up in Bushwick in the 60s and 70s. And I just cannot believe that it’s like
it’s art Mecca now. Because, you know, it was just a working class city with factories
on all the corners and stuff that I understand are now like art buildings. So it’s interesting.
Anyway, the but the other thing about growing up in New York in the 60s was that there was
money for us to do art, to learn art to go listen to music, what see plays, you know,
go to the go to the art museums. Most of what we saw, of course, had to do with white artists
and white subjects. I loved it. I still love I still love It makes me so happy to know
that there are people who are expanding the understanding of what serious art is. That
includes women and people of color. And you know, the queer community, just expanding,
you know, everyone’s opportunity to be seen and seen in different ways. So I thank you
very much for your work. I don’t understand all the computer stuff that you’re talking
to. Me neither. Okay. Thank you. Thank you very much. Yeah. Okay. All right. Thank you
very much. Thank you. I just moved to Bushwick, actually, so I might ask you some questions
later. Got a question down here. Kimberly. Kimberly, I like to thank you so much for
coming to Portland to talk to us about art about Black art about art of people of color.
I want to ask you about the word rage. You talked about rage in your 20s. When you found
out there was a world of Black art and artists, how do you and how did you could you talk
a little bit more about how did you make a constructive way to channel the rage? Instead
of making it destructive? That’s a great question. I actually have these, you can’t see them.
But I have a ring that says Black rage just to like, always remind myself to stay angry.
People always like, what’s that ring saying? I’m like rage Black rage. Mm hmm. I like to
say like, you have questions about it. You know, it’s an interesting thing that I’ve
been thinking about because I was setting intentions for this new year. And I think
by virtue of who and how I’ve been on this journey, I’ve learned how to be very small.
I’ve gotten really good at it being really polite, and really quiet. And then also, in
many ways, I’m very bad at it. I got most opinionated in high school, which is wow,
because I didn’t even say anything. But at any rate, I think for me, it’s not so much
about making rage productive. Because I don’t even know that the blog was a productive thing
to do. Like I was studying our history. I was working my way through college. I was
the head of three clubs because like, this is no surprise. I’m like, overachiever type.
But I was doing so many things that were not supposed to be like spending six hours a day
on Tumblr. But it was what I needed to do. So in many ways, it was kind of destructive.
My a lot of friends at the time, were like you’re posting every 30 minutes. You need
to be in class and look at where I am now. But which which doesn’t say like, fail, I
was cool. But I think all those things are kind of relative, right. But what what what
remains most important is holding rage and just appreciating it as both a destructive
and generative force. Because that’s, that’s really the truth of my story and kind of what
I want to really get back like the version of myself. I want to get back to. Yeah, because
I was like, when I was talking to my therapist, I’m spiraling, but talking about therapist
and my therapist is like, why is anger bad? Like, that’s always the question that we arrive
at again. Because I think the more time that I spent in institutional spaces now I’m like
freelance and doing my own thing and kind of can say what I want sometimes. But for
so much of my career, you know, in the spectrum between when I started this blog, really angry,
and now I had to be good, you know, I had to be good also so that I could bring more
people in right? Like there was a responsibility on me that I Since was first self imposed
and now is real, to make sure that I’m successful so that other people can see a path towards
success, right? Like this project can’t fail. And so how angry Can I be? Right? And also
how, you know, how is my non anger connected to the truth of the matter is like the thing
I’m constantly inspecting anyway. But yeah, I keep this ring on me every day just to remember
that rage is important. There’s a book also, Brittany Cooper wrote called eloquent rage,
and just like unpacking different ways of looking at range. But yeah, I don’t know.
Not a non answer, but I like rage. Try not try to hold more of it in 2020. I have a question
over here. Hi, my name is Steph my pronouns are she heard. I’m going back to taking action
and kind of becoming comfortable in being unapologetically yourself with taking up space.
When you first started thinking about the art and the creative process, how did you
overcome self doubt from where your idea or project came up to leading actually taking
that action and having that end result? Yeah, that’s great question. I think for me, it
was like the rage, like you guys are all in sync. But it was being angry. Right? It didn’t
need to be successful. You know, like, I lucky because it was, I’m thankful for the support
that I’ve gotten and the ways in which it’s empowered or inspired or whatever, a group
of people. But it really was from that anger and that I started doing the project. It wasn’t
in the interest of like this broader kind of plot or plan. So there wasn’t a room for
doubt. You know, like there wasn’t operating on a spectrum where there was success and
failure. Like the failure would have been not doing it. Right. And which is which is
true of all projects. But in other projects I am I am nothing but doubt I’m like doubt
in a dress in heels at all times. But sometimes you just got to do it right. Sometimes you
just have to think about the trickle down effect of the big things that scare you. And
I think also that’s why I often keep the the Woodson quote with me. Because it’s like sometimes
you have to do the scary thing because on the other side, the scary thing is extermination.
And, yeah, you have to kind of learn from doing and have another question here. Thank
you. Thanks, Kimberly. I’ve been reflecting a lot. This is a lot louder than I expected
to be. I’ve been working collecting a lot on how Instagram is really the only place
where I see advertising and connecting now and also then reflecting on the ways in which
Hank utilizes it unpacks advertising in his work as well. And given your your personal
and professional experience with Instagram, I’m curious how you engage with, say advertising
and sponsored content within the platform itself. Yeah. I post sponsored posts, shamelessly.
with brands and organizations that I really love. I try to be as critical and thoughtful
as possible and how I participate in that process. But it is kind of annoying, right
like it sometimes you’re just like, I want to see pictures of cats and babies. And like
really good means and like whatever. But it is it is a weird kind of complicated space
when this presumably creative platform is also a space that readily monetized. But then
at the same time, too, it’s like, I think that there’s this really strange thing that
often happens where we don’t think about artists as like small business owners, where it’s
like everyone wants to talk about like art for art’s sake and like the virtue of creating
it’s like, bills. Like, let’s talk about that, you know, like, so I’m of two minds about
it all the time, and how virtuous and pure certain spaces can or should be, and trying
to just, like, constantly unpack and challenge those notions. But yeah, it is one of those
weird ones though, but like shout out to every artists in the room. That’s like doing the
thing because it really is. It just isn’t spoken about enough as as a business and it’s
this what it can be, should you choose to take that path and it doesn’t have to be frowned
upon? one back here. Hi. It sounds like so much of your work has been about exposing
and like, share. Images. I’m curious about whether, like how protective Are you of those
images? It sounds like your expense on the areas and relatively kind also, but are there
is there anything that you’ve seen that you’ve been a little protective of reticent to share
and how What’s your relationship to that wanting to protect and maybe not wanting to be as
exposed? Yeah, I recently started sending friends nudes. That’s my, my new relinquishing
moment. But on a more serious note, yeah, it’s something I think about a lot. There
was this petition that went around by the artist Hannah Black that I shared on my Tumblr
blog, and many other platforms shared. But she wrote for Hannah wrote from a very truthful
space about observations that Hannah was making, and there was such intense blowback and I’ve
always felt responsibility. responsibility for being a part of that just because I showed
this thing to other people. And so I always try to be accountable to that in building
Black contemporary art, especially to because I was finding images and posting them. And
especially at the time that I was making it didn’t think about actually asking people
for permission and consent. And so if someone ever messaged and said, like this needs to
come down immediately would happen. Because oftentimes you have artists who are published
publishing things as work in progress. Or you know, there’s so many ways in which like,
you can betray that the wherever someone might be in their process of making before sharing
it with a broader audience. But those are the things those are the questions that I
often have. I think a lot about like sharing my friends kids on my Instagram because I
have so many followers and I’m like, I don’t really want everyone to see this beautiful
angelic human beings full of germs. But yeah, it’s definitely something that I think about
often or you You know, how many how can I can I take a picture of this beautiful street
mural that’s near my apartment, because then people will know where I live, you know. And
I think it’s something we should all be thinking critically about. But I think that there’s
a way to feel protective and in love with images and still be able to share them. But
I think it’s none of that should be done without thought. Because or you end up with like celebrities
writing like, apologies in the Notes app. It’s like my whole maybe we could take one
more. Yes, I have one down here. Hello, thank you for being here. Last year, there was a
lot of fashion companies that came out with some clothing that was a little inappropriate.
And I know that you’ve done some Instagram takeovers, and one being for product and I
just wanted to know what are your intentions when you do takeovers and just maybe your
thoughts on the whole fashion industry as a whole? Yeah. Fashion like artists, come
on. But I really love how. And this is like totally stealing language from my friend Sinead,
but I love working in partnership with fashion brands, because no matter what you can kind
of name five fashion brands like even if you don’t care, you know, like, whatever, there’s
something really powerful and like we just, we just can’t go outside naked and like that
sucks sometimes, but also like, it builds this vocabulary and understanding and perhaps
like, a need to participate in this creative field that is a little bit different than
others. But that aside, when I’m thinking about doing takeovers, or when I’m thinking
about partnering with brands, it’s the relationships that I have with individuals within any of
those organizations. It’s the relationship I have with the missions of any of those organizations.
And it’s also my relationship with what I hope the organization will be doing. And so
in relationship to product specially really complicated time, right? Like I was pissed
I was pissed with the way that they handled it, I was pissed with the way that people
were impacted by some of the decisions that were being made there. But I also tried to
utilize that rage to better partner with them, because they’d supported me already because
they’ve supported artists like the Astor gates already. What does it mean to call it instead
of call out is a lot of the work that I’ve been trying to do recently. But that’s just
my personal opinion. And that might not be the right one. But I think when you find something
that you like, or you find an organization or space that feels like home, you you are
faced with a difficult decision of whether you’re going to boycott or opt in, and I’m
way more on the opt in sometimes. And so that’s that’s where I’m at right now. Thank you all
so much for coming. It’s while

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