March Rituals, Counting the Days
This month's newsletter features a number of recent projects, publications, learnings, listenings, and more
Pandemic time is a strange thing; it moves in fits and starts. An hour becomes a day becomes a month.
I’ve been keeping to myself a bit more in order to focus some thoughts. Last week saw the release of my new meditation on rituals, destruction, archiving, and renewal: a 108-page artwork called Pompeii!, commissioned by the Pompeii Archaeological Park’s online project, Pompeii Commitment. Invited by curator Stella Bottai to develop a new piece, I reflected upon 2020 and its varied outputs. Pompeii! also concludes this phase of my long-running experimental publication, P!DF, by offering all of its past chapters and fragments freely available online. You can view the PDF directly here. Take note: it features fun, hidden hyperlinks all over (including to some dancing). Plus, since it’s on Google Drive, feel free to leave comments—I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Last week, I also received my contributor’s copies of deem—a beautiful new magazine focused on design and social practice. Issue Two explores “Pedagogies for a New World”, with contributions by Dori Tunstall, Lauren Halsey, Nora N. Khan, Ramon Tejada, and many others. I’m honored to be included amongst such esteemed colleagues with an interview about Present! and my work organizing online spaces for gathering and learning over this past year. You can pre-order a copy now—ah, the smell of freshly printed ink!
In March, I also prototyped new talks for art and design students from Cleveland to Canterbury. This involved creating a set of interlocking lectures—entitled “On Art’s Transformations” and “On Design’s Transformations”—that synthesize much of what I’ve learned over the past years into strategies for artistic production in times of systems collapse. I’m still continuing to develop them, but if you’re interested in hearing or hosting their next iterations, please let me know!
At the same time as sharing tools and strategies with others, I’m also privileged to learn some new ones myself. As part of the research for FRONT 2022, I’m currently participating in a six-week guided program on “Patterns for Decentralized Organizing”, organized by my friends Nati & Rich at The Hum and Enspiral. Halfway through, the program has already given me a generative space for workshopping collaboration styles, assumptions around community, and conflict. Much of this learning will also feed into my new guest professorship at the Peter Behrens School of Arts in Düsseldorf, where I’ll be offering two courses: one focused on creative rituals and the other on practicing entanglement & interdependence today.
As the month warms up, I’m enjoying more walks—which means more time for listening! The newly-released season 2 of adrienne maree brown and Toshi Reagon’s podcast, Octavia’s Parables, centers on Parable of the Talents. This second book of Octavia E. Butler’s visionary, incomplete trilogy is a cautionary toolkit for how to approach our politically and climate-challenged futures. Hearing their probing take on the book’s themes is like being a fly-on-the-wall at a brilliant, virtual reading group. You can support their podcast on Patreon!
One more reference: for those of you who’ve known me longer, you probably also know that I’m a big, big fan of counting as a meditative and cognitive tool. So discovering Caleb Everett’s 2017 book, Numbers and the Making of Us: Counting and the Course of Human Cultures, has basically made my week/month/year/life. An anthropologist who weaves together linguistics, neuroscience, psychology, and more, Everett creates a stunning account of how the development of counting transformed human societies and thinking. I’m only on page 133 of it but am excited for the 167 still to come!
It’s already helping me finish the manuscript for On Letters, my slightly gonzo epistolary book to the late conceptual artist On Kawara that has occupied mornings and evening and weekends since the summer. The book is scheduled to come out this year with Domain, the new publishing imprint of designer and editor David Knowles. Writing about Kawara has given me space to consider the role of individual artistic practice in times of collective crisis. Plus, he clearly knew a thing or two about numbers—and rituals.
I’m wishing you all a wonderful, wonderful weekend and start of spring. Let’s talk again soon.
P.S. There are still a couple of slots left in April’s virtual calendar for “quick chats”—last month, I got to talk with great folks like Gemma Copeland, Kanad Chakrabarti, and others. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to catch up!