Discover more from Prem Krishnamurthy: Department of Transformation
Recent & upcoming news, events, and some readings for the Fall
Dear friends & family, kith & kin,
The fall is officially upon us. With that means changes—in the fragile seasons, in the world-at-large, in ourselves.
For me, it’s also been a time of transformations. I haven’t found much headspace to write in this forum for a while, as two tasks have kept me fully occupied: my role as artistic director of “Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows”, the second edition of FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, as well as the release of On Letters, my experimental, epistolary essay addressed to the late conceptual artist, On Kawara. The former has now closed but continues to reverberate through Northeast Ohio and beyond; the latter is now available for order and will be inaugurated with a book signing on October 16, 2pm at the New York Art Book Fair.
FRONT 2022 was a wide-ranging triennial of contemporary art that spanned three cities in Northeast Ohio, with over 100 participating artists across 30 museums, art spaces, and other public venues. Focusing on art as an agent of transformation, a mode of healing, and a therapeutic process, “Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows” represents the largest project I’ve had the privilege of helming so far. The triennial provided an opportunity to explore how art can be a force for change at the individual, collective, and structural levels. It was a powerful journey with many challenges, yet I’m so proud of the ambitious project that the artists, team, and partnering institutions pulled off. Although the bulk of the exhibition has closed, you can still learn more about the curatorial approach in this video or in the project’s comprehensive catalog.
While it was on view, the exhibition received fantastic attention: from art publications including The Art Newspaper, ArtAgenda, ARTNews, ArtReview, Frieze, and others; to local media outlets such as Cleveland’s hometown The Plain Dealer, which featured the show in several articles, and Ideastream, Cleveland’s NPR affiliate. The show’s effects continue to resonate through long-term projects (with Cooking Sections and others) as well as museum presentations that remain on view through the end of the year (including Julie Mehretu: Portals, Firelei Báez, Nicole Eisenman, and others at Cleveland Museum of Art; Renée Green: Contact at moCa Cleveland; and Ahmet Öğüt: Bakunin’s Barricade at Allen Memorial Art Museum).
In contrast to this large-scale endeavor is the modestly-sized yet also expansive personal essay, On Letters. It was sparked by a talk at Dia:Beacon in 2015, but emerged as a fully-fledged book during the pandemic thanks to the new publishing house Domain. On Letters represents my attempt to address artistic practice on multiple levels—starting from On Kawara’s Date Paintings and the relationship of typography to lettering, but then growing in scope to touch upon art education, systems and numbers, the creative process, race and abstraction, and more.
This was one of the hardest pieces of writing I’ve attempted so far; the book’s existence is a testament to the intense labor of many people (thanks in particular to publisher/designer David Knowles and editor Sam Korman!). On Letters can already be ordered online. There are also a limited number of signed “designer’s editions” still available, which come with a beautiful press sheet/poster. For folks in or around New York: on Sunday, October 16 at 2pm, I’ll also be signing copies of the book during the free admission day of the New York Art Book Fair. A good excuse to finally reconnect in person!
There are other events coming up, including the Market for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge: End of Repetition, a rollicking interactive event in Berlin on October 14, 2022 that I’ll be participating in virtually with over 100 live experts (free registration is here), as well as upcoming talks, a 2023 teaching tour around the US, and more. But first, I’m planning a substantial break to recuperate before jumping into new things. And part of that break is to return to reading, finally!
Here are a handful of compelling books that have crossed my proverbial desk recently:
The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain by Annie Murphy Paul
Recommended to me by multiple friends in clinical psychology, neuroscience, and adjacent fields, this book is truly a gem: a highly readable articulation of how the human mind encompasses much more than just the physical brain. Through stories and scientific studies, Murphy Paul demonstrates that cognition happens in the body and gestures, in spaces and objects, and, most significantly, through relationships with others. I’ll be returning to this book again for inspiration and tools, I’m sure.
After the Oracle; or How the Golden State Warriors’ Four Core Values Can Change Your Life Like They Changed Mine by Shane Anderson
This mouthful of a title hints at the mix of humor and earnestness embedded within. Those of you who have read this newsletter before know that I’ve never before cited sports; it’s a field I know woefully little about. Shane’s book breaks this run. It’s an odd read: a juxtaposition of memoir, self-help, and sports commentary that ranges from stream-of-consciousness working through depression and mental illness with life advice gleaned from how the Golden State Warriors turned around their team using the principles of Joy, Mindfulness, Compassion, and Competition. A weird, worthwhile, and sometimes even useful piece of writing.
On Connection by Kae Tempest
This small package of a book was one of my favorites of the early summer. With astute commentary on the social value of art from the perspective of a performer and poet, Tempest unpacks both how art and music work to connect us with others who are different from us, while also sharing personal experiences from the path towards leading a creative life. I bought several dozen copies of the book to give to people, as I can’t imagine a better way to reorient and reflect on the role of art in society for the period ahead.
Body by RA Washington
RA Washington—artist, poet, musician, and more—is one of Cleveland’s homegrown polymaths; I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know him over the past several years through FRONT. This volume, one of his over 30 published books, is a brutal yet poetic look at trauma, perseverance, and the possibility of change. The inclusion of photographic sequences also gives it a powerful visual charge. RA’s book struck a strong chord with me and left me with a lot to process.
The Hours / Mrs. Dalloway by Michael Cunningham / Virginia Woolf
This clever paperback volume is a double novel that reads in opposite directions—one direction is The Hours, the other is Mrs. Dalloway. I have to admit that I’ve never read either; that fact along with publication’s elegant design conceit and its great haptic feel attracted me. I will appreciate carrying this one around over the coming days and months.
There are many other timely things happening in the world. But in the spirit of focus, I’ll keep this newsletter firmly planted in the here and now, and look forward to talking with you again before too long.
Biggest hugs and much love, always,
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