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Artist-in-Presidency, a Transmission to Power

By August 20, 2021November 10th, 2021No Comments

See the Blackwood Gallery website for the transmission audio file, ASL interpretation, and full transcript.

Kevin is in two places at once. They are on their couch, buoyed by pillows, looking past the camera the way presidents often do in portraits. They are a scruffy white person with short brown hair. They wear asymmetrical gold hoop earrings and a gold chain necklace gifted by a group of friends for their 32nd birthday. On a shelf behind their couch at home in Lenapehoking, there are three plants: two ZZs and a Crown of Thorns. But they are at home only on the screen of a laptop that is elsewhere, in London, on the kitchen counter of the photographer, Louise Hickman, who is a very small square in the top right of the Zoom window where she is remotely joined to Kevin for this portrait. Kevin-on-screen is atop a small box on the table, just behind a mug that says I ❤️ LONDON. Behind the screen there is a Money Plant and a Jade Plant, just behind the part of the screen where Kevin's plants are at home so that they almost seem to be one unit of houseplants, except Kevin's are a scale smaller on the screen. On the wall behind is the bottom of a poster that says SAN FRANCISCO. And there's an outlet with a white MacBook power cable that snakes along and loops into the side of the computer, like Kevin themself is plugged into the wall and might disappear if unplugged. This is an intentionally crafted aesthetic of remote crip connection, an ordinary scene of Kevin and Louise's friendship and collaborations.In March 2021, I received an invitation to participate in a project by Chilean-American artist Constance Hockaday at the Blackwood Gallery at the University of Toronto. It was a beautiful, fully-formed proposal for me to join a group of people who were crafting a new kind of fireside chat, a different political style.

When I met with Connie and started dreaming of what I might say, I meant to ask how she heard about my work. But I forgot. And then at a certain point I decided I wasn’t going to ask. Hello, I’m a President!

Actually taking up the idea of myself as President was hard. I don’t live in hope for electoral politics. Connie pressed me to really stay with the challenge. If I was seriously in charge, what would I say? I realized I had a very cavalier attitude about the idea of addressing the public. This speech became a way for me to take more seriously my access to others’ attention.

My first draft was really not cute, to be honest. It was full of little jokes I wanted to send to other crips. Connie was like….um, it’d be nice to get in on whatever you’re signaling? She is an excellent editor.

The second draft was where I found it, an idea for how to use coziness as a political analytic.

I had my presidential portrait taken by my dear friend Louise Hickman. I knew I wanted to be seen on a screen within a screen, the Zoom look. And I loved the idea that I could be in two places at once: on my couch in New York, but also on Louise’s table in London.

The Blackwood Gallery coordinated the signed version.

And then I assembled 100 songs that capture cozy world-making possibilities. I organized things into conceptual crates (in descending order): WARMTH RETENTION || PROTECTION SPELLS || SLUT || THE CUDDLE CRATE || JOY || HOME || SLOW CONCEPT (misc.)