'sindikit  & Guest Spot @ THE REINSTITUTE

Pre Fixe: Course 1 - Identity & Performativity

Sunday September 17, 2017 | 6:30 - 8:30pm


'sindikit and Guest Spot present "Pre Fixe," a recurring dinner-discussion around identity in the arts. Join us Sunday, September 17th at 6:30 pm at Guest Spot @ The Reinstitute for "Course 1: Identity & Performativity." Conversation to follow sindikit's opening (405 E. Oliver Street, Baltimore, Maryland, 4-6pm) and will feature exhibiting artists Bonnie Collura and Stephanie J. Williams. Drinks and light appetizers will be served.




1. “For Deleuze and Guattari the concept of being implies a fixed entity the remains the same regardless of its encounters and interactions, whereas becoming is defined by transformations in conjunction with something else. Becoming operates as a continual process of transformation because what one comes into contact with is not a fixed subject or category but other becomings or durations. In this respect becomings can be understood to operate much the same way that Deleuze and Guattari discuss the body as decomposing and recomposing with every encounter. The body is always becoming with the thing, the institution, discourse and other with which in comes in contact.


Becoming should not be mistaken for resemblance, imitation, or identification, nor is it a process with an end or aim: “Becoming is a verb with a consistency all its own; it does not reduce to, or lead back to, ‘appearing,’ ‘being,’ ‘equaling,’ or ‘producing.’”


The temporal and transformative powers of becoming challenge not only the static notion of being, but also the static categories of the human being and the way the human is organized into fixed gender, race, age, ability, and ethnicity. It is not that these identities do not exist, but that they are neither fixed nor end points: they are open to change. They are molar orderings, which are always susceptible to molecular deterritorialization. If becoming always involves a becoming with something else, there can be no concept of a distinct and pure human that can be categorized into types. The process of becoming is an undoing of human organization and categorization.” -- From “Cinematic Assemblages: An Ethological Approach to Film Viewing” in Deleuze and Film: A Feminist Introduction


2. “The recent backlash to rumors about Kamala Harris’s potential 2020 candidacy shows how this bizarre and cynical version of “identity politics” continues to be used as a weapon to derail progressives whose record of commitment to racial justice, gender equality, and LGBT issues has historically eclipsed that of the Democratic Party itself. Using identity this way is harmful to the interests of progressive politics. Leftists, particularly leftists of color, are invested in ensuring that the Democratic Party learns from its mistakes. To that end, we are committed to helping the party put forward candidates who are less vulnerable to the types of attacks which dogged Hillary – that she was a corporatist, that she was owned by Wall Street, that she could not be trusted.  That is why we question candidates like Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Deval Patrick – all floated as 2020 possibilities in recent weeks. Though each of them has at least one black parent, it is intellectually dishonest to pretend it is that quality, rather than their corporatism, which draws criticism from the left. (And with Nina Turner emerging as the presumptive heiress to Bernie’s progressive leadership, it is increasingly difficult to credibly contend otherwise.) It is natural to be skeptical of an out-group member’s views about a subject important to members of that group—especially when certain race or gender-based factions have historically been in conflict. But the inquiry into whether to listen to a particular critic cannot stop at that critic’s identity.


Of course, identity still matters, and prejudice operates in subtle and pervasive ways. On one level, my instinct is to agree with those who say all Harris’s critics are racist: the truth is that everyone is racist. But our culture’s conscious and unconscious biases won’t be resolved before 2020, and until they are, we must rely on something more than mere identity to determine the legitimacy of political criticism. It’s fair to ask of a critic: are you able to articulate a reason why you are wary of a candidate? Do, they, for instance, cite the candidate’s conservative “tough on crime” approach to criminal justice, or do they trade in gendered stereotypes, dog-whistles, or vague statements of “feeling” that suggest an ulterior motive?  This analytical step is crucial: a critic should not be impugned on the basis of a candidate’s identity, but on the soundness of the critique itself. Nor should a critic be ignored because of their own identity, without  anything more. After all: biology is not (political) destiny.” -- From “How Identity Became a Weapon Against the Left”

3. “When in 2014 white artist Joe Scanlan introduces a character played by a black woman into the Whitney Biennial, the mostly queer and black Yams Collective withdraws from the show. “We are protesting institutional white supremacy and how it plays out,” a Yams member told Artnet News. “A main part of our message is that we want to move the idea of white supremacy away from caricatures of white supremacy: neo-Nazis, KKK members, crazy kids who live in the mountains of Arkansas. White supremacy is embodied in these institutions that tokenize us, that invite us into spaces where they have absolutely no interest in ceding power. That's the most important thing to get about this."

Unsurprisingly, Scanlan sees himself working in pursuit of the same values. “Donelle Woolford springs from the fact that, while museums have made great strides in expanding the points of view in their programming, there is still an expectation that in order for artists of color to gain access they have to make work about their identities,” he says. “That is, requires them to demonstrate they’re authentic. This was and remains a kind of trap that disciplines all artists who don’t make work about their identities and constrains those artists who do. Even when an artist of color plays with this authenticity and control — say Adrian Piper or Pope.L — their actual identities are still used as proof of a momentary, but authentic achievement of diversity. We wanted to see what would happen if a character like Donelle Woolford entered this system, what would happen when her identity was revealed to be performed, inauthentic. Needless to say, her presence has been transformative. The protest and withdrawal by the Yams Collective wouldn’t have been effective without the catalysis of Donelle Woolford. The same is true for all museums and curators who now feel compelled to take their commitments to access seriously. As Marcel Broodthaers said, ‘Fiction enables us to grasp reality and, at the same time, that which is veiled by reality.’”

“We are at an interesting moment in America today,” says Okwui Enwezor. “One that I believe is quite analogous to what has been termed the ‘heyday’ of identity politics in the late 1980s and 1990s. This in my view is very welcome, particularly in the way different forms of engaged art and activism bring a spotlight to the types of clueless and insipid formalism that was running amok in galleries and museums recently in the name of a revitalized painting.”

Which makes first-person art, undeniably, an art-historical movement–the movement of our time. Jerry Saltz says, ‘Artists now work at the scale of medieval cathedral façades, meant to tell universal stories in highly accessible ways. But they do so with their own personalities, histories, biographies always front and center—speaking, imploring, knocking us down with the idea of a self.’” -- From “How Identity Politics Conquered the Art World: An Oral History”