Month: November 2019

Recipes for a post-colonial kitchen: maize / Recetas para una cocina poscolonial: el maíz

I remember the days before smartphones when my parents would load me and my brothers up into our white, blue velvet interior, 1985 Oldsmobile Toronado to make the 2-day trip down south to visit our grandparents. It was always a hot summer, a 24 hour drive to the border, 12 hours to Durango, and a few extra hours here and there so my dad could sleep. This was usually somewhere just outside of Tulsa, and after getting through Border Patrol in Nuevo Laredo. I knew the path in my heart. No matter how far away we were, I felt the magnetic pull that snapped us from our house in Aurora, Illinois to the fig trees growing in the yard behind my grandmother’s kitchen in Durango. Mexico was my summer camp. As the in-car map reader, it was my job to make sure we took I-55 South through St. Louis so we could drive over that spectacular bridge that crossed the Mississippi River. My father, a former truck driver who is very familiar with this route, …

Installation view of Men of Change. The installation made of metal poles is in the middle of the room. Light boxes of various sizes featuring photos and text are hung on the metal poles. A large display box in front of the installation features a poster that reads STORYTELLERS. Along the walls of the room are paintings and other artworks, most of which are obscured by the metal pole installation in the middle of the room. A woman stands in front of the light box installation, looking at the installation. Photo by Phil Armstrong. Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.

Have you seen them? “Men of Change” at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

“Have you seen them? You see them. Bold. Powerful.         Tragic. Beautiful.                 And true. They are icons with warrior roots. They are trees of knowledge. Legends of the past, inspiration for the future, the fierce energy of now.” The introductory text to “Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth.” paints a picture of what you can expect within the two rooms containing the ambitious exhibition. “Men of Change” highlights the accomplishments and legacies of black American men through text, photography, and artwork from twenty-five American artists. The changemakers — some long gone, many still alive — were paired with artists who made artwork related to, about, or honoring them.     The exhibition is organized by the Smithsonian Institute Traveling Exhibitions Services (SITES), and will travel to ten locations over the next three years. It debuted at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is on view until December 1, after which it will head to the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma, Washington. WeShouldDoItAll (WSDIA), a Brooklyn-based design studio responsible for the “Making A …

In House: Pilsen Community Books with Mary Gibbons

This is the first interview of “In House,” an oral history series entering the places that house books across Chicago. Sections of this interview have been edited for length and clarity.   I first heard the rumor from a fellow reader who in turn heard it from another reader (word travels fast amongst readers): Pilsen Community Books was for sale. On July 19, the owners of the three-year-old bookstore broke the news to devotees, explaining their decision to focus on their other bookstore, The Dial, and also announcing prospects of a buyer. The future, however, was uncertain.   When Mary Gibbons and Aaron Lippelt opened Pilsen Community Books (PCB) in February 2016 at 1102 W. 18th St., they filled a need on the Lower West Side not only for a bookstore but for a place to host literary events and local publications, a place to connect. In a “triple-secret unofficial” email correspondence from PCB employee Manuel Morales y Méndez, Méndez celebrated one such connection between a young writer and artist whose meeting at PCB led …

The Southwest Nest / El Nido Suroeste: An Interview with Alina Estrada (English & Español)

Brighton Park, Back of the Yards, and McKinley Park are neighborhoods on the Southwest Side of Chicago that are bundled together so often that they are given a similar reputation and narrative by the media. It isn’t always a good one. Today these neighborhoods still face violence, poverty, and more recently, gentrification. I would like to challenge the idea that violence is the only thing these neighborhoods have to offer by shining a light on the creative minds that enrich them. In this series, “The Southwest Nest,” I hope to celebrate and recognize these artists and share with you their perspectives of the neighborhoods they either work in or call home. Crafting has always been part of the fabric of the Southwest Side. Even as Crafts by Claudia, a neighborhood store that has been running for almost 40 years in Back of the Yards, prepares to close its doors, artist Alina Estrada is working on expanding her own crafty business, Party Mama Crafts. This Latina-owned business hosts painting and piñata-crafting workshops and classes. I had the …

The Last Cruze: LaToya Ruby Frazier at the Renaissance Society

Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, stated at the October 2018 CityLab Detroit Leaders Conference that she hoped to shift public perception of GM from that of an automobile manufacturer to a technology company before her retirement. Barra’s comment hinted at a desire to not only change the driving ethos of GM production but to also transform the configuration of GM’s workforce: imagine a future akin to Tesla’s automated assembly line, their factories quiet save for the AI programmed to build their “tech.” The wish to associate GM with an encroaching technocratic future reflects how labor, capital, and the management of these two components of late capitalism have shifted within the neoliberal paradigm. The dialogue of labor is rapidly changing. Rather than centering the conversation on workers, the question is now how production is managed, diffused and parceled out: human lives become human capital. This message casts a long shadow over the recent United Autoworkers Union deal with GM, ratified on Nov 4th, 2019. UAW members were on strike for six weeks, the longest …

Image: Image: The cover for T. Fleischmann's book Time is the thing a body moves through, designed by Stevie Hanley.

“Time Is The Thing A Body Moves Through”: A Review

The book begins in transit. Literally moving from the get-go, a bus trip. “I leave Buffalo when the moon is still out, and on the long bus ride south I find myself unable to read.” By coincidence, I crack open my book on a bus ride, too, albeit a shorter commute, and I, unlike T. “Clutch” Fleischmann, am able to read on transit.  This is to say: the book begins in transit because the body is in transit; in conversation with itself and itinerant others.  The title holds all of these moving parts: Time Is The Thing A Body Moves Through. This is one of those gorgeous book titles that gets me all worked up knowing I didn’t come up with the line myself. So beautiful it sounds immediately true and resonant, even if I can’t put my finger on exactly what it means. It resonates with a moment in Clutch’s last book, Syzygy, Beauty, which proposed, “Choreography is one way to articulate time, your body moving forward.” But the new phrasing is less linear, …

Beyond the Page: Regina Martinez & Threewalls’ In-Session

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. For this installment, I interviewed Regina Martinez, Threewalls’ Artist and Artistic Engagement Manager, about the In-Session program — a critical interdisciplinary salon that incorporates reading, conversation, and performance together, now entering its third season. I spoke with Martinez in late July about the ideas and values behind In-Session, the theme she chose for its coming season, sensitivities of working between artists and institutions, and Martinez’s own path to and through this work. Check out In-Session’s third season, themed “The Art of Memory.” Find Threewalls @threewalls on Twitter and @three-walls on Instagram. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about In-Session! I’m so glad I went to Udita Upadhyaya’s In-Session event in March, because I think this program has such a great premise and I’m excited to hear how other artists engage with it. Especially for readers who may …

Image: Installation view of "Dark Matter: Celestial Objects as Messengers of Love in These Troubled Times" by Folayemi Wilson. Catwalk with rotating NASA videos of the sun and moon. Photo by Michael Sullivan.

Space is a Place: Folayemi Wilson at the Hyde Park Art Center

There’s this thing that happens sometimes when I close my eyes and focus on nothing. It’s not like the after-image that you often get when looking at an object for a long time, but something else entirely. I see daubs of light, tiny flecks of indiscernible colors that move and dance in the darkness. And frequently, there is an actual place, a room that has no apparent walls, but feels like I’m somewhere else than where I really am–an astral projection of a space for safety and reflection. This place, I believe, was made manifest when I entered the main gallery this summer at the Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC) to view Folayemi Wilson’s latest work Dark Matter: Celestial Objects as Messengers of Love in These Troubled Times. I met Fo late last year during my stint in the Teaching Artist’s studio of HPAC. I had worked there since September 2016, and was encouraged to apply to be a resident. A couple months later, I was sharing the space with another teaching artist. Now, mind …

Image: Ida Cuttler, wearing a red blazer over pink pajamas, sits with her hands on her knees center. On the ground around her, are red and blue balloons and red-white-and-blue beachballs. The beachballs have stars on the blue stripes. Photo courtesy of Brave Lux, Inc.

A Story – “Comfortable Shoes” at The Neo-Futurist Theater

Here: a story. When I was younger, as a chronic fidgeter, holes and gaps would creep into my clothes, always looking like a moth had found a cozy meal. Because of this, I became familiar with the fraying yarn, a piece of a piece of clothing that could not be separated, nor could it be its own item. I tugged at these threads, always wondering whether or not I could find the scarf’s spine or its guts or its nerve endings. We do, after all, understand where my skeleton is and where your skeleton is and if we had been inside the meat, then surely science must have been inside the sweater and understood those blueprints. Though, I never got too far: I stopped, knowing that I would have wound up shirtless midway through the day. Here: another. Ida Cuttler contributed to the infamous (and not at all that famous) Hot Blog Dogs, one of my favorite mid-2010s artifacts. I found the website inspiring; as a misanthropic, anxious bibliophile who wanted to be fun and …

Inga: Spacemaking Through and Around Books

Bookshops have often functioned as meeting points for peer discussion, an opportunity to find added resources, and a place to showcase newly discovered titles and remarkable projects in print and publishing. They frequently rely on the collective strength of their supporters, near and far. In August, the new bookshop Inga joined the Pilsen storefront space of the popular cine-club filmfront, already well-known for building community around its film screenings and events. Co-founders Malia Haines-Stewart and Alan Medina — along with their long-time friend and Chicago-based graphic designer Jacob Lindgren — opened Inga to expand upon their ongoing collaborations as an imprint and distribute self-published and independent titles. Throughout their years directing and programming events and screenings for filmfront, Haines-Stewart and Medina have developed an active and reciprocal connection across art and film communities in Chicago, building a reputation that has required a sincere effort in time and dedication. With the new addition of Inga and having Lindgren as a founding member, there is great momentum to broaden an already active community of supporters and enthusiasts …