Moving (or Dancing) Through (or In Between) Our Dreams
What does it mean to embody joy alongside resistance? To shatter, deconstruct, and dismantle oppressive spaces through imagination? To envision justice and liberation in motion, and care as an active choice for a better world? Currently, we are experiencing the disruption and chaos characteristic of the afterculture, identified by art critic Ben Davis as the collapse of the perception of art as a social good under the weight of capitalism’s dysfunction. Within this dystopian reality, we return to art as a site to dream of alternative futures and spaces, a channel that helps us process aesthetic and human possibilities. We actively engage in the creation of a new world.
Commodification and cultural appropriation are symptoms of a consumer culture where entertainment has become all-devouring. Radical movements from Bounce music to Chicana style are quickly co-opted and appropriated by corporate messaging and branding, selling manufactured dreams of liberation while reinforcing white supremacy and its structures of policing and surveillance. In response, we turn our attention to censored, marginalized and silenced legacies. As we talked to artists and creatives in the last months about intentional models of collaboration, reciprocity, identity, positionality, and their relationship to audiences, we practiced researching and reflecting on the intent and impact of our own work.
As we move (or dance) through (or in between) boundaries and borders, performance scholar Sydney Skybetter reminds us that protests are choreography - revealing of embodied struggles in this authoritarian world. Art historian and artist Leticia Alvarado emphasizes irreverent and disruptive aesthetics as ways to deviate from stereotypical Latino/x aesthetics of pride, rebellion, and celebration. In dialogue with scholar Dr. Lisa Biggs and artist/activist Dara Kwayera Imani Bayer, we explore Abolition through radical imagination - reworking violent ways of relating and envisioning new systems of care. Black femme artists Dylan Lewis and Helina Metaferia perform the work of liberation by centering overlooked BIPOC femme narratives. We listen to the noise and dissonance of the composer/activist Raven Chacon - strategies for occupying, disrupting and decolonizing power structures. We contemplate anarchy as sound. We respond to Fariha Róisin’s poems and research on the capitalist and white supremacist commodification of spiritual traditions from yoga to Ayahuasca. We find place in exclusive spaces through community-building, public art and the identity explorations of Cuban-American artist Ana Flores. We redefine ‘normal’ bodies and the harmful ways narratives centering disability have been tokenized through curatorial initiatives.
We hope that this digital collection challenges the notion of the ‘neutral’ or ‘perfect’ critic and weaves self-reflection into truth-telling. Throughout this learning practice, we reinforce our own humanity, fluidity and vulnerability. We toggle between comfort and discomfort with humility, acknowledging the limits of what we know. We listen and care for ourselves and each other, making space for integrity, courage, laughter, tenderness, failure, hope, and resilience. As Fariha Róisin notes, self-care “is done to comprehend your mortality or state of being in this world,” because our bodies carry their own histories. When naming harm, our bodies are the first point of reference for decolonization and healing. As author Karan Mahajan reminded us, empathy is a radical force, and the artist is a historian of the present, whose work is to “capture the beauty or ugliness of a place that [they] know well.”
This project was developed in Shirine Saad's Arts Writing class at the BAI