Introductions, goals, values

In my messy home office (piles of notebooks, half-finished drawings, thrice-renewed library books, cat hair, curled-up cat, dust), just watered my crispy little beige-green parlor palms, thinking about some goals for this yearlong project, Rewritings, which is kindly supported by The Sachs Program for Arts Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania.

A bit intimidated, if I’m honest. Trying to lean into the high-expectation-anxiety and structure the work into a calendar-like paper grid, manageable, which will go up on the home office wall. I anticipate the vulnerability that this project demands: self-reflection and true reflexivity, openness about gaps in my knowledge, examination of my power and lack. Also: imposter syndrome.

It’s helpful to remember the values that motivate and ground the work—values that I sensed, too, in artist Moyra Davey’s integrated visual art and writing practice.

 Notes taped to my home office wall marking some of the knowledge-power dynamics that first stood out to me while watching Moyra Davey's film  Les Goddesses , 2011, on my computer. Clearly, I observed themes that relate to my interests in medicine and psychology, feminism, and history.

Notes taped to my home office wall marking some of the knowledge-power dynamics that first stood out to me while watching Moyra Davey's film Les Goddesses, 2011, on my computer. Clearly, I observed themes that relate to my interests in medicine and psychology, feminism, and history.

Over time, I had become frustrated, as a critic with a modicum of power in the art world (Artforum, Frieze writer), with the impersonal, inflexible, and authoritative writing style that I had developed. As I began to research this project last fall—originally, on how I might write more creatively, freely, and autobiographically on contemporary art—the #metoo and #notsurprised campaigns were gaining momentum.

I’m a sexual assault survivor and anti-violence advocate. As news unfolded about art world figures accused of sexual violence, I was heartened by the Artforum staff’s response to allegations against publisher Knight Landesman (though there’s much to be done). This prompted me to think more deeply about the relationships of knowledge and power between art writers, artists, editors, and publishers—and how different forms of writing and thinking might further uncover and disrupt these relationships, both for individuals and in community.

Davey models this work, I believe, with sublety and compassion.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll first explore some grounding principles or attitudes for Rewritings, which together sort of inspired the “re” in the project title: reflexivity, recursion, refusal, and resistance.

Looking forward to reading and writing with you.