The Kitchen Presents ON WHITENESS In Collaboration With The Racial Imaginary Institute

By: May. 21, 2018

The Kitchen Presents ON WHITENESS In Collaboration With The Racial Imaginary Institute

The Kitchen presents a collaboration with The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII) that expands upon the Institute's first year of research on Whiteness, what Claudia Rankine has described as "a source of unquestioned power [that], as a 'bloc,' feels itself to be endangered even as it retains its hold on power." On Whiteness comes to The Kitchen from June 27 to August 3, and seeks to disorient bodies habituated to spaces of white dominance through a large-scale group exhibition; a symposium on June 30 chaired by Claudia Rankine; three week-long artist residencies with Dark Noise Collective, Vijay Iyer, and Jackie Sibblies Drury; newly commissioned performances from Marguerite Hemmings, Seung-Min Lee, and Angie Pittman; and a network of parallel programs at partner organizations throughout the city. Organized by the curatorial teams of The Racial Imaginary Institute and The Kitchen.

Within white supremacy there exists an evident danger. On Whiteness seeks to create a collaborative space to question, mark, and check whiteness, challenging its dominance as it operates through default positions in cultural behavior. Philosopher Sara Ahmed's text "The Phenomenology of Whiteness" provides a foundational text for the project, in which she describes whiteness as an "ongoing and unfinished history, which orientates bodies in specific directions, affecting how they 'take up' space, and what they 'can do.'" Ahmed also asks us to consider "'institutions' as orientation devices, which take the shape of 'what' resides within them." Because institutions have the power to shape social meaning, The Kitchen and The Racial Imaginary Institute stage their intervention in existing cultural spaces, seeking to extend programming and outreach towards a deliberate consideration of race. TRII co-curator LeRonn P. Brooks says: "We hope this instance of dynamic activity will set the stage for other forms of intervention which will confront this urgent moment in our nation." In this way, the collaboration will aspire to create opportunities for new habits and modes of inquiry among institutions, artists, and audiences alike.

The group exhibition, free and open to the public, will be on view through the duration of the project (June 27-August 3), in The Kitchen's second-floor gallery. It will comprise newly commissioned and existing works by emerging and established artists, including Josh Begley, Paul Chan, Mel Chin, Ja'Tovia Gary, Ken Gonzales-Day, Titus Kaphar, Baseera Khan, Glenn Ligon, Mores McWreath, Sandeep Mukherjee, Native Art Department International, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Tim Rollins and K.O.S., Cindy Sherman, Rodrigo Valenzuela, Anicka Yi,and more. The Kitchen's first-floor lobby will also house a library of resources on whiteness studies.

The June 30th symposium will, through two panels and three keynote addresses, feature discussions on the diagnostics of whiteness (with panelists including Desire/Love author and professor Lauren Berlant, White Fragility author and academic Robin DiAngelo, and Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Routeauthor Saidiya Hartman, and NYC-based clinical psychologist Jane Caflisch and representation and appropriation within white dominated cultural spaces (with Art History and African and African American Studies professor Sarah Lewis, journalist, critic and Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation author Jeff Chang, National Book Award winning poet Daniel Borzutsky, and Whitewalling: Art, Race, & Protest in 3 Acts author Aruna D'Souza,writer Doreen St. Felix,Africana Studies professor and Whiteness scholar Sadhana Bery, and moderator Chris Chen). Keynote speakers for the symposium include The Future of Whiteness author Linda Alcoff, The History of White People author and historian Nell Painter, and legal scholar and The Alchemy of Race and Rights author Patricia Williams..

Throughout the summer, jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer, playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury, and poetry collective Dark Noise Collective (Fatimah Asghar, Franny Choi, Nate Marshall, Aaron Samuels, Danez Smith, and Jamila Wood) will each occupy The Kitchen's theater space for a week, using this valuable time to workshop new projects that reconsider whiteness. Vijay Iyer (June 25-29) will explore what he terms the "affective archeology" of systemic racism, combining audio interviews he has conducted with artists of color with live performance with a host of collaborators across open rehearsals and evening performances. Jackie Sibblies Drury (July 9-13) will begin use her time in the space to begin a new project, experimenting with text and developing a movement vocabulary in collaboration with other artists that explores how physical comedy and violence are written onto and interact with the black body. She will open her process to the public through in-process showings and casual feedback sessions. Dark Noise (July 16-20) will use their time together as a retreat, focusing on internal writing workshops, artist talks, and discussions around race and the ways that their work disrupts white dominance. They will also host a public performance at The Kitchen, consisting of poems that have been generated during the residency and other work.

Dance artist Angie Pittman will perform two pieces, Sequined Kisses and Vaseline Love, examining expression in a context of racial trauma and "cool" as an African Diasporic concept. (July 27) With the we free lab, choreographer, dancer, and teacher Marguerite Hemmings looks at relationships that are in need of examining, i.e. audience-performer; institution-artist; whiteness-everything else? (July 2). Seung-Min Lee's performance takes on the conflicted symbolic power of milk; as the once-booming dairy industry in New York state suffers with the steady decline of milk consumption, a new generation of Neo-Nazis takes pride in lactose tolerance, instrumentalizing the optical purity of milk as a emblem of white supremacy. (July 23)

In conjunction with its programming at The Kitchen, the Racial Imaginary Institute has issued an open invitation to cultural institutions to create parallel programming that critically self-reflects on the way whiteness manifests into institutional practices. These feature talks, exhibitions, film series, and artistic engagements created by partner organizations including 47 Canal, BAM (Brooklyn Academy Of Music), Helena Anrather Gallery, Jack Shainman Gallery, MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), the Morgan Library, the Museum of Chinese in America,, New Museum, Recess, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others. For information on participation and a forthcoming full schedule, please visit the The Racial Imaginary Institute website:

Blackacre poet Monica Youn, a TRII co-curator, says, "We would like to not just be another organization that spotlights diversity. We would like to infiltrate existing institutional practices, to dehabituate whiteness, to make it less comfortable."

Dates and ticketing information for specific events will soon be announced. The opening for The Racial Imaginary Institute's exhibit On Whiteness takes place June 27, 6-8pm, at The Kitchen (512 West 19th Street).


The Racial Imaginary Institute: On Whiteness is made possible with support from the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, Poetry Foundation, Valerie Dillon & Daniel R Lewis,

About the Racial Imaginary Institute

Because no sphere of life is untouched by race, The Racial Imaginary Institute, founded by poet, essayist, and playwright Claudia Rankine in 2016, gathers under its aegis an interdisciplinary range of artists, writers, knowledge-producers, and activists. It convenes a cultural laboratory in which the racial imaginaries of our time and place are engaged, read, countered, contextualized and demystified. The curatorial team-including Rankine, curators LeRonn P. Brooks, Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels, and Simon Wu, poets Monica Youn and Cathy Park Hong, playwrights Casey Llewellyn and Steven Glavey, and producer and publicist Sara'o Bery-organizes art exhibitions, readings, dialogues, lectures, performances, and screenings that engage the subject of race.

About The Kitchen

The Kitchen is one of New York City's most forward-looking nonprofit spaces, showing innovative work by emerging and established artists across disciplines. Our programs range from dance, music, performance, and theater to video, film, and art, in addition to literary events, artists' talks, and lecture series. Since its inception in 1971, The Kitchen has been a powerful force in shaping the cultural landscape of this country, and has helped launch the careers of many artists who have gone on to worldwide prominence.


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