The first issue of The Racial Imaginary’s website centered around constructions, deconstructions, and visualizations of/around whiteness, white identity, white rage/fragility/violence, and white dominant structures.
We have gathered here work by scholars, MFA students and cohorts, theater artists, photographers, sound artists, painters and multimedia artists, poets, and essayists in order to create a matrix of interconnected work that interrogates one of the most toxic ideological strongholds threatening our collective survival.
The Institute began with a focus on whiteness because we believe that in our current moment whiteness is freshly articulated: the volume on whiteness has been turned up. Whiteness as a source of unquestioned power, and as a “bloc,” feels itself to be endangered even as it retains its hold on power. Given that the concept of racial hierarchy is a strategy employed to support white dominance, whiteness is an important aspect of any conversation about race. We began here in order to make visible that which has been intentionally presented as inevitable so that we can move forward into more revelatory conversations about race. Our first project questioned what can be made when we investigate, evade, beset and call out bloc-whiteness.
June 27 - August 3 2018
Artists: Josh Begley, Paul Chan, Mel Chin, Ja’Tovia Gary, Ken Gonzales-Day, Kate Greenstreet, Titus Kaphar, Baseera Khan, Charlotte Lagarde, Seung-Min Lee, Glenn Ligon, Mores McWreath, Sandeep Mukherjee, Native Art Department International, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Tim Rollins and K.O.S., Cindy Sherman, Rodrigo Valenzuela, and Anicka Yi.
The exhibition portion of On Whiteness aimed to take advantage of art’s powerful ability to reframe dominant ways of seeing, especially with regard to philosopher Sara Ahmed’s postulation of whiteness as a “habit,” whose power to form and sustain specific social behaviors and institutions resides in its being taken entirely for granted. As Ahmed proposes: “Whiteness is what bodies do, where the body takes shape of the action…. spaces are oriented ‘around’ whiteness, insofar as whiteness is not seen.” By disorienting the particularly habituated space of the white cube gallery, the work in this exhibition questioned, marked, and checked whiteness, challenging its dominance as it operates through default positions in cultural behavior.
June 30, 2018
The day-long symposium featured conversation on the diagnostics of whiteness, with keynote addresses by Linda Alcoff, Nell Painter, and Patricia Williams; presentations including Vijay Iyer and Claudia Rankine and panelists including Lauren Berlant, Sadhana Bery, Daniel Borzutsky, Rizvana Bradley, Jane Caflish, Jeff Chang, Chris Chen, Aruna D’Souza, Lori Gruen, Saidiya Hartman, Sarah Lewis, and Doreen St. Felix. Learn more here.
Published by SPBH Editions, September 2022
The book includes texts by Lauren Berlant, Sadhana Bery, Daniel Borzutsky, Jane Caflisch, Jeff Chang, Aruna D’Souza, Lori Gruen, Saidiya Hartman, Linda Martín Alcoff, Nell Irvin Painter, and Doreen St. Félix, and artworks by Alexandra Bell, Mel Chin, Ken Gonzales-Day, Titus Kaphar, Charlotte Lagarde, Carla Liesching, Glenn Ligon, Nell Painter, and Hank Willis Thomas.
The book anthologized TRII’s historic 2018 symposium “On Whiteness,” which convened a dazzling array of thinkers, artists and activists. The essays collected in the book On Whiteness seek to examine whiteness as a source of often unquestioned or even unobserved power, and make visible variations of this dangerous ideology that has been intentionally positioned as neutral. Buy the book here.
Claudia Rankine, Poet, Essayist, Playwright
Makayla Bailey, Curator
LeRonn P. Brooks, Curator
Monica Youn, Poet
Emily Skillings, Poet
Rune Steenberg, Scholar
John Lucas, Filmmaker
Cathy Park Hong, Poet
Sara’o Bery, Producer
Nuar Alsadir, Writer and Psychoanalyst
Samantha Ozer, Curator
Simon Wu, Curator and Program Coordinator of TRII