As the scholar Hugh Seton-Watson once wrote, “a nation exists when a significant number of people in a community consider themselves to form a nation, or behave as if they formed one.” National sovereignty is a key component of struggles for self-determination around the world; but once embedded in existing nation-states, it can be warped into an ideology of borders, state repression, and racist, religious, and ethnocentric violence. At the present moment, we are facing what Trinh T. Minh-ha calls an “epoch of global fear”: the idea of a globally interconnected future of interchange and national coexistence, widely shared after the end of the Cold War, has given way to talk of walling off people, rights, and resources to reinforce existing allocations of power and privilege.
Is the proper response to this predicament an argument for open borders and the dismantling of the nation-state? A utopian or futurist aesthetic in which nations have ceased to exist in their present form? Or an aesthetic of decolonization, focused on what Viet Thanh Nguyen calls “abolishing the conditions of voicelessness through having the unheard own their share of the means of representation” in a dominant national culture? In 2022 the Racial Imaginary Institute brought together participants from many fields to address these questions, and more, at events in New York City, Los Angeles, and other locations.
On Nationalism: The Fragility and Possibility of We
Judson Memorial Church and the Poetry Project
June 11 - June 19, 2022
Co-organized with the CUNY Graduate Center, and the Poetry Project, the symposium offered free conversations and performances open to the public with LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Bhanu Kapil, Layli Long Soldier, Maaza Mengiste, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Ann Pellegrin. The program of events took place on June 11, 2022, at Judson Memorial Church and June 18-19, 2022, at the Poetry Project. The symposium convened writers, artists, and performers to explore the affective and emotional ties of nationalism. Through the program of events, the symposium asked: How can we reimagine nation, tribe, and community? Which practices of listening, sharing, and making can be enacted across varying visions of community, decolonization and self-determination? Learn more here.
All Opposing Players
David Kordansky Gallery LA
July 23 - August 27, 2022
Artists: Lotte Andersen, Ed Fornieles, and Shaun Leonardo.
All Opposing Players explored the complex phenomenon of nationalism in the work of the featured artists, who utilized game-playing to explore the dangerous and the utopian potential of the “we.” The artists’ objects, videos, and performances addressed these concerns on a variety of scales, ranging from the deeply personal to the outwardly global, sometimes in challenging and contradictory ways. As part of the exhibition, on July 23, 2022, Leonardo presented a live workshop that incorporated audience participation to investigate how platforms of discussion may be rethought and possibly reinvented. Learn more here.
We Are Beside Ourselves
The James Gallery, NYC
September 13 - November 18, 2022
Artists: Jacki Apple, Elliott Jerome Brown, Jr., Maria Hupfield, Hương Ngô, Claudia Rankine and John Lucas, Kimberly Tate, Mercedes Teixido, Hồng-Ân Trương and Mariana Valencia
We Are Beside Ourselves was a collaborative exhibition that brought together a group of artists who explore new ways to form a “we.” The work investigated our most intimate and political rifts up close: where we sleep, whom we love, whom we create with, and spend leisure time with.
Foam Magazine #62 M/OTHERLANDS – The Transnational Issue
Published by FOAM Museum, The Netherlands, May 2022
The Transnational Issue explored the ways in which identity intersects and conflicts with nationalism and the idea of nation state within the European context. Learn more here.