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On Being Included

11.3 / On Being Included

April 15 2020
Adobe brick molds found in Tierra. Sangre. Oro., envisioned by Rafa Esparza, at Ballroom Marfa. Photo: Raquel Gutiérrez.


Latipa and Yusef

In the last few years, we have encountered a moment in which dominant institutions, including the market, are celebrating artists and radical social movements. On Being Included, in resonance with Sara Ahmed’s book of the same title, gathers a set of essays to reflect the lived experiences of this inclusion. Each contributor to this issue was selected and invited by guest editors Latipa (née Michelle Dizon) and Yusef, who discussed ideas and offered points of inquiry and reflection, while Art Practical’s editors worked to craft and finalize their pieces.

The project of inclusion is painful. It is the contending of deeply rooted structures that our bodies do not and cannot conform to. Raquel Gutiérrez shares their decades-long experience as a Brown witness inside of many arts institutions which strive to perform a kind of diversity that does not interrupt any structures. Through research of SFMOMA’s Museum Intercommunity Exchange program of the 1970s, Qianjin Montoya demonstrates how the fundamental assertion of a singular historical narrative makes it inherently impossible to contain the “prismatic expressions” of the many cultures and histories that exist.

It would be reticent to say that Art Practical, as an organization within an institution, is absolved of these structures. Just as capitalism prioritizes outcomes and institutions prioritize artwork, we recognize that as a publication, we, too, even in the process of organizing this issue, fall into the tendency of prioritizing content—all for the cycle of consumption. Eunsong Kim reveals how institutional priorities come at personal costs, through research of the detailed deliberations of museum air conditioning in correspondences between John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Frederick Clapp from the 1930s. Kim proffers that the act of inclusion is one of object immortalization—one where the level of precise care of an art object exceeds the level afforded to the larger population.

Our current circumstance makes it clear, however, that eventually, the climate and lack of care of those outside the institution may well put enough pressure on existing structures to bring them down. With the onset of COVID-19, many institutions and organizations, including our own, are facing collapse. It is a moment, as Chaédria LaBouvier suggests, that can offer an opportunity to dismantle the mode of production as empire and enact structural change so that museums and institutions can better support the communities they claim to serve. Jolene Rickard reminds us that the project of inclusion is only an “incidental benefit” to the larger movement and effort to restore Indigenous knowledge and sovereignty. 

In their invitation to contributors, Latipa and Yusef noted, “We want to acknowledge the complexities and relational aspects of the politics of inclusion. While these forces find life in the violent ways that institutions take our histories and profit from them, they also live in our own minds, our desires, and our struggles to create spaces of care and intimacy for our loved ones and ourselves. As such, laboring through inclusion requires interrogating multiple sites: the larger scale ones of institutions, economic systems, and political history, and the more intimate ones of interiority, care, and sustenance.”

Each essay offered in this issue is deeply personal, and thus, deeply political. Treva Ellison leaves us with the “vantapower” that queer and trans artists of color generate through their very embodiment and living flesh, a proposal that suggests through our very existence, we can break through hegemonic structures to support our being rather than our being included.

—Vivian Sming, Editor in Chief, Art Practical


On the Limits of Witnessing

On the Limits of Witnessing

By Raquel Gutiérrez

This is one narration of Brown witnessing to the white cube and its attending supremacies, under an administration currently working to ensure our annihilation.

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remain        | un | conquered

remain     | un | conquered

By Eunsong Kim

Inclusion denotes safety, legacy, and foundation. Part of what is being dangled in inclusion is the condition of object immortalization: air conditioning, guards, conservation experts, curators, educators, more.

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Unintentional Inclusion and Indigenous Art

Unintentional Inclusion and Indigenous Art

By Jolene Rickard (Tuscarora)

Within art-world centers, inclusion of Indigenous art is complicated by a number of factors including an ongoing omission of Indigenous nationhood expressed as sovereignty.

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The Mode of Production as Empire

The Mode of Production as Empire

By Chaédria LaBouvier

In lieu of seismic institutional change, "firsts" are personal wins that are extrapolated to virtue signal "change," and become iconographies of representation for marginalized people, the vast majority for whom a hiring freeze is still in place.

More »