Naturalizations: Questions, Statements, and Propositions(2002-2014)
Short, fragmentary writings for collective inquiry
The intentionally non-linear and fragmentary writing process of these texts has been developed over the years for the many workshops, events, installations, and actions that are part of the Naturalizations series. Depending on the context, selections of these may appear on walls, in publications, engraved on the mirror masks themselves, or simply exchanged verbally by a group of participants. The order in which they appear has no relationship to chronology, hierarchy, importance, or subject matter.
What are we before we are naturalized?
How do we write the biographies and histories of the unnamed?
Can there be a portrait without facial representation?
Can there be portraiture without individuals?
What is an abstract portrait? (or is there no such thing?)
What is an anti-portrait?
What is a visual question?
What is collective citizenship?
Who is excluded from the tradition of biography and how exactly?
What is implied by our grand historical narratives and artistic canons?
How exactly do museums include and exclude their subjects?
Other than religious, ethnic or national identity, what structures may help sustain and exhibit the art of those considered outside or beneath the Western canon?
Can we think of representative museums that intentionally refuse the use of biography, geography, or chronology as their main organizational categories? What may we gain by doing so?
What is abstraction in politics? A flag? A constitution? Four powers? Representatives of the people?
What forms of government rely most heavily on the power of visual and linguistic abstraction?
If voting is secret and anonymous in modern democracies, why is it so deeply anchored in facial identification?
Can a militant viewership re-inscribe power in the faces of those who refuse to be stripped of all dignity?
What are worthwhile aesthetic and scientific experiments in the struggle for social justice?
Why does it seem startling, absurd, or even offensive, to copy a painting by Jackson Pollock or Mark Rothko, when we are faced everyday with their endless repetition?
Where exactly are the borders between the historical, the modern, and the contemporary? How porous or rigid are they? May we use these mirror masks as tools for creative border crossing?
Must all dialogue be premised on mutual acknowledgment and recognition, or may some forms of it benefit from an intentional mutual erasure? What social and physical conditions allow for such temporary suspensions of our ego?
What are ideal tools and methods for the social transformation of our public cultural institutions, be it for aesthetic or political purposes?
How do we explain the fact that so many of the most radical manifestations of contemporary art are produced and incubated within education and public program departments? How may our answers lead to a reevaluation of the role of objects, collections, exhibitions, and curators, so central to the life of these cultural institutions?
As a creator and collector of experiences, how may I donate my collection? To whom, in what forms, to which bodies and institutions?
The mask erases the division between portrait and landscape.
We play with the mask and discover new spaces, formerly closed by the history of our faces.
The ontological self is impossible in the logic of the mask.
The face’s frame does not allow linear narratives.
The mask distributes power among those who use it.
The mask is our entryway to collective being.
Whether called animism or phenomenology, the masks enact our animation of inanimate objects: in icons and mirrors, in sculptures and altars, in stories and journals. (with E. Gabara)
The mask is the / in the s/he, at once photographer and subject, author and participant, victim and perpetrator. An aesthetics, and perhaps the beginning of a politics, of liberation through error, confusion, and refraction. (with E. Gabara)
Black skins...white masks...white skins...black masks...white masks...masked black. (with E. Gabara)
Each mask is the page of a book that cannot be read alone, a book whose pages have been spread out over time and space, only to be rejoined through imagination or death.
If there is avant-garde folklore, then mirror masks should be part of it.
Our mask denounces our invisibility.
The world’s worst criminals do not wear masks.
They say the camera is a mirror with a memory. The mask inevitably incorporates the agent and apparatus of this memory.
It’s about mythologies, naturally.
Warning: The mask may reflect the ugly face of power.
The royalties and copyright assumed to belong to he or she who holds the camera are denied to the he or she who is depicted, unless, of course, the camera looks up to the hand that feeds it.
Give me your life and land. I will give you mirrors and trinkets.
Undocumented mass migration is a war that happened, and continues to happen, without the middle and upper classes even noticing. With armed resistance struggles these classes are at least forced to pay attention, but without that, and without the power of remittances, migrants would be as ignored and vulnerable in their home countries today, as they were when they were first forced to leave.
Having multiple passports and speaking several languages has never been a problem for the cosmopolitan elites. Multilingualism and multiculturalism only become a problem when they apply to a transnational working class.
The mirror mask deflects all gazes from its user. In a perverse sense, this is much like whiteness remains invisible and unaccountable for in the global production of gendered and racialized minorities. Women and colored people may find temporary relief in the mask’s reflections, and even use them as a tool for solidarity. But at the end of the day we must strip white culture of its mask, call it by its name, and point to it as the powerfully entrenched minority that it is.
Goethe once referred to symmetry as the aesthetics of fools. Even when they incorporate processes of reproduction, modern and contemporary art practices have likewise assumed a pejorative, dismissive, or ironic stance toward the power of replicas and direct copying.
Roland Barthes proposed a new art of listening that would supplant the modes of listening of the disciple, the patient, and the believer. If we want to create an analogous revolution of the act of seeing, we must identify and supplant the hierarchical ways of seeing that connect our bodies with the current world picture.