Departure

Written by Intern on August 8th, 2017

In exactly one week, I will be on a plane to a new town, to a city that will wrap history and mist around me like a cloak. I am nervous to be leaving LosAngeles, but my final summer here in California would not have been the same without the ICI.

Leaving the Institute of Cultural Inquiry is particularly painful because this space has served as a quiet haven for inspired, intelligent work. The building itself is sandwiched between abandoned commercial spaces and an odd gas station; I doubt that any passerby would guess that there is an ecosystem within our gates of advocacy, art, and learning.

I am deeply thankful for the opportunity to work alongside amazing people like Jed, Hanna, Diego, Lise and Sue-Na. Although there are very few of us here at the Institute and we operate independently, we individually contribute to the inviting, open nature of this space. Although I have worked in many places, from DA’s offices to professional laboratories, the ICI gave me a unique opportunity to explore the world of the queer community not just through legislation and protest, but through art and unity. I felt like I was stitching into the fabric of the LGBT community rather than running my fingers across old needlemarks. The work that I did here was not just important, it was deeply enriching.

With love and affection,

Sonya

 

Conjuring, as if by magic, a hint of something. There.

Written by Amy Kaczur on July 18th, 2017

We conjure up our own metaphors for our own needs … — R. J. Kaufmann

 

One month in…

Written by Intern on July 13th, 2017

Partial page from Amy Kazcur’s Monkey Head Lab Book, p 64.

I’ve really enjoyed my first month as the Editorial Fellow here at the ICI. I’m glad I’m getting this chance to write a little bit about what I’ve been doing here, because every time I try to explain it to friends and family in conversation, they walk away looking delighted but confused. The ICI is a unique institution — intellectual but playful, making meaning through action rather than just heady philosophizing — and so much of the fun has been just holding on and trusting that we are building towards something fantastic even when we can’t see beyond the next step of the staircase.

Much of my work has been focused around our Monkey Head project, which aims to “build a theory of visual research by examining eight to ten actual studio-based projects undertaken at the ICI within the last 5 years.” The project is at least partly in reaction to the rise of the PhD in studio art and its attempt to codify an academic canon for visual art. The ICI’s perspective is that the most interesting forms of knowledge grow from the feet up, not the head down, which is why we are using the real life projects and processes made and used by our artists-in-residence to try and build our own theory of visual research.

I was able to see this in action during the Interlocuter discussion in our library last week for our latest participant, Amy Kazcur. The ICI staff and interns joined Amy and her colleague Bonnie Porter (from the Museum of Contemporary Art) at the table for a winding, vibrant discussion about Amy’s experience at the ICI and what the process of the project looked and felt like. It was a fascinating couple of hours to sit in on and participate in, as our circuitous conversation took us into realms personal, embodied, theoretical, and affective. I was struck by how we returned again and again to the idea of stepping forward into a question without the answer, of directed action as its own form of knowledge-creation. Amy collected, created, cut and sewed for this project, attempting to bring a long-lost relative into physical embodiment through the performative process of making, and we discussed the power of cumulative action, the knowledge that can only be produced by doing — taking “footsteps into the theory,” as my scribbled notes suggest we termed it.

The experience was deeply rewarding and helped me understand what I’m doing here, even when I don’t know exactly what it is I’m doing here. Monkey Head has been termed “a mutual unfolding” between the ICI and the artists, a project we all throw ourselves into without quite knowing where it will take us, and every day working on it looks and feels different. The perspective on knowledge percolating at the ICI has absolutely informed the way I approach this fellowship and my own life beyond it; it’s helped me get out of my chatty, critical head, which demands answers to every question before it acts, and instead trust in the transformative power of doing.

– Hanna

Image from Amy Kazcur’s Monkey Head Lab Book, p 9.