April 14, 2017

This could be your weekend: OlaRonke Akinmowo’s Free Black Women’s Library is in Bushwick, check it out!


What are you doing this weekend? Do you live in New York? Are you motivated by a curious spirit? Do you have archive fever?

If you answered “Dunno,” “Yes,” “Totally,” or “Maybe?” (or some variation thereof) then you should check out the last weekend of The Archive of Affect, a collaborative exhibit at Bushwick’s NURTUREart Gallery. The show features installations and performances by six artists playing with ideas of personal history, historical narrative, and marginal voice. Featured contributors include OlaRonke AkinmowoChloë BassLise BrennerSarah DahnkeLiz Linden, and Jen Kennedy. The artists were selected by Culture Push from their ongoing Fellowship for Utopian Practice, which supports artists working towards positive social and cultural transformation, particularly through interdisciplinary pedagogy.

While there you can grab a book from Akinmowo’s Free Black Women’s Library, a traveling repository of—you guessed it—literature by black women. Akinmowo has been bringing the library to various community spaces in Brooklyn since 2014. If you want to check something out, you need only bring a replacement work, also authored by a black woman.

Dances for Solidarity documents Dahnke’s ongoing correspondence with incarcerated persons, in which she collaboratively establishes a series of dance moves to be performed in solitary confinement.

Bass’s The Department of Local Affairs is a collection of photos, written notes and recordings that “crowdsources information about specific neighborhoods from local inhabitants to develop a more accurate and nuanced picture of that place,” which sounds like Yelp, but for a counter-gentrification insurgency.

Brenner and Kennedy’s Distributed Archive: Joe’s Story takes a ground-level view of Dutch Kills, a community that is being rapidly and ruthlessly transformed by the explosive development of the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens.

Workers Art Coalition, whose members include Setare Arashloo, Barrie Cline, Kenny Cohen, Stella Fafalio, Eliza Gagnon, Shantar Gibson, Afiya Jackson, Jaime Lopez, and Paul Vance, present Illuminating History, an audio/visual installation which presents the life and work of a group of IBEW union electricians.

As Jillian Steinhauer, writing in Hyperallergic, says, “the strongest thread running through the show is the notion—so obviously true, yet so frequently neglected—that ordinary people are repositories of valuable knowledge.” In concert, these pieces document American life lived offstage, beyond the spectacle. And, at a time when many American “journalists” seem more interested in hysterically accusing strangers of being Russian “partisans,” or breathlessly masturbating as our deranged President launches Tomahawk missiles, this seems like a valuable corrective.


Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.