Ive been thinking a lot about new worlds recently, and how to build a career that is deeply aligned with people and organizations actively engaged with sustainable, caring, supportive, expansive, collaborative practices. As I pen this essay, Im on my way to installation for Counterpublic Triennial 2023. Had I not been working as a co-curator of the 2023 iteration during the past two-plus years, I might have begun to question my place in the art world. I doubt that Im alone in this introspection.
Over a decade ago I witnessed a performance by artist Glenn Kaino and magician Derek DelGaudio that encouraged us to think about mistakes as portals into new worlds. What I found most compelling about The Mistake Room was that it didnt revel in the motivational rhetoric we often use when we talk about mistakeshow we learn from them and improve. Instead, it acknowledged the unpleasantness we feel when we make them.
As Sikh people, we claim no god. We center the formless as a spirit that resides in every being. We also do not separate a creator from their creation. This object was built as an object of resonance for people who through sound, continue to search. This interrogative act of listening is at the heart of Sikhi and reveals itself to be an ongoing conversation through time and place, and is essential in that it instills freedom and creativity while opening up infinite possibilities for us to think about, it enables us to draw upon continued emotional, spiritual, and intellectual centers.
What a delight to be invited to dream a new art world, offer new perspectives, and potentially build a better future for the field of curating. We rarely get the chance to imagine publicly what art institutions can not only look like but feel like. With this letter, I wanted to suggest alternative ways of navigating through our field.
Counterpublic is both a public platform and a provocation. The choice to form a triennial civic exhibition was one we consciously undertook in order to reimagine how an arts institution could be formed explicitly to advance social and generational change. In many ways, a triennial is an unlikely position from which to pose a new model for an altered art world.
After spending decades in institutional financial services as a successful top sales producer, and then in the position of CEO of an institutional broker-dealer, I became less interested in material things and more interested in everything elseprimarily the visual arts. I decided to explore this impulse.
I think about this often these days, as a cultural sector seeking critical financial support attempts to keep pace with massive paradigm-shifting transformationspolitical, social, environmental, cultural, and artistic. Experiencing a profound societal reckoning, we are re-evaluating our values, our relationships, our priorities, whom we trust, and how we work
People of the global majority are being invited into predominantly white art spaces like never before. And, at rates like never before, were seeing the ways in which many of these institutions are under-supporting employees. Efforts have been made, but diversity hires and DEI fatigue shed light on the ways in which stop-gap measures alone cant upend a system that wasnt built for everybody. Even if, in our capitalist society, were all seen as human resources.