In fall 2017, Mn Artists, the Walker’s platform for local artists, embarked on a new editorial model. Every three months, we welcome a new guest editor to publish original arts writing, with each editor bringing their own network of writers and posing a central question to drive the publication. As our first guest editor, Jordan Rosenow, concludes her term, we invited her to share her reflection here on the necessity of critical arts writing and the perspectives that shaped her work with Minnesota-based arts writers. Dig into the suite of articles Rosenow developed, which moves fluidly between forms of art and writing, spanning topics such as embodiment, representation, language, labor, identity, and power
I grew up constantly asking why—from small things like, “Why do hummingbirds have such a sweet tooth?” to more puzzling questions like, “Why is my mom treated so differently because she isn’t married?” Curiosity felt like a crucial way to navigate the world, and I still revel in how little one can possibly know.
Since graduating with a fine arts degree, I have continued a Minneapolis-based practice that oscillates between sculpture, choreography, and editorial work. My experience has revealed the value of arts writing in gaining new perspectives, creating entry points for general audiences, and keeping the ideas active beyond the event.
In 2016, I became the editor for INREVIEW, a platform dedicated to critical reviews of contemporary art exhibitions in the Twin Cities. The project started in collaboration with my mentor, Chris Larson, as we were discussing what our local art community was craving—an attempt to identify a void and fill it. Chris continuously speaks of the additive qualities of art and the significance of the artist’s contribution during times when so many things are subtractive. It is a powerful sentiment that I actively echo.
During my time with the multidisciplinary publishing platform of Mn Artists, my focus was to find voices that would bring a fresh lens to a current art event. I chose to engage writers and artists who are willing to take creative risks and bring honesty and generosity to their ideas about the wide range of arts being created and presented in Minnesota. As I considered the role of Mn Artists in the local community, I tried to define the local—and quickly realized that the boundary of the local cannot simply be defined by proximity. In today’s connected world, the local subjects relevant to Minnesota artists are national and global topics.
It is vital that the artwork being created now is written about and engaged with critically. I often fall back on the words of the influential performer and musician, Nina Simone, as she was asked about the responsibility of an artist:
An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice, but I choose to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty. And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when every day is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved. Young people, black and white, know this. That’s why they’re so involved in politics. We will shape and mold this country or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore. So I don’t think you have a choice. How can you be an artist and not reflect the times? That to me is the definition of an artist.
These passionate words ring true today, just as they did during the Civil Rights movement of the late ’60s and ’70s. What is happening right now? Who is shaping our structures? Which voices need to be amplified? What needs further reflection, so that we can influence change towards a better, more equal community?
The essays published during my guest editorial position speak to what was happening in the art community from October of 2017 through January of 2018: uncovering a future when trauma has seemingly collapsed the past and present, calling for a reworking of spaces and the practice of gendering of tools, searching for expansive tenderness and more attention toward an interior blackness existing outside the paradigm of the public and political, and using poetry to engage the slippage between language and what is seen or felt.
Christina Schmid considers exhibitions at Public Functionary and Macalester College’s Law Warschaw Gallery, both addressing two sides of a question that haunts this place: how to shed the awful weight of trauma and rekindle a utopian imagination.
Responding to Mn Artists Presents: Eric Larson’s Meme Town, Jordan K. Thomas considers the corruption of memes, anonymity, and racism in digital space, and what it means to lay a hate symbol to rest.
Arts writer Sheila Regan offers an embodied meditation on family, storytelling, and the strength and fragility of the body, following her experience with Keren Kroul’s exhibition at the Rochester Art Center.
Artist and writer Amina Harper dives deep into the lush imagery of Bobby Rogers, weaving together the fraught history of representing blackness, the transformative power in representing oneself, and the pressing need for diverse self-representation in the Twin Cities visual arts scene.
Stevie Ada Klaark talks with visual artist, educator, and Black feminist scholar Tia-Simone Gardner about her tiny home turned mobile residency, The Inhabitation Project, and the balance between stability, mobility, and intimacy in artists’ connections to place.
Miriam Karraker contributes poems after Jennifer Nevitt’s Sans Terre at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, enacting the slippage between language and what is seen or felt.
Regan Golden responds to Selma Fernandez Richter’s recent exhibition portraying the complex process of immigration, replete with joy and relief, sadness and anxiety.
Jess Hirsch, founder of the Women’s Woodshop in Minneapolis, calls for a reworking of craft practices and the gendering of tools.
A body / a sign : On Black subjectivity / interiority / finding tenderness: beyond political meaningfulness
Through voice and matter, artist-writer Mara Duvra considers possibilities for black subjectivity beyond the representation of otherness, making manifest calm, interiority, and gestures of tenderness.
Following a program of indigenous filmmakers curated by Adam and Zack Khalil, poet M.J. Gette chews on violence in ethnography, embodiment in archive, manipulation in documentary, and positionality in language.