The Voyage of The Sable Venus / Rescuing Water-Damaged Textiles during the Los Angeles Riots

Selected by Paige Laino

Last meeting, we discussed what I’m sure everyone else getting this email was also talking about that Friday. I don’t see the necessity in naming names, nor is it my intent to fan flames that, hopefully by next meeting, will have been reduced to embers or engulfed the whole house. But I do feel that, rather than continuing the arduous process of parsing the intent of individual actors, the dialogue must be expanded outward. 

The weeks of silence from any party that could provide actions, answers, or even simply acknowledgement has demonstrated, to me, the uniquely sequestered position that institutions, and those with institutional backing, can enjoy. Throughout the discussions that this silence has let fester and foment, a refrain as emerged: “we’ve been here before.”

Have we been here before? Who has been here before–the art, the resistance, or the institution? To address these questions I’ve selected two texts that address both specific and broad examples of institutional isolation. 

  • The Voyage of The Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis, Prologue (attached)
    Full text here:

  • Rescuing Water-Damaged Textiles during the Los Angeles Riots by Dubravka Turkovic-Kiseljev from the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, Vol. 34, No. 1 (Spring 1995) (attached)

The meeting will be Friday, April 7th, 6:30PM
at the Skowhegan office, 136 W. 22nd Street

For this meeting, please have prepared a response, either a (min 100 word) text or image. 

And snacks, if you’re so inclined. 


#iammuslima / Cultural Representation & Signifying Practices

Selected by Baseera Khan (A '14)

March 3

Special conversation at Participant Inc. with Baseera about her show #iamamuslima.

March 24

Here is a brief article to read before coming into Friday's session. Please also read Hannah Blacks statement to the Whitney Museum. These are very brief texts, as I know we only have a few days before we meet.

Bring in breif statements of your own to share with the group, at least 100 words of how you feel about the subjugation of all sides of this complex issue.

Please familiarize yourself with the work in question, but more importantly the person who was used in the painting.

I am reading thru a Stuart Hall text on issues of representation to help guide the conversation, if you have time to skim the text a link.

If any of you want to skim this text please do, but please take a bit of time to write how you feel and read the Guardian article above, and Hannah Black's letter.


Selected by Ander Mikalson (A '12) (with help)

We had originally planned for our first meeting to attend a performance by the loved & missed reading-group-regular Ander and her collaborator Carey Denniston, but it was rescheduled. It is now this Friday and Saturday at Kate Werble Gallery (more info). 

Ander and Carey compiled a booklet of essays to accompany the exhibition—and, in Ander's words, "It's hard to find tools for dismantling these deeply entrenched systems and these texts have helped us." While all the texts are valuable (I felt the last one in particular was really helpful), it's probably too much for one week. 

For the next meeting we will be reading the first essay in the booklet, White Woman Feminst, which defines and deconstructs "whiteliness" in a way that can be practically useful in navigating contemporary issues with so-called allyship. 

We hope that this essay, with Ander's performance, informs and expands our ideas of "white activism," ideally in a positive, or at least productive, way. 

White Woman Feminist by Marilyn Frye
From Willful Virgin: Essays in Feminism (The Crossing Press 1992), reprinted in White Knuckle exhibition booklet compiled by Denniston Mikalson, pages 2-19 (in the PDF)

Denniston Mikalson, White Knuckle 

Kate Werble Gallery
83 Vandam Street, New York, NY
Friday, February 3rd, 6-8 PM & Saturday, February 4th, 2-6 PM

Friday, February 10, 6:00PM, 136 W. 22nd Street (basement)

please let me know if you're attending!



Paige & Haley & Ander

Bologh / Bourgeoise

Selected by Becky Kinder (A '04)

I would like to talk about passion and how it relates to action, political and artistic.

1.   Erotic love as sociability: an alternative realityby Roslyn W. Bologh in Love or Greatness: Max Weber and Masculine Thinking- A Feminist Inquiry, Chapter 14, p. 213-239

2.   Transcendence: Interview with Gary Koepke in Louise Bourgeois: Destruction of the Father, Reconstruction of the Father, Writings and Interviews 1923-1997, p. 307-309

There are currently three retrospectives by women artists in major museums that speak to these ideas: Pipilotti Rist at the New Museum, Marilyn Minter at the Brooklyn Museum and Agnes Martin at the Guggenheim. I would be interested in talking about these shows, and their tactics and strategies, in relation to the texts.

See you at Skowhegan on Friday, December 16 at 6 pm!

From Haley Bueschlen (A '15), last minute optional reading 



Selected by Paige Laino

Last week we discussed the "problem" of Xenophobia as described by Adrian Piper, and two different kinds of "solutions". These readings were posed in a pre-election world so I think it's time to get a little more overtly political and a little more radical in terms of other solutions to "xenophobia" as experienced in America today. I've selected two texts that I've noticed being shared more and more since the election: one old, one new; one local, one global.

These texts both present very different views of the world that are both fundamentally Marxist. I'd like to discuss first why these texts are being discussed now, which parts of each feel particularly resonant for you personally and which do not, and how each could possibly spur direct, real action.


Adrian Piper / Oswald De Andrade / Machado de Assis

Selected by Cyriaco Lopes (A '02)

The definition of Self through the Other (1). The internalization of the Other through Self-Colonization (3) and through a constant expansion of its boundaries (2).  Let's read promiscuously: an academic text by an artist, a manifesto by a poet, excerpts of a novel.

I suggest we start the discussion by going around the table with each participant’ impressions (maybe we each start by quoting a few sentences and expanding from them?). 


1. Xenophobia and Kantian Rationalism
Adrian Piper, 1991
V. Xenophobia, pp. 26-29

2. Cannibalist Manifesto
Oswald De Andrade, 1928
Wired PDF (better translation) 
Corner College PDF (good footnotes)

bonus: How Tasty was my Little Frenchman,’ a classic film of the Tropicália movement (last 6 min)

3. The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas
Machado de Assis, 1881
Chapters 11, 46, and 68 (3 short pages)

je est un autre

Niza Yanay / Omer Fast

Selected by Elizabeth Harney (A '14)

Thanks for asking me to choose a reading for the group this week. I brought up Niza Yanay’s book, “The Ideology of Hatred” during last week’s discussion of “The Second Sex.” I think we were talking about the slave/master dialectic and about the difference between submission and victimization. We also discussed some ways in which perceived power and privilege/mobility can influence our relationships and desires. 

I chose Chapter 4 “The Lure of Proximity and the Fear of Dependency” (page 71 to 88) from “The Ideology of Hatred” because in that chapter Yanay reinforces major themes throughout her book while also making points that continue segments from last week’s discussion about love and dependency in relation to “hate."

I also want to point to an interview of Niza Yanay by Al Jazeera in which she generally sums up major theories within her book:

And for a visual media I want to point to Omer Fast’s piece from the 2008 Whitney Biennial, The Casting (2007). It’s a four channel video. I had a hard time finding great documentation of it but below is a link from Youtube which shows part of the visual display which would be seen on forward facing side of the installation and also a link to the full narrative story on Vimeo, which would have been displayed on the back side of the video installation.

here is a link to Omer Fast explaining the work:

This reading is a bit longer then the others that have been chosen so far but you don’t necessarily need to read it all in order to participate. 

Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir

Selected by Baseera Khan (A '14)

I was really having a hard time choosing what to read from Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir. Choosing Simone was a direct reaction to the discussion that we had at our first meeting of the semester last Friday, September 30th. 

We circled around these questions:
What is queer, and what does queering look like? 
Why do the defining terms so quickly grab at gender binaries? 
What of intersex, or plurality, or transgressive and dissent activities that place our bodies at risk politically for other reasons? 

I'd like to carry this thread into this Friday.


It is most appropriate to revisit Simone's written Introduction and her section on Justifications: Chapter 11's The Narcissist


I also think we should go and see at least one of the shows listed below.

Because Skowhegan has so generously dedicated space for Ellen Cantor's work it could be fruitful to view some of her stuff. A film "Are you Ready for Love", and photography is showing at the 80WE NYU Gallery, or view a painting and pornography legal-view-rights exhibition of Ellen Cantor's at Participant Inc, Lovely Girls Emotions, or view her "Be My Baby" film and documentation show at Foxy Production (which I haven't seen yet). 

If it is possible for you to also view the Maccarone exhibition "25 Years of Sexually x-Plicit Art by Women." this will be very beneficial too.


Some of us have read her, and some of us have read her, but let's really read her and be critical and aware of her limitations. Let's be aware of the time in which she wrote this book. It was originally in 1949 in French and translated to English much later. To add to its legibility it wasn't translated by cisgendered women until much much later. This copy of the book is translated by femme editors. 

Also, race, class, and gender issues in her work are handy-capped, I want us to proceed with a conversation that complicates her views, but also values what her views have morphed into at a time when we can have open intersectional conversations about race class and gender and still want to see each other the next day.

To become woman is to become the absolute other. What I chose alienates maleness, and alienates me as well because I have many problems with "white-feminism." Though to enter into any academic conversation about gender and identity, is to walk through a portal of great writers such as Simone De Beauvoir. She really was dedicated to re-training society - to shed social conventions - to grasp at freedom - for this cognitive behavioral analysis I thank her greatly. We should all try to become woman, to become the absolute other.

The Intro discusses how marginality is aligned, statistically termed, and grouped by: religion, economy, geography, and ethnicity - leaving woman-sufferage in too large of a state with too many variables to create solidarity. 

I also choose for us to read Chapter 11's The Narcissist because it embodies more of what we discussed last time with regards to non/appropriation, coping mechanisms, and statistics of oppression with regards to trans, same sex, cis-gendered body politics and its futures. 

I know this is coming at you Sunday afternoon, if you do not have time to do a deep reading of all the pages, please skim, and then focus in on a few pages that speak to you. I would really like to unpack this reading with you all. Lastly, out of all the shows, I'd really like to talk about the Foxy Production exhibition, and the show at Macarone (if you had to choose).

Let's gather at the offices of Skowhegan on Friday 14th, at 6:30PM, bring snacks! it would be nice to eat some things while we talk. The meetings usually end past 9pm and before we leave the group we appoint the next organizer for the readings for next session. 

The in(queery) reading encourages sharing, no interruptions, no talk-hogging, and love.

Selections from 'Queer': Wu Tsang / David J. Getsy / Renate Lorenz

Selected by Erik Patton ('15) and Haley Bueschlen ('15)




 How does Wu Tsang set the stage, what is the “before” of a performance, and how is it shared? In order to fall apart as human beings, we need first to be able to live, can serve as a qualifier for an anti-assimilation politic, and a means of positioning our in(queery). We are interested in exploring different performed notions of self, and specifically a theoretical artist in drag rather than drag artist and drag queen. We ask, how is drag a departure, arrival, and gesture that peels back a layer and exposes oneself in a particular way? And what is the nuance behind getting paid as Wu Tsang’s describes? What are the different potentialities  or complicities of liveness and documentation becoming “... ‘entertainment’  jesters for elite patronage of museums?” How can we open a complex dialogue about spectatorship, institution, performer, and race, within the art context of drag?

Renate Lorenz’s Drag - Radical, Transtemporal, Abstract how can we discuss the making of infinitude in drag-- the process of making fluid assemblages and connectivities which interrupt or are beyond heteronormativity. And what happens when drag is captured in the stasis of an image?  We ask all these questions when diving into something incredibly robust, strange, and defiant as a queer politic.


In order to provide a scaffolding for discussions that are open, challenging and imbued with care, we have made a list of brief items to consider when participating in the reading group below.

  • This is a non-judgemental space that everyone is a part of.
  • All voices are welcome and no singular narrative should dominate the conversation. It is important that all members feel able to participate in the discussion, be it to share an interpretation, experience, interrogation or ask for clarification. To that end, please be mindful of those who haven't had a chance to contribute yet, as well as the time you're taking.
  • Expanding notions of space: we are a collective and it is a voice of everyone. In an effort to open up the conversation, we’ll also have notecards available for questions and comments (feel free to remain anonymous) that we’ll return to throughout the discussion.
  • Use “I” instead of “You”. Speak from your personal experience and identity representing yourself, your opinions, desires, feelings, and not other people

Anna C. Chave / Linda Nochlin

Selected by Becky Kinder (A '04)

"I would like to talk about the role that women's biography and the specifics of identity play in art making. Not only in who gets to make, but how it affects what is made, how it is seen and how it is read."


  • "Normal Ills: On Embodiment, Victimization, and the Origins of Feminist Art" by Anna C. Chave, 2006
  • "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" by Linda Nochlin from 1971


"Two case studies, of sorts, that I have been interested in lately are the Amy Winehouse documentary, Amy, from 2015, and the Nina Simone documentary, What Happened Miss Simone?, also from 2015. This is way optional, but both are haunting and fascinating in regards to these issues."

Judith Butler on Susan Sontag

Selected by Naomi Safran-Hon ('12)

"There are two main questions that interest me in this text and to quote Butler herself:

... whether photographs still has the power to communicate the suffering of other in such a way that viewers might be prompted to alter their political assessment of war? (page 68)


How do the norms that govern which lives will be regarded as human enter into the frames through which discourse and visual representation proceed? (page 77)

As image maker I am interested both in the making of an image and in its framing. 

Butler uses the images of torture from Abu Ghraib, to explore these ideas. If you are not familiar with these images and the media story associated with them please look them up."


  • Butler, Judith. "Torture and the Ethics of Photography: Thinking with Sontag."Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? London: Verso, 2009. 63-100. [Since it is all most 40 pages, if you want to skip some I would suggest focusing on pages: 63-74 and 91-100.]

Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Case for Reparations

Selected by Ander Mikalson (A '12)

"Before our meeting, please reflect on your family’s financial history.  Has your family enjoyed opportunities for asset building, or been locked out of such opportunities by racist policies and laws?  Has family wealth been passed across the generations?  Do you have plunder in your bank account, or have you been robbed?  If you feel comfortable sharing these reflections with the group, I thought it could be interesting & enlightening to relate our personal financial situations to the wider picture painted by Coates.

Also, if you have time and feel interested, you could investigate the history of housing policy in the place(s) you and your family are from, and share that information with us on Friday.  (Naomi and Cyriaco, I’m very curious about policies in Israel and Brazil.)

You all are truly a bright spot in every fortnight!  Looking forward to our discussion."


  • Coates, Ta-Nehisi. "The Case for Reparations." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, June 2014.

Allan Sekula / Subject to Capital

Selected by Paige Laino

Toward the end of last week’s meeting, we talked about Helene Cixious' collaboration with Roni Horn to translate a Clarice Lispector text to use in one of Horn’s installations. From there we discussed text art, and because we had been talking about Baseera’s group show at Abrons (in her much-lamented absence), I think I steered the discussion toward Allan Sekula.

For this meeting, I would like us to read the first section of Allan Sekula’s The Body and The Archive, which, to me, is a really concise history of photography as not an artistic medium, but a socially repressive tool that served/serves to construct a public consciousness of “criminality.” I felt that this text could add depth to our discussions about Cameron Rowland and bell hooks. For the meeting, please come prepared with a part that resonated with you, or didn’t, for discussion. 


  • Sekula, Allan. "The Body and the Archive." October 39 (1986): part I, pages 3-16.


  • Baseera’s show! (also featuring a bunch of great people, more info hereSubject to Capital, Abrons Art Center, 466 Grand Street, New York, NY, March 3 – April 17
  • Sekula, Allan. "Reading An Archive: Photography Between Labour and Capitalism." The Photography Reader. London: Routledge, 2003. Originally written 1983. First five pages only (443-447)

Super optional:

  • Search your name, in quotes, in Google image search. Take a screen shot and send it to me.

Clarice Lispector / Helene Cixous

Selected by Cyriaco Lopes (A '02)

As I was reading Clarice on the subway to our last meeting, Cixous seemed a natural choice for our next reading. If you have time, also try the short Clarice text, a bonus (one of my favorite works of art of all times). 

The Main Frame:

  • Is it possible to create artworks from the perspective of feminism (beyond it being enunciated directly)?


  • Écriture Feminine (wikepedia is good enough for us here. The text that we are reading is an enactment of that theory).

Possible framework for the reading:

  1. The comparison between Rilke and Clarice (‘roses’) seem to point to a parallel between phallocentric writing and feminist writing. What are their differences according to the text?
  2. What are the characteristics of Écriture Feminine as exemplified by Lispector work?
  3. The author uses Clarice Lispector as a study case and as a model. Could we use the same ideas that she applies to Lispector to think the visual arts? Which artists would be appropriate for that reading?



Cixous, Helene. "Clarice Lispector: The Approach - Letting Oneself (be) Read (by) Clarice Lispector - The Passion According to C.L."  Coming to Writing and Other Essays, translated by Deborah Jenson, 59-77. Harvard University Press, 1992.

Other Materials

The Egg and the Chicken’ by Clarice Lispector

bell hooks / Ana Mendieta

Selected by Baseera Khan (A '14)

The following work is selected based on some aspects of our last conversation:

  • From Student/Teacher "refugee" to Artist/Maker in "exile". 
  • How can we reassign power dynamics?
  • How can we use the institution, stealing here and there, to continue our work?
  • Is our work valuable, or valueless?


Other Materials

The Undercommons / Cameron Rowland

Selected by Haley Bueschlen (A '15)




Additional Material: