September 2022: THICC #001
interspecies engagement with domesticated bougie mice; a poetics of edging and indirectness; OCD and synchronicity; cabbage salad; and some recent shows
Bismillah. We begin everything with the name of Allah. We say Bismillah to initiate an act to acknowledge the intention and the ethics we carry with all that follows Bismillah.
— Welcome! —
I think the last time I sent out a newsletter was in 2015. I’d just moved into my new place in Crown Heights after being chased out of my first Brooklyn apartment by a pair of mice I found (possibly humping, definitely humping) in my bed when I returned home from a very productive therapy session. My productive therapy session was undone by imagining what happened in that bed and if this was the first time it happened or just the first time I caught them.
Fast forward seven years, and I am still fighting with mice. As I shared in a recent three-minute stand-up performance for the culmination of my Poetry Project class taught by the dear, dear Morgan Bassichis,
My mom visited last week and without fail, she wants to check in about my relationship interests following my divorce. I am excited to announce that I am in a relationship. It is an interspecies domestic partnership with the mouse in my kitchen. He knows my hours, I know his. We’ve made an unspoken agreement. Don’t eat my fucking goji berries* again and you can hang out here.
*(This mouse or his cousin only eats gourmet food - organic goji berries, Whole Foods lentil mix, and dark chocolate from the south of France)
Other than a divorce and my new interspecies domestic partnership, we are in two (well, two acknowledged) global health crises (yes, COVID is still raging), too much water in some places (Pakistan - donate here), and not enough clean water in others (Jackson, Mississippi - donate here), a
possible recession and rampant inflation, catastrophic climate change, and ongoing “elite capture” under neoliberalism!
— Allah is a Comedian! —
I spent about three weeks in Europe (Paris, Montpellier, Berlin, Essen, and Sarajevo) teaching, conducting site visits, and researching upcoming projects. When I landed back at JFK, I shamelessly ordered 10 McDonald’s chicken nuggets at 2 am, sat down to administer a rapid home test, and found out I had COVID…on my birthday, August 1st. I texted my mama and said, if I get my period while I have COVID, I’m gonna be mad. And I am guessing you know what happened next, lol! I couldn’t tell if I was exhausted from iron deficiency or multiplying COVID particles. Regardless, it made for a fun narcoleptic ride, a bit of vertigo, and some bizarre fever dreams, all of which I hope are over.
Thinking about Allah as a comedian helps me not be angry when things don’t go as planned.
Instead of imagining Allah laughing at me, I imagine that we are laughing together! Who doesn’t love a bit of cosmic comedy (and easy alliteration)?
In Surah Al-Anfal, Ayat 30, Allah reminds us, “But they plan, and Allāh plans. And Allāh is the best of planners,” and again in Surah Al-Kahf, Ayats 23-24, Allah reminds us, “And never say of anything, “I will definitely do this tomorrow,”/without adding, “if Allah so wills!”
I know this newsletter is not getting off to a good start, but keep reading! (Please!)
Folks, we can plan for the apocalypse later. This newsletter is for jokes, double-dipping in our trauma (as an OCD-babe, this is horrendous, but I like my cross-contamination metaphor), and random observations.
Oh, and I will add some obligatory notes about upcoming art stuff!
Welcome to the first attempt! InshaAllah, this is a fun journey for all of us!
— Studio News —
I take myself seriously as an artist, but I also like to keep it light because I always want to make art, and I do not want to be burned out by the sheer annoyance of the art world politics. Those who know me know I don’t do art scene things and can barely convince myself to come to my openings. I am (psychologically and spiritually) sustaining myself as an artist by being a hermit and selective about when I leave the house.
This semester, I am back at Cooper Union with the course Teaching as Social Practice. I am also back at Yale School of Art as a Visiting Critic, but this time in the Sculpture Department!
Also, doing some teaching at the School for Poetic Computation again! I teach a class called Teaching and Learning as “PRIMITIVE HYPERTEXT.” This course uses texts by Octavia Estelle Butler as a starting point to explore teaching as a relational practice that builds networks between all organisms and knowledges. Apply by September 9th!
I will release a few more workshops this year, so stay tuned!
In June, I learned I was the 2022 recipient of the Schering Stiftung Award for Artistic Research (with support from the State of Berlin). This award honors “international artists who have developed unique forms of knowledge creation through aesthetic means” and includes a two-floor show at KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin in Fall 2023 as well as a cash award.
I am always excited when others choose to support my work. This award means a lot to me because beyond specific thematic interest in my work, I am interested in how the work (the process and product) functions as not only new knowledge but as systems, methodologies, and, more so, invitations for continued knowledge production. Seven-year-old Kameelah is proud of thirty-seven-year-old Kameelah for finally being comfortable being a little weird, a little hermetic, a little “let me see what I dream about tonight.”
I am grateful for my support over the past few years. Thank you to the Guggenheim Foundation for my 2021 fellowship, which allowed me to continue research and production. I am also grateful to the Joyce Foundation for my 2021 grant to work with youth in Cleveland through FRONT 2022. I am also very thankful to Creative Capital for its 2022 award. And, of course, thank you to the team at NOME Gallery, who continue to support my experimentation even before I joined the gallery two years ago.
SMOOOOOOOOTH OPERATOR, University of Georgia - Athens (The Atheneum) |||| September 1 - December 1, 2022
For the past few years, I have been playing quietly and not so quietly in the world of machine learning, coding, scores/algorithms, and creative computation. On September 1, at the University of Georgia - Athens, I presented a new solo show with all new work called SMOOOOOOOOTH OPERATOR, which explores the language and processes of rendering, quantization, standardization, and smoothness in relation to how we read and make sense of the discomforts of illegibility.
Worshipping at the Altar of Certainty: 1985, Benton Museum of Art |||| August 24 - December 18, 2022
In mid-August, I opened the second iteration of Worshipping at the Altar of Certainty at Benton Museum of Art. Benton Museum of Art is at Pomona College, my alma mater. When I left in 2006 as a naive 20-year-old policy graduate, I was convinced I would spend a few years teaching and then change all the education laws, and ta-da, equity secured! Seventeen years later, with a much more nuanced understanding, I return with an exhibition exploring uncertainty as a muse and a mini-course on life cycles featuring cameraless photography, botany, and text generation.
— Not an Essay: On Synchronicity, “Finding Yourself,” and Revision —
I tried timing this letter to significant announcements and holidays, etc. This is sometimes how my OCD shows up: the search for perfect timing, the impossibility of perfect timing, and then resentful procrastination. This approach to “perfect timing” is a bit menacing. I was trying to force myself to unfold in perfect synchronicity, but we unfold quite unevenly over many planes.
Being out-of-sync has its perks; just look: Out-of-Sync’ Loners’ May Secretly Protect Orderly Swarms. And then, sometimes, it sucks, like when climate change affects the timing between bees and flowers or when dance mania hit Europe in the Middle Ages. Other times, I do not know what to think about being in/out of sync. What am I to make of how galaxies billions of lightyears away have synchronized with one another? And given my strained relationship with mice, I am not sure how I should feel about mice synchronizing their movements to their sniffing rhythm. Or the synchronous relationship between cicadas and a fungus called Massospora leads to psilocybin-laced encounters with other cicadas.
Regardless of my ambivalence about synchronicity and timeliness, I feel certain about how this language of standardization and linearity shows up in how we talk about ourselves.
Generally, I do not like when people say, “you have to go find yourself.” I think about it quite literally, like yourself hiding in a dark corner waiting for you to discover it.
Or, imagine it is as simple as a scavenger hunt to locate a freeze-dried sachet of your authentic self. Just add water to reconstitute your full humanity.
Are we Christopher Columbusing ourselves?
Are we chasing a future ghost of ourselves?
Whatever the metaphor, I keep coming back to the failure of language to talk about the intimacy of that particular yet vague process of making sense of who you are. This is especially annoying when our selves are so shifting that just as soon as we think we know ourselves, even that knowledge is anachronistic.
As I write this, I am reminded of four little nuggets: Emily Elizabeth Dickinson writing to the editor of the Atlantic in 1862 about explosions and monarchs; an excerpt from The Book of the Living, the religious text created by Lauren Olamina in Octavia Estelle Butler’s Parable of Sower; and a diary entry from Anaïs Nin where she talks about myths of change.
In early 2022, I wrote the following press release - now with a few edits for clarity:
OFTENTIMES, people ask me “what does it mean?” And I usually respond, “I do not know…yet.” After a series of lucid dreams and a period of intuitive making with my xerox machines, I found myself more confident to make and share things even if I had yet to understand what I’d created: a poem created through autocorrect. A hand-animation of dancing askew circles. The logic (if any/or if this is the right metric?): If we only make things that we can readily explain, what are all the things missing from the world that hold immense value if for no other reason than that their unresolved state asks that we draw closer to read with greater care?
I am interested in the Black opacity and illegibility, not as performative obfuscation, but as an assertion of a sacred right and responsibility to always be in the process of becoming, on the move – to be a learner – to be unfixed, wayward as Saidiya Hartman reminds us – “unregulated movement...black locomotion...adrift, rambling, roving, cruising, strolling, seeking.” And yes, the work deeply engages with countersurveillance – and it is not just about how we escape the grasp of the state, but counter surveillance also as a language to abolish the individual impulse to surveil each stage of reading to extract immediate knowledge or utility.
There is no perfectly parallel process of making and knowing.
And there should not be. Making and knowing are noncoplanar. We make, and the knowing may come later, or never as we cruise, stroll, and seek as learners.
I do not know, yet what the work means. I can offer only titles. I am no longer running to catch up with myself. I go at my own pace. I like what Pope.L says in his 2017 text, Proto-Skin Set: “Protos and SS proper are a set of things together conceptually but separated by time; a dynamic open set where shit happens over time.”
In a lot of ways, writing artist statements and show descriptions are complicated for me. I enjoy writing as a practice in steadying some ideas for a moment - like vibrating particles we hold still long enough to be read before they return to their optimal state of activity. But, I don't particularly appreciate writing and speaking solely as a clarification practice, if that makes sense. I am reminded of something I read about Trinh T. Minh-ha referenced in Amelia Groom’s Beverly Buchanan: Marsh Ruins. Groom’s endnote reads:
I am still digesting this but can admit to being taken by erotics of adjacency, tangency, and grazing the contours of something. A poetics of edging? In late June, while visiting Seattle, I took out my boggle, intent on finding a word prompt for a quick write. I gravitated toward the word, rub. And maybe, rub sat at the top of my brain because I wondered what it meant to apply hopeful pressure to a surface.
I wondered if writing is nothing more than the hopeful pressure of our fingers on a keyboard, the weight of the ink as it settles into the cellulose fibers of paper…to (hopefully) birth something new. Writing as a prolonged rubbing, trying to take impressions of the world.
We rub our bodies against one another to reveal the right amount of friction that will lead to some form of pleasure. We take pieces of paper, place them on trees, and rub charcoal against them to reveal a pattern. We rub an object to reveal the future. We rub ourselves to reveal ourselves. A rub is a commitment and attention. It is focused and determined, almost as if it believes that if it rubs any further, it will create a hole or portal elsewhere. We rub because we believe that the process of kneading flesh or holding an object under the weight of our fingers will yield something. It is almost transactional and, most definitely, algorithmic. If I rub like this, I will be rewarded with…
I say all this to say, I want to write, and write more…but only without the pressure of clarification. To write as a ritual in self-revelation – self-revelation as a priority above clarification for an audience.
And instead of an artist statement, let’s just go with “learner with interests in rituals of concealment, revelation, and languaging across all species and galaxies.” I am just my wide-eyed seven-year-old selfwith a small budget to learn.
— I Let Them Take Hold —
There is nothing more beautiful than reading Octavia Estelle Butler writes about artistic influence as a sort of possession.
A few things that have taken hold of me in the past few months:
Books: In early July, I picked up Rachel Bloom’s I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are because I am trying to read more from women who write openly about OCD as I more (publicly) embrace this aspect of my life. I am also rereading Toni Morrision’s Song of Solomon and am still deeply haunted by Chapter 6 when Guitar reveals he is a member of the Seven Days. And I also read, then reread Beverly Buchanan: Marsh Ruins by Amelia Groom. A lovely and gentle read on this woman who has helped me build some scaffolding around my ideas of monuments, ecology, and “time-based” work.
TV/Films: I rewatched the original Westworld (1973), written and directed by Michael Crichton. I was a bit exhausted by the series by season 3, so I went back to watch the film and am working my way back through the series.
** Quinta Brunson’s Abbot Elementary is coming back! I enjoy this show so much. A serious inquiry – if you know anyone on that team, please let me know. Putting it out there that I would like to write for this show!
Podcasts: I listen to a lot of podcasts. Some of my favorites are Scam Goddess with Laci Mosely, Pretend with Javier Leiva, and No Such Thing As a Fish.
Music: I have been watching so many Tiny Desks! Some of my favorites are Yebba, Raphael Saadiq, SiR, and Lucky Daye. In 2020, my dear friend, Th&o. (Thando Kunene) released his first album with Universal Music South Africa, and I can’t stop listening to Processco. I witnessed the album’s creation from across the Atlantic, and I am so honored that everyone else gets to witness it. And in a profoundly nostalgic turn, I’ve been listening to Mshoza’s Kortes and Luther Vandross’ Never Too Much.
Exhibitions: My dear sis, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, has three (3!) beautiful bodies of work up in New York City: 52 Walker (MASK / CONCEAL / CARRY); MoMA - Collections Gallery (The Brad Johnson Tape, X – On Subjugation); and The Shed (The Trace of an Implied Presence). You are indeed in for a treat.
In addition to the ideas that have taken hold, a few sensory things have locked me in.
Food: While in Sarajevo, I fell in love with Kupus Salata (cabbage salad). It’s a straightforward dish of cabbage, vinegar, and seasoning. I have not yet tried to make it myself and probably won’t, but if you’re interested, this recipe looks good.
Smells: Florida Water, the specific scent of apricots that have splattered onto the unfinished sidewalks and baked under the East Palo Alto sun in 1995.
Textures: That approximate touch of a bee flying too close to your face; stiff velvet fabric; cold silver jewelry on my inner arm.
How to cite this newsletter: Rasheed, K. (Year, Month Day). Newsletter Title. I Will (?) Figure This All Out Later. URL
The next SLIM THICC issue is released on September 20, 2022.
The next THICC issue is released on October 4, 2022.
From Wikipedia: The Basmala (Arabic: بَسْمَلَة, basmalah; also known by its incipit Bi-smi llāh; بِسْمِ ٱللَّٰهِ, “In the name of Allah”, or Tasmiyyah, تَسْمِيَّة) is the Islamic phrase “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful” (Arabic: بِسْمِ ٱللَّٰهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ, bi-smi llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīmi).[Notes 1] It is one of the most important phrases in Islam and is being used by Muslims mostly before starting “good deeds” (for instance, during daily prayer) as well as beginning of most daily actions.
Boggle Board from June 20, 2022 while in Seattle, WA.
The About the Author pages from my childhood books:
Speaking of synchronicity and OCD - reading this just now as I was trying to find words for some of these experiences. YES. The need for meaning, which is the same for the need for order. But it’s so hard to explain. Even when I was in inpatient treatment, trying to explain the difficulty of always needing to time things just right was met by bafflement. Hand washing? “Normal,” for being abnormal. (I hate that language. But it’s so much of the mindset.) Needing utter, perfect cosmic order? Too bad, I guess.
This has been such a delicious read. I will revisit it more than once for sure. Thank you