Curatorial Statement, 2019
“The coalition emerges out of your recognition that it’s fucked up for you, in the same way that we’ve already recognized that it’s fucked up for us. I don’t need your help. I just need you to recognize that this shit is killing you, too, however much more softly, you stupid motherfucker, you know?”
― Fred Moten & Stefano Harney, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study
"There's a fundamental problem in working-class families. It's like you revere art, you believe in reading, you believe in books, but you don't understand their production. That's the disconnect. Those are the keys you can't have. And that's the nonlineage that cuts people from other classes out of art life. Art looks like a lottery from out there." - Eileen Myles, Paris Review Interview
With rapid changes to our climate, the sideshow business as usual politics of the United States - the model of the 2019 Backyard Biennial is predicated on the idea that taking time for generosity and shared experience are as useful if not more so than the exhibition of art objects. What is called for is a return to shared knowledge: in a manner that is unbranded, tuition-free, and not for sale. We live in a city that is vastly overpopulated and oversaturated with a predatory market that devalues the labor of artists and art workers.
Patrice Aphrodite Helmar,
Curatorial Statement, 2017
“It is a curious emotion, this certain homesickness I have in mind. With Americans, it is a national trait, as native to us as the roller-coaster or the jukebox. It is no simple longing for the home town or country of our birth. The emotion is Janus-faced: we are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.” - Carson McCullers
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.” - W.B. Yeats
What is being made by artists living and working in and out of an always uneasy America?
What is the art made in the business as usual age of crippling class inequality, white supremacy, anti-blackness, white terrorism, gun violence, working two or three jobs to pay rent, eviction as a business model, gentrification as a weekend hobby, Flint still doesn't have clean water, peaceful protest on sacred land versus white riots, police violence (a redundancy), a prison system pipeline, the war on drugs, a national hatred for women 400+ years going strong, transphobia, not so equal pay for equal work, We're here! We're Queer! Get used to it! a changing climate, student debt, personal debt, national debt, international debt, and spiritual debt?
Not everyone can make it across the pond to the Biennale.
Not everyone feels welcome or should pay the price to get into the Whitney.
The Backyard Biennial brings a DIY aesthetic and a small out-of-tune unasked for chorus to a garden in Queens.
- Patrice Helmar,
With gratitude to Sean D. Henry-Smith for helping me hold it down as usual.