Notes on ¿Qué Pasa, USA?

After the 2016 Presidential Election, I was angry, demoralized, and in the middle of installing my first exhibition at La Esquina for Charlotte Street Foundation. Below you’ll find an archive of two public facebook posts I wrote reflecting on my work and on my exhibition as well as my original, incomplete notes for the curatorial remarks I gave during the opening.

November 9, 2016 at 6:49 am

Reconsidering everything. All I keep asking is what the hell has the arts been doing? What are we going to do now? Where are you?

Aside from the few of us trying to push and make change, for years I’ve worked for problematic institutions who oppress the Other and reject difference on a daily basis—institutions run and supported by “well-intentioned” white liberals. And now our country has spoken, and a lot of white people voted for hate.

While I believe in the impact and power of art and artists, I’m constantly failed by white arts institutions in general. I thank leaders such as Laura Raicovich who shared some powerful words last night, but we don’t have enough leaders that want to MAKE CHANGE with and through art.

We want to be politically aligned because it’s trendy, but real change is never on our agenda. Museums take their educators and Education departments for granted because education is “uncool,” but support self-serving, faux intellectual curator-types. I can’t be in a field where as a Woman of Color I constantly have to fight just to be respected, considered, and heard, let alone attempt to make real change. REAL CHANGE. Not conversations and dialogues around abstract concepts of change.

My close friends, collaborators, and colleagues know that I hold people accountable already, but now I’m not playing. I’m going to ask a lot of you and from you, and I expect the same in return. But, to all of my acquaintances on here… I won’t work with you if you are not here for making change, especially with all of your white privilege. What are you willing to lose? What risks are you really willing taking?

November 10, 2016 at 6:58 am

¿Qué Pasa, USA? exhibition by CIR, Lynnette Miranda opens next Friday. While I want to have the time to reconsider my contributions to make change within systems that affect more than a few, I want to do the artists of color in this exhibition proud. I wrote an exhibition statement for Press and Marketing purposes last week, and I’m reading it over and just thinking on it.

I designed the exhibition knowing that it would open a little over a week after the U.S. Presidential Election. Back in May/June when I was conceptualizing this exhibition, I knew that regardless of the nominees this election would be contentious and divisive. My vision was creating a space that focused on nuance and complexities, not binaries, and that privileged joy and humor as a critical part of survival and self-preservation. Within this space, I wanted to develop challenging public programs that served as alternative forms of education where my audience had space to unlearn.

As a methodical and strategic person, I know that my audience for any art event (everywhere) will be predominantly white. These are the realities I have to work with on a daily basis. Originally, I wanted to create a meeting place between artists of color (in the show or attending the show) and my audience (mostly white art people). A place for all of us to unlearn.

The election has passed. It is now with more urgency that I take the energy that myself and the artists, writers, and collaborators in this show collectively created to:

  1. Support People of Color, queer-identifying folks, disabled people, and anyone that is Othered in this country—first and foremost;
  2. Provide a space for healing and action;
  3. Hold this art community and the exhibition’s general audience accountable.

To POCs: This space is for you. I am here for you. FUBU (FOR US BY US)
To white identifying art folks: I hope that you join us, but know that I expect a lot from you and I will remind you of that.

November 17, 2016

Around May of this year, I began conceptualizing this exhibition. I found out the dates of my exhibition and knowing that it would open one week after the Presidential election stressed me out. My practice is based on connecting art with society and the things happening in the world. And, immediately I felt the weight of the responsibility, particularly coming into a new, and what I assumed, homogenous art community and city.

In May, the Presidential candidates had yet to be chosen, but I felt the contentious nature of the election. And for me this election did not cause the divide we are now feeling, but it was only an example of how bad it’s gotten. And if I’m being honest, I designed this exhibition to explore the nuances of identity from a point of progress, where we could work on the problematics associated with the misconceptions of race, ethnicity, and gender by white liberals—aka the art world.

Instead, we are here in a situation many of you didn’t think was even possible. What the election results revealed to me as a Woman of Color wasn’t that so many people in this country are racists and bigots. That’s not a surprise to any People of Color, but apparently it was a “shock” to all of my white liberal peers and counterparts. Ultimately, that is what shook me—the fact that so many well-intentioned white people were so privileged, self-absorbed, and complacent that they just “didn’t know.” My suspicions of white friends and acquaintances were confirmed—they don’t care about us. Not really because if they did they would have know and they would have been doing the work to breakdown these oppressive systems.

So here we are—— What are we going to do? How are we going to affect change?

I urge you not to immediately jump to designing public programming that will “start dialogues.” To me that often means that you will ask a Person of Color to lead that charge, and place all the work and the burden once again on us. And you may think you are providing us with a platform, but really you are asking us to do the hard work you yourself may not be willing to do.

In the art world, regardless of city, we mimic the same oppressive structures we are ideologically against. So I urge you to:

  • Be reflexive about your own practices—what hierarchies and power structures are you participating in and how can your work incorporate equitable practices
  • Ask questions, learn about things you don’t know about, and just simply try.
Lynnette Miranda
Lynnette Miranda is a latinx artist, curator, and writer from Miami, FL. She has six years of experience working at leading art institutions such as MoMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, ART21, and Creative Time. She approaches her practice from the perspective of an artist—questioning and challenging established conventions—and an educator—opening up avenues for dialogue and collective knowledge building. In 2015, she coordinated three art conferences, including The Creative Time Summit: The Curriculum at the Venice Biennale and at Brooklyn’s Boys and Girls High School, as well as ART21’s Creative Chemistries: Radical Practices for Art + Education at the Park Avenue Armory. She is currently the 2016-2017 Curator in Residence at Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City, MO.