How are communities built? How do people sharing similar ideals and worldview unknowingly or purposefully rejoice? Or furthermore, why do we keep hearing the word community more than ever these days?
Within the socio-political climate prevalent in the United States, and around the globe, this word no doubt echoes with solidarity and mutual reliance amongst those who find harmony within their alikeness and differences. Love Action Art Lounge at Franklin Street Works—a non-profit art hub located at the heart of Stamford, Connecticut—examines methods and structures of community-building through art that is engaging, performative, and communal. Organized by the center’s creative director Terri C. Smith, the group exhibition spans two floors with works that investigate the constructive impact of ephemeral moments that art can generate, while initiating conversations around unity, resilience, and transformation.
Go!PushPops, a queer feminist art collective, including Elisa Garcia de la Huerta and Katie Cercone, mediates on physical and spiritual extents of the body and ways bodily presence can translate into activism. Challenging set dynamics of social interaction and communal behavior, the collective suggests alternative modes of public interaction that is freed from logics and necessities of mechanized corporate decree. Pushing the limits of bodily gestures and social interactions, their non-choreographed inclusive performances serve as catalysts for broader understandings of communal presence.
Cercone’s mixed-media blanket assemblage RATCHET AMMA’S Ecstatic Birth Blanket and Garcia de la Huerta’s bed sheet painting Healing Selk’nam—self discovery further such declarations by tying the mundane with social activism, transforming the ghettoization of womanliness into politically assertiveness.
“One of my goals in working collaboratively with these artists, four of whom were commissioned to make new works, was to create a hang-out vibe that agitates the cultural symbolism and sterile nature of the “white cube” and that highlights the people-positive, aspirational, and transgressive qualities of the work on view,” underlines Smith in her catalog essay. Hence, House of Ladosha joins the exhibition with a series of videos in which found footage (most strikingly those showing violence against people of color) are mixed in with quirky takes showing group members “hanging out.” Members such as Neon Christina, YSL Ladosha or Magatha engage with the camera in segments that are loosely reminiscent of dating shows. Their unabashedly adamant queer presence cements the exhibition’s goal to challenge “existing socio-political systems” and defy cliched representation of queer experience in the media.
Speaking of set social systems, what could challenge the fixed worldview better than nightclubs? Carmelle Safdie’s Program series may seem to be variations of yellow and black geometric abstractions on canvas; however, they replicate patterns of dance floor lights that the artist also turns into a sculptural installation at the bottom floor gallery. Inspired by patterns beaming on the dance floor to track music or guide dancers for the next move, the installation features wallpaper, a set of furniture, drawings, and a floor piece that absorbs the visitors into a deconstructed nightclub.
Safdie’s 3-minute video Discovery of the Shape recounts her previous residency at Lower East Side bar Leftfield and provides a crux for the installation in its celebration of the strong community that nightclubs can orchestrate. Love, action, art, and lounge may overall suggest four separate words, but thanks to the works in this exhibition at Franklin Street Works, they join together to demonstrate how they each own the potential to cultivate both solidarity and empowerment.