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Visiting Artist: Shannon Stratton

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Aron Gent and Betsy O'Brien, "Uncomfortable Spaces," 2013. Courtesy of the artists and Heaven Gallery

Aron Gent and Betsy O’Brien, “Uncomfortable Spaces,” 2013. Courtesy of the artists and Heaven Gallery

This is the third installment of the Visiting Artist column. In this installment, we reprint a letter Shannon Stratton wrote to the Chicago art community and read aloud at the 2013 CAA conference in New York.

Dear You,

I have been thinking about reaching out to you, but I haven’t. I haven’t written the words. The email. The text. I haven’t picked up the phone.

I have been thinking about you, I really have. I have been thinking about what you do for me… have you been thinking about me?

I have been thinking about gifts. I have been thinking about gifs. I have been thinking about ceremonies. I have been thinking about throwing ten parties. I have been thinking about constellations. I have been thinking about you, but I haven’t called and said thank you.

I haven’t called and said, thank you for everything you taught me. Thank you for all the ways you helped me. Thank you for being. Helping me be.

I have been thinking about a piece of criticism someone wrote two weeks ago that made you angry. It was about you. I’ve been thinking about how it made me angry too. I want to tell you I’m in cahoots with you, that we are in it together, but then I’d have to define it. Know it.

I’ve been thinking about it.

I’ve been thinking about the time I heard that you said that thing about me when you were at that residency and it got back to me. How it made me feel to know you were against me.

I’m for you.

Sometimes.

I’m for you. Now.

I’ve been thinking I haven’t told you what I think. About you. I’ve been thinking about that time you told me you wanted to know how we could be together. How it could be us. Is it us against them? It is us against us I think, again. Are we just them? I’ve been thinking about us.

I’ve been thinking about CAA. About Lane Relyea. About Art Journal. About Chris Kraus. About Julie Ault. About Creative Time. About Theaster Gates. About The Whitney Biennial. About Anthony Elms. About Michelle Grabner. About Facebook. About The Warhol Foundation. About Curatorial Studies Programs. About Artist Residencies. About you. I’ve been thinking about Bourdieu.

I’ve been thinking about the erotics of collaboration. I’ve been thinking about arbitration. About mediation. About intervention. About judgment.

Are you judging me?

Who judges the judge? Are you the judge? Who judges you? Who consecrated your judging skills, who consecrated the judge who created you?

I’ve been thinking about e-flux.

It costs money to be judged these days.

I’ve been thinking about that other thing I heard, about those two, who don’t like us. Those guys who think what we do is bad because we do it together and so they think it is no good, because it takes strangers (and dollars) to be good. Not love. Not esteem. Not steam. Not ardor. Not fury. Not ours, anyway.

I’ve been thinking about when we were just strangers. At a dinner. On a bus. At that party when you showed up in a meta-costume as a straight girl. At the bar. On the floor. On the wall. When we grew together, across the space and tangled ourselves up in one another for a moment. We fought. We laughed. We danced. We cut ourselves loose.

People watched.

They danced too.

I’ve been at home alone, thinking about you.

I was thinking I should donate to your Kickstarter. I was thinking I should get over to your space more often. I was thinking I should listen to your podcast. I was thinking I should buy your book. I was thinking I should have you over for dinner. I was thinking I should offer something in return for you. For all you do. For all of you.

But I’m not sure I can give you enough. I have this little bit left behind the knee—will you take it please? I’ll give you more later. I am sorry.

Shannon Stratton is co-founder and executive director of Threewalls, a 501(c)3 arts organization in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She loves you more than you know.

One Response to “Visiting Artist: Shannon Stratton”

  1. phyllis bramson Says:

    Shannon, so sly! Poetry. You, wish my name had been mention. Would that have been a good thing? Isn’t being mentioned good, regardless? Isn’t it?

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