Fault Lines

Luv ’til it Hurts is the third in a series of durational, multi-stakeholder, rights-focused art works: freeDimensional (2003-12), Lanchonete.org (2013-17), and LUV (2018-20). In Why Make an ‘Open Work’? I discuss some of the logic around stakeholder recruitment. Between the first and second, the first and third, and the second and third projects, I have invited cross-over stakeholders. For example, Adham Bakry who is working on ACT I has worked on design outputs for all three projects. There is a practicality in doing so: to learn to work with another artist or designer ‘practices a muscle’ that gets stronger through repetition. If it works, it really works, and can reduce some of the time needed to train production staff on a project that includes a ‘cross-over stakeholder’ and for which they are contributing a similar skillset offered for a past project. Design is an easy example to use here.

With multiple stakeholders joining a process and taking different levels of ownership and leadership, the topic of authorship invariably comes up. I became fascinated by questions of authorship and ownership when making the first project, freeDimensional. fD created a bridge between the human rights and art worlds for the express purpose of using artist residency ‘bedrooms’ for artist and activist safe haven. We humbly aspired to create a ‘sea change’ on the issue of artist safety hosting.  A dialogue happened along the way (10 years) with this goal. At the time I understood intuitively that in order for an idea to spread effectively it would need the largesse of an ‘organization’ and that typical considerations of authorship, ownership and artist credit would be muted by this strategy of imitation. Around this time I started using the term ‘organizational form’ to describe my work. Working in organizational form is synonymous for me to institutional critique. My projects ask institutions to change the way they act, and propose an example, solution or prototype on which to test a new idea for or functional form of ‘organization’. Therefore, and from a very early moment in its lifespan, LUV is explicitly offering a critique on authorship and ownership. I think this will become clear in ACT II when the project proposes a business plan for fighting HIV-related stigma.

Admittedly there have been frustrations around crediting within all three projects. They do seem unavoidable. And, yet I would argue that the cumulative output of the overall multi-stakeholder project justifies these, at times, tedious discussions. While I enjoy exhibiting and curating when I get the chance, there have been points in both freeDimensional and Lanchonete.org when I did not want them understood in these terms. Stepping outside some of the art world systems is therefore a conscious decision, for these are but some of the institutions that LUV hopes to move to action. Over the course of the 1st and 2nd projects, I began to understand the relationship between art world power and access, patronage and funding, and ultimately have to rethink how to finance the multi-stakeholder, durational art works (or projects) I fancy making at each turn. For LUV, the process of raising art world money and seeking art world access will be included in the ‘story’ or archive of the project. 

The idea for LUV started forming shortly after I contracted HIV while living in São Paulo. At the time I was co-making Lanchonete.org, a project on the right to the city focused on São Paulo’s center. With many other partners, Lanchonete.org developed (curated and produced) a year-long program called Cidade Queer or Queer City. Several initiatives and ideas came up during this period, such as the EXPLODE! Residency, ATAQUE Ball, Queer Graphics LaboratoryJanta: Queer Food / Queer Politics, the first episode of TravaLíngua and the Textão exhibit at São Paulo’s Museum of Sexual Diversity as well as an eponymous book and film. We were looking for relations between the themes of queerness and the right to the city; and at the same time, I was already experimenting deeply creating spaces in which discussions about HIV could flourish. Because Queer City–like Lanchonete.org–was owned by a lot of people, I must credit some for helping me to experiment with the emerging ideas I was having on HIV-related programming. 

Making three projects back-to-back and with the same tenets may get wrapped up in a nice package after the fact. I am presently writing a text on methodology for example. In a methodological sense, I see how learning from the first project allowed me to shorten the timespan for the second, and again for the third. And, in this sense, I think it is feasible to make a game plan from an idea and implement it over a two-year period. Full stop. But the two-year timespan is also for me. You see, I knew before I started that this would be the most personal of the three works, and that focusing on the theme of HIV would unleash an emotional ‘heat’ in me and other stakeholders, and indeed by our interactions. The first year of LUV has taught me a lot. I invited some cross-over stakeholders into the project, and some of those interactions resulted in tension, which I attribute to this emotional heat. I experienced tensions with new stakeholders as well, but single out crossover stakeholders for another observation, which is: each project assumes a different organizational form–freeDimensional (network/sea change), Lanchonete.org (collective/platform), and LUV (business plan/philanthropic device)–and for crossover stakeholders there is a necessary shift of pace directly related to the hierarchical proposition of the next conjured form. And, compounded by the speed (duration) of the project created/used to test it out.

While there is not a coded answer in these fault lines, I think it is important to bring up authorship, credit, fundraising and hiring practices between artists in order that LUV’s work can be considered alongside its political economy. 

To date, Luv ’til it Hurts has received a $50,000 from the Ford Foundation, which was spent in the first year of R&D on administration, participant travel, honorariums, graphic and web design, printing, web hosting costs and commissioning content. The second year will require additional fundraising. 

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