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Nell Painter at CUNY Graduate Center

Whiteness Symposium Talkbacks: Nell Painter
Tuesday, November 20, 2018
6:30pm – 8pm
CUNY Graduate Center

Join us for the second of the Whiteness Symposium Talkbacks, a year-long series unpacking the conversations from last summer’s On Whiteness Symposium. At each talkback, one presentation from the symposium will be screened, and members of the Racial Imaginary Institute will mediate an open conversation reflecting on that keynote.

TRII is excited to present the second of these talkbacks at CUNY Graduate Center on Tuesday, November 20th, from 6:30pm – 8pm, with artist and author of The History of White People Nell Painter, moderated by Claudia Rankine, LeRonn P. Brooks, and Jennifer Uleman. If you missed the symposium, you can watch the recording here, or you can just listen to the keynote at the event itself.

This program is free and open to the public.

The Kitchen and The Racial Imaginary Institute: On Whiteness


June 27-August 3
Gallery hours: Monday – Friday, 11am – 6pm
FREE and open to the public

The Kitchen,
512 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011

The exhibition portion of On Whiteness aims to take advantage of art’s powerful ability to reframe dominant ways of seeing, especially with regard to philosopher Sara Ahmed’s postulation of whiteness as a “habit,” whose power to form and sustain specific social behaviors and institutions resides in its being taken entirely for granted. As Ahmed proposes: “Whiteness is what bodies do, where the body takes shape of the action…. spaces are oriented ‘around’ whiteness, insofar as whiteness is not seen.” By disorienting the particularly habituated space of the white cube gallery, the work in this exhibition questions, marks, and checks whiteness, challenging its dominance as it operates through default positions in cultural behavior.

Artists include: Josh BegleyPaul ChanMel ChinJa’Tovia GaryKen Gonzales-DayKate GreenstreetTitus KapharBaseera KhanCharlotte LagardeSeung-Min LeeGlenn LigonMores McWreathSandeep MukherjeeNative Art Department InternationalToyin Ojih OdutolaTim Rollins and K.O.S.Cindy ShermanRodrigo Valenzuela, and Anicka Yi.



June 30, 10am–6pm

A day-long symposium featuring conversation on the diagnostics of whiteness, with keynote addresses by Linda AlcoffNell Painter, and Patricia Williams; presentations including Vijay Iyer and Claudia Rankine and panelists including Lauren Berlant, Sadhana Bery, Daniel Borzutsky, Rizvana Bradley, Jane Caflish, Jeff Chang, Chris Chen, Aruna D’Souza, Lori Gruen, Saidiya Hartman, Sarah Lewis, and Doreen St. Felix.

This event has reached capacity, but can be livestreamed here:



Vijay Iyer 
June 25–29

A series of performances examining what Iyer terms the “affective archeology” of systemic racism, combining audio interviews he has conducted with artists of color with live performance with a host of collaborators across open rehearsals and evening performances.

Jackie Sibblies Drury
July 9–13

Jackie Sibblies Drury will use her time in the space to begin a new project, experimenting with text and developing a movement vocabulary in collaboration with other artists that explores how physical comedy and violence are written onto and interact with the black body. She will open her process to the public through in-process showings and casual feedback sessions.

Dark Noise Collective
July 16–20

Dark Noise Collective will use their time together as a retreat, focusing on internal writing workshops, artist talks, and discussions around race and theways that their work disrupts white dominance. They will also host a public performance at The Kitchen, consisting of poems that have been generated during the residency and other work. Tickets available July 9 at 2pm.



Marguerite Hemmings
July 2, 7pm

Marguerite Hemmings looks at relationships that are in need of examining, i.e. audience-performer; institution-artist; whiteness-everything else? Audience members will be asked to join the circle and participate in guided and unguided improv exercises with sound and movement facilitators.

Seung-Min Lee
July 23, 8pm

Seung-Min Lee’s performance takes on the conflicted symbolic power of milk; as the once-booming dairy industry in New York state suffers with the steady decline of milk consumption, a new generation of Neo-Nazis takes pride in lactose tolerance, instrumentalizing the optical purity of milk as a emblem of white supremacy.

Angie Pittman
July 27, 7pm

Choreographer Angie Pittman will perform two pieces, Sequined Kisses and Vaseline Love, constructed as a diptych to propose a journey towards what Donnell Alexander calls “finding the essential soul while being essentially lost.”



Cultural institutions, collectives, individuals, arts spaces, and other curatorial venues have responded to The Racial ImaginaryInstitute’s invitation to invest in examining the racial imaginary in their programming during the months of June and July 2018. Participants include 47 Canal, BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), Drawing Center, Helena Anrather Gallery, theMuseum of Chinese in America, New Museum, Jack Shainman Gallery, Recess, Studio Museum in Harlem, Queens Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Click here for a full schedule of happenings.

Artists in the exhibition include Josh BegleyPaul ChanMel ChinJa’Tovia GaryKen Gonzales-DayKate Greenstreet, Titus KapharBaseera Khan, Charlotte Lagarde, Seung-Min LeeGlenn LigonMores McWreathSandeep Mukherjee, Native Art Department International, Toyin Ojih OdutolaTim Rollins and K.O.S.Cindy ShermanRodrigo Valenzuela, and Anicka Yi.


This exhibition is presented as part of The Racial Imaginary Institute: On Whiteness. For more information about the exhibition and other programs please see The Kitchen’s website.

The Racial Imaginary Institute: On Whiteness is made possible with support from the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, Poetry Foundation, Valerie Dillon & Daniel R Lewis, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Leslie Fritz, and OSMOS; annual grants from Howard Gilman Foundation, Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, and Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and in part by public funds from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Special thanks to The Korein Foundation and MacDowell Colony.


The 2018 TRII Biennial


The members of The Racial Imaginary Institute are extending an invitation to cultural institutions, collectives, individuals, arts spaces, and other curatorial venues to invest in examining the racial imaginary in their programming during the months of June and July 2018, in conjunction with our collaborative exhibition On Whiteness at The Kitchen.

Sarah Ahmed, in her essay “The Phenomenology of Whiteness,” asks us to consider “‘institutions’ as orientation devices, which take the shape of ‘what’ resides within them.” For Ahmed, “spaces are orientated ‘around’ whiteness, insofar as whiteness is not seen . . . It is important that we do not reify institutions, by presuming they are simply given and that they decide what we do. Rather, institutions become given, as an effect of the repetition of decisions made over time, which shapes the surface of institutional spaces.” (SA:157)

Because institutions have the power to create social meaning, TRII has invited cultural institutions across the country  to extend their programming and outreach towards a deliberate consideration of race, specifically by inviting and supporting arts and programming that question, mark, and check whiteness. Our hope is that this invitation will create new habits and modes of inquiry for participating institutions, as well as the audiences that visit them. Let’s be a community, a network, a world, in which what we’ve inherited is not what we perpetuate.

If your collective, venue, or organization wishes to get involved with the 2018 TRII Biennial, please contact email hidden; JavaScript is required with a short proposal.


Full Schedule:


Recess Assembly: Xaviera Simmons
May 10 – July 28
FREE and open to the public, Thursday – Saturday // 12p – 6p
Culminating Reception: Thursday June 28, 5-7p; program at 6p

370 Schermerhorn Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Xaviera Simmons’ project, titled The burden of deconstructing whiteness and systematic oppression should no longer fall squarely on the shoulders of black and brown bodies. This weight and its solutions have to be carried by and wrestled within the bodies of those who no longer desire to continue to perpetuate and benefit from them, has transformed Assembly’s public storefront into a documentary filmmaking studio and site for research, interviews, and conversation with the goal of decentering of whiteness.

More information here.


47 Canal: The White Noise Mixtape
June 27 – August 3
Gallery Hours Wednesday – Sunday // 11a – 6p

291 Grand St
New York, NY 10002

An edition of 45 reclaimed 60 minute cassette tapes featuring the works of writers, musicians, sound artists, and comedians available for listening and purchase at 47 Canal, as well as streaming online. Organized by Tenaya Izu and Henry Murphy.

More information here.


Jack Shainman Gallery: Orientation
June 27 – August 3
Opening Reception: Thursday, June 28th, 6-8pm
FREE and open to the public, Tuesday – Saturday // 10a – 6p

513 West 20th St
New York, NY 10011

An exhibition in conjunction with the biennial building on Sarah Ahmed’s claim of Whiteness as an orientation, featuring work from James Lee Byars, Sam Durant, Gunther Förg, Anton Kannemeyer, Byron Kim, Barry Le Va, Sol Le Witt, Kerry James Marshall, Meleko Mokgosi, Yasumasa Morimura, Emily Nelms Perez, Jackie Nickerson, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Claudette Schreuders, Richard Serra, Becky Suss, Carrie Mae Weems, and Hank Willis Thomas.


The Drawing Center: Performance by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe
In conjunction with Terry Winters: Facts and Fictions
Tuesday, July 10
Free with RSVP

35 Wooster St
New York, NY 10013

The Drawing Center will host a performance by the artist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe in which Lowe will respond to Winters’s work. This event will take place in conjunction with the biennial programming of the Racial Imaginary Institute, an organization formed to activate public conversations about race.

More information here.


The Studio Museum in Harlem: In Conversation: (De)constructing Images of Color
Wednesday, July 11
FREE and open to the public

Hosted at The Greene Space
44 Charlton St
New York, NY

In Conversation: (De)constructing Images of Color brings together an interdisciplinary group of artists for an exploration of the connections among race, color theory, and the creation of decolonized oral histories. Co-hosted by the Studio Museum in Harlem and WNYC, the panel takes Sara Ahmed’s “The Phenomenology of Whiteness” as a point of departure for challenging whiteness as inheritance and driving force of history. Artists Joiri Minaya and Genevieve Gaignard will be joined in conversation by moderator and curator Legacy Russell and WNYC host Rebecca Carroll.

More information here.


Brooklyn Academy of Music: BAMcinematék On Whiteness film series
July 11 to July 19
Tickets and full schedule here.

30 Lafayette Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Film series exploring how whiteness has been deliberately and subconsciously constructed, ignored, and challenged in the history of American film. Films include: Taxi Driver (1976), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), White Chicks (2004), Gran Torino (2008), The Virgin Suicides (1999), Get Out (2017) and many more.


Queens Museum: Gallery Talk with Claudia Rankine
In conjunction with Mel Chin: All Over the Place
Saturday, July 14
FREE and open to the Public

New York City Building
Queens, NY 11368

Join us for the third of four Second Saturdays, a new series of dynamic public programs presented to delve deeper into the themes, techniques, and aesthetics of Queens Museum’s temporary exhibitions. We will be kicking the series off with Mel Chin: All Over the Place on April 14, June 9, July 14, and August 11. Each afternoon will feature events produced in conversation with All Over the Place’s four thematic sections at the Queens Museum.

More information here.


Helena Anrather: Whiteness Reading Group
Sunday, July 15
FREE with registration

28 Elizabeth St, Third Floor
New York, NY 10013

Series of reading groups with the AN/OTHER curatorial collective exploring the texts informing the On Whiteness exhibition, focusing on Sara Ahmed’s “The Phenmenology of Whiteness,” and Fred Moten and Stefano Harvey’s The Undercommons.


The Whitney Museum of American Art:
ORIENTATIONS: Perceiving Whiteness in Art and Institutions
Tuesday, July 17
Free with registration

99 Gansevoort St
New York, NY 10014

Taking philosopher Sara Ahmed’s foundational text, “A Phenomenology of Whiteness” as a starting point, this workshop invites participants to develop a vocabulary for analyzing whiteness through close readings of works of art in the Whitney’s collection.

More information here.

Brooklyn Museum: Brooklyn Talks: Claudia Rankine with Alexandra Bell
Thursday, July 19
Tickets are $25 and include Museum admission.

200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11238

Claudia Rankine examines the often-troubled manifestations of the racial imaginary in American poetry and explores counternarrative tactics of contemporary poets and artists. Her presentation is followed by a conversation with multidisciplinary artist Alexandra Bell, best known for her public art series Counternarratives, and Doreen St. Félix, a New Yorker staff writer who writes at the intersection between culture and media, and has written incisively on Counternarratives. Bell uses the term “counternarratives” to describe her work, which investigates how images and text work together to affect the cultural imagination and narratives around race.

More information here.


The New Museum: Post-Freedom Cookout
Sunday, July 22,
4 – 6pm
$15 public / $10 members

235 Bowery
New York, NY 10002

Yardy, a platform founded by DeVonn Francis, engages with food production within queer and migrant communities. A play on the Jamaican Patois word “yaadie”—a term that Jamaican locals and expats alike use to describe themselves and their group of friends—Yardy was founded on the premise that education and cultural support for food production are vital anchors for community building, justice work, and healing within marginalized communities. Fostering conviviality and intergenerational dialogue over gatherings with food, Yardy’s programs center on sisterhooding, matrilineal inheritance, and sustenance for Afro-diasporic people.

As part of the Racial Imaginary Institute’s 2018 Biennial programming, Yardy presents a workshop on the histories and futures of hybrid platforms that forge space for black cultural production in New York City. The workshop will consider the history of tenant organizing in the city, focusing particularly on how food culture spearheaded by people of color intersects with vibrant cookouts, nightlife, and visioning for a new generation of urban farmers and community gardeners. With a nod to the calypso, funk, soul, and reggae records spun at block parties and basement speakeasies in East Flatbush in the 1970s and ’80s, the workshop will pay homage to Caribbean roots while looking to the gatherings that keep this legacy alive today.

More information here.


The Museum of Chinese in America: Curators in Conversation: AN/OTHER NY
Thursday, August 2
FREE and open to the public

215 Centre Street
New York, NY 10013

Members of the Asian/Asian American artist group AN/OTHER NY will discuss their founding history and lead breakout conversations in an exercise of what Sara Ahmed in “The Phenomenology of Whiteness” calls “room-making”—the creation of a space in which to feel comfortable as a collective body. Using their own bodies as orientation devices, participants will begin by sharing personal narratives of diaspora. Conversations will be shaped around groups of 5-6 people to give space to each individual story. AN/OTHER NY members will mediate with prompts as needed; please bring any topics relating to race, space, and identity you have been eager to discuss. Snacks and beverages will be provided and conversations will be casual. Formed in 2015, AN/OTHER NY is a collective of artists, writers, and curators that advocate for Asians and Asian Americans in the arts.


Image courtesy Ken Gonzalez-Day.



On Whiteness: Symposium

The Kitchen in collaboration with The Racial Imaginary Institute presents a day-long symposium on the phenomenology, distortions and diagnostics of white dominated space, featuring keynote addresses, panel discussions, and interactive conversation.

June 30, 10am–6pm REGISTRATION IS FULL
RSVP required. Attendees are required to commit to the full day.

Symposium Schedule


Doors open

Introduction and welcome

Opening Keynote: Nell Painter, introduced by Claudia Rankine

Panel 1: “Against a Sharp White Background: Culture, Coalition, and the Zero-Sum Game of Managed Diversity” Jeff Chang, Aruna D’Souza, Daniel Borzutsky, Sarah Lewis, Doreen St. Felix, Moderator Chris Chen

Lunch Break

Afternoon Keynote: Linda Martín Alcoff, introduced by Cathy Park Hong

Panel 2: “A Diagnostic of Whiteness: The Empathy Conundrum” Lauren Berlant, Sadhana Bery, Jane Caflish, Lori Gruen, Saidiya Hartman, Moderator Rizvana Bradley

Presentation by Vijay Iyer, introduced by LeRonn P.  Brooks

Closing Keynote: Patricia Williams, introduced by Monica Youn

Closing Discussion with Claudia Rankine, Patricia Williams, Linda Alcoff, Nell Painter and Vijay Iyer, introduced by Rizvana Bradley

This performance is presented as part of The Racial Imaginary Institute: On Whiteness. For more information about the exhibition and other programs please see The Kitchen website.