How has the world made me and how do I make the world?
I use cultural work as a vehicle to unpack, discover, and propose possibilities for the relational, political, and ethical problems that are revealed by this question. The movement from this point of departure emphasizes questions about personal and political agency, cultural participation, power, and forms of relationship, cultivating my commitment to explicitly aiming my labor directly at the abolition of white supremacy and settler-colonial projects in the Americas. I use my own social location as a white, queer, working class woman, survivor of patriarchy, and a descendent of both immigrants and settlers living in the American West as a lens through which I contend with the historical and present consequences of social harm. Using my own subjective position, genealogy, and experiences as sites of research and knowledge, I ask: For what am I responsible? What are my gaps in knowledge? How can I help? These prompts have given way to an omni-directional cultural practice in which I combine cultural organizing, teaching, sculpture and installation, images, text, writing, and digital media as material strategies to create opportunities for individual and collective reflection on historical process, the transformation of present conditions, and grow the capacity to imagine futures.
I understand my skills, labor, and the currency of my voice as capital resources that create specific consequences within the economy of the cultural field. Because of this, the decision to create a project depends very much on an active discourse with those that I share solidarity as well as a consistent dialogue with Black and Indigenous radical thought, histories of white people working for racial justice, and contemporary movements for social transformation. This constellation of co-conspirators provides leadership, critique, and cues to which I respond through strategic cultural production.
Our present moment demands a reevaluation of the role of artists, cultural workers, and cultural institutions. And for me specifically, I recognize a need to create models of engagement taken on by white people that actively work to undermine the oppressive consequences of white supremacy, taking to task the normative and accepted forms of cultural production created by supremacist culture thereby constructing transgressive ethical frameworks for artistic practice. This turn has initiated a critical naming of the characteristics of normative cultural production under white supremacy when inverted reveal a conceptual proposition for cultural work: radical cultural stewardship.
Radical cultural stewardship is an approach to cultural work which centers the needs of inter-related communities and the well-being of those experiencing acute harm, producing maneuvers within the cultural field that prioritize care, responsibility for historical inheritances, and collective survival. This is a rejection of forms of cultural participation produced by white supremacy which historically rely on singular authorship, the primacy of the subjectivity of the settler, ahistorical rejection of social responsibility in the name of artistic freedom, and the trade of intellectual property via capitalism. Stewardship requires a commitment to care for something, someone, someplace to which you belong but will never possess. Radicalizing this gesture within the cultural field rearranges the priorities and goals of cultural work, prompting producers – especially those with privilege, to make deliberate choices about how, why, for whom, and to what end they create their work.
Since 2015 this approach has materialized through the ongoing development of a cultural formation sited on Tongva Territory in the Foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. A collective that practices radical stewardship of land, relationships and culture, Mountain House brings our needs for material sustenance and cultural-intellectual engagement together. We work collaboratively to build and support projects that emphasize a connection between art-making, knowledge building, and access to care and connection as critical intersecting strategies for ensuring and restoring the health of the lands we live with, inter-community relationships, and equitable cultural participation. We come together by acknowledging our varied cultural, political, and personal locations in the world(s) we each inhabit, and in doing so, manifest transformative relationships directed towards mutual liberation. This community strives to create a social and material infrastructure that nurtures the endeavors of cultural stewards and has become the epicenter of my own cultural practice and political commitments.