Note: This conversation between David Naimon and Claudia Rankine is part of Between the Covers, hosted by Naimon, and was recorded on November 13, 2014 at the KBOO-FM studios in Portland, Oregon. This interview was transcribed by Amy Stidham and is available for listening here. It has been lightly edited for publication. — Amy Stidham
Note: This conversation between David Naimon and Claudia Rankine is part of Between the Covers, hosted by Naimon, and was recorded on November 13, 2014 at the KBOO-FM studios in Portland, Oregon.
You conceived this forum in the midst of attacks on Conceptualism for being a pain machine wielded by and for white people. I wondered whether your goal was salvific: could Conceptualism’s reputation and potential be rescued, could its soil be aerated and fertilized, could histories, lineages, practices, and ideas not normally associated with the current branding of Conceptualism become part of our sense of it.
After some time browsing through pages, staring out the window, and drifting over question after question, the idea of the borderlands became something I latched on to despite these unfamiliar cultural experiences and references. It occurred as I repeated the phrase: a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural border.
I find myself going back into the past. In absence.
What haven’t I looked at thus far? What remains
(mostly) unquestioned in examining what queer
representations are? Race. Ethnicity. My white skin.
[N.B. : My dear editors have pointed out a problem with my using this image for the commentary's header, which is to say that the black background obscures my name and the column's title. As someone who has lived with an obscure name lo these many years, I would have been willing to chance it, but in the interests of consistency of style across our Jackets I have replaced the banner with another. The image lives on here, however, hovering over all that shall soon follow.]
I’m going to start simply by telling the story of this image.
Anna Everett was a young woman from Washington, D.C., who moved to Buffalo, N.Y., in the early 1970s to live with relatives while finishing her high school education. As a new student, she was sent to Lafayette High School, which was only then being integrated. If you’ve read about the integration and bussing battles of that era, you can well imagine the challenges she faced. There weren't attacks on school buses by angry mobs as in Boston, but there were groups of white parents picketing the approach to the school and making it abundantly clear to the small group of black students that they were not welcomed by all. With all deliberate speed, Everett set about making her mark at Lafayette.
Linh Dinh playfully and bitterly engages food, war, and race in a poem called “Eating Fried Chicken.” The poem appeared in his book American Tatts, published by Chax in 2005. For PoemTalk’s 51st episode, Thomas Devaney, Susan Schultz (visiting from Hawai'i), and Leonard Schwartz (visiting from Olympia, Washington) joined Al Filreis to talk about this work of apparently straightforward address yet tonal complexity.
Ann Seaton of Bard College speaks about pastoral and race during a Q&A session after her presentation on "Pastoral Origins" at the Kelly Writers House on September 26, 2011. Here is a link to more information, including links to both the full audio and video recordings of the program.