Thursday, April 29, 2010

EVENT: May 4th, 2010 at MIT

_ Under Our Skin
By The Counter Narrative Society
(Mabel Negrete in collaboration with Mary Ann Brooks and Joan Jonas's performance class spring 2010)

The society will be presenting a 20 minute creative workshop as the 4th part in a series of heart to heart conversations (indecent acts)
(1) that shine light on interconnected notions - such as dominance (2), assimilation, inequality, mass-imprisonment (3) - as they manifest into implicit and invisible forms of oppression.

TUES. MAY 4th, 2010
Begins in the CUBE around 11am
MIT – Program in Art, Culture, and Technology (ACT)
20 Ames Street, [Wiesner Building] E15-001
Cambridge, MA

This project is developed in part for the ACT’s performance class final review and topic “Glaciers”.
[9am-12:30pm | Tues. May 4th, 2010 | Cube E15-001]

Monday, March 29, 2010

Under Our Skin | Mon-Sun | 24/7

Concept Outline:

By The Counter Narrative Society
(Mabel Negrete in Collaboration with Mary Ann Brooks, Joan Jones performance class and final response by John Hulsey)

The project investigates, through a series of heart to heart creative conversations (indecent acts ) [1], the manifestation of interconnected notions, such as white dominance [2], assimilation, inequality, mass-imprisonment [3] , into implicit and invisible forms of oppression. The project consists of a series of creative conversational pieces that will be completed in 5 parts.

PART 1 – is already happening. It involves talking to key faculty and friends who will be participating in the project. This has been the preliminary stage of deciding the overall concept and design of the project.

PART 2 – For the midterm, CNS' member Mabel Negrete, Chilean-Immigrant-American female, visual artist and researcher at MIT, will be doing an experimental performance for a maximum of 10 minutes. She will be exploring through monologue, conversations with the audience questions about what it means to "assimilate white dominance" at MIT.

PART 3 – CNS' collaborator Mary Ann Brooks, an African American queer female, movement conceptual artist and writer, will be traveling from San Francisco to join Negrete for the heart to heart conversations (as indecent acts). The conversations will be recorded at their leisure over the weekend of April 24th. As part of this collaboration they will be sharing ideas, practices and research.

PART 4 – The CNS will be making a final creative conversational piece with the material accumulated. The presentation will be on May 4th, 2010 at the MIT - Program in Art, Culture and Technology. Event information visit>> Glaciers _ Under Our Skin

PART 5 – The project will culminate in a section for a book the MIT - ACT Graduates Students are putting together. CNS' collaborator John Hulsey, a White American male, Harvard filmmaker and writer, will be joining the project to bring in a 3rd viewpoint on the conversation that Mary Ann and Mabel will be recording. John will be an evaluator and concept collaborator. In this role he will be looking at the work both artistically and critically. In addition, Mary Ann will also be contributing to the development of the book section.


[1] The Counter Narrative Society. 2010. Indecent ACTS 1 & 2 -

[2] Zack, Noami. 1998. Thinking About Race.
White Dominance – In this project it refers to a series of race based concepts to explicitly identify the political, economical and cultural dominance known in political nomenclature as “White Race, White Culture”. Other relating concepts are internalized white supremacy, unconscious racism, institutional racism, and the whitening effect.

[3] Garland, David. 2001. Mass Imprisonment: Social Causes and Consequences.
Mass Imprisonment – “What are the defining features of mass imprisonment? There are…two that are essential. One is sheer numbers. Mass imprisonment implies a rate of imprisonment and a size of prison population that is markedly above the historical and comparative norm for a society of this type. The US prison system clearly meets these criteria. The other feature is the social concentration of imprisonment’s effects. Imprisonment becomes mass imprisonment when it ceases to be the incarceration of individual offenders and becomes the systematic imprisonment of whole groups of the population. In the case of the USA, the group concerned is, of course, young black males in large urban centers. For these sections of the population, imprisonment has become normalized. It has come to be a regular, predictable part of experience, rather than a rare and infrequent event.”

Selected Bibliography:

Bishop, Claire. 2006. Participation.
Butler, Judith. 1997. Excitable Speech.
Garland, David. 2001. Mass Imprisonment: Social Causes and Consequences.
Hooks, Bell. Killing Rage: Ending Racism | Overcoming White Supremacy, pg. 184-195.
Participation Art -
Participation|Art -
Phillips, Michael. 2006. White Metropolis.
SFMOMA – The Art Participation 1950-Now |
The Counter Narrative Society. 2010. Indecent | ACTS -
Western, Bruce. 2006. Punishment and Inequality in America.
Zack, Noami. 1998. Thinking About Race.

Related References:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Indecent ACTS 1 & 2

(CNS member) Mabel Negrete began this series of Indecent Acts after doing an experimental presentation at her performance class at MIT led by artist/professor Joan Jones. She undertook this project because she has grown tired of the level of politeness found in institutions like MIT and Harvard. She find the polite speech, as a powerful communicative mechanism, to be aggressive and socially oppressive. So, the concept Indecent ACTS has come to represent an interesting way to use art as speech acts to oppressing institutional settings.

Thus, the first manifestation of Indecent Acts was a performance she did in two acts that made referenced to the conceptual practices and social realities of two artists, Guillermo Gomez-Peña and Damila Ayo. The connecting social issues she drew from these artists are "white dominance", institutional racism, assimilation, and inequality. In addition, she added a 5th, mass imprisonment, as another implicit mechanism of oppression in the USA that is indirectly connected to educational discrimination.

The performance didn't mimic the artists nor intended to replicate what they do. The main goal was to connect her own performance in relation to the micro-political issues at her school, and in some respects, in reference to their work. The work functions as an institutional critique, in the form of speech acts, directed towards her Program, “Art, Culture, and Technology - (ACT)”, which she had found has not had any African American students, faculty or staff.

Performance: 02.16.2010 at MIT-E15-001 (Cube)
(There is no video recording of the event, only some photographs of what was left.)

ACT 1: Any African Americans. It begins with a board that has an enlarged paper picture profile of the people who have been in her program plus the phrase on the left top "Indecent Act 1" and right bottom corner "Any African Americans". On each picture she placed a tracing paper creating a patchwork of an even milky veneer. You could see there were pictures of individual members underneath but the tracing paper provided a facade as a metaphor to the systemic social issue. Then she used various water based brown colors that she squeezed on her hands. She used spit to loosen up the color and walked around eliciting for more spit from the audience. The act was both seductive and extremely controversial. Since she didn't have enough spit to spread the color in her hands, she motioned others to contribute, implicitly implicating everyone in the act and suggesting that we are all participating in complacent, unconscious discrimination by not having African Americans in the institution.

Once she had enough diluted paint in her hands she stamped her colored hands on the tracing paper that was covering the photographs of classmates, professors, staff. She did this for each profile.

ACT 2: Blond Hair Extension – This was very simple. She turned the board around that has the phrase "Indecent Act 2" and a “hair extension of blond color” that she attached to her hair. Then, she briefly talked about assimilation, after which, the audience had a chance to respond and have a debate. In general the performance hit home. Some liked it, reaffirming that the issue of lack of representation of a community of color at MIT was not over, while some defended the school by saying that at least it has improved. Few were lightly offended because they felt that she was being aggressive towards the people who are her support system. Others asked why she had not chosen other demographics of people.

The general response was that these issues are important to her because as she is studying mass-imprisonment and inequality in America, of which, an important factor is the level of discrimination against African Americans. Studies demonstrates that their chances to acquiring access to better education and class mobility has been hampered over decades. In turn, this relates to the rest of community of color because we are in a system that is based on a specific, common, socially founded racial dominance - “white dominance”. Of course there many other factors, but this is an important truth to consider when the social elites choose to support by de facto the racially dominant class. Lastly, in the context of art we need to remember that we are working with representations, thus the work is not here to provide the solution but to look at the problem and take action in our daily life. The issue of racial discrimination is an important problem that needs to extend beyond the field of entertainment.