art news & reviews & Interviews. jeff bergman, editor

167 – Claudia Rankine/ Reading Group

The weeks have become months and the focus of Atlas has shifted toward activism through presenting the words of brilliant scholars, poets, journalists, authors and even politicians.  My thoughts on art still bubble up but the reality of the Trump ascendancy is taking over much of my time for thought and reflection.

I have seen wonderful shows in the past months, notable among them Agnes Martin and Kerry James Marshall.  I took myself to see work in galleries and I have spent time with art criticism but  my mind wanders back to the political reality.  

I am not an activist by nature, but I am also not a soft spoken person.  I live, in general, with an open heart and an open mouth.  If you know me you know I speak my mind and all too often I do so over the voices of others, though that is rarely my intent.  Learn as Protest is a genuine attempt to hear all voices and allow people a space to share the thoughts that best reflect the moment.

To me, the single text that I have been returning to again and again is Claudia Rankine‘s Citizen: An American Lyric.  It is easy for me to approach the work as it is a hybrid of visual art and prose.  The story telling within shapes an image of Rankine’s vision of the constant confrontations on race.  Her recent win of the unrestricted MacArthur genius grant is being dedicated to creating the Racial Imaginary Institute.

Rankine’s voice is wise and forward.  The script for a situation video by John Lucas called “Stop and Frisk” tells the tale of man that is always stopped by police because in her clear words:

”And you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always the guy fitting the description.”


This piece and more from Rankine‘s Citizen: An American Lyric will be my chosen reading for the first Monthly Reading Group at Trump Tower on January 31st.  If you are free to join in next Tuesday please do come.  If you want to create your own Reading Group, please follow the very brief toolkit below.


Reading Group

A brief toolkit from Jeff Bergman, Founding Reader, Learn as Protest

The reading group is a place for people to share ideas in the words of scholars, poets, journalists, authors and politicians.  The readers in the group should share short segments, 5 to 10 minute, on a first come, first served basis for whatever the agreed upon length of time the group chooses to meet.  All readers must credit their source and are asked to share words other than their own.  A sign in sheet can serve to log who will read when, and what, by whom.  After the reading, each visiting participant can offer a text they feel is of importance, even if it wasn’t read aloud.  A syllabus will be compiled of all suggested texts and shared via email or Facebook group after.

The idea of this reading group or teach in has it’s roots in past resistance.  This group is an extension of those efforts, and can be amended to the situation as appropriate.

– Jeff Bergman
   January 2017

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