Issue 35 February 2024

Issue 34 November 2023

Issue 33 August 2023

Issue 32 June 2023

Issue 31 February 2023

Issue 30 November 2022

Issue 29 August 2022

Issue 28 May 2022

Issue 27 February 2022

Issue 26 November 2021

Issue 25 August 2021

Issue 24 May 2021

Issue 23 February 2021

Issue 22 November 2020

Issue 21 August 2020

Issue 20 May 2020

Issue 19 February 2020

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop

Issue 18 November 2019

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Children of the Sun
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg
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Issue 17 August 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

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Issue 16 May 2019

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden
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Issue 15 February 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 14 November 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 13 August 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown
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Issue 12 May 2018

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan
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Issue 11 February 2018

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn
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Issue 10 November 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 9 August 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects


Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 8 May 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth
Letter to the Editor
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 7 February 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing
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Issue 6 November 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)
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Issue 5 August 2016

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Exquisite L.A.
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 4 May 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 3 February 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 2 November 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 1 August 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
Mateo Tannatt
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
1301 PE
Anat Ebgi (La Cienega)
Anat Ebgi (Wilshire)
Arcana Books
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Babst Gallery
Baert Gallery
Bel Ami
Canary Test
Carlye Packer
Charlie James Gallery
Château Shatto
Chris Sharp Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Clay ca
Commonwealth & Council
Craft Contemporary
D2 Art (Inglewood)
D2 Art (Westwood)
David Kordansky Gallery
David Zwirner
Diane Rosenstein
François Ghebaly
Gana Art Los Angeles
George Billis Gallery
Giovanni's Room
Hamzianpour & Kia
Hannah Hoffman Gallery
Harper's Gallery
Hashimoto Contemporary
Heavy Manners Library
Helen J Gallery
Human Resources
Hunter Shaw Fine Art
in lieu
LaPau Gallery
Lisson Gallery
Lowell Ryan Projects
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
MAK Center for Art and Architecture
Make Room Los Angeles
Matter Studio Gallery
Matthew Brown Los Angeles
MOCA Grand Avenue
Monte Vista Projects
Morán Morán
Moskowitz Bayse
Nazarian / Curcio
Night Gallery
Nino Mier Gallery
NOON Projects
O-Town House
One Trick Pony
Paradise Framing
Park View / Paul Soto
Patricia Sweetow Gallery
Regen Projects
Reparations Club
r d f a
REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater)
Roberts Projects
Royale Projects
Sean Kelly
Sebastian Gladstone
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
Smart Objects
Steve Turner
Stroll Garden
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
The Box
The Fulcrum
The Hole
The Landing
The Poetic Research Bureau
The Wende Museum
Thinkspace Projects
Tierra del Sol Gallery
Tiger Strikes Astroid
Tomorrow Today
Track 16
Tyler Park Presents
USC Fisher Museum of Art
UTA Artist Space
Various Small Fires
Village Well Books & Coffee
Outside L.A.
Libraries/ Collections
Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Bard College, CCS Library (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
Charlotte Street Foundation (Kansas City, MO)
Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, CA)
NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University (Alfred, NY)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
University of California Irvine, Langston IMCA (Irvine, CA)
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

How virtual care lab Builds Community in Online Spaces

Leer en Español

Screenshot of a publicly editable virtual care lab page on yourworldoftext, which allows anyone to add notes to an unlimited digital canvas. Image courtesy of virtual care lab.

Covid-19 magnified overlapping crises: climate change, racial inequality, the lack of a social safety net in the United States, to name a few. From mutual aid initiatives to demonstrations, the past year has revealed the importance of cultivating authentic and compassionate community. This work can and should predate a crisis. The lesson was driven home for me years ago in response to the 2016 Ghost Ship fire. Mere hours after the flames engulfed the Oakland warehouse, a shared Google spreadsheet was set up to help crowdsource information about attendees’ whereabouts, phone numbers, family contacts, etc. Without the document, it would have taken weeks or months to identify those who were lost. While I mourned, I realized something fundamental—all we have is each other. This sense of love and responsibility has developed for me over time and through art—in other underground music venues, at art shows, and on dance floors. I’ve built a personal philosophy in which the practice of creating and experiencing art serves first and foremost to strengthen a sense of kinship. In our current moment, as many artists and arts organizers reconsider what continues to draw them to their work, I’ve been reflecting on recently emerged projects that directly focus on community. The online project space virtual care lab (VCL) took the crisis as an opportunity to forge community while we were all isolated and separated.

Seeking greater depth in virtual connections during a time when all activities were shifting online, artists Sara Suárez and Alice Yuan Zhang dreamt up and launched VCL within the first few weeks of lockdown. To build the platform, the artists collaborated with NAVEL, an organization located in a downtown Los Angeles loft that operates like a research-oriented hub for creative development, and whose community-focused spirit helped inform VCL’s early ethos. The platform quickly developed a lively community that together cultivated an online public space that was focused on, as they described it, “genuine presence, purposeful online/offline connection and collaboration, and digital well-being.” By embracing a communal spirit and maintaining a nimble framework, VCL’s unique structure has allowed urgent and timely projects to emerge organically. 

Through an open Discord channel, a communication platform originally built for gamers, anyone is welcome to join and get involved. Newcomers are prompted to introduce themselves to the group and are invited to regular gatherings such as Lab Hour on Sundays (for ideation and community check-ins) and virtual Field Trips on Saturdays (a group exploration of online presence on the web). A “Conversations” area allows for looser discussion on subjects like gardening, the diaspora, and technology. The Discord channel organizes ongoing exchanges between members, but events or performances can take place anywhere on the web. The platform has grown to include an international group of artists, activists, designers, and technologists who discovered VCL while sheltered in place.

VCL has quickly fostered a dedicated community oriented around consensus and process, values that are explained in a participant-generated document titled “Terms That Serve Us.” Subverting the corporate “terms of service” agreements that force a user to comply with confusing and obscure legalese in order to access a digital platform, “Terms That Serve Us” comes from an entirely different vision for participation online, one that encourages empathy and experimentation.1 VCL contributors collectively fleshed out an open and fundamentally more human-centered framework for online interactions by naming and defining a series of terms. Some of the words in the list include “embodiment,” “care,” and “presence.” Each entry seeks to define a new understanding of each term. For instance, under the header “community,” they note how trite the word has become, and how digital platforms and marketing firms alike claim to create community when, in reality, they “amass users to generate data for profit.” Instead, VCL imagines community as a process of “creating kinship” that “exceeds a single platform.” Another entry, “study,” points to Fred Moten’s theory of an undercommons that exists outside of strict academic gatekeeping, another forum in which the group can resist institutional boundaries. For VCL, laughter, listening, and meditation can be a form of “study.” They ask: “What forms of media, practice, listening, or imagination count as ‘research’? How do everyday moments constitute study, [when] shared with each other?” 

The “Terms That Serve Us” not only establish a shared understanding of what VCL is and does— they also serve as a guide for other organizers to use in their own facilitation. Reading through the list—and the position it takes toward fluid, compassionate, and generative interaction—I was struck by what a simple, yet grand, paradigm shift it represents in contrast to how most art spaces typically convene and present work in a one-way fashion, where interaction with the public lacks any continued exchange or conversation. More horizontal in nature and built around process over presentation, VCL is a malleable structure with community, trust, and support as its end goal. The “Terms” are a form of movement building that—in their words—reflect “an essential trust in, and respect for, other beings.” 

Many of the art institutions currently in existence do not center these values from the ground up, and as a result, are struggling. This is evidenced by even a cursory look at the controversies engulfing the art world: the opiate-producing Sackler family’s philanthropic dominance in the arts; Warren B. Kanders’ departure from the Whitney Museum’s board due to protest over his company’s production of tear gas and riot gear; or the frustration and despair expressed in the near-daily posts on the Change the Museum Instagram account. As museums, galleries, and arts spaces scramble to “rethink,” “pivot,” and “listen,” perhaps the real way forward is to start from scratch—to nurture alternate means of gathering, to encourage lateral, grassroots arts organizing, and to plant seeds. 

Artists initially heard about VCL through word of mouth and were ultimately attracted to its culture of access and invitation. When I asked what drew her to VCL, Utah-based artist Kristen Mitchell said that VCL was described to her as a “room of requirement”—i.e. the kind of space that incites active participation—and, as such, she found it “irresistible both to contribute to and reside in.” As a member of the ongoing improv music and performance ensemble Living Marks, Mitchell plugged into VCL’s community and was able to collaborate with other like-minded composers and dancers. Within the organization, Mitchell initiated multidisciplinary participatory improvisational sessions with other participants and with the general public, which were then archived on the Discord channel. When I asked how VCL impacted her artistic practice, Mitchell explained that these sessions encouraged her to let go of the common expectation of “muscling through” a performance in pursuit of an end result. Instead, Mitchell learned to “explore ideas without agendas using invitation, intention, and action. This freed the project up to breathe on its own.”

VCL’s open framework also allows participants to rapidly initiate and launch projects in response to current events. In the fall of 2020, one VCL contributor, an immigration lawyer named Daniela Hernández Chong Cuy, put the group in touch with a client named José Miguel Galán Najarro, who was facing deportation and was being held at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center. Due to Covid-19, Adelanto halted family visitations in March 2020. It also suspended video calls. Detainees like Galán Najarro were left in almost total isolation while periodic Covid-19 outbreaks tore through the for-profit private prison. Attorney meetings, paid and monitored phone calls, and postal mail were his only connection to the outside world. A prolific poet and rapper, Galán Najarro shared his writing and drawings with Hernández Chong Cuy, who collaborated with other VCL participants to build the online portal in order to share his work with the wider community. On the site, he expresses how the process of making his art, and knowing it would be received beyond the horrific conditions of Adelanto, helped him carry on. 

The community being formed through VCL echoes current conversations and debates regarding the need to redesign online public space toward a public good. For example, this past year saw the launch of New_ Public, an organization founded through the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Media Engagement that is dedicated to research, organizing, and advocacy for more collectively oriented online public spaces. New_ Public brings together experts from many disciplines—journalists, activists, and technologists are among its team members—to act as “digital urban planners” in order to imagine an alternative to the current state of privately-owned, profit-driven platforms that dictate how we exist online. 

These discussions run parallel to those surrounding the arrival of Web 3.0, where AI, machine learning, blockchain, and ubiquitous computing will further entangle, customize, and optimize a user’s experience of the internet. (In many ways, this is already happening.) Take this understanding of the internet’s trajectory, alongside the pandemic’s push toward a near-constant digital social life, and one recognizes that arts institutions that see themselves as important sites for public gathering must fully recognize and attend to these crucial conversations and innovate accordingly. Seismic technological shifts are fundamentally changing our experience and understanding of public space. Arts organizations—creative entities that in theory are well poised to imagine creative solutions—should be forerunners in that discussion. While many arts organizations quickly pivoted to online programming in 2020, the run-of-the-mill Zoom artist talks, badly shot curatorial walk-throughs on Instagram Live, or other instances of less inventive, hastily taken up forms of digital engagement don’t work to create any communal discourse, especially not in a way that meets the critical demands of what it means to be public in 2021. 

With so much shifting in online spaces, I asked Zhang what the leading principle guiding our building of an equitable Web 3.0 should be:

Cultivating trust is a central thesis for our practice. What does it take for us to trust (or at least intend to communicate with and understand) each other without setting any explicit boundaries based on identity, discipline, geography, body, or legible politics? Intentionally, this is also the looming question regarding our broader digitally mediated realities today. 

Under Covid-19, trust has deteriorated exponentially. Part of the rebuilding will involve amending and fortifying that trust—trust in each other, in our institutions, in our tools. Reflecting on virtual care lab’s position within the context of all the pain and hardship the pandemic has wrought, as well as the evolution of public life vis-à-vis technology, Zhang’s words provide a concrete sense of hope for what an artistic community could be in this moment. To prioritize trust in this way is a radical proposition.

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 26.

Screenshot of participants in “Living Marks,” an improvisation-based collaboration workshop hosted by the Living Marks Group at virtual care lab. Image courtesy of virtual care lab.

Screenshot of “portal” links on virtual care lab’s website. vcl’s portals are a collection of interactive websites and pages that invite public interaction, provoke somatic awareness or creative engagement, and offer unconventional methods of connection and creative thinking. Image courtesy of virtual care lab.

Screenshot of an open call for project proposals for “Care as Practice.” Image courtesy of virtual care lab.

Image from “_Poetry Soup_,” a collective visual-poetry gathering hosted by Angelina Sorokin. Image courtesy of virtual care lab.

Screenshot of Kenny Zhao participating in “A Center in A Table,” a shared meal gathering hosted by Amanda Maciel Antunes. Image courtesy of virtual care lab.

Screenshot of participants during a somatic mirroring activity in “Re-Member Home,” a gathering hosted by dancers Anise S. Hines and Marguerite Hemmings at virtual care lab. Image courtesy of virtual care lab.

  1. VCL contributors developed this document during a digital residency with Toronto’s Bentway Conservancy.

Ceci Moss is a curator, writer, educator, and founding director of Gas. Her writing has appeared in Rhizome, Art in America, ArtAsiaPacific, Artforum, The Wire, CURA, and various art catalogs. Her first book, Expanded Internet Art: Twenty-First Century Artistic Practice and the Informational Milieu, was published by Bloomsbury. She is a lecturer in Curatorial Practice at California College of the Arts.

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