Over the past year, as a global pandemic exacerbated long-enduring inequities and injustices, communities across the US sought solidarity with others like them in their pursuit of equality, justice, inclusion, and healing. The words we choose to speak of our togetherness with, however, don’t always do what we expect they would. Latinx, a term first mobilized to dismantle a linguistic gender binary, has provoked passionate debate amongst people whose identities are shaped by a Latinidad forged by empire-building and colonization. The term has balkanized and shed light on deep divisions across racial and gender identities, sexualities, political affiliations, countries of origin, legal statuses, generations, and even faiths. The difficult but necessary dialogue sparked by this term provides an opportunity to reflect on whether a cohesive and communal sense of self is possible for those whose lives and stories are shaped by a multiplicity of temporalities, spatialities, and conditions.
In a recent, posthumously published book of writings titled The Sense of Brown, the late scholar José Esteban Muñoz asks whether feeling like a problem can be more than an impasse and perhaps be an opening. This virtual exhibition embraces Muñoz’s question and brings together a group of works by artists whose personhoods and practices discomfort histories, definitions, perspectives, and opinions about what constitutes Latinidad and their own places within it. Here, Latinx is a framework for debate rather than a definition and the exhibition is a modest opening statement for a conversation that asks whether resolved identities are what we should aspire to as opposed to seeking shared incommensurability.
The exhibition is structured as a conversation between ideas and images; between a selection of Muñoz’s thoughts from The Sense of Brown and the work of artists. Mediated through short curatorial perspectives, what emerges is a series of inquiries and questions rather than answers—opportunities for you, the viewer, to consider these debates around identity and about the possibilities of what Muñoz called a Brown Commons.
Founder and Artistic Director, The Mistake Room