Dear Friends and Readersby Phong Bui
“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.”
– Virginia Woolf
“The tendency to aggression is an innate, independent, instinctual disposition in man… it constitutes the powerful obstacle to culture.”
– Sigmund Freud
“Action, as distinguished from fabrication, is never possible in isolation; to be isolated is to be deprived of the capacity to act.”
– Hannah Arendt
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
These past few months the Rail has maintained a fluid momentum that has kept our enduring engine in perpetual motion right into 2018, with a greater sense of urgency and purpose than ever before. Last December we held the closing reception of the monumental Rail Curatorial Project Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale That Society Has the Capacity to Destroy, Year 1 (filled with a panel discussion, poetry reading, musical performance, and large dinner for the participant artists and their dealers and friends) at Mana Contemporary. In January we celebrated the launch of the River Rail, a new offspring of the Rail—biannually produced and free—that focuses on the urgent issues of the environment and climate change, while providing the platform for art and activism to intersect. Our staff and friends hand-distributed the first thousand copies on the steps of the NY Public Library at the tail end of the Women’s March on Saturday, January 20th. I should add with the success of the recent support of David and Jane Walentas, who have offered to underwrite our Dance Section, and Tom and Musa Mayer who have offered to underwrite our Poetry Section in memory of Musa’s father Philip Guston and his friendship with poets, along with old friends such as Jack Flam, Clifford Ross, Agnes Gund, John Elderfied and Jeanne Collins, Alex and Ada Katz, Elizabeth Baker, Irving and Lucy Sandler, Richard Serra and Clara Weyergraf, John Thomson, Abby Leigh, Merrill Wagner, Will Ryman, Eugene Lemay, Ysabel Pinyol, and new friends, including Nikola Duravcevic, Dana Ben-Ari, Dorothy Lichtenstein, Lawrence and Elyse Benenson, Frank Maresca, Carl Lobell, among others, the Rail’s living organism is poised to undertake the new year with numerous exciting projects:
A volume of Florbela Espanca Selected Poems, translated from the Portuguese by Billie J. Maciunas, will be published by Rail Editions this Spring.
Hinterland: America’s New Landscape of Class and Conflict by Phil A. Neel, will be published by Reaktion Books in association with the Rail in April. This is the first book of the Field Notes series edited by Paul Mattick, who describes the project as “A series of books providing in-depth analyses of today’s global turmoil as it unfolds. Each book focuses on an important feature of our present-day economic, political, and cultural condition, addressing local and international issues. ‘Field Notes’ examines the many dimensions of today’s social predicaments and provides a radical, politically, and critically engaged voice to global debates.”
A free catalog of the Rail’s history Against the Current, to be published by Rail Editions in October to celebrate the Rail’s 18th anniversary.
We’ll be working on a monumental installation of Jonas Mekas’s 365 Days Project at Mana Contemporary (date TBD), also our first Social Environment in New York City (details to come), and a few potential partnerships among museums and institutions in sharing the timely and universal theme Artists Need to Create On the Same Scale That Society Has the Capacity to Destroy. The ultimate aim is to facilitate the collaboration between curators and artists towards the most pertinent and fitting response to our current social and political concerns, and to express these views with the clarity of texts and the powerful subtlety of made images. Imagine one, two, or perhaps three museums in different locales in the U.S. simultaneously embarking on exhibitions with the similar title, making different selections of artists, and staging their versions of the exhibit on the various topics of alarming concern today, for example, human rights and equality, immigration, environmental degradation and climate change. Imagine, through various media—from painting, sculpture, photography, site-specific installation and film to video, performance, dance, poetry and fiction readings and panel discussions—what heights of unity we would be able to reach! I believe this collective effort could potentially be our most productive and effective means to counter the simplistic, vulgar, divisive language implemented by the Trump administration.
Let’s gather our strength and intelligence to make our labor of love for art and culture more timely and accessible than ever before!
On the home front, we’d like to thank three of our brilliant and talented staff members: Lauren Francescone, Art Director extraordinaire, who designed five exquisite issues, the Florbela Espanca Selected Poems book, and a Rail tote bag, among other things; Claudia Acevedo-Quiñones, Assistant Fiction Editor par excellence for a decade, has stepped down to dedicate more time to her writing; Ben Gottlieb, whose dedication to the Art Books Section as a co-editor for seven years was unmatched. Ben’s ambition in film has required his full attention. We wish them luck and courage in their new work. We welcome Michael Tully and Alec Niedenthal as Lauren and Claudia’s successors. Lastly, Jeremy Zilar and Juliette Cezzar have joined our Board of Directors. They’ll be working closely with our staff to create a new website that will make the Rail more accessible online, thereby reinvigorating our readership, and attracting new compatriots from around the world. How exciting!
Onward, and upward,
In the memory of Tim Rollins, Jack Whitten, Kynaston McShine, Robert Pincus-Witten, and William Scharf whose contributions to our art community were of great significance, this issue is dedicated to them. We’d also like to send our deep condolences to their family, friends, and admirers.
PHONG BUI is the Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail.