Public Parking
A journal for storytelling, arguments, and discovery through tangential conversations.
Toward a phenomenology of Blackness with Paul Stephen Benjamin
Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Mary Fellios
A descent into darkness both literally and allegorically accompanied Atlanta-based artist Paul Stephen Benjamin’s recent solo exhibition, Black Summer, at Efraín López gallery in New York City. The nascent gallery’s small and windowless subterranean space appropriately housed the products of Benjamin’s material and cultural research on the manifold meanings of blackness as a color and state of being, which together form the broad, elusive crux of his conceptual practice. Working across media including photography, painting, video, and sculpture, Benjamin’s corpus bridges integral moments of Black history and art history with an operative aesthetics of blackness—the ways in which blackness circulates as an available material, such as commercial black paints, blacklight, or, for instance, the ‘Atlanta Black’ mortar in the corner of his work space that Benjamin gestured towards during a remote studio visit. 
On slow time — I cannot be here and not talk about the weather
Tuesday, November 28, 2023 | Keamogetse Mosienyane
Of the multiple ways that I relate to the weather, one way that has been prominent recently has been thinking with and relating to the weather as a locator and a temporality that reflects the time I am present in. The external atmospheric conditions are a reminder to place and ground myself as I navigate the portal that asks me— where are you? The weather situates me spatially, structurally, and intimately in the different geographies that I have lived in, particularly in South Africa and Botswana over the last four years. We report the weather to each other every day in various forms in conversation, and I see this act of recognition as a shared consciousness of place, particularly of a Black geographic imagination. In my movements and stillness over the past four years, I wrote weather reports and notes that were rooted in naming and recognising these external elements as a call to location, where I attune myself and my presence to the environment. What unfolds in this essay is a reflection of these weather reports and recollections that thread and map the weather for me, crossing geographies, distance, and time, in no particular order. In her 2001 post-disciplinary writing on being in the Black diaspora, A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging, Dionne Brand writes that, “in the snow every distance is long”, and as I write this piece in the middle of a heatwave and extreme weather warning in Botswana, in the sun also, the distance seems long and the time slow.
Total, see?
Thursday, November 16, 2023 | Mailey Horner
The view is total sea comes together in a clean, sparing use of sculpture, painting, and lens-based media works. An oyster shell on the gallery’s outer wall greets the passerby with a diffused, electromagnetic glow. In through Joys’ arched entryway, a rounded metal faucet drips a single plastic water droplet. On the three surrounding walls hang the exhibit's two-dimensional works: a photograph of a sandcastle in its architectural prime, an oil painting of grass in deep shades of green, and a photograph of a soda can, the image set beneath a layer of glass straws. Towards the back wall of the space, a series of pebbles in a cylindrical resin casing are camouflaged where they lie on the cement of the gallery’s floor. From behind the arched doorway on the gallery’s back wall come the rhythmic sounds of wind and waves.
Invitations for Tender Transformations
Wednesday, October 25, 2023 | Ella Adkins
Welcome! Please wipe your feet and collect the dirt that may have fallen off the shoes of you and others: chew, crunch, and/or suck. How does the collective detritus of a sole taste? Spit, swallow, or tuck behind a molar for a later reminder of the visit, whatever kind of mouth you are. Welcome! Please wipe your feet and collect the dirt that may have fallen off the shoes of you and others: chew, crunch, and/or suck. How does the collective detritus of a sole taste? Spit, swallow, or tuck behind a molar for a later reminder of the visit, whatever kind of mouth you are. Mind the entranceway: it transforms. You may find yourself, suddenly, with a tail, with vertical slitted pupils, with a fluid sense of the walls, bounds, and confines that you knew before. Embrace, arch the back and inhabit your new position with confidence. When you are ready to come back, it’s the first opening on the left.
Becoming Equipped for (Better) Invention
Monday, October 16, 2023 | Mary King
The stories we uplift about the future and the ways we think about them secure the frameworks that brought them up in the first place. But what of the inventions we are not yet able to write about or create because we have not gained a more adequate idea of the world—a more plural, more diverse, radical embracing of alternative methods of relating? What of the inventions that we cannot yet conceive of because we do not have an ethics or mode of relation that embraces, and affirms life? We aren’t moving freely along a progressive line, discovering brand new ideas about the world on our own. We’re limited by our capacities, and the structures that dominate us. The hard work task of changing our relations and working with others to see “what might be involved in the task of developing a counter-force to dissolve and break up an oppressive network of ideas”13 is what is required for equipping ourselves to think of new inventions that affirm life. 
God in the Particulate
Tuesday, October 10, 2023 | Emily Zuberec
Somewhere in the central section of the loosely-spherical island, I begin.  In the innocuous overlapping rings, I start my observations. Slowly, I turn my head. Try to find the end of the sky. I don't wear a belt. Unchosen words swirl into a ball, reverting to their original density, blocking my view. In the time it takes to find the loose-end, everything happens. On the sofa I read the news without thinking about what I should try to say. My jeans pull away from my stomach, exposing a tarnished belly ring. This body so present, a mind stretched thin and I forget where I am. 
Dead or Alive: Parables from Black Zombie Media
Tuesday, September 26, 2023 | Ketterick Waddell
On a late summer afternoon, while toiling in the garden of a mainline estate, my coworker Jarrod shared a prophetic dream of playing basketball and failing to make the winning shot. Though his dream was from the previous night, he mentioned it was a recurring one. Jarrod, a former Big Ten basketball star, claimed he hadn’t reached his full potential because he didn’t make it to the NBA. Now, in his early forties, he was in his fifteenth season as a landscaper. A muscular and unexpectedly meek Black man from a religious family, Jarrod was raised by a domineering father who was also the coach of his high school basketball team. When I asked him if he thought his stress-influenced dreams recycled through his memory as a result of his own insecurities, he shrugged off my question.
The Weight of Sound and the Thickness of Air
Tuesday, September 5, 2023 | Nic Wilson
Breath feels like a person’s most immediate form of need. Water and food can wait and intervals between pissing or shitting can be measured in hours but breath is so essential it hangs at the periphery of consciousness. The conscious mind can dictate these intermittent needs. You can forget to eat and even choose to starve but breath is much more slippery. If you forget about it you still maintain a breath pattern but if you start to think about it you can fool yourself into believing you might never take another unconscious breath. Unlike blood flow or digestion, which one has little to no conscious control over, breath can be held strategically (while swimming in water or escaping a house fire) or become a tool. You blow out the scented candle the way some distant ancestor blew pigment onto a cave wall to capture the negative space of their hand. In the Bible, God creates Adam out of dust and breathes life into him through his nostrils. Breath has been used as an essential signifier of human life itself. Along with keeping us alive, it connects us to the lungs of people around us; a sometimes unbearable intimacy especially after 2020. That year, unlike many others I have known, the air became charged—politically, emotionally, economically, environmentally—like the gasses in Earth’s upper atmosphere when the Sun’s radiation shoots through it, triggering the glow of the aurora. 
A Secret History
Thursday, August 24, 2023 | Madeline Bogoch
The Golden Boy is Winnipeg’s most famous top. The statue’s homoerotic qualities are so overt that it’s easy to see it as a knowing wink to the queer community. This is the plausible-if-revisionist history suggested in 'Purple City', a new short film by Noam Gonick and Michael Walker. Modelled after the Greek god Hermes, the statue that adorns the dome of the Manitoba Legislative Building is the symbolic centre of the film, which stages episodes from the city’s queer and occultist mythology. There’s an apt symmetry to 'Purple City' which both begins and ends with Walker, who appears throughout the film, roaming the steps of the Legislature donning a very dark academia look. In between, are scenes from a hookup, an acid trip, goat herders who encounter an oracle in the forest, and some territorial hustlers. At one point Walker, bathed in a red glow, addresses the viewer directly, coyly offering a history lesson in the statue’s provenance which culminates in a sage reminder that “Paris aint Winnipeg y’all, but they both got a river named Seine.”
Ephemeral Structures: in conversation with Chloe Alexandra Thompson
Tuesday, August 1, 2023 | Kayla Guthrie
I’m interested specifically with sound, in it being this force that’s so physical. And even if people don’t have access to hearing, you have access to sound, through these ways of feeling it in your body. We have so many very core survival mechanisms and emotionalities wrapped up in sound. [Rather than a performance being] ‘I’m doing a thing, and it’s centered on me,’ [I prefer] to flip the experience as much as possible, decentralize, and make it about highlighting these different experiences we have in a space. Like, you’re gonna hear something different [based on] where you are and where your body is, how your body’s moving through that space, and how your body is able to move through that space or access that space. 
Writing against closure: in conversation with Uchechukwu Umezurike
Thursday, July 6, 2023 | Chigbo Arthur Anyaduba
If ever there’s such a thing as the cultural character of an epoch—that is, a quality or cultural attitude that distinguishes a historical time from another across spaces and places—the contemporary epoch, at least in the West and perhaps in Africa, will be best characterized by that complicated concept called trauma. Trauma has become the “cultural script” of our time, writes Parul Seghal in a New Yorker essay titled “The Case against the Trauma Plot,” “a concept that bites into the [cultural] flesh so deeply it is difficult to see its historical contingency.” The cultural fascination with trauma, while best understood as one of those spin-offs that developed in response to the enduring legacies and present conditions of imperial violence and oppression, has, according to critics like Seghal who have been critical of the trend, spawned a dull literary practice in the present that is underpinned by a simplistic vision of trauma—most especially in the West. This simplistic vision, which Seghal describes as the trauma plot, has largely manifested in contemporary trauma literatures as traumatic backstories or a chain of backstories that “flattens, distorts, reduces character [and our appreciation of complex experiences] to symptom, and, in turn, instructs and insists upon its moral authority.” It works essentially to pathologize just about any experience and narrow understanding of identity and social life to some idea of a traumatic beginning. 
Whispering as Wishful Thinking
Wednesday, June 21, 2023 | Charlotte Strange
Funneling dry humor through the internal antagonism of being sick (and, ultimately, hovering in tangible proximity to mortality since, while sick, one might feel either too mortal or not enough), Bordowitz evades tropes of medical disclosure that position the ill as an inspiration, a pity, or an enlightened truthsayer. The ill can be a menace. The television host wants to know how long it’s been since the diagnosis. Really, he wonders, how long have you been seeing the world through fresh eyes? How long have you been fighting to thrive, and at what cost? 
What it may mean to be sonically divine: in conversation with Angel Bat Dawid
Wednesday, June 14, 2023 | Maya Fisher
My first introduction to Angel Bat Dawid came from a simple Google search: “Black woman clarinetist” when I was trying to find repertoire from underrepresented composers to program on my undergraduate senior clarinet recital a few years ago. Oftentimes, Classical music recitals consist of mostly White, Cisgendered men from Europe with the occasional woman composition featured; therefore, I was well accustomed to unsuccessful Google searches of the apparent mythical Black Woman Clarinetist. One lucky search led me to the music of Dawid, or the genre she names “Great Black Music”. Before Dawid’s ascension to performer status, her life was informed by the religious nature of her parent’s missionary work as practiced in Kenya and America. A deeper dive into Dawid’s biography and interviews led me to understand that her story as a musician seemed to originate from her early bi-continental lifestyle and familial histories just as much as it developed from playing scales in band class.
A historical and contemporary primer on stained glass
Monday, May 29, 2023 | Angel Callander
The history of stained glass is ancient and global. But given the conceptual demands of contemporary art, stained glass is a supple and compliant medium that can be imbued with almost any concern. What is most interesting about looking at these artists together is that, contrary to what one might expect, the more secular character of stained glass is largely sidestepped in favour of a slight bend towards spirituality and religiosity, often in critical, ironic, or unconventional terms. Materially, stained glass is combined with other quotidian or industrial elements, either in an effort to aggrandize the latter or situate the former as pragmatic and functional.
'Funnily Enough': in conversation with Lan "Florence" Yee
Tuesday, May 23, 2023 | Nawang Tsomo Kinkar
I try to infuse much of what I do with humor, or at least an ironic tone. The title is a good indicator of my interest in futility, or the thought of impossibility. Ghosts, not having skin, cannot get sunburns. But it’s my desire to materialize things that haunt us, in order to deal with them. That’s the general ethos of how I make work…trying to give a host to these specters floating around in my life. Since most of my work is autobiographical (slightly fictionalized of course) and draws from personal experiences and anecdotes, I try not to focus on huge tragedies. I’m more interested in the trickling awkwardness. I think they relate much more to experiences of living with trauma, rather than the tragic event itself.
Shadows and Scripts
Monday, May 8, 2023 | Chenoa Baker
Paper folds, creases, tears, and crinkles. It holds the vestige of notes passed to one another or journal entries of dreams and nightmares. It facilitates exchanges of currency, and other types of social contracts that become real when written down, and perhaps, letters to a lover. In many ways, paper is an empath; impressionable, and observant. It's a vessel that lives, dies, and becomes reborn through decomposition. Paper “bridges the material and immaterial” as Hong Hong describes. Papermaking, since the Han Dynasty in 206-220 CE, traveled a circuitous route to share our stories and accounts of our environment. 
An Imaginary Grid: in conversation with Elizabeth M. Webb
Wednesday, April 26, 2023 | Magdalyn Asimakis
Elizabeth M. Webb is an artist and filmmaker whose material practice is entwined with experimental research. These two aspects of her work are inlaid, as it is nearly impossible to speak about one without the other. Originally from Charlottesville, Virginia, Elizabeth’s family history is embedded in her work, in particular its oscillating histories of racial passing throughout the United States. The artist often considers her own experience, and that of her family’s, as a way of examining broader social structures, and how those structures are at odds with lived realities. Her research process acknowledges these limits, her questions leading her through and around theoretical texts into the homes of estranged family, local churches, and former family plantations.
Holding the Devil’s Hand
Wednesday, March 29, 2023 | Kerry Maguire
Black Diamond is a small town located forty-five minutes south of Calgary. In a mutual decision by local councils to prioritize “cost savings,” it was recently merged with the nearby town of Turner Valley, Alberta, and the area comprising the two has, as of January 1, 2023, gone by the name Diamond Valley (clever!). We must not forget that these are all colonizer names—although youthful, punkish me had a fantasy that Black Diamond was named for the KISS/Replacements song, and not for the prevalence of coal in the area. The actual, earthy land of Diamond Valley ripples off to the east, shaking out into the prairies—which are not flat, if you are not familiar; they roll and undulate and sometimes drop off into breathtaking river valleys, house many small critters like mice and birds, and if you stop to inspect the ground, there is a tangle of plants (including cacti) as diverse as any forest. To the west of Diamond Valley is land that gathers together in larger formations until it becomes, rather suddenly, the Rocky Mountains. This is the traditional territory of the Treaty 7 people.
Installation Art is for Lovers
Wednesday, March 8, 2023 | Emma Fuchs
There is something intimate in being horizontal: lying side by side, gazing into the face of your lover or at the same strange tilted perspective: the wrinkled sheets that mountain and valley around you, the blades of grass that shade your views, or the unfamiliar slant of things. When you are horizontal, you share new spaces, physically and visually. Experiencing visual art can have a similar effect: lines direct the gaze, and those that emphasize horizons and horizontal elements invite an intimacy that parallels laying horizontal or making eye contact. As the eyes of many different viewers are pulled in the same direction, the artwork invites a sense of intimacy through sharing a gaze, a perspective.
Toward a future to hold on to
Tuesday, February 28, 2023 | Mike Curran
Art’s “smallness” becomes apparent when measured against the sociological and environmental precarity we are facing. It appears smaller still when positioned as the antidote to this degrading reality—a narrative often promoted by those most responsible for our societal death spiral. Recognizing the tendencies of corporate entities to decouple their support of socially-conscious art from the actual impacts of their operations, Davis writes: “The entire art industry is built on the fantasy of artists as a special class of visionaries whose imagination will Change the World—it is always more palatable for powerful people to fund an art show of radical images than actually to get behind radical change.”
Sun & Sea: Epic Theatre in the Sand
Tuesday, February 21, 2023 | Rachel Kubrick
Three years after its Golden Lion win at the 2019 Venice Biennale, Sun & Sea arrived in London. The Lithuanian performance on climate change was brought to the British capital as a collaboration between We Are Lewisham Borough of Culture 2022, London’s International Festival of Theatre (LIFT) 2022, and the Serpentine Gallery’s Back to Earth programme on the climate emergency.  This multitude of producers from all corners of the London cultural sphere begged the question: “what exactly is it?”, as many people enquired when I mentioned my summer evening outing. In each context, it became a different art form. Was it a public community event for Lewisham council, a theatrical production for LIFT, or performance art for the Serpentine’s contemporary art audience? Perhaps the most successful description is an opera, the ‘total’ or ‘ultimate’ art form—a beach opera to be exact. 
How to Stop Yawning
Tuesday, January 24, 2023 | Hannah Bullock
To yawn, and to witness it spread through a room, unveils a mysterious inter-connectedness between ourselves and others. Its contagiousness (the immediacy and visibility of its contagiousness), raises questions about what it means to construct a concept of the self that is entirely independent and separate from the ‘other’. In addition, if it is read as a nonverbal and preconscious form of communication, it deviates from how we understand the structure of communication itself. It is not willful or within our control: we do not read or interpret the way a yawn passes from one person to another, we do not choose whose yawns we mirror. It does not follow the order of language, or body language, for that matter.  
Burning the Old Year
Monday, January 2, 2023 | Cinthia Arias Auz
Every year on the first midnight of January, Ecuador celebrates La Quema del Año Viejo (the burning of the old year). My father used to build our family’s monigote — also referred to as the “old man” — using his old clothes. At the waist, he would stitch a shirt and a pair of pants together. Later, he would fill it with sawdust and old newspapers. He would then close the legs and arms with stitches. We would purchase a prefabricated paper mache head with a painted face of an "old man" as the finishing touch. We would bring our monigote to the middle of the street, where our neighbours would come out with theirs and we’d pile them all together. Everyone would buy gasoline and explosives to set them on fire, we would jump over the burning pile while laughing and hollering. Granted, these were not commercial fireworks, and all I can recall was staring out the window from the safety of a car, entranced.
A year in charismatic trash
Friday, December 30, 2022 | Madeline Bogoch
The phenomenon of photo dumps first entered my radar during the early days of the pandemic when they arose as a practical alternative to the prior era of polished lifestyle photos. You've probably seen them on Instagram, a loose descendent of the bygone Facebook photo album, now used to assemble disparate off-the-cuff snapshots into an impressionistic gallery of one's recent affairs, or an absurdist slideshow of the abject, banal, and/or beautiful. The content and its provenance are less important than the overall sensation left on the viewer. This shift away from the calmness of perfectly composed shots of plants, teak, and pastel walls seems to signal the end of a certain Millennial aesthetic that has begun to recede in favour of a messier and more libidinal image culture. More so than a formula, the best photo dumps tap into an ineffable quality, often expressed as a vibe. The contrastive maximalism of this emergent aesthetic adds substance to the presumption of millennial fatigue, but it also reveals the degree to which photo dumps, and the grimy images that occupy them, rely on felt impressions to encode meaning. This dynamic alone is a timely practice. Around 2021, the idea of vibes made a strong comeback from their New Age-y roots and entered our lexicon as a mode of reading art and culture.
Atlas as Process
Monday, November 7, 2022 | Fan Wu and Dan McFadden
The classical figure of Atlas—let’s take the Farnese Atlas as our oldest extant example—holds on his back the world in the shape of a celestial globe, a readable image of the heavens. If we were to circle this sculpture in three-dimensional space, we would count 41 constellations from ancient Greece: illustrations of star patterns whose forms have persevered to this day. Atlas’s spine is contorted and his muscles bulge; I witness his neck bowed and tug instinctually at my own shoulders, stiff in sympathetic reciprocity. It’s not that the sky is that heavy. Rather, Atlas only knows the sky as a burden handed down to him, and treats it with the weight that punishment projects into it. (And I have to admit that where others see Atlas’s strength, his exhaustion is what I want to see; this is the interpretation my mind magnetizes.)
Africanist Autoethnography: same old bad joke
Wednesday, September 14, 2022 | Chigbo Arthur Anyaduba
Africanists, as some of us have come to know them, are white academics who are experts of that monumental piece of fiction called “Africa.” It is to Africanists we owe a lot of our “knowledge” of Africa. They tour “Africa” regularly and return to Europe and North America to supply academic facts and knowledge about Africa and its peoples, animals, geographies, and whatnot. Their knowledge of Africa is never in short supply: they’re stupendously widely published in major Western academic journals and presses. One finds them regularly giving interviews to mainstream Western media on this/that crisis in Africa. The media call them experts of Africa. Africanists are well funded; they can easily afford to spend years anywhere on the African continent researching Africa. Africanists have theories for just about any African problem. In fact, they invented African Studies and over the years grudgingly made allowances for certain African scholars to be considered experts in African Studies—but only once the bloody African scholars can demonstrate some fluency in the theories and vocabularies of engagement produced and circulated by Africanists.
Seeking Writers : ongoing
Tuesday, September 13, 2022 | Public Parking
Public Parking is currently seeking critical thinkers, attentive cultural observers, and meticulous point-makers to write for the publication. We are also seeking visual artists interested in using the publication as a testing space to write adjacent to, or discursively alongside their own or a peers studio practice.
Weathered
Friday, September 2, 2022 | Maya Hayda
A kind of precarity runs through FRET SCAPES, stemming from the exhibit’s tense climate of sagging letters and shadowy streets. There is a preoccupation with attempting to grasp that which is fleeting, redolent in the camera’s attempt to capture quickly falling water-bounded letters or fix an image of the ghostly outlines of two pairs of palms on a dusty door of the subway.  Yet, despite the abundance of transient moments passing through Ebner’s exhibition, there is a call to pay attention to the physicality of things. The show prompts us to turn our gazes and thoughts to the matter which constitutes these spectral photographic moments of everyday life and the words used to describe them. As Ebner’s poem FRET ends, the impalpable voice of a writer on the horizon calls to all of us, “FRET TO THE LEFT / & THEN FRET / TO THE RIGHT. / A LANDSCAPE OF / DIRT FORMS ITS / SHAPE NOTES, / CALLS OUT / INTO THE NIGHT, / FIGHT &/OR FLIGHT.” In FRET SCAPES, words take on a physical shape, expanding beyond immaterial meaning. To pay attention to this matter is to take heed of Ebner’s verse. 
Propertyless Subjects
Friday, July 29, 2022 | Alexandra Symons-Sutcliffe
Photography is a politically efficacious technology with the potential to enable those who are socially and economically excluded to preserve ordinary moments of life. Describing this belief, [Terry] Dennett is quoted as saying, “Photographs are documents we can make ourselves, documents we can have some control over with regard to distribution. Also important in this respect are the ephemeral materials of everyday life, the redundancy notices and tax demands etc. Such material constitutes a vivid historical counter-archive, for it often contains photographic images made outside the sanction of officialdom and of events censored from the press, and, perhaps more importantly, shows things so ordinary and everyday, or so unique, that no one else has recorded them.” For Dennett, representation is not a fixed category or an image but a process via which one realises one's own capacity as a social being.
The artist as wizard: in conversation with Guillaume Adjutor Provost
Monday, July 25, 2022 | Didier Morelli
Guillaume Adjutor Provost is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher, and educator whose carefully considered material practice combines installation, sculpture, performance, video, drawing, and text. In his oeuvre, Adjutor Provost creates ethereal landscapes meant for thorough contemplation by his viewer. The artist envisions the space of the exhibition as a container of ideas and sees the act of exhibiting collections as a vehicle for issues such as class consciousness, counter-culture, vernacular imagery, and experiences of queerness. The figure of the wizard, a cross-cultural fictional practitioner of magic that has inspired young and old for centuries, is a wonderful character that Adjutor Provost has appropriated for himself for years. Not too dissimilar from the romantic archetype of the visual artist, the wizard enjoys a rich and mythical history in folklore. From these, legends of the supernatural have also emerged a sense of opaqueness and the unknown.