Kameelah Janan Rasheed speaks to campus on art, writing

By Sophie Foster

News Co-Editor

Kameelah Janan Rasheed wants to welcome you to 2023 with the invitation “to be in an improvisational and intuitive spirit.”

In her first show of 2023 — and her first ever time leading a talk and installing an exhibition without a simultaneous full-time job — Rasheed presented artworks examining innovative processes, encouraging her audience to slow down.

According to Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and Associate Professor of English Dr. James Allen Hall, Rasheed is an incredibly accomplished artist and writer. 

A 2021 Guggenheim Fellow, Rasheed presently serves as an adjuct instructor at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art; as a Critic at the Yale School of Art, Sculpture; and a Mentor-in-Residence with NEW Inc., according to Director of the Kohl Gallery Tara Gladden. Currently, Rasheed is represented by NOME Gallery in Berlin, Germany.

Rasheed visited Washington College on Jan. 30 and 31, the former for the Kohl Gallery in their capacity as an artist and the latter for the Rose O’Neill Literary House in their capacity as a writer.

In her artist’s talk, “Erotics of Translation,” for the Kohl Gallery, Rasheed identified presentation as performance, defining the act of presentation as “an effort to wrangle [her] brain.”

Elaborating on this point, Rasheed turned to citation, which they believe is about storytelling more than ownership. 

“Everything that comes from me is coming through collaboration,” Rasheed said, pointing to a desire to “open circuits of collaboration.”

In this regard, Rasheed claims to identify not as an artist, but as a learner. The product of this learning is often almost accidental, according to Rasheed. 

This talk functioned as the opening for Rasheed’s Kohl Gallery installation, “SmooOOoOoooooOooth Operator: the eternal outlays ennoble and rekindle an unlikely savior,” in which they “create an evolving ecosystem of Rasheed’s ongoing research into machine learning and its relationship to translation, Islamic mysticism, divination practices, the eroticism of constraint and edging, and call-and-response traditions.”  

In “Feral Play,” the subsequent workshop held at the Literary House, Rasheed further navigated a curiosity about the life cycles of artworks and texts, particularly in the sense that no text is ever final. 

“Always be in the process of revision,” Rasheed said, encouraging attendees to allow their work to be living documents. “Sit in that state of anticipation.”

Rasheed views literary works as potential seeds for others to pick up, plant, and grant fresh life. 

“Keep a text in a perpetual state of creation,” Rasheed said, adding that “sometimes what we think we want to write is not necessarily what should be written.” 

According to Rasheed, more adults should be allowed to play games beyond childhood, an act that enables the incorporation of personality and vulnerability into personal works of art and writing. 

“What does it mean to actually think about making something that is in itself vulnerable?” Rasheed said. 

Photo by Mirranda Parrish

Photo Caption: Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s “SmooOOoOoooooOooth Operator” will be on display until March 7.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *