What makes you and me an us, and not them? There must be some things deeply shared—and yet something also distinct at the same time. It is a relation defined by its own relativity. How does kinship happen so that they may come to be we?
In her 2015 book Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, feminist cultural theorist Donna Haraway offered a provocative slogan as part of her layered and expansive proposal for kinship: “Make Kin, Not Babies.” Despite the statement’s complications, there is a powerful claim that comes through—that kinship is not a given quality but instead an emergent one. By inverting the conventional logic that prioritizes heredity over other forms of relationship, Haraway’s statement asserts that familial connections are in fact made, not born. Becoming kin is not automatic but rather an extended process of attention, perseverance, and care among humans and non humans.
The artists (and scientists) in this exhibition all express this sense of kin-making in diverse ways. Through their practices, they not only aspire to form new bonds and new intimacies with human and non human others, they are committed to making that endeavor visible beyond themselves through art. Their kin-making is of a double nature—one that actively nurtures novel connections between themselves and the people, lands, snails, goldfish, viruses, aliens, traditions, trees, chickens, and planets that they engage, as well as a making that seeks new connections with the audiences who engage their work. At a time of unprecedented planetary change and threats to biodiversity, re-establishing these connections has never been more critical. From compassion springs action, and as Buddhist writer Pema Chödrön observes, true compassion emerges in, “realizing our kinship with all beings.”
I see the 24 artists and artworks shared here as kinfolk to the writers and texts found with the book series Kinship: Relations in a World of Belonging, which inspired this exhibition. The themes that make up the five volumes of Kinship—Planet, Place, Partners, Persons, and Practice—are the same ones explored here. The intention is that they inform each other as part of the same conceptual family. One thing that I find so compelling about these artists and their practices is that they speak directly to—and at the same time exceed—those five categories, indeed much as any given written piece within the Kinship series extends beyond its own volume. In expressing a sense of and rather than or, these artworks, poems, and essays offer promiscuous possibilities of emerging relations as well as the wonders, understandings, and complications they entail. — AY