Burn Something Collective: An Introduction

Page 1

Burn Something Collective

An Introduction


Reignition “If all your needs were met, who would you be?” – ARJT We need opportunities for self-determination, the development of our craft, and peer mentorship away from the limits of white supremacy. We desire to share space, learn from each other, and to belong. We demand investment in the agency of our communities. We present Burn Something Collective, an experimental space that incorporates curation, publishing, and peer-to-peer mentorship. We are 7 Black and POCI femme, nonbinary, and trans artists aiming to create from within the worlds that support our full beings while challenging the ones that burn us. This Collective is rooted in the work of Burn Something Zine (2014-2016) – a submission-based media project for women and nonbinary folks of color to claim their narratives, heal by being heard, and build community. The zine was founded by Adrienne Doyle in response to white supremacy within Minneapolis’ cultural institutions – the lack of control that Black and POCI folks have over their work, the shuck and jive we are asked to do, and the willingness of white folks to fund and consume depictions of our suffering. In two years, 6 issues of Burn Something Zine were produced featuring 24 contributors, creating a cherished, angsty anthology of agency, self-determination, tenderness, and rage. Now, with an artist collective at its helm, this project sees new life. We began meeting in February 2020, right before the world fell apart. We’ve been so thankful to build bonds with each other and we’re elated to share our work with you. Let’s fuck around and find out.


Collective Goals In this time of unpredictability, Burn Something Collective is an experimental space working towards agency and craft development for Black and POCI artists, curators, and writers. To guide our process and work toward our vision, the Burn Something Collective has identified the following initial goals: 1. Be a point of connection and opportunity for the Twin Cities’ intergenerational community of Black and POCI artists, writers, curators, and cultural workers. 2. Turn scarcity into abundance by establishing a healing relationship with our resources, such that they are used for reparative means. 3. Cultivate peer-to-peer and intergenerational mentorship to each other with an understanding that we are each complete, capable, self-actualizing, and changing constantly. We’ve got a lot of things planned! From our projects to our emerging business model, we aim to incorporate these goals and their values into every level of our work. As our work develops, we will share our learnings with our community.

Learn more about these goals, find info on upcoming projects, and read issues of Burn Something Zine at burnsomething.org. Follow our work on Instagram at @burnsomethingzine.



Burn Something Collective Members A mix of farmers, archivists, educators, photographers, writers, mediums, caregivers, poets, and meme makers. These folks are the Collective’s founding members.

Lizy Bryant (she/they) is a city boy and a country girl split right down the middle. For ten years, Bryant worked in a realm of the nonprofit industrial complex that centered Black artists. Having left, she is convinced that the liberation of Black people is tied up in the liberation of the land from extractive and exploitative practices. Currently, she is working to start a farm and cooperative in rural Minnesota that will serve Black Minnesotans as an agricultural resource, a creative hub, and a place to simply be.

Gabby Coll (she/her) is an arts communicator, curator, and collaborator. She has worked in communications and programming in arts organizations around the Twin Cities for the last 5 years and is currently Communications Manager at Juxtaposition Arts. In 2019-2020 she collaborated with Adrienne Doyle within the pilot cohort of the Emerging Curators Institute, culminating in a public art exhibition.

Genevieve DeLeon (she/they) is an artist, poet, and MFA graduate from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Her work has been exhibited at MCAD’s Main Gallery, DC Artspace, Tessellate Gallery, Forum Gallery, and the Washington Studio School. Her poems and writing have appeared in Mnartists.org, H+N Magazine, Poetry Quarterly, Ekphrasis, and Poet Lore. She is currently Visiting Faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.


Adrienne Doyle (she/they) is a writer and educator whose work centers Blackness, queerness, and her Baby Self. She founded Burn Something Zine in 2014 and always dreamt of the project being led by a collective. Today, she is writing her first screenplay and is committed to wealth redistribution work in the field of philanthropy. She is a 2020 Art and Culture Leaders of Color Fellow with Americans for the Arts and a 2019 Emerging Curators Institute Fellow. Zola Ellen (she/they) is an activist, abolitionist, writer, and visual storyteller whose work is informed by the abundance and sacredness of Black life. Her professional and creative practices align at the earthly requirement to be in better understanding with our histories and our human complexities. She creates to mend generational bloodlines. She is a 2020 Black Futures Lab Public Policy Institute fellow, a community organizer, and a revolutionary mama.

Mare Lodu (she/her) is an interdisciplinary South Sudanese artist, writer, and aspiring archivist. She studied art history at the University of Minnesota and her work incorporates historical research, archival practices and image-making to explore and interrogate the legacies of colonialism and global struggles for Black liberation.

Nancy Musinguzi (they/them) is a visual artist, photographer, and organizer working and living in Minneapolis. They have dedicated their practice to documenting contemporary American life, culture, community, and social movements through a Black Queer Immigrant lens. They use their creative practice as a tool to engage the public in dialogue around critical issues, primarily racial and immigrant justice, that are difficult to grasp or ignite without art. They have self-published 8 photography books, most recently, The Letter Formally Known As Q.


How to Write a Song by Lizy Bryant Let’s start with the idea of the body: a system composed of both living cells and extracellular materials, organized into tissues and organs. It has quantifiable mass, ounces of blood, pounds of meat, waste, etc. We’ve mapped the way these things relate into one another, developed many languages to describe them. In one language, the body of a human is composed of 7 x 1027 atoms, and the nucleus of an atom decays 5,000 times per second. I once heard a writer talk about the differences between fiction and nonfiction. They said fiction starts with every possible element of the universe, and whittles down from there, sculpting from all possibility a single possibility; a deliberate map of language. On the other hand, nonfiction assembles narrative from a series of known elements, building up. In other words, here are the available materials, arrange them into comprehension. Now let’s talk about the body that is yours: your chest which just fell is rising again, pressure points anchor you to one side or another (which?), your distinct mass of organs slick with a wet that carries the consequence of every one that came before you, every thing you’ve ever done. I’m calling you in, firing myself through your synapse. I’m sitting in front of a screen that has deteriorated my vision noticeably in the last month, soft ominous billows of my hair tumbleweed at my ankles. How does suspended terror code itself into living cells? I’m not lonely! I’m just trying to prove to myself that you exist. I want us to build from what we have, carve down a form of creation from the available constellular mass. Once when I was four I wrote a song that I loved. I called up a friend (the same friend who in the fourth grade would advise I marry a black person in order to stick to my own kind), I sang her the song and she didn’t like it so I stopped singing. Perhaps elsewhere I kept singing anyway, I practiced and developed technical skill, my facility 9

with different instruments grew as did the strength of my voice. I didn’t do any of those things in the herenow. Maybe if I had, I wouldn’t feel this compulsion to write to you, ask you to open up and catch this thing that’s caught me, ask you to write a song. Now you’re going to write a song. Here are my directions: 1. Make a sound (read: word utterance, rhythm, beat, phrase, banging, slapping, sighing)—follow it. Repeat it many times. Go to a place (internal / external) where that sound may come unbridled (a car barreling down a freeway, a bathtub, a closet behind your eyelids, a seat in front of a space heater or a fan). Let it code itself into you. 2. If you get excited, become hard and soft. Soften into your excitement—but! This is also the point where the outside will want to come in. This is the point where you start imagining if any other person might hearken to hear the thing you’ve only started to make. This, the little patron saint of unfinished music, is unwelcome. Don’t let the outside in yet. 3. At a certain point you’ve got to start going about it like they go about taking a baby from the body. There are a lot of ways to do that: boiling water, coaxing it, a firm hand, a soft hand, cutting it out. Sometimes I let a kettle boil on high to cancel out parts of my own voice to myself. Please don’t throw your hands up and walk away. 4, If you must walk away, then decide to end the song where you are. The song has come to term and you’ve tied off the cord. It’s complete, a song. When it’s a song, walk away. Maybe you walk in to the next song, or to text somebody, perhaps you pray, or break fast. Maybe you send that song to me (elrbdoc@gmail.com). Either way, it’s finished. “Bless and release” as my friend says. I wrote a song for you: soundcloud.com/el-rb/im-on-your-side 10

herencia (incompleta) inheritance (incomplete) by Gabby Coll herencia (incompleta) a mi abuela le dan terror las mariposas el miedo a lo desconocido, la voz melodiosa y diversas supersticiones los heredé de ella a mi abuelo le encantan los chistes malos “para aprender a hablar chino, hay que comerse una mandarina” todo su enorme conocimiento comunicado en juegos de palabras cuando estaba aprendiendo a conducir seguía a los autos de adelante mi mamá me aconsejaba: confía en ti misma, no en lo que hacen los otros. por mucho tiempo no le presté atención. de mi papá heredé la frente corta y la satisfacción en los silencios. también una nostalgia abrumadora y una sensibilidad a veces incontrolable a veces pienso en lo que les voy a dar a mis hijos y se me corta el aliento me pregunto: ¿cómo se descubrirán a sí mismos? 13

atravesando un océano de historias, traumas, memorias, sabiduría ¿será justo?

inheritence (unfinished) my grandmother is afraid of butterflies from her, i inherited a fear of the unknown, a beautiful singing voice, and a weakness for superstitions my grandfather is fond of bad jokes: “to learn Chinese, one must eat a mandarin” an endless abyss of knowledge in bite-sized anecdotes when i was learning to drive i followed the cars in front of me my mother told me to maneuver for myself not mimic what others were doing. for a long time i didn’t listen. a short forehead and comfort in social silence, from my father i inherited. an unwieldy nostalgia and thin skin, too. sometimes the thought of what i’ll gift my children catches in my throat i wonder: will they find themselves? wading through an ocean of wisdom, baggage, and traumas. which is the act of selfishness? 14

In the Window, for Tonight – for V by Genevieve DeLeon I. In the window, tonight, the reflection of my legs in the lamp’s light reminds me of a photo I took in graduate school. Leg up, long hair, gym shorts: me revealing myself to myself. On the verge of thirty, my body was laying its claim on impermanence and I thought to catalog the shape it took. The image’s auto-eroticism indicates you were still alive since I rarely permit myself that latitude now. First I wrote “you were still mine,” but the language of possession would be false. II. In a recent interview, Hilton Als describes how Elizabeth Hartwright fell for Lowell at Yaddo. The sight of him made her vomit. I had been like that, in college, but now find passion less bodily. Some things temper with time, I guess. V loved summer drinks in the outdoor seating area down the street after work. I can see her margarita glowing in the setting sun: a neon mermaid balanced on the edge of an abyss. Reckless with intensity, we cultivated an openness I hadn’t known before. Sharing in the depressive’s curse, we admitted we felt our melancholy gave us power. It was good not to know where the bad 17

feelings would lead. Yet manic depression is episodic and progressive. Not hers, but his. Ill, at home, he would text her his abandonment. She would draft replies between orders of fries. Pressed to the bar counter for more. Desperate, he disappeared one night into the recesses of the 24 hour Fed-Ex. It worried her sick, wore her down, counting the pills in his bottle daily, checking on his Crohn’s flare ups, adjusting the heating pad down his pants. She made meals alone. “Your job is to take care of yourself,” she would say. And he listened, until the cycling of his thoughts physically hurt him. Head craned forward, a grandiosity would rush in: he needed to fly out to LA to broker a movie deal about the story of his life. Being in demand introduced variance to a life structured by monotony. She put together his resume to apply for work in a local second-hand store. He was particularly qualified. He had been a Calvin Klein model in the 80s, dated Aniston, and was versed in theater, too. Unfortunately, they weren’t accepting applications any longer. It was the theatrics of performing for his mother and father that dominated his time lately. A runaway from a rich family when he was young, a psychotic break thrust him back in their care. Her life was also spent answering to his family’s demands for normalcy. But what did his life have to do with her? Except that she was overwhelmingly capable of problem solving, perhaps lonely, and in love? V was the friend that best understood the imperative to dissolve into, to be taken by art, better than sex.


I found her impossibly sexy. The way she held her body, though medication had changed it. We exchanged a kiss at the bus stop one night. The storefronts were eerily lit on the ride home. She bought gifts for others constantly. For me, as I explored being with womxn: cuff links, a wrap blouse. She bought my art. After her death, her spirit would enter through the courtyard window. The air would seem to quiver. Books, fall; lights, flicker. I felt her hold my hand. In one dream, we are hurtling towards one another in an open sky. She removes her shirt, her breasts flying, her head cocked back, she is laughing wildly. Just as she cried in my office: after job interviews. After board meetings. So much of our work life insulted us. We longed for an exit, and found one, each, in our own way. It is uncouth to say this, but she taught me the terrifying potential of action. Not interference, but intervention. Various attempts, pills, the invective to write: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton. Her attraction to extremity was electric on the page. Her fiction had started to be published. Her art, chosen for the cover. She gave me an artwork from treatment, an odalisque, reclining. She loved the sloping lines of Matisse. Late into the night, after her freelance gig, she read voraciously. I painted her. I videoed them. There we were, falling in love, with the ruins of our complicated lives. The gods of poetry, healing, and divination were with her, even as they drove her off course. Let me tell you about her legs in short dresses. Or on the beach, margaritas in our bubbas. She is so close, right at hand, as I write. When I am in motion, she steers me toward freedom. Her legs or mine? There I am in the reflection: suddenly bare, bent, eager to catch flame.


Surfside Beach by Adrienne Doyle I bend down low like a track runner, eyes on the horizon and hands under my shoulders. I take a slow breath and feel the shifting, warm sand under my palms. Afternoon sun on my shoulders. I look to my right and Baby is checking me out, studiously matching her stance to mine. Her brown, chubby thighs and biceps hold up her body, which is 2 feet shorter than mine and fitted in a lilac one-piece swimsuit. She looks up, locks eyes with me, and smiles wide, exposing the gaps between her front teeth. I laugh to myself. We have the same high cheekbones. Still grinning, she shouts, “You ready?” I say, “Yeah!” She counts, “One...two...THREE!” She and I bolt out of our stances and race across the beach, towards the pulsing Atlantic Ocean. It’s hard to run across the dry, shifting sand, but the wet sand is firm, so I gain some ground. My long legs are covering more than Baby’s and she starts trail behind me, so I slow down a little. Together, we zip into teetering ripples and throw ourselves into larger waves. The ocean slaps into our bodies and sprays around us. We erupt in laughter and drops of briny water get in our mouths. I try to wipe my face, but every part of me is wet and slick. We race a couple more times. Neither of us have ever been to the ocean before. It’s gravity makes my head spin and the beach floor drops off if you go too far. Baby hops onto my back and we spin around together until I’m out of breath. We return to our laid out towels and bag on the beach, situated far enough away from other beach-sitters for comfort and safety, and let the sun dry us. There aren’t many folks on this part of the beach and there isn’t another 21

Black person in sight. The other day, I saw a Black person from our rental apartment’s balcony and my heart jumped. We might be the only ones in this resort town today. Its losing its normal vacation business boom during this pandemic, but still lit enough for karaoke Tuesdays to last until midnight. We drove here from a cold, landlocked state with the same number of bigots as this one. Baby and I are both reading. She is lying on her stomach with the sixth Harry Potter book in front of her, orange wedges in her hands and mouth, and her feet kicked up in the air behind her. She’s reading it for the first time. I’m cross-legged with Audre Lorde’s Zami between my legs. I’ve started this book so many times without finishing and I’m further into it than I’ve ever been. The construction of each sentence is so dense and fulfilling and beautiful. I work to understand every crumb. “Sissy,” Baby starts, breaking me from my reading. She’s looked up from her book and her eyes are looking through me like they do sometimes. “I had a dream about this before.” I squint my face. “About your book?” “No,” Baby says, like my question was stupid. “About us at the ocean. At least I think it was us.” “What happened in your dream?,” I ask. She pushes her book away and sits up on her towel. “We were in a boat trying to cross the ocean at night. You, me, and someone else. A man, I think. He was rowing us in a wooden boat and I don’t think he ever turned around to look at us,” she says. Her face falls. She’s sliding her fingers absent-mindedly around a fragment of a mollusk shell, beaten to pieces by the ocean. For some reason, I start to feel anxious about this dream of hers and what little she’s sharing of it with me. “Did we make it across?” She answers. “I didn’t.” 22

Here by Zola Ellen Sometimes, winter can feel like every stage of grief is plummeting down on you all at once. I have been in Minnesota my entire life, but as time passes, the cold’s relentlessness chips away at what was once a childlike ability to not only accept the blistering weather but find joy in it. Now, anxiety and denial start to creep in as early as November and any glimmer of resiliency patiently sits off in the distance. “When you stand outside, do you feel the warmth of the sun on your skin?” my therapist once asked. Thawing season had begun and deep breaths no longer chilled the body. The sun boasted high and bright mid-May, and I made a daily habit of plucking asparagus and strawberries from my garden bed and sprawling out on the grass, nibbling on sunshine and begging the heat to soothe my aches. The end of cold season is normally the highlight of the year. SAD melts away. Isolation is a memory. Windows start to open and the scent of blooming flowers flood the sidewalks. The squirrels and birds’ can be heard bantering early in the morning and everything just feels better. My therapist was a Vietnamese man who spoke in monotone. His favorite pastime was painting incredibly vivid Roman Catholic saints with raw materials. Egg yolk, Turmeric, Saliva. In an earlier life, he was to become a priest before abruptly switching occupations. I adored him. We had nothing in common.


May Twenty-Fourth by Mare Lodu May 24, 2020 We’re nearly 11 weeks into lockdown and so far, my quarantine life has been defined by two constants: continued work (from home) of digitizing photographs depicting Minneapolis during the 20th century and daily solitude walks at Powderhorn Park. Documenting my day-to-day life in this historic moment has increasingly felt like a necessity the more I think about the function of archives as sites of memory and power that are simultaneously fixed and unstable, personal and collective. I spend a lot of time creating descriptive metadata for photographs from the 1920s to 1990s and as we become more and more entwined with digital technologies, I feel a newfound appreciation for the experience of handling physical records. In some way, the rigid and pragmatic ordering of information that is central to archival practice (despite its many limitations), has sort of served as a grounding tool for me in this overwhelmingly nonlinear and uncertain time. But I’m still learning to tune in—to sit with myself, my fears, my rage, my discomfort and this complete change of pace has also allowed me to forge a deeper relationship to place. Place names, including seemingly insignificant ones are a constant reminder of the violent legacies of white settler colonialism and Indigenous erasure. I recently learned that Powderhorn Lake was named for its shape resembling an “old powder horn—a cow horn used to carry gunpowder.” In other words, colonial firearm technology that was popularized during the French and Indian War and American Revolution and currently sells for upwards of $700 in antique auctions. According to Native Land Digital, this place is Wahpekhute land. I’ve circled its trails religiously since the beginning of quarantine with the hope that all my anxieties would magically dissipate. While I’m grateful for the abundance of parks and lakes in this city, which at times offer a momentary respite, the violence is never lost on me. There is not a single person, place or thing untouched by 27

white supremacy. I think about Navajo Nation, which currently has the highest infection rate in this country; I think about how Black folks are 3 times more likely to die from COVID-19; I think about Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, Sean Reed, Breonna Taylor and countless others; I think about how tired I am of thinking about Black death and the impossibility of mourning.* On the other hand, these images I found of Black youth in and around South Minneapolis bring me a lot of joy. I find pleasure in locating Blackness where I can, especially in contexts removed from suffering given that we remain largely absent or hidden within most archival collections and what little exists is often a constant reminder of our subjection. The repetition of blue, pink and yellow—the sky, balloons and teahouse evoke a sense of wonder and playfulness that I find myself eagerly searching for these days. In honor of that I pulled 3 cards of each color from my favorite deck—Prism Oracle by IrisEyris to guide us all into the next phase. The cards are as follows: Cleanse (Blue)—“When this card comes up, ask yourself what could use a little extra cleansing? How can you give yourself a little extra love?” Body (Pink)—“Take this time to really connect with your body. What does it feel like? What does it need? How can you honor it?” Illumination (Yellow)—“Finding illumination is like turning on a light in a pitch black room. When the room is dark and black everything can feel scary and mysterious. But when you turn the light on, you can perfectly see everything that surrounds you.”

*July 24, 2020 Since writing this in May, George Floyd was brutally murdered by Minneapolis police. Powderhorn Park evolved into an encampment housing mostly Black and Indigenous residents from the Sanctuary Hotel. On July 21st, residents of the east 28

camp were violently removed and nearly 20 people were arrested by MPD due to a callous resolution passed by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Instead of actually addressing our public housing crisis or providing tangible support and resources to those experiencing homelessness, the mayor, city council and parks board continue to fail and displace countless Black and Indigenous people in the midst of a pandemic. Despite declaring their commitment to defunding and dismantling MPD at Powderhorn last month, city council approved a meager $1.5 mil cut to MPD’s $193 mil budget earlier today. There is much to be said about everything that has transpired since May 25th but I simply don’t have the words. I just know that the inherent violence/white supremacist origins of this particular park, this neighborhood and this city have felt far more pronounced.


Human Condition: Black and Dissatisfied by Nancy Musinguzi I don’t believe in borders. Borders are so fucking useless. Purposeless. You build enough of them around yourself and sure enough, you’ll find yourself stuck in a windowless box with a sinking floor. An odorless container with just enough breathing room to survive. But it’s a crushing feeling, being broken down and decomposed into a substance of sustenance that fits the taste of the masses. You morph, bend, blend, and disappear into an absolute void depending on what you look like, and how much you have or own. Willing to spend and sacrifice to keep things in order. The closer in proximity to whiteness, the more expedient and convenient one’s experience will be. On the opposite end of the spectrum, our world’s most vulnerable and disenfranchised lose themselves to imaginary lines, drawn by unimaginative men. Borders are belligerent and violent by design. We been told you We been showed you Over and over Our people reject repression In so many languages -In verse In body In fashion In research In vogue On time Everytime. We been told you. Every time we drive a point, The hypothetical comes and undoes the moment, Feeding the beast of our contradictions. Real science fiction. 31

burnsomething.org | @burnsomethingzine

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.