Pandora Lavender: How do you navigate between your three creative roles as a writer, artist and curator?
Legacy Russell: I’m always a writer first. I arrive at every project I do via my writing – exploring language and its limits. Where language fails comes an opportunity to push further with exhibition-making or creating new artwork. My practice as a writer is often very solitary: just me, myself and I working through ideas independently, albeit with a chorus of great poets, theorists and thinkers guiding me through. My role as a curator is much more participatory: there is a collective practice in producing a project; ultimately, I facilitate, interrogate, make space, explore. As for my artwork, I make that for me. I’ve been fortunate to have it circulate into the corners of the world that want it, but I don’t search for that circulation: it occurs as part of my thinking process as I come into contact with new conversations and pass through new places.
PL: In 2013, you coined the term #GlitchFeminism. Can you break it down for us?
LR: Glitch Feminism notes that the gendered body is a construct and points toward the creative application of the digital as a means of exploring new configurations of the ‘body’. It asks us to embody error as a disruption to gender binary, as a resistance to the normative. It celebrates artists like manuel arturo abreu, Shawné Michaelain Holloway, E. Jane and Victoria Sin in the work they each do toward the project of dismantling body binary.
PL: Could you describe what you mean by ‘glitch’?
LR: It’s an active refusal. It’s a mode of non-performance within a social, cultural machine. To quote the artist E. Jane, it’s the act of saying ‘NOPE’. So many bodies that continue to rise do so despite the conditions we are placed within, confronted by. So many of us – black, queer, femme bodies – weren’t meant to survive within a normative world order; still thriving, we are evidence of system failure. We are the glitch.
PL: What do you see as the main revolutions within the digital and the AFK (away from keyboard) landscapes over the past decade?
LR: We see people seizing their right to range, to explore different facets of themselves, to refuse essentialism of selfhood as they traverse the online/AFK loop. We also see a rise in a form of surveillance that previously would have been assigned to the stuff of dystopic sci-fi. This digital material – which allows us to move, commune, explore, learn, engage, resist, refuse – also implicates us in some of the greatest violence of our time. This likely will be one of the greatest crises of conscience across generations of digital natives: we’re all bound up in this complicated medium, complicit in the theft of our own data. What will the broader impact of this be? We’ll have to stay tuned.
PL: What, or who, is the greatest influence on your work?
LR: In no particular order: sci-fi author Octavia E. Butler, Sub Rosa cyberfeminist collective, contemporary writer Paul B. Preciado, artist collective VNS Matrix, professor Jack Halberstam, writer Audre Lorde. Oh, and AOL-era chatroom cybersex.
PL: What feeds your soul in the contemporary cultural landscape?
LR: Trap music and tequila.
PL: How can we stay cosmic?
LR: Take up space. Remember your range. Be fantastic in failure. Trigger system seizures.
Hear from the designers, artists and curators who have shaped an identity inspired by art and culture at Frieze Academy's upcoming Art & Fashion summit, part of Frieze Week New York.
Main image: SCRAAATCH performing at “Glitch @ Night”, Curated by Legacy Russell, visuals by Zadie Xa, part of Post-Cyber Feminist International 2017, ICA, London. Courtesy: ICA, London; photograph: Mark Blower