June 4th @ 7 pm: Untitled Talk about Impossible Moments (with Piñata) with Sarah Bay Williams

Are you curious, confused by the impossible, and confounded by loss? Do you like what is sweet, deserve a good story, and, sometimes, find that destruction is generative? This “Untitled Talk about Impossible Moments (with Piñata)” will invite you to explore the inexplicable over rum cake and a giant papier maché foot that you can beat with a bat.

Sarah Bay Williams has been making piñatas since 2006. She is an independent writer, curator, and artist who lives in Venice, California. Her current enterprise is to publish a monograph on the 1970s photography of the artist Robert Cumming.

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013 @ 7 pm
4196 Chestnut Street
Riverside, CA 92501
Gate opens @ 6:45 pm
Please bring blankets and pillows for outdoor seating

A Manifesto of Sorts

After each CHAR salon the opening notes, which function as a manifesto, will be posted. Here are the notes from April’s salon:

In preparing for this week’s introduction, I considered what are the dimensions of CHAR that might be revealed by hosting it off-site. For those of you who may not be familiar with CHAR, it is typically hosted in a home as part of a larger history of artists and cultural practitioners staging their practices in a domestic space. Taking it out of the house, I realized CHAR is part of an inquiry into the nature of hospitality.

If CHAR can embody hospitality, then what does hospitality mean and what does it mean to be hospitable?

The term hospitality comes from the Latin for “of a guest.” So hospitality already poses an ethical dilemma: how to treat others, including those who are strange and those that might be beloved. Hospitality, I think, is an attempt to make the strange and stranger in all of us special. It means to be treated as special, as worthy of love and belonging, without having to earn it.

Hospitality is empathy. It imagines each of us as complex, complicated individuals with a distinct imagination and meets us wherever we are, in the present moment. It pays attention to each of us in wonder, making ourselves sacred in that attention. Hospitality, with its attendant textures of thoughtfulness and consideration, reminds us that our lives matter. Not the lives we lived yesterday, not the lives we will be living tomorrow, or in another, perhaps better city: but right now, right here, together.

There is a genre of contemporary art called participatory art or social art practice. Whatever its manifestation, it can involve components of social justice, human interaction, and performance, amongst others. CHAR reconfigures those distinctions by making anticipatory art: practices and relations imagining the complexities of human experience and arranging itself in relationship to that.

Institutions of care are eroding in this country. I hope I am not the person to introduce you to that notion. Simple human kindness is becoming an act of forgetfulness, occurring when we let our guards down. CHAR, because of its advocacy of hospitality, proposes recognition of human dignity as the means for recuperating a sense of individuality and community. CHAR is an old-fashioned idea of an enlightened public sphere, where intelligent, critical art might start a conversation that could lead to social and political change.

Hospitality, and thus CHAR, is a reckoning: a consideration of what we have to do to make the lives we want.

In preparing for this week’s event, I came across a quote by poet Adrienne Rich that I shared with Chelsea as emblematic of her presentation, and I would like to share it with all of you:

"Responsibility to yourself… means that you refuse to sell your talents and aspirations short, simply to avoid conflict and confrontation. And this, in turn, means resisting the forces in society which say that women should be nice, play safe, have low professional expectations, drown in love and forget about work, live through others, and stay in the places assigned to us. It means that we insist on a life of meaningful work, insist that work be as meaningful as love and friendship in our lives. It means, therefore, the courage to be ‘different’; not to be continuously available to others when we need time for ourselves and our work; to be able to demand of others that they respect our sense of purpose and our integrity as persons… The difference between a life lived actively, and a life of passive drifting and dispersal of energies, is an immense difference. Once we begin to feel committed to our lives, responsible to ourselves, we can never again be satisfied with the old, passive way."

A Manifesto of Sorts

After each CHAR salon the opening notes, which function as a manifesto, will be posted. Below are the notes from March’s salon:

As a way of introducing CHAR, I prefer to ask what CHAR could be and use the thrust of that question
to transport us into a realm of possibilities. Recently, I have conceptualized CHAR as a laboratory, thus positing each of us in relation to CHAR as scientists tinkering with representations and conventions of the world around us. CHAR re­evaluates the certainty of these genres, enabling a collecting and individual courting of the mystery of our emotions, cognitive processes, and senses. CHAR proposes hypotheses, sustaining elements of vulnerability as we move and lean into slightly shifting resonances proposed by each. By conceptualizing CHAR as a laboratory, and its manifestation in the domestic sphere, it constructs the home and housekeeping as an experiment in human dignity. This experiment is a performance of rituals of the ordinary, such as conversing, listening, eating, and communing, as an act of kinship. It means to take empathy as an ethical position and ­­the method for relating.

I am so pleased to be hosting Pejman Shojeai as tonight’s speaker. As a fellow Collections Assistant at the California Museum of Photography, I have the practically daily joy of sharing with Pej the many pleasures of visual culture. Pej is a graduating senior at UC Riverside, where he is double majoring in art history and history. Amongst many other achievements, his work has been selected for a symposium at Chapman University in April. The integrity and relevance of his research to a larger discourse makes his contributions not only timely, but thoughtful considerations into imaginings of participation and thus subjecthood for this particular epoch. Pej will be sharing with us his most recent inquiry into participation and contemporary photography.

In preparing for this evening’s lecture, I came across a passage from Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination, by Avery Gordon that seemed pertinent and particularly emblematic of this evening’s topic. She is a sociologist at UC Santa Barbara. In Ghostly Matters, she contests the power and efficacy of vision, and thus representation, to secure and regulate knowledge. She shows how this strategy institutionalizes and silences cruelty by making it invisible. She writes:

“[They]…can see what is usually invisible or neglected or thought by most to be dead and gone. They recover ‘the evidence of things not seen,’ that paradoxical archive of stammering memory and witnessing lost souls (Baldwin 1985: xiii). They recover the evidence of things not seen and they show that ordinary people ascertain these evidentiary things not also, but more often than professional seers. These women possess a vision that cannot only regard the seemingly not there, but can also see that the not there is a seething presence. Seething, it makes a striking impression; seething, it makes everything we do see just as it is, charged with the occluded and forgotten past. These women comprehend the living effects, seething and lingering, of what seems over and done with, the endings that are not over” (195).

March 10th @ 7 pm: A Work in Progress: Participation and role of the public as seen in the works of Gina Osterloh, Farrah Karapetian, and Nikki S. Lee with Pejman Shojaei

Participation within contemporary art is a movement that has made itself very prevalent in the past two decades. Artists create situations and events that require the participation of the viewers to activate the work of art. Looking more specifically at photography, there are implications of participation, social engagement, performance, and installation that show photography’s much expanded field into a more cross-medium discipline. Through their photography, Gina Osterloh, Farrah Karapetian, and Nikki S. Lee use different dimensions of participation during the production of their work to investigate identity roles and group dynamics within a large context. The photograph exists as a final monument thats makes permanent the very temporal nature of the production process. 


Pejman Shojaei is currently completing his B.A. in Art History and History at UC Riverside. He has worked at UCR ARTSblock as a Collections Assistant and will be curating an exhibition at the California Museum of Photography opening to the public March 23, 2013. Pejman is also a part of Riverside Art Museum’s second iteration of their Student Curatorial Council, and has participated in the Getty Multicultural Internship Program as a Curatorial Intern at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. He has also received the Gluck Fellowship for the Arts two years in a row and has contributed to the public programming at UCR ARTSblock for their First Thursday Art Walk events.  With his interest lying in different dimensions of participation and performance within contemporary art, Pejman plans on continuing his studies within Art History.Also interested in the implications of reality television within social media and daily life, Pejman has a started a series where he responds to the Instagram posts of low-grade celebrities and reality stars in the mannerisms of a “fanboy.” 

This project can be viewed at: 


Sunday, March 10, 2013 @ 7 pm

4196 Chestnut Street

Riverside, CA 92501

doors open at 6:45 pm

seating is limited

A Manifesto of Sorts

After each CHAR talk the opening notes, which function as a manifesto, will be posted. Below are the notes from February’s talk:

What is CHAR?—I prefer framing this question as “What could CHAR be?” The purpose of CHAR is to hold space for a new conversation. These talks create a space, a geography, where people can experience comfort, some reprieve from the tyranny of structures and obligations in our daily lives. The salon series reminds us of the idiosyncrasies of expressive minds and bodies happening in the places we live, rather than exalting the geniuses we encounter in touristing the metropole. It offers a model of resistance using quietness and listening. Our ambitions are subtle but definitive. CHAR proposes art as a way to create an effective community, as it integrates art into the fabric of everyday life.

I am so pleased to be hosting Rachel Carrico as tonight’s speaker. I have had the privilege of witnessing Rachel’s scholarship in seminars and composition classes in UCR’s department of critical dance studies, where she is a third year PhD student. She employs her ideas with an imaginative rigor and devotion, carving her own space for dialogue. Tonight Rachel will be sharing with us stories from parading in New Orleans, and their relationship to her dissertation in progress.

In preparing for this evening’s lecture, I came across a paragraph from “Art on My Mind,” a book of essays by cultural critic bell hooks, that seems particularly appropriate for the topic of Rachel’s talk. I shared this quote with Rachel and I wish to share it with all of you as a framing device for this evening’s talk: (in this essay, hooks is describing the work of artist Felix Gonzales-Torres):

“…art declares that to be political is to be alive—that beauty resides in moments of revolution and transformation—even as [his] work  articulates ‘new modes of contestation.’ In [his] grappling with subversive beauty, with an aesthetics of loss, [Gonzalez-Torres] insists that our lives be that space where beauty is made manifest, where the power of human connection and interaction creates that loveliness that ‘will never pass into nothingness.’”
Rachel Carrico preps for talk inside the golden ribbons by sorting Mardi Gras beads (2/12).

Rachel Carrico preps for talk inside the golden ribbons by sorting Mardi Gras beads (2/12).

Cutting of the King Cake (2/12)

Cutting of the King Cake (2/12)