In the Fall of 2022, Printed Matter / St Marks presented we web keepers, a window exhibition by artist, activist, educator, storyteller, and curator Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo. This newsprint publication of the same name is a translation and continuation of that project; it opens with a new essay by Ayana Zaire Cotton.
In addition to a large-scale window painting, the exhibition included a series of works on paper added to a window, one by one, over the course of eight weeks. The works were double sided with painted text facing the street (including contributions from Lukaza and others noted in the bibliography below) and with various patterns facing into the bookstore. This slow accumulation of paper mimicked the ethos and life cycle of bulletin boards, themselves public sites wherein people exchange messages, share demands, ask for help, broadcast their stories. Printed Matter staff put up the works at random, creating a knot of unsequenced text that looked out onto the East Village, with phrases discernible but the entire passage obscured.
This publication untangles that knot. Here, Lukaza’s paintings are presented in their original order: unfurled, sentential, and sprawled across newsprint like the morning paper. Extending the functions of the bulletin board, a newspaper is a tool to disperse stories quickly and widely within communities.
This translation of we web keepers from bulletin board patchwork to newspaper publication rearticulates Lukaza’s commitment to cultivating practices of intentional reading and slow looking. In the window, all of the works were presented in one plane, but the paintings’ overlap rendered some letters and words out of view. As a newspaper, though each piece is reproduced unobstructed, in turning the pages the reader conceals one fragment in order to reach the next. In neither form can you see the whole thing at once; you have to take the time to look, and look carefully.
Ayana Zaire Cotton’s essay is a reflection on community entanglements, supports, spider webs, and cultivating play within enclosure. Their contribution to we web keepers is a deeply thoughtful analysis—poetic and precise—and expansion of the conceptual lattice put forth by Lukaza’s work.
Quilting: Poems 1987-1990, Lucille Clifton, 1991
Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir, Akwaeke Emezi, 2021
Abolition Geography: Essays Towards Liberation, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, 2022
care manual: dreaming care into being, kamra sadia hakim, 2022
Tenderness: An Honoring of my Black Queer Joy and Rage, Annika
The Social Change Ecosystem Map, Deepa Iyer, 2018
Passion, June Jordan, 1980
The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin, 1989
Pods and Pod Mapping Worksheet, Mia Mingus, 2016
Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-
Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto, Legacy Russell, 2020
Cloud-net, Cecilia Vicuña, 2000
Lee’s Book, Lee Rae Walsh, 2022
Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo (they/them/Lukaza) is an artist, activist, educator, storyteller & curator who lives/works between Lisjan Ohlone Land [Oakland, CA] and Powhatan Land [Richmond,VA]. With roots in storytelling, Branfman-Verissimo’s work is informed by their commitment to craft and community, engagement with society, and interests in preserving and broadcasting B.I.Q.T.P.O.C. stories. Their work has been included in exhibitions and performances at Konsthall C [Stockholm, Sweden], SEPTEMBER Gallery [Kinderhook, NY], EFA Project Space [New York City, NY], Leslie Lohman Museum [New York City, NY], Yerba Buena Center for the Arts [San Francisco, CA] and Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive [Berkeley, CA], amongst others. Their artist books and prints have been published by Endless Editions, Childish Books, Press Press, Sming Sming and Night Diver Press, and a forthcoming project with Printed Matter Inc. Lukaza was recently included in the Corita Center’s ‘New Rules Next Week’ podcast, which invited notable artists and cultural workers to dream up the future of ‘Corita Kent’s Ten Rules for Teachers and Students’.
Ayana Zaire Cotton (she/they) is a queer, Black feminist, anti-disciplinary artist and cultural worker from Prince George’s County, Maryland. They are currently based in Dawn, Virginia — tucked in between the ancestral lands of the Mattaponi and Youghtanund — answering the call to steward land that has been in their family for four generations. Braiding language, performance, and craft Ayana speculates and worldbuilds alongside science and technology. Sankofa is a word and symbol of the Akan Twi and Fante languages of Ghana which translates to, “go back and get”. Centering a sankofa sensibility, they build databases as vessels holding seed data and experiment with shuffling algorithms to spin non-linear narratives. Ayana calls this methodology “Cykofa Narration”, generating new worlds using the digital and social detritus of our existing world — resulting in a storytelling form that embodies circular time and troubles human authorship. Through engaging with language, technology, and ecology, Ayana is cultivating a practice of remembering and imagining alternative modes of being and interspecies belonging.