I’m mostly a researcher interested in intersections between radical politics and culture who sometimes finds ways to make my thinking public. I read, think, write, make zines, edit readers, and whatever else seems appropriate. I’m based in Chattanooga, TN, where I teach at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Or, if you prefer, the academic version:
I am a research-based artist, editor, and writer addressing questions of institutional critique, activism, contemporary politics, and the political efficacy of art. As an artist, I work in video, design, publication, archival practices, and public programming. As a writer and editor, I explore contemporary issues in and the intersections of critical theory, art history, and radical politics. It is most common that my individual and collaborative projects are multi-layered and combine elements from various disciplines; I describe this practice as extradisciplinary— suggesting an overflow of the practical and discursive borders of the academic and art worlds. This is simultaneously a means and an ends of a practice that aims to be sensitive to context and considerate of the entangled politics of form and content.
Currently, my work focuses on a study of whiteness as a structural position of violence, with a particular interest in how this violence is evidenced in a visual culture of a “post-racial” society. This trajectory is perhaps best evidenced by a recently completed video entitled Typologies of Whiteness: White Men Cover Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound on my Trail”. The video comprises several YouTube videos of white men singing Johnson’s classic blues song, along with several text excerpts from various anti-racist theorists. Hellhounds, of course, can be understood as a reference to slave-owners sending bloodhounds to track the scent of escaped enslaved persons. Thus the re-performing of the song by white men is dubious at best, but also illustrates a common trend of appropriating and thus occluding black pain and expression. The excerpted texts act to destabilize the comfort of the men singing—to put the videos on trial, so to speak, in order to call into question the structural position the white male singers occupy in relation to Johnson’s original expressions.
Perhaps my most significant work to date is my 2013 feature-length video The Society of the Spectacle (75 min.), a remaking of famed situationist Guy Debord’s 1973 film of the same name made entirely of appropriated images. Made for a contemporary American context, my remaking serves as both an act of translation and critical response to the original. “No film is more difficult than its time,” Debord stated of his film, and my remake seeks to reflect this complexity by overlaying emotional, aesthetic, historical, political, and theoretical discourses in a matrix that encourages engagement on multiple registers. As much as it is an experiment in video, it was also an experiential act of research that sought to glean lessons from Debord’s film while leveling critiques of its shortcomings. Importantly, the completion of the film launched several other projects, including a situationist film archive, extensive writing on Debord’s film, and a Situationist Film Festival. I orchestrated each of these projects in an effort to further contextualize the work of the film and to think in various cultural forms.
I also maintain a collaborative practice, in particular with Compass, a group of fourteen activists and artists clustered around the Midwest. With Compass, I helped coordinate The Monsanto Hearings in Iowa City, part of a series of public testimonies regarding damages sustained by Monsanto’s current and historic practices. We invited activists, scholars, farmers, and affected community members to share stories that elucidated ecological violence, the politics of Agribusiness, and grassroots activism. An experimental documentary edited by Compass members was included in Documenta 13’s AndAndAnd platform. Finally, as an editor and writer, I seek to develop knowledge of extradisciplinary and activist-oriented cultural practices. I am presently an acting editor for the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest. We ask: “Together, what can we do?” with an aim of fostering a conversation among artists, activists, and other cultural producers to explore new forms of institutional critique and ask how to build and sustain collective movements despite professionalization, how to creatively resist privatization, and how to foster extra-institutional praxis. In 2013 I co-wrote (with Sarah Kanouse) an essay published in Parallax entitled “Notes on Affective Practice: An Exchange,” which explores critical artists’ use of the tour as a form of affective practice along with examining the micropolitical struggles and possibilities of collaborative research as practiced by Compass. I’ve also edited several book-length readers with the most recent being a self-published book titled XOXO: Love Letters to Our Friends, Hate Mail to our Frenemies. On Commitment and Withdrawal (with Becky Nasadowski and Kelly Gallagher, 2014), which explores the paradoxes and struggles around the two related, though seemingly contradictory, concepts of commitment and withdrawal.
These divergent practices woven together interrogate institutions as they relate to my own life, yet they also open up and move across dimensions, expanding from the personal to the global. The discursive and the political operate on different scales and terrains—subjective, psychic, visual, textual, cultural—and, I believe, so must our praxis.
be in touch
schultz.heath [at] gmail [dot] com