Is your work political?
I would not say that my writing (in either criticism or literature) is assertively political in the way of works by Sontag or Kundera; but I will say that my politics are absolutely represented in the choices I make and in my perspectives regarding the materials I both create and select to analyze. Being politically progressive, motivated by mindfulness and empathy, believing in the pursuit of justice and inclusion, having studied history, and being engaged in current events — none of that can be separated from the rest. But I would not claim the mantle for my work of being political — there are too many others out there who excel at it with intentionality.
What is the place of literature in politics?
Wherever it wants to be! In all seriousness, I think there’s a reason why poets and novelists are always among the leaders of revolutions and resistances, and historically among the earliest victims of murderous autocrats. This is true in every culture, Eastern and Western. Poets have a way of singing the songs of the people, and novelists of telling their stories, in empowering ways that refuse to be erased.
What is your favorite political work?
“The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera; Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party”; “Liberation of Aunt Jemima” by Betye Saar; “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie. William Kentridge! Kafka! Yoko Ono! (At least those are my favorites today, there’s such a big glorious world of inspiration out there…)
Do you feel voting is important?
Yes. The most important. There is a lot of other work to do but it all flows to and from the vote.
What are your hopes for this election?
I’m not worried about Biden winning, he will win. Going by the popular vote, Clinton won in 2016 already, and 45 certainly has not grown his voter base. I’m worried about suppression and interference and cheating, I’m worried about the nutters starting violence in the aftermath — so what we need, and what I hope for and expect, is a tsunami-level mandate that will be impossible to challenge. Senate too, all of it. Send money to flippable-seat Congressional seats in CA and Senate candidates nationally!
Shana Nys Dambrot is an art critic, curator, and author based in Downtown LA. She is the Arts Editor for the L.A. Weekly, and a contributor to Flaunt, Art & Cake, and Artillery. She studied Art History at Vassar College, writes book and catalog essays, curates and juries exhibitions, is a dedicated Instagram photographer and is the author of the experimental novella “Zen Psychosis” (2020, Griffith Moon). She speaks at galleries, schools, and cultural institutions nationally, and is a member of ArtTable and the LA Press Club, and sits on the Boards of Art Share-LA and the Venice Institute of Contemporary Art, the Advisory Council of Building Bridges Art Exchange, and the Brain Trust of Some Serious Business.
To learn more go to Dambrot’s website and follow her on social media: (sndx.net; @shananys)
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