Laura Raicovich was President and Executive Director of the Queens Museum. During her tenure, she was a champion of socially engaged art practices that address the most pressing social, political, and ecological issues of our times. She has defined her career with artist-driven projects and programs. She is the author of At the Lightning Field and A Diary of Mysterious Difficulties. Her newest book is Culture Strike: Art and Museums in an Age of Protest published by Verso Books
Laura Raicovich will be discussing Culture Strike with special guest Malkia Devich-Cyril in our City Lights LIVE! virtual event series on June 17th, 2021.
Where are you writing to us from?
I’m writing from Chelsea in New York City, my bedroom which is also my writing zone, and library. My windows overlooks the back of the former Chelsea YMCA, with its patterned brick and copper mansard roof, copper cornice, and eccentric histories. It’s a beauty to look at, and while I face mostly south, I get just enough western sky to see the weather coming in.
What’s kept you sane during the pandemic?
I love to cook, so taking a break from the screen and planning and preparing lunches and dinners really kept me from going bonkers. Amidst the fear, it was comforting to cook for my husband and son, to make dishes from whatever was in the supermarket, especially in those early days when supplies were unpredictable, and to invent new ways to bring out the leftovers in salads and frittatas for lunch.
What books are you reading right now? Which books do you return to?
Right now I’m reading Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu, and A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet, which are both outstanding in very different ways; and I recently finished Marieke Lucas Rijneveld’s The Discomfort of Evening, which I am recommending to everyone. I’m also reading Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements by Charlene Carruthers which is essential reading right now.
I always go back to Rebecca Solnit’s writings as well as Saidiya Hartman’s books. Their ways of storytelling are very compelling to me, particularly as feminists and fighters. I guess I’d say they have an outsized influence on this book, as well as other of my writings. I admire them both immensely.
Which writers, artists, and others influence your work in general, and this book, specifically?
If you opened a bookstore, where would it be located, what would it be called, and what would your bestseller be?
I’d open a bookshop in a small town in Sicily called Modica. A great friend of mine named Corrado, who runs a small contemporary art gallery, lives there. I’d collaborate with him on making exhibitions and set up an anti-imperialist bookshop that has an A to Z arrangement of books from around the world. Art books would be unseparated from literature and philosophy, setting up wanderers to make connections that might not otherwise be stumbled upon between books. I love the chance encounter with a set of ideas that resonates through another, completely separate experience. It would be extraordinary to make a bookshop, and cultural space, that does the same.