Get to know Rasu Jilani, who was our 2015 Bed-Stuy Create Change Artist-in-Residence and joined The Laundromat Project’s Board of Directors in September 2017:
You’ve been a part of The LP as one of our 2015 Create Change Artists-in- Residence. What excited you most about joining The LP’s board, especially as an alum?
I was formerly an artist-in-resident with The Laundromat Project (in 2015). Now as a board member, I’m starting to look at my career in the trajectory of making resources available to emerging artists (like myself), specifically artists who are shaping the conversation around the power of art, community, and being audacious when doing so. Some of my curiosities are: who is out there pushing the boundaries of where art can exist? Who are the artists stretching the imagination of how art and society intersect? Those are the questions I have. I’ve recently been taking on and saying “yes” to any opportunities that allow me to be included in decision-making around these ideas, because I know it is such as a hill to climb as an emerging artist navigating your career, which in itself is a difficult task. But when you add other components like social justice, activism, critical consciousness, and community development, these aspects make the hill even steeper for emerging artists. I am looking to be an advocate on the other side of the table for this kind of work, which being a board member allows me to do.
You’ve worked with many arts organizations, and you’re an independent curator, cultural producer and social sculptor who investigates intersections between art, culture and civic engagement as a method of raising critical consciousness. Can you tell us about an organization or project that was a particular highlight of your work?
I think Griots in “The Stuy” project encapsulates my personal modus operandi of deep listening, allowing for discourse to happen by asking smart questions, allowing voice to manifests itself, and allowing people to speak their own truth, and it also epitomizes who I am and what I am doing (at least on a basic level).
I am making distinctions between social practice and a career path for what I’m doing, and what I do at NEW INC brings together my core competencies of technology, social entrepreneurship, civic engagement, social activism, and thinking of how to create equitable ecosystems. I consider myself as a cultural auditor of sorts… that in itself is what I’m looking to deepen my practice in, holding institutions accountable to what they say they want to do, and making sure it matches their mission statement and values.
Has The LP changed the way you think about art? If so, how?
The LP showed me that it is possible for organizations to put value on the creative process. Oftentimes, the museums and gallery industries put emphasis on the end result. The artistic product. The LP puts a focus on the process, embraces getting messy, and trying out what works. This is what I like to call establishing a creative-sandbox that artists and creatives, especially artists of color, don’t have the privilege to do those things. The LP has shaped my relationship to art – that it isn’t a product-based object but a process.
What song gets you going when work is hard?
It depends. If I need to do numbers or write, I listen to meditation music to quiet my mind, like Steve G. Jones chakra music, which is high-pitched music with instrumentation, no vocals. Then I may go to something chill like Little Dragon or the Internet, something that won’t interrupt my thought process.
If I’m doing something where I have to use my hands, or idle mind busy work, I’ll put on Wu Tang Clan, Rage Against the Machine, or Queens of the Stone Age to get my adrenaline going.
What have you been reading lately?
Outside of work, I’ve been reading spirituality and metaphysical theory books on the side; thinking about how the spirit and mind applies to the body and how we shape reality, reality shaped by perceptions. Right now – reading a book called Lucid Dreaming by Robert Waggoner and King’s Magic and Medicine by Daryl Peavy, which is about shamanism in West Africa. One of my favorites, that I recently finished, is Between the World and Me, by Ta-nehisi Coates.
Where do you do your laundry?
I drop it off since I don’t have time to do my own laundry anymore. At M&M laundromat in Bed-Stuy.