A Test Site for Kinship
NAVEL is a non-profit cultural organization and multipurpose community space with a central location in downtown Los Angeles. We empower a range of creative projects and practices that ignite our collective imaginaries and expand our capacity to cooperate in holistic, pleasurable and emergent ways. Through membership, programs and events, we bring people together and create opportunities to engage and experiment with caring and collaborative ways of thinking, being, organizing and making.
Public Programming at NAVEL is an open invitation for all to experience our community’s emerging work, sourced from open calls and ongoing collaborations with partner organizations.
ASSEMBLIES is where learning happens together through the exchange of ideas, traditions, and experience. Community-led, ASSEMBLIES are learning group that forms around a theme, practice or experiment, proposed by anyone in the community. For three-month intervals, NAVEL provides each ASSEMBLY with space, community, support, tools and resources. At the end of the quarter, each ASSEMBLY is asked to present about their experience and/or project, be it a presentation, performance, publication, or object, which we then publish via our digital content channels.
The Collective Residency is where we nurture and support people and ideas while they take root and begin to grow. For a period of one to two years, a diverse group of over 40 local and international residents, selected through a yearly open call, have access to our space, equipment, network, and support at no cost. In return, residents actively engage in furthering our mission and programs, diversifying the voices and perspectives represented at NAVEL. For a one year term, two Collective Residents occupy seats on our Board of Directors.
The current state of the creative and intellectual class is precarious, unsustainable, and atomized. Under the conditions of late capitalism, the spectrum of options is slim between passive complacency, commercial compromise, or overwhelming hustle and insecure conditions. The current models of cultural institutions tend to provide mostly short-term visibility and support structures; many lack in opportunities for long-term engagement, care, and collaborative practice.
Art has the power to bring radical thought into meaningful forms and actions, which could lead to healthier and more just systems. However, critical and creative practices are vulnerable to instrumentalization, privatization, and subsumption into cultural capital. How can we maintain an autonomous position?
There is an immenent need for more intentional communities, collectives, and co-ownership models that act as protective layers, absorbing and distributing some of the financial and social pressures we face as individuals. This is what NAVEL is invested in exploring and actualizing. We believe the first steps towards more equitable cultural and socio-political systems requires a collaborative investigation and practice which:
- Rethinks the topography of existing cultural establishments
- Explores alternative governance and organizational structures
- Favors process, collaboration, conversations, and re-negotiations
- Builds long-term relationships and engagement
- Uses technology, architecture, design and art as tools for rethinking and restructuring
- Is accessible and culturally equitable
- Redistributes resources
- Makes kin
The navel is a non-gendered body part. After birth, its function is purely aesthetic, though it was once the primary source of nourishment for all placental mammals. Our navels serve to remind us of this formerly physical connection to mothering and nurturance—the process by which the individual originates from the collective. It marks the location of the “second brain,” the enteric nervous system—an autonomous, less rational, and more intuitive determiner of the human experience. It has long been intuited (“trust your gut”), but it is also scientifically sound. For us, an awareness of the role and importance of a decentered “brain”— of a well-being concretely linked and influenced by the environment—has the potential for a less humancentric existence and more kinship.
We would like to thank Collective Resident Nina Sarnelle for creating this beautiful video about what NAVEL is all about (and for using her own original music as the score). Thanks as well to everyone who was interviewed, and to all of the artists, participants, and organizers whose work appears and who make up the fabric of this vibrant community that has formed over the past two years.