Located in Downtown Los Angeles, NAVEL is a test site for collectivity and kinship that supports a diverse community of cultural workers through accessible public programming, educational initiatives, and space residencies.
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?
The tragedy of the commons calls 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.
In May 2018, in an effort to redistribute resources and create a more open and equitable space, we formed the NAVEL collective, inviting a diverse group of local and international people to have access to our space, equipment, and support at no cost. In return, members actively engage in furthering the mission and program, diversifying the voices and perspectives represented at NAVEL. We develop economic models that can support the members’ contributions, as well as select projects at the intersection of art, technology, architecture, science, aesthetics, and politics.
Due to capacity limitations, we limited our first invitations to people who have contributed with programming, labor, ideas, spirit throughout our foundational years—people eager to expand their practice, research, skills, and knowledge beyond themselves, and to develop and experiment collectively.
We made a conscious effort to invite members from less privileged, underrepresented, and marginalized communities, and through our collective efforts, we are committed to implementing more inclusive systems and expand our resources to accommodate additional members in the near future.