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Barrett White

Published September 5, 2018

Barrett White sits among found objects.


Florida State University – BFA Art, 2014

Bard College, Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts –  MFA

Current Occupation

Editor for Tagvverk

Recent Accomplishments

Writings have been published in Gramma Poetry, Document Journal, Full Stop, Gauss PDF, Emergency Index, and elsewhere.

Q & A

What have you been doing since graduating from FSU?

In 2015 I moved from Pensacola, Florida to Seattle. I was accepted to Bard College’s Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts that same year. The Bard MFA program is low residency, so I bounced back and forth between the Pacific Northwest and upstate New York for three years. During this time I worked for various art and cultural institutions in Seattle: poetry press Wave Books, the University of Washington’s Henry Art Gallery, and the Corridor and Red May festivals. I also continued to serve as an editor for Tagvverk, an online journal of internet-based poetry and art, alongside two other FSU alum. At Bard, I studied with a brilliant and incisive faculty, including artists Fia Backström and Nick Mauss, and poets Anselm Berrigan and Robert Fitterman. From 2016-2017 I acted as Exhibition Coordinator for the Institute for New Connotative Action, a gallery space and publisher founded by artist duo Bergman+Salinas. I curated the final exhibition at the Seattle location, entitled “Hypomnemata,” before INCA relocated to Portland, Oregon. I have shown my own work both nationally and internationally, with recent exhibitions and screenings at The Northwest Film Forum (Seattle), Roger’s Office (Los Angeles), Alkovi Galleria (Helsinki), and 222lodge (Dordrecht). At the beginning of 2018 I temporarily returned to my hometown of Pensacola, and will begin teaching as an adjunct instructor at Pensacola State College in the fall. Since coming back to Florida, I have continued working on expanding my master’s thesis (a collection of texts addressing accelerationism and futurity in the contemporary American metropolis) and writing art criticism, most recently essays on artists Ed Atkins and Jon Rafman. I am currently developing a curatorial project to take place in different locations around central Florida. I still edit Tagvverk, which publishes new work twice a month.

What did you learn at FSU to get you there?

If I wanted to see something happen, I made it happen. From 2010-2014, I co-hosted Williams Reading Night, a weekly open mic program sponsored by the FSU Department of English. Before obtaining RSO status, the rogue gathering met in various outside locations around the university, as well as the Strozier Library Starbucks. Williams Reading Night was not limited to the presentation of poetry and prose, and quickly expanded into the realms of music, comedy, and performance art. At times the works shown (particularly my own) were considered scandalizing. Nevertheless, a community formed around WRN, bringing students together from English, Art, Art History, and other departments. I now believe WRN to be defunct, but it is one of my proudest accomplishments during my time at Florida State. I also worked with a group of students on an FSU-funded grant project that culminated in a quasi-documentary, mainly focusing on street interviews of Frenchtown residents spliced with performance footage. This project taught me to take risks, and not be afraid of devoting time to a large work with a peculiar and challenging vision. Continuing in this same vein, I would say that my intensive investment and support of the Tallahassee DIY community was a huge learning experience outside of academia. I would not be the artist I am today without the influence of the strong group of musicians, visual artists, filmmakers, and poets with whom I associated. The university and the community outside it became enmeshed, blurred, as myself and my contemporaries sought to problematize this dichotomy. Again, most of these loose collectives have dissolved, such as Art Scene Zine, Werepossum, Spirit Cat Tapes, Farside Collective, Hidden Hand, and George McConnell’s devised theater group. I learned to not be afraid to get involved where you think you can be of service, and not be shy about saying things like “I can help make this better” or “we should collaborate on something together.” More often than not, DIY spaces need all of the support they can get. I formed strong bonds and friendships that continue today, and a history, no matter how brief or small the impact, that I can look back on and say: “We did that, and there will never be anything else like it.”

What advice would you give to art students?

Promote yourself. Stand up for your work and show that you believe in it. If you don’t believe in what you are doing, why make it? Take criticism gracefully. Be your harshest critic. Apply for everything, even if you don’t think you are qualified. If you respect someone’s work, tell them. Email professors from other departments. Make friends with other artists, especially ones that you can talk about art with for hours. Promote their stuff. Make a gallery in a shed, basement, or dorm closet. Hold a group exhibition, document it, and put it online. Legitimize yourself. Send out press releases to the media. Make work in the margins. There’s more garbage than gold in the world. Find ways to incorporate the frustrations of a boring day job or campus gig into your work. Learn how to write persuasively and clearly. Invoice everyone for everything. Be self-aware and pay attention to the world around you. A lack of politics is a bad politics. Lastly, don’t let your major or ‘area of focus’ limit you or overly define you. Try other media. Sculptors make fantastic poets.