School of the Art Insititute of Chicago emerge Journal 20-21  School of the Art Insititute of Chicago emerge Journal 20-21  School of the Art Insititute of Chicago emerge Journal 20-21  School of the Art Insititute of Chicago emerge Journal 20-21
Editor's Note

By Kathryn Cua

“First, we experience more than we can say. That does not just apply to art, of course, but to our whole relationship to the world and to other people.”
- Henk Borgdorff

Growing up, my mom used to tell me that when something felt impossible, you had to dream about it first. She said that once you’re able to see it for yourself, hold it in your head, and believe in its reality, then you’ll be able to claim it and act on it. Because of her, I’ve come to understand that dreaming is a method, one that enables praxis. This lesson from my mom ultimately informed the idea for the 2021 issue of
emerge, The Dream Issue. I brought this idea forth for the journal because I truly believe that our current moment necessitates that we dream. “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” sadly a very common saying in art, suddenly no longer holds because, in less than a year, our established ways of living and being have come completely undone.

Instead of understanding this unraveling as fatalistic, the 2021 issue of
emerge positions it as an opportunity to start anew, to choose how we move forward. It understands that dreaming is a form of work, it’s a generative act rather than a wasteful one, and it can be used as a form of manifestation. The Dream Issue is also inspired by the embodied experience of dreaming: We can experience our dreams so viscerally, and yet when we wake up, we’re met with great difficulty when trying to explain what we felt while we were asleep. This particular iteration of emerge, then, is intended to be a vision journal of sorts—it functions as a space for artists, writers, and cultural workers to work through this struggle of articulating what our dreams are for ourselves, our communities, and our sector.

While the theme of this year’s journal has an optimistic tone, The Dream Issue ironically was created under nightmarish conditions. Our team and contributors produced it while living through some of the most trying circumstances in recent history: the US government’s absolutely asinine response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the casualties that followed as a result, persistent murders of Black people at the hands of the police, mass layoffs in the cultural sector and beyond, a contentious presidential election, the storming of the Capitol, a major electricity generation failure in Texas among other states that left residents without water, heat, or power for weeks, and now, at the time of publication, we’re experiencing this stream of anti-Asian violence that’s ravaging the nation. With each email I sent out to check in with our contributors, I could do nothing more than hope that my words had the capacity to hold the depth of my concern for them, not only as artists making work for the journal but also, as people existing in this world during what continues to be a ludicrous and relentless moment in time.

This is also the first issue of
emerge that was produced entirely in virtual space. Our team gathered in Zoom rooms, exchanged information with our contributors via email, and organized ourselves through text messages, voice notes, and phone calls. The disembodiment that comes with being online made language, either written or spoken, our default mode of communication. As someone with a practice in writing and editing, I genuinely believe in the capability of words to properly articulate—and under the best of circumstances—even augment feeling. Yet, throughout this past year of putting this journal together, the command of language has felt dissatisfactory to me in a way that I don’t know I’ve experienced to this extent before.

What do you do when words aren’t enough? When I asked this of myself, I couldn’t help but extend it to my scholarship as well. I practice various disciplines that herald written text as the most valuable source of knowledge. Throughout this past year, I’ve become very interested in understanding how and why we consider certain forms of knowledge to be right, true, and valid. This interest was born out of my frustration with my work in art history in particular, and the way in which it privileges written text as the primary way to prove and produce knowledge while other forms such as oral history and embodied knowledge are considered to be less credible. In his text “Performance Studies: Interventions and Radical Research,” Dwight Conquergood argues against Western epistemology’s emphasis on the empirical for the way that it links knowing with seeing, and therefore, fails to capture “meanings that are masked, camouflaged, indirect, embedded, or hidden in context.” Instead, he calls for us to give up our “scriptocentrism”—or our placement of written text above all other forms of knowledge—asserting that the privileging of the written word is a hallmark of Western imperialism and an agent in perpetuating white supremacy.

Given this, I wanted to give credence to what Conquergood referred to as “feeling-knowing-understanding,” or the knowledge one develops by experiencing something firsthand. I also wanted to find a way to validate alternative forms of knowledge and understanding in a written publication. The Dream Issue for this reason features not only textual work, but also, visual, verbal, aural, and embodied ways of knowing. Our team decided together to intentionally move away from the exclusively text-based version of this publication because we recognize the scholarly value of creative investigation through a variety of media. Above all, we wanted to accommodate the most expansive visions of our ideal futures, something that the traditional journal format would otherwise have missed because its medium doesn’t account for what isn’t written.

At the beginning of Conquergood’s article, he introduces a quote by Michel de Certeau that reads, “What the map cuts up, the story cuts across.” He elaborates on this phrase by placing it within the context of two different domains of knowledge: What he considers to be the “map” is the domain of knowledge that encompasses that which is objective and “official.” What he calls the “story” is popular knowledge or ways of knowing that are practical and embodied. We incorporated a version of this concept into the user experience of navigating the website.

The website operates on a matrix intended to function as a compass, enabling users to navigate our “map” or dreamscape, so to speak. The extremities of each axis are labeled with phrases: The north arrow reads “What could be,” and the south arrow says “As it was.” The east arrow reads “What we bring with us” and the west arrow says “What we leave behind.” As you navigate the dreamscape, you’ll find different themes populated with “stories” or work from our contributors. Although the language in our open call asked artists to “radically reimagine and redefine what exactly comprises the future of the field of arts and culture,” the submissions we received extended far past the cultural sector, providing us with glimpses of how these artists and arts workers would reconfigure the world as we know it. We received submissions that offered new frameworks for existing art institutions and stories of how folks have made their art practices possible. But we also received submissions that offered new strategies on being: illuminations on love, connection, and intimacy; different ways of understanding ourselves; of being in our bodies; submissions that questioned our sense of time and reality altogether.

This iteration of
emerge represents our effort to map the story. Because in the end, I dream of no separation of the map and the story, but rather a field of knowledge wide enough that both can live together, in equal importance, on the same plane.


First and foremost, my endless gratitude goes out to all of our contributors. This journal would cease to exist without you. Thank you for believing in this idea so much that you felt called to respond to it. Thank you for your generosity in sharing your work with us and trusting us with presenting it. It is my most sincere hope that creating work for this issue felt generative, purposeful, and maybe even healing for you under our current circumstances.

Thank you to my editorial team: Elise Butterfield, Ruby Dudasik, and Misha Neal. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such caring and considerate people. Thank you for all of the outstanding effort you’ve put into this work and for being excellent collaborators and thought partners. I am so soft for all of you! I will forever treasure our weekly meetings and our group chat.

Thank you to the Graduate Division for providing us with an honorarium to hire a designer. Without the support of the Graduate Division, I would have had to take a crash course in web design (a mess!), and we never would have gotten to work with our star of a designer, Eager Zhang. I’d also like to thank the Department of Visual Communication Design, Multicultural Affairs, and our very own department, Arts Administration and Policy, for providing us with funds to realize the events we programmed. Thank you all for your generosity.

Eager, words cannot express how lucky and grateful we are to have had the opportunity to work with you. Thank you for your vision, skill, and rigor in bringing this concept to life. The visual identity of The Dream Issue is nothing short of premium! And we have only you to thank for that.

Many thanks to Asha Iman Veal, our faculty advisor, for her wisdom and encouragement throughout this whole process. Even though I can be resistant, I truly do appreciate you always challenging me to be my highest self.

Lastly, thank you to my mom. For everything—but especially for teaching me that there is power in dreaming. I love you very much.