3rd Language is a Chicago-based collective of artists and thinkers exploring and embracing difference, otherness and transgression. They name this otherness and transgression "queer." Recently they wrapped up a call for submissions for their fourth Issue, "Never Satisfied," which will be published in November 2013. They also just received a Propeller Grant and will be relaunching their summer program.
Jeff Oaks, CAR’s literary researcher, and Andi Crist, CAR’s visual arts researcher, were curious about this fledging, intentionally-gathered, queer arts community and asked them the following questions to find out more about their mission, how they operate and the intricacies of collaboration.
CAR: How did 3rd Language begin? What made you want to produce a zine?
The 3rd Language Collective: The Chicago arts community is incredibly welcoming. We’ve been around for less than a year and have had a ton of support. It feels very easy to become a part of and contribute to this community, which isn’t always the case.
3rd Language began in the fall of 2012 when a group of us wanted to see a space for queer art that was really pushing boundaries of embodying queerness. We knew plenty of great artists making work about queerness; we wanted to create a space where these artists could show their work together. What began as an idea for a physical exhibition became the groundwork for our quarterly publication.
What is unique about 3rd Language's contributions to the local queer art community?
We are working towards a highly intentional community. We meet regularly and are very thoughtful, whether in curating our publication or organizing a wrestling match. We work towards creating an intentional, inclusive, interesting space. Most of us have backgrounds in highly conceptual art. We’re very aware of the problems that riddle a closed-off, insulated, “high art” community. So we’re working to challenge boundaries that divide art communities.
How does 3rd Language maintain a physical presence in Chicago?
Besides producing a publication, we put on workshops and events. We are working with a grant from Projects for Peace to put on a series of workshops for queer youth of color. We place a lot of emphasis on having fun and being thoughtful while doing so. We believe that maintaining a safe space, building an intentional community and having fun are not mutually exclusive ideas.
In what ways do you benefit from developing relationships with artists working in different disciplines such as literature, music or visual art?
All our members are involved in different pursuits or mediums. We believe that supporting all queer creative endeavors leads to a stronger community. We mostly try to find a balance between visual art and written work, and then include video and audio work in the online versions of our publications.
We look for work that we haven’t see a lot of in the community, i.e., work that pushes the idea of the "queered body" or work that complicates conceptual ideas of queerness. Some work produces a collective ooh around the table when we judge work for our publication. Those are the pieces you see in the final publications.
Any advice for emerging queer artists joining the Chicago community?
The Chicago community is one of the most accessible and welcoming queer communities. We became involved by going to other people's events—art and performance events, queer parties, and things like Chicago Zine Fest. From those activities we've gotten to know and gotten involved with lots of people in the scene here.
Can other Chicago queer artists become members?
Yes, we're always happy to accept new members. We expect members to commit to several meetings a month in addition to general administrative work outside of meetings. We accept new members with and without experience working within an organization.
Members of the 3rd Language Collective include: Molly Berkson, NIC Kay, Joel Mercedes, Abbey Muzatko,Amina Ross, Emily Schulert, Ana Segovia De Fuentes, Allie Shyer, Camille Laut, Jory Drew, Jerome Kendrick, Ashley McClenon and Veronica Stein.
If you are interested in becoming a part of 3rd Language, email the collective. They can figure out where you might fit best within the group structure.